- ACUME European Thematic Network -


Writing and Visualising War:

To Bear Witness as a Complex Act

University of Giessen, 24-25 August 2005

The first Acume conference on “Memories and Representations of wars: a comparison between WW1 and WW2” (Bologna, September 2003) aimed to discuss the crucial role played by diverse, conflicting and contrasting memories of the same, tragic event. This second conference intends to investigate  why and how in different arts and literary genres there is a constant tension between the ethical dimension of bearing witness and the unavoidable dynamics induced by the various codes of representations. The idea is to carefully analyse the various forms of writing and visualising war; especially, speakers will be asked to focus on the complex relation between the ethical and aesthetical dimension embedded in the act of representing the war experience.

The conference will investigate the theme of “Writing and Visualising War” in relation to:

-          Literature/literary genres and war representation (biography; autobiography; novel; memoirs; letters; journals);

-          Representations of war in arts and media (painting, manifestos, photography, cinema, radio, television)

The following key-words will provide guiding ‘fils rouges’ for all contributions:

-          meta-memory (to acknowledge – or not – that memory is  a  more or less conscious construction  built through specific processes);

-          manipulation (the way each genre or medium of representation conditions the act of remembering and representing war; the underpinning role of the social, political and historical context);

-          ethic/aesthetic (the question of untellability/tellability of the war experience; ethical value of bearing witness and the making of ‘a work of art’);

-          spectacularisation/fascination (ambiguities in writing/visualising the cruellest aspects of war: sensationalism, voyeurism, sellability)


University of Giessen, 24-25 August 2005
Castle Rauischholzhausen


Tuesday, 23 August

  Arrival of Participants

07:00 p.m.

Welcome and Dinner

Wednesday, 24 August
09.00 a.m.

Welcome and Introductory Remarks

·        Ansgar Nünning, University of Giessen

·        Vita Fortunati, University of Bologna and ETNP ACUME


9.30 a.m. – 12.30

First Section: Witnessing and Representing War

Chair, Ansgar Nünning

·        Max Saunders, Trauma and Representability in Autobiographical and Fictional Narratives of WW1 and WW1

·        Astrid Erll, Witnessing War in Media Cultures

·        C(h)ris Reyns-Chikuma, Malraux s' Noyers d'Altenburg: Dialogue Beyond the 2 World Wars

·        Geert Bulens, Envisioning the future of a war-torn continent, in free verse


03.00 – 06.00 p.m. 

Second Section: Forms and Genres of Remembering the Holocaust and Second World War

Chair, Adriana Corrado

·        Roberto Rizzo, The Poet of a Lost Generation: Images of War as Metaphors of Nothingness in Wolfang Borchert’s Schneegeschichten

·        Raul Calzoni, Aesthetical and Ethical Questions of Witnessing the Holocaust in the Documentary Works of Alexander Kluge and Peter Weiss

·        Andrea Birk, The dark shadow of Nazism in contemporary German literature

·        Vera Nünning & Jochen Mevius, Remembering the Battle of Britain

Thursday, 25 August
9.30 a.m. – 12.30

Third  Section, Media of War Experience

Chair, Astrid Erll

·        Horst Carl, War and the History of Experience

·        Vita Fortunati, Photographic Icons of War as  Readjusted documents

·        Elena Lamberti, Telling or Making History? Novels, memoirs and documentaries on the Spanish War

·        Dan Todman, On representation of the First World War in British popular culture from 1914-2000 (title to be confirmed)

02.30 - 04.00 p.m. Fourth Section: Gendered Memories of War

Chair: Cesare Giacobazzi

·        Diederik Oostdijk, James Dickey’s Hypermasculinity

·        Annamaria Lamarra, Women, Wars and the Crisis of Masculinity (title to be confirmed)