Calls for papers – Conferences taking place in May 2018

Vladimir Nabokov and Translation: Transatlantic Symposium
Lille, France, Spring 2018, and Chapel Hill, USA, Fall 2018 (the precise dates will be announced later)
Deadlines for proposals: 1 September 2017 (Lille), 1 May 2018 (Chapel Hill)

No translator and translation theorist has brought an equal amount of attention to the humble applied craft of literary translation than Vladimir Nabokov (1899-1977). Standing at the crossroads of five languages and a matching number of literary traditions (English, French, German, Italian, and Russian), he experienced translation on a level inaccessible to the majority of his predecessors, presaging and influencing our modern understanding of the indispensability of linguistic and cultural interconnection.

Nabokov’s entered literature as a translator. He claimed to have retold Mayne Reid’s The Headless Horseman in French alexandrines at eleven, while his adaptation of Romain Rolland’s Colas Breugnon became the most exacting rite of passage of his career in letters. Yet while the controversy stirred by his rendition of Aleksandr Pushkin’s Eugene Onegin and the methodology of “literalism” he applied therein forever changed the way we conceive of translation today, the totality of his work in translation remains the least appreciated and understood area of Nabokov’s creative enterprise.

To address this omission, Drs. Julie Loison-Charles (University of Lille, France) and Stanislav Shvabrin (The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, USA) cordially invite you to submit a 500-word-long abstract explicating Nabokov’s legacy as translator and translation theorist as well as multiple other areas and instances of his engagement with “the art of verbal transmigration.”

We invite scholars interested in the multiple aspects of Nabokov’s legacy in translation to consider the following lines of inquiry:

  • Nabokov as translator (with special emphasis on the vast number of works beyond Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Eugene Onegin);
  • Nabokov’s translation theory, its evolution, and legacy;
  • Translation as reflected in Nabokov’s works;
  • Self-translation;
  • Nabokov translated (collaboratively with the author and independently) or retranslated;
  • Intersemiotic (audiovisual, cinematic, and theatrical) translations of Nabokov’s works;
  • Teaching translation with Nabokov;
  • The impact of translation on Nabokov’s writing.

The participants invited by the selection committee will have a choice to present their papers either in Lille, France (May 2018) or Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA (Autumn 2018). The two sections of the Symposium will work in concert to facilitate collaboration between participants on both sides of the Atlantic: papers will be made available to participants via a platform (written and/or recorded) and participants will be invited to collaborate when they focus on similar topics, to respond to a paper given in the previous section or to publish co-authored essays. This platform may also be used to work with graduate or post-graduate students in collaborative transatlantic seminars in translation.

Please send your abstracts (maximum 500 words, in English or French) to the following email addresses: and
If you wish your abstract to be considered for the first installment of the Symposium in Lille, France, please send your abstract by September 1, 2017, and by May 1, 2018, for Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA.

This project is organized with the French Society Vladimir Nabokov – Les Chercheurs Enchantés, The Université of Lille, SHS (France) (Unit Research CECILLE) and the Center for Slavic Eurasian and East European Studies at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (USA).

(posted 15 May 2017)

Temporalities of Modernism: the 2nd CEMS Conference
Babes-Bolyai University, Cluj-Napoca, Romania, 2-4 May 2018
Deadlines for proposals: 30 September 2017 (panel proposals), 30 October 2017 (abstracts).

We are not only “the last men of an epoch” (…): we are more than that, or we are that in a different way to what is most often asserted. We are the first men of a future that has not materialized. We belong to a “great age” that has not “come off.”(Wyndham Lewis, Blasting and Bombardiering, 1937)

