autobiography and excess 2021 : Autobiography: excess, self-expenditure
Call For Papers
Autobiography: excess, self-expenditure
19th International Meeting of the Scientific Observatory of Autobiographical Memory in Written, Oral and Iconographic Form
30 June 2021, 1-2 July
Academia Belgica, Via Omero 8
organised by the cultural association
in collaboration with
Magazine scintifique - Presses universitaires de Louvain
Via Omero 8- 00196 Roma
Preamble: In the current global situation due to Covid-19, the themes of excess, moderation, exaggeration, of ‘too much’, seem to be taking a particularly important place as we are forced to change our lifestyle. The limits imposed upon us may appear extreme to us, and yet even the old customs to which we compulsively adhered can be seen in a different light.
Proposals on this topic will be read with much interest.
“Although an entire intellectual tradition sees the flight of the soul out of its material bonds to be a positive good, another learned tradition that also goes back to ancient sources appeals to a different sense of the word ‘excess’ to designate that which goes beyond the correct proportions in the material order itself.” (Starobinski J. 2008, p. 75).
Breaking boundaries and excess constitute the prime movers of different narrations in the first person. How are these behaviours delineated in self-narration? In what way do they construct a person’s identity? With which arguments and in which relationship with the idea of Power?
With this call for papers we intend to invite proposals that consider self-expenditure and excess in autobiographical writings. That is, autobiographies by both ordinary people and recognised individuals, which are not supported, legitimated, by ideological plaudit, be it political, religious, etc.
Every culture sets ethical boundaries with which every individual confronts oneself. Crossing boundaries is allowed in certain liberating situations such as bacchanals or carnivals, but these are circumscribed in terms of time and space.
The unlimited and the infinite correspond to conceptions with different nuances: it is possible to go beyond recognised forms or to act in an infinite motus while denying the existence of boundaries.
Current parlance translates the idea of boundary using a vocabulary borrowed from geometry: measure, the right way, to be square, to be conclusive (that is, to remain within a circumscribed topic or area of action), etc. In medio stat virtus situates virtue in space. It is a locution of medieval scholastic philosophy that appropriated Aristotle’s conception.
Nicomachean Ethics, a posthumous publication by Aristotle (who lived from 384 or 383 to 322 BC), places at the centre of its reasoning endoxa, the common opinions of both ordinary and learned people. These endoxa are the boundaries that derive from society’s orientation. Aristotle does not necessarily share current opinions but appropriates them as the basis of social bonding. They appear as a behavioural diktat and have a pragmatic value. In Book II of Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle writes that virtue develops pragmatically: one learns how to build by building, how to play cithara by playing it, etc.
How is ethics conceived of? “this is concerned with emotions and actions, in which one can have excess or deficiency or a due mean. [...] Virtue, therefore is a mean state in the sense that it is able to hit the mean. [...] so this is another reason why excess and deficiency are a mark of vice, and observance of the mean a mark of virtue (Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, II, 6).
Different autobiographies embody a willingness to go beyond the recognised and shared boundaries.
It is possible to establish a certain distinction between the behaviour whereby a boundary is recognised and overcome, and the practice of excess as complete rejection of the boundary, such as a way of acting ad infinitum.
As Jean Starobinski reminds us (Starobinski J., 2008, p. 76), the term ‘excess’ in the Bible refers to the exit of life, excessus vitae. An excess that does not recognise boundaries is a serious threat to the social system. “The myth of Dom Juan came about at a moment in European history when the subject of the inconstancy of the human heart and the related subject of its various drives—feeling, knowing, dominating (libido sentienti, libido sciendi, libido dominandi)—were intensely debated by the moralists of the day” (Ibidem).
The two great myths of modernity, Faust and Don Giovanni, are condemned due to two excesses: libido sciendi and libido sentiendi. Already the Middle Ages deplored sapiens mundi. Ulysses in Dante’s Inferno is an example of this.
In fact, excess practised ad libitum aims at laying claim to an eternalisation of one’s own behaviour, a transcendentality, replacing another power.
The exhibition held at the Musée d’Orsay, Paris, on the occasion of the 200th anniversary of de Sade’s death (2014), which was organised on the basis of de Sade’s various epistolary evidence, was entitled Attaquer le soleil: that is, aspiring to deprive the universe of the vital star, using it to burn the universe itself. (Le Brun A., 2014, p. 19).
