Today CHH Seminar with Barry Saunders on ‘Chiasms: Cutting for Tropes’

We are very pleased to announce that Barry Saunders will be our next speaker for the CHH Seminar Series today, Wednesday 27th November 2013 at 6pm, in room K1.28 at The Strand Campus. Barry Saunders will give a talk titled: “Chiasms: Cutting for Tropes“.

Chiasmus – after the Greek letter X – is an important rhetorical figure. Indeed it is something of an arche-trope: cut into its turnings and release other tropes. This is a secret thesis of Raymond Roussel’s Nouvelles Impressions d’Afrique (1932), a uniquely chiasmic poem that is also a tropic menagerie. The poem solicits so much readerly (and writerly) surgery that Surrealists built a machine to read it. This talk will juxtapose Roussel’s tortured literary chiasm with some historical reflections on the optic chiasm, the crossing between eyes and brain.

Optic chiasm
Optic chiasm
Disputes over the optic chiasm’s fine structure, mobilizing a range of evidential forms, continued into the late 19th century. Now, neurological texts’ depictions simply note how specific scotomas (visual blind spots) result from cuts of the chiasm at particular locations. Two of these scotomas turn out to be analogous, semiotically, to the tropes of metaphor and metonymy so privileged by structuralists. The talk will also briefly consider philosophers’ writings on chiasms – specifically, treatments by Merleau-Ponty, Lacan, and Derrida – that invest the productivity of the chiasm’s wounding.

Barry Saunders is Associate Professor of Social Medicine at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is both a clinician and a cultural anthropologist of contemporary biomedicine and teaching hospitals using approaches from philosophy, anthropology, history, religious studies, and literary criticism. He is interested in how medicine and hospitals are, among other things, religious institutions, with their own doctrines and scriptures, rituals and priesthoods. His academic writing concerns practices of scientific and clinical knowledge-making, how diagnosticians organize evidence, disease definitions and bodily infirmities, and how our archives, taxonomies, and methods relate to older forms of colonial discipline and biopower. His book, CT Suite: The Work of Diagnosis in the Age of Noninvasive Cutting (Duke University Press, 2008), is an ethnography and philosophical history of CT (computed tomography) scanning and his current book project is an intellectual history of “chiasms”—optic, rhetorical, and philosophical—at particular junctures of late modernity.

All Welcome!
Location: K1.28, The Strand
When: 27/11/2013 (18:00-20:00)


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