Boston College’s department of romance languages and literatures hosted its first in-person graduate student conference on March 18 and 19 since the COVID-19 pandemic halted many on-campus events and traditions.
“I hope this weekend is not just a return to a norm, but an opportunity for reinvention and for rejuvenation,” said Andrew Clark, an organizer of the conference and second year graduate student in the romance languages and literature department.
The French literature program organized the conference, titled “Hybridity and Paradox,” which centered on the intersection of literature and philosophy.
Ann Smock—a French professor at the University of California, Berkeley—kicked off the conference on Friday night with a keynote speech discussing her recently published book, The Play of Light: Jacques Roubaud, Emmanuel Hocquard, and Friends.
In this book, Smock said she examined contemporary French poets and the philosophical elements of their work. Smock also analyzed the words, layout, and theatricality of French poetry.
“In my introduction I indicated the lively interest all [the poets] had in each other, and I sketched rather blithely the larger poetry world they inhabited, emphasizing some enthusiasms and some convictions that they shared, some projects they collaborated on,” Smock said. “I emphasized … their common interest in American poetry.”
Smock then shared her analysis of the French poets’ work and their use of punctuation, blank space, structure, and word intonation.
“The unusual placement of punctuation marks sometimes made me think of the elaborate decoration of a room or a stage,” Smock said.
Following Smock’s speech on Friday, conference attendees gathered again on Saturday to listen to student panelists and engage in Q&A sessions.
This structure provided students with the opportunity to learn about each other’s research and interests, according to Clark.
“I’m thrilled to have both professors and students from different departments here at BC, Clark said. “We also have people who are not affiliated with Boston College, which is very cool to see.”
Rumi Handen, one of the panelists and an Italian instructor at BC, explored ideas of hybridization and identity in Scontro di Civiltà per un Ascensore in Piazza Vittorio by Amara Lakhous during her presentation.
“Even the concept of the book itself, a migrant reinterpretation of an Italian literary genre, is neither Italian nor foreign, but a completely new cultural product,” Handen said. “The novel itself is a hybrid—a very unusual detective novel that relies on alternating perspectives to find the truth.”
Clark said that overall, it was very exciting to hear his fellow students’ presentations.
“I’ve been so impressed with my peers’ work,” Clark said. “I mean, it’s so cool to know what they’re doing a joy to watch them share what they care about, you know, to share their passions because it makes me excited.”
Featured Image by Nicole Vagra / Heights Editor