About the event

The sixth annual conference in Critical Theory, this conference will examine historio-poetics, the relationship between fiction and history, through a wide range of disciplines and theoretical approaches, including literary theory, psychoanalysis, identity theories, historiography, semiotics, philosophy, cultural studies, postcolonialism, gender studies, and political theory.

In the Poetics, Aristotle draws an explicit contrast between history and poetics, asserting “The historian tells what happened and the poet tells what might happen.” While Aristotle’s distinction proposes a clear demarcation between the two disciplines, subsequent schools of thought have recognized the interpolation of both genres, positing that a text, whether literary, ethical, or political, is a product of the historical context within which it was created. Conversely, just as the context of a work determines its creation, fiction often serves as a means of chronicling and reconstructing history. As historical narratives are refracted through various literary genres and artistic media, new interpretations of the same set of facts begin to emerge. This emergence of multiple and sometimes contradictory histories has made it more difficult than ever to delineate the boundary between fact and fiction. Yet it is often the fictional narratives that a society creates that define and shape its culture and historical memory. The integration of fiction and history thus serves as a means of engaging with and critiquing accepted historical interpretation, which in turn makes possible the emergence of new discourses.

This conference will also devote several special sessions to the work of W.G. Sebald. Please note: this two-day conference will take place at The Graduate Center, CUNY on May 5th and at the Stephen A. Schwartzman Building, New York Public Library on May 6th. Please click here for the full conference schedule and program.

Friday, May 5th, 6:30 PM, Proshansky Auditorium: Keynote Lecture by Stephen Greenblatt [RSVP for this lecture here]

Saturday, May 6th, 3:00 PM, Art, Fiction, and History: The Work of W.G. Sebald: Keynote Roundtable featuring Mark Anderson, Daniel Kehlmann, and Judith Ryan [RSVP for this lecture here]

For more information about this conference, visit the official conference website here.

Cosponsored by Critical Theory Certificate Program, Writers’ Institute, Office of Public Programming, Advanced Research Collaborative, and the Doctoral Students’ Council, and Constance Old, in memory of her brother Lloyd Old.