Upcoming Events


Event date: Wednesday 3 December 2014, 1.00 p.m. - 2.30 p.m.
Location: Faculty of Arts and Philosophy, Blandijnberg 2, Auditorium B

"Remembering 9/11: Compelling Memories, Spectacularized Mourning and the Need for a Haunting"; given by Dr. Esther Peeren (University of Amsterdam)

"The promise 'We Will Never Forget' is central to the American commemoration of the 9/11 attacks on New York's World Trade Center, with the Virgil quote 'no day shall erase you from the memory of time' inscribed not only on the wall of the repository within the National September 11 Memorial Museum that harbours unidentified or unclaimed human remains, but also on several items sold in the museum’s gift shop. Taking as its point of departure the intersection of memory studies, trauma studies and the work coming out of the so-called 'spectral turn' (which, from the 1990s onwards, across the humanities and social sciences, has used ghosts and haunting conceptually to render accessible absent presences and present absences), this lecture explores the way in which the promise to 'never forget' 9/11 has produced a practice of cultural memory that is not so much haunting as compelling and spectacularized. The determination to remember 9/11 has become an obligation and is accompanied by an expectation that this memory will be put on display, for purposes of verification and validation. Importantly, this modified culture of memory - or memory cultus - affects not only the public remembrance of 9/11 (most notably in the newly opened Memorial Museum), but also the way its bereavements can be lived privately. Mike Binder’s 2007 film Reign over Me, which focuses on the refusal of a man who lost his wife and children on 9/11 to openly remember and mourn them, is analyzed as providing a critical commentary on compelling, spectacularized forms of memory and mourning, and their predication on a notion of work as efficient, profitable and quantifiable production. The lecture closes by proposing that, as a counterweight to the dominant 9/11 memory cultus, more haunting forms of memory and commemoration should be proposed and endorsed."

Esther PeerenEsther Peeren is Associate Professor of Globalisation Studies at the University of Amsterdam and Vice-Director of the Amsterdam Centre for Globalisation Studies (ACGS) and the Amsterdam School for Cultural Analysis (ASCA). She is the author of The Spectral Metaphor: Living Ghosts and the Agency of Invisibility (Palgrave, 2014) and Intersubjectivities and Popular Culture: Bakhtin and Beyond (Stanford University Press, 2008), and co-editor of The Shock of the Other: Situating Alterities (Rodopi, 2007), Representation Matters: (Re)Articulating Collective Identities in a Postcolonial World (Rodopi, 2010), Popular Ghosts: The Haunted Spaces of Everyday Culture (Continuum, 2010) and The Spectralities Reader (Bloomsbury, 2013).

All are welcome. For further information, please contact Stef Craps.


Event date: 20-24 April 2015
Location: Faculty of Arts and Philosophy, Blandijnberg 2, Auditorium A & Faculty Room (first floor, room 117 - see floor plan)

Public lecture by Ann Rigney (Utrecht University): 20 April 2015, 5 - 6.30 p.m., Auditorium A. Title: "The Poetics and Politics of Public Apology."

Seminars by Ann Rigney (Utrecht University): 21, 22, 23, and 24 April 2015, 2 - 5 p.m., Faculty Room. Theme: "New Trends in Cultural Memory Studies."

For further information, please contact Stef Craps.

Recent Past Events



Event date: Monday 6 October 2014, 5.30 p.m. - 7 p.m.
Location: Faculty of Arts and Philosophy, Blandijnberg 2, Faculty Room (first floor, room 117 - see floor plan)

"Statelessness and the Poetry of the Borderline: André Green, W. H. Auden, and Yousif Qasmiyeh"; given by Prof. Lyndsey Stonebridge (University of East Anglia)

"Traumatic testimony has long been the genre of choice for those wanting to give voice to the rightless of our times. But can trauma really capture the transcultural complexity of territorial violence? There are many ways of moving across a border, or indeed, as is the case for millions today, living on a border. In his 1976 essay, ‘The Borderline Concept’, the psychoanalyst André Green wrote: ‘I can be a citizen or heimatlos (homeless), but to be borderline – that is difficult for me to imagine.’
This lecture takes Green’s writing on the borderline as a starting point for reflecting on the condition of statelessness. For Green, to think seriously about the borderline is not so much to establish it as a category as to risk an imagination adequate to its shifting geographies – frequently he compares the task of imagining borderline states to the writing and reading of poetry. How might we describe a poetry of the borderline? And how might such descriptions help us think again about the geographies of modern writing? The second part of this lecture turns to two poets from different ends of the same history of exile and displacement: Auden, whose voluntary 1939 departure from England coincided with the first convulsions of national frontiers in Europe, its colonies, protectorates and mandates, and the Oxford-based Palestinian Yousif Qasmiyeh, whose writing captures the reality of borderline existence with a particular clarity."

Reading (click to download):

Lyndsey StonebridgeLyndsey Stonebridge is Professor of Literature and Critical Theory at the University of East Anglia, where she co-directs The Writing and Rights Project. She is author, most recently, of The Judicial Imagination: Writing after Nuremberg (paperback, 2014). Other publications include The Destructive Element (1998) and The Writing of Anxiety (2007). She is currently completing a new book, Reading Statelessness: Rights, Writing and Refugees.

All are welcome. For further information, please contact Stef Craps.


Event date: 21-23 August 2014
Location: Stockholm, Sweden

For the third edition of its annual summer school, the Mnemonics network, an international collaborative initiative for graduate education in memory studies, invites paper proposals that address the relations between media and cultural memory.

The study of cultural memory is increasingly focusing on the often conflicting, overlapping, fractured, flexible, and dynamic nature of processes of remembrance. This emphasis on the mobility of memory makes the study of the media of memory an urgent task; as memories of the past are always constructed in ongoing processes of remediation, they are subject to the possibilities and constraints of medial carriers. The archiving of vast amounts of data is, for instance, impossible in oral cultures; television and photography, for their part, have enabled more visceral modes of connectedness, while the increased retrievability of the past in a digital age has paradoxically also inspired forms of public amnesia. Questions about media of memory have become all the more urgent through the rise of digital media, which has enabled media platforms like YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook to generate transnational as well as vernacular memory communities.

The summer school welcomes paper proposals that explore the interface of media and memory. Possible topics include, but are emphatically not restricted to:

  • How do particular older as well as newer media serve as memory agents—as cues, catalysts, storage media?
  • What novel forms of memory community and agency do new media make possible?
  • How do particular media constrain communities' abilities to remember and forget?
  • What is the division of labor between different local and global media?
  • How do new media affect issues surrounding the control, the unequal accessibility, and the ownership of memory?
  • How does the study of memory respond to recent medial developments?
  • What is the role of, for instance, digital humanities in this new research context?

Please send a 300-word abstract for a 15-minute paper (including title, presenter’s name, and institutional affiliation), a description of your graduate research project (one paragraph), and a short CV (max. one page) as a single Word document to mnemonics@english.su.se by 1 April 2014.

Full CFP available on the Mnemonics website.

For further information, please contact Philippe Codde or Stef Craps.


Event date: Monday 30 June - Tuesday 1 July 2014
Location: Ghent University, Faculty of Arts and Philosophy, Blandijnberg 2, Faculty Room

International colloquium on environmental memory, jointly organized by Lucy Bond (University of Westminster), Stef Craps (Ghent University), Richard Crownshaw (Goldsmiths, University of London), and Jessica Rapson (King's, University of London).

Participants: John Beck (University of Westminster), Lucy Bond (University of Westminster), Richard Crownshaw (Goldsmiths, University of London), Ben De Bruyn (Maastricht University), Anna Hartnell (Birkbeck, University of London), Rosanne Kennedy (Australian National University), Paul Outka (University of Kansas), Jessica Rapson (King's, University of London), Pieter Vermeulen (Stockholm University), and Dries Vrijders (Ghent University).

Keynote speakers: Rosanne Kennedy (Australian National University) and Paul Outka (University of Kansas).

Programme available on the Natural History of Memory website.

All are welcome, but registration is required.

For further information, please contact Stef Craps.


Event date: October 2013 - June 2014
Location: Faculty of Arts and Philosophy, Blandijnberg 2, third floor

  • Tuesday 15 October 2013, 12.30 p.m. - 1.30 p.m., Meeting Room Mortier, Faculty Library
    "Inscribed Bodies: The Mind-Body Relationship within Trauma Narrative"
    Ruth Cumberland (Deakin University)
  • Tuesday 10 December 2013, 12.30 p.m. - 1.30 p.m., Small English Studies Meeting Room
    "Playing with Trauma at the Intersection of Video Games and Literature"
    Toby Smethurst
  • Thursday 20 February 2014, 12.30 p.m. - 1.30 p.m., Large English Studies Meeting Room
    "Performing Violent Conflicts and Trauma. Towards an Embodied Poetics of Failure"
    Christel Stalpaert
  • Tuesday 22 May 2014, 12.30 p.m. - 1.30 p.m., Room 1.27
    "Intermediality as a Strategy of Memory in Alexander Kluge, W. G. Sebald, Aleksandar Hemon and Jonathan Safran Foer (and Beyond)"
    Sara Tanderup (Aarhus University)
  • Monday 23 June 2014, 1.30 p.m. - 2.30 p.m., Large English Studies Meeting Room
    "Entangled Pasts: War, Violence and Cultural Memory in the Contemporary French Novel"
    Claudia Jünke (University of Bonn)

All are welcome. For further information, please contact Stijn Vervaet.


Event date: Tuesday 20 May 2014, 2 p.m. - 4 p.m.
Location: Ghent University, Faculty of Arts and Philosophy, Blandijnberg 2, Auditorium A

The acclaimed Israeli author and Holocaust survivor Aharon Appelfeld will be interviewed by Klaas Smelik, professor of Hebrew and Jewish studies. This event is jointly organized by the Etty Hillesum Research Centre (EHOC) and LITRA.

For further information, please contact Stef Craps or Klaas Smelik.

Aharon Appelfeld

Download poster here (pdf).


Event date: Thursdays, March - May 2014, 9.45 a.m. - 11.15 a.m.
Location: Faculty of Arts and Philosophy, Blandijnberg 2, Room 6.13

  • 20 March 2014
    "Las políticas de la ironía en Fiesta en la madriguera de Juan Pablo Villalobos"
    Dr. Brigitte Adriaensen (Radboud University Nijmegen)

All are welcome. For further information, please contact Ilse Logie.


