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[Commlist] CfP for Documentaries and the Fiction/Nonfiction Divide
Mon Jun 17 10:52:16 GMT 2019
*Documentaries and the Fiction/Nonfiction Divide*
Queen Mary University of London, November 15-16, 2019
The project has received funding from the British Society of Aesthetics.
Professor Brian Winston, Lincoln Chair, Lincoln School of Film and
Media, University of Lincoln.
Dr Stacie Friend, Senior Lecturer in Philosophy, Birkbeck, University of
The fiction/nonfiction divide is a much discussed topic in contemporary
analytic aesthetics. According to classic works like Walton’s /Mimesis
as Make-Believe/ (1990) and Currie’s /The Nature of Fiction / (1990),
fiction essentially involves imagining whereas nonfiction essentially
involves believing. However, more recent works like Friend’s “Fiction as
a Genre” (2012) and Matravers’ /Fiction and Narrative /(2014) have put
under pressure this conception of the fiction/nonfiction divide.
Surprisingly, documentaries are seldom mentioned in this debate, which
has so far mainly focused on literary narratives. Yet, documentaries are
paradigmatic cases of nonfiction and arguably an investigation of them
might shed some light on the fiction/nonfiction divide, which in turn
might improve our understanding of the documentary film. In fact, the
main philosophical conceptions of the documentary remain those developed
some twenty years ago by Currie (1999), Carroll (1997), Ponech (1997),
and Plantinga (2005). Despite their differences, all these accounts rely
on the standard conception of the fiction/nonfiction divide in terms of
an imagination/belief distinction. Yet, if Friend and Matravers are
right in questioning this standard conception, then the philosophy of
documentary is to be reconsidered as well.
Film studies have a longer tradition of doubting the neat division of
fiction/nonfiction when it comes to documentary. Classic theories and
histories of documentary film starting with Barnouw’s /Documentary: A
History of the Non-Fiction Film /(1974) and Nichol’s /Representing
Reality: Issues and Concepts in Documentary/ (1992) and extending to
more recent contributions such as Winston’s /The Documentary Film Book
/(2013) and Nichol’s /Introduction to Documentary: 3//^rd //Edition
/(2017) have also treated documentary film as essentially assertions
about reality. But they were far more willing to concede that
documentary oftentimes slips into fiction than their philosopher peers.
That being the case, the conference “Documentaries and the
Fiction/Nonfiction Divide” aims to revive the philosophical research on
documentaries by encouraging a dialogue on this issue with film critics
and theorists, as well as with historians and practitioners. The goal is
to explore how film scholars can contribute to philosophical issues such
as the fiction/nonfiction divide as much as philosophy can contribute to
our appreciation of documentaries.
*Topics* for papers and pre-constituted panels may include but are not
- Definitions of documentary.
- Is documentary pure nonfiction or can it be a hybrid form
between fiction and nonfiction?
- Does the practice of reenactment in documentaries challenge the
- Analyses of documentaries that question the fiction/nonfiction
- What can the history of film teach us about the nature of the
- The relationship between early cinema forms such as actualities
- The specificity of documentaries with respect to other
nonfiction images (CCTV images, TV shows...).
- The relationship between the documentary and the indexicality or
transparency of the photographic images.
- Have digital technologies changed the documentary? If yes, in
- The periphery of the documentary (e.g. docudramas, docufiction,
- Is the documentary specific to the medium of film or can we find
it also in other media?
- Is the documentary specific to the film as a form of art, or can
we find it also in other forms of art, for instance in theatre or in
- Are there essential differences between the experience of a
documentary and that of a fiction film?
- Taxonomies of the documentary: the expository/observational
dichotomy and other subcategories.
- Animated documentaries.
- Is the documentary a kind of storytelling? What are the
analogies and the difference between storytelling in documentaries and
storytelling in fiction films?
- How can a documentary be beautiful? Is there an aesthetic
specificity of the documentary?
- The evaluation of documentaries: should we use the same criteria
we use for fiction films or are there specific criteria?
- Can documentary be objective?
- The relationship between ethics and documentary.
- The intertwining of aesthetics and ethics in the documentary
- The cognitive value of documentaries: what can we learn from
documentaries? Can documentaries actually /contribute /to history,
philosophy, science or do they just /illustrate /them?
Conference organizers and speakers: Dr Mario Slugan (Ghent University)
and Dr Enrico Terrone (Universitat de Barcelona).
Please send proposals to: (aesthetics.film.studies /at/ gmail.com)
<mailto:(aesthetics.film.studies /at/ gmail.com)>. The deadline for receipt is
*Monday July 29, 2019*. Speakers will be notified of decisions by Monday
August 19. There will be no conference fees.
The conference is open to both individual papers and pre-constituted
panels (with 3 speakers each and a chair).
In the case of individual papers, please submit abstracts between 500
and 1000 words (references included) together with a title and 5
keywords. The abstracts should be prepared for blind review (with name,
institutional affiliation, contact details, and the title of the
proposal in a separate file).
In the case of pre-constituted panels, the conveners are asked to submit
a panel proposal including the title, a 300- to 500-word justification
for the panel and 300- to 500-word abstracts (references included) for
each of the three presentations making up the panel accompanied by a
title and 5 keywords. Also included should be names and institutional
affiliation for the three presenters and the name, institutional
affiliation, contact details, and institutional affiliation for the
chair. Panel conveners will be also requested to conform to the Good
Practice Policy making sure that at least two of the panellists
(including the convener/chair) are female.
In line with the Good Practice Policy of the British Philosophical
Association and the Society for Women in Philosophy, the conference
organizers have already ensured gender parity among keynotes and will do
their best to do so for the other conference delegates. To offset
unconscious biases against accepting female work demonstrated in
different fields in recent studies, the papers will be blind-reviewed.
We hope for an edited volume to result from the conference. In case of
publication the organizers as editors will also ensure that women are
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