CfP: Picturing the Family: Media, Narrative, Memory (Event: London, 07/2014); DL: 30.11.2013

Birkbeck, University of London (Web)

Time: 10-11 July 2014
Venue: London
Deadline: 30.11.2013

This conference will set out to explore how concepts of family have been acted out, reinvented, or deconstructed, through various media including the visual arts, literature, and museum exhibitions, across the centuries.

The family picture will be considered both in its figurative and artefactual forms. We will look at the significance of the family picture in literary works or films, and we will consider alternative concepts of family and kinship as pictured in paintings, photographs, graphic novels, and other visual media. We are interested in media transfers, the question of what happens to family pictures when they are included in literary or visual narratives whether these are autobiographical or fictional. We aim to explore how different media reproduce or replace the family picture, or evoke it once it becomes lost (e.g. through ekphrasis). We are also interested in the types of narratives that are created in museums, social media and family albums, through displays of family pictures and portraits.

Key questions to be examined will include: what are the changing conventions of the family picture and how do they reflect the changing conceptions of the institution of the family? Who is the addressee of the family portrait? How do family narratives and family pictures inform each other? What is the role of family pictures in individual and cultural memory? Is the family a privileged site of memorial transmission (Aleida Assmann, Marianne Hirsch)? Has it become the central trope through which national history is framed? What role do family pictures play within other cultural forms, e.g. in literature or film? Can other cultural forms offer alternatives to the kinds of family portrait we associate with photography?

We call for papers in English from across the disciplines and periods, as we wish to consider how the notion of ‘family’ translates across time, through various ways of picturing it.

Please send an abstract of no more than 400 words to the organising committee at the following email address: by 30 November 2013. We hope to publish a selection of the papers in due course.

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