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Re-Thinking literature

Project coordinator: Tom BISHOP

Total costs of the project: $48.950
Embassy of France support: $25.000

Summary of the Project

We are planning a substantial three-day international conference in a specific Franco-American context, with the ambitious title: RE-THINKING LITERATURE. We intend to raise very basic, familiar questions concerning what the cultural construct, “literature,” really means today, what the situation of the writer is at this time, what, as Sartre asked, literature “is.” But this conference will concentrate on unfamiliar ways of approaching the questions: undetermined by preexisting “isms,” past the structuralist and post-structuralist dogmas of recent years. Among the challenges facing RE-THINKING LITERATURE will be an attempt to analyze how literature today interacts with philosophy, with other arts, with science. To explore these questions, we are appealing to writers, theoreticians of literature, literary critics, philosophers, artists, and art critics—many of them young--who will bring fresh, multiple perspectives to the debate. RE-THINKING LITERATURE is organized by the Center for French Civilization and Culture of New York University, in conjunction with members of other schools and departments at NYU (e.g. Gallatin School of Individual Studies, Tisch School of the Arts, Departments of Philosophy, Comparative Literature, English, Creative Writing etc.) and other universities, notably the New School University, École Normale Supérieure-Ulm, Columbia… The conference has been conceived and will be chaired by Donatien Grau of ENS and Paris IV and Tom Bishop, Florence Gould Professor of French Literature at New York University. It will be held from September 19-21, 2013. RE-THINKING LITERATURE will bring together about 20 speakers, divided approximately equally between the U.S. and abroad—mostly from France—for formal presentations by each and discussion. It is the intent of the organizers to publish the papers from the conference as well as disseminating them on the web in order to make the work of the participants widely available to the intellectual communities in the U.S., France, and beyond. Presentations, discussion will be in English. While one cannot predetermine the conclusions to be drawn at the conclusion of this three-day conference, the quality and diversity of the planned speakers make it possible to anticipate far-reaching reevaluations of received ideas, akin to those raised by several major, similar conferences over the past half century, notably the famous gathering at Johns Hopkins.