On the topic of geography: Pamplona and surroundings are stunning. Above is a picture of the gate through which pilgrims on the way to Santiago de Compostela enter the city. I followed the trail as it winds it way through this green town, and discovered some of the beautiful parks and gardens, of which the citadel (La Ciudadela), with the remnants of the old fortifications, is particularly impressive. The University of Navarra, at which the conference was held, is situated in a beautifully crafted landscape that begins to blend with the surrounding hills. The university even has its own museum of contemporary art. The permanent collection features works such as El número y las aguas I by Pablo Palazuelo in which numerological principles seem to result in an incoherent array of capricious lines that viewed from a distance begin to conjure up a variety of figures, and Composició ama cistella by Antoni Tàpies, a sculpture that appears to be made out of cardboard but that is actually bronze, in which the play with materiality and signification is very, very intriguing. We were very fortunate that there were also two wonderful temporary exhibitions, Small Data Lab by Daniel Canogar (a wonderful and light-hearted play with light and old or discarded bits of technology) and El No Returno by Cecilia Paredes (amazing use of discarded or found material for works in which the human dissolves into the non-human, provoking one to think about the politics behind human disappearance). And did I mention Picasso and Rothko? While I was not able to run with the bulls during the festival of San Fermín - and I am not sure that I would want to do that - I am looking forward to a future and longer visit.
I would almost forget that I gave a paper myself, in a panel convened by Lauren M. E. Goodlad. In my reading of John Banville's Mrs Osmond, I examined how Banville restages and upstages James's The Portrait of a Lady by showing how Banville repeats James’s own experiment with the genre of the Bildungsroman or, more particularly, the Victorian narrative of vocation. As critics have argued, James’s novel suggests that Bildung may be completed and agency may be found once the subject has stepped outside of the realm of getting and spending. This makes The Portrait of a Lady a novel about the possibility conditions of ethical cosmopolitanism. Banville imagines a different kind of ending, in which Isabel sets out to redress the balance in her fortunes and in which she ventures into the heart of the realm of getting and spending, where she successfully confronts her husband. This, I believe, makes Mrs Osmond a novel about the possibility conditions of consumer capitalism.