“The Figure of the Author in the Short Story in English” Conference last week at the University of Angers in France was a real pleasure for me. I was honored to be the keynote speaker, opening the conference on Friday morning with a presentation entitled, “Why Many Authors Like Short Stories and Many Readers Do Not.” The Journal of the Short Story in English, published by Presses de l’Universite Angers plans to publish the essay, so I cannot post it on this blog. However, the citations from which I developed the essay have all been posted in the past month. I will let you know when the issue of the journal featuring presentations at the conference is available.
Sponsored jointly by the University of Angers and Edge Hill University in England, the conference also featured British writer Toby Litt, who read one of his most recent stories to end the conference on Saturday afternoon. A number of scholars from England, America, Canada, Belgium, Iran, Poland, Ireland, Romania, and elsewhere gave presentations on the relationship between the author and the work, focusing on stories by Ali Smith, Angela Carter, Margaret Atwood, John Fowles, Katherine Mansfield, George Saunders, and others.
I usually have at least one confrontation at these conferences, for my own approach to studying the short story differs from the trendy cultural/social approach nowadays. It was the following comment that kicked off some negative reaction from one academic: “Many current literature students have been taught to read for social themes, political issues, and cultural contexts. My hope is that my colleagues, especially those just now entering the profession, will move past the jargon of their graduate seminars, rediscover their love of literature, and teach with passion how artists create human interactions that no other speech acts can, especially in that most beautiful, but most underrated literary genre—the short story.”
The hosts of the conference, Michelle Ryan-Sautour, of University of Angers, and Ailsa Cox, of Edge Hill University, made all the participants most welcome. It was one of the most cordial and intimate conferences I have ever attended. The wonderful French food and wine contributed not a little to the pleasure, as you might imagine. The banquet on Friday night as a special treat, held at a unique restaurant called LES CAVES DE LA GENEVERAIE, which is actually in a series of interrelated caves in a farming area outside of Angers. You can read about it at http://genevraie.troglodyte.infor
It was a pleasure to have my eldest daughter on the trip with me. We spent four days in Paris after the three days in Angers, seeing the usual sights. I am posting a few pictures, one of me in front of the bookstore Shakespeare and Company, which is only a few blocks from our hotel on the Left Bank in the Latin Quarter, near the Sorbonne and Notre Dame. Pardon the inevitable postings of a tourist.
I will post an entry next week on the guest short story writer at the conference, Toby Litt.