International Conference on Camus

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DATE: Monday, August 28, 2006

CONTACT: Carol Witzeling, Assistant Director, Center for Interdisciplinary French Studies, University of Wisconsin-Madison,, (608) 261-1018


Madison, WI – A literary figure that American undergraduates and academics have known about for at least a generation is going mainstream. Albert Camus. President Bush is reading him, so is Jean Girard, the fictional French race car driver in Will Ferrell’s latest comedy, “Talladega Nights.”

Now serious fans of the Nobel Prize-winning French writer can get their fill at an international conference at the University of Wisconsin-Madison devoted to the author of such classics as The Stranger and The Fall. The conference, “Albert Camus and the Mediterranean World,” September 21-23 on the UW-Madison campus, will feature some of the world’s leading Camus scholars.

“There has been no colloquium on Albert Camus in the U.S in over 20 years,” says Alek Toumi, a professor of French at UW-Stevens Point, a UW-Madison alumnus and one of the conference’s organizers. “This colloquium is entirely devoted to Albert Camus’ thoughts on war, terrorism, torture, the death penalty, freedom in general, especially freedom of the press. The entire world, not just academia, can learn from Camus’ writings about these questions.”

The conference draws its theme from a series of writings Camus published between the 1930s and ‘50s. In various articles and essays, Camus denounced colonialism and the treatment of indigenous peoples in Algeria, then a French colony. Camus had been a staunch anti-Fascist and a member of the French Resistance during World War II, and was one of the first intellectuals to reject Stalinism after the war. During Algeria’s war of independence against France, Camus argued for a democratic, pluralistic society, favored dialogue in conflict resolution, condemned both sides for acts of terrorism and torture, and warned against the dangers of religious fanaticism and political oppression across the region.

The conference, with events at the Memorial Union, 800 Langdon St., and the French House, 633 N. Frances St., is free and open to the public, but knowledge of French is required for some sessions. For a complete conference program, go to

The keynote speaker, in English, on Friday, September 22, at 7 p.m., will be Raymond Gay-Crosier, an emeritus professor at the University of Florida and vice-president of the Camus Studies Association. He will speak on “Camus: Our Familiar Stranger.”

Other sessions in English, earlier on Friday, September 22, include:

  • Todd Shepard, Temple University on “Camus’ Mother: Rethinking Justice, Violence, and Algeria’s Revolution in Contemporary France
  • Suzanne Chamier, Southwestern University, on “Dialogues on the Death Penalty”
  • Bernard Aresu, Rice University, on “The First Man and the Aporia of Identity”
  • Janice Gross, Grinnell College, on “Albert Camus and Contemporary Algerian Playwrights: A Shared Faith in Dialogue”
  • Ralph Schoolcraft, Texas A&M University, on “The Renegade: Camus or Sartre”

The conference is sponsored by the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Division of International Studies, the Center for European Studies, the Center for Interdisciplinary French Studies, and the Anonymous Fund.