After a sleep of an hour or two I was ready to enter the fray at the University. Berkan drove me in. I got to know him when he spent a semester at UEA and we became friends. He is one of the people running the show here, IDEA being a large conference running over several days with over a hundred papers, that moves around the universities of the country.
A little about Malatya first. As I wrote yesterday it is chielfy known for its marvellous apricots which, the brochure tells us:
- Helps the brain function and reduces stress
- Cures the damaged tissues of liver
- Makes bones shapelier and stronger
- etc. Right through another eight cardinal virtues and blessings. Besides which apricots taste nice.
The city is in the Upper Euphrates Basin in Eastern Anatolia, that is a long way south-east of semi-European Istanbul. It is mostly high plateau with predictably hot summers and cold winters. It was an important point on various trade routes nd the Silk Road. It has deep history.
The first of the apricot virtues is useful at the conference itself. I have arrived at lunchtime. The first person I meet is Susanne Klinger who, again, I first met at UEA when she was writing her PhD on translation. We chat over coffee, then lunch, and head into the first session. There are always four on offer and one could move between them all but this time I opt for a non-fiction slot that includes papers on Rose Macauley, on Lady Mary Wortley Montague and on Ethos and Persona in Popular Science Texts in the context of rhetoric.
The first two two complement each other, both on aspects of orientalism and the idea of travel writing. The Towers of Trebzon paper given by Fatih Oztürk concentrates on the figure of the monkey and what it signifies in Macauley but I m not fully hearing as I am still waking up. The seond, by Julia Szoltysey is in many respects a feminist paper about the perception of the harem as presented by Wortley Montague and by Edmondo de Amici. It's a beautifully constructed talk ending with Ingres. Afterwars I chat to Julia briefly about other western artists' representation of the harem, thinking Delacroix but time is short.
The third of the papers by Sarah Orgun-Perrault from the USA is about the way we trust or do not / should or should not trust scientists. The terms of rhetoric she refers to concern technical knowledge but also the relationsip between ytechniocal athority and its context among peers as well as its relationship to public. It's very clear and animated. At bottom it comes down to concerns about capitalism and climate change. It is a whirlwind guide to the rhetorical reading of science and potential interest. Because it is whirlwind it has to present science as an undisputed, undifferentiated whole, and the moral scepticism that should question at as similarly coherent and totalised. There are, in effect, bad scientists paid off by the petro-chemical industry and good, socially conscious opponents. My suspicion is that both the science and its audience are split. I am essentially in agreement with her but a - probably unavoidable - simplified account of anything touches a slightly discordant chord with me.
The trouble is however I count myself of the left-liberal persuasion I resist its polarised rhetoric as much as I do that of the right, however more dispiriting and dangerous I find the right. I say 'the trouble is' but it gets me into trouble with both sides. But if that's where you have to be, that is where you have to be.
The session afterwards about the relationship autobiography and biography and fiction, and readings of Julian Barnes's England England in the context of Baudrillard was gorgeous and exciting but I can't write it up now as I have to be down in the lobby to be taken back to the conference and make my own keynote. I'll return to Barnes, Baudrillard and biography as and when I can,
Now wish me luck. A picture to follow plus any typo editing.