Many autobiographical narrations in Romanticism (relating to dandyism, satanism, alcoholism, and others) would make excess the centre of their own existential narration.
In “Être comme excès”, Rocco Ronchi writes: “what opens to me the immensity in which I lose myself is the being as excess, a being deprived of material reality, throbbing, rhythmical – a being which has in itself an integral transcendence, a being that is uncontainable in the shape of identity and exceeds the space that reveals apophantic judgement. This being is not immobile, its manner of being – its essence in the verbal sense – rightly resides in the fact of transcending, of rotating outside of itself (I am borrowing this sentence from Marc Bloch), of getting lost and challenging oneself” (Ronchi R., 2000, p. 8).
The term ‘self-expenditure,’ therefore, has a particular role and different significant values. In sport, self-expenditure can be identified with what is at stake, the challenge, the individual risk outside of the great apparatuses.
“The Notion of Expenditure” by Georges Bataille (1933) examines how society imposes productivity in its entire spectrum. Society recognises the right to acquire, conserve or consume rationally, but it excludes the principle of unproductive expenditure (Bataille G., 1985, p.137). It is the principle of loss, that is, of unconditioned expenditure (Ibid., p.169). Societies in general, and the Western one due to their economic structure, do not want to squander the essence of their own assets and regard the person as an asset, a capital.
Acting in itself must not be in the service of any return or recompense. These are arguments to which Bataille returns in various writings (e.g. On Nietzsche, 1945). Concepts such as useful/useless, gratuitous/interested, arbitrary/imposed, are involved.
Is this a form of revolt? According to Camus, revolt embodies the very identity of the individual, his cogito (Camus A., 1951). The rebel does not recognise impositions: he is not a revolutionary and does not conceive of systems (revolution meaning strategic and preconceived acting aimed at achieving an ideal that overturns the status quo). The rebel fights against any ideological barrier and cage. Camus evokes the figures of Cain, de Sade, Saint-Just, Lautréamont, Rimbaud, Bakunin, Nietzsche.
The idea of anti-utilitarianism is ennobling. Self-expenditure without concatenations is in many respects a chimera. A grade-zero behaviour, without residues, cannot exist.
Nevertheless, taking shelter in the necessity of being productive (in every sense) may in turn constitute a form of power. Being losers may mean annihilating the power that the Other exerts on ourselves (Lippi 2008, p. 62).
Years ago, in an article published in Il Tempo (Pasolini P. P., 1973), Pasolini reviewed the autobiography of a Russian pilgrim, associating him with Lazarillo de Tormes. The pilgrim about whom Pasolini writes (who we understand from the text was 33 years of age in 1859) wanders with the prayer book Philokalia (love of the beautiful) and recounts his wanderings to a spiritual father. Pasolini writes that the pilgrim and Lazarillo remain invincible in their resigned nature that annihilates the very idea of power due to excess of passivity: “There is nothing that proves power wrong so much as Resignation, which is actually a refusal of power in any form (that is, it makes it what it actually is, namely an illusion)”.
The implications of self-expenditure and the practice of excess are manifold, as you can see.
With this call for papers we intend to investigate the relationship between autobiographical narration as an expression of going beyond, as a pursuit of the extreme in relation to the concept of boundary, or as a practice of excess, understanding how, stated or implied, these components constitute the framework of the argument of the writing examined.
Some biographical references
ANONYMOUS, The Way of a Pilgrim: Candid Tales of a Wanderer to His Spiritual Father, translated by Anna Zaranko with an introduction by Andrew Louth, Penguin Books, 2017.
ARISTOTLE, Nicomachean Ethics, translated by H. Rackham, Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann Ltd., 1934. [Fourth century BC].
Georges BATAILLE, “The Notion of Expenditure” in Visions of Excess: selected writings, 1927– 1939, edited by Allan Stoekl, translated by Allan Stoekl with Carl R. Lovitt and Donald M. Leslie, University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, MN, 1985 (Originally published in La part Maudite, Paris, Points, 1933). http://itech.fgcu.edu/faculty/bhobbs/Bataille-the-Notion-of-Expenditure.pdf
Julien BEAUFILS, Solenne CAROF, Anne SEITZ et Philipp SIEGERT, « Excès et sobriété. Construire, pratiquer et représenter la mesure et la démesure. Introduction », Trajectoires [En ligne], 10 | 2016, mis en ligne le 01 décembre 2016, consulté le 18 octobre 2020. URL :
http://journals.openedition.org/trajectoires/2172 ; DOI : https://doi.org/10.4000/trajectoires.2172
Albert CAMUS, The Rebel, translated by Anthony Bower, London, Penguin Books, 2000.
