Call for Papers:
The Conquest of the Air: Birth of a New Imaginary Vision? 1900-1920
Université du Maine (Le Mans, France)
November 27-28, 2008
International Conference organized to commemorate the centennial of Wilbur Wright’s flights in Le Mans (1908).
Open to all scholars interested in historical and cultural issues related to the birth of aviation and its pioneers in the period 1900-1920.
Concerned fields: History, Cultural Studies, Art History, Literary Studies, Philosophy.
Description of the project:
At the beginning of the 20th century, the birth of aviation deeply transformed human societies. Beyond its groundbreaking effects in technology, history and politics, to what extent did the mastery of flight transform perceptions of reality, space and human relationships for both political and military elites, but also for the common people? To what degree did the conquest of the air establish a new way of thinking about society, and even the role and place of human beings in the world? The conference intends to promote new approaches on these new visions and perceptions during the period 1900-1920.
The modern imaginary is a source of investigation, permitting us to better define the difficult and often-debased notion of “modernity” while attempting to give an anthropological definition of a historical phenomenon inscribed in a specific context.
Four scholarly themes will be approached in four half-day thematic sessions:
Theme 1: Are the 1908 flights an event?
How did aviation shift from sport and the hobby of amateurs to a major technical phenomenon with political, historical and even philosophical implications?
How did aircraft manufacturers from Le Mans, Pau, Rome and Berlin manage to gather their technical knowledge?
We will look also at how the information was diffused, the way in which elites and the general public were informed about this event and the possibilities it opened.
Theme 2: Another way to perceive reality
Of course, flying is not new in 1908-1910. However, with the development of the plane another dimension appears. Besides the height acquired with the hot air balloon, there is also the factor of speed and the possibility of seeing the world upside down (with the advent of acrobatics during the war of 1914-1918).
Avant-garde painters and writers, photographers and the filmmakers immediately adopted this new vision given through air travel or aerial photography.
Thus, it can be fascinating to study this new vision, “seen from the top”. How did European and American artists take part in the changing perception of reality?
We can also wonder at the spread of this perception of the earth seen from the sky. What were the different stages of this diffusion in the media? How fast was it done, in relation to social levels and access to information and culture? What imaginary vision did it trigger in the population?
Theme 3: New impressions of the sky
At the beginning of the 20th century, aviation raises the issue of the relationship between modernity and religion, such as the religious rituals set up during the first aerial meetings and the religious discourse about how men and nations had captured the sky.
Furthermore, did philosophical reflection or scientific discourse change in response to the conquest of the air?
In a more directly relevant manner, in that period the sky became the site of a new threat: new fears concerning the sky arose with the emergence of a new military risk, especially with the use of aircraft by the armies between 1910 and 1918. How do governments and political and military leaders perceived? How does it fit the political or strategic thinking?
Theme 4: The pilot, a heroic figure of modernity?
Finally, another way of approaching the conquest of the air is to look at the key figures involved. The study of the figure of the pilot and his interactions with emerging public opinion may enhance this approach to modernity. From the forerunners to the aces of World War I, it is an imaginary inhabited by heroes who have mastered technology. Did the development of different air shows play a role in the setting up of this imaginary hero? Is there a link between the pioneers' representations and the aces of WWI?
Please submit a temporary title of your paper, a 20-line abstract and a short curriculum vitae to Francoise.Lucbert@univ-lemans.fr and Stephane.Tison@univ-lemans.fr, before Febuary 15, 2008.
The presentations should not exceed 20 minutes. A priority will be given to scholars able to give their paper in French.
Papers will published later on if they do not exceed 30 000 characters (notes and spaces included).
Dr. Françoise Lucbert
Université du Maine, Faculté des Lettres
Avenue Olivier Messiaen
72085 LE MANS cedex 9
Phone: 33 2 43 83 31 66
Fax: 33 2 43 83 36 50 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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