Gustave Flaubert (1821-1880), Samuel Beckett (1906-1989) and Marie NDiaye (1967-) form a fascinating ‘family’ of nineteenth-, twentieth- and twenty-first-century novelist-playwrights writing in French. Profoundly implicated in certain key social struggles of their times, Flaubert, Beckett and NDiaye can at the same time be considered as models of radical disengagement, apparently happy to isolate themselves from the world and its horrors in the tried and tested posture of the remote and cut-off artist. Failure hovers on the horizon of every one of their works, as protagonists and texts alike slide inexorably into unmanageable states of paradox, incompletion and disintegration. This ‘failure’ is at once aesthetic (the texts themselves fail to deliver the meaning the reader needs or expects), psychic (the characters fail to perform subjectivities that can be unified by a coherent or feeling self) and political (the artist and celebrity, having evoked a social situation that demands a clear response, fails to offer one).
What is at stake in the work of Flaubert, Beckett and NDiaye, aesthetically, emotionally and politically, as it pushes the reader or spectator to the very limits of tolerable uncertainty? What are the cultural and psychosocial implications of their experiments in splitting and negativity, which seem to indulge the most cynical aspects of nihilism while at the same time grappling with the very foundations of politicized and psychic truth? And how do Flaubert, Beckett and NDiaye call out to one another across the gendered, racialized, economic, cultural and temporal spaces that separate, crack and isolate them? We are calling for proposals for 30-minute papers, in either English or French, and of between 500 and 800 words, that approach the various ‘failures’ and fêlures of Flaubert, Beckett and NDiaye along three principal axes of investigation: the aesthetic, the emotional and the political. Proposals should engage with at least two of the authors, and at least two of the key axes of investigation. We expect to publish the proceedings of the workshop, in either English or French, before November 2013. Topics may include but are not limited to:
Please send proposals as a Word document by Friday 14 September 2012 to Dr Andrew Asibong and Dr Aude Campmas at email@example.com
A one-day workshop at Birkbeck, University of London, Monday 7 January 2013