International conference on women’s autobiographies
Research group FAAAM, University of Paris Ouest Nanterre

“Our sweetest existence is both relative and collective, and our true self does not reside solely within us,” Jean-Jacques Rousseau wrote in /Rousseau, Judge of Jean-Jacques/. If autobiography is indeed the reflective act of a remembering self, this self is never an isolated subject and the world is never only a mere stage set for reminiscing.
Sociologist Maurice Halbwachs wrote, “we never remember alone.” Are not the interior and the exterior worlds simply two faces of the same reality? Annie Ernaux, who borrowed Rousseau’s phrase in her /Journal du dehors/ Exteriors/, introduces herself as “crossed by people and their existence like a whore,” since her relationship to the world is
not only an objective of her mind, but a physical and erotic link too.
In /How Our Lives Become Stories: Making Selves/ (1999), Paul John Eakin encourages us to demystify the self-referential narrative seen as autodiegetic, where the first person subject would first and foremost refer to itself. Eakin states that the first person of autobiography is truly plural in its origins and subsequent formation.
He proposes the terms “relational self” and “relational life,” arguing that all identity is relational and all self-writing is at the crossroads of biography and autobiography, which positions the narrating subject in a larger context—that of the family, the community and the ethnic group. A writing of inwardness may also be perceived as an inscription of otherness and of ‘formerness.’ To write is not only to become an individual, but also to recognize the presence of others in the making of the self.
Autobiography, which is traditionally associated with a certain subjective idealism, is not expected to fully engage with the world, while memoirs, a genre preferred by Anglo-Saxon women, position the writing subjects in a larger environment. As Nancy Miller insisted, memoirs do not draw a clear line between the public and the private since emphasizing the role of the outside world amounts to some socio-political, cultural or ethical risk. It means inhabiting and reappropriating the public space, becoming visible, sharing one’s experience and offering a reflection on history and society. For Helen M. Buss, memoirs are not only representations of women’s personal lives but also of their desire to repossess important parts of our culture, in which women’s stories have not mattered.
From this perspective, the autobiographical project is akin to sociology or history, which it completes without replacing. We may wonder what historical value to attribute to autobiography. What is the relation between autobiography and cultural memory? Betweenautobiography and counter-memory? Autobiography and photography? Beyond the traditional (written) forms of autobiographical narrative, we are interested in other, more contemporary, forms of autobiographical projects.

Several themes may be explored:

1) The autobiographical narrative as testimony/reappropriation/intervention: how do women participate as witnesses of their time? What narrative strategies do they use to
combine/separate/mix individual and collective discourses, private and public discourses? How do women write narratives of historical events or of “conditions of being”? Specific genres such as war stories or slave narratives could be studied.

2) Autobiography and ‘postmemory’ (Hirsch): when second or third generations recount the trauma (war, exile, decolonization, poverty) endured by previous generations in diasporic memoirs, or working class memoirs (Jeanette Winterson, Carolyn Steedman).

3) The places of memory: what is the relation of women’s autobiography to space-time? How is the place of memory represented (cf the garden world of Jamaica Kincaid in /My Garden (Book))? / What role does it play in the construction of the narrative identity in narratives of exile and of migration/, /such as ethnic culinary memoirs /(Myriam’s Kitchen)/? How are the conditions of being part of several worlds and of the postcolonial self expressed?

4) Autobiography in the world’s web: the Self in the virtual world. Do on-line journals increase our connectedness to the world or do they leave us more isolated?

5) Autobiography and the image of (the self in the) world: the referentiality of images tested against writing (photographs inserted into the autobiographical text as visual transmission / mediation between the self and the world, graphic memoirs, etc…); the intersection between personal, political and photographic autobiographies (Jo Spence)

Papers will be given in English (preferred language) or French

200-400 word abstracts (and short bios) to be sent by June 15th 2016 to the co-organizers: Claire Bazin and Corinne Bigot

Nicoleta Alexoae-Zagni, Istom, CREA Paris Ouest
Valérie Baisnée, Université de Paris Sud, CREA Paris Ouest
Valérie Baudier, CREA, Paris Ouest
Claire Bazin, CREA, Paris Ouest Nanterre
Corinne Bigot, CREA, Paris Ouest Nanterre
Elisabeth Bouzonviller, Université de Saint Etienne
Stéphanie Genty, SLAM, Université d’Evry-Val d’Essonne
Nathalie Saudo-Welby, CORPUS Université de Picardie Jules Verne


