Aesthetics of Absence - June 10th 2016 - Paris-Sorbonne University

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Annual one-day conference organized by the seminar for doctoral students OVALE, as part of VALE EA4085
Paris-Sorbonne University

From the Ineffable to contemporary considerations on the absence of meaning, on spectrality and on the 'post-human'; through 'poetics of silence' and the representations of emptiness, the figures of absence inform art and literature with their paradoxical presence. This reflection on the limits of language and representation thus shapes Western thought and aesthetics, and the art of representing absence is central to modern literature - especially from the mid-nineteenth century onwards. The second half of the twentieth century saw the emergence of an increasing interest in this fundamental aesthetic problem – the end of what Lyotard calls 'the Great Narratives' left a gaping intellectual void in the Arts. Loss, expectation and therefore the obvious absence of the Divine unsettled the possibility of an artistic transcendence, of a representative 'beyond'.
Nonetheless, the figures of absence do not merely stem from a fear of nothingness, for they are always part of a dialectics which involves presence. Indeed, absence, unless read as a mere synonym for 'nothingness', can only be understood in relation to its opposite. Absence is always the absence of something, the negation of a presence as the Latin root of the word suggests – ab-sentia which literally means 'non-presence'.
Thus, the aesthetic paradox that was mentioned earlier consists in giving a shape to that-which-is-not-here, in creating around – and from – a 'nothingness' in order to apprehend or exorcise its presence. This paradox is an invitation to examine a vast diversity of figurative strategies that confront the notion of absence, and to speak not just of one but of a variety of aesthetics of absence.

This one-day conference will seek to put into perspective and to confront several literary and artistic practices from the English-speaking world which attempt to answer, each in their own way, the challenge presented by absence. This diversity will allow us to confront genres, forms and media and by doing so we will try to understand how the concept of absence can found an aesthetics; how blank spaces, silences and blind spots may also be the necessary conditions for revelation, the pauses necessary to a poetic syntax and the uncertainties which underlie the undecidability of any work of art, thus rekindling the reader/spectator's desire and the interpretative work.

Proposals may consider but are not limited to:

- Poetics of rememberance or loss: autobiography, autofiction, elegy, memoirs, trauma writing...
- Figures of the spectre as an archetypal representation of the presence of an absence...
- Aesthetics of the mark, as the remnant of something which is no longer there: the (concept of the) «ça-a-été» (« that which once was ») of photography as described by Barthes, fragmentary writing and memories, painting as the trace / imprint of a movement or a body...
- The play on the absence of literary and aesthetic codes and expectations...
- Figures of absence in the visual arts: aesthetics of the Sublime, absence of figuration, anamorphosis as uncertain presence...
- The paradox of absence in drama and on stage, location par excellence of the (co-)presence: figures of emptiness, omnipresence of the horizon of expectation, offstage...
- The writing of invisible minorities and silent margins which grant the absent and unrepresented a voice...
- The issue of reception: the absent figure of the reader/audience as the imaginary interlocutor of a text who, paradoxically, informs the work...

Submission guidelines:
- The conference is open to all
- Abstracts should be 350 words maximum, submitted with a short biographical note
- Abstracts and questions should be submitted to:
- Language of abstracts and papers: French or English
- Papers must not exceed 20 minutes in duration

- Submission deadline: March 6th, 2016
- Feedback: starting March, 14th 2016

Scientific committee :
Bastien Goursaud
Elsa Lorphelin
Déborah Prudhon
Prof. Elisabeth Angel-Perez
Prof. Pascal Aquien
Prof. Alexis Tadié