History and Literature: Methods, Theories, Fields
A conference organised by the University of Warsaw and the École des hautes études en sciences sociales; Warsaw, 23-24 June 2022.
Links between history and literature catalyse debates when novelists, journalists or scholars publish works that touch the boundaries between an investigation and a story (Ivan Jablonka, Camille de Toledo in France; Ignacy Karpowicz, Piotr Nestorowicz in Poland). This phenomenon encourages us to reflect upon approaches and methodologies related to relations between these two fields.
One of the possible theoretical paths is represented by French scholars who analyse the definition of ‘literature’, its periodization and processes of institutionalisation (Alain Viala). Historians coming from this academic background are often interested in social and cultural aspects of the phenomenon that is called ‘literature’, whereas Polish researchers tend to focus on the significance of literature for intellectual history and history of ideas (Maria Janion).
Moreover, French and Polish historians use literature as a source. Some of them engage in a selective lecture focused on extracting ‘documentary’ aspects (Adeline Daumard), putting formal and aesthetic issues aside. Intellectual historians (inspired usually by the Begriffsgeschichte and the Cambridge School) use literature to analyse concepts and ideas from specific periods. Recent French works propose new ways of historical reading that focus on historical significance of text details (objects, memories, images, a whole world of things and experiences) that leave traces in fiction writing (Judith Lyon-Caen). These approaches analyse also ways of writing and other formal aspects by perceiving them as traces.
Another approach to relations between history and literature perceives the latter as a social practice and experience. It focuses on the social life of literature, including ways in which literary works influence the world in which they circulate. Such a perspective can be especially useful while analysing societies in which literature played a crucial role for social shifts and processes (e.g. Polish society in the 19th century when there were no Polish state institutions that could turn ‘peasants into Polishmen’).
Besides more empirical approaches, another group of methods concerns the role of stories and narratives in historiography. Methodological debates reflect upon the concept of metahistory as well as upon relations between ‘true’ and ‘false’ or ‘knowledge’ and ‘story’ (Banaszkiewicz, Burzyńska, Domańska, Pomorski, Topolski in Poland; Certeau, Ricoeur, Ginzburg, Chartier, Jouhaud in France).
Unfortunately, these methods and theories are often developed separately. As a consequence, the partitioning leads to lacks in social sciences and humanities as well as to ignorance of each other’s findings. As representatives of a young generation of scholars, we would like to create a space allowing us to confront, discuss and critique different – usually national-based (even though the influence of the Anglo-Saxon academia shall not be undermined) – perspectives on history and literature.
Bearing in mind previous cooperation between the Écoles des hautes études en sciences sociales and the University of Warsaw (organised i.a. by Jacques Le Goff, Bronisław Geremek, Witold Kula, Fernand Braudel and later by the Institute of Polish Culture), we believe that it would be beneficial for both sides to renew and strengthen this relationship. However, as our academic space should not be limited to a bilateral collaboration, we also invite PhD candidates from other institutions. Debates between postgraduate students are important and the past two pandemic years have limited possibilities to conduct such activities. We would like to overcome these difficulties and trigger new academic discussions and cooperation.
We invite PhD students whose work concerns the relationship between history and literature. We are open both for theoretical papers as well as case studies. We anticipate around 24 participants who will discuss in 8 sessions. Each presentation will last 15 minutes and sessions will be concluded by 45-minutes discussions led by scholars from the University of Warsaw and the EHESS. The conference will take place in Warsaw on 23-24 June 2022.
Abstracts (up to 300 words in English) shall be submitted by 16 May 2022 to a.kula2[at]uw.edu.pl.
Constance Barbaresco (EHESS/CRH)
Artur Kula (UW, EHESS)
Artur Kula – a.kula2[at]uw.edu.pl