First cfp for stilet.digital issue 33(1)
The central question of this special issue of stilet.digital is how aesthetic judgment surfaces the political. Literature, like Philosophy and Art, is a discipline that is framed around second order considerations; a discipline that considers questions that are not necessarily sociological or phenomenological. While cognisant of the distinction between first and second order disciplines, the contributions to this issue should highlight the complexity of the context in which we are located: South Africa – as country – is continually defined by inhumane, debilitating and de-aestheticizing inequalities inaugurated by the violence of our shared past. In line with Zoë Wicomb’s (/1993: 65) proposition, we contend that this context, “needs a radical pedagogy, a level of literacy that will allow our children to read works of literature that will politicize them into an awareness not only of power, but also of the equivocal, the ambiguous, and the ironic that is always embedded in power.”
In this framing of the literary landscape in South Africa, Wicomb compels us here to explore the aesthetic judgements that have been made around literature, the literary, and social, legal and judiciary narrativity in our context. This is to say that while literature and literary theory might (if the scholar so wished) be framed as claiming an apolitical and ahistorical position, our lived experience and observable reality is such that in the constitution of the canon – what, who and how we choose to teach – we have already made a political choice; who is seen, legitimated or erased. Aesthetics in this sense cannot reasonably or ethically claim to be separated from the political. Indeed, Gadamer (1975) suggests that aesthetics express and curate the political and how it is negotiated, while Wicomb (1994: 105) substantiates this position in maintaining that “[ideology] operates within discursive formations precisely because interdiscourse remains disguised, or rather is absorbed/forgotten in intradiscourse.”
In the task of thinking through and revealing the interdiscourses informing aesthetic judgment, this special issue will take, as it’s conceptual starting point, the field of literary studies, but build interdisciplinarily on this through actively inviting engagement with these themes from a variety of other disciplines. Our objective is to interrogate the aesthetic judgements made by literary practitioners, academics, journalists, activists, artists and judges as they narrate the South African condition from their varying standpoints. In light of this discussion, proposals and statements of intent are invited on the following, or any sub-question that engages with the central problem of judgment, aesthetics and the political: The lived experience of judgement; The validity of claims to pure aesthetics in a post-conflictual context; The place of politics in literature; Reconceptualising aesthetics as a politically charged category; The raciality of the literary landscape, the legal profession, and the artscape of South Africa; Thinking with and from the margins of literary or legal-academic culture; Liberating literature from politics – a return to Njabulo Ndebele’s The Rediscovery of the Ordinary (1991); Detailing a radical pedagogy – Critiquing or substantiating Wicomb’s (/1990) Conception of Culture in South Africa; Critiquing and contesting the (in)fallibility of literary figures and judges.Another productive avenue of exploration would be to juxtapose sets of texts or authors, for example Alan Paton’s Cry, The Beloved Country (1948) and Antjie Krog’s Country of My Skull (1998); two texts that, whilst located 50 years apart, highlight how these literary giants framed, understand/understood, and wrote/thought through their self-collective conceptions of (South) Africa and (South) African variegated identity, while always explicitly situating this within national frameworks of belonging. Considering the lessons that might be gleaned from legal texts, especially judgments (which overtly engage judgement through judging or appraising two or more competing positions), authors are invited to treat judicial judgments as aesthetic texts.