Event date: Monday 4 May 2009, 5.30 p.m. – 6.30 p.m.
Location: Faculty of Arts and Philosophy, Blandijnberg 2, Faculty Room
“Burying the Untombed Dead: Multidirectional Sites of Memory in La Seine était rouge” given by Professor Michael Rothberg (University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign)
“Dedicated to the victims of the October 17, 1961 massacre and to a number of individuals associated with the history and memory of the massacre, Leïla Sebbar’s novel La Seine était rouge: Paris, octobre 1961 (1999) self-consciously engages with questions of individual and collective memory. But the novel is by no means interested only in reconstructing the singular past of the police massacre. Like many others who have responded to the massacre, Sebbar clearly has her eye on a larger confluence of traumatic histories and memories. Besides providing a fragmented, but detailed, account of October 17 and its context, the novel also evokes numerous other histories, including the larger context of the Algerian War of Independence, the Second World War and Holocaust, the French war in Indochina, Napoleon’s invasion of Egypt, May ’68, and—perhaps most urgently—the Algerian Civil War of the 1990s. Written in the immediate wake of the 1997-1998 Papon trial, the novel returns again and again to the question of memorialization in order to announce the birth of a new subject of memory, albeit one built on a figure of classical provenance and crafted at a site of dense historical traffic. From its dedication page to its surprising conclusion, La Seine highlights the interaction between agents and sites of memory and asks what it might mean to lay the past to rest. Indeed, the novel might profitably be understood as a lesson for theorists of memory like Pierre Nora and Henry Rousso, who have lately begun to recoil in the face of the social force of remembrance. La Seine était rouge draws attention to the tense, if not broken, bonds between parents and children in order to explore those bonds in the name of an ethical project that I call ‘multidirectional memory.'”
Michael Rothberg is an Associate Professor of English and Director of the Unit for Criticism and Interpretive Theory at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Affiliated with the Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures and the Programs in Comparative Literature and Jewish Culture and Society, Rothberg works in the fields of critical theory and cultural studies, Holocaust studies, postcolonial studies, and contemporary literatures. His new book isMultidirectional Memory: Remembering the Holocaust in the Age of Decolonization, which is being published by Stanford University Press in their “Cultural Memory in the Present” series. Chapters from that book have appeared inCritical Inquiry, PMLA, and The Yale Journal of Criticism. He is also the author of Traumatic Realism: The Demands of Holocaust Representation (2000), and has co-edited The Holocaust: Theoretical Readings (2003) and Cary Nelson and the Struggle for the University: Poetry, Politics, and the Profession (2009). He is the founding editor of the online public forum Kritik (http://unitcrit.blogspot.com/).