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Jamesian Cultural Anxiety in the East and in the West

The 7th International Conference of the Henry James Society
July 5–8, 2017 - Seoul, South Korea

Hippias: All of you who are here present I reckon to be kinsmen and friends and
fellow-citizens, by nature and not by law [convention]; for by nature like is akin
to like, whereas law is the tyrant of mankind, and often compels us to do many
things which are against nature.
— Plato: Protagoras

We come across with periodization problems that Henry James offers when we read the ‘Introduction’ to Modern Korean Literature: An Anthology, 1908-1965 : “A definite demarcation line for the start or end of a literary movement or period is not usually easy to draw. Who today dares put forward the year 1900 as the obvious commencement of twentieth-century English or French literature, or as the very last year of the nineteenth-century literature? Henry James, for example, died in 1916 and wrote most of his major works before 1899 except his last three great novels […] who would classify him without qualm as a nineteenth-century writer or an ‘eminent Victorian’? A cultural phenomenon, an artistic tendency or a literary epoch is never artificially created, nor factitiously terminated.”

We can suggest two implications in the above passage: first, the periodization (1908-1965) given refers to modern Korean literature which covers colonial (1910-1945) and post-colonial periods; secondly, the literary position of Henry James is subtly, and specifically linked to the complex multi-faceted period of Korean culture which reveals the difficulty of making a binarist demarcation of tradition and modernity. It seems to be that Jamesian plurality is something to be connected to universal values that apply across cultures, somewhat ironically, due to the conflicting classifications of his works within literary history.

But what defines Jamesian cultural space? Or, what could be the true nature of this universal perspective? This question invites us to think about a dilemma of James’s becoming cosmopolite: “IT is hard to say exactly what is the profit of comparing one race with another, and weighing in opposed groups the manners and customs of neighbouring countries; but it is certain that as we move about the world we constantly indulge in this exercise. This is especially the case if we happen to be infected with the baleful spirit of the cosmopolite—that uncomfortable consequence of seeing many lands and feeling at home in none.” The “habit of comparing” as cosmopolite exercise generates anxieties, the cosmopolitan moral awareness combined with a keen sense of cultural conditions, arising from the “uncomfortable consequence of seeing many lands and feeling at home in none.”

Our 2017 conference theme “Jamesian Cultural Anxiety in the East and in the West” will focus on different aspects and perspectives of Jamesian ‘cosmopolite’ exercise, to explore how Jamesian cultural anxieties generate essential human issues, and to newly conceive and relocate Henry James studies across the spaces of the East and the West.

The conference location Korea, an especially apt site to consider overlapping encounters between Western cultures and other Asian forces of modernity, asks us to consider how contemporary Henry
James studies naturally call for global analyses and responses that question our western conceptions of Jamesian cultural anxieties in the process of understanding the evolution of human consciousness.

Those attending the 2017 conference will also be invited to the first performance of The Turn of the Screw in opera-theatre form on the 3rd day (7th July 2017) of the conference.

Papers are invited on topics related, but not limited, to:

A. Framing Jamesian cultural anxieties
    - The genesis, transformation, development of cultural anxieties
    - Cultural anxieties as imaginative consciousness
    - Anxiety as a sense of location and direction
    - Anxiety as a means of cultural connection and transformation
    - Relation(s) as a system of interrelating values
    - Cultural context as theoretical context
    - Representations of colonial/post-colonial others
    - Cosmopolite ethics of cultural anxieties

B. Jamesian cultural identity and the existence of ‘others’
    - Self-consciousness and self-estrangement
    - Biographies and autobiography
    - Henry James “a native of the James family”
    - James and women writers
    - Texts and national contexts
    - Henry James, a cultural entrepreneur?

C. What defines :
    - Cultural space
    - Tradition and modernity
    - Universal aesthetics or enculturated aesthetics
    - Cultural imperialism and cultural nationalism
    - City and society in Henry James
    - Colonial/post-colonial others
    - Cosmopolitan habitus
    - Colonialism, imperialism, anti-colonialism, and orientalism

D. Aesthetics, consciousness and ethics
    - Working about beauty and identity
    - The enigmatic and the pragmatic
    - “Prefaces” as theoretical commitments and frameworks
    - Art criticism and the art of the novel
    - Cultural malaise, consciousness and morality
    - Literary criticism, theatrical criticism, and visual arts criticism
    - Aesthetic dynamics
    - Mapping relationships to cultural anxieties as modernist aesthetic

E. Comparison Workshops: affect, appropriation, adaptation, influence
    - Jamesian cultural act as “cosmopolite exercise” in terms of scope and method
    - Varieties of social, historical mapping of cultural anxieties in terms of themes and
      aesthetics: James and American writers, James in/and Asian writers, James and
      English writers, James and European writers, James and French writers …
    - Jamesian cultural relativism and universal humanism: how to make cross-cultural,
      inter-cultural dialogues between the East and the West

Full Panels on the conference program will run for 90 minutes, to accommodate three 20 minute papers and allow sufficient time for questions and discussion afterward. Proposals should include title, 300-word abstract, contact details (full name, professional affiliation, address, and email) and professional biodata (100 words). Participants are required to pre-register for a workshop.

Proposals for individual papers and complete panels should be addressed to conference organizer Dr. Choon-Hee Kim by 28 February 2017 at eureka@snu.ac.kr

Conference languages: English, French, Korean

For specific questions regarding type of sessions, submission guidelines, please contact: Dr. Joseph Yosup Kim (henryjames_ks@naver.com).