TEN YEARS ON – 9/11 IN EUROPEAN LITERATURE Call for Papers
Oxford University, September 15-16, 2011
Special Guest: Thomas Lehr, currently holding the Heiner-Müller-Gastprofessur at Freie Universität Berlin, will be reading from his much acclaimed novel September. Fata Morgana (2010).
“Ils ont souffert 102 minutes – la durée moyenne d'un film hollywoodien.”
(Frédéric Beigbeder: Windows on the World)
Ten years after 9/11 this conference seeks to offer a European perspective on the September 11 attacks. Current research on topics such as the novels of the outsider looks at 9/11 as a “European event” (Versluys), thereby pointing to strands that are worthy of further investigation. The attacks have been described as the act of “performance artists“ (Rushdie), a “semiotic event“ (Versluys) and “the greatest work of art“ (Stockhausen). However morally questionable these terms might be when applied to the deaths of thousands of people, they draw our attention to the fact that 9/11 concentrates and catalyses questions of aesthetic representation and the virtuality of reality in the 21st century in an unprecedented way. Symptomatically, theorists such as Derrida, Baudrillard and ˇi˛ek have commented on the attacks. It thus seems promising to focus on a literary corpus that is unencumbered by incorporating “national trauma” into cultural memory, but more likely to take 9/11 as a starting point for meta-reflection on representational conditions challenged by a transnational media event. With recent calls to release the photograph of the dead al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, the question of who is in power of iconographic coinages in a modern war of information has become more topical than ever.
One of the authors to address these questions is Thomas Lehr, who will read to us from his novel September. Fata Morgana, one of the most intriguing literary reactions to the attacks; certainly the most important in the German language. His text alternates between the depiction of the attacks and the war in Iraq, and analogizes literary references to One Thousand and One Nights and the fictionality of modern mediaspaces.
As it is one major goal of the conference to enlarge the corpus of researched texts, papers providing access to texts in less widely spoken and researched languages are especially welcome.
Possible topics for papers include the following, but are not restricted to them:
MEDIASPACE AND THE SIMULACRUM
9/11 highlights questions about the relationship of literature to other systems of representation as well as the absorption of reality by the simulacrum. It is not the attacks themselves but the medially transmitted images that are shared by the vast majority. Thus, the undeniable symbolism and the utter surreality of the attacks are recurrent themes. Deliberately blurring the boundaries between the “raw Real of a catastrophe” (ˇi˛ek) and mediaspace, some of the texts – in a deeply problematic way – locate the attacks in the realm of the aesthetic or even the sublime. How do the representations deal with this intermediality and second order observation and how do they „frame the framing“ (Butler)? How is an unprecedented pictorial over-representation turned into text? How do the virtuality of the real and the reality of the virtual come together?
AESTHETICS OF ATROCITY
The depiction of the September 11 attacks will be looked at within the aesthetics of atrocity. In how far do these representations draw on an existing iconography of war, violence and catastrophe or create their own? Have the texts found media-specific ways of reproducing shock (Benjamin) in the urban experience? How do terrorism and state violence interrelate in these texts? When is life framed as grievable (Butler) and when is it not?
With the transnational nature of the media coverage on the one hand, 9/11 on the other heightened the perception of national, ethnic and religious otherness, presumably even triggered a turn in postcolonial theory (Schüller). How do the European 9/11-texts perceive cultural difference such as Islamophobia and Anti-Americanism in their depiction of the attacks and the resulting wars in Afghanistan and Iraq? Are these texts in themselves representations of cultural difference? The restriction to a European corpus allows us both to investigate the European perspective, as distinct from the reception of the events elsewhere, especially in US literature and also to look at nationally specific paradigms, one of which has been put forward in the case of several French novels (Porra). How do the representations of the semiotic event vary depending on the national literary tradition and to what extent are they deliberately reminiscent of the national memory of war or state oppression?
Please send abstracts of 300-500 words by Friday, 1st of July 2011, to Svenja Frank (email@example.com)
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