Saint-Joseph University
Department of French Literature
Graduate program in art criticism and curatorial studies
Literature, art and the contemporary world: narratives, history, memory
A colloquium, 16-17 May, 2014

In parallel with the development of literary criticism which studies the production of the literary object within a historical and political context1, one post-modern literary tendency consists of foregrounding individual stories against a background of fluid socio-political events.2 Accordingly, contemporary literary and artistic production often reduces history to a topos around which aesthetic as well as mnemonic and therapeutic stakes are played out. In Arab countries where artistic and literary practices are tied to contexts of conflicts such a tendency turns problematical.3 In Lebanon, as a notable case, literary and artistic practices grapple with this problematic under the sway of a powerful discourse on reconstruction sponsored and maintained by the collusion of state and neoliberal private interests. Against an alleged collective amnesia, many works place a contrary emphasis on mourning and on remembering/forgetting considered as necessary practices through which the past is interrogated and the present confronted. Artists and novelists bear the task of recounting and reactivating processes which allow for an apprehension of the repressed past. Working against a complex ideological weave of a linear history set back on track (reconstruction) and a reduction of political history to a past evil (the necessity of a therapeutic oblivion) they subversively employ the minor paradigms of narration and memory.4 Artistic and literary practices thus become the site of a critical historiography which allows for the work of memory to embark on its disparate and often wayward courses; a site in which to examine the existence of an individual, communal or exclusionary memory of conflict and raise questions as to the responsibility of the artist or writer regarding an extra-individualistic history. How are these paradigms reworked by actual literary and artistic practices and how do these these paradigms bolster even authorize these same practices is a question negotiated at the heart of a reciprocal fascination.5 The engagement and persistence of contemporary artistic practices with these questions over the last two decades calls to be enlarged unto that of literary creation. And if literature and art have grasped these questions within the limits of their own respective medium specificity, it seems nevertheless interesting to apprehend their practices conjointly in their rapport with the socio-political context but also with the aesthetics they seek to develop. Beyond discursive differences, this colloquium aims at making visible, within the framework of an interdisciplinary approach (aesthetic, political, sociological, philosophical, psychological or narratological) how literature and art act and interact when facing these common problems.

For application : Kindly send abstracts (250-300 words) and a short bio before the 30th of September 2013 to the following address
Abstracts due : 30 September, 2013.
Acceptance notification : 31 October, 2013.
Submission of final text : 30 April, 2014.