Appel à communication : « Gold in/and British Art and Literature »

Quentin_Massys_Nul_ne_peut_servir_deux_maitres-1280x1209In the wake of the 2009 conference on “the eloquence of colour” organized by the French society for word and image studies (S.A.I.T.), this 2014 interdisciplinary symposium wishes to examine the unique position of gold across British literature and the arts. Indeed gold is a pigment like no other. Its materiality inevitably conjures up a complex and paradoxical symbolism which typically negotiates tensions between the mythical and the political, the beautiful and the commercial, the sacred and the profane, the invisible and the tangible, the untarnishable and the ephemeral, virtue and lucre, the collective and the singular, the social and the private. “Gold in/and Art” therefore purports to continue the exploration of the dialogue between the arts inaugurated by previous S.A.I.T. conferences, while confronting such issues of artistic cross-fertilization with an analysis of the processes of valuing/devaluing/revaluing at work in British literature and art. Gold will be envisaged under all its forms, as mineral, colour, light and/or value—whether it be financial, ethical, mystical, philosophical, or aesthetic value. The conference theme therefore lends itself to a multiplicity of approaches which may be economic, historical, political, cultural, artistic, philosophical, literary and/or linguistic.

Taking as a point of departure Gérard-Georges Lemaire’s observation about gold’s omnipresence in the history of art and its renewed fascination among contemporary artists (see G.G. Lemaire, L’or dans l’art contemporain, Paris: Flammarion 2011; and exhibitions such as “Gold” in 2012 at the Belvedere in Vienna or “Going for Gold” in 2013 at the Seattle Art Museum), researchers are encouraged to examine British works of art/literature or writings on art/literature which give gold pride of place, either because they foreground gold as their primary material or because they capitalize on myths and legends about gold.

We are also interested in receiving proposals for papers studying the intersection between art and economics, building on the work of critics such as Jean-Jospeh Goux (L’art et l’argent : la rupture moderniste 1860-1920 Frivolité de la valeurSymbolic EconomiesThe Coiners of Language), Marc Shell (The Economy of LiteratureMoney, Language and ThoughtArt & Money), Catherine Gallagher (The Body Economic), Mary Poovey (Genres of the Credit Economy) or Regenia Gagnier (Individualism, Decadence and GlobalizationThe Insatiability of Human Wants: Economics and Aesthetics in Market SocietyIdylls of the Marketplace: Oscar Wilde and the Victorian Public).

Finally, from a political, philosophical, epistemological, moral, religious or spiritual point of view, it may be helpful to keep in mind Zarathustra’s comments on gold : “Tell me, pray: how came gold to the highest value? Because it is uncommon, and unprofiting, and beaming, and soft in lustre; it always bestoweth itself. Only as image of the highest virtue came gold to the highest value. Goldlike, beameth the glance of the bestower. Gold-lustre maketh peace between moon and sun” (Nietzsche, Thus Spake Zarathustra, chapter XXII). Indeed, gold has traditionally been used as a standard—of purity, value, soundness or excellence. But how has this notion been either consolidated or challenged in art and literature? Do we post-moderns still believe in the universal and eternal prestige of gold understood as a benchmark of value? Or has the possibility for such a consensus disappeared with the emergence of more diversified centres of power?

Possible topics may include but are not limited to:

•    The materiality of painting: the economy of pigments
•    The re-writings of Biblical stories or myths and legends in which gold plays a major part (the Golden Calf, Danae, King Midas, Croesus, Hercules in the Garden of the Hesperides, Jason and the Golden Fleece etc.)
•    Art and gold in utopias and dystopias
•    Numismatic fiction
•    Gold and religion – Gold and the mystic eye – Conversion vs. convertibility – Gold and light
•    Theories of art: the golden mean, the golden age, etc.
•    Representations of the artist’s creative alchemy
•    Symbolic intermedial economies: how does intermediality (i.e. artistic cross-fertilization) operate productively? What are the benefits/profits of such an intermedial dialogue for the work of art/the artist/the reader/the spectator?
•    Aesthetic revolutions and speculation – Economic crises and crises in representation – Modernism and money
•    The art world: artistic institutions, critics, and art dealers
•    Gold and the literary/artistic canon – Post-colonial perspectives on gold – Gold and gender: the “gilded cage” of womanhood, gendered approaches to gold – Gold and queer theory
•    Gold in artistic movements: Baroque art, Orientalism, Impressionnism, Japonism, the Aesthetic Movement, Art Nouveau, etc.

Please send your abstract with a short bio to Catherine Delyfer ( no later than January 30, 2014. Selections will be made by March 1st, 2014. Papers will be delivered in English.

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