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Conference Information

Full Title: Excess(es)

Location: Sfax, Tunisia
Start Date: 04-Apr-2013 - 06-Apr-2013
Contact: Mounir Guirat
Meeting Email: click here to access email
Meeting Description: The English Department and the Research Unit in Discourse Analysis (GRAD) jointly organise on 4-6 April 2013 an international conference on:


The Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary defines excess as ‘more than is necessary, reasonable or acceptable.’ Excess, in this sense, is associated with transgression of boundaries and limits. This boundary crossing as a correlative to excess could be negative or positive. It can be a sign of exhaustion or empty self-display and, in this case, it may border on meaninglessness. But, it can also be a strategy to intensify meaning, to question established assumptions and conventions or achieve a form of empowerment. In this sense, excess works through repetition, exaggeration, and intensification to achieve the intended aim. As such, excess is the advocacy of extremes in an attempt to experiment with different forms to construct new or unconventional messages.

Excess influences the relationship between the reader and the text. As an aimless experimentation with forms, it can alienate the readers and shock them as inappropriate, incongruous, indecent, or too complicated. As a positive linguistic, literary, artistic, or social/political strategy for questioning and challenging the dominant, the normal, the familiar, and the conventional, excess requires an active reader who both accepts and promotes forms of transgression.

Excess also changes the relationship between language and reality. Different discourses of excess work to construct subjective realities and alternative worlds through distorting what we see as objective reality. Evoking Roman Jakobson’s ‘axis of selection’ and ‘axis of combination’ as ‘the two basic modes of arrangement used in verbal behaviour,’ excess could be read as a new relationship between these two axes creating new meanings that cross over to the strange, the sublime, the radical, the beautiful, and the ugly. Taking the example of poetry, its uniqueness as a system of arranging linguistic signs shows the possibilities language has in its attempt to construct new visions that exceed the expectations of ordinary language. The multiple and various defamiliarising strategies developed in other literary texts are also examples that reveal the importance of excess in making the habitual and ordinary unusual, unfamiliar, and freshly new.

Excess questions the strict boundaries that inform any attempt at representation which results in new theoretical sophistication that works to change the cultural, literary, and social mainstream. The undoing of these boundaries necessitates a capacity for creativity to construct alternatives and transgress the established limits of any discipline, genre or discourse; it also necessitates an artistic vision that resists the conventional forces of order, restraint, and propriety. Writers and artists, therefore, experience a ‘compulsion to excess’ which is associated primarily with their desire for innovation and originality. However, the unremitting clash between the appeal of transgression and excess to construct a new set of discursive practices on the one hand and the need to observe some limitations, codes, and rules for the sake of intelligibility and acceptance on the other invites us to ask an important question: is embracing the mean or the via media, that temperate zone, the answer that could help us avoid excesses and build a compromise between extremes?
Linguistic Subfield: Discourse Analysis; Ling & Literature; Sociolinguistics
Subject Language: None
LL Issue: 23.4506

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