Volkswagen Fellowship Symposia

Interpreting Oneself: Reflections on Authorship and Self-Exegesis


Literary theory since the 1960s/70s has seen a constant demise of the figure of the author and, more specifically, of his authority in matters of literary interpretation. Wolfgang Iser’s statement in The Act of Reading claiming that, with regard to his own work, “the author is far from being his own, ideal reader,” supposedly still reflects the feelings of many scholars of literature today. However, this rather casual dismissal of the author as a less-than-ideal reader may have contributed to obliterating those – not so few – cases, where (e.g., in prefaces and other paratexts, newspapers and magazines, but also in the literary texts themselves) authors do act as readers of their own works. Far from being self-evident or simply in line with common-sense, such instances of self-exegesis constitute a challenge to literary criticism. What exactly is it that an author may be able to tell us, that is not accessible to other readers, or that he himself hasn’t said already? What motivates authors to read, comment on or interpret their own writings? And what are the effects, intended or otherwise, of such readings?

Friday, April 1

Welcome/Introduction: Classical Self-Interpretation(s) | 2:00pm

Konstanze Baron
University of Tübingen and Harvard University

"A Transition in My Soul": Wordsworth’s Art of Persuasion | 2:30pm

Yasmin Solomonescu
University of Notre Dame

Coffee | 3:20pm

MetaMetaMaus | 3:40pm

Hillary Chute
University of Chicago and Harvard University

Roland Barthes Explains Himself: A "livre du moi" in the Third Person | 4:30pm

Susanne Goumegou
University of Tübingen

Keynote Lecture: From Dante Divided to the Pilgrim-Poet: What Becomes of Self-Exegesis in the Commedia | 5:30pm

Albert Russell Ascoli
University of California, Berkeley

Conference Dinner | 7:00pm

Saturday, April 2

Authorial Re-Arrangements of the Self: Visual and Textual Strategies in Early Colonial Spanish American Literature | 9:00am

Liliana Gomez-Popescu
University of Halle-Wittenberg and Harvard University

Poetry and Truth: Rainald Goetz Accepts the Büchner Prize | 9:50am

Arne Hoecker
University of Colorado

Coffee | 10:40am

Modeling Perception: Robert Bresson’s Notes on the Cinematograph as an Exercise in Self-Exegesis and Self-Promotion | 11:00am

Codruţa Morari
Wellesley College

In the Difference of the "I": Ethics, Exegesis, and Proximity in the Work of Art | 11:50am

Mary Anderson
Emerson College, Harvard University, and Boston Psychoanalytic Society

Closing Remarks/Final Discussion | 12:40pm

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