A Voyage towards Words: Representating the sensations of Early Childhood and the Acquisition of Language (13-14 December 2013)

full name / name of organization: 
Université de Paris 3-Sorbonne Nouvelle and Université de Paris Ouest

Early childhood is defined by acute sensations (the discovery of the way in which the senses, constantly awakened and stimulated, allow to map the world), and by the acquisition of language, which may be smooth or problematic. As they translate sensations into words, infants are faced with a tremendous series of tasks and challenges: they must identify sound sequences as words, units and sentences, then learn how to map words onto objects, sounds onto feelings, urges, demands. Words may allow them to make sense of the world, or complexify it beyond understanding. This "Voyage Towards Words" aims to bring together linguistic, cinematic and literary approaches, in order to probe into the creative processes at work, and to study the way in which sensations are part of the process of discovery, allowing to grasp the world, to remember defining moments and shape experience into language.

We welcome papers dealing with the following themes:

- Words taste as good as strawberries? (Aliyah Morgenstern): the pleasures and pains of language acquisition/mapping the world through defining sensory experiences
- Sensory experience, language and memory
- Language acquisition as a means of mediating the status of the child and the relationship between child/adults/parents; linguistic awareness and self-definition
- The choice of a moment: when does a child become aware of certain sensory experiences? When does a child learn to speak? Who authorizes language?
- The mutations of perspective and language in texts representing the spark of language acquisition and sensory awareness; framing a child's powers of perception in films
- Creating a literature from children: the art of storytelling and the necessary boundaries of language; To whom do words belong in texts representing the acquisition of language?
- The concepts of mother-tongue and native/natural language
- Language as magic or maze

The texts under study may not necessarily focus on literature for children: we welcome studies on scenes of language acquisition/language loss, a theme which fascinated the Victorians for instance, but which acquires new meaning in the US or postcolonial countries; we also welcome papers on film and visual works. Thus papers may focus on Dickens's recreation of the sudden connection between signifier and signified (in the opening scene of Great Expectations for instance), on film transpositions of Dickens, on the viewpoint of child narrators discovering the world in an explosion of sensations (Okri's Famished Road), the long battle with autism and the shift from stubborn silence to logorrhoea in Jane Urquhart's The Whirlpool, or the role of stereotypes structuring perception and language (Tony Morrison's The Bluest Eyes) and alternative language to overcome trauma (Arundhati Roy's The God of Small Things), or any other text which brings into play language acquisition, childhood and representation.
Conveners: Catherine Lanone, Aliyah Morgenstern, Anne-Marie Paquet-Deyris
Abstracts must be sent before July 31, 1913.