Conference 2011

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Figuring the Past: The Literary and Historical Imagination

3-5 March 2011

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The difference between historian and poet is, according to Aristotle, that the one describes the thing that has been, and the other a kind of thing that might be. He sees a clear and evident distinction between a historian, who describes events and a writer, who invents them. This distinction has been the subject of debate over the last few decades with some calling it into question and others looking more closely at the relationship between the two. The debate has moreover taken place in the midst of rapid and radical changes brought on by the forces of globalisation eroding the national frameworks within which literature and history have for so long been viewed. In the field of history this has driven efforts to evolve transnational or global perspectives and to questions about the colonial and imperialist dimensions of much of modern history. In literary studies this has fuelled the revisiting of canonical texts to see how they are embedded in and reflect these dimensions and their impact on the emergence of genres, literary movements, narrative practices. A further aspect of these new ways of seeing is the increasingly interdisciplinary practice of cultural history, the turn to questions of cultural memory, and the focus on popular culture and popular fiction to provide insights into the mentalities and anxieties of past ages.

The contemporary boom of the historical novel, a literary genre that embodies the complex interdependence of history and literature, underscores the relevance of the debate. Initially emerging as a vehicle for popularizing national histories, the historical novel appears today to reflect a very different sense of the world. Its protagonists seem to be increasingly drawn from the margins of society, from the subaltern classes. In place of (his)story, we often have (her)story. And it seems to be less concerned with constructing a singular identity than with questioning this idea. Are these observations generally valid? And why this resort to history in times that exhort us daily to forget the past and focus on the future?

Even as we reflect on the ways in which history and literature figure the past, our concerns are with the present, and with its no less compelling conflicts and crises. We invite papers that explore the interactions of history and literature in the light of these concerns. Papers focusing on other artistic forms, on film or on related debates in other disciplines are also welcome.

[Deadline for submission of abstracts (200-300 words):
15 January 2011]


Thursday, 3 March 2011, Room 22, Arts Faculty

10.00 am Opening Remarks Kusum Aggarwal , Sharmistha Lahiri
10.30 am Mirko Tavosanis The past and the future: Valerio Evangelisti between history and science fiction
11.30 am Stefan Balzter “... Like A Historian Gone Crazy”: Daniel Kehlmann's Die Vermessung der Welt (Measuring the World)
12.15 am Vijaya Venkataraman A Chronicle of a History Retold: The Buffoon as Historian in Baccino’s Maluco
    Chair: Kusum Aggarwal
1.00 pm   LUNCH BREAK
2.00 pm Tarun K. Saint ‘Fictive’ Testimony to the historical trauma of the Partition in selected recent writings from Pakistan
2.45 pm Debjani Sengupta The Partition’s Afterlife: Nation and Narration in Akhtaruzzaman Elias’s Khowabnama
3.45 pm Susanne Klengel Geographies of Horror: Mario Vargas Llosa's Revisions of the Colonial and Imperialist Past
4.30 pm Krishnan Unni. P Theorizing Difference: An Examination of Carlos Fuentes’s Terra Nostra and The Campaign
    Chair: Vibha Maurya

Friday, 4 March 2011, Room 22, Arts Faculty, University of Delhi

9.45 am Rama Paul Historical Imagination in Popular Minds: Reading of the Isabel and Ferdinand Trilogy by Jean Plaidy
10.30 am Ovidiu Ivancu From Vlad Ţepeş to Count Dracula. A Challenging Relation between History and Myth
11.30 am Gabriele Schwab Cannibalism and Postcolonial Melancholia: Juan Jose Saer’s The Witness
12.15 pm Margit Köves Inside and Outside the Captivity of History
    Chair: Sharmistha Lahiri
1.00 pm   LUNCH BREAK
2.00 pm Susan George From Slave Labourer to Transmigrant: Perspectives on Gulf Migration in South India
2.45 pm Mahmood Kooria This is a Story of the First 'Beevi': Local History and Mythical Faith in the Representations of a Filmized Novel
3.45 pm Oeendrila Lahiri Historical Consciousness in the Nakshas of 19th Century Calcutta
4.15 pm Paresh Chandra Of Evolution: Art and Society
    Chair: Minni Sawhney

Saturday, 5 March 2011, Room 22, Arts Faculty, University of Delhi

9.45 am Maria Carla Battelli Writing in hard times (on Osip Mandelstam and Primo Levi)
10.30 am Sumana Jha Reflection on the past in Yelena Chizhova’s novel A Time of Women
11.30 am Maitreyee Roychoudhury The Same Nation, Different Pasts: Kipling and Nesbit’s Britain
12.15 pm Anubha Anushree Re-membering the Memory: Hazari Prasad Dwivedi’s Banbhatta Ki Atmakatha and Anamdas Ka Potha
    Chair: M.S. Joshi
1.00 pm   LUNCH BREAK
2.00 pm Tania Meyer Reconstructing Black German History, or, The Darker Side of Enlightenment
2.45 pm Justin Scarimbolo Performing The Present Through Its Past: Music and the Ambivalence of Muslim Representation in the Marathi Play, Katyar Kaljat Ghusli
3.45 pm Aniruddha Ghosal The popular history of ‘heaven on earth’
4.15 pm Marie Thorsten Graphic ‘Heart of Darkness’ and Current Affairs Comics
    Chair: Shaswati Mazumdar



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