University of Pittsburgh

Permanent Seminar & Borges Chair

While the Center was at Aarhus, the Permanent Seminar was the principal element of the research project. It adopted the classic form of a workshop. what implied a true research stricto sensu, in which once a problem was circumscribed, no particular result was presumed. This procedure excluded the lecturing in the presentation of subjects and required a large involvement of the participants. Those were generally researchers and advanced students coming from different disciplines.

Concerning the themes, each semester a predetermined main theme gradually developed wider variations. The research project began in 1994, having as subject "Borges and the Rhetoric of Forms." The matter was, on the one hand, to explore how some rhetorical forms go beyond the boundaries of one sentence to become authentic "textual forms," i.e. by structuring a whole text (there are, for instance, hypalagical texts, oxymoronic texts, etc.). On the other hand, to explore how some "morphologies," be it prototypical, mathematical, logical (the circle, the spiral, the infinite, the mirror, the quotation, the paradox) frequently attained a structural value within the rhetoric of the text.

From September 1995 on, the seminar considered the "Histories of Eternity, or the Forms of Fantastic Theology." As a way to clarifying the question on the internal forms of textuality, the analysis considers Borges' formal devices to deal with theological subjects. Instead of tracing the references to some systematic theology, the purpose is to follow the steps of a particular theology which expressly defines itself as fictional and narrative. Theology is for Borges "a branch of fantastic literature," maybe the one which supposes all the others. In a way, because every faith is an act of narrative imagination but also because theology deals with what it itself defines as essentially unattainable. Many declared or implicit characters in Borges' stories are the infinite, time, identity, personal responsibility, and in all of them arises, narratively, the theological hypothesis.

In 1997, the seminar concerned the "Indirect Knowledge". Taking as starting point the detective stories of "Six problems for Don Isidro Parodi," the procedures of irony and of conjecture were studied, as they characterized the "non-immediate" knowledge and presentation of reality.

The Borges Chair, reserved to invited full-professors, was inaugurated by Michel Lafon, who held the Permanent Seminar in October 1995. In 1996, the Borges Chair was assumed by Prof. Mercedes Blanco, from University of Lille III, about the short story "Los Teólogos". (see updated information in the page devoted to "chronicles")

ASSOCIATED PROJECTS: Some individual and collective research projects have already been proposed to be acknowledged as activities associated with the Center. One such project is the conference on Borges and France, held at the Universidad Católica Argentina in Buenos Aires in September 2009. Another was the conference "Borges and US" held at Hofstra University in November 2009.