Calls for papers – Conferences taking place in October 2018

Taking Place
Sorbonne Université, Paris, France, 4-6 October 2018
Deadline for proposals: 15 December 2017

Research group VALE (Voix Anglophones, Littérature, Esthétique, E. A. 4085, Sorbonne Université) is pleased to host a three-day international conference at Sorbonne Université on October 4-6, 2018 to conclude its two-year seminar on the theme “avoir lieu” / “taking place”. The call for papers is available below.

400-word abstracts bearing on anglophone literature and arts of any period as well as brief bio-bibliographies will be sent to by December 15, 2017.
20-minute papers will be followed by ten minutes’ questions. Papers may be delivered in either English or French.


  • December 15, 2017: deadline for abstract submissions
  • January 31, 2018: notification of accepted speakers
  • June 1 – September 20, 2018: conference registrations (registration fees: €25; €15 for post-graduate and doctoral students).

Confirmed keynote speakers:

  • Pr. Elaine Freedgood (New York University)
  • Pr. Glenda Norquay (John Moores University, Liverpool)

The phrases “take place” and “avoir lieu” intertwine time and space into such a tight knot that they can scarcely be thought of independently from one another. Folded up on each other, time and space are not only the cornerstones of Bakhtine’s concept of the chronotope; they are also two essential paradigms informing the history of fiction (novels and short stories alike) of drama, and of poetry. Above all, they frame any empirical experience. Perhaps more than a mere event, whatever takes place irrupts with all its material strength and brings to light a subjective perspective from which this irruption – whether a minor story or a historic moment – is perceived and experienced.

What takes place involves a spectator, who might be a witness, or even a reader. Thereby a writing figure, a writer, is also implied, who commits the thing which takes place to words, and shapes its narrative. The English language “takes place” too. It occurs in all parts of the world and always with a little more variety; it compels its reader to take sides for or against post-structuralism, for or against contextualisation.

The English “take place” and the French “avoir lieu” refer to what is happening – which might be a literary work – through a metaphor which, interestingly, emphasises space over time. Reading the phrases as catachreses may help us once again get hold of the sense of place they convey, which now mostly goes unheard. Both languages not only tie down any human action and authority – or authorship – to a given space, but they also imply the appropriation of the latter, whether as an act in progress or as a result (“take” / “avoir”). It seems relevant to question the conquest or possession of a given place in today’s world. Indeed, on the one hand, in the field of literary theory, a number of centrifugal perspectives are gaining ground (dispora studies, for instance, in a world where London is not so much the cultural and literary capital of a country any more as a global city at the crossroads of all cultures). On the other hand, centripetal trends are embodied by conceptions of space that no longer see it as a mere “landscape” but as a territory freed from human intrusion (“ecopoetics” and “environmental studies”, in the wake of Buell’s reappraisal of American transcendentalists).

From a more general vantage point, “taking place” is what also characterises the English language, which, more than any other, has migrated across the world, first and foremost under the influence of a colonial enterprise born in Shakespeare’s time and whose effects are still felt today. The 18th and 19th centuries, in turn, churned out countless exploration narratives and descriptions of the colonies, which participated in a centripetal motion that made “Englishness” emerge and undermined it at the same time.

The topic of this conference may additionally encourage discussions of the relations between the arts. Some arts may reach out to other art forms beyond their initial boundaries but also appropriate new performance spaces (whether they be theatrical or, strictly speaking, poetic) by becoming transmedial.

The conference topic can also be of interest to scholars working on time, and particularly on such questions as rhythm, iteration and reiteration since memorialisation haunts anything that takes place, whether by repeating or reducing it (see Didi-Huberman on “not-taking-place”).

“Taking place” is a notion that furthermore affects gender, as some spaces can be strictly gendered; for example, certain spaces have been stereotypically reserved for women (the house, the kitchen, the attic, and more generally intimate or domestic spaces), thus simultaneously depriving them of any authority beyond those premises.

Scholars in American studies may feel interested in exploring anew the seemingly founding (and yet endlessly problematic) theme of the wild territory. Admittedly, it no longer needs mapping out in the 21st century, but since the early 19th century, it has been depicted as a prison, whether literally or metaphorically. Approaches in cultural materialism may focus on the way in which works have no longer taken place or have not taken place as they used to since the moment, as Walter Benjamin noted, when artworks became reproducible. Conversely, what takes place can be considered from the perspective of its reception, a question which is likely to become increasingly topical in an era when the circulation and transmission of texts are being radically revamped.

