ICI-Berlin, 24-26 September 2009
Organizers: Manuele Gragnolati (Oxford/Berlin), Fabio Camilletti (Berlin), Fabian Lampart (Freiburg)
Afteralmost seven centuries, Dante persists and even seems to haunt thepresent. Dante has been used, rewritten, and metamorphosed throughmanifold media and cultural productions; the image itself of Dante hasprovided many paradigms for being (or performing the role of) a poet,indiscriminately shifting from the civic to the love poet, from thelanguage experimenter to the engaged poet-philosopher, or from the bardof a 'sublime' Inferno to that of heavenly rarefaction. This conferencewill investigate what so many authors, artists and thinkers from suchdifferent artistic, political, geographical, and cultural backgroundshave found in Dante in the 20th and 21st centuries. Certainly, Dante'swork can provide multiple linguistic and narrative structures,characters and stories, thereby allowing a wide range of possibilitiesto be evoked and re-activated. However, after the somewhat a-critical,sometimes Kitsch tribute paid to Dante during the Romantic period –excesses against which the scholarly tradition of Dante studiesintentionally constituted itself – Dante's oeuvre has become a morechallenging and interrogative presence. It has become a floating,sometimes subterranean, certainly complex influence, and eachre-appropriation also inquires, somehow moving forward with a backwardsgaze, into its own Weltanschauung, including such crucial elements assubjectivity, language, politics, desire, and utopia.
The hypothesis that this conference seeks to pursueis that the 20th and 21st centuries have found in Dante a field oftension, in which they can mirror, explore, and question the tensionsof their own realities. Situated itself on critical points of tension(sermo humilis/sublimis, lyric/epic, life/afterlife, human/divine,present/future…), Dante's aspiration towards totality remains adaunting presence in the age of fragmentation. After the 'death of theAuthor', Dante's work seduces precisely as the site of a powerfulproduction of authorship: in its own critical engagement with biblicaland classical works, it gives birth to the author in a modern sense byappropriating their authority and charging it with a stronglysubjective dimension imbued with experience, memory, and desire. Theconference invites scholars and artists coming from differentdisciplines and cultures to explore what the 20th and 21st centurieshave looked for in Dante's works, and the ways in which they haveengaged with them through rewritings, dialogues, and transposition inorder to reflect upon their own tensions.
Metamorphosing Dante is conceived within the frame of the Berlin Institute for Cultural Inquiry's core project Tension/Spannung,whose aim is to explore the manifold role of tension from apluridisciplinary approach through the interactions of artists andscholars from different backgrounds. This conference aims toinvestigate Dante's tensions with the same openness in inquiry,focusing on their adaptability to all possible metamorphoses undergoneby Dante in the 20th and 21st centuries. Possible topics include butare not limited to:
- Dante, language, authorship:Dante's influence and linguistic experimentation; plurilingualism;Dante's presence in 20th-century avant-gardes and Dante as a paradigmfor the concept of avant-gardism itself; authorship and autobiography;authorship and the tyranny of subjectivity; Dante's relationship to hisprecursors and the construction of a literary canon.
- The work of art as a speculum mundi:the Divine Comedy as a "total work of art" and the very possibilityitself of such a work in post-modernity (in other words: is such a taskpossible, or is it conceivable only in the form of the fragment, theproject or the pastiche?); the rendering of multiplicity andheterogeneity from the Comedy to 20th-century chaotic enumeration;Dante and multiculturalism (e.g. through the idea of an Islamicinfluence on the Divine Comedy, or through the use made of Dante bypost-colonial authors, such as Derek Walcott and Breyten Breytenbach).
- Trans-lations:Dante's adaptability to being translated into other languages, media,and codes (from visual arts and music to cinema, from graphic novelsand comic books to Japanese manga and anime).
- Catabasis and eschatology:Dante and the political tensions of the 20th century; politicalre-elaborations of Dante from different (and even antithetical) pointsof view (Mandel'štam, Gramsci, Pasolini, Heaney, Pound, Eliade,Grünbein…); Dante and the two World Wars; Dante and exile; the theme ofcatabasis in contemporary literature, arts and cinema, and the image ofHell as a possibility for thinking Nazism and the Shoah (Celan, Levi,Weiss, Pressburger).
- Beatrici: Danteand the tradition of Courtly love in the debate on European identityand its self-identification with desire and with a "perennialRomanticism" (Octavio Paz); Courtly love, Stilnovo and psychoanalysis;Freudian readings of Dante, Dantean readings of Freud; 20th century'Beatrices' between presence and absence, between "donna della salute"or "enemy" and between shiftings of gender; queer appropriations ofDante.
- Dante and contemporary critical theory (Barthes, Sollers, Kristeva, Lacan, Said, Agamben…).
Paperswill be limited to 30 minutes. Please email an abstract of maximum 500words and a short bio-bibliographical profile (no more than 1 page) to dante(at)ici-berlin.org by 30 April 2009. An answer will be given before 15 May 2008, and a detailed program will be published on the ICI-Berlin website.