Prof Timo Obergöker shares some impressions of two trips he was able recently able to undertake:
Thanks to very generous university funding I was able to attend the Annual Convention of the Modern Language Association of America held in Chicago in early January. It is the second time I attended a conference in Chicago, this time however the relatively mild temperatures allowed me to enjoy the city a bit more, in 2014 it was -23C. The MLA convention is one of the biggest of its kind and hosts several thousand participants from all over the world, the guide book is even more impressive than a students’ year abroad handbook. It is always fascinating to attend panels on subjects you do not necessarily work on as it is very stimulating to learn about other approaches, texts, opinions. I attended panels on the Italian Renaissance and on Austrian literature, apart from the usual “Contemporary France and Quebec” panels I do normally attend.
I spoke on a panel called “Fait et fiction dans le récit historique francophone” which was dedicated to “fake news” and “storytelling” in the Francophone novel; my paper was questioning the link between “nation” and “narration” in the works of three authors writing in French: Jérôme Ferrari, Alexis Jenni and Magyd Cherfi.
Back to Europe: Most of you will have heard of the “yellow vest” movement, a protest movement of people mainly living in the countryside for higher living standards and for new forms of political representation. As my research covers a variety of topics around the spatial organisation of France, the social position of the middle classes and how these reflect in literature and cinema, I was able to give a talk at the Nuit des idées/ Night of the ideas at Institut Français (the night of the ideas is a global event taking place in French Cultural Institutes all over the world ) in Edinburgh on 31st of January.
Edinburgh is a highly impressive place and I most certainly will be back. The talk was well attended and lead to a really interesting discussion, around Brexit, the role of the middle classes and the Scottish independence question. This highly relevant question will be explored further: 1. There will an apéro français (informal talk around a glass of wine and a few nibbles) dedicated to this question in the Chester Art Centre https://chesterartcentre.co.uk/ on 28th of February and 6.30 pm with Parisian journalist Séverine Pierron. Moreover there will be a talk at the Alliance Française in Manchester (https://www.afmanchester.org/) on 1st of March at 6pm, delivered by Timo in French with a PowerPoint in English.
One question I am still unable to answer: Which one of the two cities is the most fascinating one?