Trans- Conference 2016

Welcome to the webpage of Trans-, the University of Toronto’s 26th international conference of the Centre for Comparative Literature, taking place on March 4-5, 2016.


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Additional funding has been generously provided by the Literature and Critical Theory Program, Victoria University and by the Robertson Davies Library.

With keynote addresses by:


W.J.T. Mitchell (University of Chicago), renowned author of such titles as Seeing Through Race and Cloning Terror: The War of Images, 9/11 to the Present, will be delivering a keynote address entitled “Salvaging Israel/Palestine:  Art, Collaboration, and the Binational State.” This lecture explores direct and indirect forms of collaborative work by contemporary Palestinian and Israeli artists as part of an attempt to imagine the possibility of resolving this long-standing conflict in a way that offers justice and a decent future for Palestinians, moral redemption for Israelis. Instead of positing a “one-state solution” as a future possibility, it analyzes the “one-state condition” that is the current reality in Israel/Palestine, and many difficult transactions, translations, and transferences that characterize that condition. The lecture reflects on current debates about the BDS (Boycott, Divest, Sanction) Movement, and the deeply contentious notions of “collaboration” and “normalization” that circulate on all sides of this conflict.

Linda & Michael Hutcheon (University of Toronto) are delivering a joint paper on opera and translation entitled “Operatic Transformation: Translation, Adaptation, Transladaptation.” From its beginnings, opera has existed in the multiple worlds of trans-: deploying everything from castrati to women in “trouser” roles, transforming familiar stories into translated words. This collaborative presentation will explore the reception of “#Uncle John,” a modern and exciting revision of “Don Giovanni,” created by Toronto Indie-opera director, Joel Ivany. The paper will introduce the recently coined term transladapatation through which Ivany has updated the still recognizable story of the rake Don Juan and written a new English text to the music, changing the class structure, the roles of characters, and their relationships with each other. The presentation will interrogate the process of transforming canonical operas and will inquire what does the difference in reception tell us about how far a “production” can go before it becomes an adaptation?

Our final keynote speaker will be John Paul Ricco (University of Toronto) delivering a paper entitled “Edging, Drawing, the Common.”  A body does not cease to transit. Bodies are exorbitant extremities, and not enclosed and discrete or “embodied” entities. Ontologically speaking, any material-physical thing that is open and always in excess of its limits is a body. Thus not only are there non-human and inorganic bodies, just as there are human bodies, but the matter of bodies and how they come to matter and mean, happens in those indeterminate and un-decidable zones of transition and transgression where it is often impossible to know where one body begins and another ends. Edging is the name that we might give for this sharing and spacing, there where bodies partake in a sense of the intimacy of the outside. In my paper I consider works by three contemporary artists: Francisco-Fernando Granados, Shaan Syed, and Sarah Kabot, in which a performative praxis of drawing traces the non-mediating line of the edge as the space-time of the common—its tense, tension and extension. In the public performance of repetitively tracing a facial profile (Granados), or a portrait of lost lover posted on city streets (Syed), or in which all of the lines in a public bathroom are shifted by half-an-inch (Kabot), these works open up spaces around bodies, and places and things. Indeterminate zones but never empty voids, these edgings are where appearing and disappearing, becoming and unbecoming persist as the immeasurably infinite relations that they are. The sense and experience (aisthesis) of the common lies in the pleasures and risks of our affinities to these transitive edges.