Decreations: A Graduate Symposium on the Work of Anne Carson

  • April 3-4, 2015
  • Princeton University

The range of Anne Carson’s work includes original poems, rigorous scholarly essays, novels in verse, operas, and translations; it resists persistent boundaries between the creative and the critical, the ancient and the contemporary, the visual and the verbal, and the literary and the academic, in an approach to cultural production that has attracted a diverse and international readership. This conference will invite participants to consider the work of Anne Carson as a locus for interdisciplinary engagement and intellectual collaboration, seeking to bring together scholars from fields including Comparative Literature, Classics, English, Canadian Studies, Linguistics, Film Studies, the Visual Arts and Art History to discuss the many facets of literary production to which Carson’s corpus gives form and the respect she has garnered through her facility in speaking to various fields of inquiry on their own terms. Bringing together faculty and students, we particularly intend to provide a forum for discussions of aspects of Carson’s literary production that might be elided by scholarship relying on a single methodology or literary tradition.

The title of Carson’s 2005 collection Decreation is a coinage of Simone Weil, for whom the word represented a “program for getting the self out of the way”; the “paradox” that “to tell is a function of self” is the concern of that book’s title essay, which places its author in a genealogy of women writers as diverse as Sappho and Marguerite Porete. Carson’s collages of imagistic, textual and theatric material are juxtaposed against a stark and dissatisfied lyrical subject; her frank identifications with the writers she reveres complement a confessional intimacy that speaks to everyday sublimity. If criticism and analysis are usually understood to break down the works they confront, “Decreations” addresses the readerly possibilities of texts that claim already to generate their own dissolution. In line with such questioning, this symposium will consider Carson’s deferrals to the texts she cites and translates alongside the coherence of her distinct perspective and style. We aim to interrogate and play on traditional ideas of reception and translation, influence and inheritance, allusion and displacement, in the context of a gathering of scholars as eclectic and complex as the work they seek to understand.

The conference is organized by Jessica O’Rourke-Suchoff (Comparative Literature), Ella Haselswerdt, (Classics), Mathura Umachandran (Classics), and Robert Barton (Comparative Literature).

The conference is sponsored by the Department of Classics, the Department of Comparative Literature, Postclassicisms, Seeger Center for Hellenic Studies, with the support of the Stanley J. Seeger Hellenic Fund, the Lewis Center for the Arts, IHUM, the Fund for Canadian Studies, the Department of English, Program in Translation Studies, the Program in Media and Modernity, and the Graduate School.



Friday, April 3

219 Aaron Burr Hall
Welcome and Introductory Remarks

219 Aaron Burr Hall

Panel I: The Divine and the Sublime

“Whacher is what she was.
She whached God and humans and moor wind and open night.
She whached eyes, stars, inside, outside, actual weather.
She whached the bars of time, which broke.
She whached the poor core of the world,
wide open.”
—Glass, Irony, and God

Respondent: Professor Jeff Dolven, Department of English

“Carson’s God: ‘The Truth About God’ and the Devotional Tradition”
Gabriel Bloomfield, Columbia University

“The Erotic Sublime: Carson and Kant”
Christopher Scott, University of California, Berkeley

Coffee and Refreshments
Aaron Burr Hall Mezzanine

219 Aaron Burr Hall

Artist Presentation:

“Vellum and Verse: The Complexity of Poetic Comics”
Bianca Stone

Respondent: Michael Hatch, Ph.D Candidate, Department of Art and Archeology

219 Aaron Burr Hall

Keynote Tango

“Anne Carson’s Tragic Forms”
Simon Critchley, Professor of Philosophy, The New School
Brooke Holmes, Professor of Classics, Princeton University

Aaron Burr Hall Mezzanine


Prospect House

Dinner for Panelists, Artists, and Respondents

Saturday, April 4

McCormick Hall Lobby

106 McCormick Hall

Panel II: Carson’s Lyric

“There is too much self in my writing.”
Economy of the Unlost

Respondent: Professor Sandra Bermann, Department of Comparative Literature

“Anne Carson’s The Beauty of the Husband and the Rhetorical Disorientation of Lyric”
Ella Brians, Princeton University

“Lyric Unsung: Genre and Negative Space in Anne Carson’s Fragments”
Jordan Burke, Yale Divinity School

“A poem about engagement”
Edwina Attlee, The London Consortium

106 McCormick Hall

Dance Presentation

“THINGING IT: Translating Anne Carson into Movement”
Rashaun Mitchell and Silas Reiner

Respondent: Professor Joshua Katz, Department of Classics

Upper Hyphen, East Pyne Hall


106 McCormick Hall

Panel III: Modes of Reading

“What do we learn we learn to notice everything.”

Respondent: Professor Sarah Chihaya, Department of English

“‘Either we will lie or if not not’: Recovery and Invention in Anne Carson”
Kevin Batton, University of California, Irvine

“Reading with Anne Carson”
Matthew Johnson, New York University

“Lyrical Numbers: Fact and Knowledge in Anne Carson’s Meta-Poetics”
Ayten Tartici, Yale University

McCormick Hall Lobby

Coffee and Refreshments

106 McCormick Hall

Panel IV: The Dis/Embodied

“The world is made of bodies”

Respondent: Mathura Umachandran, Ph.D Candidate, Department of Classics

“‘the person with raised hands and no mouth’: Disability and Translation in Nox”
Emily Rials, Cornell University

“Beyond the Sapphic Voice: Choral Reading in Anne Carson’s ‘Bracko'”
Erik Fredericksen, Princeton University

“Spectral Absences and Presences in Anne Carson’s Antigonick”
Hannah Silverblank, University of Oxford

106 McCormick Hall

Concluding Remarks

Upper Hyphen, East Pyne Hall

Closing Reception

For further information, see the conference website.