Charlotte Delbo's testimony : representation and transmission
Call for papers : a one-day conference on Monday 18 March 2013 at the French Institute, London, organised by the Group for War and Culture Studies (University of Westminster) and The Pears Institute for the Study of Antisemitism (Birkbeck, University of London) with the support of the French Institute of London.
‘This is how it all happened and never do I invent’ (Jean Giraudoux, Electre, Acte II, sc. 9.)
Delbo (1913-1985) used this quote as an epigraph to her book Le Convoi du 24 janvier where she presents short biographies of the 230 women deported with her to Auschwitz-Birkenau in that convoy. It encapsulates two messages from Delbo : that her writings represent her testimony given in all truthfullness, and that her testimony is mediated through literature, shown by her choice of a theatrical character. In the centenary of her birth this one-day conference aims to highlight the contribution that Delbo, although not Jewish, made to Holocaust testimonial writing. The conference will examine the particular literary devices Delbo used to re-present the unimaginable – the horror of a death camp - and their efficacy in the transmission of her testimony. Equally it will look to situate her among other writers with the hope of engaging in a wider discussion of literary testimony and representation of the Nazi camp experience. A talk will introduce a performance by the Nomad theatre group of extracts from Delbo’s prose works which will conclude the conference.
The papers will be divided into two discussion panels, morning (10.30) and afternoon (14.00), each for two hours with inclusion of Q&A. The day will conclude with the introductory talk followed by the theatrical production starting at 16.30.
Proposals for papers lasting about 20 minutes are welcome on the following themes but not restricted to them:
- The role of literature in re-presenting (making present) the Nazi camp experience.
- Testimony through theatre: Delbo’s Qui rapportera ces paroles?[Who Will Carry the Word?] in comparison with other Holocaust plays.
- Delbo’s poetic writings and distinctive prose narrative structures.
- The relationship between literature and history in the testimonial writings of Delbo and other witnesses.
Proposals accompanied by a short CV (250 words), contact details and institutional affiliation (where relevant) to be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. by 10 December. Acceptance of papers will be made by the end of December.
Organising Committee (in alphabetical order):
Dr Ludivine Broch (Pears Institute Early Career Research Fellow, Birbeck, University of London)
Dr Luke Dixon (Theatre Director)
Professor David Feldman (Director, Pears Institute for the study of Antisemitism, School of Social Sciences, History and Philosophy, Birkbeck, University of London)
Dr Nicole Thatcher (Visiting Research Fellow, Group for War and Culture Studies, University of Westminster)