“Don DeLillo: ‘Fiction Rescues History’” Conference
Paris – February 18-20, 2016
Guest of Honor: Don DeLillo (with the support of Actes Sud Editions)
Peter Boxall, University of Sussex
Michael Naas, DePaul University
LARCA – Laboratoire de recherches sur les cultures anglophones (UMR 8225, Paris Diderot)
VALE – Voix anglophones, littérature et esthétique (EA 4085, Sorbonne Paris 4)
ERIAC – Équipe de recherche interdisciplinaire sur les aires culturelles (EA 4705, Rouen)
PRISMES (VORTEX) – Langues, textes, arts et cultures du monde anglophone (EA 4398, Sorbonne Nouvelle Paris 3)
Call For Papers:
Throughout his imposing body of work, Don DeLillo unearths the mechanisms of history by securely anchoring his fiction in historical reality. His universeis genuinely contemporary insofar as it stages our epoch, exploring its problems and questioning its stakes. Indeed, the stuff of history is constitutive of his fiction: the assassination of John Fitzgerald Kennedy and the life of Lee Harvey Oswald dominate Libra (1988), the cold war Underworld (1997); the nuclear catastrophe is depicted in End Zone, the terrorist threat in Mao II (1991), both inspired by the Iran-Contra affair and by the fatwa issued against Salman Rushdie. Players (1977) takes as its object the world of unbridled financial speculation, later revisited in Cosmopolis (2003), which stages the collapse of the dotcom boom; Falling Man (2007) focuses on post 9/11 America while Point Omega (2010) explores a nation bogged down in the Middle-East wars and drawn into a logic of torture seemingly legitimated by the state of exception. DeLillo acknowledges his profound interest in the relation between fiction and history and in a certain type of historical novel: “My own personal preference is for fiction that is steeped in history, that takes account of ways in which our perceptions are being changed by events around us. Global events that may alter how we live in the smallest ways.”
This conference will focus on the shaping power of history in DeLillo’s work. How and why does the writer complexify the theories and the writing of history, even as his fiction allows him to solve a number of theoretical aporias. Papers may also take into account the apparent obliteration of history in certain novels. Indeed, even when history is absent, as is the case in White Noise (1984) or The Body Artist (2001) for instance, its very erasure seems obscurely to reinforce its presence. The epochal dimension of DeLillo’s work could also be questioned, in other words the underlying dimension of suspension in his fiction, especially at the turn of the new millennium. According to its etymology (epokhē), the word epoch designates an unknown territory in which history seems to hesitate over what direction to take and to be in search of a form of written narrative – a territory suggested, for instance, by the contrapuntal relation between the dehistoricized The Body Artist and the hyper-historicized Cosmopolis. Such an a-temporal (a-chronic?) moment could also be considered in other works of the same period, namely the essay “In the Ruins of the Future” (2001) but also his play Love-Lies-Bleeding(2005) which literally represents the in-between. To what extent and how does 9/11 embody such a transition?
Such considerations call for a re-evaluation of the place of Falling Man (2007) and more precisely for a reexamination of this novel among other works written in the liminal space of the millennium and contributing to the sub-genre of “post-9/11 fictions” – a category that itself should be questioned.
The conference will address DeLillo’s critical analysis of official history as well as of its totalizing and totalitarian power, for instance by focusing on voices of protest in his work who find themselves confined to the margins of history. In connection with these margins, it may be worth returning to the notion of “counter‑history” put forward by the author in his essay “The Power of History” (1997), a notion that could include the role played by arts and artists when they question official forms of discourse and make manifest the very heterogeneity of history.
Conference participants should pay particular attention to the singular language invented by DeLillo out of conventional discourses, bearing in mind the writer’s words: “But before everything, there’s language. Before history and politics, there’s language.”
Papers need not be limited to DeLillo’s novels, they may also focus on the plays and stories.
Contributors are invited to tackle the following topics, among others:
- The various forms of writing history
- Resistance and counter-narratives
- DeLillo and his contemporaries
- Terrorism and counter-terrorism; the evolution in the representations of terrorism(s), from the story « The Uniforms» (1970) to the latest novelPoint Omega.
- Relations between essays and fiction
Deadline for proposals (title, ±500-word long abstract, and short bio): October 15, 2015
Answer: November 1st, 2015
Proposals should be submitted by email to the scientific committee
Antoine Cazé – firstname.lastname@example.org
Anne-Laure Tissut – email@example.com
Karim Daanoune – firstname.lastname@example.org
Jean-Yves Pellegrin – email@example.com