Call for Papers

Princeton University Department of French and Italian

Graduate Conference

October 14, 2016

Transparency and Opacity in French Language Literature

Keynote speaker: Prof. Thomas Connolly, Yale University

The Department of French and Italian of Princeton University invites graduate students to submit proposals for its fall conference, to be held on October 14, 2016. Books have long been thought of as illuminating objects, allowing for the direct transmission of human knowledge and the elucidation of subjects foreign to their readers. It comes as little surprise that the moment of European history that saw the development of a globalizing philosophic, scientific, and literary culture would come to be known as the Enlightenment. As this intellectual culture spread, it approached the world as transparent and open to the inquisitive western gaze. In colonialism’s aftermath, these ideas came increasingly into question, particularly the ideal of a totalizing vision or understanding of the world. In Poétique de la relation, Edouard Glissant writes of the tension between the Western desire for transparency and the right of opacity, or the right to a non-comprehensible diversity. At the same time, a primary objective of postcolonial authors and artists has been to (re)determine the terms of their own visibility by creating narratives that more closely reflect an authentic cultural identity. How has the dialectical tension between transparency and opacity been conceived in art and literature at various historical moments in France and throughout the francophone world?  Possible topics for papers could include but are not limited to:

  • Relationship between structures of power and transparency
  • Violence of being rendered visible
  • Literary and political arguments for the right to opacity
  • The relationship between minor literatures and major languages
  • Literary, poetic, and musical ekphrasis
  • The role of visual metaphor in discourses on literature and art
  • Phantasmagoria; deceptive images and illusions
  • Literature and visual imagery in a multimedia context (photography, film, painting, etc.)
  • Vernacular language in literature
  • (Un)intelligibility of other languages or the language of the other
  • Narrational techniques and the visibility/invisibility of the author
  • Mediating surfaces (screens, veils, mirrors, windows…)
  • Palimpsestic writing; the persistence of visual “traces”
  • Opacity as an obstacle to perception

Graduate students are invited to submit proposals for twenty-minute presentations. Proposals should include a title, 250-word abstract, the name of your affiliated institution and your contact information. Papers are invited from any area and period of French and Francophone studies and may be in English or French. Submit proposals to by June 1.


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