HomeBoris Vian: an Artist “Outside the Norm”?

Boris Vian: an Artist “Outside the Norm”?

Boris Vian, un artiste « hors-norme » ?

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Published on Tuesday, June 18, 2019 by Céline Guilleux

Summary

In celebrating Boris Vian’s centennial in the birthplace of jazz, our conference wishes to pay a tribute to the author and his work by bringing him to the place that so powerfully struck his imagination. Vian’s Centennial is also an opportune moment to cast a new light on a multifaceted artist, in continuation of the meeting organized by Marc Lapprand (March 2020) whose project is to re-examine a body of work that has remained only marginally investigated. By focusing precisely on the notions of artistic freedom, irreverence, unconventionality and spontaneity, this conference aims to provide new directions in our interpretations of Vian. Given that playfulness and the rejection of the norm take on such an important part in Vian’s work, it comes as twist of irony that he trained as an engineer and became first employed by the Association Française de Normalisation (French Standardization Association).

Announcement

The University of New Orleans, October 14-16, 2020 - New Orleans, LA

Argument

The foreword to Froth On the Daydream facetiously pretends to have been completed in New Orleans, on March 10 of 1946, Boris Vian’s birthday. Actually, it is common knowledge that the author of the scandalous novel I Shall Spit On Your Graves, set in the segregated South, never once set foot in the United States. However, he places above everything “love in every possible way” and “music from New Orleans or Duke Ellington.”

In celebrating Boris Vian’s centennial in the birthplace of jazz, our conference wishes to pay a tribute to the author and his work by bringing him to the place that so powerfully struck his imagination. Vian’s Centennial is also an opportune moment to cast a new light on a multifaceted artist, in continuation of the meeting organized by Marc Lapprand (March 2020) whose project is to re-examine a body of work that has remained only marginally investigated. By focusing precisely on the notions of artistic freedom, irreverence, unconventionality and spontaneity, this conference aims to provide new directions in our interpretations of Vian. Given that playfulness and the rejection of the norm take on such an important part in Vian’s work, it comes as twist of irony that he trained as an engineer and became first employed by the Association Française de Normalisation (French Standardization Association).

Marc Lapprand commented on the fact that the norm “constitutes an organizing system that regulates linguistic codes and also functions as a standard in science and technology. Its inherent rigidity stimulates creativity and the power of imagination, giving way to many forms of subversion and appropriation. By driving the concept of the norm to the limit, one can conceivably argue that to create means to twist the norm, push the envelope, bend it, distort it. Boris Vian was aware of that and his stint at Afnor only confirmed it.” Does this distortion not come across as a leading principle of Vian’s creative process ?  Whether one considers his songs, his critical writing, his contribution to ‘Pataphysique’ or his literary production, the aesthetics of subversion and distortion seem to feature as a leitmotiv in the artist’s work.

Therefore, we propose to reevaluate Vian’s entire production in light of its relationship to norms and the function of distortion in his creative process. All aspects of his work will be open to investigation from a number of perspectives (literary, musical, linguistic, political, historical, etc.).

Several directions will be explored:

1) The place of music in Vian’s world

For Vian, from his early jazz orchestras to his “Artist and Repertoire” position at Philips Records, from the music critic’s work who also emceed at Club Saint Germain, to the author of State-banned political songs, the musical language as well as a number of music-related activities provided an opportunity for creativity, risk taking and provocation. How can we reevaluate Vian’s legacy on forms of expression that (metaphorically or other) combine music and words?

2) Vian’s relationship to the linguistic or generic norm in the literary context (novels, poetry, theater, short stories)

If the systematic subversion of norms is at the heart of Vian’s style, how can we better define what constitutes this author’s style, what are its prominent features? If, as critics tend to point out, there is evidence in his work of a particular relationship with the norm, what happens to the usual, the expected in Vian’s writing, and what can we make of it? The violent character of Vian’s work (as Boris Vian or as Vernon Sullivan) also invites re-examination. What motivates the dark, caustic quality of his prose? Is he addressing society’s excesses, is he being provocative or simply bending the rules?

3) Boris Vian and “L’Amérique”

The United States have a central position in Boris Vian’s creative activity. Beyond the well-known  historical and contextual narrative associated with that particular time, it is necessary to thoroughly examine the innovative energy that US culture projects into Vian’s work from a purely aesthetic point of view. Other possible research topics could include a focus on the subjects that most inspire Vian in his representation of the US as well as his potentially stereotypical vision of mid-century America.

Where better than in the city of New Orleans could one celebrate, through discussion and music, the birthday of a one-hundred-year-young, trumpet-playing Boris Vian?

Paper proposals may include but are not limited to the following topics:

Vian and music:

  • Vian as a trumpet player
  • Vian’s songs
  • Writing on jazz
  • Experimenting with jazz in writing
  • Vian and Club Saint-Germain
  • Vian’s collaborators: Jimmy Walter, Goraguer, Salvador (and others)
  • Vian and rock'n'roll

Vian and literature:

  • Subverting the cliché
  • Vian and the literary topos revisited
  • Figurative language and (re)presentation  
  • Vian’s subversive rhetoric
  • Vian as a witness of his time

Vian and the United States

  • Representation of the US
  • Thrillers, crime stories
  • Vian and cinema

Submission guidelines

Send abstracts (350 words) and short bibliography by September 30, 2019

to : vianhorsnorme@gmail.com

Conference Timeline

  • Last day to submit a paper proposal : September 30, 2019

  • Committee’s decisions : December 2019
  • Conference dates : October 14, 15, 16

Organizing Committee

  • Olivier Bourderionnet (Université de la Nouvelle Orléans) obourde1@uno.edu
  • Cécile Pajona (Université de Nice) cecile.pajona@gmail.com

Scientific Committee

  • Marc Lapprand (University of Victoria)
  • Jean-Louis Pautrot (University of Saint Louis)
  • Pim Higginson (University of New Mexico)
  • Marianne Di Benedetto (Université de Rennes)
  • Cécile Pajona (Université de Nice)
  • Olivier Bourderionnet (University of New Orleans)

This event is supported by the University of New Orleans, the University of Nice, the Cohérie Boris Vian and the French Consulate of New Orleans.

Places

  • Université de la Nouvelle-Orléans
    New Orleans, America

Date(s)

  • Monday, September 30, 2019

Keywords

  • littérature, musique, linguistique, norme, détournement, défigement, style

Contact(s)

  • Cécile Pajona
    courriel : vianhorsnorme [at] gmail [dot] com

Information source

  • Cécile Pajona
    courriel : vianhorsnorme [at] gmail [dot] com

To cite this announcement

« Boris Vian: an Artist “Outside the Norm”? », Call for papers, Calenda, Published on Tuesday, June 18, 2019, https://calenda.org/633513

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