CFP: ACLA Seminar: "Unavailable: The Joy of Not Responding," Virtual Conference (31.10.2020)

Marie-Luise Goldmann's picture

Unavailable: The Joy of Not Responding

Virtual ACLA-Seminar (Annual Meeting of the American Comparative Literature Association), April 8-11, 2021



Anna Hordych, Universität Potsdam (

Marie-Luise Goldmann, New York University (


Fatal stories of lost letters, changed addresses, or missed calls – we all know them and their ability to explain the lack of an answer. But increasingly such stories seem to have fallen out of time. In the digital age, no message gets lost. If today a response fails to arrive, it is fair to conclude that the addressed person simply does not want to answer.

This seminar seeks to explore the flipside of unlimited availability, namely the desire to escape the pressure to communicate. Ottessa Moshfegh’s protagonist in “My Year of Rest and Relaxation” (2018) opposes the imperative of productivity by attempting to sleep for a year, leaving communication in abeyance. How does literature map narratives of withdrawal (e.g. Melville's “Bartleby”)? To what extent do performances of “ghosting” reflect on economic structures (see Eva Illouz)? And what kind of pleasure arises from the indecisiveness that is inherent both in waiting to respond and in waiting for a response?

In terms of literature, waiting reveals a lot about reading and vice versa. As Roland Barthes argues in “S/Z,” the expectation of an answer drives the act of reading. Peter Brooks likewise describes the “imposed delay” and the “desire for the end” as indispensable parts of a “reading for the plot.” Does a joyful reading experience depend on the void of no response?

We encourage papers from all times, disciplines, and languages that explore the various ways in which literature produces a poetics of no reply.


Please submit 200-300 word proposals for twenty-minute papers through the ACLA portal ( during the submission period (October 1 – October 31).  Interested individuals are encouraged to contact the seminar organizers by email with inquiries. Seminar organizers will review all submitted papers and propose their rosters to the ACLA by November 9. The ACLA Program Committee will review all submitted seminars for consideration for inclusion in the program in late November.

Redaktion: Constanze Baum – Lukas Büsse – Mark-Georg Dehrmann – Nils Gelker – Markus Malo – Alexander Nebrig – Johannes Schmidt

Diese Ankündigung wurde von H-GERMANISTIK [Nils Gelker] betreut –