Staging the Medium: Agency, Materiality, Techniques, MLA, Philadelphia
Staging the Medium: Agency, Materiality, Techniques (Special Session at the MLA Philadelphia, PA, January 4-7, 2024)
Keywords: Scene of Writing, form, media studies, (New) Materialism, performance, technology, AI, metatextuality.
Media allow for perception; their own perceptibility, however, usually requires an operation on a second level: a reflexive step away from the message. In part, media themselves dictate the conditions for that perception. This becomes apparent, for instance, in the relationship between seeing and reading (e.g. Reid/Turner 1994): when focusing on the messenger, the message fades; at the same time, no message remains independent of the conditions of its material carriers. Due to its dual footing and distinct performativity, the medium of text is, in this sense, unique: like musical notation, text needs to be read in sequence to yield its effects; like a drawing, the complex shapes and forms it consists of not only add to, but are central to its content (Lapacherie 1984, Drucker 1994, Baetens 2018).
This approach gets complicated when we try to consider what finds its way into the text. In that sense, media not only allow for perception but for creation. In his pivotal article on the “Scene of Writing,” which only recently has been translated into English, Rüdiger Campe describes the Schreibszene, as is often cited, as “a non-stable ensemble of language, instrumentality and gesture.” (Campe 2021, 973) Turning to the historical, material, and semantic conditions of writing, Campe conceives of writing scenes and the scene of writing across various historical iterations. Its original publication (1991) further occasioned several reconceptualizations, such as for the scene of dictation (Binczek/Epping-Jäger 2015) and reading (Horn/Kita-Huber/Schulte 2020).
In our panel, we are interested in novel ways of approaching texts in their mediality and materiality that consider the performativity of reading and/or writing. How does form react to the Schreibszene, the written dialogue to the interview, the written monologue to thought? How can we understand and conceive of the way a writer refers to writing in writing? What are the conditions of staging the form in the text itself? If the Schreibszene “offers a way to conceptualize writing […] as a process that crosses boundaries between the often-conflicting poles of language, technology, and the body,” (Klausmeyer/Krauß/Wankhammer 2021, 967) how can we begin to understand AI writing? What are the possible connections between these agencements of writing and various recent theoretical perspectives on text, such as in New Materialism or concerning affective societies (Fleig 2019)? In light of this wide array of questions and approaches, our panel investigates how text ‘testifies to itself’ and, in a recursive operation, turns to the medium within the medium—when the medium is staged or its staging seemingly reverses the conventional messenger-message divide.
We seek proposals that investigate the various ways in which texts stage their own mediality and are interested in theoretical explorations alongside more concrete examples and analyses of literary texts. Abstracts of about 300 words and a brief bio (100 words) should be sent to Dennis Schäfer (email@example.com) and Christian Struck (firstname.lastname@example.org) by March 20, 2023.
Baetens, Jan. “Visual-Verbal Materiality.” Comparative Literature, vol. 70, no. 3, 2018, pp. 357-368.
Binczek, Natalie and Cornelia Epping-Jäger. Eds. Das Diktat. Phono-graphische Verfahren der Aufschreibung. Wilhelm Fink, 2015.
Campe, Rüdiger. “Writing. The Scene of Writing.” MLN, vol. 136, no. 5, 2021, pp. 971-983.
Drucker, Johanna. The Visible Word: Experimental Typography and Modern Art, 1909-1923. University of Chicago Press, 1994.
Fleig, Anne. “Writing Affect.” Affective Societies. Key Concepts, edited by Jan Slaby, Christian von Scheve, Routledge, 2019, pp. 178-186.
Horn, Irina, Jadwiga Kita-Huber, and Sandra Schulte. Eds. Leseszenen. Poetologie - Geschichte - Medialität. Universitätsverlag Winter 2020.
Klausmeyer, Bryan, Andrea Krauß, and Johannes Wankhammer. “Scenes of Writing: An Introduction.” MLN, vol. 136, no. 5, 2021, pp. 965-970.
Lapacherie, Jean Gérard. “De la grammatextualité.” Poétique, vol. 59, 1984, pp. 283-94.
Reid, Martine and Nigel P. Turner, “Editor's Preface: Legible/Visible.” Yale French Studies, vol. 84, 1994, pp. 1-12.