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CfP: Fascination des Images / Image fascination


 Fascination des Images / Image fascination

 International and Interdisciplinary conference organized by Gilles Declercq, Marie-Dominique Popelard, Stella Spriet, and Anthony Wall

 20-21 January 2012 University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon (Canada)

 Please submit a 250 word abstract by email by October 10, 2011.

Contact : Stella Spriet (

Images are present everywhere in our contemporary societies. This presence, having been shaped in no small part by the ever increasing-powers of the pictorial media born during the Twentieth Century (film, television and the internet), has shaken our culture’s forms and interests, earlier grounded on the primacy of written communication, to their very foundations. Thus revolution is not only characteristic of modernity itself but it also harks back, almost paradoxically, to the most primitive vestiges of our culture where images of all sorts, promoted by painting, theatre and the oratory arts, had all been capable of transmitting both knowledge and aesthetic emotions.

Possessed by the images of Ancient and Classical cultures, such powers of creativity and communicability had, from the very beginnings of Western philosophy, been the focus of thoroughly critical examinations. Philosophers had always been keen to lay bare the dangers and excesses of images. The idea of fascination points to the strengths and shapes belonging to an almost fatal attraction; it warns us of an image’s tricks as well as its traps. Plato was among the very first to put the mental processes of fascination on trial; Aristotle followed him by linking the power of theatrical images to the power of words, that is to say, to logic and ethical discourse.

During the Classical period, particularly in France, images were largely controlled by political institutions as the Sun King, Louis XIV, began to send his powerful rays via the multiple images created by his artists: painting, architecture and literature were all involved. The scholar Jean-Marie Apostolidès paints an excellent picture of these machines designed by an absolutist king to create fascination. Later on, the semiotic studies of Louis Marin, with all their critical prowess, directed our attention to the indelible links between political power and the fascination generated by the Classical mindset. Much closer to us now, the philosopher Jean-Luc Nancy has pursued a similar path of reflection for studying art and literature in tandem. Contemporary authors have also given us thought-provoking analyses of the fascination exerted by images. One example is Pascal Quignard who goes to limits of what can be represented when we are dealing with Fear and Eros. He constantly reminds us of two grand myths of fascination, as if they were paradigmatic of the powers of fascination: Narcissus and Medusa.

The present colloquium purports to examine the forms and modes taken on by fascinating images. It seeks to uncover both their aesthetic powers and their rhetorical basis. On the one hand, images nudge us in the direction of sublime exaltation; on the other, they remind of the disquieting powers exerted by all forms of rhetoric based on alienation and predatory practices. Transhistorical inasmuch as we examine several figurative art forms, this colloquium also enlists many academic disciplines which it places in dialogue with one another. Including philosophy, literary studies, rhetoric, linguistics, aesthetics and history, our symposium places experts in world of art alongside social scientists. Our colloquium will also be the site of an intercultural dialogue juxtaposing academics from North America with colleagues from Europe. Everyone focuses on issues lying at the heart of contemporary culture: the creative powers of the imagination are thus placed under a microscope powered by free and critical inquiry.

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