The Ahmadieh Family Lecture Hall

Smith Warehouse, Bay 4

April 1-2, 2022

Organized by PAL – Duke’s Center for Philosophy, Arts, and Literature

Supported by FHI – The Franklin Humanities Institute

Friday 1 April

9:00 a.m.        Catered breakfast for participants

9:30 a.m.        Welcome by Professor Ranjana Khanna (Duke, Director of the FHI)

9:35 a.m.        Presentation of conference, PAL – Toril Moi. Introduction of James Wood.

9:45 -11:00 a.m.  Panel 1: Personal Writing – Experiments and Experience

Heather Love (UPenn): “Moments of Personal Writing in Classic Queer Theory”

This talk will consider the uses of the personal in the first generation of queer theory. Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick wrote, “Queer can only signify properly in the first person,” making space for the emergence of an autobiographical “I” in much of this writing. At nearly the same moment, and equally influentially, Judith Butler, citing Nietzsche, claimed that there is no “doer behind the deed.” This essay considers this paradox, with reference to the combination of anti-foundationalism, self-exposure, and vicarity in Susan Stryker’s 1993 essay, “My Words to Victor Frankenstein Above the Village of Chamounix: Performing Transgender Rage.”

Marta Figlerowicz (Yale): “Autofiction, Anthropology, and the Other.” 

I will consider autofiction through the prism of the recent experimental turn in anthropology, with which it ostensibly shares many formal features. 


11:15 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.  Panel 2: Autotheory

Robyn Wiegman (Duke): “Autotheory’s (Auto)Fictions”

I will be speaking about the relationship between autotheory and autofiction in order to take up the debate alive in both lineages about embodied experience and poststructuralist theory.

James Cobb (UNC-Chapel Hill): “The Existential Turn in Black Autotheory”

In reading Frank Wilderson’s Afropessimism, I will look at how the black studies theorist at once takes up himself and the generic black subject as an object of contemplation and where and how we figure the boundaries between these two identities.

1:30 – 2:30 p.m. – Catered lunch for participants

2:30 – 4:30 p.mReading Together (1): 

The reading group of the symposium: An informal collective discussion of a literary work. All participants are encouraged to read the book in advance.

Tope Folarin (Georgetown) will lead discussion of his novel A Particular Kind of Black Man.

5:30 – 7:30 p.m. – Reception for speakers and participants. Venue TBA.

Saturday 2 April

9:00 a.m. Catered breakfast for participants

9:30 – 10:45 a.m: Panel 3: Thinking About Fiction and the Self

Claus Andersen (UW-Madison): “Is Autofiction Fictional? The Case of Knausgård”

Karl Ove Knausgård’s My Struggle is the pinnacle of a current autofictional trend. Through an analysis of Knausgård’s extensive use of details and his radical character narration, I propose that My Struggle provides a blueprint for understanding autofictional novels more broadly, where the genre designation “novel” neither undermines the autobiographical aspect nor the commitment to reality. 

Yi-Ping Ong (Hopkins): “The Hum of the Own: Kierkegaard, Knausgård, and Nelson on Experience in the Present”

What does it mean to reveal or disclose one’s self in our present age? For writers such as Kierkegaard, Knausgård, and Nelson, the task of literature is to enact self-revelation in a world in which we are becoming unreal to ourselves and to each other.


11:00 p.m. – 1:15 p.m.  Panel 4: The Past and Future of Autofiction

Toril Moi (Duke): “Autofiction: Something New in Literary History?”

Does Karl Ove Knausgård My Struggle constitute a break with the century-old tradition of f modernism? Is it a kind of modernism? Does it inaugurate something new in literary history? Does it matter? What is the new anyway? 

Tope Folarin (Georgetown): “The Future of Autofiction.” 

In my talk I will examine if autofiction is a viable strand of contemporary literature or merely a temporary response to various modern concerns. And I will examine how writers from marginalized communities have begun to reshape and remake autofiction. 

1:15 – 2:00 p.m. – Catered lunch for participants

2:00 4:00 p.m. Reading Together (2)

The reading group of the symposium continues. An informal collective discussion of a literary work. All participants are encouraged to read the book in advance.

James Wood (Harvard, The New Yorker) will lead a discussion of Annie Ernaux’s The Years (Les Années)

4:30 – 5:00 p.m.

Final discussion. What have we learned from our two days together? What’s next?