1993-94: Texts & Contexts Revisited

In the recent past, various text-oriented approaches, such as deconstruction and hermeneutics, have provoked considerable debate in the humanities. With the expansion of the notion of "textuality" has come a reconsideration of the problem of contexts, including, for example, contexts of production and reception in the aesthetics of reception, new historicism, and cultural studies.

How comprehensive are the very concepts of "text" and "context" themselves? What are their virtues? Has the idea of "textuality" been so pervasively applied that it may be in danger of becoming overextended and imprecise? Can the concept of "textuality" fruitfully apply to art, music, and institutionalized practices in general? How precisely and adequately can we specify procedures and protocols of articulation for texts of different genres or intellectual traditions? Is there such a thing as a "nondiscursive practice" in cultures? What is the relation between performative dimensions of signification and contextual constraints or possibilities (including those active in the present)? Are contexts explanatory, and is inquiry into them and their role necessary for any mode of interpretation claiming to be historical?

The questions posed here are intended to be suggestive rather than inclusive or exhaustive. The Society seeks scholars who are interested in pursuing a critical examination of the problem of texts and contexts, and in questioning or using these concepts in new ways to advance research in the humanities.