Steve Tomasula: The Art of Representation

deadline for submissions: 
September 10, 2024
full name / name of organization: 
Paris - University of Chicago in Paris
contact email: 

Steve Tomasula: The Art of Representation

June 12 and 13 2025The University of Chicago in Paris, in the presence of the author

 

Keynote speakersDavid Banash (Western Illinois University), Mary K. Holland (State University of New York, New Paltz)

 

Organized jointly by several institutions (Université Paris Cité, Université Paris 8 Vincennes-Saint-Denis, Sorbonne Université, Université de Rennes, Université de Rouen, Université de Strasbourg), this is the first international conference devoted to the work of Steve Tomasula.

Steve Tomasula is an American novelist, critic, short story, and essay author known for cross-genre narratives that explore conceptions of the self, especially as shaped by language and technology. A native of the Chicago area, he has taught in the Middle East and at the University of Notre Dame, Indiana.

With six novels, including a DVD novel, a story collection, an anthology of “conceptualisms,” and countless stories, critical contributions and essays on art, literature and culture, published over the course of twenty years, Steve Tomasula is considered a leading figure in innovative writing. Indeed, he has not only been pioneering new paths for the novel, exploiting multi-media interactions and cutting-edge technological resources, but has also been actively promoting literary experimentation, for instance as the founding father of the &Now festival of innovative art and the editor of numerous anthologies and essay collections.

Through constantly renewed forms, Tomasula’s fiction questions representation while illustrating the dependence of forms on context: writing, to be understood in the larger sense of leaving traces open to interpretation, necessarily reflects the writers’ times, as well as their cultural origins.

Tomasula explores history and cultures through art as a modality of knowledge, and perhaps as the destination of scientific texts once they have become obsolete scientifically speaking and lost their truth value. His works draw upon biology, geology, astronomy and many other sciences and their specialized subdivisions to offer a picture and, more largely, a sense of the worlds we live in, in relation to other worlds, past, present and future. Through —usually implicit— comparisons, the reader’s situation is put into context and into motion, according to a radical decentering move.

There lies the main ethical power of Tomasula’s art, in the shift that deprives readers of their illusory dominant stance. Through its subversive forms, Tomasula’s work undoes hierarchies in a highly efficient manner, since it appeals to the readers’ senses and not to their intellect alone. Thus illustrating —and exploiting— the intricate relations between ethics and aesthetics, Tomasula’s work also more specifically explores and challenges the very gesture of fiction, giving voice to voiceless characters and figures.

Without giving up the task of representation because of its limits and potential contradictions, Tomasula questions or attempts to question the place from where we speak and write. Rather than lament the damageable effects of capitalism and of the virtual turn, Tomasula chooses to make fun of the consequent aberrations while making the best of new technologies in his art. He keeps striving for more authentic forms of representation: trying to see what is actually there rather than projecting what we know should be there from scientific texts and other data sources, while still learning from scientific results and other productions of knowledge. Such tangential, respectful approach of our environment allows for a complex ecology to unfold through his art, that keeps morphing into new books, questions and offered experiences.

This conference aims at bringing together specialists of his fiction and criticism, as well as researchers, at all stages of their careers, interested in innovative literatures, contemporary American literature, multi-media literatures and new-media literatures. Any aspect of Tomasula’s fictional and critical œuvre may be chosen as an object of study, so that the largest scope may be offered by the conference.

 

Abstracts of 300 to 350 words together with a short biographical note should be sent by September 10th 2024 to Monica Manolescu (manoles@unistra.fr), Françoise Sammarcelli (francoise.sammarcelli@sorbonne-universite.fr) and Anne-Laure Tissut (anne-laure.tissut@univ-rouen.fr).