Basic information
24 November 2011 at 10:00 until 25 November 2011 at 18:00
ZRC SAZU, Mala dvorana, Ljubljana

Institute of Slovenian Literature and Literary Studies
Slovenian Comparative Literature Association
Department of Comparative Literature and Literary Theory (Faculty of Arts, University of Ljubljana)

Financial support: Slovenian Book Agency.

The international conference “The Rhetorics of Space” addresses the question of  the relationship between the capital and culture. This relationship was argued by Stephen Mullaney in 1997 (“Toward a Rhetoric of Space in Elizabethan London”): it refers to the urbanistic arrangement and characteristic rituals of a city which, acting the role of the capital of a single community, has attained the status of a privileged place, i.e. the centre of  the cultural space of a single community during its cultural history. In this aspect, its spatial arrangement can be read as the representation of power.  Referring to this new-historicist point of view, the thematics of the conference place stress  especially on the role of literature and literary histories in creating the relationship between the capital and culture, as well as enabling modifications (or transformations) of this perspective by also taking into account U. Eco’s, or J.M. Lotman’s etc. cultural semiotics. The argument for both these modifications derives from moving the field of such research to the single Central-, East- , Nord- and South-European territories formed by their communities as their own cultural spaces. Namely, it seems that forming, arranging, or representing the capitals as centres of the cultural space of a single community inhabiting these territories are highly motivated by continuous re-employment of literature and literary histories.      

According to specific historical-political circumstances, cultural spaces drawn in the above-mentioned territories represent the identities of the single communities in characteristic (cultural) encoding of the literary-spatial signs arranged in the urban area of a single capital. These specifics or characteristic encodings have been created from about the middle of the 19th century (the process of urbanistic modernizations in the capitals of these territories also started at this time), when the single cultural communities in these territories started intensively to ascribe to themselves the identity of the national community, aiming at the official confirmation of this kind of identity in the “final” form of political emancipation, i.e. the (national) state, which was mostly gained in about the last decade of the 20th century.        

The spatial arrangements, or representations of single capitals as the centres of cultural spaces can also be read as maps of  cultural-spatial signs among which the most privileged status, as it seems, was ascribed to the literary-spatial signs, due to the privileged cultural-political function of literature and literary histories of a single community in these territories. Therefore, the similarities or at least the comparable cultural-historical circumstances in which the central cultural spaces of capitals were urbanistically arranged can be recognized especially in the light of the national and comparative literary and cultural histories of these territories. According to the thesis of Slovene comparative literature historian D. Pirjevec, the literature of a single community that understands itself  as a national community, while it has not yet gained its political emancipation in the desired form of a (national) state, should be identified with the culture (of such a community) and, according to the level of deficiency of the (national) state’s infrastructure should also attend to the duties or functions of the state institutions.

The central part of the conference also addresses the question of the representational and representative “character” of the capital as the cultural and political spatial centre of a single (national, multinational, etc.) community in the aspect of literary-spatial signs, or representations of literature as a privileged domain of one community’s identity created in special and similar historical-political and cultural-political circumstances. This creation characterized the modernizing arrangements and supporting activities of the culturally central urban space of a single capital which has retroactively and additionally supported the cultural(-political) functions of literature and literary histories for confirming one community’s identity until the present day, i.e. in the political frames of the European Union, which in principle gains its identity on the grounds of the cultural diversity of its members.    Mapping the cultural space of the capitals from this aspect also stresses the inevitable role of the national and comparative literary histories in creating the significant literary-spatial signs for representing the spatial consolidation of the community’s identity. Therefore, the research can be based on the literary- and cultural-historical perspectives.   

Topics may include, but are not limited to:

  1. theoretical aspects for researching the modes by which the cultural space (of the capital) gains meanings, represents itself as such, or creates its (literary) cultural-spatial signs (perspectives of new historicism, semiotics of culture, comparative literary history).
  2. Concrete arrangements, i.e. (literary-)cultural mappings of single capitals by taking into account the spatial positions, names, images, etc. of the monuments, buildings, streets, squares, etc. which refer to the literature, literary history and literary and cultural historiography of a single cultural community; the spatial relations between them and the role of literary history in creating these relations.  
  3. Rituals (especially those which refer to the literary spatial signs) as representations of a single cultural space’s identity, i.e. the rituals which are performed in the territory of the capital, confirming the cultural identity of the community by cyclical or on special political-historical occasions performed events, which literary-culturally “present” the past, or represent the “invention of tradition” of a single community.
  4. Special relations between spatial signs in different historical periods of a single (even just “local”, i.e., politically subordinated) capital as a cultural centre: this aspect refers to those historical periods in which one cultural community was not emancipated in the political form of “its” (independent) state, i.e., it created itself in the frames of this or that more extensive (for example, multi-national) state-political form. These topics can be further divided into the following aspects:

a) in the perspective of ideological hegemony, the cultural-political spatial signs of “the state” in one “local”, i.e., subordinated capital (like Ljubljana in comparison to Vienna as the factual political capital of the multi-national Austro-Hungarian state) can differ from the signs created by its single politically non-emancipated cultural community;

b) especially from the middle or the end of the 19th centuy on, urbanistic aims (and plans) for modernizing the (local, subordinated) capitals can clearly stress these ideological differences;

c) literary spatial signs in the space or cultural map of a single capital can also be read from the aspect of the deficiency of such spatial-material “proofs”, which should confirm the spatial presence of one cultural minority in the centre, i.e., the capital of the cultural space. Such possible deficiency as a result of the selection of literary cultural spatial signs can be reviewed from the aspect of comparative and national literary histories, especially of their historically different canonizations of literature.

  1. Representations of a single capital as the (political) cultural centre of one community, referring  especially to the literary tradition: a) in literature (including travel literature, etc.); b) in visual (and other) arts; c) referring to the theatre or performing arts, etc.

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