Benvenuto CELLINI, Vita di Benvenuto Cellini, edited by Orazio Bacci, Firenze, Sansoni, 1901. (Written between 1558 and November1562). https://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/bpt6k1118599/f4.image
CASANOVA, Histoire de ma vie, Paris, Livre de Poche, 2004.
Mémoires de J. Casanova de Seingalt, écrits par lui-même, written in French, between 1789 and 1798, published posthumously in1825. https://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/bpt6k314854/f1.image vv. I-
Thomas DE QUINCEY, Confessions of an English Opium-Eater, 1821. http://www.gutenberg.org/files/2040/2040-h/2040-h.htm
Annie LE BRUN, SADE-Attaquer le soleil, Paris, Musée d’Orsay-Gallimard, 2014.
Silvia LIPPI, “De la dépense improductive à la jouissance « bavarde»”, in Transgressions. Bataille, Lacan, edited by S. LIPPI, Toulouse, ERES, “Point Hors Ligne”, 2008, pp. 62-71.
Marie José MONDZAIN, De l’excès, Théatre/Public 178.
P. P. PASOLINI, “‘Come pregare?’ ‘Come mangiare?’ Esperienze di un Prete e di un Letterato”, in
Il Tempo, 11 February1973.
Rocco RONCHI, “Une ontologie de l'excès”, Lignes, 2000/1 (n° 1), pp. 107-124. DOI : 10.3917/lignes1.001.0107. URL: https://www.cairn.info/revue-lignes1-2000-1-page-107.htm9
Jean STAROBINSKI, “Registers of Excess,” in Enchantment: The Seductress in Opera, translated by
C. Jon Delogu, New York, Columbia University Press, 2008. (Originally published as Les enchantresses, Paris, Seuil, 2005).
Lionel TERRAY, Les conquérants de l’inutile: des Alpes à l’Annapurna, Paris, Gallimard, 1961.
Autobiography: excess, self-expenditure
30 June – 1, 2 July 2021 - Rome
LANGUAGES ADMITTED FOR THE INTERVENTIONS: English, French, Italian, Spanish. Every speaker will speak in their chosen language; there will be no simultaneous translation. A rough passive understanding would be desirable.
A) The deadline for the submission of papers is 25 March 2021. Candidates are asked to present an abstract of up to 250 words, with citation of two reference texts, and a brief curriculum vitae of up to
100 words, with possible mention of two publications, be they articles or books. These must be submitted online on the conference registration page of the http://mediapoliseuropa.com/ Website.
The scientific committee will read and select every proposal that will be sent to the conference registration page of the http://mediapoliseuropa.com/ Website. For any information, please contact the following: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com,
Notification of the accepted proposals will be given by 30 March 2021.
B) In regard to enrolment in the colloquium, once the proposal is accepted the fees are the following:
Before 10 April 2021: 110,00€
From 11 April to 10 May 2021: 130,00€ Enrolment cannot be accepted in loco.
Before 10 April 2021: 75,00€
From 11 April to 10 Mai 2021: 90,00€ Enrolment cannot be accepted in loco.
C) For information on registration fees, past symposia, the association’s activities, and the organising and scientific teams, please refer to our Website:
The association Mediapolis.Europa contributes to the publication of the journal Mnemosyne, o la costruzionedel senso, Presses universitaires de Louvain, www.i6doc.com,
Indexed a scientific journal in:
Beatrice BARBALATO, Mediapolis.Europa May CHEHAB, Université de Chypre Fabio CISMONDI, Euro Fusion
Antonio CASTILLO GÓMEZ, univ. Alcala de Henares (Madrid)
Giulia PELILLO-HESTERMEYER, Universitat Heidelberg Anna TYLUSIŃSKA-KOWALSKA, Uniwersytet Warszawski
Irene MELICIANI, managing director Mediapolis.Europa