Buss, Helen M. /Repossessing the World: Reading Memoirs by  Contemporary Women/. Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2002.
Eakin, John Paul. /How Our Lives Become Stories: Making Selves./ Cornell University Press, 1999.
/____ Touching the World: Reference in Autobiography/. Princeton University Press, 1992.
Ernaux, Annie, /Exteriors/. Seven Stories Press, 1996.
Halbwachs, Maurice. /La Mémoire collective/. Paris: Albin Michel, 1997.
Hirsch, Marianne and Smith, Valerie (eds). “Feminism and Cultural Memory: An Introduction.” /Signs/, Vol. 28, No. 1, Gender and Cultural Memory Special Issue (Autumn 2002): 1-19.
Hirsch, Marianne, /Family Frames:/ /Photography Narrative and Postmemory, /Harvard UP, 1997.
_____________ “Past Lives: Postmemories in Exile”, /Poetics Today,/ Vol. 17, No. 4 (1996): 659-690.
Miller, Nancy K. /Bequest & Betrayal: Memoirs of a Parent’s Death/. Oxford UP, 1996.
Ricœur, Paul. /La mémoire, l’histoire, l’oubli/. Paris: Seuil, 2000.
Turkle, Sherry. /Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other/. New York: Basic Books, 2011.
Whitlock Gillian, /Soft Weapons: Autobiography in Transit, /The University of Washington Press, 2007.
Zanon-Davis, Natalie and Randoph Starn, “Introduction,” /Representations/ 26, Special Issue: “Memory and Counter-Memory” (1989): 1-6.

The intersection of contemporary debates about the future of American power and recent developments in the field of diplomatic history compel us to reconsider the foundations and contours of the American Century.

“Forging the American Century”, seeks to combine the current concern for America’s changing role in the world with new and developing insights into the nature of international relations to revisit the origins of the American Century: World War II and its aftermath. The conference is not about the high diplomacy of the war, nor is it necessarily about the start of the Cold War. Instead, it will address the ways in which the World War and America’s rise to global power drove Americans in different fields, both inside and outside the sphere of formal diplomacy, to forge new connections with the world. We will also address the many ways in which people around the world responded to the new or changing American presence.


By invoking the term “American Century”, we do not intend to link up to Henry Luce’s original arguments. With its confusing mix of jingoism, democratic idealisms, free market enthusiasm, nationalism, and naiveté, Luce’s “American Century” has rarely been taken seriously as a blueprint for American internationalism. However, the concept of an “American Century” has recently made a comeback in discussions about the United States’ relative decline. Can the United States maintain its international economic position in the face of Chinese competition? Have the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq caused irreparable damage to its role as an international leader? Will rising powers, especially the much-discussed BRICS countries, challenge the liberal world order that the United States has built and sustained?


In a recent anthology that he described as a “dissenter’s guide to the American Century”, Andrew Bacevich argues that:

“the conditions that once lent plausibility to visions of an American Century [have] ceased to exist…Contemporary reality no longer accommodate[s] the notion of a single nation arrogating to itself the role of a Good Samaritan, especially a nation with dirty hands…The utility of Luce’s formulation as a description of the contemporary international order or as a guide to future U.S. policy has been exhausted.”

Others have been more optimistic, both about the nature of the American Century and its future. Joseph Nye defines it as “the extraordinary period of American preeminence in military, economic, and soft power resources that have made the United States central to the workings of the global balance of power, and to the provision of global public goods”. While the international environment will become more complicated in the future, he announces simply that “the American century is not over”.


The running debates over the future of American power make this an opportune moment to reconsider the foundations of U.S. internationalism, especially in the light of recent innovations in the field of diplomatic history. Over the past fifteen years, terms such as empire, soft power, and anti-Americanism have become commonplace in discussions of America’s role in the world. Foreign policy, power politics, and the work of statesmen and professional diplomats no longer dominate histories of U.S. foreign relations. Current scholarly interest in soft power, public diplomacy, and Americanization have opened the field to the study of culture. “New” diplomatic historians study the role of individuals, networks, musicians, athletes, transnational movements and a wide variety of other forms of “informal” diplomacy. A focus on American action has made room for the study of interaction: the ways in which peoples throughout the world have resisted, negotiated, or welcomed the American presence.


