Historical Auto/Biographies in the Arts

full name / name of organization: 
LEBDAI
contact email: 
benaouda.lebdai@univ-lemans.fr

Historical Auto/Biographies in the Arts

March 25-26 (Le Mans), March 27 (Angers), 2015

The auto/biographies of famous historical characters articulate a personalized approach to events: not only do they underline the agency of charismatic individuals at key moments of the past, but they also bring to light private and intimate details that put forth the human value of testimonials. Whether conceived as scientific studies or used as primary sources for biographic novels, historical biographies illustrate the porosity of genre boundaries. The writing of history makes use of fictional devices that dramatize the narrative of History. In postcolonial studies, Homi Bhabba enhances the importance of the historical subject who tells his/her own story, providing a counter narrative to official history – whether colonial or postcolonial (ex: Mahatma Ghandi’s biography or Nelson Mandela’s autobiography). The focus on a central protagonist gives meaning to the narrative of History in the past or in the present, embodied by an emblematic character whose private life is overshadowed or put in the limelight by the weight of duty. The writing and the film making of historical auto/biographies may be displayed as imaginary reconstitutions; they also illustrate the bearing of memory, feelings and resentment, on the narrative of history.

Historical biographies blur the boundaries between fiction and nonfiction on screen and on stage: the documentary techniques are used to construct an impression of authenticity in biopics whereas the comedian’s interpretation gives life to the character on stage. From novel to screen, from scientific writing to artistic creation, historical biographies articulate a historical discourse whose ideological construction we endeavor to decipher. Does the writing of historical biographies make only heroes? Through a comparative approach between various artistic (cinema, theatre, literature, visual arts) and cultural (French, Anglo-American, Hispanic, German) productions, we will question the myth of the “Great Man” history formulated by historian Clayborne Carson.

Possible avenues for exploration:
- biographical works (novels, films, plays, paintings) and their historical discourse
- the adaptations of biographical and autobiographical novels
- the relation to autobiographies and to the history of the French New Wave Cinema
- ethno-biographical cinema and the representation of the filmed subject and its culture
- he scientific and documentary writing of historical auto/biographies
- the ideological discourse of biopics and their contribution to memory
- gender, race and class in historical biographies
- the economic-industrial factors behind the making of biopics (cinema/television/theatre)

Organizing Committee
Delphine Letort (Le Mans), Benaouda Lebdai (Le Mans), Tanya Ann Kennedy (Farmington), Daniel Gunn (Famington), Erich Fisbach (Angers) Christophe Dumas (Angers)

Please send an abstract of 200-250 words and a brief CV (which must include your title, institutional affiliation and email address) by June 15, 2014 to :
Benaouda.Lebdai@univ-lemans.fr ; Delphine.Letort@univ-lemans.fr ; Erich.Fisbach@univ-angers.fr

cfp categories: 
cultural_studies_and_historical_approaches
film_and_television
interdisciplinary
international_conferences
postcolonial
twentieth_century_and_beyond