30 October - The Politics and Aesthetics of the Individual Character of the Letter

Dr Joseph R. Schafer

Dr Joseph Shafer is currently a Government of Ireland Postdoctoral Research Fellow with the Irish Research Council, specializing in twentieth-century American poetry, transatlanticism, critical theory and aesthetics. He received his PhD from the University of Warwick in 2018, and previously studied at Dartmouth College. In 2018, he was awarded a Postdoctoral Fellowship at Auburn University, and has been awarded a Visiting Research Fellowship at the University of Oxford's Rothermere American Institute for 2020. His current monograph, The Flesh of Literal Space: Aesthetics, Politics and Page in Post-1945 American Literature, offers a new lexicon for addressing types of literary space and their relations, in order to introduce overlooked political and cultural movements in the poetry and poetic prose of writers such as Charles Olson, Susan Howe, Robert Duncan, Ronald Johnson, Sylvia Plath, Kathy Acker, Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, Stephen Jonas, Jayne Cortez, and Sonia Sanchez. Joe has also published variously on transatlantic receptions and D.H. Lawrence, and is the Online Editor of the Journal of D.H. Lawrence Studies and an Executive Committee Member for the D.H. Lawrence Society of North America. His publications have appeared in journals such as Arizona Quarterly, Textual Practice, Journal of American Studies, International Yearbook for Hermeneutics, D.H. Lawrence Review, PN Review and Oxford Literary Review, and forthcoming works include two book chapters on Lacan's aesthetics, in Reading Lacan's Seminar VIII: On Transference, another on Badiou's modernist aesthetics, and an interview with Jacques Rancière.

Department of English

Wednesday 30 October 3-4 pm
O' Rahilly Building Room 2.12


As devoted readers, how we approach a text becomes inseparable from how we view the world. What can be more pivotal, then, than the way not only words or signs are handled but the more elemental, individual letter itself? Designed as both a basic and advanced introduction to late 20th-century literary theory, this lecture offers a brief genealogy wherein the character of "the letter" is taken to be the primary subject, particularly in French theory, from The Lettrists and Lacan, to Derrida, Badiou and Rancière. By narrowing in on the particular traits of the letter, the different definitions of, and approaches to, what "politics" is, and what "aesthetics" is, and how they are bound together, can be revealed, compared and explored. Since such theorists have heavily influenced contemporary theory and criticism, the often overlooked and wider implications of the letter prove relevant. For example, the subject of the letter can generate a certain structure, sign economy, exchange value, capital, big Other, and possible disruptions and subversions of such by what might also be generally called aesthetics.

College of Arts, Celtic Studies & Social Sciences

Coláiste na nEalaíon, an Léinn Cheiltigh agus na nEolaíochtaí Sóisialta

College Office, Room G31 ,Ground Floor, Block B, O'Rahilly Building, UCC