Disciplines and topics

We welcome scholars from all disciplinary and theoretical backgrounds to present fresh insights into the historical foundations of U.S. power and the international order it helped to create during and (immediately) after the Second World War. The following questions may be helpful in formulating contributions to this conference:


(1) How did the War and its aftermath change the practice of diplomacy? How did diplomats develop new strategies to reach out to the world? How did they coopt private initiatives or vice versa?

(2) How did individuals, companies, civic groups, and other “informal” diplomats shape America’s global presence during and after the war?

(3) How did the United States shape the international environment through its support for new diplomatic, financial, and economic institutions? To what extent did those new institutions shape U.S. actions?

(4) How did America’s new role in the world shape its domestic culture, politics, or society?

(5) How have Asians, Africans, Europeans, and Latin Americans resisted, negotiated, or welcomed the new American presence.

(6) How have processes of historical memory and (re)interpretations of World War II shaped U.S. internationalism in domestic and transnational contexts?


Paper Proposals

We invite proposals for 20-minute papers. Please send a 300 word abstract and brief biographical note to by May 15, 2016


Date and location

The conference will take place at the Radboud University Nijmegen, the Netherlands, on October 27-28, 2016. This conference is an initiative of the North American Studies Program at the Radboud University. For more information about our program and our staff please visit

Please note that a small fee may apply for participants in this conference.

PhD in Literary, Linguistic and Comparative Studies

Graduate Conference 2016

Keynote speaker: Edgar Radtke

 The second edition of the Graduate Conference of the PhD in Literary, Linguistics and Comparative Studies will be devoted to investigating the concept of limen in its various meanings: limen as threshold, textual and meta-textual margin; limen as border, boundary; limen as extreme limit; limen as in-betweenness, the threshold of consciousness and perception. You can refer to limen as what defines, separates, combines, allows the crossing and contamination, the identification or differentiation. It can be fixed, variable, incorporated or invented and is understood as an object in its literal meaning or as a metaphorical concept. The organizing committee is pleased to welcome scholars from different disciplines to address the topic of fringe forms and border speeches from traditional or unusual perspectives, in order to offer a comprehensive analysis of this multilayered concept with ambivalent meanings. The concept of limen can then be related to all forms of marginalization in literature, linguistics and the arts, according to a literary, critical, linguistic, philological, semiotic, anthropological, medial approach. The committee will accept proposals which analyze the theme along an interdisciplinary trajectory, highlighting the arbitrariness of each label. Looking forward to further proposals, some of the key topics that will be the focus of the conference are listed below: I) TEXTUAL CROSSINGS -Comments, glosses, annotations -Notes -Re-writings -Critiques and interpretations -Translations

I) TEXTUAL CROSSINGS -Comments, glosses, annotations -Notes -Re-writings -Critiques and interpretations -Translations

II) BOUNDARIES BETWEEN ART AND CULTURE -Border and hybrid identities as topics -Culture, literature, arts, cinema and authors on the edge -Movements and dialogues between different cultural and artistic expressions -Theater as boundary form, shape and space

III) LINGUISTIC MARGINALITY -Linguistic contamination and language contacts -Marginal aspects on all linguistic levels -Marked and /or atypical forms -Dialects, interlanguages, pidgins, creole languages


ABSTRACT SUBMISSIONS AND CONFERENCE PROCEEDINGS PhD candidates and early-career researchers interested in taking part to the Graduate Conference should send an outline (400 words max., excluding title and possible bibliography from word count) to by May 10, 2016. Applications should include the following: personal information (name, surname, e-mail address, institutional affiliation), thematic area, presentation type. Please, submit all electronic application materials as a single PDF or DOC file. Applicants may participate with a 15-minute paper or with a poster (118 x 165 cm max., printed on a lucid or opaque board). In the opening of the posters-dedicated session, each poster creator will give a 3-minute talk on his or her project and invite conference-goers to directly question him or her. The duration of this session will be defined according to the total number of poster presentations. Notifications of acceptance will be sent out by July 10, 2016. All the speakers will be invited to send their talk by December 31, 2016, for the publication of the conference proceedings, edited by the Organizing Committee and by the PhD Scientific Committee.

All expenses will be covered by participants. Further information (conference venues, accommodations, social dinner) are available on the conference page conference.html Questions about the conference are welcome and may be directed to the email address below. Official languages: Italian and English. Contacts:

Organizing Committee: Margherita De Blasi Giulia Imbriaco Felice Messina Salvatore Orlando Valentina Schettino

Scientific Committee: François de Chantal (Political Science, Paris Diderot) – Andrew Diamond (History, Paris 4) – Frédérick Douzet (Geopolitics, Paris 8) – Romain Huret (History, EHESS) – Denis Lacorne (Political Science, Sciences-Po/CERI) – Vincent Michelot (Political Science, IEP Lyon) – Jean-Christian Vinel (History, Paris Diderot) – Julien Zarifian (Geography, Cergy Pontoise University).

Venue: Université Paris 7 (auditorium Buffon to be confirmed). Official address: 4 rue Marie-Andrée Lagroua Weill-Halle, 75013 Paris. Public Access (ground floor): 15 rue Hélène Brion 75013 Paris.

Scientific Argument:

If the historic nature of the 2008 elections is not disputable, the decisive nature in policy terms of Obama’s two terms is a matter of debate. Using Stephen Skowronek’s typology of presidential leadership (1993), we can question whether Obama was, like Franklin D. Roosevelt, in a position to “repudiate” the prior political and social order to build a new one. More generally, was Obama’s presidency a “transformative” event that made substantive changes possible? Or was it, as Cass Sunstein anticipated (2008), a “minimalist” presidency, or even a traditionalist “restoration”? Obama’s presidency actually seems to be in-between these clear-cut categories, but to what extent and how?

The first objective of this international conference is to provide an early assessment of Obama’s presidency by comparing it to previous major waves of reforms. The example of Obama’s presidency will also allow participants to think in more general terms about progressivism and its limits within the budget and institutional constraints of the American polity. To do so, the conference will be organized around the four following topics:

1. The legislative record of Obama’s administration naturally calls for a comparison with past reform attempts. The similarities between the New Deal and the Great Society, on the one hand, and Obama’s presidency, on the other hand, have been noticed by many (Kloppenberg, 2010), especially because the progressives’ hopes were once more placed in the presidency. The inauguration of a new and charismatic president in a context of social and economic collapse and the repudiation of the Republican Party combined to create a sense that 2008 was quite similar to the 1932 elections and FDR’s victory. The agenda of the incoming president also echoed the 1930s as the stimulus plan, Wall Street reform and healthcare reform (a goal that had loomed large on the agenda of all Democratic presidents since FDR’s refusal to include a healthcare provision as part of Social Security) were finally adopted during the 111th Congress. Not only can Obama’s achievements be seen as being in the wake of FDR’s, but the presidency of the first black president seemed to fulfill, at least symbolically, the promises of Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society. Obama’s personal story-telling was based on the integration of values & codes inherited from the civil rights struggles of the 1960s, as illustrated by his 1995 autobiography,Dreams From My Father. He also willingly displayed his sense of belonging to the black community by ticking the “Black/African-American” box in the 2010 census. Taken together, all these elements combined to elevate Obama’s presidency to the status of a third successful wave of progressive reforms that would also realize the dream of a “post-racial” society.

2. The second dimension we wish to explore during this conference is the crisis of the American political system. During the Obama years, there was first an institutional crisis. Gridlock fueled debates about the decline of the American Republic (Ackerman, 2010). Faced with a paralyzed Congress, Obama resorted to independent executive action in a number of areas such as immigration, which led his Republicans opponents to denounce abuses of Presidential power –a total reversal of rhetoric compared to the Bush presidency. There was also a political crisis, with the rise in partisanship. In many ways, Obama’s calls for a « post partisan era » of government was impossible with a Republican party moving further to the right. In the meantime, a budgetary crisis resulting from the conflicts between Obama and the republicans weakened the credibility of the US and turned the annual vote of the budget into yearly drama. Finally, there has been a crisis at the level of citizenship, with movements left and right (Occupy Wall Street, The Tea Party) challenging the legitimacy of elected officials. A kind of cynicism about traditional establishment politicians seems to have taken root, one reinforced by the ongoing debate over the Citizens United decision.

