The Librarian

The Critical Theory Certificate Program at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York in conjunction with The Center for the Humanities presents the fifth annual interdisciplinary conference on Critical Theory to be held May 5th-6th, 2017. This conference seeks to employ Critical Theory to examine the mutual relationship between history and fiction through a wide range of disciplines and theoretical approaches, including literary theory, psychoanalysis, identity theories, historiography, semiotics, philosophy, cultural studies, postcolonialism, gender studies, and political theory.

In the Poetics, Aristotle draws an explicit contrast between history and poetics, asserting “The historian tells what happened and the poet tells what might happen.” While Aristotle’s distinction proposes a clear demarcation between the two disciplines, subsequent schools of thought have recognized the interpolation of both genres, positing that a text, whether literary, ethical, or political, is a product of the historical context within which it was created. Conversely, just as the context of a work determines its creation, fiction often serves as a means of chronicling and reconstructing history. As historical narratives are refracted through various literary genres and artistic media, new interpretations of the same set of facts begin to emerge. This emergence of multiple and sometimes contradictory histories has made it more difficult than ever to delineate the boundary between fact and fiction. Yet it is often the fictional narratives that a society creates that define and shape its culture and historical memory. The integration of fiction and history thus serves as a means of engaging with and critiquing accepted historical interpretation, which in turn makes possible the emergence of new discourses.

This conference will have several sessions devoted to the work of W.G. Sebald

All of the events on Friday, May 5th will be held at the Graduate Center, CUNY (365 Fifth Avenue)

All of the events on Saturday, May 6th will be held at the New York Public Library Stephen A. Schwarzman Building (476 Fifth Avenue)

For more information, please e-mail fictionsofhistoryconference@gmail.com or call 212-817-2006.

This conference is free and open to the public. Registration is not required for Friday’s sessions, but you will need to make a reservation here to attend Stephen Greenblatt’s Keynote Lecture. You will also need to make a reservation here to attend the Saturday sessions at NYPL.

Conference Organizing Committee:

Jin Chang, Sara Salman, & Claire Sommers

Coordinator, Critical Theory Certificate & Director, Center for the Humanities:

André Aciman

Conference Co-Sponsors:

The Writers’ Institute, The Office of Public Programming, The Advanced Research Collaborative (ARC)The Doctoral Students’ Council, & Constance Old in memory of her brother Lloyd Old.


Andrés Olmedo Orejuela

We look forward to seeing you in May!