Call for Papers
Princeton University Department of French and Italian
Virtual Graduate Conference
December 3, 2020
Keynote speakers: Andrea Frisch (University of Maryland), Vincent Message (Université Paris 8)
Healthcare workers risking their lives to save those of others, protesters marching in the streets for the sake of social justice and for the ecological security of future generations, the horrifying self-abnegation of a terrorist or the selfless bravery of Colonel Beltrame: each day we witness the raw emotion of narratives of sacrifice. Far from a hollow relic, the logic of sacrifice—a concept rooted in ancient religious practice (sacer + facio, “make holy”)—has been richly interwoven with the process of secularization and continues to permeate contemporary cultures in all its ambivalence. Sacrifice strives to go beyond the binary of hero and victim, to overcome chaos and violence, to unite a community. It may be the result of individual choices, of communal decision, or of fate. From a transhistorical perspective, if we are to reckon with the concept of sacrifice, it must be in its diversity and multiplicity: as sacrifices, in the plural.
The diversity surrounding the concept of sacrifice is the counterpart of its theoretical richness. In its origins, it is of interest to the history and philosophy of religion (Eliade).In the field of anthropology, its treatments range from the classical accounts of Durkheim or Mauss to the modernist readings of Bataille or Leiris, and to René Girard’s influential but contested attempt at a final theory. The presence of sacrifices in French literature echoes the tensions between the religious and the secular, violence and justice, tradition and innovation. A guarantor of divine authority in the archetype of the martyr (Joan of Arc, Yvain), sacrifice allows authors to imbue historical victims with a glow of righteousness (the victims of D’Aubigné’s Tragiques, the youth of Les Misérables). On the other hand, subversion of a character’s will to self-sacrifice may amount to devastating irony (Rostand’s Cyrano, Emma Bovary), and the application of sacrificial language to real-world atrocities has been raised as a form of further violence against already marginalized groups (the Holocaust, colonial violence). Even at the level of metanarrative, the act of artistic creation is frequently depicted as sacrifice and transcendence: of the author, of the medium, of successive versions of the work (Bataille, Barthes). How can literary studies and practice—about sacrifice, as sacrifice—be thought in conjunction with these political, moral and religious concerns?
We invite paper proposals addressing the theme of sacrifices in any period of French and Francophone literature and culture. Possible topics include, but are not limited to:
• Representations of violence and crisis
• Heroism and victimhood
• Religious sacrifice
• Politics and sacrifice
• Collective memory
• Sacrifice and identity
• Selflessness, hospitality
• Gender studies
• Environmental humanities, animal studies
• Artistic practice as sacrifice
• Sacrifices in/as acts of representation
• Private vs. Public forms of sacrifice
• Economic sacrifices
Graduate students are invited to submit proposals for 15-minute presentations. Proposals should include a title, a 200- to 250-word abstract, a 100-word bio, institutional affiliation, and contact information. Papers may be in English or French. Please submit proposals to firstname.lastname@example.org by October 20th, 2020.