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Call for papers for the 21st issue of TRANS— « The illegible / unreadable »

If literature constitutes in a way a space that offers us the possibility to experience potential configurations of our lives and can even allow us to better understand them, it can sometimes also generate lack of understanding, or an impression of illegibility or unreadability through the stories told, as well as through the language employed.

But what really happens when we’re confronted with readings often described as « difficult »? What can we take away from these experiences that are often synonym of struggle, suffering, even relinquishment? Where do we draw the line beyond which we can stop to appreciate what Rilke called « this wise not understanding of the child »?

This call for papers invites you to reflect upon the experience of difficulty, which is often associated with lack of understanding or the illegibility of a work or creation. The former emphasizes insufficient capacity or lack of appropriate tools on the part of the reader to assimilate information, an event or an aspect of language, while the latter implies that something is missing or wrong with the work in question, and often in the case of literature, with the author.

Furthermore, we can ask ourselves how these experiences of lack of understanding can in fact lead to understanding. They may also lead us to question what « understanding » even means. If Joyce offers us an exemplary experience of lack of linguistic understanding, it maybe only be a question of demanding more implication on the part of the reader. From another point of entry, Kafka’s or Beckett’s characters allow us to witness their lack of (perceived or unperceived) ability to understand their worlds. With these examples as a starting point, we invite you to explore other forms of lack of understanding, illegibility or unreadability that literature may offer.

We can also approach the challenge of reading as an experience and transgression of limits: the limits of the legible/readable for a society (in function of its languages, its history, etc.), the limits of an individual according to his or her competencies and predispositions. We can even consider, with Philippe Sollers, borderline works that have marked literary history, perhaps through the effects of “not understanding” that they may generate. Where do we position the threshold of readability/legibility and how do we experience it?

This subject is not exclusive to any period or genre. It does however require a comparative approach. Proposals (3000 characters), accompanied by a short bibliography and a short description of the author, must be sent before September 30st 2016 in .DOC or .RTF format to Selected articles must then be sent before November 30st 2016. We remind you that the journal of comparative literature TRANS— accepts articles written in French, English and Spanish.

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