“How to Tell the Story?” - Université Libre de Bruxelles, Belgium, 6-7 December 2013

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Université Libre de Bruxelles (Philixte and Mondes Modernes Contemporains)
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Interdisciplinary Conference: “How to Tell the Story? – On the Relating of History: Arts, Narration, and Cultural Memory”
Organized by Philixte and Mondes Modernes Contemporains Research centers.
Organizing Committee: Petra-James-Křivánková, Dorota Walczak, Kenneth Bertrams and Pieter Lagrou
Contact: Petra James-Křivánková (pkrivank@ulb.ac.be)

The conference hopes to be a forum of both breadth and depth for scholars in history and literature, in particular (but not exclusively), for specialists in Central Europe.
The main questions that will be addressed are the study of different temporalities between the arts (literature, the fine arts, cinema) and historiography. What is the relation between works of art and historical research, when it comes to the description of History? All testimonies are indeed constructed narratives. Hence the objective of the conference, which is to question the methods and narrative structures used both by artists and historians in their respective narratives of historical events.
Thanks to their intuitive approach and because of the absence of systematizing imperative and critical distancing, artists often get ahead of historians in the way they depict major historical events. This is particularly true in the context of post-communist, or post-totalitarian countries. While official historiography and the public discourse of these regimes distorted or even discarded the problematic aspects of their respective national histories (World War II events, the Resistance, the Holocaust, or the expulsion of German populations after 1945 are telling examples), the artists relentlessly kept on expressing themselves about these sensitive topics. Therefore, their works may serve historians today in their evaluation of historical events. The debate between historians and literary theorists would benefit from the advancement of research on these timely issues.
We also wish to question the following issues:
To what extent can art help historians; vice versa, to what extent can historical research inform artistic developments that deal with History?
What are the historical sources of artists who try to represent historical events (court records, testimonies, first-hand accounts, etc.)?
In-depth analysis of mutual relations between historiography and the arts is essential in interpreting contemporary arts in post-totalitarian countries.
Indeed, while the literatures of Central Europe in the 1990s were characterized by the expansion of what we might call “postmodern” writings – with critics announcing the end of literature – young artists hailing from this region are in the twenty-first century massively returning to History, showing thereby a remarkable eagerness to and love for storytelling. Young authors also engage with subjects linked to the recent history of their region, which they attempt to apprehend and rediscover through their work. The new uses of historical subjects, either exploited or pragmatic (the choice of a controversial historical subject draws the attention of the juries of major artistic prizes…) should also be addressed and contextualized by historians.

Languages of the conference: French and English
Conference timing: 6-7 December 2013
500-word paper proposals and résumés should be sent by 31 March 2013 to Petra James-Křivánková pkrivank@ulb.ac.be

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