Some further theoretical discussions may consider Deleuze’s rhizome, Derrida’s fragment, Appadurai’s modernity or Lyotard’s “il arrive”. The notions of actualisation and ritual that have played a central role in performance studies can be explored again in the light of the conference topic. The conference topic also lends itself to analyses of utopian, dystopian as well as of regional literatures.

Finally, as it embodies the rise and actualisation of a chronotope, what ‘takes place’ jointly raises questions about the negative counterparts against which it is held, namely the non-place and / or the non-event. For all the twists and turns that they stage, are fiction and drama not also built around what does not or will never occur? As their discourses take the form of large-scale preteritions, isn’t what takes place in them of a strictly verbal nature? Except when poetry is explicitly narrative (such as in epic), does anything take place in it but the act of writing and the words on the page?

We are inviting papers on British, American and post colonial literatures and arts, from the Early Modern period to the 21st century. Proposals may address but are not limited to the following:

  • historical fiction / historical essays
  • science fiction
  • textual materialism, book history, publishing writers, digital literature
  • committed literature, how it can arise and how it can endure
  • realism in literature and in the visual arts
  • regional literatures
  • reception theories
  • performances, performing arts
  • -he English language and its developments world-wide, in former colonies and beyond.

Organizing board: Guillaume FOURCADE, Juliana LOPOUKHINE, Benjamine TOUSSAINT, Kerry-Jane WALLART

(posted 29 September 2017)

Frederick Douglass across and against Times, Places, and Disciplines
Paris, France, 11-13 October 2018
Deadline for proposals: 31 January 2018

In an article entitled “Frederick Douglass, Refugee,” published in the Atlantic in February 2017, historian David Blight argued that “[o]ne place to begin to understand our long history with the controversies over immigration is with Douglass.” In his 2015 The Strangers Book: The Human of African American Literature, American Literature scholar Lloyd Pratt insisted on Douglass’s engagement with the figure of the stranger, his inhabitation of the stranger persona as a tool to build up a polis and found a demos on what Pratt calls “stranger-with-ness.” This conference, organized on the occasion of the bicentennial of Douglass’s birth, proposes to reconsider Douglass’s practice and “art of estrangement” (Giles) broadly understood as spatial and temporal displacement and philosophical, epistemological and disciplinary decentering.

2018 will mark the bicentennial of Frederick Douglass’s birth. The wide array of events and activities already planned testifies to Douglass’s relevance to present debates in the United States and other countries. Frederick Douglass Family Initiatives (FDFI)’s “One Million Abolitionists” plans to print one million copies of the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass: An American Slave for distribution in schools as well as the creation of projects addressing present social justice issues. In 2018, the National Park Service (NPS) will organize public and educational programs at the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site (NHS) in Washington, D.C. Likewise, the bicentennial conference that will be held in Paris in 2018 will be an opportunity to reexamine the figure of Frederick Douglass across times, places, and disciplines. It encourages contributions that read Douglass’s writings—not his serial autobiographies and speeches only, but also his antebellum journalism, his letters, his (rare) poetry and his one foray into fiction—as well as his life beyond the familiar chronological and geographical boundaries. It thereby hopes to contribute to revisiting the heuristic coordinates of Douglass’s scholarship.

The purpose of this conference, however, is not to commemorate Douglass as a solitary, exceptional figure, but rather to consider him in relation to his contemporaries and to his world, as one voice, powerful though it was, among others. Douglass collaborated with and opposed other black and white intellectuals, activists, artists and politicians. He was a man involved in the conflicts and ruptures of his time, in the United States and beyond. His authority and centrality also must be re-examined.

Panels or individual papers may address, but are not limited to, the following topics:

Reading Douglass across and against times

  • Reading Douglass reading his time as a “witness and participant” but also as a promoter of anachrony used as a political tool to “repeat history in order to deform it” (Castronovo).
  • Reading Douglass’s writings “against 1865,” against the “before-after narrative of emancipation” (Hager and Marrs), in the hope of complexifying our interpretation of Douglass’s use of the genre of the slave narrative.
  • Reading Douglass’s “lives” beyond the chronology of Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass (Levine), in particular his ambivalent career as a diplomat (Bourhis-Mariotti), a Republican appointee, and an activist in the 1890s.
  • Douglass and radical democracy and activism: considering Douglass’s role in a larger history of abolitionism understood as “a radical, interracial movement, one which addressed the entrenched problems of exploitation and disenfranchisement in a liberal democracy and anticipated debates over race, labor and empire” (Sinha).
  • Douglass’s engagement with an ecological antislavery logics (Ellis).
  • Re-reading Douglass’s reception. Reading Douglass within an enlarged canon of African American writing (White & Drexler; Hager) in conjunction with other North American slave narratives and early African American fiction, history and journalism (William Wells Brown, Harriet Jacobs etc.). How does this enlarged canon affect Douglass’s critical reception and his status today as the greatest black pre-Civil war author?
  • Reading Douglass today so as to open new perspectives on the interplay between history, memory and activism at play in Douglass’s and our times.
  • Douglass and the discourse of liberation, human rights and humanitarianism; Douglass’s practice of a stranger humanism based on mutually acknowledged and always evolving differences (Pratt).
  • Reconsidering Douglass and public history: What aspects of present debates are illuminated by Douglass’s words (Davis)? Why teach Douglass today?

