Tuesday, May 25, 4:00 pm - 5:00 pm, 2010

A conversation with Laura Wittman, Stanford Professor of French and Italian Literature, about Georges Bataille.

Laura Wittman

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Outro music: Radio Head, "Pulk/Pull Revolving Doors"

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Laura Wittman primarily works on 19th- and 20th-century Italian and French literature in a comparative perspective, and in particular is interested in connections between modernity, a new spirituality, the twentieth century religion of politics, and the literary expressions thereof. She is also interested in exploring the role of the ineffable, the mystical, and the body in modern poetry and philosophy.

She is currently working on a book entitled Mourning, Modernity, and the Invention of the Unknown Soldier Memorial in World-War-One Italy and France. It explores the creation and reception of the Unknown Soldier Memorial as an emblem for modern mourning, from a cultural, historical, and literary perspective. Bringing together fiction, poetry, popular culture, newspaper accounts, and wartime correspondence, the book argues that the Unknown Soldier Memorial establishes a connection between embodiment and an identity that is both socially and spiritually precarious, yet expressive of a carnal generality or common mortality upon which, it is hoped, a modern ethics and a new symbolic language can be built.

Laura Wittman is the editor of a special issue of the Romanic Review entitled Italy and France: Imagined Geographies, as well as the co-editor of an anthology of Futurist manifestos and literary works forthcoming with Yale University Press in June 2009. She has published articles on Marinetti, Fogazzaro, Ungaretti, Montale, and Sereni, as well as on decadent-era culture.

She received her Ph.D. in 2001 from Yale University where she wrote a dissertation entitled "Mystics Without God: Spirituality and Form in Italian and French Modernism," an analysis of the historical and intellectual context for the self-descriptive use of the term "mystic without God" in the works of Gabriele d'Annununzio and Paul Valéry.