Parts, Wholes, and the New: OPR at Babel

Parts, Wholes, and the New: OPR at Babel

Conference panel at the Babel working group biennial meeting, September 20-22, 2012 (more details: here).

Sponsor: Organism for Poetic Research (OPR)

Co-Organizers: Daniel Remein (New York University) + Ada Smailbegovic (New York University) + Rachael Wilson (New York University)

Presider: Erika Boeckeler (Northeastern University)

A number of recent methodologies have been emerging across a range or disciplines and fields in an attempt to think anew the problem of parts, wholes, and the new, and to re-frame this question as of pressing importance to both the humanities and the sciences. Briefly put, this question asks how things can seem at one point discrete and radically particular, and yet also seem either subsumed as mere parts of a larger phenomena or to give way to an entirely new phenomena which do not seem reducible to their previously extant constituent parts. Systems theorists have considered how a system can produce something anew which is irreducible to the parts which precede it diachronically or which make it up at any synchronic moment. Between the CERN accelerator, the Hubble telescope, and String Theory, experimental, observational, and theoretical physics all remain poised to significantly reframe the question of emergence on both micro and macro scales.

Given the recent reframing of this question as essential for contemporary philosophers, critics, poets, and scientists, this panel will measure the capacities and limits of these and other discrete disciplinary approaches to the question of parts, wholes, and the new. While it is tempting to proceed via an interdisciplinary patchwork, we would like to explore what a reliance on disciplinary differences might bring to this set of questions. What can different disciplines do in relation to this problem that others cannot? What irreducible disciplinary or methodological differences does this problem bring into relief and why? To what extent are different disciplines or methodologies capable or desirous of describing the relations of parts, wholes, and the new, as opposed to producing, multiplying, or inflecting such relations (and to what extent could this reframe the question of disciplinarity in terms of an odd realignment of parts of the sciences and of the humanities: observational science/descriptive criticism vs. experimental science/poetics)?


  • Aranye Fradenburg (University of California, Santa Barbara)
  • Deirdre Joy (Evolutionary Biologist)
  • Dorothy Kim (Vassar College) + Laura Lebow (Vassar College) + Jillian Scharr (Vassar College)
  • Ada Smailgebovic (New York University)
  • Dan Rudmann (University of Texas at Austin)
  • Daniel Remein (New York University)

RESPONDENT: Michael O’Rourke (Independent Colleges, Dublin)