Call for Papers: Experiencing Trauma, Exploring Aesthetics
A Special Issue of the Journal of the Northwest Communication Association
The Journal of the Northwest Communication Association announces a special issue dealing with trauma and aesthetics. Trauma, drawn from the Greek word for a physical wound, was expanded in the early part of this century to encompass psychological conditions, beginning with the profound disabilities suffered by many veterans of World War I. As the work of Sigmund Freud extended beyond his individual case studies to grapple with broader social forces, the use of the term “trauma” ventured from the psychological realm into the cultural. Kenneth Burke incorporated this idea into his early theories of rhetoric, exploring how stressful exigencies create ruptures within the symbolic fabric of a given society, impelling future cultural actors to suture these wounds through a wide range of literary enactments. When the coherence of symbolic systems are challenged rhetoric managing both the contingent and ambiguous emerges.
Maurice Blanchot asserts that the traumatized subject is not passive, but rather, witnessing violence and disaster necessitates creation—expression, language, writing and art become a mode of being for both the individual and the culture that manages the event. Trauma and aesthetics become fused when explosive experiences such as war, genocide, famine, violence, abuse, prison, terrorism or a host of other events leave their marks upon our individual and collective memories. Who can forget the agony of Chaim Potok’s Asher Lev who must paint his inner-most experiences in the face of religious and familial prohibitions? Despite Adorno’s pessimism about the role of art and poetry in the wake of genocide, humans are compelled to communicate these experiences through a wide array of aesthetic media often tethered to historical practices of the beautiful. Cathy Caruth has correctly focused critical attention upon history as a practice through which trauma is negotiated, the event thus politically positioned and re-positioned taking a place on an ideological battlefield. Thus, traumatic events and their histories are managed and contested within the popular imagination through the construction of memorials, the production of art, the articulation of personal memoirs, or the production of other cultural events (film, television, etc.). Consider the impact within the American cultural consciousness of slavery, Vietnam, 9/11, or Hurricane Katrina. Even the term “trauma” is itself a contested terrain as veterans returning from lengthy deployments in combat zones battle for status within the terrain of disability and the classifications like Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder come under increasing scrutiny.
The investigation of trauma has enjoyed a nascent presence within the field of communication studies, but it is time to move these scholarly inquiries to maturity within the discipline. The Journal of the Northwest Communication Association invites interested scholars to submit articles relevant to the interdisciplinary area of trauma studies, particularly those engaging the dynamics of aesthetics and/or history. For example, articles can explore cultural moments when individuals and communities creatively articulate trauma or assert the authenticity of their experience, the way institutions memorialize or repress traumatic memories, or focus on more foundational concerns like function of form or the sublime. Articles may employ a diversity of theoretical starting points including but not limited to rhetoric, performance, psychoanalysis, phenomenology, identity politics, post-structuralism, or historiography, explore a variety of aesthetic mediums such as public art, the mass media or traditional/street theater, or address structural or theoretical concerns. The hope for this forum is to initiate a conversation across the field of communication, linking diverse scholars by this common thread.
Original manuscripts (i.e., not published in any prior form) conforming to the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (APA) should be submitted electronically to the special issue editor Stephanie Houston Grey at email@example.com and the editorial assistant Charles Womelsdorf firstname.lastname@example.org. Length should not exceed 6,000 words including references for the document and 100 words for the abstract, and be compatible with a current version of Microsoft Word. Please include a cover letter stating the title, full names and affiliations of all authors, with addresses, phone numbers, e-mail addresses and word count. Because manuscripts are subject to the blind review process, authors should make sure there is no identification in the manuscript or abstract. Please contact Stephanie Houston Grey 224 Coates Hall Louisiana State University Baton Rouge, LA 70803 225-578-4172 (phone) 225-578-4828 (fax) for more information. Deadline for submissions is January 15, 2010.
Dr. Stephanie Houston Grey
224 Coates Hall
Louisiana State University
Baton Rouge, LA 70803
225.578.4828 Email: email@example.com
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