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Nudité(s)

March 31, 2023 @ 8:00 am April 1, 2023 @ 6:00 pm

How does one go from lost innocence in Baudelaire’s “J’aime le souvenir de ces époques nues” to the cover of the magazine Lui? What differentiates a nude scene in Blier’s Les Valseuses from a nude study by Laure Albin-Guillot? What links Delacroix’s La Liberté guidant le peuple to a FEMEN demonstration in Paris? Whatever the answers to these questions may be, the phenomenon of nudity begs examination from multiple angles, prompting one to question one’s typical modes of reading.

In a traditional sense, nudity describes a state without clothes. In English, there is a distinction between the adjective naked, a state of nudity experienced for oneself in spite of standards, and nude, a state of nudity mediated by the glance and desire of others. Such nuances beget others: when a person is naked, what do we see? Given a naked voice, what do we hear?

To what extent is nudity a question of gesture, more implicit than explicit, which reveals or uncovers? Think of the covered breast in Molière’s Tartuffe and the draft that is Baudelaire’s “Mon coeur mis à nu.” The potential applications appear limitless, whether they be religious, moral, political, or aesthetic. Nudity crystallizes the morals of an era; for this reason, it is highly contextual. 

During the Renaissance, at the discovery of the New World, nudity was linked to strangeness. One may recall Montaigne’s famous phrase, “Mais quoi! Ils ne portent point de hauts-de-chausses.” Jean de Léry’s L’Histoire d’un voyage fait en la terre du Brésil shows the tension between eroticism and transgression when French colonizers tried to dress enslaved Brazilian women. In the early modern period, Louis Antoine de Bougainville’s Voyage autour du monde associates masculine nudity with those who leave European society.

            In Les Bijoux indiscrets, Diderot makes nudity function as a metaphor for the quest for essence through unveiling, a metaphor amplified by the libertine rhetoric concerning masks and truth. In the nineteenth century, nudity in literature acquired another dimension in the poetry of Rimbaud, where it can be associated with the deformity of a Vénus anadyomène. In autobiographical narratives, writing is often presented as a form of nakedness – that which Hervé Guibert explores at the crossroads of literature and photography and which is the subject of recent debates surrounding autofiction. 

Today, in the French and Francophone domains, nudity is sometimes a recognized, valid sub-genre of photography. At other times, it is an aesthetic choice in theater and performance, a political weapon, an economic and digital issue with respect to censorship exercised by certain private companies like Instagram, or an erotic object with respect to the practice of sending “nudes” and its commodifications.

Nudities lead us to question the gaze as a normative power, for they refer to facts whose social and cultural implications are undeniable. The variation of nudity’s standards and margins across time, space, society, age, and sex is evidence of this. An anthropological and ethnic phenomenon, nudities, especially the “nudité du visage” (Lévinas), problematize our responsibility toward ourselves as much as toward others. Does this make non-human nudity impossible?  

Far from having shown everything, nudity is resolutely plural in nature, and we hope that this colloquium dedicated to the question of nudities in French and Francophone spaces will help us unveil its secrets.  

Paper topics may include –but are not limited to– the following:

·     Nudity in French and Francophone literature

·     Nudity in art history, visual art, and performing arts in French and Francophone spheres (sacralization/vulgarization)

·    Gender and Porn Studies  

·     Nudity and medicine

·     Nudity and ethnology

·     Nudity and phenomenology

·     Nudity and the non-human

The conference will be held in-person at Johns Hopkins University (Homewood Campus) in Baltimore. Professor Pierre-Marc de Biasi will be the keynote speaker. Paper proposals (approximately 300 words), written in French or English, accompanied by a brief biographical note (150 words maximum) should be sent, before 12/12/20222, to the following address: frenchgraduateconference2023@live.johnshopkins.edu

Nudités