New York University’s Center for French Civilization and Culture will host “Re-Thinking Literature,” a conference that will consider the meaning and significance of “literature” today, September 19 through 21 at NYU’s Hemmerdinger Hall, Silver Center (100 Washington Square East [between Waverly and Washington Place]).
In the fall of 1966, Johns Hopkins University hosted “The Language of Criticism and the Sciences of Man,” a conference that drew some of the top French thinkers of the period—Paul de Man, Roland Barthes, Jean Hyppolite, Jacques Derrida, and Jacques Lacan—in a meeting with other European and American academics. The gathering, with presentations primarily given in French, helped launch a re-definition of literature by establishing a theoretical foundation for the written word.
Nearly 50 years later, NYU aims to update the exchanges that occurred in Baltimore, with an eye toward coming to a new understanding of literature. “Re-Thinking Literature” will bring together American and French philosophers, writers, theoreticians of literature, literary critics, and art critics to examine what, in the 21st Century, is understood when we speak about “literature.”
Speakers include: art critic and poet Peter Schjeldahl, poet and author Wayne Kestenbaum, author and playwright Helene Cixous, writer and filmmaker Jean-Philippe Toussaint, art critic and philosopher Boris Groys, Global Distinguished Professor of Russian and Slavic Studies at NYU, and philosopher Avital Ronell, a University Professor in the Humanities at NYU.
The conference will go beyond familiar questions– “What is the situation of the writer today? What does literature mean today?”—and delve into today’s post-post-structuralism and what it means in an era when both the publishing industry and the academy are undergoing changes barely imagined in 1966. In doing so, the event will bring together some of today’s top literary minds—as well as philosophers, critics, and practitioners of art—for a series of presentations and exchanges that could also mark a re-setting of how we view the written word.