Palimpsest Story: Vestiges and Emanations
- Rhona Trauvitch (University of Massachusetts, Amherst), Barry A. Spence (University of Massachusetts, Amherst)
The original denotative sense of palimpsest as parchment on which an original text has been partially to near fully effaced so that a subsequent text can overwrite and occupy the same substrate rests etymologically on a concept that has lent itself to multiple expansive and iterative extensions. The notion of “scraping or rubbing smooth again” invites an understanding that moves beyond the strictly material and blends the idea of recycling with an ultimate textual state in which a vestigial simultaneity of temporally distinct meaning constructions is detectable. The concept of the palimpsest traffics not only in the idea of recycling but includes within its polysemic reach the dynamics of erasure, appropriation, superimposition, translation, adaptation, reception, among seemingly countless others.
This seminar invites papers that look at cultural texts and their various aspects through a palimpsestic lens; that investigate expressive works, whether literary, cinematic, or otherwise, which are demonstrably palimpsests; or that in other ways explore the nature and theory of the palimpsest. This seminar’s mission is to look at the concept of the palimpsest from various angles, and in particular to consider the limits of the term’s usefulness. In keeping with this goal, the seminar will be attuned to the defining features of palimpsestic structure and signification.