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From Shore to Shore: Cultural Guides and Conveyors
full name / name of organization:
Université Michel de Montaigne - Bordeaux 3 (Michel de Montaigne University, Bordeaux, France)
“From Shore to Shore: Cultural Guides and Conveyors”
The theme of cultural guides and conveyors offers the opportunity to explore the dynamics of cultural, literary and linguistic transmission in the English speaking world. The guide (or conveyor) is both a guide and an intermediary between two shores or two countries, two cultures, two generations or two languages. A figure from mythology or the Bible who is to be found between heaven and hell, between the land of the living and the land of the dead. A figure which has always occupied a large symbolic territory and has a hold on the collective imagination because he is the one who seals a soul's destiny. From Greek mythology to the New Testament, he accompanies the dead on their last journey: Charon ferries them across the Styx to Hades; St Peter is entrusted with the keys to heaven and only lets in those who have proved themselves worthy. The cultural guide (or conveyor) is thus a highly symbolic and dynamic figure at the centre of discursive, cultural and literary tropes of the universal human imagination. He is the one who decides when and where the crossing takes place, the one who is responsible for handing things over and taking people to the other side, or to the other shore, while at the same time remaining in the same place as if untouched by the passage of time, the motionless centre of movement and transition.
The cultural guide (or conveyor) is at times a heroic figure whose help is necessary to overcome an obstacle or to move on to the next stage. As a guide his role is linked to discovery or initiation (in which case he is a scout, an explorer, the one who helps others across the border and discovers new horizons). He can also play the part of a rescuer. He is not an ordinary guide since he accompanies those who need his services at a key moment in their lives. Refugees and illegal immigrants have no other choice but to place their destiny in his hands.
The cultural guide (or conveyor) can be a stealthy figure or a resistance fighter, who embodies a form of withdrawal and necessarily remains at a distance. This agent, who plays a vital role in the hand-over, the transformation and the success of the crossing, must stay in the shadows. He has a vital role in football - the assist - the generous act which is essential to overall success but can remain anonymous and on the margins. He can thus position himself in the hidden zone between knowledge and secret, and contains the possibility of transgression. He knows, he acts, but from a distance, he occupies the paradoxical space of a person who both makes his presence felt and remains in the background.
The cultural guide (or conveyor) can be mystical or domineering (shaman, guru, inspirer, initiator), an ordinary teacher or a translator. What he hands over, legally or illegally, can be anything from the intangible (ideas which may or may not be subversive) to the real (legal or illegal substances). Finally he is a mediator who plays a crucial role both in the post-colonial world, which is characterised by a rapid increase in linguistic and cultural exchanges, and in the post-modern context, which is defined by the complexity of the interplay of intertextuality and hypertextuality.
The figure of the cultural guide is unquestionably linked to the history of demographic and migratory flows, and economic and cultural exchanges between the United-States and Europe (in particular Great Britain, the spurned mother and yet unfaltering ally): continual passages, exchanges, interaction between two continents resulting in a dynamic of constant attraction/repulsion. At the same time the cultural guide is part and parcel of the American continent whose vastness requires all sorts of passages, transmissions, endless trips and continuous flows. Some of the most significant examples are:
In British studies a similar list of cultural moments and literary figures springs to mind:
Proposals for papers (300-500 words) must be sent to:
-Pascale Antolin, firstname.lastname@example.org, Arnaud Schmitt, email@example.com (North American Studies)
before February 28, 2010.