GLITS conference 2013

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Goldsmiths Literature Seminar presents the Annual GLITS Interdisciplinary Graduate Conference:


Friday 14 June 2013

Keynote Speaker: Professor Mark Currie

 Conference details

Attendance is free of charge

Conference organisers: Alice Condé, Johanna Franklin, Emma Grundy Haigh and Monika Loewy

Dept of English & Comparative Literature
Goldsmiths, University of London
New Cross
London, SE14 6NW

Venue: Small Cinema, Richard Hoggart Building

Oh you lost God! You endless trace!
Only because in the end hate divided you
are we now nature’s mouth and listeners.
– Rilke, The Sonnets to Orpheus, First Series, 26; trans. C Bamford


A ‘trace’ can be that which has existed, and which is now past; or that which has passed, in the case of a track or a footprint; or that which copied or drawn or outlined, such as a map or a word in the sand. It can be used as a noun or a verb: as an object or concept, or an active process of discovery. In Ellipsis (1967), Jacques Derrida speaks of the ‘trace’ as ‘[…] not absence instead of presence, but a trace which replaces a presence which has never been present, an origin by means of which nothing has begun’. Derrida’s concept of the ‘trace’ extends to multiple discourses in postmodern thought, wherein a sign or word is recognised for what it cannot represent: his definition of trace signifies erasure, the simultaneous representation of all signs and nothing, a suspended present, imprint and ultimately the opening of new ideas.

The term obviously – pleasingly, perhaps, to some – exceeds deconstruction. Children entertain themselves with tracing paper, and when lost or confused we retrace our steps. Plastic surgery hides traces, and cosmetic surgery leaves them. Trace elements function as cure in homeopathy, and, according to Carl Jung – considering another form of healing – the Collective Unconscious is an inherited, latent storehouse of memory traces. Academic practice across disciplines can be seen as attempt to ‘trace’ patterns, motifs, voices, genres, causality – meaning!

This interdisciplinary research conference seeks to explore the concept of ‘traces’ in literature, creative writing, the visual arts, media, philosophy, sociology, psychology and other fields. We invite speakers to consider the concept of ‘traces’ in general, in terms of a mark or a reference to what is now unseen or past. What traces are to be found in the unseen history behind a certain author, place or concept? Are there examples of traces hidden from the public eye? Is it possible to sustain the concept of being at once present and absent? Can we trace lines through the history of literature, visual arts, or media? And does this help us gain a greater understanding of hidden messages? Is it possible to imagine traces in terms of ‘mapping’ – either geographically or symbolically, via, for example footprints, or scars on the surface of the skin?

  • The unseen
  • ‘Différance’
  • Absences/presences
  • Fictional traces
  • The ephemeral present
  • Reality/unreality
  • Hints
  • Shadows
  • Remainders
  • Skin and scars
  • Visible/invisible histories
  • Forensics, evidence, marks
  • Outlines, mapping, tracking
  • Fadind and diminishing, vanishing
  • Exile, loss
  • Memory
  • 'Mnemic traces'
  • Palimpsest and rewriting