There is little doubt that modernism emerges as first and foremost a temporal concept: not only because it has been most often defined in terms of periodisation (Friedman, 2006), or because it unabashedly styles itself as the product(s) of the time(s), but also because it takes time as the central category of experience, an essential cognitive tool, and as the paramount structuring device underlying its ideological and aesthetic programmes. Modernism self-consciously shaped itself as both an event in time – most often under the guise of rupture or revolution – and as a comment on time. It relies on the valorisation of the now, always accompanied by the awareness of the insubstantiality of the present as a foundational mode for consciousness. Its paradoxical temporalities are revealed in the permanent conflict it stages between the past and the present, or between the competing images of a future that is at once promissory and apocalyptic. Such antinomic temporality reflects the contradictions of “a modernity that is by definition never contemporaneous with itself, since it constantly projects, anticipates and returns to mythical origins, but that also teaches us more about the ‘present’, which it historicizes” (Jean-Michel Rabaté, The Ghosts of Modernity, 1992, 3). Its conflictual temporality reflects major shifts in cultural geopolitics whose impact resulted in a diverse cultural geography creating central categories of experience and cognitive tools through aesthetic programmes, as the case of “marginal(ized)” literatures such as those of Central and Eastern Europe proves.Therefore, the modernist sense of time continues to offer fresh ground for reflection and constant sources for understanding ourselves, even after almost a century has passed since its heyday.

The fragment in the motto, extracted from the autobiography of one of the founding figures of British modernist art, captures an essential contradiction lying at the heart of the modernist creative impetus: a baffling sense of living through a time that feels both apocalyptic and inaugural, of refashioning the tradition of a heroic past into the explosive figure of a revolutionary avant-garde bent on erasing that past in order to install a brave new reality whose defining feature may well be its impossibility. Lewis’ self-description does not seem far from Walter Benjamin’s image of the “angel of history,” facing both past and future but caught in the maelstrom of a catastrophic present from which there is no escape. Benjamin’s angel and Lewis’ men (simultaneously “last” and “first”) illustrate a conflictual ethos whose central trope is constant renewal, endless creation that hopelessly “shores fragments” against the ruins of progress, and that revitalises the energies of psyche in response to the homogenisation and disintegration produced by life in the modern metropolis. Messianism is doubled by the terrors of degeneration in modernist thought, and the resulting tensions gave rise to the fascinating energies of its poetics. The rapid changes occurring in the world at the turn of the twentieth-century – including the introduction of standard time, the advent of mass media, the invention of technologies that did away with distance, or the calamitous disruption of the war – had produced a particular version of the “time-mind” (a term borrowed from the editor of the recently published Cambridge History of Modernism) as “the establishing circumstance of the sensibility” of the age (Sherry, 2016, 28). As Ronald Schleifer has argued, modernist time echoed a “logic of abundance,” materialised in the multiplicities and constellations of public and private experience that had become overwhelmingly available. Rather than the empty, universal and abstract container theorised by Newtonian science, time modelled itself on the irregular structures of memory and the unconscious (haunted by the threat of technological reproduction and automatized interruption), to become “a constituent element of explanation and experience,” (Schleifer, 2000, 17), so that several key terms that can shed light on our own relation to the contemporary world are rooted in the turbulent modernist times: relativity, originality, reproducibility, irreversibility and the threat of the future.

We invite papers focusing on the following possible topics:

  1. Inventing modernism: the avant-garde moment – the relation between modernism and the avant-garde. Contexts of the avant-garde: geographical, economic, social, historical, cultural. Cosmopolitan and/vs. local modernisms: the modernist experience and the changes in the canon.
  2. Catastrophe and “the sense of an ending”: the politics of the avant-garde. The utopia of the avant-garde – messianic promise and the disruption of history. Modernism and the spectre of authoritarianism. Theorising the politics of modernism (Benjamin, Adorno, Broch). Reconsidering modernism after the Holocaust.
  3. Modernist poetics: rupture and event. Reinventing tradition: anti-modern modernism. Revolution as return, revolution as passage, endless revolution.
  4. Modernism and history: histories of the present, histories of the future. Historical explanation and historical nightmare. Regional histories versus global catastrophe.
  5. The legacies of modernism: modernisms in the age of “post-”. Institutionalising modernism: modernism as canon. Late modernism: continuities and the culture of opposition. Modernism in the 21st century.
  6. Divergent temporalities, fuzzy, complementary chronologies: modernisms across Europe (including the Eastern/Central European scene).
  7. Transmission – circulation – dissemination. Modernists translating/translating modernism: (a)synchronicities, interfaces, influences. Translation and canonization. Disseminating the avant-garde: media and manifestoes: magazines, journals, performances, films, broadcasting – economies and politics of modernism.

