016- Theorizing Marginality


Organized by: ICLA Research Committee on Literary Theory. Prof. Robert Young


            The margin, the periphery, the edge and the threshold are concepts that have long had a great attraction for literary and cultural theories. Paradoxically, one might even say that margins are at the center of theoretical attention. This is precisely why we wish to address the category of the marginal as such and to examine it for its structures of meaning and its argumentative functions. The recent death of the philosopher Jean-Luc Nancy also prompts us to rethink the marginal within the context, elaborated so forcefully in his work (e.g. La Communauté désœuvrée, 1983), of possible structures of community, inclusion and exclusion.

              In our proposed panel, however, critical revision of the history of theory is only one possible focus. Also worthy of consideration may be marginality as a para-, micro- and intertextual phenomenon, i.e., as a side-note in books and as an aphoristic genre emanating therefrom (as in Poe's "Marginalia"). Of particular interest is the significance of the marginal in the overall theme of the conference, in the "Re-Imagining" of the "Literatures of the World." For on the one hand, the hierarchy of center and periphery has been fundamentally criticized in world literature discourses over the last decades. On the other hand, literary globalization has led to new centralizations or perpetuated old ones, especially with regard to the continued centrality of European languages as postcolonial literary languages. Therefore, the theoretical question of marginality crucially concerns the role of "minor literatures" within "world literature."