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CfP: The Legacy of Enlightenment and the Politics of Spectatorship (9/30/12)

44th Annual Convention: Northeastern Modern Language Association (NeMLA)
March 21-24, 2013
Boston, MA

Dramatic shifts in the realms of philosophy, art, economics, physiology, and jurisprudence during the Age of Enlightenment were predicated on a preoccupation with spectatorship. This panel’s inquiry begins from the proposition that a central “dialectic” of Enlightenment lies at the meeting point between medium and spectator. From Lessing’s theater to the philosophy of Adorno and Horkheimer, from Brechtian and Artaudian notions of viewership to the construction of contemporary museums, the visual legacy of  Enlightenment rationalism continues to affect the way we engage politically and culturally with the world around us.

We seek contributions that explore diverse manifestations of the politics of observation. How do “enlightened” performances and artworks construct or critique particular modes of viewing? What are the political implications of the work-to-audience relationship in the realms of gender, race, class identity, or other social categories? What spectatorial expectations underlie philosophical works by Leibniz, Kant, La Mettrie, and others? How do notions of the public and private spheres map onto concerns for spectatorship? And how do notions of “enlightened” observation change in the aftermath of the Age of Enlightenment strictly speaking?

Topics might include, but are not limited to:

·       – Theoretical and philosophical approaches to spectatorship in the Age of Enlightenment from Descartes to Lessing to Kant.
·       – The politics of spectatorship in medical shows and other events in the public sphere.
·       – Modern and post-modern approaches to Enlightenment spectatorship in film, literature, and art history.
·       – Implications of the philosophy of the Frankfurt School for contemporary spectatorship.
·       – Analyses of audience-work relations and the politics of the spectatorial gaze in visual or literary works.

We welcome abstracts for interdisciplinary papers.

Please send a 500-word abstract and one-paragraph biographical
sketch to Pascale LaFountain ( and Tracy Graves (

Submission deadline: September 30, 2012.



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Last Modified: September 28, 2012

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