CFP: Issue 18 Cliches (2014)

As writers and academics we fear having our work criticised as cliché; yet, we continue to repeat and overwork certain ideas to the brink. If we are to believe Marshall McLuhan, “it is the worn out cliché that reveals the creative or archetypal processes in language as in all other processes and artifacts” (Cliché to Archetype 127). The pursuit of newness requires us to label precursors as old and eventually worn out, thereby rendering them cliché. At the same time, a phrase, symbol, or trope would not be used to the point of cliché if it did not continue to strike a chord with so many artists or thinkers. Clichés are cultural relics reread and relocated as benchmarks for new art and interpretation.

©Adriana Santamaría P. 

Gilles Deleuze argues that cliché comes pre-printed on a blank canvas, and though the artist attempts to subvert cliché, the action is too intellectual or abstract and the result is either the same cliché risen from the ashes or disguised as a parody. Similarly, Umberto Eco argues that by employing multiple clichés a narrative moves beyond the creators’ control. These writers suggest that cliché has a sentience or at the very least a pulse in our culture. If clichés are unavoidable or perhaps even necessary, why are they feared or disdained? What are the parameters that move an idea from archetype or symbol to cliché? When, if ever, are clichés appropriate? It seems that you can’t keep a good cliché down, that you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t, but perhaps if cliché is handled properly, all’s well that ends well.

We are seeking submissions from a range of disciplines relating to the arts, culture or social sciences that consider the topic of CLICHÉ for issue 18 of FORUM. Submissions may relate to, but are not limited to:

• the measure of cliché

• pragmatics of cliché

• reinvented clichés

• subversion of cliché

• the use of cliché in film or literature

• classical clichés

• cliché and gender

• cultural clichés

• cliché and authenticity

• cliché and desensitization

Our guest contributor, Jakob Norberg of Duke University and Volkswagen Stiftung Fellow has offered his article in advance for circulation.

Abstract: The concept of the cliché occupies a place at the periphery of our critical vocabulary. Reviewers, critics, editors, and teachers of composition frequently speak of clichés, but dictionaries of critical terms and handbooks of literary and cultural studies almost never provide entries on the word. We use the concept, but rarely reflect upon it. This paper asks whether pointing out clichés can be seen as a method of critique or whether it is just quibbling, and how we draw the line between serious and sustained scrutiny and mere pedantry. It further suggests that complaints about clichés are often used to mark subtle breakdowns of communication, moments in which the reader or listener feels disrespected. Such a view of the cliché goes some way toward uncovering its rhetorical and political dimensions.

If you would like to read his forthcoming paper and submit an article in response, please email us at

Papers must be between 3,000 – 5,000 words in length, formatted according to MLA guidelines. FORUM is also considering multi-media and alternative presentations for publication. Please email your article, a short abstract, and your academic CV in separate, clearly labelled DOC(X). files to by Thursday 20th March 2014. All eligible articles will be peer reviewed prior to publication. Only one submission per author per issue is permissible.