• Reading Douglass across and against spaces

  • Changing the maps and geographical coordinates that have shaped our understanding of Douglass. Using Martha Schoolman’s “abolitionist geographies,” for example, which include both the local and the circum-atlantic, invites us to explore imaginative routes for Douglass’s legacy, from Canada to Rome and London to Haiti and Liberia, via the more expected yet still understudied Afro-Caribbean geopolitical spaces (Nwankwo).
  • Reexamining issues of mobility and displacement in Douglass’s life; Douglass as an American and international figure; Douglass and transnationalism; Douglass and the Americas (Hooker); Douglass and France (how The North Star covered the 1848 Revolution, for example [Fagan, Alimi-Levy]); Douglass and the diasporic self.
  • Translating Douglass across languages and spaces
  • Investigating the different spaces of Douglass’s life and work; Douglass’s “public body” (Fanuzzi); Douglass’s “feminine space” (Fought).
  • Decentering our reading of Douglass may lead us to complicate the genealogy of his writing beyond the racial divide and find other significant intertextualities—not only the “Founding Fathers,” the New England Transcendentalists, his contemporaries Hawthorne and Melville (Otter and Levine) and Harriet Beecher Stowe, but also his Black Atlantic peers (Giles) and a broader intellectual tradition from the political thought of John Stuart Mill to the transatlantic print culture of the time.

• Reading Douglass across and against disciplines

Douglass wrote at a moment when “modern academic fields were becoming increasingly defined” but his writing cut across disciplinary boundaries (Lee). To be considered:

  • Douglass’s use of fiction or of the tools of fiction in his journalism, in his speeches;
  • Douglass’s “rhetorical legacy” (John R. Kaufman-McKivigan);
  • Douglass’s role as an editor (Meer)
  • Douglass and book history: questioning the vision of Douglass and his African-American peers as autonomous author-artisans in the sphere of print, free of white abolitionist control in the pre-Civil War period (Roy)
  • Douglass’s philosophy or philosophies (Lee);
  • Douglass’s “visual affirmations” of himself (Wexler) as well as his celebration of photography “as a great democratic art” (Stauffer, Trodd, & Bernier); Douglass as a celebrity; Douglass and the media.

We plan to organize activities before and after the conference in relation to community-based teaching, performances and public readings.

Deadline for all submissions: January 31, 2018.
Proposals (500 words in English or French and a short bio) to be sent to:
(We welcome papers from graduate and doctoral students.)

Proposals will be reviewed by the Conference Committee:
Claire Bourhis-Mariotti, Université Paris 8; Agnès Derail, ENS; Hélène Le Dantec-Lowry, Université Sorbonne Nouvelle; Claire Parfait, Université Paris 13; Hélène Quanquin, Université Sorbonne Nouvelle; Marie-Jeanne Rossignol, Université Paris Diderot; Cécile Roudeau, Université Paris Diderot; Michaël Roy, Université Paris-Nanterre.

Keynote speakers (confirmed): Leigh Fought (Le Moyne College), Lloyd Pratt (University of Oxford), Michaël Roy (Université Paris Nanterre).

(posted 9 September 2017)

The Humanities and the Challenges of the New Europe Culture, Language, Identitiess: SELICUP 8
Alcudia, Majorca, Spain, 24-26 October 2018
Deadline for proposals: 31 January 2018

8th International SELICUP Conference (Spanish Society for the Study of Popular Culture)
organiser: University of the Balearic Islands
Venue: Portblue Club Pollentia Resort (Alcudia, Majorca, Spain))