Event date: Wednesday 19 March 2014, 5.30 p.m. - 6.30 p.m.
Location: Faculty of Arts and Philosophy, Blandijnberg 2, Faculty Room (first floor, room 117 - see floor plan)

"Laughter and Irony in Relation to Memory: The Latin American Literary Context"; given by Dr. Brigitte Adriaensen (Radboud University Nijmegen)

"Making fun of traumatic experiences is a delicate issue. However, Freud worked on the cathartic function of the joke (1905), and Andréa Lauterwein, in her edited volume Rire, Mémoire, Shoah (2009) insists on the presence and relevance of laughter in the memory of the Shoah. In opposition to Adorno (1944), who stated that humour was not any option in relation to the Holocaust, Lauterwein defends the therapeutic potential of laughter as well as its social and controversial function. Through laughter, she argues, discursive communities are consolidated, and accumulated tensions and emotions are liberated. Moreover, laughter questions established versions of History, tends to put taboo items to the fore, and in that sense creates the dissension that is necessary to perpetuate memory. Significantly, most theories that engage with ludic representations of the Shoah limit themselves to concepts such as jokes, laughter, and humour. However, the implicit and indirect dimensions of irony and its axiological dimension might turn it into another useful concept in the context of trauma studies: could we say that the oblique character of irony is especially akin to the mediated way in which trauma is related through literature?

In the context of Latin American literature, the presence of laughter and irony is still less prominent than in the context of the Holocaust, both in the cultural field and in the academic context. A logical reason is that the experiences of violence in the subcontinent are recent or even ongoing. In my talk I will focus on two very different cases: the Argentinean memory of the last dictatorship (1976-1983) and the Mexican war on drugs declared by Felipe Calderón (2006-today).

I will first concentrate on the way in which irony and parody are privileged means to reflect on the memory paradigm firmly established in the Argentinean cultural and academic context. How does irony question existing discourses on memory in the high-brow postdictatorial novel? What are its objects, strategies, and effects? What is the role of testimonial literature generations and of generational shifts in the use of irony?

Next, the predominance of memory studies in Argentina will be contrasted with the sharp absence of an official memory discourse in the case of Mexico, which is due, in part, to the fact that in this case the drug war is still ongoing. Generally known as a pulp genre, the drug novel has often been criticized because it fails to engage with the traumatic present and because of its aesthetic and ludic approach to violence (influenced by Tarantino cinema, spaghetti westerns, etc.). What are the functions of black humour and cynicism in these literary texts? Could we consider the representation of abject corpses and severed heads as materializations of memory, or are they merely a contribution to the daily spectacle of violence in Mexico?"

Brigitte AdriaensenBrigitte Adriaensen is Associate Professor of Hispanic Literatures at Radboud University Nijmegen. She is the principal investigator and coordinator of the research programme The Politics of Irony in Contemporary Latin American Literature on Violence, for which she received a VIDI grant from the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO). Her publications are situated in the fields of Spanish and Spanish American literature, and include La poética de la ironía en la obra tardía de Juan Goytisolo (Verbum, 2007) and Pesquisas en la obra tardía de Juan Goytisolo (with Marco Kunz, Rodopi, 2009). She has published articles in such journals as Texte: Revue de Critique et de Théorie Littéraire, América: Cahiers du Criccal, Guaraguo: Revista de Cultura Latinoamericana, Lettres Romanes, and Variaciones Borges, and she is a co-editor of Narrativas del crimen en América Latina (with Valeria Grinberg Pla, LitVerlag, 2012).

All are welcome. For further information, please contact Stef Craps or Ilse Logie.


Event date: Thursday 13 February 2014, 5.30 p.m. - 6.30 p.m.
Location: Faculty of Arts and Philosophy, Blandijnberg 2, Faculty Room (first floor, room 117 - see floor plan)

"Trauma in Transition: Recollecting the Great Irish Famine in Diaspora Fiction"; given by Dr. Marguérite Corporaal (Radboud University Nijmegen)

"How are traumatic events reconfigured when the painful memories that migrants carry with them are 'brought into new social constellations and political contexts' (Assmann and Conrad)? Does trauma transferred geographically through emigration, either in the form of lived experience or 'prosthetic memory' (Landsberg), become inflected by a specific diasporic consciousness? Furthermore, does the relocation of cultural identities to other geographical and sociocultural settings lead to dynamic transfers between the traditions of the homeland and those of the receiving nation, in a process which Michael Rothberg would call 'multidirectional'?

These theoretical questions will be addressed in this paper, through an analysis of North-American fiction which recollects the painful episode of Ireland’s Great Hunger (1845-1850) and which was written by and for the Irish diaspora between 1855 and 1870. As will be demonstrated, the earliest Irish-American and Irish-Canadian novels and stories which remember the excruciating years of mass starvation use specific narrative techniques in order to distance Famine trauma from 'narrative experientiality' (Fludernik). These techniques can be explained in view of the problematic living conditions of the transatlantic Irish Famine diaspora which encouraged the concretion of a distinct ethnic identity that was incompatible with homeland trauma.

However, as Stuart Hall underlines,  '[c]ultural identity...  is a matter of "becoming" as well as of "being"', and North-American Famine fiction suggests that the changing social status of a migrant community is translated into shifts in the narrative performances of cultural trauma. This will be illustrated by an analysis of Irish North-American Famine fiction from the late 1860s till 1870 which, in reconstructing Famine trauma, intersects with other forms of North-American cultural memory."

Marguérite Corporaal is Assistant Professor of British Literature at Radboud University Nijmegen. She is the principal investigator and coordinator Marguérite Corporaalof the research programme Relocated Remembrance: The Great Famine in Irish (Diaspora) Fiction, 1847-1921, for which she was awarded a Starting Grant by the European Research Council. Among her publications are Heroines of the Golden (St)Age: Women and Drama in Early Modern Spain and England (with Rina Walthaus, Reichenberger, 2008), The Literary Utopias of Cultural Communities, 1790-1900 (with Evert Jan van Leeuwen, Rodopi, 2010) and various articles on the literary afterlife of the Great Hunger in such journals as Bréac, English Studies, Irish Studies Review, Atlantic Studies, and Irish Review. She is co-editor of Recollecting Hunger: An Anthology. Cultural Memories of the Great Famine in Irish and British Fiction, 1847-1920 (Irish Academic Press, 2012) and Global Legacies of the Great Irish Famine: Interdisciplinary and Transnational Perspectives (forthcoming, Peter Lang, 2014).

All are welcome. For further information, please contact Stef Craps.


Event date: Wednesday 27 November 2013, 5.30 p.m. - 6.30 p.m.
Location: Faculty of Arts and Philosophy, Blandijnberg 2, Faculty Room (first floor, room 117 - see floor plan)

The Basque-Dutch author Kristina G. Langarika, who has been living in the Netherlands since 1995, searched for Dutch children’s literature concerning the Sinterklaas celebration Lola's Sintthat she could read to her mixed-race daughter. She was horrified to find out that the majority of children's books portrayed the famous black character called "Zwarte Piet" ("Black Pete") as a clownish servant of a white man and as such exposed her daughter to a damaging representation of her identity. Langarika decided to write Lola’s Sint, a bilingual children’s book that rewrites the cultural memory of Black Pete. Lola’s Sint invites us to address a series of pertinent questions, such as the role of children’s literature in the Western imagination of Africa, issues of race in the cultural memory of Black Pete and contemporary multicultural Low Countries society, as well as recent innovations in the literary field (self-publishing, crowdfunding). Langarika will be interviewed in English by Sarah De Mul.

Kristina LangarikaKristina G. Langarika is a writer from the Basque Country who lives in Amsterdam. Her previous work was published by Uitgeverij Contact (The Best Dutch and Flemish Travel Stories from 2004), Uitgeverij De Geus (her debut novel Evamar, 2007), and Zirimiri Press (Emekiro: Stories by Young Basque Women Writers, 2011). Lola’s Sint is her first children’s book.

Sarah De MulSarah De Mul is a visiting professor at Ghent University and an assistant professor of literary studies at the Open University in the Netherlands. Her current research projects explore adaptations of postcolonial theory in the Low Countries, ethnic minority writing in Flanders, and European (colonial) writing about Africa/the Congo.

All are welcome. For further information, please contact Stef Craps.


Event date: September - December 2013
Location: Ghent University, Faculty of Arts and Philosophy, Blandijnberg 2

Lecture series (in Dutch) on the theme of "Literature and Terror" organized by the Contemporary Literature Working Group of the Department of Literary Studies at Ghent University.

The programme is available here; a flyer can be downloaded here.

The lecture series is free and open to the general public.

For further information, please contact Ilse Logie.


Event date: Wednesday 6 November 2013, 6 p.m. - 7 p.m.
Location: Faculty of Arts and Philosophy, Blandijnberg 2, Faculty Room (first floor, room 117 - see floor plan)

"An Accident of Hope: The Therapy Tapes of Anne Sexton" given by Professor Dawn Skorczewski (Brandeis University)

"On 1956, Anne Sexton was admitted into a mental hospital for post-partum depression, where she met Dr. Martin Orne, a young psychiatrist who treated her for the next eight years. In that time Sexton would blossom into a world-famous poet, best known for her 'confessional' poems dealing with personal subjects not often represented in poetry at that time: mental illness, depression, suicide, sex, abortion, women's bodies, and the ordinary lives of mothers and housewives. Orne audiotaped the last three years of her therapy to facilitate her ability to remember their sessions. The final six months of these tapes are the focus of Dawn Skorczewski's latest book and of this talk, which is drawn from it.

Skorczewski links the content of the therapy with poetry excerpts, offering a rare perspective on the artist's experience and creative process. We can see Sexton attempting to make sense of her life and therapy and to sustain her confidence as a major poet, while struggling with the impending loss of Orne, who was moving elsewhere. Skorczewski's study provides an intimate, in-depth view of the therapy of a psychologically tortured yet immensely creative woman, during a period of emerging feminism and cultural change. Tracing the mutual development of the poet and the therapist during their years together, the author explores the tension between the classical therapeutic setting as practiced in the early 1960s and contemporary relational and developmental concepts in psychoanalysis, just then beginning to emerge."

Dawn SkorczewskiDawn Skorczewski is Professor of English and Director of University Writing at Brandeis University, where she teaches courses on trauma and literature, literature and psychoanalysis, writing the Holocaust, the art of flirtation in literature, and American poetry. She is the author of the recent An Accident of Hope: The Therapy Tapes of Anne Sexton (2012) and Teaching One Moment at a Time: Disruption and Repair in the Classroom (2005). Her articles on psychoanalysis and pedagogy have been published in JAPA, American Imago, and the Quarterly. A Fulbright scholar, she was also the 2009 CORST prize winner and the 2007 recipient of the Gondor award for her contributions to psychoanalytic education.

All are welcome. For further information, please contact Stef Craps.


Event date: Wednesday 6 November 2013, 2 p.m. - 5 p.m.
Location: Museum Dr. Guislain, Jozef Guislainstraat 43
, 9000 Gent

Guided tour (in English) of the "War and Trauma" exhibition at the Museum Dr. Guislain for LITRA members.

For further information, please contact Stijn Vervaet.


Event date: 9-11 September 2013
Location: Ghent University, Het Pand, Onderbergen 1,
Zaal Rector Vermeylen

The theme of the second edition of the annual summer school organized by the Mnemonics network, an international collaborative initiative for graduate education in memory studies, is "Memory Unbound: Transcultural, Transgenerational, Transmedial, and Transdisciplinary Dynamics of Memory."

