AICED 22: Re-writing / Re-imagining the Past Conference

Country: Romania

City: Bucharest

Abstr. due: 29.03.2020

Dates: 04.06.20 — 06.06.20

Area Of Sciences: Humanities; Cultural science;

Organizing comittee e-mail:

Organizers: The English Department of the University of Bucharest


Rewriting historical and canonical texts has been a persistent tradition in literature; looking backwards – towards the past – was a hallmark of the Renaissance, Neo-Classicism, Romanticism, Victorian literature, Modernism and Postmodernism. Nancy Walker posits that “the practice of appropriating existing stories in one’s own work – borrowing, revising, re-contextualizing – has a long and distinguished history” (The Disobedient Writer: Women and Narrative Tradition, 1995). Some works that reimagine the past do so overtly, others covertly, but in both cases they inevitably “both obscure and encode other stories” (Molly Hite, The Other Side of the Story: Structures and Strategies of Contemporary Feminist Narratives, 1989). One accusation levelled at texts rewriting the past is that they are simply derivative and unoriginal, but in their act of revising, writers do not simply look back: they see with fresh eyes, use the lens of new critical directions and offer new dimensions to the past (Adrienne Rich, “When We Dead Awaken: Writing as Re-Vision”, College English 34, 1972). A.S. Byatt has talked about interesting paths that can be explored while telling stories about secrecy, delving deeper into what the past had to hide and revealing the baggage of history (‘Forefathers’, On Histories and Stories: Selected Essays, 2001).

Much recent scholarship has fruitfully traced the ways in which we construct narratives of the past and fill them with contemporary content or bend them to contemporary values. There remains, however, ample room for further exploring the afterlives of the past as constructed in the present. Re-imagining the past, as such, explores the imaginative reconstruction of the past in the writing of historians and in works of historical fiction. Rewriting reveals traces of the original, as interpreted by the author. It is a remnant of something that once was or has passed, but which continues to exist as echoes, relics, memories, or ghosts.

To paraphrase David Lowenthal in The Past is a Foreign Country Revisited (2015), some texts turn the past into a backdrop for imaginary characters, while others use the lives of actual historical figures or even omit, distort or add to the past. Some fictional versions of the past are paradigms of the present, others are strikingly different; both invent pasts for the readers' delight, yet also strive to help readers feel and know the past in an effort to shed light on new ways of reconceptualizing our relationship with the past. Such works often aestheticize the experience of cultural and historical displacement, and propose alternative forms of continuity and identity.

As such, we ask scholars to consider engagements with the past in terms of ongoing processes of reinvention, reproduction, and revision, as well as the reason why we choose to retell / rewrite / reimagine stories of the past. This conference invites papers that consider new ways of seeing the past, leading to a strengthening of or challenge to our understanding of the past, and productive and experimental ways of retelling, remaking and rebooting, resulting in new imaginaries that reconnect us to the past and are revealing for the present.

Possible topics may include (but are not limited to) the following:

  • Re-Imagining/re-writing various types of fiction / genres
  • Retellings of canonical texts
  • Intertextuality
  • Adaptation
  • Narrative approaches to the past
  • Afterlives of characters or authors
  • Reinvention and reproduction
  • Counter-narratives
  • Musical, visual, film retellings
  • Hauntology
  • Historical narratives in comics, film, and/or games.
  • Redefining identities through retelling, re-enactment, and revisionist histories (national identity, race, gender, and sexuality)
  • Appropriation, white-washing, and erasure in retelling
  • Recycling and re-imagining tropes and stereotypes
  • Remakes vs. sequels vs. reboots
  • The question of originality and artistry in adaptation
  • Memory and nostalgia
  • The social, political, and cultural implications of reinvention
  • Reimagining genres and aesthetics
  • Remixing and re-appropriation
  • The politics of remembering and representations of memory
  • Revising/Revisiting History
  • Historical fiction
  • Memory and Re-memory
  • Historiographic Metafiction
  • Revisitings of myth in reworkings, re-appropriations, and contestations of mythical tropes and figures
  • Writing Back from (or into) the Past: Literature, History and ideology
  • Historical drama/history plays, opera, and other historical re-enactments

Conference Web-Site: