Sunday, October 14, 2007

"Moved by the Past," Centre for Metahistory, University of Groningen, September 27-28, 2007.

The point of departure for the colloquium will be Hayden White’s remark that it is important ‘to understand what is fictive in all putatively realistic representations of the world, and what is realistic in all manifestly fictive ones.’ In the past decades only the first half of this project has been taken up: Whitean representationalism can be regarded as a research strategy to understand the fictionality of texts that claim to offer realistic representations of the world. The representationalism of the past decades thus is an elaboration of the Kantian project of understanding how the subject ‘prefigures’ its object. It has, in fact, become o ne of the idées reçus of postmodern times: in our reaching out to the world we prefigure what eventually we come to know of it. In our colloquium we will, however, address the second part of White’s exhortation – how reality can be said to be ‘present’ in fictive, or, better: ‘authored’ representations of the world. Our focus will be on the past, on, more specifically, the question how an unacknowledged past can be said to be present in ‘history’ – in history as historia rerum gestarum as well as in history as it is being made in real life. One of the characters in W.G. Sebald’s novel Austerlitz says: ‘Our concern with history is a concern with pre-formed images already imprinted on our brains, images at which we keep staring while the truth lies elsewhere, away from it all, somewhere as yet undiscovered.’ In our colloquium we will address the questions where this ‘elsewhere, away from it all’ might be situated, how it may be said to contain the ‘truth’ of the past, and how the unacknowledged past that hides in this ‘elsewhere’ may ‘move’ us into experiencing, yes doing things that are at odds with the identities we celebrate in how we represent our world. More information may be found here:

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