Wednesday 1 February 2017, 4.00PM to 5.30pm
One of the marks of significant literature is said to be a capacity to expand the horizons of our experience, to make us understand what experiences we have not had--and might not want to have--are like. Call that the Expansion Claim. But is it true that you can come to understand what an experience is like without actually having that experience? How would that work? We don't have a good model of how literature can do that, or of what should persuade us that any particular claim of this kind is true. That it might have something to do with the imagination is not a new thought, but I aim to develop that idea a bit. At the end I will suggest that the Expansion Claim is one we should be sceptical about.
In the film form, photographs operate rhetorically. As fragment “that appeals to the eye for its proof, the photograph is able to invoke the authority of its empirical link to events, which in turn seems to reinforce the sense of its own unmediated factuality” (J.E. Young, 1988:57-8). However, photographs are far from unmediated factuality. Often photos belonging do not offer the possibility of owning the site of memories offered by the photographs, and do not retain narrative meaning. At times, they can be the sites of spectacle, as were the documentary photographs of Holocaust victims. In this case, the “horrific dehumanization the images pronounce cannot easily be ‘neutralised’: it rebounds back onto those pictures, as if they are obscene rather than the crimes to which they were subjected” (A. Liss, 1998:5-6). This quality seems to justify the practice of ‘excuse them’, ‘find a way out’ for them, as if the viewer tried to protect himself from viewing and knowing, a practice that silences the images, dehumanize the portrayed people and as a result obscure certain events, which can be relegated to silenced history.
Digital narrative offers a site for the re-appropriation of these images, and of silenced history, in the practice of reparative storytelling.
In this paper, we will explore the reparatory work done on an unknown niche of Italian history, the forced Italianisation of half million Slav people between 1918-1945. Looking behind the scenes of the short essay filmLunch with Family, we are going to see how digital narrative aided the construction of meaning from archival documents. Also, we will consider how reparative storytelling might reveal the possibility to predicate a narrative of truth based on the experience of the process.
Within this context, Marianne Hirsch’s work on postmemory, her consideration of the genre of the family photograph and how these images are reframed according to whose history matters and whose history is left out (Hirsch 2012), will offer the theoretical base for the use of digital narratives to give voice to the silenced images of little known or completely unknown past events
Narrative in Question is an ICNS research programme for Spring and Summer terms 2017, bringing together visiting speakers and York researchers with narrative-related interests. The core events are a series of seminars and guest lectures, and a culminating workshop featuring international contributors and a workshop focussed upon developing an interdisciplinary research project.
The idea for the programme is that the question of narrative provides a conceptual hub for dialogue amongst participants with widely divergent individual research agendas. The seminars will feature individual research projects in which the issue of narrative is fundamentally at stake. All project participants share a concern to put narrative in question, whether as a theoretical concept, as a mode of discourse or cognition, as a particular corpus or tradition, as a set of formal devices and techniques, as a use of specific media, or as a research methodology.
See the full programme of events
Location: Seminar Room BS/008, Humanities Research Centre, Berrick Saul Building, University of York Campus West