Thinking Bodies: Towards a Theory of Embodiment
28th Annual Graduate Student Conference
German Department, Yale University
April 28-29, 2017
Location: William L. Harkness Hall (WLH), Room 309 –> google maps link
Duration: Friday, April 28, 3:30pm - Saturday, April 29, 6:30pm
Friday, April 28
3:30 - 3:45 Introductory Remarks
3:45 - 5:00 Panel I: Technics: The Machinic and the Living
- Graham Bishop (Brown University): “Zootechnics: A Poetics of Human, Animal, and Machine”
- Patrick Durdel (Harvard University): “Bodiless Subjects: Female (?) A.I.s in Contemporary Cinema”
5:00-5:30 Coffee break
5:30 Keynote Address: Bruce Clarke, Paul Whitfield Horn Professor of Literature and
Science (Texas Tech University):
“Systems Differentiations, Posthuman Embodiments, and the Avatar Body”
Saturday, April 29
9:30 - 10:00 Breakfast
10:00 - 12:00 Panel II: Having versus Being: Language, (Dis)possession, and Performance
- Tobias Wilzcek (University of Toronto): “Das ‘Verfahren’ der ‘Verwandlung’: Language as Body in the Works of Franz Kafka”
- Benjamin Trivers (Northwestern University): “Music, Metonymy, Materiality: The Execution of the Body in Elfriede Jelinek’s Die Klavierspielerin”
- Paule Landerreche Cardillo (The New School for Social Research): “Thinking through the Body: Reflections on Being a Body through Julia Kristeva”
12:00 - 1:30 Lunch
1:30 - 2:45: Panel III: Shame: Animality and Subjectification
- Tomoko Slutsky (Princeton University): “Expression of Shame: Reaction or Response?”
- Theodore Laport (Northwestern University): “Shame without Guilt: Agamben, Benjamin, and the Blush”
2:45 - 3:15 Coffee break
3:15 - 4:30: Panel IV: Smell and the Messianic: (De)activation of Bodily Apparatuses
- Jonas Rosenbrück (Northwestern Univsersity): “Instead of Anointing: For a Poetics of a Different Smelling”
- Tobias Kuehne (Yale University): “Agamben’s Bodies and the Messianic Logic of the Russell Set”
Keynote Speaker: Bruce Clarke (Paul Whitfield Horn Professor of Literature and Science, Texas Tech)
What do we mean when we speak about “the body”? Do we have bodies or are we embodied? Does speaking about “the body” approach an understanding of our embodied experience in the world, or does it reify a barren mind-body dualism that thwarts just such an understanding and according to which the body is nothing more than a complex machine? Indeed, even Descartes seems haunted by the specter of bodily consciousness as the body is continuously reinscribed in The Meditations. Teetering between literature and philosophy, The Meditations are rife with tensions between body and mind, text and thought, real and ideal as Descartes struggles to find the adequate “textual body” for his ruminations.
Primarily concerned with the ways in which the human participates in the divine, Descartes had to cut away the temporal, indeed animal character of the human being in order to arrive at what he deemed as its essential nature – namely, thinking. Yet as soon as it became clear after Darwin that the human being is not the product of a separate, divine creation, but rather arose at a particular historical moment, the “bodily” nature of the human being resurfaced as a problem for philosophy, which had to carve out a particular space for the human being against its animal progenitors and the growing specter of technology and automation.
Beginning in the twentieth century, “the body” has resurfaced as a problem not only for philosophy (Nietzsche’s naturalism, Husserl’s work on the lifeworld), but also for fields such as anthropology (Gehlen’s conceptualization of the human as a “Mängelwesen”, Plessner’s distinction between “Körper” and “Leib”), poststructuralist thought (Derrida, Nancy), political theory (Arendt, Foucault, Agamben), women’s and gender studies (Judith Butler), affect theory, and literature. In recent decades, the body has also been problematized in its relation to animals, the environment, and technology, as exemplified by the works of Donna Haraway, N. Katherine Hayles, Mark Hansen, and many others.
Curiously, the presupposed split at the center of the human being has nevertheless remained in spite of the sustained attempt to move beyond the legacy of Cartesian mind-body dualism and the singular “body” towards a theory of embodiment—what might be described as the relation between being and sensing or what Jay Bernstein has recently called “being” and “having” a body. Is the split between mind and body, thinking and feeling, ideal and real a feature of a “modern” way of thinking about the human being, or does it reveal something about the nature of (self)-consciousness itself? Can there be a theory of embodiment that does not already assume such a split?
The conference format will consist of a seminar setting (open to the public) in which participants will each present a short paper of no more than 5 pages to be discussed by the group. Since the purpose of this conference is to think together about the problem of embodiment, a reader will be circulated with excerpts from the primary text that participants are working with in the hope that the individual papers can serve to open up a larger discussion about the primary texts themselves.
Organizers: Anna Alber, Ole Hinz, Tobias Kühne