The Author: Who or What Is Writing Literature?

Event title (long): 
The Author: Who or What Is Writing Literature? 6th International Colloquium / Mednarodni kolokvij, Lipica, Slovenia, 4th-5th September 2008
Slovene Comparative Literature Association
Closing date for submissions: 
10 May, 2008
Event dates: 
04.09.2008 - 05.09.2008

Slovene Comparative Literature Association
Slovene Writers' Association, 23rd International Writers' Festival Vilenica (2008)
Department of Comparative Literature and Literary Theory, Faculty of Arts, University of Ljubljana, Scientific Research Centre of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts

6th International Colloquium / Mednarodni kolokvij, Lipica, Slovenia, 4th-5th September 2008


Slovene Comparative Literature Association organises, in co-operation with Slovene Writers' Association, Department of Comparative Literature and Literary Theory (University of Ljubljana), and Scientific Research Centre of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts, the 6th International Comparative Literature Colloquium, which is to be included in the programme of the 23rd International Writers' Festival Vilenica (2008). The colloquium will take place in the conference room of the Maestoso hotel, Lipica (near Sežana, close to the Slovene-Italian border), on Thursday, September 4th (beginning at 3 p. m.), and Friday, September 5th, 2008. The event will be chaired by dr. Vanesa Matajc (Department of Comparative Literature and Literary Theory, Faculty of Art, University of Ljubljana) and dr. Gašper Troha (Faculty of Arts, University of Ljubljana).

Below please find the concept and scope of the colloquium, as well as the call for papers and other information of importance.

“The Author: Who or What Is Writing Literature?”

Contemporary literary theory examines the author’s role in the creation of a literary text, as well as of (literary) culture. Representations of the author's role answer these two questions in many different ways, depending on the historical culture in which the questions appear. This situation, which still qualifies as the contemporary situation in literary theory, of course differs from the so-called modern views on literature, that is, views developed since the Renaissance period.
Contemporary literary theory began to re-examine the author's role in creating literature at the very moment when the role of language in creating subjectivity came under scrutiny, whereas the modern period had endowed the term “(literary) Author” with an “undoubtedly” clear meaning: considering the human being as a creative subject with an inherent ability to invent or reveal completely new objects, the modern tradition “invented” the word “Author” in the sense of a recognisable individual who writes (or creates in the sense of invention) a literary text. This individual text / work of art was likewise conceived as a unique combination of form and content, revealing its recognisable meanings and sense as created by the author’s will, intention, and ability.
In the contemporary period, the modern concept of the author has undergone some basic changes since the 1960s – changes caused by the so-called historical turn, cultural turn, and – probably the most relevant to the question of literary creation – linguistic turn. Often interdisciplinary, these have operated in the humanities, including some newly founded disciplines and theories, such as epistemology, cultural studies, cultural anthropology, women's studies, gender and queer studies, post-colonial studies, and (renewed) cultural history.

The answer to the question of “who or what is writing literature” has therefore split to pursue two possible directions.
First, the initial presupposition of reality being created by language (by a convention rather than an individual invention) has crystallised into the idea of Language writing / speaking a literary text, as well as orchestrating its reception. The author as the creative subject of a literary work of art is therefore being replaced with the concept of the intertextuality, the inherent plurality of the dialogical relationship.
And secondly, pointing out the idea of intertextuality, the presuppositions of “the death of the author” and of the “resurrection” of a text and its reader have called into question the author's authority in the literary and cultural tradition (represented as a literary or cultural canon) and in the (cultural) politics. The author’s political authority has been particularly obvious in literatures subjected to the pressure of national ideologies or political totalitarianism. Both ideological pressures have been a characteristic experience of the literatures of Europe, of the former Soviet Union, etc.
The author has been conceived as a constitutive performer of cultural traditions, and thus of the means by which different political groups have been able to legitimise their power. Even if “dead”, the author as a creative subject could be replaced with a cultural-political interpreter of the text. The interpreter, replacing the author of a literary text, can unite both roles: the role of an authority and of the inventive author.
In addition, the interpreter's practice may be an emancipating gesture for various social groups becoming aware of their suppression. On the other hand, such a gesture can also provide the emancipation of literature as an autonomous discourse. The “resurrection” of the author (A. Nehamas), of the author’s role, even when referring to the interpreter, can also be a way of providing the autonomy, “literariness”, of literary discourse.

Thematics and Scopes

  1. Renaissance and the invention of the Author in the modern Western literary theory; Ancient Greek and the question »who or what is creating literary text (or: literary work of art)«; Middle-Age and the concept of the »Auctor«;
  2. The concepts of the Author in the 20th century: the question of the Author as a subject of a literary text, the question of the Language as a subject of (literary) text; postmodernist metafiction and the concept of intertextuality; neo-avant-gardes and »performing« the literature; virtual author in the new multimedia;
  3. Post-colonial studies and the modifications of the literary triad: the »Author« as an anonymous voice in the oral literary tradition;
  4. The role of the Author in historical inventions of traditions: the Author as a discursive construction in constructing the identities of different social groups and (their) histories; the Author as a means of interpreting tradition; the Author as interpreter; the interpreter as »Auctor« in the context of political history, national cultural politics, politics of gender, etc.;
  5. The function of the Author in the concept of literature as an autonomous reality: the Author / the interpreter as a subject of »literariness«.

(Vanesa Matajc)

Call for Papers

Although we are expecting a number of invited speakers from Slovenia and abroad, we would like to encourage other writers and critics, who might be interested in the topic, to take part in our colloquium. Regretfully, the number of speakers is very limited (to about ten persons). Therefore we will have to choose among the proposals that will arrive on time and will best suit the purposes and the conceptual outline of the conference. We apologise in advance to be forced to reject a number of valuable proposals.

The working language of the conference will be English. Papers presented in other languages will be translated on-screen.

We invite you to send your proposal to the organiser (Vanesa Matajc, Department of Comparative Literature and Literary Theory, Faculty of Arts, Aškerčeva 2, SI-1000 Ljubljana, Slovenia; or by fax: +3861/425-77-54; or by e-mail: not later than 10 May, 2008. Your proposal should include the title and abstract (200 words), provisional list of works cited, your thematic choice (see the list above), and your full contact address. You will be notified about our decision until June 10. In case of positive answer, we expect your photo and short curriculum (5 lines) until June 30; and summary (500-1000 words) until 1 August 2008, in order to have it printed in the conference brochure in time.

In order to leave enough time for discussion, presentations should not exceed 20 minutes.

Translations. Conference room facilities include an LCD-projector. This makes it possible to project simultaneous translations of papers that will not be presented in English. Slovene translations of English summaries will be available as well.

Accommodation, other information

The organisers will offer free accommodation in the Maestoso hotel (all meals included) to ten invited and/or selected speakers. All local transfers to other venues of the festival will be free, too. Participants of the colloquium will get the conference and festival materials. They will be invited to other festival events.

Special Issue of the Journal Primerjalna književnost

Slovene Comparative Literature Association intends to print proceedings of the conference in a special issue of the journal Primerjalna književnost (Comparative Literature).

We look forward to your response.

Yours sincerely,

Vanesa Matajc, Gašper Troha

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