a journal of critical literary studies

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Special issue on "The Poetics of Surplus"

We are currently inviting submissions for a special issue of College Literature on "The Poetics of Surplus," guest-edited by Ranjan Ghosh.

This project draws on a wide array of paradigms and traditions of thought across Western and Asian philosophy. Its cross-cultural and cross-epistemic sweep includes, but is not limited to, the Plato-Aristotle dialogs on creativity, the idea of “new” in the Psalms, obsession with numbers in medieval aesthetics, Kant’s supersensible substratum, Schiller’s aesthetische Zugabe, Aquinas’s idea of the whole being more than the summation of its parts, Keats’s fine excess, Eliot’s idea of the poet’s mind being a platinum, Bataille’s excess, Ricoeur’s interpretative and discursive surplus, Derrida’s ghost and telephony, Blanchot’s negativity and death, Heidegger’s notion of the presence, Nietzsche’s overman, Sartrean angst, Max Weber’s ‘charisma’, Zizek’s dialectics on surplus and subtraction, the Hindu philosophical idea of the ‘great further’, the non-dualistic Brahma, the Chinese notion of ‘chi’ and mediance, the Zen Buddhist emptiness, Smith/Ricardo/Marx/Mill labour theory of value as opposed to Menger/Jevons/Walras marginal utility theory (the dialectic of surplus value as against surplus desire). Across this range, the special issue addresses certain themes:

  • Surplus as semantic, literary, and hermeneutic excess
  • Surplus as a category simultaneously of growth and exploitation in exchange (economic surplus, surplus value)
  • Surplus as deficit, where representations (cultural, historical, and religious) fail to uphold what they were originally meant to stand for (the historical sublime is a case in point).
  • Surplus as distinguished from surfeit: how we distinguish what is conventionally understood as useful from what is conventionally understood as useless or waste.
  • Surplus as a sine qua non for production, and hence as propelling ‘progress,’ advance, or enlargement.

As such, surplus as a philosophical, metaphysical, cultural, economic, and aesthetic designation can never be innocuous: a moot category which can at once thwart well meaning governance by transgressing and transcending boundaries and distinctions, and at the same time also provide the support for a well founded dharma of existence. As seen in our times, an increasing preoccupation with elaborate means of production has spurred our consumptive interests and augmented the acquisitive bulge, leading to desire, possession, and ‘progress.’ The surplus generated and hungered for has generated myriad choices and experiences, proliferating the sublime objects of desire. Our lifestyles, subjectivities, personalities, ways of interaction, methods of communication, and manners of constructing identities have all undergone changes under the impress and imperium of “surplus”. Here in surplus we encounter both a norm and a normlessness, which creates its own access and accessibilities in various forms of power and knowledge. The sober calculation of instrumental rationality considers surplus to be ‘redundant,’ a disequilibrium that is not necessarily pleasing, desirable, or really necessary; it is rather an exception, a temptation, a desire, a seduction, excédentaires, a kind of disturbance, an unease with a preordained harmony or the nomothetic. But as the marker of limit and of the existence of a supplement or ‘outside’ to any system, surplus becomes the prime object of experimentation and tangentiality, and so becomes alethic. This surplus is prodigious and productive, speaking of freedom and creativity. Surplus is no longer ‘too much’; rather, it is very much the character of things.

Contributor guidelines:

  1. Abstract (not to exceed 500 words) including theoretical premise, methodology, and freshness of critical position.
  2. Brief 1-2 page CV including affiliation and recent publications for each author(s).
  3. Submission deadline for abstracts: January 30th, 2013.
  4. Materials and/or questions should be submitted by e-mail to the issue editor, Ranjan Ghosh, at
He can also be contacted through his website:

The guest editor will reply to submissions by February 7, 2013. Complete papers will be due by September 30, 2013.