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Spectacular, Spectacular! Truth, Violence, Politics and Performance

April 27, 2018 - April 28, 2018

7th Annual Graduate Student Conference for Romance Languages and Literatures

Keynote Speaker: Dr. Kathleen Long
Professor of French, Department of Romance Studies
Cornell University

“The whole life of those societies in which modern conditions of production prevail presents itself as an immense accumulation of spectacles. All that once was directly lived has become mere representation.” Guy Debord, The Society of the Spectacle

When in 1967 Guy Debord boiled our lives down to a mere spectacle of representations, society took one step further away from a lived “truth”. Yet this truth has been in question since the Early Modern Era, with the profound disruptions caused by a suddenly expanded visibility –in geographic, anatomical, and astronomical senses, for instance- that pushed and eroded the boundaries of reality. Already in Montaigne’s essays, the fundamental and skeptical question “que sçay-je?” is posed by an “I” who is distant from a lived truth, in a world that is reduced to the violence of constant shifts: “le monde n’est qu’une branloire perenne” (3, II). The rules of verisimilitude once only applied to the stage quickly became the rules by which society operated, and society itself became the spectacle.

50 years after Debord’s dictum, it would appear as though there has been another violent shift wherein this spectacle has become the conscious truth. Violence, as initially studied by Michel Foucault in Discipline and Punish, continues to blind the public by now being valorized and exploited in social media and politics to further embed the spectacle. With Inflammatory Media operating as the accepted norm and the wide spread commercialization of technologies like Augmented and Virtual Reality, the very possibility of seeing, learning, and exploring any notion of truth is brought into question. So we must begin to ask, what operation of critical and political resistance are available to us when everything is spectacle? In what ways can we see how society has become controlled by the things which we ourselves have created?

By examining these concepts in an interdisciplinary fashion, we may begin to form connections that open pathways to a deeper understanding of the interplay of truth, violence, politics, and performance. This conference invites you to reflect on and discuss these connections. What kind of violence does the spectacle exert upon us? How and where can we find examples of performance as a conduit for change, criticism, intrigue, or manipulation? What does the specific lens of violence reveal about the spectacle of society through history? What roles do we play in this spectacle? And lastly, what can we do as individuals to be agents of change in this society?


April 27, 2018
April 28, 2018