CFP and programme available on the Mnemonics website. Note that, unlike the rest of the programme, the keynote lectures are open to the general public:

For further information, please contact Philippe Codde or Stef Craps.


Event date: 23-26 May 2013
Location: ALA 2013, Boston

Proposed panel "'I am Just Like You': Perpetrators and Bystanders in Holocaust Literature and Film"

Organizer: Philippe Codde

Download CFP here.

For further information, please contact Philippe Codde.


Event date: Wednesday 8 May 2013, 5.30 p.m. - 6.30 p.m.
Location: Faculty of Arts and Philosophy, Blandijnberg 2, Large English Studies Meeting Room (third floor)

"The Missing Link: Trauma, Imagination, and Magic" given by Dr. Eugene Arva (independent scholar)

"If there is a nexus between trauma, imagination, and magic, it comes about fleetingly in both the creative process and the reading experience, in the author’s and the reader’s minds. Trauma usually triggers the chain reaction that runs from a psychological condition (traumatization), through a psychic function (imagination), to an artistic image (fictional shock chronotope). Consequently, I propose the term 'traumatic imagination,' which in itself already conflates a psychological condition and its putative artistic remedy, as a critical category that I find indispensable in the analysis of literary texts struggling to represent limit events from different historical periods and a variety of geo-cultural locations, that is, from extreme time-spaces or shock chronotopes. The artistic medium by which the traumatic imagination realizes the fictional image has been known, for more than half a century now, as magical realism. Through magical realist writing, the traumatic imagination transfers to narrative memory events that have been precluded from narrativization by trauma. This postmodernist writing mode does not copy reality (in the tradition of mimetic representation) but reconstructs it by reshuffling all of its familiar elements. The magic in magical realism – flagrantly unreal images produced by the imagination – can help integrate events from seemingly impossible (originally unimaginable) experiences into more or less coherent realities within the literary text. Magic is the indispensable element by which the traumatic imagination re-arranges and re-presents reality when mimetic reality-testing hits the wall of an unassimilated, and inassimilable, event.

Unlike the products of imagination, pain can hardly be expressed in language. Therefore, if we can assume that imagination can compensate for the objectlessness of pain, it follows that magical realism succeeds in simulating pain because this versatile writing mode is uncannily well-suited to turn a felt reality into images. The traumatic imagination thus translates an unspeakable state (pain) into a readable image: it is the process by which shock chronotopes become artistic chronotopes. As I will show, literary scenes of massacres, executions, or prison abuses tend to reveal the power of the realistic detail when imbued with the understated suggestiveness of the magical realist language."

Eugene L. Arva is an independent scholar living in Germany. Prior to this, he taught for twelve years in the Department of English of the University of Miami. Eugene ArvaHis research focuses on magical realism, trauma theory, postcolonial studies, postmodernism, reality representation theories, and film philosophy. His most recent work, The Traumatic Imagination: Histories of Violence in Magical Realist Fiction (Cambria Press, 2011), expands the trauma-theory-based analysis of magical realism, and proposes the concept of “traumatic imagination” as an analytical tool to be applied to literary texts struggling to represent the unpresentable and to reconstruct extreme events whose forgetting has proven just as unbearable as their remembering. His previous publications include essays on James Joyce, Caribbean magical realism, the Holocaust, the ideological spectacle of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and filmic narratives such as Schindler’s List, The Truman Show, Natural Born Killers, and The Matrix. He is a member of the American Society for Aesthetics, the Society for the Philosophic Study of Contemporary Visual Arts, and the International James Joyce Foundation.

All are welcome. For further information, please contact Philippe Codde.


Event date: Wednesday 17 April 2013, 5.30 p.m. - 6.30 p.m.
Location: Faculty of Arts and Philosophy, Blandijnberg 2, Faculty Room (first floor, room 117 - see floor plan)

"De houding van Etty Hillesum (1914-1943) tegenover de vervolging van haar volk" given by Prof. Klaas Smelik (Ghent University)

"Reeds tijdens haar leven wekte de houding van de Nederlands-Joodse juriste Etty Hillesum (1914-1943) tegenover de Sjoa, die zich toen bezig was te voltrekken en waarvan zij zelf korte tijd later slachtoffer zou worden, onbegrip en verzet op bij wie haar kenden. Na de uitgave van een selectie uit haar oorlogsdagboeken in 1981, die wereldwijd de aandacht trok, begon de discussie opnieuw. Naast bewondering van de kant van lezers die haar als een martelares wilden zien, was er ook kritiek van anderen op haar irenische opstelling in oorlogstijd en haar visie op wat zij het ‘Massenschicksal’ van het Joodse volk noemde, waaraan niemand zich mocht onttrekken.

In deze lezing zullen wij – na een korte introductie van haar persoon en haar dagboeken – haar houding nader bezien en proberen te begrijpen. Wij zullen ook stilstaan bij de gevolgen van haar opstelling voor haar eigen, korte leven. In navolging van de Amerikaanse onderzoekster Rachel Brenner zullen wij een onderscheid maken in twee opeenvolgende perioden, waarin Etty Hillesum een eigen houding bepaalde tegenover de Sjoa, een voorbereidende en een uitvoerende fase. Het bijzondere van het onderzoek naar Hillesums verwerking van de vervolgingsomstandigheden, waarvan zij zelf slachtoffer was, is dat wij in dit geval uit kunnen gaan van een met de gebeurtenissen contemporaine bron in plaats van een naoorlogse terugblik van een overlevende. Het valse perspectief van wat na de oorlog over de Sjoa bekend raakte, ontbreekt in haar dagboeken en brieven, die in de periode 1941-1943 zijn geschreven.

Meer informatie over Etty Hillesum, haar nagelaten geschriften, het wereldwijde Etty Hillesum onderzoek en de activiteiten van het Etty Hillesum Onderzoekscentrum is te vinden op http://www.ehoc.ugent.be."

Klaas A. D. Smelik (Hilversum °1950) studied Theology, Semitic Languages, Archaeology, and Ancient History in Utrecht, Amsterdam, and Leiden. Klaas SmelikHe defended his PhD in Amsterdam in 1977. His dissertation, in Dutch, consisted of a critical evaluation of the Biblical sources about king Saul. He taught Old Testament and Hebrew in Utrecht, Amsterdam, and Brussels; Ancient History in Amsterdam and The Hague; and Jewish History at the K.U. Leuven. Since 2005, he has taught Hebrew and Jewish Studies at Ghent University, where he also directs the Etty Hillesum Research Centre (EHOC). Etty Hillesum (1914-1943) was a Dutch Jewish writer whose war diaries and letters are read worldwide and studied as a unique testimony of spirituality during the Shoah. Smelik edited the Dutch, English, and French unabridged editions of her writings, and, together with Ria van den Brandt, he is the editor of the Etty Hillesum Studies series. He has (as author or editor) published around 30 books and 200 articles on the Hebrew Bible, Ancient Hebrew inscriptions, Ancient History, Jewish Studies, Anti-Semitism, and Etty Hillesum.

All are welcome. For further information, please contact Philippe Codde.


Event dates: November 2012 - May 2013
Location: Faculty of Arts and Philosophy, Blandijnberg 2, third floor

  • Tuesday 6 November 2012, 12.30 p.m. - 1.30 p.m., Large English Studies Meeting Room
    "Digital Death Masks"
    Marko Stamenkovic
  • Wednesday 5 December 2012, 12.30 p.m. - 1.30 p.m., Small English Studies Meeting Room
    "Staging the Holocaust in the Land of Brotherhood and Unity: Holocaust Drama in the Yugoslavia of the 1950s and 1960s"
    Stijn Vervaet
  • Wednesday 19 December 2012, 12.30 p.m. - 1.30 p.m., Large English Studies Meeting Room
    "Unfinished Business Waiting for Resolution? The Politics of Historicity in Spanish Mass Grave Exhumations"
    Lore Colaert

All are welcome. For further information, please contact Stijn Vervaet.


Event date: Thursday 13 December 2012, 1.30 p.m. - 4.45 p.m.
Location: Faculty of Arts and Philosophy, Blandijnberg 2, Faculty Room (first floor, room 117 - see floor plan)

Seminar around Marianne Hirsch's newly published book The Generation of Postmemory: Writing and Visual Culture after the Holocaust (Columbia UP, 2012).

  • Marianne Hirsch, The Generation of Postmemory: Writing and Visual Culture after the Holocaust1.30 p.m. - 2.45 p.m.: Q&A session about the introduction and the first chapter of The Generation of Postmemory: Writing and Visual Culture after the Holocaust
  • 2.45 p.m. - 3.15 p.m.: Coffee/tea break
  • 3.15 p.m. - 4.45 p.m.: Paper presentations
    1. Philippe Codde (UGent), “From Afterimage to Postmemory: Literary and Cinematic Representations of First- and Third-Generation Holocaust Trauma”
    2. Evelyne Ledoux-Beaugrand (UGent), “'Des mères qui voulaient vivre': Motherhood and Symbolic Filicide in Recent Women’s Novels Dealing with the Holocaust
    3. Stijn Vervaet (UGent), “Entangled Histories: Family Memories and the Representation of the Holocaust in the Work of David Albahari”
    Respondent: Marianne Hirsch (Columbia)

All are welcome. For further information, please contact Stef Craps.


Event dates: 25-26 October 2012
Location: Institute of Jewish Studies, University of Antwerp

International seminar about contemporary uses of the memory of the Shoah in Francophone literature and film.

Organizers: Vivian Liska (University of Antwerp), Kathleen Gyssels (University of Antwerp), Evelyne Ledoux-Beaugrand (Ghent University)

Conference website: http://www.ua.ac.be/main.aspx?c=*IJS&n=108502

For further information, please contact Evelyne Ledoux-Beaugrand.


Event dates: October 2012 - December 2012
Location: Faculty of Arts and Philosophy, Rozier 44, Auditorium M

A series of four lectures by leading scholars on new directions in memory studies, sponsored by Ghent University's Internationalisation@Home programme.

