CFP: Writing the Archive Conference

WRITING THE ARCHIVESymposium, University of Burgundy, February 7, 2014

The research group, “Text, Image, Language” (TIL) at the University of Burgundy (Dijon, France) welcomes contributions to two symposiums on the archive in 20th and 21st century Anglophone literature. The aim of these symposiums is to bring together recent research devoted to the complex interaction between literature and memory writing(historical narrative, testimony, archives, chronicles, memoirs), with a focus on the concept of the archive in literary practice. We invite speakers to consider the influence thearchive bears upon the resources of which writers avail, the formal ordering of their work and in a larger sense, the epistemological ends of literary creation.

If archival methods are increasingly prevalent in poetry, in what manner do they shape poetic practice? One point of entry is to consider how the resources of poetry have extended significantly outside generic boundaries. Throughout the twentieth century, the rise of hypertextual and intermedial writing testifies to the crossover between archival documentary methods and aesthetic experience (Muriel Rukeyser, Charles Reznikoff, William Carlos Williams, Ezra Pound, Marianne Moore, John Dos Passos). It is equally true that amongst English-language writers today there is an enduring commitment to archival experiment as an essential component to poetic construction (Rosmarie Waldrop, Susan Howe, Charles Bernstein, Cole Swenson, Michael Heller, Damien Smyth, Caroline Bergvall, Kenneth Goldsmith, 9/11 poetry, etc.).

For the novelist, the archive is as much a part of literary production as it is of the appraisal that lies behind processes of documentary recovery. The architecture of the novel borrows both from the conceptual basis of the archive as a storehouse of memory and from the monumental forms of its material reality. Alongside the example of historical novels noted for their sheer encyclopaedic scale, contributions from a wide range of novelists (Paul Auster, Don DeLillo, William Vollmann, Michael Ondaatje, Julian Barnes) shape how we reflect upon the archive today. Through its metaphorical project, the novel sets out to reimagine narrativity as key to the representation of memory. Traces, palimpsests and other archaeological motifs in the contemporary novel lend themselves to this investigation of language and its constructs.

In addition to the hybrid discourse to which the encounter between literature and the archive gives rise, we shall welcome discussions on the redirection of memorial culture as it is examined amongst philosophers and historians. What this shift in representations of memory implies is a focus on the reception of language as a social instrument. The transgeneric frameworks of the archive that perform functions of storage, classification and preservation are keeping in step with new technologies. Following the digitization and the democratization of memory access, archival sites have come to reflect experiments in mise en scène, representation and display online. Through its vocation as a site for the artisan of technology as well as for the artist, the archive increasingly draws our attention to the crafting of memory. Our research will thus consider how the archive endures as a “social site”(P. Ricoeur), along the divide between reality and fiction, in its attempt to redefine the discursive and material horizons of memory and art.

Our first symposium will take place on Friday, February 7, 2014. Please send abstracts of 300-500 words to and by October 1, 2013 along with a brief biographical statement. Proposals may be in English or French and should list paper title, name, institutional affiliation and contact details. Participants will be notified at the latest by November 1, 2013.

Centre Interlangues Texte Image Langage, Université de Bourgogne, 2 Bld Gabriel 21000 Dijon, France.


Fiona McMahon
Sophie Aymes
Centre Interlangues (TIL)
UFR Langues & Communication
Université de Bourgogne
2 Boulevard Gabriel
21000 Dijon
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