FSU to host 2006 conference on literature and film: ‘Documenting trauma, documenting terror’

Florida State University will host the "31st Annual Conference on Literature and Film" Feb. 2-5, 2006. This year’s event will welcome eminent scholars and filmmakers from around the world as it examines what it means to document trauma or terror under extraordinary historical conditions.

The conference—"Documenting Trauma, Documenting Terror"—will kick off Thursday, Feb. 2, at 7:30 p.m. in the FSU Student Life Building with the Tallahassee premiere of filmmaker Keith Beauchamp’s 2005 self-financed documentary, "The Untold Story of Emmett Louis Till." The screening is sponsored through a grant from the Leon County Tourism Board.

Beauchamp, slated as a keynote speaker at the conference, has devoted 10 years to telling the story of Till—the 14-year-old black boy brutally slain in Mississippi in the summer of 1955. He is founder of Till Freedom Comes Productions, which aims to develop, produce and distribute high-quality entertainment that is both educational and socially significant.

While the film screening is free and open to the public, registration is required for other events. For details, visit the Web site:
http://english3.fsu.edu/~filmlit2006/. The 31st Annual Conference on Literature and Film is co-sponsored by the English department and the School of Motion Picture, Television and Recording Arts (best known as The Film School).

According to conference co-director and Associate Professor of English Caroline (Kay) Picart, two key questions will frame and serve as impetus for discussion: How might attempts to work through traumas be distinguished from the act of compulsively repeating them? Can the two ever be fully distinguished?

"These questions have long been central to considerations of how filmmakers, writers and artists document the Holocaust," Picart said. "They’ve also been important to investigations of U.S. racism, from the Middle Passage and Indian Removal, through lynching campaigns and the internment of Japanese-Americans, to more recent hate crimes. Questions about what it means to document trauma also are increasingly germane to representations of Sept. 11, 2001. Both trauma and terror have become central to the political discussions that chart our future, discussions that often aim to solidify and make actionable the difference between perpetrators and victims, terrorists and terrorized, inhuman atrocity and justifiable retribution.

"This year’s conference will extend these inquiries and look beyond them to considerations of many traumas and terrors," Picart said.

In addition to Beauchamp, 2006 keynote speakers will include:

  • Dominick LaCapra, a history professor and the Bowmar Professor of Human Studies and Comparative Literature at Cornell University. Among his many scholarly accolades is the 2001 Dactyl Foundation Award for Aesthetic Theory. LaCapra has written numerous books, including "Representing the Holocaust: History, Theory, Trauma" (1994); "Writing History, Writing Trauma" (2001); and "History in Transit: Experience, Identity, Critical Theory" (2004).
  • Janet Walker, a film studies professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara, where she also is affiliated with the Women’s Studies Program. She intends to make a series of experimental video portraits of local Holocaust survivors and refugees with a recent grant from the California Council for the Humanities. Her edited and authored books include works such as "Westerns: Films through History" (2001) and "Trauma Cinema: Documenting Incest and the Holocaust" (2005).
  • Brian Winston, former dean of Media and Humanities at the University of Lincoln (England). An active journalist, documentary filmmaker, and writer, he worked as a producer and director at Granada Television and BBC-TV in the 1960s and ’70s. He won a U.S. prime time Emmy in 1985 for documentary scriptwriting (at WNET, New York). A sampling of Winston’s books includes "Lies, Damn Lies, and Documentaries" (2000) and "Messages: Free Expression, Media, and the West, 1455-1991" (2005).

With the exception of the Feb. 2 screening in the Student Life Building (Woodward Avenue), all events will be held in FSU’s Williams Building (Jefferson Street, just west of Copeland Avenue) and Longmire Building (Ivy Way). Conference co-directors for 2006 include Picart; Associate Professor of English Mark G. Cooper; and Professor Frank P. Tomasulo, director of The Film School’s undergraduate program.