This interdisciplinary research conference seeks to explore the concept of ‘traces’ in literature, creative writing, the visual arts, media, philosophy, sociology, psychology and other fields. A ‘trace’ can be that which has existed, and which is now past; or that which has passed, in the case of a track or a footprint; or that which copied or drawn or outlined, such as a map or a word in the sand. It can be used as a noun or a verb: as an object or concept, or an active process of discovery.
In Ellipsis (1967), Jacques Derrida speaks of the ‘trace’ as ‘[...] not absence instead of presence, but a trace which replaces a presence which has never been present, an origin by means of which nothing has begun’. Derrida’s concept of the ‘trace’ extends to multiple discourses in postmodern thought, wherein a sign or word is recognised for what it cannot represent: his definition of trace signifies erasure, the simultaneous representation of all signs and nothing, a suspended present, imprint and ultimately the opening of new ideas.
The term obviously – pleasingly, perhaps, to some – exceeds deconstruction. Children entertain themselves with tracing paper, and when lost or confused we retrace our steps. Plastic surgery hides traces, and cosmetic surgery leaves them. Trace elements function as cure in homeopathy, and, according to Carl Jung – considering another form of healing – the Collective Unconscious is an inherited, latent storehouse of memory traces. Academic practice across disciplines can be seen as attempt to ‘trace’ patterns, motifs, voices, genres, causality – meaning!
We invite speakers to consider the concept of ‘traces’ in general, in terms of a mark or a reference to what is now unseen or past. What traces are to be found in the unseen history behind a certain author, place or concept? Are there examples of traces hidden from the public eye? Is it possible to sustain the concept of being at once present and absent? Can we trace lines through the history of literature, visual arts, or media? And does this help us gain a greater understanding of hidden messages? Is it possible to imagine traces in terms of ‘mapping’ – either geographically or symbolically, via, for example footprints, or scars on the surface of the skin?
We welcome abstracts for papers from all areas of research on any aspect of the theme of ‘Traces’, including (but not limited to):
* The unseen
* Fictional traces
* The ephemeral present
* Skin and scars
* Visible/invisible histories
* Forensics, evidence, marks
* Outlines, mapping, tracking
* Fading and diminishing, vanishing
* Exile, loss
* ‘Mnemic traces’
* Palimpsest and rewriting
Abstracts of 300-500 words should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org by 30th April. Proposals for panels (comprising three speakers) are also welcome. Papers should be roughly 20 minutes in length.
Emma Grundy Haigh
Goldsmiths College, University of London
English and Comparative Literatures Email: email@example.com
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