  1. Wednesday 24 October, 5.30 p.m. - 7 p.m.
    Transcultural Memory
    Max Silverman (University of Leeds)
  2. Wednesday 21 November, 5.30 p.m. - 7 p.m.
    Transmedial Memory
    Andrew Hoskins (University of Glasgow)
  3. Thursday 29 November, 5.30 p.m. - 7 p.m.
    Transdisciplinary Memory
    Jeffrey Olick (University of Virginia)
  4. Thursday 13 December, 5.30 p.m. - 7 p.m.
    Transgenerational Memory
    Marianne Hirsch (Columbia University)

Titles, abstracts, and speaker bios:

1) Max Silverman, "Palimpsestic Memory"

"We are beset today by an invidious competition between memories as part of an identity politics and challenged by the deterritorialization of memories as they are increasingly mediatized on the global stage. Paradoxically, despite the proliferation of memories, we are also threatened by a new amnesia as information overload risks reducing our ability to remember to that of the zombie. I will propose that palimpsestic memory offers us a vision of memory which refuses a competitive identity politics and counters the amnesia of information overload. Following Freud’s essay on memory and the children’s mystic writing pad (1925), this vision of memory takes the form of a superimposition and interaction of different temporal traces to constitute a sort of composite structure, like a palimpsest, so that one layer of traces can be seen through, and is transformed by, another. The composite structure which results from this superimposition of different temporal traces is a combination of not simply two moments in time (past and present) but a number of different moments and places, hence producing a chain of signification which draws together disparate spaces and times. It suggests that memory has always been ‘deterritorialized’ in the sense of being a hybrid, transcultural and intertextual process rather than a pure category. I will suggest that palimpsestic memory is therefore a critical space in that it opens up the bland surface of the present to what the sociologist Paul Gilroy has called the ‘knotted intersections’ of history. I will also argue that palimpsestic memory offers us a non-foundational approach to the human in keeping with Jacques Derrida’s critique of Freud’s understanding of the memory trace. It is a dynamic and open space composed of interconnecting traces of different voices, sites and times, and, as such, holds out the prospect of new solidarities across the lines of race and nation."

Max SilvermanMax Silverman is Professor of Modern French Studies at the University of Leeds. His most recent work is on post-Holocaust culture, colonial and postcolonial theory and cultures, and questions of memory, race and violence. He has just completed a book on connections between the Holocaust and colonialism in the French and Francophone cultural imaginary entitled Palimpsestic Memory: The Holocaust and Colonialism in French and Francophone Fiction and Film (Berghahn, 2013). His co-edited book with Griselda Pollock Concentrationary Cinema: Aesthetics as Political Resistance in Alain Resnais’s ‘Night and Fog’ was published in 2011 (Berghahn).

2) Andrew Hoskins, "Emergence versus the Mainstream: Media and Memory after the Connective Turn"

"Twenty-first century remembering is made through a new ‘living archive’ of self, media and society: the ‘connective turn’. This is the massively increased pervasiveness and accessibility of digital technologies, devices and media, which shape ongoing re-alignments of pasts with presents by people and machines, so that connectivity becomes a defining aspect of how we relate to, experience, represent, connect with and remember a past, that suddenly seems much more abundant, pervasive, perhaps overwhelming, and apparently accessible.
Events that we live through today, personal and public, are increasingly instantly recorded, documented, and available for potential future ‘emergence’. The culture of the amateur, the eyewitness, the compulsion to record, feeds into an emergent set of challenges for how individuals and societies remember and forget.
Although much attention has been paid to this notion in relation to archival burdens and responsibilities, less explored is the vastly increased likelihood of stills, sounds, and videos, emerging beyond the lifetime of the events that they depict, to transform what was known or thought to be known about people, events, relationships. For example, social networking sites host a continuous, accumulating, dormant memory, lurking in the underlayer of media life awaiting potential rediscovery and reconnection and remediation, to transform past relations through the re-activation of latent and semi-latent connections (with our selves and with others).
However, whilst the connective turn diffuses memory: mixing and hybridising all of that which is suddenly visible and available, a key shaper of public memory – mainstream news in the West – seems more rather than less bounded by certain trajectories of media data.
This talk explores how the future of memory has a new emergent binary being both increasingly susceptible to the power of digital/mobile media to challenge and to subvert narratives facilitated through the astonishing connectivity of the internet and other media, and yet, also constrained by a mainstream trajectory of representations amidst the post-scarcity avalanche. To illustrate this development I draw upon representations of modern war, through which I suggest that an institutionalised mainstream memory persists in the media-monumentalizing of warfare."

Andrew Hoskins is Interdisciplinary Research Professor and Director of the Adam Smith Research Foundation, College of Social Sciences, University of Glasgow, UK. Andrew HoskinsHis research focuses on the theoretical and empirical investigation of today’s ‘new media ecology’ and the nature of/challenges for security, and individual, social and cultural memory in this environment. He is founding Editor-in-Chief of the Sage journal of Memory Studies, Co-Editor of the Palgrave Macmillan Book Series: Memory Studies, founding Co-Editor of the Sage journal of Media, War & Conflict, and co-editor of the Routledge book series: Media, War & Security. His books include: War and Media: The Emergence of Diffused War (Polity, 2010, with O’Loughlin), Media and Radicalisation: Connectivity and Terrorism in the New Media Ecology (Routledge, 2011, with Awan and O’Loughlin) and Save As… Digital Memories (Palgrave Macmillan, 2009, co-edited with Garde-Hansen and Reading). Twitter: @memorystudies.

3) Jeffrey Olick, "Theodicy Motives in Contemporary Memory Studies"

"Memory scholars have spent a great deal of their time exploring the motives behind commemoration, particularly of difficult events. What, though, are the motives of memory scholars who study these motives? Different motives, of course, are inscribed in the self-identities of different disciplines, and include description, explanation, evaluation, and even intervention. This lecture will explore the different motives of memory studies and will focus in particular on what memory scholarship shares with the commemoration it studies: namely, the effort to come to terms with suffering, or what philosophers have called theodicy. Commemoration is often an effort to explain - or explain away - suffering; this is why commemoration is not only so widespread a human endeavor, but part of why it has taken the particular forms it has in the contemporary world, a world in which theodicy has become more difficult. Understanding why memory has taken the forms it has in the contemporary world requires understanding the change in the possibilities for explaining suffering, and this is also part of understanding why memory studies has taken the forms it has. Memory studies itself, for better and worse, often has theodical motives, just like the commemoration it studies."

Jeffrey OlickJeffrey Olick is Professor of Sociology and History at the University of Virginia (USA). Research and writing interests include memory studies, post-war Germany, transitional justice, cultural sociology, and sociological theory more generally.  His current research, to be discussed in the lecture, includes the history of the concept of theodicy and its relevance for contemporary social theory.  His books include In the House of the Hangman: The Agonies of German Defeat, 1943-1949 (Chicago, 2005), The Politics of Regret: On Collective Memory and Historical Responsibility (Routledge, 2007), and (with Vered Vinitzky-Seroussi and Daniel Levy) The Collective Memory Reader (Oxford, 2011), among others.

4) Marianne Hirsch, “Framing Children: School Photos, Vulnerability, Postmemory”

"This talk will focus on photography as a medium of intergenerational transmission, in particular, on how class pictures – potent instruments of assimilation and social integration – become ironic testaments to exclusion, persecution and genocide. Pre-World War Two class pictures from Vienna, Paris and Warsaw and wartime school photos from the ghettos of Lódz and Transnistria and the village of Izieu will serve as objects of discussion, along with their afterlives on the internet and in the work of contemporary artists."

Marianne HirschMarianne Hirsch is William Peterfield Trent Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University and Professor in the Institute for Research on Women and Gender. She is the Second Vice-President of the Modern Language Association of America. Her work engages theories and practices of cultural memory and transmission in literature and visual culture, particularly from the perspective of gender and social difference. Her most recent books are Ghosts of Home: The Afterlife of Czernowitz in Jewish Memory, written with Leo Spitzer (U of California P, 2010); Rites of Return: Diaspora Poetics and the Politics of Memory, co-edited with Nancy K. Miller (Columbia UP, 2011); and The Generation of Postmemory: Writing and Visual Culture after the Holocaust (Columbia UP, 2012).

All are welcome. For further information, please contact Stef Craps.

Memory Unbound

Download poster here (pdf).


Event date: 20-22 September 2012
Location: Aarhus, Denmark

For the inaugural seminar of Mnemonics: Network for Memory Studies, a newly established international collaborative initiative for graduate education in memory studies, we invite paper proposals from graduate students on the relations between the aesthetics and ethics of memory.

Aesthetics and ethics often intersect in relation to the representation of collective memories, especially those of disturbing events or experiences. While decorum is naturally called for in addressing a traumatic past, it can also be argued, from an ethical standpoint, that traumatic memories must be represented in a compelling and unforgettable manner. Representational strategies thus have to find a balance between being ineffectual and irrelevant and being potentially offensive and provoking.

At the seminar a number of questions following from the main theme will be discussed:

  • What are the limits of representation?
  • How do certain forms and practices challenge these limits?
  • How is this reflected in memory politics?
  • Do the limits differ from medium to medium, e.g. from a public monument to a film or a text?
  • Are there practices connected to memory that highlight relations between aesthetics and ethics?

We welcome case studies that reflect on the relation between memory and form, and papers that investigate how different media and cultural artifacts approach these aesthetic and ethical questions.

Please send a 300-word abstract of your paper, a description of your graduate research project (one paragraph), and a short CV (max. one page) to memory@au.dk by 15 April 2012.

Full CFP available on the Mnemonics website.

For further information, please contact Philippe Codde or Stef Craps.


Event date: 4-8 September 2012
Location: ESSE 2012, Istanbul

Seminar title: “The Other Witness? Imagining the Perpetrator”

Organizers: Stef Craps and Antony Rowland (Salford)

This seminar will address the recent turn to the perpetrator’s perspective in trauma, Holocaust, and genocide studies, fields that have traditionally advocated identification with victims. While the perpetrator had already been the subject of important studies by Hannah Arendt, Christopher Browning, Robert Jay Lifton, and others, a series of high-profile trials (including those of John Demjanjuk, Radovan Karadzic, Slobodan Milosevic, and Charles Taylor) and a spate of often controversial films (e.g., Downfall and The Grey Zone) and literary texts (e.g., novels by Jonathan Littell, Bernhard Schlink, and Rachel Seiffert) focusing on those responsible for extreme violence and suffering have propelled the complex and troubling issues surrounding the figure of the perpetrator to the centre of public and scholarly attention in recent years. Papers are invited that explore the aesthetic, historical, political, and ethical challenges faced by literary, cinematic, and other artistic treatments of the perpetrator experience, whether understood in terms of direct perpetration or of complicity, failure to prevent, or inherited guilt.

Please submit a 200-word abstract before 31 January 2012.

For further information, please contact Stef Craps.


Event dates: November 2011 - May 2012
Location: Faculty of Arts and Philosophy, Blandijnberg 2,
English Department Small Meeting Room (third floor)

  • Thursday 24 November 2011, 12.30 p.m. - 1.30 p.m.
    "Stammering as Creative Resistance in Pat Barker's Regeneration"
    Toby Smethurst
  • Friday 27 January 2012, 12.30 p.m. - 1.30 p.m.
    "Distances That Bring You Home: Multidirectional Thinking and Empathy in the Poetry of Seamus Heaney and Derek Walcott"
    Maria Zirra
  • Tuesday 8 May 2012, 12.30 p.m. - 1.30 p.m., Meeting Room Faculty Library
    "Testimonial Autofiction in Contemporary Latin American Narrative"
    Ilse Logie and Brigitte Adriaensen

All are welcome. For further information, please contact Stijn Vervaet.