3. The third dimension we invite scholars to explore is made up of three burning issues –inequality, racial relations and immigration. Seven years after Obama was sworn into office, the crisis of the Middle class –one of the 2008 campaign themes—is as important a political issue as ever. Labor unions seem have been weakened by multiple conservative assaults, particularly in the private sector. The right to work movement has made progress in the North, and its constitutional strategy has led to a much anticipated decision by the Supreme Court (Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association.). In the meantime, the administration has failed to raise the minimum wage, and more generally to offer a solution to the growing class inequality. The tax system –both at the state and federal level- has remained unchanged, but the gap between taxes on income and taxes on capital has grown. The enormous success of Capital, Thomas Piketty’s book, has largely captured growing concerns over what is an increasingly unequal fiscal system. As for racial relations, they have not improved with the election of a Black President. The riots in Ferguson and Baltimore and the recent events of police brutality are stark reminders of the persistence character of race as a dividing line in American society (Sugrue 2010). In spite of the emergence of Black Lives Matter, and although Obama denounced the brutality that caused the riots, nothing has been done to reform the penal system and question the “carceral state” that has caused so much damage to African American communities. Meantime, another Supreme Court decision, this time on the Voting Rights Act, (Shelby County v. Holder) has weakened the legal tools used to combat discrimination. Finally, because racial divisions also take root in urban geography, education, and the evolution of work in post-industrial America, we also invite scholars to submit proposals dealing with the intersection of race and class. Finally, immigration remains an unresolved problem. The paralysis of Congress on this issue is such that during the Obama years, most attempts to deal with it –both progressive and conservative—have taken place at the local level. As it stands federal immigration policy is a patchwork that offers no way forward.

4. The last topic of the conference is foreign policy. The 2009 Nobel Peace Prize that Obama received also illustrated the high hopes placed in the incoming president after the controversies surrounding Bush’s decisions to go to war. Obama did succeed in withdrawing American forces from Iraq and Afghanistan, but these successes created in turn new challenges, from Libya to Syria, including the rise of Daesch, that made the well-publicized American “pivot” to Asia much more complicated to implement. This facilitated a return to the Atlantic framework inherited from World War Two, especially in the context of the Ukrainian crisis and the renewed tensions between Russia and the U.S. But how substantial has the rediscovery of the Atlantic alliance been? Especially when U.S. foreign policy turns to unilateralism whenever Americans deem it necessary. The raging debate over mass surveillance since Snowden’s revelations in June 2013 and its negative impact on the Old Continent illustrate the persistence of misunderstandings between America and its European allies. If the official use of the expression “War on Terror” was dropped by Obama, the practice persists (drones), especially under the guise of “cyber security,” which still creates tensions in the Euro-American relationship. Besides, the protection of individual privacy in the context of mass surveillance (Jeff Rosen, 2001) and the democratic framework suitable to preserve accountability are especially acute issues after eight years of increasing cyber innovations. Those new challenges call for a complete rethinking of international law and collective security. Finally, the free-trade agenda of the Obama administration – toward Asia and Europe – can be regarded as both a way to deepen the relations with allied nations and a source of major tensions, especially in Europe. Recent diplomatic successes of the Obama administration, like the nuclear agreement with Iran, could also be addressed.

Taken together, the Obama presidency seems to have provided as many solutions as it created new problems. The “third wave” of American progressivism that so many people expected in 2008 turned out to be a difficult adjustment to the realities of American politics in a severe social and economic context. After eight years in power, Obama’s record is certainly a mixed bag for many, especially for his most enthusiastic supporters of 2008. Nevertheless, the conference will try to put forward a more nuanced assessment of a Presidency that seems to defy many of the existing categories.

Submission Deadlines:

– March, 31st 2016 : deadline for proposals (500 words max., with a title and an institutional affiliation). Proposals will be sent to François de Chantal, and Jean-Christian Vinel <>.

