CFP: Theory Reading Group

[Passing some information along]

The Theory Reading Group at Cornell University invites submissions for its sixth annual interdisciplinary spring conference:

Form and Genesis

Featuring keynote speakers Adrian Johnston (University of New Mexico) and Robert Kaufman (University of California, Berkeley)

Cornell University
Ithaca, New York
April 22-24, 2010

Increasingly it seems that contemporary thought is confronted with two ways of explaining its objects. On the one hand, a formal approach seeks to analyze the necessary structures or defining qualities that make something what it is. On the other hand, a genetic or historical method aims to uncover the forces that give rise to form or structure in the first place. Do these modes of explanation disqualify one another, or are there compelling prospects for their integration? For example, is it possible to understand how thought or rationality can grasp its own determining processes? Or, on the contrary, is thought structurally unable to access a domain that is by nature exterior to reason, sense, or order?

Broadly understood, the formal approach tends to seek logical explanations, while the genetic approach looks to materialist or genealogical accounts. The relation between these two orders of explanation has wide implications. What is the connection between logical or normative form and its temporal, material, or historical genesis? Conversely, what might an analysis of the structure of genealogy or critique tell us about the latter? Does the political critique of form as an arbitrary convention mitigate its powers of normativity? What is the relationship between form and history, or form and materiality in literary and aesthetic theory? What is the status of formalism, whether literary or logical-mathematical, in contemporary theory?

Suggested topics:

Speculation and critique
Formalisms and historicisms
The transcendental and the empirical
Limits of philosophy/limits of science
Form of the political
Events of reason
Condition and cause
Sense and nonsense
Form and genre
History and form in aesthetics
Breaking form: the sublime, the unrepresentable, the iconoclastic
Formation and deformation
The finite and the infinite
Forms of the event
Structure and drive (Freud, Lacan, Deleuze, Guattari)
Form and interpretation (New Critics, Deconstruction)
History, genealogy, critique (Nietzsche, Foucault)
Marxism and form (Benjamin, Adorno, Jameson)
Forms of life (Wittgenstein, Arendt, Agamben)

Please limit the length of abstracts to no more than 250 words.
The deadline for submission of 250-word abstracts for 20-minute presentations is March 1, 2010.
Please include your name, e-mail address, and phone number.

Abstracts should be e-mailed to
Notices of acceptance will be sent no later than March 6, 2010.
For more information about the Cornell Theory Reading Group, visit_

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