Pausing Time/Timing the Pause: sayability in the arts, philosophy, and politics

In his acceptance speech for the Nobel prize in literature Jon Fosse only half jokingly referred to himself as the master of silence: how else, he asked, can we bring the unsayable out in language than through “long pause, short pause, or, simply, pause.”

This year’s Ereignis conference seeks to bring the relation between speech and silence into further focus. Our key questions are:

  • What kind of speech, or speech event, enables the silent to come forward?
  • How can that which cannot be said be alluded or referred to in speech?
  • How is the relation between speech and silence challenged by the an increasing awareness of non-human speech?
  • What are the socio-political ramifications of these relations?

The 4th interdisciplinary Ereignis conference will take place in Gdynia, Poland, on August 10 and 11, 2024, with a hybrid option for those unable to attend in person.

Image by Holger Feulner. Used by permission.

Call for Abstracts

Pausing Time/Timing the Pause: sayability in the arts, philosophy, and politics.

  • The 4th Ereignis Conference in Gdynia, Poland, August 10 and 11, 2024
  • This conference offers a hybrid option for those unable to attend in person.
  • Submission deadline: 1 June, 2024 (guidelines below).
Theme

In his acceptance speech for the Nobel prize in literature Jon Fosse only half jokingly referred to himself as the master of silence: how else, he asked, can we bring the unsayable out in language than through pauses “long and short”? Thus, what at first appears as a paradox (the impossibility of saying what cannot be said) emerges as a philosophical, literary, artistic and political question: What are the conditions under which that which has hitherto remained silent may be brought out – literally or by implication – in speech, writing, media, and the visual arts? How is the relation between speech and silence challenged by the an increasing awareness of non-human speech?

This is a question that has a significant history of reflection in philosophical and literary studies. Key interventions include Emmanuel Levinas’ Totality and Infinity, which is among the first to pose the issue of sayability. The topic was further, and famously, developed by Jacques Derrida, for instance in his notion of différance: the elision of sense that can only be brought out in writing, which is to say that there is a difference that only the written word can bring out, and that difference is what is specific to writing. It was this sense of sayability that Fosse brought out in his acceptance speech for the Nobel when he noted that his writing began with the realisation that “talking about things” can cover over and serve to mute rather than bring out that which has not yet found a voice. Only in literary language, Fosse noted, can the kind of silence – pauses short and long – be made to be meaningful in a novel sense. A key question for this conference is the extent to which this sense also extends to the political.

A few additional domains can be mentioned: In The Powers of Horror Julia Kristeva notes how a Real that escapes normative language may yet be brought our in a pre-Oedipal tongue, what she referred to a “the semiotic.” To Kristeva, we can surmise, the unsayable could be articulated aporetically only through the subversion of the normative language pertaining to the symbolic frame that represses and controls the Real. Traumatic memories, such as those associated with the Holocaust, can only be brought our by way of subversion, metaphor, and even forgetfulness (as Jean-François Lyotard proposes in “Heidegger and the ‘Jews’”). The caesurae – or pause – then, can be intimately linked to witness and testimony. Nevertheless, we ask whether the silent also has a part to play in our conception of the future. We can find one instance of such thought in Theodor Adorno’s “negative dialectic”: a future that is entirely new can only be brought out through negation; our imagination of such a future is limited to our articulation of what it is not.

Finally, then, there is perhaps an oblique reference to what Giorgio Agamben has referred to as sabbatism (1993; 2011). In his “community to come” we arrive at a ground that is prior to both truth and good; what he have instead is an inoperativity characterised by rest, passivity and glorification, a community that cannot be uttered but merely indicated.

Topics

Relevant questions include, but are not limited to:

  • How can we make pause and silence in philosophy, literature, and art speak to us?
  • What kind of speech or speech event enable the silent to come forward, and how can that which cannot be said nonetheless be alluded or referred to in speech?
  • In what ways and in what manner are silence and sayability relevant to us in our present situation?
  • What are the socio-political implications of relations between silence and speech?
  • How can silence and memory work together and against each other in philosophical though and artistic work?
  • How is the relation between speech and silence challenged by the an increasing awareness of non-human speech?
  • What place does silence have in the constitution of the coming community?
Invitation

We invite papers from all traditions and schools of philosophy and comparative literature, as well as adjoining disciplines, to address any of the topics and questions above. Submissions should be structured, well-argued, and show evidence of rigorous scholarship. Include an abstract (max. 300 words) and a short author bio (max. 50 words) along with the author’s or authors current affiliation.

Submit abstracts by June 1, 2024 through our online submission engine at ereignis.no. We will return by mid June with a notification on acceptance.

Hybrid format

The conference will be held on-site in Gdynia, Poland, on August 10 and 11, 2024, and on-line on the Zoom videoconferencing platform for those unable to attend in person. More information about travel and accommodation is available on the conference page. For accepted papers registration will be required by July 1, 2024.

Scholastic committee
  • Prof. Rick Dolphijn, Utrecht University and the University of Gdańsk
  • Dr. Torgeir Fjeld, Ereignis Center for Philosophy and the Arts (chair)
  • Dr Jytte Holmqvist, University of Melbourne
  • Prof. Lucy Huskinson, Bangor University, UK.
  • Prof. Gray Kochhar-Lindgren, Wild Studios Consulting and University of Hong Kong
  • Prof. Dror Pimentel, Bezalel Academy of Art and Design Jerusalem
Publishing opportunities

All presenters are invited to submit their papers to the Pausing Time/Timing the Pause Conference Proceedings, a specially dedicated volume to be published by Tankebanen forlag. Additionally, authors are encouraged to submit full-text essays to our peer-reviewed journal, Inscriptions. Note that this journal has its own criteria for submission, review and publication. For more information, see the journal's about page.