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Minor Aesthetics/Minor Archives/Comparative Literature

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Organizer: Katarzyna Bartoszynska

Co-Organizer: Grace Lavery

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Sianne Ngai locates her investigation into what she calls “minor aesthetic categories” within the postwar United States and Europe, and discovers three: the zany, the interesting, and the cute. This seminar aims to expand that inquiry by asking two further questions. First: what other ‘minor’ categories might be uncovered by researches into different spatial and historical archives, outside the frames of the local and the contemporary? And second: what kinds of (minor) aesthetic analysis are made available by minor, or minority, archives - especially archives of work by dominated or marginalized groups? In this sense, we will test the possibility of developing a minor aesthetic analysis fit for the discipline of comparative literature, synthesizing the new aestheticism with the classical forms of multilingual and cross-cultural analytic work that underpin the discipline as currently structured. Questions might include:

––––How do we name or define those affectively-charged structures of representation (such as, for example, awkwardness, poignancy, and cuddliness) situated in the margins of more major structures (such as the comic, the sentimental, and the erotic)?

––––Are such modes of feeling legible across time, language, or cultural borders, and, if so, how are they made legible?

––––What kind of political efficacy are these categories, or the aesthetic analysis of them, capable of? Or is the turn to aesthetics indicative of a retreat from political criticism?

––––How might we retrain our aesthetic attention upon these evanescent sensations that, by virtue of their minorness, seem to elude codification and theorization?

We welcome proposals from scholars working in minority discourse studies, comparative literature, critical race studies, ethnic studies, literary and cultural studies, feminist and queer theory, trans studies, and philosophy: proposals may either gesture towards a theory of the minor aesthetic, propose a minor aesthetic category for contemplation, or suggest a close reading of a particular object.

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