The bodies of Guillaume Dustan (Sorbonne Nouvelle & American University of Paris)

Les corps de Guillaume Dustan (Sorbonne Nouvelle & American University of Paris)

(english version below)

“I became very aware of my body, both outside and inside,” Dustan writes in his first published account, In my room (1996), inaugurating a work where the body will have a central place.

As literary object, which implies a reconfiguration of the forms of self-narrative, if we consider that writing starts from the experience of the body; as cultural object, which promotes certain minoritized practices to make them a possible universal model (homosexuality as a lifestyle, dancing in nightclubs, drug use, etc.); as epistemic objectin line with Foucauldian self-care techniques, because body care engages a process of subjectivation and self-knowledge.

In the context of the re-edition of the literary works of Guillaume Dustan at POL, accompanied by a critical apparatus established by Thomas Clerc (Works I2013; Works II2021), and the unpublished distribution of his films restored by Espace Treize (2019), this symposium proposes to apprehend the multiplication of the Dustanian body or even the Dustanian bodies, by considering its theoretical, literary, political dimensions, at from the following lines of thought:

1. The body politic. The writing of the body serves, at least in the “autobiopornographic” trilogy, to define a “queer” masculinity, which is part of the AIDS years, contrary to Guibert’s auto-elegy. From the books “bordelmonstrepartout”, Dustanian writing, anchored in the politics of identity, describing the bodies of the “ghetto”, also tends towards the utopian horizon of going beyond the binarisms of gender and sexuality – this which paves the way for receptions queer of the work (see Test Junkie of Paul B. Preciado, for example). The presence of a theoretical discourse, which gradually becomes autonomous from narrative constraints, questions the existence of a thought of the body which would evolve from one book to another.

2. The erotic body. The male body, subject and object of desire, founds in Dustan a hyper-sexual lyricism. The writing of sexuality aims at the collective appropriation of techniques of the body, and defines, in this sense, the contours of a community. Dustan’s work makes the freedom of bodies and desires the substrate of a possible political emancipation, even in its most controversial aspects.

3. The body, narrative engine. Dustan’s writing renews the forms of first-person writing: through the punctual use of autonomous monologue, indexing perception on the states of the body; by the generic hybridity explored from Nicholas Pages ; by the attention paid to the materiality of language and the possibility of deconstructing its uses. The self-narrative is then diverted by a digressive theoretical discourse, even by a set of disparate textual fragments – this deliberate bursting of forms also finding a translation in his films.

4. The authorial body. The authorial body appears as the medium and the result of a performance (literary, film, television), inviting us to consider it as an experimental subject from which the work is developed. This performative reinvention of the self questions the definitional limits of autofiction, theethos of the author, and also raises the issue of a style rooted in the relationship to the body.

5 The body of the work. The notion of body can be extended to the work itself – a corpus of literary texts – in which legal texts are generally not taken into account, which is constructed in a generic diversity (fiction, essays, films) and in parallel with the constitution of a corpus other than that of the “Le Rayon” collection edited by Dustan at Balland.

Paper proposals, accompanied by a bio-bibliographic notice, must be submitted before January 20, 2023 (300 words maximum) to:
The answers will be given during the month of February.
Communications can be made in French or English and will last 20 minutes.
The publication of the conference proceedings is planned.
The symposium will be held on June 8 and 9, 2023 at the Sorbonne Nouvelle University and the American University of Paris.

Guillaume Dustan’s body of writing

“I became very aware of my body, its exterior as well as its interior”, wrote Dustan in his first published work of fiction, In my room (1996), initiating the construction of a body of writing in which the body would have a central role:

As a literary object – insofar as writing begins in the experience of the body, this implies a reconfiguration of the forms of self-writing;

As a cultural objectthis writing opens possible universalizable models from minority practices, by legitimating a minority body culture, tied to gay sexual practices and styles of life, clubbing, and drug consumption;

As an epistemic objectin the tradition of Foucauldian techniques of the self, because, in its care for the body, it performs an analysis of the subjectivation process through which self-knowledge emerges.

In the new context provided by the republication of Guillaume Dustan’s literary writing by POL, framed by the critical work of Thomas Clerc (Works I2013, also translated by Daniel Maroun and published by Semiotext(e)/Native Agents in 2021; Works II2021), and by the distribution of his rarely-seen films at the Espace Treize (2019), this conference considers the multiplicity in the body of Dustan’s writing – a multiplicity of Dustan’s focuses – through theoretical, literary, bodies and political, opening the following fields of reflection:

The political body. Body writing – at least in Dustan’s ‘autobiopornographic’ trilogy – contributes to the construction of a ‘queer/faggot’ masculinity, which is also the masculinity of the body in the time of HIV/AIDS. It writes itself in reaction against the self-elegy of Herve Guibert, for example. From the “brothelmonstereveywhere’ books onwards, Dustan’s writing, anchored in the politics of identity, and tracing the bodies of the gay ‘ghetto’, also reaches towards a utopian deconstruction of gender and sexuality. That excess over binaries opens a pathway for the queer reception of Dustan’s writing (in Paul B. Preciado’s Test Junkie, for example). The co-presence of a theoretical corpus, gradually freeing itself from narrative demands, sits questioningly against the thought of a body which develops from one book to the next.

The erotic body. The masculine body in Dustan, subject and object of desire, is the site of a hyper-sexualized lyricism. The writing of sexuality envisages the possibility of a collective use of these techniques of the body, and thus traces the contours of a community. Dustan’s corpus builds a possible political emancipation on the foundation of bodily freedom and the freedom of desire, and drives the image of that emancipation towards its most controversial and unsettling limits.

The body as narrative engine. Dustan’s writing renews the forms of first-person writing: pointed use of autonomous narration attaches perception to bodily states; generic hybrids are explored in and after Nicholas Pages; attention is lavished on the matter of language and the possibility that emerges there of deconstructing its uses. The writing of the self is undermined and opened up by a digressive theoretical discourse and by a stream of disparate material textual fragments. This careful explosion of form finds itself visually translated in his films.

The Author’s body – The authorial body appears as the medium and as the product of literary, filmic, or televisual performance. We are offered this body as an experimental subject from which the work develops. This performative re-invention of the self insists critically at the limits of the definition of fiction, asserts and undermines authorial ethos, and raises the stakes for a style that is anchored in its relation to the body.

The body of writing – The idea of ​​Dustan’s body can be extended to his literary corpus, from which his legal writings are generally excluded, and which is built in a movement of generic diversity (fictions, essays, films). This body exists in parallel to another corpus constructed in the collection, “Le Rayon” that Dustan edited, published by Balland.

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