The Symptom in Theory – Symposium – Call for Papers

8th September, 2009

Location: Room 0.31, Humanities Building, Cardiff University

Conference organiser: Aidan Tynan

Some of the most influential theoretical contributions of the last several decades have sought to formulate the relationship between the body and its symbolic environments through the concept of the symptom. Perhaps the most influential of these was Lacan’s conception of speech and desire, in which the symptom, as signifier, discloses a set of meanings which disturb conscious discourse. Deleuze and Guattari’s subsequent insistence that schizophrenia should not be interpreted in negative terms, as the signs of a breakdown, but as the positivity of desire breaking through to a new, possibly revolutionary, plane of existence specifically attacked the psychoanalytic notion of the symptom by tying it to the structures of social repression. Beyond these debates, the symptom has figured in the theory of literature, historical materialism, embodiment and sexuality, and dialectics. This symposium seeks to situate the concept of the symptom in relation to these theoretical and political issues in order to ask what the symptom means for us today. How has the concept of the symptom persisted and how can it help us understand the relationships between pathology and thought, desire and language, praxis and theory, politics and art in our present age? The event will consist of a small number of concurrent panels, plenary panels, and roundtable discussion. Contributions engaging critically and polemically with Deleuze from a range of diverse backgrounds are especially welcome. Submissions will be considered for inclusion in a special issue of Deleuze Studies.

Participants at the event will include Ian Buchanan (Cardiff), James Williams (Dundee), and Christian Kerslake (Middlesex).

Topics may include, but are by no means limited to, the following:

• The post-psychoanalytic critique of Freud
• What kind of sign is the symptom? (the symptom and semiology)
• AIDS and the virus
• Bioethics, biopolitics, and jurisprudence
• Althusser’s symptomatic reading of Marx
• The symptom and structural causality
• Jameson’s conception of the symptom in the dialectical understanding
of literature and history
• The symptom as antinomy
• Nietzschean symptomatology (the philosopher as cultural physician)
• Lacan and hysteria
• Desire in speech and language
• Zizek and the critique of ideology (did Marx really invent the symptom?)
• The symptom as universal exception
• Derrida, the pharmakon, and autoimmunity
• Deleuze and Guattari’s critique of Lacanian psychoanalysis
• Deleuze’s project for an aesthetic clinic (critique et clinique)

Papers should last no longer than 20 minutes. Please send 250-word proposals by 31st July 2009 to