Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, the word intimacy has quickly taken on new meanings. While the pandemic has limited certain kinds of intimacy, requiring sacrifices for the sake of public health, many are responding to its restrictions by forging creative ways of being. Online birthdays, weddings, and funerals as well as concerts, exhibitions, and plays are a few examples.
There are many ways to think about intimacy and the concept itself is subject to continued reimagination. It resonates in any discipline or discourse that engages with ideas of community and various practices of belonging. Recent scholarship on topics such as digital intimacies, queer intimacies, intimacies of translation, and intimacies under racial capitalism reflect the current state of metamorphosis of the concept. For example, Gayatri Spivak, in The Politics of Translation, describes translation as “the most intimate act of reading.” Furthermore, books such as Christina Sharpe’s Monstrous Intimacies and Lisa Lowe’s The Intimacies of Four Continents posit a capacious approach to literary criticism as reading through the intimacies of people, the intimacies of empire, slavery, and capital.
Much will be written about how the COVID-19 pandemic remade experiences of intimacy and closeness. It is perhaps premature to attempt to draw conclusions about the current moment. Yet literary criticism is a kind of bellwether; the critic inevitably reflects upon the moment in which they write. Criticism helps us understand how new ways of being are integrated into (and supersede) the old.
This year, CJLC calls on undergraduates to examine how the various meanings and experiences of intimacy are changing today. We intend the 2021 issue to be a catalogue of some of the trajectories of intimacy, tracing some of its permutations throughout history.
The following is an incomplete list of possible approaches to the theme of intimacy:
1. To think about the history of the Columbia Journal of Literary Criticism is to look ‘behind’ it at the university and its intimacies with the community of Harlem. How is literary criticism intimate with the academy and its forms of exploitation?
2. How is the growing genre of autofiction reckoning with intimacy?
3. How does prison literature imagine new modes of intimacy and engagement?
4. Do we overestimate the worth of self-reflection in autobiographical writing? How can we push this emotional intimacy even further?
5. Can we begin to excavate digitally-specific forms of intimacy? How does the digital arena provide a new vocabulary or sense to our notions of intimacy?
6. How has the rise of confessional poetry redefined reactions to intimacy?
7. Following Spivak’s work on translation, how does intimacy figure in public/private language, codeswitching, multilingualism, and translation?
Email your submission or any questions to email@example.com by January 15th, 2021. Writers should either be current undergraduates or recent graduates submitting undergraduate work. Please include your name, university, and year of graduation. If we like the pitch, we will contact you to set a deadline and work with you throughout the writing process.