In the word “trans-formations”, the prefix “trans-” invites us to reflect on changes (from one place to another, from one medium to another, from one genre to another…) The notion of transformation thus prompts us to examine borders, boundaries, limits, even crossings that lead to new experiences, new ways of considering the world from a common heritage- questioning it, re-evaluating, and re-imagining it. The EAAS Southern Studies Forum of 2023 will be particularly interested in the process through which the American South has constantly changed its face (the Old South, the Reconstruction South, the Modern South, the New South) in order to adapt (or not) to a world that is constantly moving, constantly changing. To what extent can it be said that the South has continually preserved its identity, the way it presents itself to the rest of the nation and the world? Is the intertwining of myth and reality a constant feature in the representations of the South? How is the South (trans)formed thanks to myth and storytelling?
The “Southern enigma,” to use the title of a book by Fred Hobson, will be at the heart of our symposium: what transformations has the South undergone? Have some states been more exposed to change than others? What are the most visible transformations and those that remain marginal, and sometimes even invisible? How can we explain the inexhaustible prolixity of Southern writers over the generations? Writing about oneself at different stages of life has always been central to Southerners. How they “tell about the South”, as a Faulkner character puts it, may lead us to reflect upon Southern identity and the “Many Souths,” which Waldemar Sacharasiewicz invited forum members to discuss some years back. Alain Montandon notes that “[t]o write about growing old is to write about the passing of time, metamorphoses, alterations…” (Preface to Écrire le viellier, p.7) Through their life stories, Southern writers keep pondering on and wondering about this time Faulkner relentlessly tried to capture by evoking (and invoking) a past that remains forever present, a heavy heritage from which it is difficult to escape.
Discussing the South today invites us to assess the relevance of New Southern Studies, to reflect upon the evolution of Southern studies. Ecological criticism, gender and queer studies, race and class studies, are now called upon to speak of another South and to bring the margin to the center. It is, in fact, impossible to forget how much the South is also, as Michel Bandry observes, a “land of exclusion.” The conference will also draw out attention to questions of translation- both in the sense of translation (from one language to another) and adaption (from one medium to another, from one self to another). Is there a French South if we think of Faulkner’s French discoverers, of the privileged relationship between the Nouvelle Revue Francaise and many southern writers, or of Baudelaire translating Poe? By being constantly revisited and recreated, does the South initiate new forms of heritage? Can we see in the concern for revision or revisionism, the threat or erasure that weighs on certain polemical writers? For Etienne de Planchard, “It is through literature that an image of southern society is drawn, not only as it is, but also as it perceives itself, perceives others and is perceived by them.” By extending this idea to other fields of study than literature, this conference aims to highlight the transformations generated by these various manipulations, and to evaluate the place of the trans/formed South.
Topics may include (though they are not restricted to) the following:
Proposals for papers in English (300 words + short bibliography) and a brief biographical note should be sent jointly to Frederique Spill (email@example.com) and Gerald Preher (firstname.lastname@example.org) before 1 May 2023