• Hans Bertens (University of Utrecht)
• Frank Ankersmit (University of Groningen)
In the new millennium, the high tide of postmodernism has passed away. Indeed, writers, artists and thinkers are increasingly extending their scope beyond postmodernism’s voids and silences. These endeavors are arguably most striking when they deal with the traumas and cataclysms of the twentieth century. This conference aims to create a forum for discussing recent intellectual and artistic attempts to find new means of confronting the catastrophes of the twentieth century – means that challenge the received postmodern paradigms of aftermaths. As such, it intends to raise such questions and issues as whether we are – after over forty years of deconstruction – heading towards a re-construction of some of the truths and certainties that have been questioned or abandoned in the wake of twentieth-century catastrophes. And what could reconstruction possibly entail? The rehabilitation of narratives that no longer annul, or reflect upon, themselves? A substitution of irony and relativism with a ‘new sincerity’ or a ‘new seriousness’? Or escapes from unspeakable realities into the playful realm of fantasy, fabulation and mythmaking? And do these projects actually mark a step beyond the aporia of postmodern thought, or do they signal rather a restoration of values and beliefs that have long been thought to be untenable?
A number of hand-picked philosophers, historians, and literary critics address these issues from a variety of angles. Key note speaker Hans Bertens argues that in recent metafictional novels like Michael Chabon’s The Yiddish Policemen’s Union, David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas, and others, a more representational mode is gaining ground. The postmodern impulse, he suggests, is still alive and well, but it has taken on a more sedate appearance. In the second key note lecture, Frank Ankersmit explores the fate of History in the context of an imminent ecological crisis. If myth deals with the transition from Nature to History, History marks man’s ultimate triumph over the domain of Nature. But what happens to History, Ankersmit wonders, when Nature announces its firm and final decision to abolish it? What happens to historical awareness when the impending rule of nature makes the future weigh heavier upon us than the past?
Visit the conference website here: http://www.rug.nl/let/onderzoek/onderzoekinstituten/icog/beyondAftermaths/index.