Friday, 12 August 2011

The Future of Testimony Conference, University of Salford 11-12 August 2011

I found this really beneficial though I won’t say it was exactly enjoyable. For one thing, it was hard work. I was a little out of my usual comfort zone. The conference was just the other side of literary from what I’m used to, so I had to concentrate. Nevertheless, I do have half a note book of notes and several titles that I need to add to my reading list. And it was relaxing because I wasn’t presenting or even chairing a session. Being on home ground was also useful.
Obviously, the conference is very relevant to this project, which contains a form of testimony.
I was introduced to some new ideas that I think will need to think about with the possibility that my conclusions about those may lead to further conference and journal papers for myself.
First there was the idea of premeditation, mediation and remediation. All three come into my project: the letters themselves belong to premediation, I bring them into mediation and I am remediating other aspects of the story.
We were introduced also to the concept of the public secret. I guess that includes all those things that we know are happening but don’t admit to knowing about. Over lunch we decided that would include the power of language.
We discussed hybrid texts: texts which use authentic testimony but also use aesthetic devices. P in S. will certainly use that. The comment was made that this isn’t reserved just for looking at history where some testimony may be lost or so meditated that it has lost its authenticity but is also being used to explore present trauma. The obvious explanations are it makes the texts more accessible, brings a closer emotional engagement and makes the texts more palatable. I actually think that whilst all of that is true, it goes much deeper. For instance, writing with the senses interfaces with memory rather than reminiscence and although it is almost impossible to write memory for this is such a fleeting thing, at least writing with the senses just describes a scene and does not give any authorial opinion about it other than that the author chooses certain details rather than certain others. Even when writing about modern day situations, unless one is actually writing as one is experiencing the situation, one revisits with memory and fills the gaps with imagination. Yes, there comes some artistry, too, and then we are within the bounds of reminiscence if not manipulation. These really are major issues for P in S.
Hybrid texts are popular, and I can think of several such as the works of Elizabeth Laird, Beverly Naidoo and Alan Gibbons and particularly Le Photographe by Guibert, Lefèvre and Didier. Works cited in the sessions were Dave Egger’s What is the What? and Mende Nazer’s Slave. The latter reminds me very much of Trotzdem habe ich meine Träume by Anatol Feid and Natascha Wegener.
There was much other food for thought as well, so I’m really glad I attended. But oh my, am I tired now!

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