Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Glossing IS a Glorious Thing

Glossing is a Glorious Thing: The Past, Present, and Future of Commentary
The Graduate Center, City University of New York
April 9-10, 2009

Keynote Event
The Future of Commentary, a roundtable discussion with:
David Greetham (CUNY)
Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht (Stanford)
Jesús Rodríguez Velasco (Columbia)
Et al.

Sponsored by:
The Graduate Center and the Ph.D. Program in English, CUNY
Glossator: Practice and Theory of the Commentary (http://glossator.org)


Il y a plus affaire à interpreter les interpretations qu'à
interpreter les choses, et plus de livres sur les livres que sur
autre subject: nous ne faisons que nous entregloser. Tout fourmille
de commentaires; d'auteurs, il en est grand cherté—Montaigne

[There is more to-do interpreting interpretations than interpreting
things, more books on books than on any other subject: we do nothing
except gloss each other. Everything swarms with commentaries; of
authors there is a great lack].

Montaigne's critique, which does not exclude his own Essais, is
emblematic of the ambivalent status of commentary in modernity.
Commentary is both an outmoded form of textual production tied to
premodern constructions of authority and an indispensable dimension
of scholarly work. This ambivalence is most conspicuous within the
humanities where the commentary genre, like a popolo minuto of the
academic city-state, holds an explicitly subordinate position beneath
the monograph, the article, and the essay, however much, and maybe
all the more so when, work of these kinds is constituted by
commentarial procedures.

But there are clear signs, both intellectual and technological, of
return to and reinvention of commentary. Several humanistic auctores
of the last century have worked innovatively within the genre: Walter
Benjamin's Arcades Project, Martin Heidegger's lectures on
Hölderlin's "Der Ister," Roland Barthes's S/Z, Jacques Derrida's
Glas, Luce Irigaray's An Ethics of Sexual Difference, J.H. Prynne's
They That Haue Powre to Hurt; A Specimen of a Commentary on
Shake-speares Sonnets, 94, and Giorgio Agamben's The Time that
Remains: A Commentary on the Letter to the Romans, et al. In The
Powers of Philology, Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht has described the material
situation in which commentary may become ascendant: "The vision of
the empty chip constitutes a threat, a veritable horror vacui not
only for the electronic media industry but also, I suppose, for our
intellectual and cultural self-appreciation. It might promote, once
again, a reappreciation of the principle and substance of copia. And
it might bring about a situation in which we will no longer be
embarrassed to admit that filling up margins is what commentaries
mostly do—and what they do best" (53).

This conference proposes a dialogue about the past, present, and
future of commentary, not only as an object of intellectual and
theoretical inquiry, but also with regard to commentary's practical
potentialities, to its place within the evolution and becoming of
academic labor in the lived present. The prospect of a "return" to
commentary, whatever forms it may take, renders conspicuous and
questionable some of the most hallowed and taken-for-granted
assumptions about the nature of scholarly practice, for instance: the
distinction between primary and secondary text; the primacy of noesis
over poesis, or thinking over making; the synthetic, thesis-driven,
and polemical character of understanding; and so forth. Presentations
that engage with such implications are particularly welcome. Please
submit 250-word abstracts by October 1, 2008 to
formicolare@gmail.com. Word attachments preferred.

Organizers: Nicola Masciandaro (nicolam@brooklyn.cuny.edu), Karl
Steel (karltsteel@gmail.com), Ryan Dobran (ryandobran@hotmail.com)