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
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
Please send abstracts of 300-500 words by Friday, 1st of July 2011, to
Svenja Frank ([log in to unmask])
The German Studies Call for Papers List
Editor: Stefani Engelstein
Assistant Editor: Olaf Schmidt
Sponsored by the University of Missouri
Info available at: http://grs.missouri.edu/resources/gerlistserv.html