Event date: Wednesday 25 April 2012, 5.30 p.m. - 6.30 p.m.
Location: Faculty of Arts and Philosophy, Blandijnberg 2, Faculty Room (first floor, room 117 - see floor plan)

"Messengers of Ill-Tidings: Memory, Poetry and the Right to Have Rights" given by Prof. Lyndsey Stonebridge (University of East Anglia)

“When survivor and people smuggler Lisa Fittko returned to Gurs concentration camp in South West France some twenty years after she was interned there in 1940, she found it had disappeared — ‘not a trace of it was left. Only the memory.’  Renovation work on the camp began in 1961 — the year of the Eichmann Trial. By 1994 the camp had its own National Memorial. Dani Karavan’s skeletal hut frame with its 180 metre train track leading to nowhere made Gurs’ significance in a history that began with the refugee camp and ended in the death camp eloquently clear. In 2002 students from a local building college created reconstructions of the original huts. Gurs’ transformation into a memory site is now complete.
I begin this paper with Gurs to make a point about the connection between memory and rights. It was there and, a little later, in Montauban that Hannah Arendt, herself stateless, began her thinking about the relationship between statelessness and rights.  Writing before historical memories became a new basis for rights claims, nonetheless Arendt was among the first to identify the ‘diminishing return’ of national sovereignty that Daniel Levy and Natan Sznaider have recently identified as running in parallel with the growth of memory claims. At the same time, nobody would perhaps be more skittish about the ‘ultimate victimhood devoid of sovereignty’ which has come to take the place of the discredited fiction of the rights of man.
In this paper I ask what Arendt meant by the ‘right to have rights’ in a context where the brute politics of national sovereignty had lacerated the connection between citizenship and rights. Returning to her own period of statelessness — to Gurs in more senses than one — I argue that Arendt’s later commitment to the right to speech as a minimal requirement of dissident democratic politics begins, as she puts it, ‘with the voice of the poets.’ This is not a voice that makes rights claims based on memories of suffering. It is, rather, in the mutual recognitions that need to take place in order for poetry to happen that Arendt forges the precondition for a future right to have rights.”

Lyndsey StonebridgeLyndsey Stonebridge is Professor of Literature and Critical Theory at the University of East Anglia, where she is also Associate Dean for Postgraduate Research in the Faculty of Arts and Humanities. She is the author, most recently, of The Judicial Imagination: Writing After Nuremberg (2011). Other publications include: The Writing of Anxiety (2007), The Destructive Element: British Psychoanalysis and Modernism (1998), British Fiction after Modernism: The Novel at Mid-Century, edited with Marina MacKay (2007), and Reading Melanie Klein, edited with John Phillips (1998).  She is currently working on a new project, Refugee Writing: States, Statelessness and Modern Literature.

All are welcome. For further information, please contact Stef Craps.


Event dates: February 2012 - April 2012
Location: Faculty of Arts and Philosophy, Blandijnberg 2,
room 6.13 (sixth floor)

A series of lectures on the representation of violence in contemporary Hispanic American literature that are part of an MA course on this subject taught by Ilse Logie.

Thursday 16 February 2012, 10 a.m. - 11 a.m.
Bieke Willem (UGent), "Una introducción al Chile postdictatorial: sobre la memoria y los lugares siniestros en Estrella distante de Roberto Bolaño"

Thursday 23 February 2012, 9 a.m. - 10 a.m.
Guadalupe Santa Cruz (Chilean author and visual artist, writer in residence Het Beschrijf), "Escribir la violencia en el cuerpo de las palabras"

Thursday 23 February 2012, 10 a.m. - 11 a.m.
Prof. Dr. Stéphanie Decante (Université de Paris Ouest, Nanterre), "Roberto Bolaño: una autoría esquiva"

Thursday 22 March 2012, 10 a.m. - 11 a.m.
Dr. Berber Bevernage (UGent), "La muerte no existe: de Madres de Plaza de Mayo en het verzet tegen de tijd van de geschiedenis"

Thursday 29 March 2012, 10 a.m. - 11 a.m.
Katrien De Hauwere (UGent), "La producción cinematográfica de los hijos de desaparecidos de la última dictadura militar argentina (1976-1983)"

Thursday 19 April 2012, 10 a.m. - 11 a.m.
Dr. Laura Alonso (VUB) and Rodrigo Marcó del Pont (dramaturge and theatre director, ULB), "Teatro x la Identidad: teatro, identidad individual y memoria colectiva"

The lecture on 22 March will be given in Dutch, the other ones in Spanish.

All are welcome. For further information, please contact Ilse Logie.


Event date: Wednesday 28 March 2012, 2 p.m. - 5 p.m.
Location: Faculty of Arts and Philosophy, Blandijnberg 2, English Studies Meeting Room (third floor, room 130.037)

  • Lene Rock (KUL), "'As German as Kafka': A Comparative Analysis of the Articulation of Identity in German-Jewish Literature of the Early 20th Century and Contemporary German Literature of Migration"
  • Toby Smethurst (UGent), "'I think I saw our ghosts': The Multidirectional Fictions of Pat Barker and W. G. Sebald"
  • Stijn Vervaet (UGent), "Staging the Holocaust in the Land of Brotherhood and Unity: Holocaust Drama in the Yugoslavia of the 1950s and 1960s"
  • Maria Zirra (Utrecht), "Distances That Bring You Home: Multidirectional Thinking and Self-Doubt in Derek Walcott’s Omeros and Seamus Heaney’s North"

Responses by Michael Rothberg and Yasemin Yildiz (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign)

All are welcome. For further information, please contact Stef Craps.


Event date: Wednesday 28 March 2012, 5.30 p.m. - 7 p.m.
Location: Faculty of Arts and Philosophy, Blandijnberg 2, Auditorium B (second floor)

"Migrant Archives: Coming to Terms with the Past in Contemporary Germany" given by Prof. Michael Rothberg and Prof. Yasemin Yildiz (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign)

"In establishing itself as the successor to National Socialism, West Germany faced a paradigmatic dilemma of political transition: how to situate itself in relation to the state-sponsored crimes of the immediate past. Over the course of several decades, and in the face of conflict and controversy, a public embrace of responsibility for the Holocaust came to play a key role in the definition of German national identity, even as private discourses continued to focus more on the fate of non-Jewish Germans than on the Shoah. Although it is rarely remarked, the period in which this public consensus about the Nazi genocide evolved corresponds exactly to the years in which labor migration transformed national demographics. How does it change the narrative of German Vergangenheitsbewältigung ('mastering the past') when we take account of this other history? What implications does such a conjunction have for other nations dealing with difficult pasts in heterogeneous societies? Immigrants to Germany—especially those coded as 'Muslim'—are often described as uninterested in and even hostile to commemoration of the Holocaust; however, a substantial 'archive' of immigrant memory work on the Holocaust and National Socialism exists in a variety of arenas. Drawing on examples from diverse realms of cultural production and social activism, this talk will argue that migrant archives can prompt a new approach to attempts to grapple with the traumatic legacies of genocide in Germany and beyond."

Recommended background reading: Michael Rothberg and Yasemin Yildiz, "Memory Citizenship: Migrant Archives of Holocaust Remembrance in Contemporary Germany.” Parallax 17.4 (2011): 32-48. Download here.

Michael RothbergMichael Rothberg is Professor of English and Conrad Humanities Scholar at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he is also Director of the Holocaust, Genocide, and Memory Studies Initiative. His latest book is Multidirectional Memory: Remembering the Holocaust in the Age of Decolonization (2009), published by Stanford University Press in their “Cultural Memory in the Present” series. He is also the author of Traumatic Realism: The Demands of Holocaust Representation (2000), and has co-edited The Holocaust: Theoretical Readings (2003) and Cary Nelson and the Struggle for the University: Poetry, Politics, and the Profession (2009). Four co-edited special issues have appeared recently: Noeuds de Mémoire: Multidirectional Memory in Postwar French and Francophone Culture (Yale French Studies, co-edited with Debarati Sanyal and Max Silverman); Between Subalternity and Indigeneity: Critical Categories for Postcolonial Studies (Interventions, co-edited with Jodi A. Byrd); States of Welfare (Occasion, co-edited with Lauren M.E. Goodlad and Bruce Robbins); and Transcultural Negotiations of Holocaust Memory (Criticism, co-edited with Stef Craps). Together with Yasemin Yildiz and Andrés Nader he has won a 2011-2012 ACLS Collaborative Research Fellowship for a project titled Citizens of Memory: Muslim Immigrants and Holocaust Remembrance in Contemporary Germany.

Yasemin YildizYasemin Yildiz is Assistant Professor of German at the University of Illinois. She received her M.A. in German and History from the Universität Hamburg and her Ph.D. in German Studies from Cornell University. Prof. Yildiz specializes in 20th and 21st century German literature and culture with research interests in literary multilingualism, minority discourses (especially Turkish-German and German-Jewish), transnational studies, and gender studies. She is the author of Beyond the Mother Tongue: The Postmonolingual Condition (2012), published by Fordham University Press, as well as essays on migration, gender and Islam, multilingualism, and Holocaust literature. She has also given keynote and invited lectures on these topics in the US, Germany, Britain, Ireland, and the Netherlands. Her research has been funded by major organizations such as the Fulbright Commission, the American Association of University Women, the British Council, and the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS). She is currently working on two new book projects: a study of the figure of the “Muslim woman” in contemporary German literature, film, and media and a co-authored study on Muslim immigrants and Holocaust remembrance in contemporary Germany (with Michael Rothberg and Andrés Nader).

All are welcome. For further information, please contact Stef Craps.


Event date: Wednesday 22 February 2012, 5.30 p.m. - 6.30 p.m.
Location: Faculty of Arts and Philosophy, Blandijnberg 2,
English Studies Meeting Room (third floor, room 130.037)

"Cosmopolitanism, Nationalism and Trauma: French-German Transfers at the Threshold of Romanticism and After" given by Prof. Vladimir Biti (University of Vienna)

"This is an investigation into the relationship between cosmopolitanism and nationalism in an epoch of their complex interaction and most intense dialogue across the French-German cultural border. The thesis is that each of them grows out of the trauma inflicted by its counterpart within historically particular constellations at various community levels (sub-national, national, transnational, continental, transcontinental or global). Rather than strict opponents, they are co-implicated attributes lying along the closely correlated political, social, economic, cultural and/or gender axes. The stubborn reiteration of a sharp opposition between them, followed by exclusionist strategies, emerges from the past and ongoing international transfers in which the underlying trauma of cosmopolitanism and nationalism is unconsciously acted out instead of attentively worked through. French-German interaction from around 1800 until today is particularly instructive in this regard. I will suggest that, after having realized the Proteus-like character of nationalism, we need to deconstruct the homogeneous idea of cosmopolitanism as well."

