American Representations of Place (Toulouse, France-March 29, 2013)
"The lifting of an environment to expression": American Representations of Place
Université de Toulouse-LeMirail
Friday, March 29, 2013
Speaking of Paterson over fifty years ago, W.C. Williams described his poetic practice as "an attempt, an experiment, a failing experiment, toward assertion with broken means but an assertion, always, of a new and total culture, the lifting of an environment to expression." Participants in this conference are invited to take up the vexed question of the relation between places and their representations in American culture.
Underpinning Williams's declaration is the suggestion that the land is lowly matter that remains mute and invisible without the work of mediators to elevate it into a meaningful system. By contrast, a number of ecocritics argue that the land shapes the expressions that emanate from it. To what extent is the relationship between the environment and those who give it expression vertical, unidirectional, and causal? Could vertical hierarchies be abandoned in favor of the horizontal relationships favored by empirical theories in which cultural expressions involve multiple actors in complex and unpredictable configurations?
Abstracts of approximately 150 words are invited for papers that explore the relationships between expression and environment from multiple angles. We hope that the conference will provide a forum for discussion of the convergence of the aesthetic, political, ethical and social issues at stake in representations of place.