Centre for the Study of Theory and Criticism

Theory Sessions

The Theory Sessions, a student initiative, serves as a forum for the exchange of ideas to promote interdisciplinary research in theory at the Centre and across campus. Students and faculty present their papers and engage in spirited discussions, with contributions from interested Centre scholars as well as faculty and students from other fields and disciplines at Western. Topics have included cannibalism, camp, vaginas, anarchism, bioeconomics, and photography.

This presentation will explore relationships between the poetic/aesthetic technique of erasure (in which a new work is produced through the acknowledged suppression of parts of a previous work, often by a different author) and the meaning of erasure in theoretical discourse, especially Jacques Derrida’s use, following Martin Heidegger, of the strikethrough in his early texts. Primarily, I will seek to take up certain theoretical understandings of erasure in order to shift the focus of established criticism of erasure-based artworks (especially Tom Phillips’ popular artist’s book, A Humument) and poetics of erasure. While these texts tend to depict erasure as just one of many possible techniques for the expression of divergent subjectivities, I argue, with reference both to its deployments in theory and its contributions to particular artistic texts, that erasure is in fact a fundamental component of such productions of multiplicity. Engaging the language of Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari’s concept of the rhizome often echoed in commentaries on erasure-based artworks, I suggest that erasure is an indissociable supplement to the rhizome’s operations. Through these arguments, I hope to both clarify and recontextualize understandings of erasure’s uses in theory, and to deepen understandings of the aesthetics of erasure and its functioning in artistic works more and less obviously indebted to its application as a creative technique. The presentation will include a variety of examples of erasure-based writing and artwork, including physical volumes available for viewing by audience members.

 Consider volunteering to be a respondent for any Theory Session that interests you.  To respond to a paper it’s not necessary to write a paper of your own; nor do you have to be an expert in the field. All that is asked is that you be willing to raise a problem or offer a comment based on the paper that’s just been given. The speaker will provide you with a copy of the paper a week in advance. To volunteer, e‐mail Grant Dempsey or Katie Grant.