CfP: Closeness in Distance
Indiana University, March 26-27, 2021
A virtual colloquium hosted by the Department of French and Italian (FRIT)
Call for Papers | Deadline January 31, 2021
Carlo Ginzburg: (Emeritus) University of California, Los Angeles and Scuola Normale Superiore, Pisa: “Herd democracy? Political communication in the covid era”
Carla Calargé: Florida Atlantic University: “Up close and distant: Lebanese bande dessinée and the geographies of disasters”
Amanda Dalola: University of South Carolina: “Perception differences in phrase-final fricative epithesis among L1 and L2 speakers of French”
During the past year, proximity, or lack thereof, has defined the world; distance between friends, family, and colleagues has shaped the way we perceive our surrounding environments. Why then, should linguistics, the study of language, be any different? In a time where one is separated not only via physical distance from others, but also temporally from the past and the future, it is important to reflect on and analyze how languages across cultures shape the way distance is understood… or is it how we perceive distance that shapes the way we produce language? Could it be both? Be it through the principle of locality, diachronic or diatopic variation, language contact, etc., now is the perfect opportunity to explore the linguistic notion of distance.
We encourage applications in all subfields of linguistics that include but are not limited to Second Language Acquisition, Syntax, Semantics, and Sociolinguistics.
Francophone and Italian Studies:
In this last year of confinement and isolation, space has become a determining quality in how we carry on our lives. Proximity to a few and separation from many has exacerbated political problems, plagued communication, and catalyzed us to think more deeply and critically about how space itself shapes relationships and interactions, both on a material and aesthetic level. The consequences of spatial relationships can be illustrated quite clearly in Boccaccio’s Decameron, an unexpected literary hit in this status quo of confinement. In the Introduction, the narrator describes how a plague revealed the true moral comportment of Florence’s citizenry. Some of them resort to fearful anachoresis, others to wild partying. Most critically, a small group of young men and women remove themselves from the town center, fleeing to the country where they can avoid pestilence and find safety. For these characters, much like ourselves, the choice to remove themselves from their immediate surroundings does not only generate a relation of distance from their everyday world, but also a new sense of closeness with their companions in isolation. In Boccaccio’s Decameron, as today, there developed a new economy of relationship, a re-ordering of moral and aesthetic mores, and then, as now, reflective critique was required to understand and to unveil this new spatial regime.
The socially isolated characters of the Decameron entertain themselves sharing stories about the world before it was struck by the epidemic. How does spatial, temporal, and cultural distance, today as in the past, affect the perspective of the storyteller? How does it change the relation between the author and their present and future public? Moreover, what is the role of technological devices (from Medieval codex to computer codes) in determining the style and content of communication between distant subjects? Might technological mediation exert and even shift ethical demands of hospitality in social relationships?
In 16th century Europe, Joachim du Bellay’s sojourn in Rome prompted an elogic reflection on separation from “La France, et mon Anjou, dont le désir me point” (Les Regrets, 25). For Du Bellay, distance cultivated emotions of longing, misery, and ennui, and his poetic reflections prompted an examination of natural forces. Drawing upon contemporary notions of how astrological forces shaped current events, he decries how the heavens acted as a “mauvaise influence” with the conjunction of two fateful planets, “Et que Mars était lors à Saturne conjoint.” Du Bellay’s reflections indicate not only how distance can shape genre (cf. exilic literature, like Du Bellay’s poetic Regrets, or the form of the epistolary novel of the 17th and 18th centuries employed by authors such as Mme. de Graffigny and Montesqieu), but also how it has an impact on the affective relationships between our social selves and the ‘natural’ world.
Material and historical circumstances form our ethical and political sensitivities: “If, merely by wishing it,” asked Chateaubriand, “you could kill a man in China and inherit his fortune in Europe, being assured by supernatural means that the deed would remain forever unknown, would you allow yourself to form that project?” (cf. chapter 8 of Carlo Ginzburg’s Wooden Eyes. Nine Essays on Distance). How does distance condition our perception of others, and accommodate our sense of justice? Dealing with geographical, chronological, and cultural distance is the challenge of critics and historians, whenever interpretation and translation occur. But oftentimes a regime of distance has been purposefully created, for example through categories of class, race, gender, health, or species, and a theoretical and critical effort is required to build new connections, and restore a unified field of shared embodiment.
Possible topics for the conference include but are not limited to the analysis of literature, philosophy, comics, cinema, television, games, new media, visual and performative arts.
We welcome contributions that engage with Francophone and Italian cultures.
FORMAT: In accordance with health guidelines and to ensure the wellbeing of all conference participants, the panels and keynotes will all be held online. The panels will allow presenters 15 minutes to present their research. After all presenters per panel have spoken, we allot an additional 15 minutes for questions. All presentations are scheduled for Friday, March 26, while the keynote addresses will take place Saturday, March 27. Each keynote address will similarly be followed by a Q&A session, and a separate meeting between the speaker, graduate students from the IU Department of French and Italian, and other graduate students who presented at the conference. We accept submissions from current graduate students as well as those who have recently graduated (including all contingent faculty). Independent scholars at an early stage in their career are also encouraged to apply. All abstracts and presentations must be in English.
PLEASE SEND THE TITLE OF YOUR PRESENTATION, A 200 WORD ABSTRACT, AND A SHORT BIOGRAPHICAL NOTE TO IUFRITGSO@GMAIL.COM BY FEBRUARY 7, 2021.