AUP student taking a photo of the Seine during Orientation.


2015 - Narratives and Fictions of Terrorism

University Room: Omid & Gisel Kordestani Rooftop Conference Center (Q-801)
The conference takes place at Université Paris 1 - Panthéon Sorbonne on November 15, La Maison de la Recherche - Sorbonne Nouvelle on November 16 and at AUP on November 17.
Friday, November 17, 2023 - 09:30 to 21:00

This conference is co-hosted by AUP and the Université Sorbonne Nouvelle. The conference takes place at Université Paris 1 - Panthéon Sorbonne on November 15, La Maison de la Recherche - Sorbonne Nouvelle on November 16 and at AUP on November 17. Full details can be found at

"Writing intersects with justice, and sometimes coincides with it"
(Yannick Haenel, Notre Solitude)

If the literary reaction to the terrorist attacks of 9/11 has been extensively examined in the United States, making the attacks a fundamental milestone in contemporary American cultural History, it seems equally essential to consider the way in which French society has been able to recapture, through narratives (testimonies or works of fiction), the attacks of 2015. From Mathieu Riboulet to Emmanuel Carrère, from Karine Tuil to Philippe Lançon, from Yasmina Khadra to Adrien Genoudet, from Yannick Haenel to Virginie Despentes, the attacks are recounted, conjured up, transposed, metaphorized, and analyzed in many ways. From the trial of the Islamist attacks of 2015 to the transdisciplinary research program 13-November, hundreds of testimonies are also collected that tell the traumatic event resolutely as an individual one. These collections of testimonies are part of another genealogy, the one that has given a singular place to the memory of the Second World War and the Shoah in particular, from the Fortunoff archives (Yale) to the Spielberg foundation (University of South California), but which also finds a model, between history and literature, in Norton Cru's Témoins (Witnesses) in the aftermath of the First World War. In all cases, these words, speeches, and writings participate in the construction of a personal and a collective memory that both evolve and interact.

How has the very target of the attacks, culture, been able to stage the horror, the incomprehension, but also the aftermath and the desire to make sense through the prism of narrative - photographs, testimonies, documentaries, novels, comics, films, and series? In what temporality were these texts written and these images produced? What conceptual and critical categories must now be mobilized to understand them? What array of literary or purposely non-literary channels is deployed? Just as 9/11 did in America, will these events mark a shift in literary history? At what point and under what conditions did the use of fiction become possible? What do they tell us about our societies’ relationship to fiction and testimony? What does narrative do indeed in the aftermath, the wake of such heartbreaking attacks as January 7th and November 13th, 2015, terrorist attacks whose historical trials we have followed in France? How are witnesses’ memories articulated, that of survivors adjusted? To what ethical questions are the survivors exposed when they bear witness and speak out? Are reparations to be expected from the mise-en-mots, from the mise-en-dessins? What accounts of the survivors and of the trials have been produced? In what other genealogy are the act of listening and the collection of the witness’ words inscribed, and how? What memories have the attacks of 2015 revived? How do these memories evolve? How and why do certain terrorist attacks not occupy the same place in them – as in the case of the Nice attack on July 14, 2016, whose trial is about to start? How and why, for a single incident, does collective memory focus on a particular location to the detriment of others – such as the Bataclan on November 13, 2015, to the point that we often speak of the "Bataclan attacks," forgetting the Stade-de-France and the cafés’ terraces? What role do trials play in the construction of collective memory?

We see parallels in the United States and France as countries injured in the 21st Century by terrorist attacks. However, there are also divergences in their reactions to the trauma of what can be considered as événements-monde, world-changing events: can a comparison be made? How, for example, can the contrast between the absence of trials in the aftermath of 9/11 in the United States and the centrality of the police and judicial processes in the aftershock of the 2015 attacks in France be explained, and what are the consequences for literary writing, for the place given to the word of the witness, and for society’s upshots?