autobiography and excess 2020 : Autobiography: excess, self-expenditure
Call For Papers
19th International Meeting of the Scientific Observatory of Autobiographical Memory in
Written, Oral and Iconographic Form
23-24-25 June 2020
organised by the cultural association Mediapolis.Europa
in collaboration with
L’Istituto Centrale per i Beni Sonori e Audiovisivi ICBSA
[Central Institute for Audio and Audio-visual Assets]
la Biblioteca di storia moderna e contemporanea BSMC
[Modern and Contemporary History Library]
Via Michelangelo Caetani 32 - 00186 Rome
“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,
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
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,
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
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).
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.
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
23-24-25 June 2020- Roma, Palazzo Mattei
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 15 March 2020. 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 2020.
B) In regard to enrolment in the colloquium, once the proposal is accepted the fees are the
Before 10 April 2020: 110,00€
From 11 April to 10 May 2020: 130,00€
Enrolment cannot be accepted in loco.
Before 10 April 2020: 75,00€
From 11 April to 10 Mai 2020: 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)
Albert MINGELGRÜN, Universite Libre de Bruxelles
Giulia PELILLO-HESTERMEYER, Universitat Heidelberg
Anna TYLUSIŃSKA-KOWALSKA, Uniwersytet Warszawski
Irene MELICIANI, managing director Mediapolis.Europa