– June, 30th 2016 : Committee’s response.

– The final & written version of the paper is expected by November 2016.     

Beginning with the modernist aesthetic revolution, poetry has continuously shown a stubborn resolve to respond to social, political and cultural shifts and crises with technical innovation. Such innovativeness speaks of the resilience of poetry, as genre, as it refuses to succumb to various announcements of its death or cultural irrelevance. The historical lineage of these responses is an impressive inventory of technical innovation in itself. While the New York School poets reacted to the monumental edifices of their modernist predecessors, their own performative-surrealist modes or varieties of “personism” were later replaced by the Language poets’ insistence on the dissolution of personal expressivity, while both the Language and New York School poets have been seen as responding to the technically moderate “scenic mode” of the 1970’s.

But these innovations have already had their continuations and further reverberations. As various prominent commentators suggest, poetry written in English, now also resounding beyond the Anglophone scope, has continued to respond to social and cultural crises and turmoils with technical innovation. Michael Davidson has argued that the “negative capability” of the contemporary poet, now resolving more around social crises than “personal uncertainty,” has given us poems of increased “interruption” and deliberate “illegibility,” as poets seek to make the genre responsive to the crises of global migrations, economic meltdown, ecological degradation, and fluctuations in our understanding of gender and labor. From a slightly different viewpoint, reinforcing Charles Bernstein’s advocacy of poetic artifice as resistance to dominant poetic “verse cultures,” Marjorie Perloff has defended the cause of technical poetic innovation and practicing poetry “by other means,” proposing an aesthetic platform which, while it calls for a rethinking of the notion of individual originality, also delivers a staunch defense of the capacity of poets and their practice to keep the genre afresh by technical and formal innovation.

These critics’ favoring of the poetry of citationality and cultural material appropriation has found support through various archival projects. One of them is the recently published 2014 Poetics Journal Digital Archive, preceded by a 2013 co-publication, A Guide to Poetics Journal: Writing in the Expanded Field, 1982-1998. Edited by Lyn Hejinian and Barrett Watten, both volumes document critical developments, taking into account an impressively broad range of aesthetic perspectives. Meant as a resource for research, collaborations, and interventions, rather than a definitive collection of criticism, the archive offers an encouragement to view poetry and poetics as “an expanded field” of both theory and poetic practice. Poetic tradition does not take center stage in this project; instead, it privileges the realm of the avant-garde with its many theoretical and aesthetic debates. For the editors,


[p]oetics is a site for reflection on the making of the work that extends its construction into the fields of meaning in which it has its effects. Such fields of meaning are manifold, from the readers’ responses to historical contexts, social motivations, relations to other arts, and philosophical concerns, finally entailing something like a cunning of poetics: the manner in which the work of art extends its principle of construction, the way it makes meaning, through the contexts it draws from, finally, to transform them.


The challenge posed by this archival initiative may serve to sum up the thrust of what we are proposing to explore in this thematically focused conference. We invite scholars to present their views and stance on the technical innovation in the poetry written in English, as it continues to respond to crises of various kinds – social, economic, cultural, globalized – remaining a vitally flexible genre, able to shape insightful perspectives on the human situation.

The “new poetries” that we invite you to consider are the poetries of technical and aesthetic innovation. The conference presentations that we welcome and invite may include, but are in no way limited to, the following tendencies, contexts, and issues as well as the ways in which they have been intertwined:


  • language-centered poetics (including Language- and post-Language writing)
  •  performance-based poetics
  • the political character of the aesthetic
  • (non-)originality/individuality/voice amidst technical innovation
  • subject-construction in poetry
  • ecopoetics
  • New Narrative
  • hybrid & cross-genre poetic modes
  • conceptual and post-conceptual poetry
  • poetic and poetic/artistic collaborations


Abstracts of paper proposals, up to 250-300 words, should be sent to conference organizers by May 15, 2016: dr Kacper Bartczak ( and dr Małgorzata Myk (

The conference fee is 350 PLN.


The 1st conference circular, contacting the authors of accepted proposals and containing further payment, venue, and accommodation information, will be sent by May 30.