After centuries of almost universally acknowledged respect, the humanities are now widely perceived to be in crisis. And this may be seen as a twofold crisis, coming from both within the humanities themselves—no longer, if they ever were, exclusively centred on “the study of the human” (hence what in some quarters is referred to as “posthumanism”)—and from the world outside—no longer universally acknowledging the value of humanistic thought.
Therefore, as Summit suggests, the humanities need to prove themselves relevant. And this could be achieved should they (1) stop looking at themselves as guarantors of disciplinary knowledge; and (2) go back to the original spirit of humanistic study, which had “aims, effects, and [a] social mission” (2012: 668).
Inspired by such principles, the University of the Balearic Islands will host the 8th International SELICUP Conference, which aims at becoming a suitable forum in which a wide range of approaches can be presented and discussed from the different branches of the humanities, addressing some of the main challenges of contemporary European society. This seems to be a timely occasion, as there is strong evidence that a new paradigm is beginning to visibly alter the principles regulating cultural sensibilities.
One of the main features of the late 20th century was globalisation, while the so-called “postmodernism” was very much the cultural system underlying late capitalism.
However, the social and economic environment in the 2010s is (or at least seems to be perceived as) different: capitalism, the driving force behind globalisation, has shown its weaknesses, plunging a good many countries into the deepest recession in decades. As a result, life and work conditions have been substantially altered. Likewise, the geopolitical order has also changed: political and economic power seems to be shifting eastwards (especially to Asia) while the perception exists that Europe cannot manage crises (international politics, immigration, Brexit) efficiently enough. Other factors should be added to the mix, and these include the digitalisation of culture and the very human experience, the impact of tourism as an economic force, the growing perception of immigration as a social problem and the widespread fear resulting from globalised terror. This changing environment, as Vermeulen and Akker partly suggest (2010, 2015), seems to be resulting in a new sensibility, which might even become a new cultural paradigm. Thus, as opposed to postmodern a-historicism, fragmentation and de-centralisation, this new context seems to have fostered a return to historical memory and conscience (see e.g. Todorova 2004 on the Balkans), which has in turn resulted in different reactions. On the one hand, there has been ‘a revival of conservative nationalism’ (e.g. in the USA, UK, France, the Netherlands, Germany, Austria and some countries of the former Eastern Bloc). On the other, the anti-systemic Syriza, Five-Star and Indignados movements in Greece, Italy and Spain, respectively, have gained notoriety, and the same goes for positions questioning hegemonic national identity discourses, as can be seen in Spain (Borgen 2010), the UK (Guibernau 2006) or the countries of the former Yugoslavia (Bieber 2015).
While this new sensibility is beginning to draw academic attention in the field of the plastic arts, research is badly needed in other areas. It is because of this that SELICUP 2018 aims at analysing this changing context and its effects on all kinds of cultural and linguistic manifestations. This will be done in the unique environment of the Balearic Islands: an officially bilingual territory which, due to its location and importance as a tourist destination, has witnessed a profound yet surprisingly rapid social transformation, becoming an extraordinarily dynamic multicultural and multilingual space.
The Scientific Committee will consider conference paper and round table proposals relating to the Conference’s main topic, prioritising those in line with the following thematic strands:

  • Traditional popular culture: survival and challenges in the new millennium
    o Continuity vs adaptation
    o Re-signification
    o Commercialisation
    o Tourism and culture
  • Artistic traditions vs the globalised market
    o National artistic tastes and preferences
    o The absorption of international trends
  • The re-negotiation of identity discourses in contemporary cultural products
    o Literature
    o Audiovisual products
    o Music
    o Visual and plastic arts
    o Digital media: virtual, un/real identities
  • Gender and sexuality in the new Europe
    o Gender identities in the new social environments
    o Feminisms in the 21st century
  • Language (acquisition) and identity: the multilingual individual in the new Europe
    o Linguistic repertoire and world views
    o Language ecology
    o Translingualism
    o Alteration of linguistic landscapes
    o The linguistic impact of tourism
  • The identity of the tourist destination: reality and commodity
    o Social attitudes to tourism
    o Branding destinations
    o The commodification of space
    o New challenges in the preservation of tangible and intangible cultural heritage
    o Literature as a tourist product
    o Tourism and travel narratives in the 21st century
  • Post-humanism and the new Europe
  • Memory and utopian / dystopian views in literature and the arts


  • Roberto A. Valdeón-García (University of Oviedo, Spain; editor-in-chief of Perspectives: Studies in Translation Theory and Practice; General Editor of the Benjamins Translation Library; Member of Academia Europaea)
  • Sabine Coelsch-Foisner (University of Salzburg, Austria)
  • Estella Tincknell (University of the West of England; Cabinet Member for Equalities, Culture and Events at Bristol City Council, UK)

Attendance and participation certificates will be issued.

(posted 23 October 2017)