Launch of ‘The Witness and the Text’
‘The Witness and the Text’
special issue of the Journal of Romance Studies 9.3 (Winter 2009),
edited by Debra Kelly and Gill Rye,
and to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the MA in Cultural Memory
21 January, 6 pm – Room 274/275, Stewart House
Featuring a roundtable with the editors and contributors (of which I am one! See the publications page for full details.)
Followed by a wine reception
About the issue 9.3 of the Journal of Romance Studies:
Taking as a point of departure Stephen Poliakoff’s suggestive notion of the individual ‘seeing History through a half-open door’, the aim of this issue of the Journal of Romance Studies is to provide an opportunity to engage with over half a century of individual testimony to large-scale, and often catastrophic, public events. At the same time, it also provides an occasion to take stock of the contribution to Memory Studies of the teachers and students of the MA Cultural Memory at the Institute of Germanic and Romance Studies (IGRS) as it commemorates its own first decade. The tensions and creative potential at work in the space produced at the interface between public and private memory has been a major focus of this postgraduate programme since its inception.
This collective volume further provides an opportunity, therefore, to review the forms and practices of individual textual production (in the widest sense) that bear witness to the relationship between the public and the private in European cultural history from the Second World War to contemporary society. It equally provides a space in which to reconsider the writers and theorists who have helped to shape our understanding of the relationship between the public and the private in a European cultural, philosophical and political system which is underpinned by a belief in the ‘value of the individual’ (Weintraub), but that at the same time has periodically set in motion historical events on a mass scale which often threaten to invalidate, indeed annihilate, that very individual experience.
The key focus of the collection of articles is on the performative act of bearing witness and notions of the agency of the witness. What forms has testimonial narrative taken and does it continue to take? How can individual experience be best articulated? How has individual testimony been received over the course of fifty years or so, and how have attitudes changed? How does such testimony help our understanding of the relationship between History and Memory? What can it tell us about the place of the self in the modern and contemporary world? What changes have occurred in the very notion of ‘witness’ in recent history and in an era of mass, instant communication? Derrida, however, reminds us that ‘whoever bears witness does not bring proof’, and emphasis is also given therefore to the ethics as well as the aesthetics of bearing witness, and to the problematic notions of truth-value and authenticity. Finally, is bearing witness a redemptive act, and for whom, as individual testimony passes into collective memory?
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