CFP: Testimonial Modernism (9/22/05; NEMLA, 3/2/06-3/5/06)

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2006 Northeast Modern Language Association Conference
March 2-5, 2006
Philadelphia, PA

Deadline Extended to September 22

Panelists must join or rejoin NEMLA and register for the conference by
November 30, 2005

Testimonial Modernism

This panel examines the ways in which theories of testimony and witnessing can
be productively examined with recourse to Modernist literature and through
this examination, to interrogate the place and method of parrhesia, or
truth-telling, in Modernism. What gives literature its specific ability to
tell the truth for writers like Robert Musil, Jean Rhys, and Virginia Woolf
who writes "where truth is important I prefer to write fiction"? Theories of
literature of testimony and witnessing, or "Lit Wit," have heretofore been
focused primarily on Holocaust texts and often "read" biography into the
fiction being examined. Just as there is a truth-value to fictitious
literature that testifies, Jacques Derrida points out the fictive-value of
truth when it is "framed" as testimony: "In order to remain testimony, it must
therefore allow itself to be haunted. It must allow itself to be parasitized
by precisely what it excludes from its inner depths, the possibility, at
least, of literature." For modernist writers, truth is not best expressed
through the "realist" narratives of their predecessors but is articulated
through stylized techniques that re-present rather than represent. That is,
the writing makes what is written about present, again. Thus the telling of
truth and the way of telling are equally at issue for the Modernist.
"Postmodernist" thinkers of testimony and witnessing such as Shoshana Felman
and Giorgio Agamben interpret the experience of Holocaust survivors via their
writing and World War I poets such as Sigfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen also
mark experience with the fictional rendering of testimony with themselves as
witnesses, and truth gets articulated as fiction. Even writers not directly
involved in the fighting bear witness to events of the social, historical, and
political moment through fiction and the significance of this choice is what
this panel will examine. Can Modernist literature be understood as testimony?
What is the specific ability of literature and of fiction to testify to the
"truth" of Modernism?

Please send abstracts to by 9/22/05.

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Received on Mon Sep 12 2005 - 11:13:14 EDT