Vladimir Biti is Professor of South Slavic literatures and cultures at the Faculty for Literary and Cultural Studies, University of Vienna. He is the author of eight books, including Literatur- und Kulturtheorie: Ein Handbuch gegenwärtiger Begriffe (Reinbek: Rowohlt, 2001). Vladimir BitiHe has also edited or co-edited six readers and published over a hundred articles in a wide range of international journals and collections. He has been a visiting professor in Graz (1997), Vienna (1998) and Berlin (2003). From 1996 to 2004 he was a member of the Executive Board of the International Association for Semiotic Studies, from 2001 to 2005 Chair of the Committee on Literary Theory of the International Comparative Literature Association, and from 2004 to 2010 a member of the Executive Bureau of the same Association. He is a member of the editorial board of several international journals, including Journal of Literary Theory and Journal for Literature and Trauma Studies. He received the 1998 Great Award of the Croatian Academy of Sciences, the 2000 Award for Science of the Matrix Croatica, and the 2001 Award of the Faculty of Philosophy for an extraordinary contribution to the research and teaching activities of the Faculty. In 2007 he became a member of Academia Europaea.

All are welcome. For further information, please contact Stijn Vervaet.


Event date: Friday 16 December 2011, 12.00 p.m. - 1.00 p.m.
Location: Faculty of Arts and Philosophy, Blandijnberg 2, Faculty Room (first floor, room 117 - see floor plan)

"Refiguring Empathy in the Contemporary Novel: Ian McEwan's Saturday" given by Dr. Anne Whitehead (University of Newcastle upon Tyne)

“In this paper, I consider Ian McEwan’s Saturday in the light of recent interest in the intersection of literature and science. McEwan’s novel has been hailed as groundbreaking in bringing together literature and neuroscience, in particular, to forge a new novel of consciousness that is embedded in our knowledge of the brain rather than of the mind. I propose to refocus discussion of the novel by paying attention to McEwan’s interest in evolutionary discourses, and particularly his engagement with Paul Ekman’s influential writing on facial expression. Drawing on Ruth Leys’s critique of Ekman’s work, my paper will attempt to follow through some of the implications of this discourse for a reading of Saturday. Particular points of interest will include the novel’s relation to Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway; the key scenes with Baxter; and the novel as a narrative of 9/11.”

Anne WhiteheadAnne Whitehead is Senior Lecturer in Modern and Contemporary Literature and Theory at Newcastle University, UK. She has published Trauma Fiction (Edinburgh University Press, 2004) and Memory: New Critical Idiom (Routledge, 2008), in addition to co-editing W. G. Sebald: A Critical Companion (Edinburgh University Press, 2004) and Theories of Memory: A Reader (Edinburgh University Press/Johns Hopkins University Press, 2007). She has published on trauma and literature in a range of journals, including Modern Fiction Studies, Textual Practice and Contemporary Literature. Her current work is interested in exploring how contemporary fictional representations of the medical doctor negotiate questions of empathy.   

All are welcome. For further information, please contact Stef Craps.


Event date: Monday 7 November 2011, 5.30 p.m. - 6.30 p.m.
Location: Faculty of Arts and Philosophy, Blandijnberg 2, Faculty Room (first floor, room 117 - see floor plan)

"Identification et mélancolie. Les traces de la Shoah dans quelques œuvres françaises contemporaines" given by Dr. Evelyne Ledoux-Beaugrand (Amsterdam School of Cultural Analysis) [in French; discussion in French, English, and/or Dutch]

"Dans le cadre de cette présentation, je veux envisager quelques œuvres 'postmémorielles' françaises récentes à la lumière d’une identification mélancolique aux victimes et survivants de la Shoah. Objet de débat, voire de mises en garde chez les chercheurs intéressés par les représentations du génocide juif, l’identification est souvent appréhendée en tant que processus violent d’appropriation et de dévoration de l’autre. Or dans la théorisation qu’en propose la psychanalyse (Freud, Abraham et Torok) ainsi que dans la relecture qu’en font notamment Agamben et Butler, l’identification, et en particulier un type d’identification qu’on peut dire mélancolique, apparaît également liée à une entreprise de remémoration des disparus, qui procède à partir des traces laissés par ceux-ci. C’est plus précisément cette question de l’incorporation des traces de la Shoah que j’aborderai à travers la lecture des récits C’est maintenant du passé de Marianne Rubinstein (2009) et Jan Karski de Yannick Haenel (2009) ainsi que du film Drancy Avenir d’Arnaud des Pallières (1997), des œuvres qui ont en commun d’être structurées par un rapport intertextuel à des écrits antérieurs sur la Shoah."

Evelyne Ledoux-BeaugrandEvelyne Ledoux-Beaugrand détient un doctorat en littératures de langue française de l’Université de Montréal (2010) et est chercheure postdoctorale à la Amsterdam School of Cultural Analysis. Intitulé "Traces d’Auschwitz. L’héritage imaginaire de la Shoah dans la littérature contemporaine des femmes", son projet de recherche actuelle se penche sur les usages littéraires de la mémoire du génocide juif. Elle a publié des articles sur les écrits des femmes dans des revues et collectifs et travaille présentement sur une version remaniée de sa thèse qui paraîtra sous le titre Imaginaire de la filiation. La mélancolisation du lien dans la littérature contemporaine des femmes (éditions XYZ).

All are welcome. For further information, please contact Stef Craps.


Event date: Thursday 13 October 2011, 5.30 p.m. - 6.30 p.m.
Location: Faculty of Arts and Philosophy, Blandijnberg 2, Faculty Room (first floor, room 117 - see floor plan)

"Trauma vs. Re-Enchantment of the Past and the Future" given by Dr. Mads Rosendahl Thomsen (Aarhus University)

"The disenchantment of the world has become a staple in the description of the modern world since Max Weber, yet sources of enchantment are still sought for. The grand political narratives that peaked in the 1970s contained elements of this, just as the response of postmodern incredulity towards such visions was accompanied by other kinds of seeing the world as enchanted through both history and science. In the present memory boom traumatic pasts are of central interest, but even traumatic periods can have potential for enchantment and nostalgia, as is evident, for example, with Ostalgie. Conversely, there are also evidently limits to such entanglements between two very different sentiments. In this talk the relations between trauma and enchantment will be discussed with regard to both the kind of grand narrative trauma offers and the manner in which visions of the future to a certain degree have become pre-traumatized."

Mads Rosendahl Thomsen Mads Rosendahl Thomsen (PhD 2002) is Associate Professor in Comparative Literature at Aarhus University, Denmark. He is the director of the Danish Network for Cultural Memory Studies (since 2008), the author of Mapping World Literature: International Canonization and Transnational Literatures (Continuum 2008, pb. 2010), and a co-editor of the forthcoming World Literature: A Routledge Reader. Currently he is writing a book, to be published with Continuum, entitled The New Human in Literature: Visions of Changes in Body, Mind, and Society since 1900, and co-editing the proceedings of the conference The Posthuman Condition, held in 2010.

All are welcome. For further information, please contact Stef Craps.


Event date: Monday 30 May 2011, 5.30 p.m. - 7.00 p.m.
Location: Faculty of Arts and Philosophy, Blandijnberg 2, Faculty Room (first floor, room 117 - see floor plan)

"Trauma, 'Sound Reasoning,' and Semiotic Process: Christopher Smart's Jubilate Agno" given by Prof. Geoffrey Hartman (Yale University)

In this lecture, Prof. Hartman revisits the work of the eighteent-century poet Christopher Smart, whom he has called “the greatest English extracanonical poet.” Written during Smart’s confinement for insanity, Jubilate Agno is an entirely unique text that is surprisingly relevant for the study of trauma.

Geoffrey Hartman is generally recognized as one of the founders of the field of trauma studies. In a distinguished career that is over half a century long, Prof. Hartman has made a decisive impact in at least three domains. He has been an authoritative voice in the study of Romanticism, Geoffrey Hartmanand especially the poetry of William Wordsworth, since the publication of his landmark study Wordsworth’s Poetry 1787-1814 in 1964. In the 1970s and 1980s he became one of the most vocal mediators of so-called “French Theory” in the United States. From the early 1980s on his work has increasingly been occupied with questions of Holocaust remembrance and trauma studies. As a co-founder of the Fortunoff Video Archive for Holocaust Testimonies at Yale, the university with which he has been affiliated for most of his career, he has been directly involved with the filming and preservation of testimonies. Important publications in this field are The Longest Shadow: In the Aftermath of the Holocaust (1996) and The Fateful Question of Culture (1997). His acclaimed memoir A Scholar’s Tale: Intellectual Journey of a Displaced Child of Europe was published in 2008.  

All are welcome. For further information, please contact Pieter Vermeulen.


Event dates: December 2010 - May 2011
Location: Faculty of Arts and Philosophy, Blandijnberg 2,
English Department Meeting Room (third floor, room 130.037 / 3.11)

  • Thursday 9 December 2010, 12.30 p.m. - 1.30 p.m.
    "'Steamships, Migrants, and Tourists: Antwerp as a Multilingual Gateway to America, 1860-1953"
    Michael Boyden
  • Thursday 13 January 2011, 12.30 p.m. - 1.30 p.m.
    "Holocaustherinnering in het voormalige Joegoslavië"
    Stijn Vervaet
  • Thursday 10 February 2011, 12.30 p.m. - 1.30 p.m.
    Reading group, Andreas Huyssen, "Present Pasts: Media, Politics, Amnesia"
    Pieter Vermeulen
  • Thursday 24 March 2011, 12.30 p.m. - 1.30 p.m.
    "'World War 2.0: Commemorating War and Holocaust in Poland through Facebook"
    Dieter De Bruyn
  • Tuesday 5 April 2011, 12.30 p.m. - 1.30 p.m.
    "'Holocaust Memory and the Critique of Violence in Caryl Churchill's Seven Jewish Children: A Play for Gaza"
    Stef Craps
  • Tuesday 10 May 2011, 12.30 p.m. - 1.30 p.m.
    "Tom McCarthy and the Affective Afterlife of the Novel"
    Pieter Vermeulen

The discussion will be in Dutch. All are welcome. For further information, please contact Pieter Vermeulen.


