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Unleashing the Potential of Narrative Discourse

Friday, September 28 2:15-3:15 PM

Moderator: Lauren Reynolds, Spanish Fellow

Speakers:


Sarah O’Halloran; McIntire Department of Music, University of Virginia
Speaking the Truth and Telling Tales: Factual and Fictional Texts in American Experimental Music

Britta Rowe; Department of English, University of Virginia
Community in Conflict and the Search for Truth: Chaucer’s Story-telling Pilgrims

Alexa Firat; Department of Critical Languages, Arabic, Temple University
Divulging Erasure and the Memories of a Soul in Mamduh Azzam’s Qasr al-Matar 


Abstracts:

Sarah O’Halloran; McIntire Department of Music, University of Virginia
Speaking the Truth and Telling Tales: Factual and Fictional Texts in American Experimental Music

Creative uses of language are prominent in the work of American Experimental composers, spanning a wide range of approaches from the pithy text scores of Fluxus artists like Dick Higgins, to the sound poetry of Charles Amirkhanian, or Tom Johnson’s metamusical narrators. While some of this repertoire is quite abstract, drawing attention to the musicality of words and turning away from semantic or syntactical coherence, a great deal of the repertoire combines techniques of storytelling, oratory, drama, or documentary with music to create rich and innovative narratives. This paper studies the varied and often complex uses of factual and fictional texts by innovative and influential American Experimental composers including Steve Reich, Philip Glass, Robert Ashley and Laurie Anderson. It considers the practicalities and wider consequences of the following issues: sources of texts; the influence of texts on compositional approaches; and the impact of compositional approaches on texts in terms of their creation, delivery, and meaning.


Britta Rowe; Department of English, University of Virginia
Community in Conflict and the Search for Truth: Chaucer’s Story-telling Pilgrims

The fictional pilgrimage of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, which frames a metaphorical pilgrimage through a varied textual terrain of literary modes, is preeminently an expression of competition between representations of truth.  The rhetorical battlegrounds are as various as the types of texts which convey the specifics of conflict, at times involving a personal basis for hostility, as when the Reeve, a carpenter, takes offense at the Miller’s darkly racy fabliau about the cuckolding of a gullible, foolishly pious carpenter.  The Reeve retaliates by telling his own tale about a greedy, thieving   Miller, who is not only cuckolded, but whose daughter is seduced as well.  In other instances, the battleground takes on an uncomfortable transcendence, as when Walter’s pitiless “proving” of Griselda meets with relentless and ultimately victorious non-resistance.  Elsewhere, the rhetorical conflict centers on religious professionals in competition for worldly and spiritual status, as when Friar and Summoner hilariously savage each other’s specialized turf, or when the Pardoner’s coolly repellent revelation of his expertise in the art of religious fraud exposes the conflict between truth that sets free and truth that is manipulated in order to ensnare the unwary.  Out of these and other Chaucerian evocations of ecclesial society in persistent conflict, does any sort of unitary vision of truth emerge?  This paper will argue that we can fruitfully approach this question by positing intra-communal conflict as essential to the articulation of truth.  In other words, truth is told in community, however deeply conflicted, or it is not told at all.


Alexa Firat; Department of Critical Languages, Arabic, Temple University
Divulging Erasure and the Memories of a Soul in Mamduh Azzam’s Qasr al-Matar

The Syrian novelist Azzam Mamduh excavates the hi(stories) and legacies of tyranny in his historical novel Qasr al-Matar (Castle of Rain, 1993). Mining the socio-cultural Druze tenet of transmigration of the soul and set during the period of emerging French occupation in the southern Syria, the novel constructs an external historical discourse, i.e. a space for writing history, within the confines of authoritarian systems. Located between bodies and experience, the soul bears both meaning and memory, and becomes a site for recouping existence from the vestiges of tyranny and from the tyranny of erasure.

Exposing the mask of despotic rule, this novel uncovers the swallowed hi(stories) buried beneath it and exposes the lives living underneath. It warns against ignoring ruins, memories and other intangible and illegible traces of the past that are the codes, symbols, meanings, and significations of existence. It questions death as an end, positing it, instead, as a beginning, or a rite of passage within the continuum of social history. Furthermore, it interrogates memories: from where do they originate and from what? How do we recover those that have been lost? And in what ways do memories constitute history?

In this paper, I hope to show how the recuperation of memories can act as a critical tool to destabilize and revolt against the stasis of contemporary histories, and can act, as well, as an alternative and an exercise in the practice of a renegade authority that embodies innovation and a desire for freedom.

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