Conversations: The Journal of Cavellian Studies



Sérgio Dias Branco (University of Coimbra):
Amir Khan (University of Ottawa):

Stanley Bates (Middlebury College)
Sarah Beckwith (Duke University)
Peter Dula (Eastern Mennonite University)
Richard Eldridge (Swarthmore College)
Adam Gonya (KU Leuven)
Larry Jackson (City University of New York)
Andrew Klevan (University of Oxford)
Stephen Mulhall (University of Oxford)
Sianne Ngai (Stanford University)
Andrew Norris (University of California, Santa Barbara)
Lawrence Rhu (University of South Carolina)
D. N. Rodowick (Harvard University)
Miguel Tamen (University of Lisbon)

It is easy to believe when reading Cavell that one has stumbled upon “privileged knowledge,” so that the intimate experience of going over some of Cavell’s close readings makes one feel “privileged” in a sense, to the point where it becomes inconceivable that others — from, say, other disciplines or specialties — could be reading Cavell correctly, unless they too are beginning from the same vantage point. Yet whether the discussion begins with Wittgenstein or Austin (ordinary language philosophy), Nietzsche or Kierkegaard (Continental philosophy), Emerson or Thoreau (American studies), Shakespeare or Beckett (literature and drama), Capra or Cukor (film and romance), Coleridge or Kant (poetry and ethics), or, even, music discomposed, Cavell’s insights have less to with specialized knowledge than with his unique ability to make his readers feel as though they — suddenly and somehow — have a real stake in what otherwise seems to be a privileged field. The understanding Cavell’s philosophical work and readings afford us is the humane sort, unencumbered by (a lack of) specialization.

Conversations is a journal that seeks to promote precisely this sort of communal, human conversation. For dialogue between seemingly disparate realms of thought to thrive, it is imperative that contributors not simply take up Cavell’s work solely within a given specialization, but that efforts are made to extend Cavell’s thinking to other realms and disciplines as well, either familiar or unfamiliar to Cavell’s thought. While interdisciplinary conversation occurs quite frequently between film and philosophy, literature and film, or literature and philosophy, Conversations puts no restrictions on the nature of the dialogues, or number of disciplines, at the outset.

The end result, it is hoped, will be a dissolution of disciplinary boundaries at best, or, at least, an assurance that conversation can occur between otherwise perfectly delimited discourse communities. Hence it is hoped that humanistic lessons and insights supposedly unique to certain specialized investigation are made salient and shareable with a broader audience — in true Cavellian spirit.

Marc Shell says of Cavell’s autobiography that it will be read for “decades, even centuries” and, more importantly, that it will “contribute to how we understand the lives of philosophers.” Though we are neither decades nor centuries away from the publication of Little Did I Know (Stanford University Press, 2010), the editors of Conversations: The Journal of Cavellian Studies invite essays that tackle some of the implications of these formidable “excerpts from memory”, particularly now that some of the dust accompanying its initial reception has settled.

We invite papers for the inaugural issue of Conversations that discuss and engage with Cavell’s autobiographic writings, not only Little Did I Know, but also his earlier autobiographical exercises A Pitch of Philosophy (Harvard University Press, 1996) and references to his personal history from other texts. Close readings that negotiate both the professional and personal ramifications of the many encounters Cavell so compellingly recounts are welcome — see, for example, James Conant’s recent essay “The Triumph of the Gift over the Curse in Stanley Cavell’s Little Did I Know” in Modern Language Notes. Articles may also address broader issues raised by the autobiographical elements in Cavell’s publications for the field of philosophy, and its approaches and traditions, through a less narrow engagement with his texts and philosophical contribution.

We accept submissions from all theoretical perspectives and disciplines and encourage attempts to assimilate seemingly disparate (disciplinary) areas of Cavell’s thinking (or recounting). Possible topics include:

• the use of “I” in philosophical writing (for rhetorical affect, or detraction, or both);
• philosophical and historiographical writing;
• memory and affect;
• structural analysis of autobiographical writing, including discussion of rhetorical devices;
• the ethics of autobiography;
• overlap/divergence between earlier and later writings;
• autobiographic elements of Cavell’s film criticism.

Papers should be no more than 6000 words, including footnotes, and must follow the notes and bibliography citation system described in The Chicago Manual of Style. We also welcome shorter, more intimate pieces addressing specific questions (800-1200 words). Proposals of around 500 words (for long articles) and 250 words (for short articles) should be sent by 1 December 2012 to both managing editors, but complete articles will be considered as well.