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Snapshots of the Past: Memory and Photography in Literature and Film

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Organizer: Mavis Chia-Chieh Tseng

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Following the success of previous ACLA seminars, “The Story of Memory: Remembering, Forgetting, and Unreliable Narrators” and “The Story of Remembrance: The Future of Memory and Memories of the Future” in 2018 & 2019, this seminar invites paper proposals to discuss the relationship between memory and photography and its representation in literature and film.

Since its invention in 1839, photography has redefined visual expression and culture, blurred the line between technology and art, and mystified the notion of “the original” and “a copy;” furthermore, it has transformed how we know our world, structure our memory, and make sense of time. Jennifer Green-Lewis argues that photography allows Victorians to embrace the fleeting nature of time and develop language to tell their stories of the past. Kate Flint explores flash photography’s capacity to “stop” time, and its power to reveal shocking social conditions, to illuminate what was once hidden in darkness, and to stage the mundane in everyday life. Damian Sutton believes that we should recognize “the open-endedness of time expressed in the photograph, either as a potential for an abundant future or as a depth of meandering remembrance.” Celia Lury shows how photographic images can alter our consciousness, and even implant false memories in individuals to create a “prosthetic culture.”

With the rise of digital photography and social media, picture taking and sharing are instant and effortless today. In 2017, it is estimated that we took a collective 1.2 trillion photos. What should we do with all these memories? How do these contemporary photographic practices (photo-taking, photo-storing, photo-viewing, photo-sharing, photo-editing, and photo narration) affect our memories? Do they create more sustaining memories? When we count on our cameras to remember for us, how does this cognitive offloading influence the way we experience and remember the world? How is the relationship between (analogue or digital) photography and memory imagined and represented in literature and film? This seminar will explore the fundamental notions and offer new perspectives on the central role of photography in memory studies, literary criticism, film studies, comparative literature, cultural studies, and media studies. Submissions which take an interdisciplinary approach to the topic are particularly welcome.

Potential topics include (but are NOT limited to): - analogue/digital photography and memory - photographic practice: (re-)producing, collecting, displaying, categorizing and distributing images - photography and social media - photography and time - ephemeral photography - photography and the everyday - photography in museums and archives - personal and collective memory in photography - photography theory (Benjamin, Kracauer, Barthes, Sontag, etc…) - the conceptualization and representation of photography in the 19th, 20th, and 21st century - mnemonic devices and technologies

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