Draper Student Maria Slautina on Attending the Fifth Biennial French Graduate Conference “Authority and Authorship” at Johns Hopkins University

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In October I attended the Fifth Biennial French Graduate Conference “Authority and Authorship” at Johns Hopkins University. My background in medieval French literature and authorship lead me to an interest in global medievalism, and as a result, in global comparative literature. It can be very illuminating to explore how people with different backgrounds and histories deal with the same problems. In the paper I presented, I looked into how Russian author Andrei Makine and Japanese author Akira Mizubayashi resolve problems of authority while writing in French, a foreign language for both. I wanted to understand what lead them each to chose French as their adopted language, and how this choice then influenced their voice as authors.

Though this research fits within the field of literature, it’s also close to the art history project that I have been developing during my studies at Draper. I’m exploring the notion of creativity in the context of contemporary societies in flux. How much relevance is there today for the idea of national arts, music and literature? How do we define an artist who is born in one country, grows up in another, and is creatively active in a third? How does the act of moving abroad or traveling between different places influence creativity? Finally, what does travel do to previously conventional perspectives? Do people start to create because of the experience of migration, perhaps as a way to deal with discomfort or anxiety? Or are they inspired by new acquaintances? How do the new forms of creativity influence actual art spaces and museums?

At the conference I was pleased to find myself in a thriving community of young scholars from around the world. Canadian, French, Australian and American graduate students and researchers came together for fascinating discussions about authorship, translation and the figure of the author in a wide range of disciplines.

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