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We are pleased to announce that the annual conference by the French Graduate Student Association of New York University will be held at the La Maison Française of NYU, 16 Washington Mews, next week.
The conference is scheduled to take place on Friday, March 8th, and Saturday, March 9th, 2013. Details of the program are listed below, with further information available online at
Our keynote presentation is on Saturday at 5pm, by Professor Gabriel Rockhill of Villanova University, and is entitled L’art entre le réel: Overcoming the Contradiction of the Art of the Commonplace. A brief description is included below.
We would be grateful if you could forward this information to colleagues and students interested in attending. Please note that apart from the last panel on Saturday, all of the panels will include at least one presentation in French.
Best Regards,

The “But Is It Art?” Conference Organizers
Dan Benson, Suzy Cater, Erica Faller, Tristan Jean, and Andrew Miller

An Interdisciplinary Graduate Conference
Department of French
New York University, New York

La Maison Française
16 Washington Mews

The conference “…but is it art?” will explore how art is defined, institutionalized and practiced in the Francophone world, and how the boundaries between the spheres of art and non-art are established and shift.  We are pleased to welcome graduate researchers from Canada, France, the United Kingdom, and all parts of the United States, who will present their work on these questions. Subjects examined will range from topics as diverse as slam poetry, 17th century fairy tales, medieval crime narratives and collaborationist propaganda…

Professor Gabriel Rockhill of Villanova University will deliver his keynote address, “L’art entre le réel: Overcoming the Contradiction of the Art of the Commonplace,” on Saturday evening, bringing to a close the two-day event.

Please see our program below and feel free to visit out website for abstracts, paper titles and more information.


10-10.15am Professor Sarah Kay, NYU: Welcome address
10.15-11.45am Panel: When art Becomes Art
11.45-1.15pm Lunch Break
1.15-2.15pm Seminar 1: Grotesque Obscenities*
2.30-3.30pm Seminar 2: Ephemeral Poetics*
3.30-4pm Coffee break, Institute of French Studies, upstairs lounge
4-5.30pm Panel: The End of Art as We Know It


10-11.30am  Panel: Finding Art’s Place, making it count
11.30am-1pm Lunch Break
1-2pm Panel: Political Literature, Literary Politics
2.10-3.40pm Panel: Re-evaluating Art, Breaking with Convention
3.40-4pm Coffee break, Institute of French Studies, upstairs lounge
4-5pm  Panel: Violent Aesthetics: Broken bodies, twisted pages
5-6pm Professor Gabriel Rockhill, Villanova University: Keynote Address

*If you are interested in attending either of the seminars, please email us at so that we can send you the papers to read in advance.

Description of Keynote

Professor Rockhill will discuss how many thinkers—from Herbert Marcuse to Arthur Danto and Jacques Rancière—have underscored various ways in which contemporary art is caught in a contradiction between art and reality, and in particular political reality.  In the attempt to link the institution of art to its outside by merging aesthetics with real life via what Rancière has called “l’art du quelconque [the art of the commonplace],” art ends up being trapped between two extremes: either it becomes so ordinary that it loses its status as art, or it remains so artistic that it can never really fuse with the commonplace.  Too real or too aesthetic, the art that takes aim at the heart of the real can never truly meld with reality without ceasing to be art as such. 

Professor Rockhill will argue that this contradiction—which from a certain vantage point appears inescapable—only emerges within a conceptual framework in which it is ultimately assumed that there are two relatively separate domains:  art and (political) reality.  In order to displace this theoretical groundwork, he proposes a distinction between transcendent ideas, immanent notions and interventionist concepts that aims at both overcoming the contradiction of the art of the commonplace and providing an alternative framework for theorizing aesthetic practices as well as the very concept of art.  His paper thereby reaches the following conclusion, which is put to the test in some of the extreme cases of the ‘art of the commonplace’ (from Flaubert to Warhol):  si l’art n’entre pas dans le réel, c’est précisément parce qu’il est toujours déjà entre le réel [if art does not enter the real, it is precisely because it is always already between the real].

Many thanks to the Department of French at NYU, the FGSA, the IFS and the Graduate Student Government for their support.



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Last Modified: March 1, 2013

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