Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Thoughts on the Sartre Conference

I can't say I saw too much of Memphis (mainly the neighborhood at Cooper/Young, Beale Street and the National Civil Rights Museum), but I can say that I saw a lot of good papers at the most recent North American Sartre Society meeting, and that I met a lot of good people.

Before going, I was struck by how the conference was organized: the papers were held on the University of Memphis campus, but there was also a performance of Sartre's No Exit at the Brooks Museum on Thursday night and the keynote addresses and dinner at the Civil Rights Museum. For most conference organizers, multiple destinations over a city as large as Memphis, pose a lot of logistical problems, but the NASS organizers pulled it off admirably.

The conference was an excellent time. The staged reading of No Exit was so strong that it was easy to forget that the actors were holding their scripts through parts. I would reference the director, but her name is not in the schedule, which is too bad: she deserves a lot of credit for her work.

The plenary session on the anniversary of the Critique de la raison dialectique, including talks by Robert Bernasconi, Ronald Aronson, and Thomas Flynn, was thought provoking, and during the question period, Flynn's quick wit carried the day. The panel on Aronson's Living without God was also a high point, with contributions from Adrian van den Hoven, Ron Santoni, and Matt Eshleman. To list all the people I met and all the good conversations I had would be a bit much, but I can note that Bill Martin convinced me that I should be reading the later Althusser, which I already knew, but was just trying to put off. Needless to say, when I returned home I ordered a copy.

Most importantly, the conference motivated me to keep working on Sartre and the questions and problems that I find in his work, that it is worth taking up a new project and seeing where it goes, and (almost) wherever it goes, the next Sartre society meeting will be willing to listen. The organizers, primarily (to my knowledge) Christine Daigle and Jonathan Judaken, deserve praise for their efforts to make the conference both welcoming and worthwhile.


Ideas Man, Ph.D. said...

It was a great conference and it was really good to meet you.

Devin Zane Shaw said...

It was good to meet you as well. We'll be seeing each other in March, no?