Call for Papers. Wolfgang Iser – Towards a literary anthropology

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    Stefania Irene Sini

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    Cfp. Wolfgang Iser – Towards a literary anthropology 

    Enthymema. International journal of literary criticism, literary theory, and philosophy of literature (

    On the intersection of the tenth anniversary of his death (2007) and of the fortieth anniversary of the first publication of his most famous work The Act of Reading (Der Akt des Lesens, 1976), we would like to celebrate the critic and literary theorist Wolfgang Iser with a special section.

    Our reflection can only start from the critical classic The Act of Reading that contributed in making reader’s response theories a cornerstone, generating a most lively debate, in the field of literary theory in the following forty years. Nevertheless, we would also like to provide a better focus on the arrival point of Iser’s critical and theoretical reflections.

    In the thirty years that separated the issue of that fundamental work from his death, Iser never stopped expanding his research. First, he moved from the field of English literature on Spenser, Beckett, and Joyce to theoretical studies on the concepts – so relevant in the current debate – of the fictive and the imaginary. Eventually, Iser developed the project of a new discipline, namely literary anthropology, with which he aimed to provide an account of literature as a universal and human device for self-interpretation, as a tool for the relentless urge of human beings to become known to themselves.

    Iser was aware of the fact that in order to analyse such a complex human activity, a single, fixed perspective is not enough: (self) interpretation is not just a practice, it is a human need that allows us to expand and shape ourselves. Literature works in the same vein. Indeed, the latter is nothing but interpretation at every level.

    Such an enquiry of human life requires specific heuristic tools and cannot make use of frames borrowed from other disciplines. The risk would otherwise be that literature is merely used to provide illustrative examples. Which is why in his more recent works (especially in The Range of Interpretation, 2000) he pursued a self-contained heuristic framework within the new discipline. Still, he continuously kept an eye open on all possible intersections with hermeneutics, cybernetics, biology, and cognitive and evolutionary studies.

    It is with the same spirit that we are inviting contributions for proposals on Iserian themes with the aim to reflect on his own theoretical production, and to continue his own project.

    Article proposals in English, Italian, French, or German, must be sent to and must contain the following details: the title of the contribution, a 350-500 word abstract, and a short bio-bibliographical profile of the author (including e-mail address and the university/institution of affiliation). The deadline for proposals is 31st January 2017.

    Topics may include, but are not limited to:

    • Reading and readers; theories of the interaction between the reader and the text; current relevance and need of aesthetical response theories; the implied reader.
    • Indeterminacy, implied reader, and the narrative text.
    • Indeterminacy as the mark of narrative genres.
    • Literature and play. The interaction between the fictive and the imaginary.
    • Fiction, fictive, and fictional.
    • Towards a literary anthropology: problems, questions, and reflections.
    • Literature as self-interpretation and self-poiesis.
    • Wolfgang Iser as a literary critic and theorist.
    • Influence of Iser’s theories in the current critical and theoretical debate.
    • The application of Iser’s theories in the field of narrative studies.


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