Event date: Tuesday 26 April 2011, 5.30 p.m. - 6.30 p.m.
Location: Faculty of Arts and Philosophy, Blandijnberg 2, Faculty Room (first floor, room 117 - see floor plan)

"Memory Studies and Perpetrator Fictions" given by Dr. Richard Crownshaw (Goldsmiths, University of London)

"In recent years, state-sanctioned memorialization has often taken the form of the public apology for atrocities committed in the name of nation, raising questions about the extent to which the perpetrator’s identity and perspective is scrutinized when adopted in such political performances. This lecture argues that recent, critical interventions in memory studies have produced a similar set of questions. What might be termed critical memory studies has advocated strategic identifications with perpetrators as a means of critiquing the proclivities of certain versions of trauma studies. Those proclivities entail a tendency to over-identify with the victim/witness, producing ethically immaculate versions of the victims remembered and those who would remember them. The critical turn in memory studies was anticipated by Gillian Rose’s critique of a postmodern Holocaust piety that placed the event and victim beyond cognition and naming, for fear of reinscribing a totalizing form of representation (a fascism of representation). (Rose asks, how do we know we are not reproducing a fascism of representation unless we engage strategically with the perpetrator’s perspective – an engagement not possible unless the humanity of the perpetrator is recognized?) Such critiques are of course grounded in Primo Levi’s ‘grey zone’ in which perpetrators and victims cannot be easily separated. However, a strategic implication in or identification with the perpetrator’s perspective – an inhabitation of the grey zone – can become a universalized memorative gesture. There has been a recent proliferation of historical fiction written from that perspective: from, for example, Jonathan Littell’s ventriloquism of Nazism, Bernhard Schlink’s empathetic stance towards the perpetrator generation, and Kate Grenville’s sympathetic portraits of Australian settlers and their atrocious deeds, to Valerie Martin’s, Toni Morrison’s and Edward Jones’s depiction of American slavery from the master’s point of view. This lecture considers the ethical implications of this recent trend in the literature of memory and corresponding memory theory. Where interventions in memory theory had suggested ways of disrupting the appropriation and universalization of the victim’s identity, has this recent literary practice of cultural memory simply reproduced another set of unmediated identifications, leaving both victim and perpetrator unexamined? The possibilities of a new direction in memory studies needs to be rethought to contend with the limitations of what might be a new transcultural, transnational formula for remembrance."

Richard CrownshawDr. Rick Crownshaw is a lecturer in the Department of English and Comparative Literature, Goldsmiths, University of London, where he teaches American literature. He is the author of The Afterlife of Holocaust Memory in Contemporary Literature and Culture (Palgrave Macmillan, 2010) and co-editor of The Future of Memory (Berghahn Books, 2010). He has published numerous journal articles on Holocaust literature, museums and memorials. 

All are welcome. For further information, please contact Stef Craps.


Event date: Thursday 7 April 2011, 5.30 p.m. - 6.30 p.m.
Location: Faculty of Arts and Philosophy, Blandijnberg 2, Faculty Room (first floor, room 117 - see floor plan)

"Suffering Childhood in Early America" given by Dr. Anna Mae Duane (University of Connecticut)

"This talk focuses on the U.S.'s violent beginnings to examine how ideas about childhood helped to forge concepts of ethnicity, race, and gender. Drawing on a wide range of early American writing, Duane explores how the figure of a suffering child accrued political weight as the work of infantilization connected the child to Native Americans, slaves, and women. When early Americans sought to make sense of intercultural contact - and the conflict that often resulted - they used the figure of the child to help displace their own fear of lost control and shifting power. In the making of the young nation, the figure of the child emerged as a vital conceptual tool for coming to terms with the effects of cultural and colonial violence. With time, Duane argues, childhood became freighted with associations of vulnerability and suffering that shaped the perception of childhood itself as a state of 'natural' victimhood."

Anna Mae Duane is the Director of American Studies and Associate Professor of English at the University of Connecticut. She is currently a Fulbright lecturer at the Université Libre de Bruxelles. Anna Mae DuaneShe is the author of Suffering Childhood in Early America: Colonial Violence and the Making of the Child Victim (U of Georgia P, 2010). Her other publications include contributions to the Cambridge History of the American Novel (2011), an article in the Norton edition of Charlotte Temple (2010), and an article in American Literature (Sept. 2010). She has received an NEH fellowship for her work on the New York African Free School and is the co-editor of a book showcasing their work, Hope is the First Great Blessing: Leaves from the New York African Free School (New York Historical Society, 2008). She is currently working on a book that analyzes the intertwined discourses of African colonization and education by tracing the careers of the alumni of the New York African Free School as they became the first generation of African American doctors, actors, and abolitionists.

All are welcome. For further information, please contact Philippe Codde.


Event date: Wednesday 23 February 2011, 9.30 a.m. - 3.45 p.m.
Location: Faculty of Arts and Philosophy, Blandijnberg 2,
Faculty Room (morning session; first floor, room 117 - see floor plan) and Auditorium D (afternoon session; ground floor - see floor plan)

In the course of the 1980s memory emerged as an urgent topic of debate in the humanities. By now a great deal of research has been devoted to “cultural memory,” a term coined by Jan Assmann which highlights the role of culture in the formation and transmission of collective memories. However, it has been observed that memory studies is “more practiced than theorized,” and practiced, moreover, within “an array of different disciplines and national academic cultures, with their own vocabularies, methods, and traditions.” Cultural memory studies is a blooming but as yet incoherent and dispersed field, characterized by a host of different terminologies rather than a common, generally-agreed-upon conceptual foundation. This seminar will help doctoral researchers from various disciplinary backgrounds strengthen the methodological and theoretical underpinnings of their PhD projects, refine their research questions, and gain further insight into current trends and future directions in scholarship about the intersections of memory and culture. It will serve as an interactive forum in which junior and senior memory scholars present their own and respond to one another’s research and reflect on new developments in the field.

A central role in the seminar will be played by Andreas Huyssen, who will respond to the doctoral presentations, deliver a keynote lecture, and participate in a roundtable discussion. Huyssen is the Villard Professor of German and Comparative Literature at Columbia University, Andreas Huyssenwhere he served as founding director of the Center for Comparative Literature and Society and as chair of the Department of Germanic Languages. His research and teaching focus on eighteenth-to-twentieth-century German literature and culture, international modernism, Frankfurt School critical theory, postmodernism, urban culture and globalization, and cultural memory of historical trauma in transnational contexts. His latest project considers the overlaps and tensions between the contemporary discourses of memory and human rights. While Huyssen has distinguished himself in many domains, he has been invited for this event in his capacity as an indisputable authority in cultural memory studies. The author of genuinely seminal and influential publications such as Twilight Memories: Marking Time in a Culture of Amnesia (Routledge, 1995) and Present Pasts: Urban Palimpsests and the Politics of Memory (Stanford UP, 2003), Huyssen has had, and continues to have, a tremendous impact on this field of study.


9.30 a.m. - 10.50 a.m. Welcome

Lore Colaert (UGent),“'Not Just Bones': A Cultural History of Mass Grave Exhumations in Spain”

Jasper Rigole (KASK), “When Collected Memory Becomes Collective Memory: A Non-Authorial Voice-Over for the Film Paradise Recollected

Toby Smethurst (UGent), “Multidirectional Memory and the Retrofitting of Trauma in Pat Barker and W. G. Sebald”

Response by Andreas Huyssen (Columbia University)
10.50 a.m. - 11.10 a.m. Coffee/tea
11.10 a.m. - 12.00 p.m. Maaike Van Liefde (UGent), “Conflicting Memories of the GDR and the Wende in the Work of Thomas Brussig”

Bieke Willem (UGent), “Marginalizing Memory? Architecture and Narratives of Remembrance in Santiago de Chile”

Response by Andreas Huyssen (Columbia University)
12.00 p.m. - 1.00 p.m. Lunch
1.00 p.m. - 2.15 p.m. Andreas Huyssen (Columbia University), “Transnational Uses of Holocaust and Colonialism Discourse”

Response by Sarah De Mul (KU Leuven)
2.15 p.m. - 2.45 p.m. Coffee/tea [venue: English Studies Meeting Room]
2.45 p.m. - 3.45 p.m. Roundtable discussion on “The Future of Memory Studies” with Ortwin de Graef (KU Leuven), Andreas Huyssen (Columbia University), Vivian Liska (UA), David Miller (University of Stirling), and Pieter Vermeulen (UGent)

Download programme here (pdf).

Members of the Doctoral School of Arts, Law, and Humanities can gain credits for the doctoral training programme (transferable skills training, cluster research and valorization) by participating in this event. Click here for the details.

All are welcome. For further information, please contact Stef Craps.

Cultural Memory Seminar

Download poster here (pdf).


Event date: Tuesday 22 February 2011
Location: Ghent University

Jornada de los Latinoamericanistas Belgas y Luxemburgueses (LABEL)

Organizers: An Vranckx, Eugenia Houvenaghel, Ilse Logie, and Rita De Maeseneer (UA)

Download the conference programme here.

For further information, please contact Ilse Logie.


Event date: Wednesday 15 December 2010, 5.30 p.m. - 6.30 p.m.
Location: Faculty of Arts and Philosophy, Blandijnberg 2,
English Department Meeting Room (third floor, room 130.037 / 3.11)

"Trends in the Understanding and Treatment of Trauma-Related Symptoms in Contemporary Psychoanalysis" given by Professor Lewis Kirshner (Harvard Medical School)

"In this presentation, I will focus on some of the major issues in the diagnosis and treatment of trauma-related symptoms from the perspective of contemporary psychoanalysis.  My discussion will address psychoanalytic theories  of  trauma, especially Freud's notion of a piercing of the stimulus barrier that ordinarily protects the psyche from excessive stimulation.  I will extend this concept by emphasizing the social link that constitutes this barrier, which is not simply a property of the individual's mental structure but relies on ties to significant others and to cultural symbols.  This leads contemporary analysts to emphasize the relationship to the other - both the special person and the generalized Other of society.  The notion of a social link as a basic element of subjectivity modifies the conception of psychotherapy and opens up the way towards construction of modalities of intervention  that  address the group."

Lewis Allen KirshnerLewis Kirshner is Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and Training and Supervising Analyst at the Boston Psychoanalytic Institute. He is the author of Having a Life:  Self-Pathology after Lacan (Analytic Press / Routledge, 2004) and editor of the forthcoming Between Winnicott and Lacan (Routledge).  At present he is a Fulbright scholar at Ghent University.

All are welcome. For further information, please contact Gert Buelens.


Event date: Wednesday 1 December 2010, 5.30 p.m. - 6.30 p.m.
Location: Faculty of Arts and Philosophy, Blandijnberg 2,
English Department Meeting Room (third floor, room 130.037 / 3.11)

"Teaching Trauma: From Confession to Testimony" given by Professor Dawn Skorczewski (Brandeis University)

"This speaker focuses on a pedagogical dilemma: how to teach texts that represent trauma? A course on Trauma and Memory in the Literary Imagination draws students who are interested in literature and, quite often, in their own difficult life experiences. The literature of trauma can be disturbing to read; students respond viscerally to the texts and to each other. Just as speaking about trauma to others places the victim in a potential situation of re-experiencing the original trauma and its effects, reading about trauma can have the same effect. As an instructor of this course, I struggled to help students read the literature carefully without neglecting or simply surrendering to their own personal responses to it.

My pedagogy in the course evolved from a confessional to a testimonial approach. I first encouraged students to appreciate the value of speaking about trauma as a liberating act. After seeing the limitations of this approach, I came to emphasize listening to trauma, in the manner of somewhat knowledgeable witnesses, as the focus of the course. Organizing the course around ways of listening to trauma rather than on acts of speaking out about it shifted the focus from one of hearing confessions to witnessing the testimonies of others. This reframing of my instructional approach is informed by recent research that distinguishes between confessional theories of literature and those of testimony or witness."

