The Department of French at Rutgers University
Magic and the Supernatural
in French and Francophone Literature, Arts, and Culture
An Interdisciplinary Graduate & Post-Graduate Conference
Friday, March 4 & Saturday, March 5, 2016
New Brunswick, NJ
Kaiama L. Glover
Associate Professor of French at Barnard College
Magic and the supernatural are frequently defined in opposition to the “natural”. However, the relationship between these two supposed opposites is often quite complex. Many “supernatural” phenomena are represented as intimately connected to the natural world, and in some cosmologies, realism, practicality, and the supernatural are held as mutually enriching. Indeed, one might contend that the designation “magic,” “supernatural,” or “superstition” is often more indicative of the naturalization of dominant epistemologies than of the naturalness of more marginal beliefs and practices. In some cases, then, these concepts of magic and the supernatural may constitute a move towards inaccessible or unknown aspects of nature.
Magic and the supernatural, both as represented and as modes of thinking and creating, can certainly be used as a way to discourage critical thought, but they can also do the opposite by inviting us to push boundaries. Sometimes, they may do both at once. The concepts of magic and the supernatural implicitly demand recognition of the “myth-making, storytelling” aspect of human consciousness. They can be used to challenge the infallibility of science and exclusively “biocentric” notions of Humanity (Wynter). Appeals to magic and the supernatural invite us to attempt to break through epistemological barriers, to reconsider world views, to reach for the radically unknown.
Representations of magic and the supernatural, as well as “magical” ways of thinking, writing, speaking, living, and making art, may aim to establish a space for thought and action, a space that, on one hand, respects the very real barriers and limitations of particular social realities, and, on the other hand, allows for transgression to be imagined. The realm of the magical or the supernatural may present itself as a privileged space for escaping or resisting hegemonic discursive realities, all while recognizing the paradoxical impossibility of doing so. Magic and the supernatural are used to encode the doing of the impossible, the saying of the unspeakable, and the thinking of the unthinkable.
This conference aims to explore the ways in which the concepts of magic and the supernatural in literature and art can point to fruitful ways of knowing our plural world in its past, present, and future. What new understandings can we gain about French and Francophone language, literature, art, and culture through an exploration of this theme?
Possible themes include, but are not limited to:
- Folk and fairy tales
- Fantasy in literature, film, and art
- Magical or marvelous realism
- Magic and the supernatural in aesthetic movements
- Spirits and Ghosts
- Witchcraft and sorcery
- Belief and Faith
- Alternative medicine
- Monsters and fantastic beasts
- The surreal
- The fantastic
- Rêve et rêverie
- Supernatural travels and movement
This conference will have a panel format. We welcome papers in both French and English. We particularly welcome papers that address multiple art forms and the relationships between them.
Abstracts of approximately 250-500 words should be submitted to the following email address firstname.lastname@example.org before the 1st of February. Abstracts should be preceded by a cover page with the following information:
-Name (last, first)
-Title (PhD, Masters candidate, Post-Doc, Visiting Professor, etc…)
-Title of paper
This information should not appear on your abstract.