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Call for papers for volume "The Silence of (the) God(s)" (CFP for Volume)

Organization: Jacopo Masi
Event: CFP for Volume
Categories: Postcolonial, Hispanic & Latino, Comparative, World Literatures, Poetry, Classical Studies, Cultural Studies, African & African Diasporas, Asian & Asian Diasporas, Australian Literature, Canadian Literature, Caribbean & Caribbean Diasporas, Indian Subcontinent, Eastern European, Mediterranean, Middle East, Native American, Scandinavian, Pacific Literature
Event Date: 2024-11-10 Abstract Due: 2024-06-15

Call for papers for the volume The Silence of (the) God(s)
The Centre for Classical Studies of the University of Lisbon invites researchers in Classical Studies, Comparative Studies and Cultural Studies to submit their contributions for a collective volume on the topic of The Silence of (the) God(s). The volume will be published in 2025 by Éditions Slatkine / Honoré Champion, in the “Bibliothèque de Littérature Générale et Comparée” collection coordinated by Jean Bessière.
John Cage’s famous experiment in the anechoic chamber at Harvard University in 1951 led him to the conclusion that “there is no such thing as silence” (Cage 1961, 191). As long as an ear and a brain are on the lookout, there will always be something to hear, if only the hums and vibrations of their own activity (Cage 1961, 8), or even what Susan Sontag, expanding on Cage’s reflection, will describe as “the ghosts of one’s own expectations” (1969, 10). Thus, what we call ‘silence’ is often less the absolute absence of vibrations than a relative perception (or absence of perception), defined with respect to an acoustic but also cultural system of reference and a – sensory and psychic – subjective sensitivity: silence is “a feeling,” writes David Le Breton (1997, 22), “a modality of sense, not a measure of ambient sound” [“un sentiment, une modalité du sens, et non une mesure de la sonorité ambiante”].
If there is no such thing as silence, there is, however, an infinite number of silences, an infinite variation of silences. The silence of ineffability does not coincide with the silence of reticence or omission; “guilty” and “sacred” silences in the Bible stand in stark contrast to one another (Neher 1970, 17); censorship and self-censorship do not operate at the same depth nor in the same way, and, sometimes, they do not hush up the same topics. There are silences of quietude and panic silences, silences of modesty, shame, and respect; some silences are the result of an emotional excess and others, on the contrary, of a lack of emotion. There are mute silences and eloquent ones.
The notion of silence is therefore neither univocal nor stable, as shown by, among others, Alain Corbin’s Histoire du silence (2016) and Silvia Montiglio’s Silence in the Land of Logos, two very different studies bearing witness to fluctuations that unfold not only from one civilisation to another but also diachronically within the same civilisation (Montiglio 2020, 4).
We have chosen to devote this volume not to the silence of humans but to that of god(s), thus addressing the intertwining of two notions, silence and the divine, which appear to share the common features of cultural and subjective variability, conceptual oscillation and polysemic potential, to the point of reaching mutual identification as suggested by Gœtz in Sartre’s drama Le Diable et le bon Dieu : “Silence is God” (Sartre 1951: 267).
Literary history is not short of examples where divinity and silence are associated, from the Egyptian god Harpocrates – mentioned by Plutarch, Catullus, Ovid, Saint Augustine and Politian, among others (Gaisser 1993, 72) – to the Roman goddesses Angerona and Tacita (Dubourdieu 2003), from the rare silences of Homer’s loquacious deities to the silence that Jesus opposes to the accusations levelled against him in the Gospel according to Mark (14:60 and 15:5), from the ne sileas a me of Psalm 28 to, finally, “the eternal and terrible Master of the Universe [who] chose to be silent” – because of its inexistence, death or temporary absence – on the first night when Elie Wiesel arrived at Auschwitz (Wiesel 2007, 77).
Drawing on multiple perspectives (classical, comparative and cultural studies), our volume aims to explore the complex relationship between divinity and silence as it emerges in literature from classical antiquity to the present day.
Cage, John. 1961. Silence: Lectures and Writings. Hanover : Wesleyan University Press.
Corbin, Alain. 2016. Histoire du silence. De la Renaissance à nos jours. Paris : Albin Michel.
Dubourdieu, Annie. 2003. « Divinités de la parole, divinités du silence dans la Rome antique », in Revue de l’histoire des religions, tome 220, n° 3, 259-282.  
Gaisser, Julia Haig. 1993. Catullus and his Renaissance Readers. Oxford : Clarendon Press.
Le Breton, David. 1997. Du silence. Paris : Éditions Métailié.
Montiglio, Silvia. 2020. Silence in the Land of Logos. Princeton : Princeton University Press.
Neher, André. 1970. L’Exil de la parole. Du silence biblique au silence d’Auschwitz. Paris : Seuil.
Sartre, Jean-Paul. 1951. Le Diable et le bon Dieu. Paris : Gallimard.
Sontag, Susan. 1969. “The Aesthetics of Silence” (1967). In Styles of Radical Will, London : Secker & Warburg, p. 3-34.
Wiesel, Elie. 2007 [1958]. La nuit. Paris : Les Éditions de Minuit.
Abstracts of approximately 500 words in length (including bibliography) accompanied by 5 keywords and a brief biographical note must be sent by June 15, 2024 to the following email address: jmasi@campus.ul.pt.
Articles whose proposals will have been accepted will be expected by November 10, 2024.
Peer reviews and the notification of final acceptance/refusal will be sent to the authors in December 2024.
Articles must be between 6,000 and 9,000 words in length, including bibliography and notes, and may be written in English or French. All citations in other languages must be translated. Authors are responsible for the spelling and grammatical accuracy of their texts.
For any further information, please do not hesitate to contact us at the following email address: jmasi@campus.ul.pt
This work is financed by National Funds through the FCT – Foundation for Science and Technology, I.P., within the scope of the project UIDB/00019/2020.


Jacopo Masi