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‘The American Western: A French Invention’, Professor Tom Conley (Harvard University)

Monday 16 March, 4pm

South Campus Teaching Hub LT2

Drawing on his knowledge of the western, Bertrand Tavernier has launched at Actes Sud a series of translations of novels inspiring their cinematic adaptation. What he calls the genre that today is “wobbly” (qui flageole) reaches back to an earlier project [Le Western: Acteurs, auteurs, mythologies (1966/1994)] that revolutionized our understanding of it. This lecture hypothesizes that much of the western’s heritage—and what, both aesthetically and politically, we can “do with” the western today—cues on the taxonomy of already fifty years ago that is still today of critical purchase.

s200_tom conleyTom Conley is Abbot Lawrence Lowell Professor of Visual and Environmental Studies and of Romance Languages and Literatures at Harvard. Professor Conley studies relations of space and writing in literature, cartography, and cinema. His work moves to and from early modern France and issues in theory and interpretation in visual media. Books include Film Hieroglyphs (1991, new edition 2006), The Graphic Unconscious in Early Modern Writing (1992), The Self-Made Map: Cartographic Writing in Early Modern France (1996, new edition 2010), L’Inconscient graphique: Essai sur la lettre à la Renaissance (2000), Cartographic Cinema (2007), An Errant Eye: Topography and Poetry in Early Modern France (2011) and À fleur de page: Voir et lire le texte de la Renaissance (2014). He has published Su realismo (Valencia, 1988), a critical study of Las Hurdas (Luis Buñuel, 1932). With T. Jefferson Kline, he co-edited the Wylie-Blackwell Companion to Jean-Luc Godard (2014). His translations include Michel de Certeau, The Writing of History (1988 and 1992), and the same author’s Capture of Speech (1997) and Culture in the Plural (1997); Marc Augé, In the Metro (2003) and Casablanca: Movies and Memory (2009); Gilles Deleuze, The Fold: Leibniz and the Baroque (1993); and Christian Jacob, The Sovereign Map (2006). He has held visiting appointments at a number of institutions, including the University of California-Berkeley, UCLA, the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, L’Ecole de Chartes, and L’Ecole en Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales. In 2003, he was a seminar leader at the School for Critical Theory (Cornell). Awards include fellowships from the American Council for Learned Societies, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Guggenheim Foundation. In December of 2011, the Université Blaise-Pascal (Clermont-Ferrand, France) awarded him an honorary doctorate. In 2014 former students Bernd Renner and Phillip Usher co-edited and published a book of 30 essays, Illustrations conscientes: Mélanges en honneur de Tom Conley (Paris: Éditions Classiques Garnier).

The annual French studies lecture – launched in 2004 – is named after the first holder of the James Barrow Chair of French at the University of Liverpool, a post to which Charles Bonnier (1863-1926) was appointed in 1905. Charles Bonnier’s residence in Liverpool lasted nearly thirteen years, and represented the culmination of a career as a wandering scholar that saw him moving from Lille to Paris, from Berlin to Halle, from London to Oxford, and finally to Liverpool. A key figure in French and European fin-de-siècle socialism, Bonnier was closely associated with Friedrich Engels and Eleanor Marx. He became an intermediary between French, German and English political activists, and was instrumental in the formation of the Second International. Bonnier also played a key role in the inauguration of Modern Languages at the University of Liverpool. In commemorating Bonnier, the annual lecture marks the contribution of the University of Liverpool, over a period of more than a century, to the development of French studies in the UK, whilst at the same time inviting speakers to explore the ways in which their current research contributes to new directions in the field.

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