Dawn SkorczewskiDawn Skorczewski is Associate Professor of English and Director of University Writing at Brandeis University. She is the author of Teaching One Moment at a Time: Disruption and Repair in the Classroom as well as numerous articles about psychoanalysis, trauma, and teaching. Her forthcoming book, Anne Sexton's Secrets (Routledge, 2011), examines the final six months of recorded psychotherapy between Anne Sexton, America's first woman confessional poet, and Dr. Martin Orne, her psychiatrist. Dawn has won awards for teaching from Harvard University and for writing from the American Psychoanalytic Association.

All are welcome. For further information, please contact Gert Buelens.


Event date: Monday 18 October 2010, 5.30 p.m. - 6.30 p.m.
Location: Faculty of Arts and Philosophy, Blandijnberg 2, Faculty Room (first floor, room 117 - see floor plan)

"Ou wyn in nuwe leersakke: Die herinterpretasie van religieuse temas in tye van trauma" given by Professor Chris van der Merwe (University of Cape Town) [in Afrikaans]

"In die hersiene druk van The Post-Colonial Studies Reader argumenteer die redakteurs, Bill Ashcroft, Gareth Griffiths en Helen Tiffin, dat "analyses of the sacred have been one of the most neglected, and maybe one of the most rapidly expanding areas of post-colonial study". In die Suid-Afrikaanse literatuur is daar belangrike voorbeelde van die herinterpretasie van religieuse temas in tye van trauma. Enkele hiervan sal bespreek word:

  1. In André P Brink se roman Kennis van die aand (1973) vorm Jesus se kruisiging die matriks van die verhaal van ‘n verbode liefde. Daarmee lewer die skrywer verdoemende kritiek op die apartheidswette, ondermyn hy die konvensionele godsdiens-opvattinge van sy tyd en herdink hy die religieuse betekenis van die erotiese liefde.
  2. Etienne van Heerden se roman Dertig nagte in Amsterdam (2008) handel oor die soeke na innerlike vryheid ná die verkryging van politieke vryheid in Suid-Afrika. Die twee hoofkarakters moet kies tussen ‘n finale lojaliteit aan Europa of aan Afrika; ook die verwerking van die sondebok-mite speel ‘n belangrike rol in hul soek na heelwording.
  3. Twee Engelse tekste uit die Moslem-kultuur word kortliks bespreek: Sachs Street (2001) van Rayda Jacobs en Our Generation (2003) van Zubeida Jaffer. Laasgenoemde toon die krag wat uit godsdiens geput word in ‘n tyd van krisis, selfs by ‘n kritiese Moslem-vrou; eersgenoemde handel oor die problematiese huwelik van ‘n Moslem-vrou en ‘n fundamentalistiese Christen en bring die kwessie van godsdiens-dialoog ter sprake."

Chris van der MerweChris van der Merwe is ‘n afgetrede hoogleraar van die Universiteit van Kaapstad; hy was ook besoekende dosent by verskillende universiteite in Wes- en Sentraal-Europa en in die Verenigde State. Hy is die skrywer van verskeie boeke en artikels oor die literatuur; sy huidige navorsing fokus op die verwerking van trauma in literêre narratiewe, en hy is die medeskrywer, saam met Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela, van Narrating our Healing – Perspectives on Working through Trauma (2007). In 1994 is hy aangewys as Suid-Afrikaanse Boekjoernalis van die Jaar, en vir sy bydrae tot die Afrikaanse literatuurkritiek het die Suid-Afrikaanse Akademie vir Wetenskap en Kuns in 2009 die Gustav Preller-prys aan hom toegeken.

All are welcome. For further information, please contact Yves T'Sjoen.


Event date: 24-28 August 2010
Location: ESSE 2010, Turin

Seminar title: “Literature and Testimony”

Organizers: Antony Rowland (Salford) and Stef Craps

This seminar would discuss the increasing recognition amongst critics of a central link between literature and the study of written testimony. James Young proposed in the late 1980s that testimony be analysed as literature, as a form of structured aesthetics. The panel proposes to re-evaluate the critical work done on literature as testimony since the 1990s, but also to point to future directions in the study of testimony. Recent impacts on the study of literature as testimony include the decrease in living survivors of twentieth-century wars and atrocities, the increase in the number of ‘false testimony’ cases (where novelists in particular pose as first-hand witnesses), and the rise of the genre of ‘misery literature’. A discussion of literature and testimony at ESSE-10 would be especially apt and poignant: Turin was home to the writer Primo Levi, whose If This Is a Man comprises the most widely known Holocaust testimony for European readers.

Please submit a 200-word abstract before 31 January 2010. See the conference website for submission guidelines.

For further information, please contact Stef Craps.


Event date: 27-30 May 2010
Location: ALA 2010, San Francisco

Seminar title: “Recent Jewish American Literature and Trauma”

Organizer: Philippe Codde

Download seminar description and abstracts here.

For further information, please contact Philippe Codde.


Event dates: November 2009 - May 2010
Location: Faculty of Arts and Philosophy, Rozier 44, reading room English Literature library (D 0.21 A)

  • Wednesday 18 November 2009, 12.30 p.m. - 1.30 p.m.
    "An Extremely Loud Tin Drum: A Comparative Analysis of Jonathan Safran Foer's Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close and Günter Grass's The Tin Drum"
    Sien Uytterschout
  • Wednesday 2 December 2009, 12.30 p.m. - 1.30 p.m.
    "Inherited Loss:  Primary vs. Transmitted Holocaust Trauma in Literature and Film"
    Philippe Codde
  • Tuesday 8 December 2009, 2 p.m. - 3 p.m.
    "September 11 as European Trauma"
    Kristiaan Versluys
  • Wednesday 16 December 2009, 12.30 p.m. - 1.30 p.m.
    "Considering the Pain of Others: Trauma Transfer and Narrative Framing in Jonathan Safran Foer's Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close"
    Ilka Saal
  • Wednesday 24 February 2010, 12.30 p.m. - 1.30 p.m.
    "Traumatic Mirrorings: Holocaust and Colonial Trauma in Michael Chabon's The Final Solution"
    Gert Buelens
  • Wednesday 17 March 2010, 12.30 p.m. - 1.30 p.m.
    "En estado de memoria / In a State of Memory van Tununa Mercado: De helende kracht van het schrijven"
    Ilse Logie
  • Wednesday 19 May 2010, 12.30 p.m. - 1.30 p.m.
    "'We victims and survivors declare the past to be in the present': Irreversible and Irrevocable Experiences of Time in a Post-Conflict Context"
    Berber Bevernage

All are welcome. For further information, please contact Philippe Codde.


Event date: Tuesday 11 May 2010, 5.30 p.m. - 6.30 p.m. >>> CANCELLED <<<
Location: Faculty of Arts and Philosophy, Blandijnberg 2, Faculty Room (first floor, room 117 - see floor plan)

"The Value of Language" given by Dr. Jane Kilby (University of Salford)

"Part literary criticism, part memoir, Mary Hamer’s Incest: A New Perspective constitutes a response to her discovery that Sappho Durrell, the daughter of the author Lawrence Durrell, had committed suicide having struggled for years with the reality of her father’s abuse. Indeed, the discovery is particularly pertinent, since it forces Hamer to realize that The Alexandria Quartet - which was the book that had made Sappho Durrell’s father famous in the 1960s and which Hamer had enjoyed reading as a romantic fiction about brother-sister incest - is a lie. The aim of this paper is to suggest, however, that if ‘the romance of the notion’ subsequently shattered as Hamer claims, then her book pieces it back together again. This is not to say that Hamer dismisses incest as a violent reality or that she deliberately undermines Sappho Durrell’s own testimony, which was published in a special issue of Granta. But rather the problem lies in Hamer’s desire to find meaning in both incest and suicide. Critically, then, Hamer is determined to read the actions of both father and daughter as symbolic. For Hamer, as it is for so many, violence figures as a language, as something which speaks to us - and speaks to us, not uncommonly, of a prior violence or pain. Taking issue with this conceptualization, I argue that if we are to understand the value of language for trauma victims such as Sappho Durrell, then we must not confuse violence and language. They are, as I will demonstrate, entirely different realities. It is an argument, moreover, that is drawn from the work of Cathy Caruth, Shoshana Felman and Dori Laub. Indeed, it is for this reason, I will argue, that Caruth, Felman and Laub are best read as critical theorists and not poststructuralists, despite the influence of de Man on both Felman and Caruth. Ultimately, then, and despite the ways in which they have been associated with an ethical poststructuralism, I will claim that Caruth, Felman and Laub are concerned with political critique and a modernist conception of language, which values language for being clean of violence and the liberal sociality it implies."

Jane KilbyJane Kilby is a senior lecturer in the School of English, Sociology, Politics and Contemporary History at the University of Salford. She specializes in the interdisciplinary question of violence, trauma and testimony, and is author of Violence and the Cultural Politics of Trauma. She is currently working on a monograph entitled The Banality of Incest.

All are welcome. For further information, please contact Philippe Codde.


Event date: Tuesday 20 April 2010, 5.30 p.m. - 6.30 p.m.
Location: Faculty of Arts and Philosophy, Blandijnberg 2, Faculty Room (first floor, room 117 - see floor plan)

"In War Times" given by Professor Roger Luckhurst (Birkbeck College, University of London)

"This lecture will seek to examine novelistic responses to the 'noughties' as an era of war and trauma. Ramifications of the 'war on terror' have become constant questions of novelistic address. Yet the critical judgment on novels that have tried to confront these urgent issues (as with the films that focus on 9/11 or the Iraq War) have been notably lukewarm. Does this imply a formal restriction on the novel? Can we expect the novel to respond to, or act as, 'news'? I want to explore the notion that it is novels that filter this war through other, earlier conflicts that have been the more successful reflections. They operate as instances of what Michael Rothberg calls 'multidirectional memory' (although multitemporal would more accurately describe the overdetermined time signatures explored here). In particular, I will focus on a little-known American novel by Kathleen Ann Goonan, In War Times (2008). The plural in the title puns on a narrative set during the Second World War in which a secret project inside the Manhattan Project produces a quantum device that multiplies and proliferates potential post-1945 worlds, including several non-nuclear ones. The novel is a sly, irenic commentary on our warring era that suggests obliquity and filtration may be valued novelistic devices."

Roger LuckhurstRoger Luckhurst is Professor of Modern and Contemporary Literature at Birkbeck College, University of London. He is the author of books on J. G. Ballard, science fiction, telepathy, and, most recently, The Trauma Question (2008).

All are welcome. For further information, please contact Philippe Codde.


Event date: 1-4 April 2010
Location: ACLA 2010, New Orleans

Seminar title: “Creolizing Memory: Transnational Remembrance of Trauma and Violence”

Organizers: Stef Craps and Michael Rothberg (Illinois, Urbana-Champaign)

Read the call for papers here.

Abstracts of no longer than 250 words should be submitted via the conference website by 13 November 2009.

For further information, please contact Stef Craps.