Confirmed keynote speakers:
Jean-Michel Rabaté, University of Pennsylvania
Randall Stevenson, University of Edinburgh
Declan Kiberd, Notre Dame University and University College Dublin
Péter György, Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest
Rarița Zbranca, AltArt Foundation/Cluj Cultural Centre

Panel proposals (max. 500 words) for themed sessions and abstract proposals (max. 300 words) for 20-minute papers with a short biographical note (max. 150 words) should be sent to the conference organizers at

Deadline for submissions:
30 September 2017 (panel proposals)
30 October 2017 (abstracts).
All proposals will be peer-reviewed.
Acceptance confirmation: 15 November 2017.

(posted 29 May 2017)

First letters (18th-19th centuries)
Faculté des Lettres et Sciences Humaines Victor-Segalen, Brest, France, 24-25 May 2018
Deadline for proposals: 15 June 2017

An international conference organised by Centre d’étude des correspondances et journaux intimes, CECJI-7289 and Héritages et Constructions dans le texte et l’image, HCTI-EA4249

Although there is a vast body of critical literature on epistolary writing, the concept of “first letters” which the conference intends to tackle seems to have been neglected.

The idea of first letters can be understood in various ways: it can be about the first letters written by a person, which raises the question of the formal relationship to the epistolary genre, the question of the learning of a codified way of writing. One may think of the letters of children, of the drafts which were preserved, amended and copied. The first letter can also be written after years of correspondence: for instance, many letter writers have had a long experience of the genre when they write their first love-letter or when they write to a person of superior rank for the first time.=… Within a private correspondence, the fact that a first letter can be sent to a new correspondent, after years of exchange with other partners, clearly suggests that the same letter writer can write several first letters. A particular event or a change of individual situation can also justify the sending of a first letter in new interpersonal relationships. The idea of a first letter also suggests a link with the following letters: what connection between the first letter and the following ones if the correspondence is regarded as a series of letters?

Over the two days conference, the following points might be examined, amongst others:

  • Rhetorical and generic specificities of first letters: are some stylistic or thematic invariants, some social or literary codes present in first letters, which establish that they are part of the first letters of a correspondence, without even knowing their date? What is the impact of letter-writing manuals in the production of those letters? Has the practice of the first letter evolved over centuries?
  • First letters and correspondence: trying to define the characteristics of first letters involves the questioning of the genesis of writing, the way a correspondence evolves, how it reflects the changes in the writer’s and/or recipient’s lives, how it expresses the evolution of an epistolary relationship. Are the first letters attempts, drafts or matrixes, paradigms of the future correspondence? How much do they bear the traces of the future exchanges? Do they pre-determine the nature of the following exchanges in their tone, themes or roles ascribed to the correspondents?
  • The fluctuations of the notion of intimacy in a correspondence: how is the notion of intimacy, inherent in correspondences, gradually introduced in exchanges? Can first letters be intimate or are they bound to be more formal and impersonal?
  • The links between the first letters and an author’s literary work: what do the first letters say about an author, about his representation of his own self or of the persons whom he is writing to, about the circumstances of writing, or about his future production? Can writing to an author for the first time be totally separated from the idea of claiming a place in the literary world? Is the first known letter of an author his first letter? The first letter of a literary correspondence or of an epistolary novel often contain essential diegetic or informative elements to the understanding of the whole work.

The approach will be multidisciplinary (including the letters of authors, philosophers, artists…) but will mainly concern correspondences in the French and English languages.
Please, send 300-word proposals with a title, and short bio-bibliographic note to: Catherine Thomas-Ripault ( and to Alain Kerhervé (
Papers not exceeding 20 minutes will be delivered in English or in French.
A selection of papers will be published, on advice of a reading committee.
The deadline for sending proposals is 15 June 2017.

(posted 8 April 2017)