“Fareway, So Close: the Nearby and the Distant in Film and Literature” – POSTPONED !!

Posted on November 13, 2019

Paris, March 18th-20th, 2020Please, be informed that this conference has been postponed to a later date

International Colloquium Université Paris 7-Diderot (CERILAC and LARCA), Université Paris 3 (IRCAV), with the participation of New York University (Department of French Literature, Thought and Culture)

Download the programm : here.

This colloquium is organized as part of a series of Franco-American exchanges (Literature and Cinema Colloquium Series) which began in 2018. The focus was on questions of space in visual culture that consider the mediation (the notions of visual thought and world experiences) between texts, images, cinema, and literature in their diverse forms.
Over the course of the talks, a motif emerged that we wish to further explore in its technological, political, cultural, and artistic dimensions: “the nearby and the distant”.
When Eisenstein writes about Edgar Poe’s The Sphinx, he points out the “intense impression” that the discovery of a “gigantic monster who ambles across the tops of mountains in the distance” leaves on him. To his astonishment “it is not at all a monster of antediluvian proportions but a bug scaling the window”. It is the shock produced by the change in perspective that affects the reader-spectator’s perception. Eisenstein states it is
the “optical accumulation” of “this enormous foreground and distant mountain range that creates the masterfully terrifying effect described by Poe”. It is a disruption of the connections between the nearby and the distant that Walter Benjamin identifies as the foundation of artistic creation and the circulation of information in the era of technological reproducibility.

Whether in conjunction with or separate from literature, cinema continually brings about scalar variations inaccessible to the human eye. “A cockroach in close up appears one hundred times more impressive than a hundred elephants in an establishing shot”. Reprised by Pascal Bonitzer in a text that directly echoes Kafka’s The Metamorphosis, this famous Eisenstein quote can be understood in relation to contemporary transformations of vision.

The very small and the very distant witness the extension of their boundaries by way of advanced technologies (for example, space probes or the scientific examination of the infracellular world). They also experience the effects of immersion produced by changes in scale in the age of environmental economics. In this vein, we ask about the devices and figures in texts and images that emphasize the transformations of vision which refashion the works’ aesthetics.

Influenced by new media which pave the way for new modes of writing, bodies of work explore the effects of expanding perception and meaning. From the point of view of losing the “sole apparition of the distant, as close as it is” or a certain “disturbing strangeness”, this defamiliarization haunts our contemporary world and its invasive technologies. From Jonathan Swift to Lewis Carroll, literature has echoed the questions and
anxieties provoked by abandoning the human scale as the basis and principle measurement of the world. Whether it is “Gulliverization” (Erkki Huhtamo) or “becoming smaller than a pixel” (Hito Steyerl), such processes and tools as reconnaissance satellites and microscopes, medical imagery and Google maps, enlargement and projection–or, the reverse, encoding and compression–captation systems, representation, and reception are
now dissociated from anthropometric measurements. Remaining as close as possible to the body and its physical state, it is now a question of studying the manner in which technology produces forms of “strangeness to the self” which reconsider the place of the individual in a world that is subject to new systems of perception and the reshaping of geographic, political, social, and cultural space.

This colloquium endeavors to examine the means by which the reconfiguration of scales, between the near and the distant, the global and the local, the personal and the universal, profoundly changes our relationship to the world and others.

Among the themes explored within the scope of the colloquium:
-How do we describe distance (distance and exposure time, distance and affects) in cinema and literature?
-What is the place of optical instruments in literary texts and films?
-How do we understand the experience of bodily displacement, the moving eye (means of transportation, urban experiences…)?
-What is the role of scientific discourse on the near and the distant?
-In texts and images, are questions of proximity, distance, and scale understood differently according to a particular scientific model? Do we conceive of distance in the same ways across disciplines such as biology, physics, sociology, geography, and art history?

Research and organizing committee: Emmanuelle André, Beugnet Martine, Ludovic Cortade, Guillaume Soulez

Proposals should be submitted before September 15, 2019 to ( and )