Rogues and Pícaros in Medieval and Early Modern Spain and England: Politics and Poetics
Poitiers, France, 13-14 October 2022
Deadline for proposals: late August 2021
- Pierre Darnis (University of Bordeaux 3, AMERIBER – EA 3656)
- Pascale Drouet (University of Poitiers, CESCM – UMR 7302)
- University of Poitiers, Centre for Advanced Studies in Medieval Civilisation – UMR 7302 (Hôtel Berthelot, 24 rue de la Chaîne, Poitiers, France – https://cescm.labo.univ-poitiers.fr)
Within Western literature, the picaresque was quickly perceived as a “historically and geographically delimited tradition” specific to Spain during the Golden Age, a genre apart from the rest, almost without precedent. Going against this common misconception, recent studies have reminded us of the importance of the Apuleian and Lucian origins of this ‘new’ narrative formula. The wily beggar thus seems the prodigal son of the Ancients. Shouldn’t we therefore extend the reflection and, at the very least, reconsider the scientific cliché that sees in this character the perfect (dissident) example of the Renaissance hero? Didn’t the Middle Ages also contribute to the creation of the cunning rogue?
Moreover, on the Iberian peninsula, where Lazarillo was born on the banks of the Tormès River, it would not be surprising to find some precursors of this early modern antihero. What about the influential character of the insubordinate, who, whether against the monarch or his various institutional arms, found an interesting echo? The Cid Campeador, on whom Corneille drew inspiration in France, is certainly one of the most striking figures of the South European Middle Ages, in the continuity of Achilles against Agamemnon and, closer to him, of Renaud de Montauban against Charlemagne.
In England, the academic debate invites us to question the plurality of picaresque metamorphoses. At the turn of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, Robert Greene’s conny-catching pamphlets, which detailed the fraudulent activities of cozeners, were a great success. Thomas Nashe’s The Unfortunate Traveller was considered as a picaresque novel. With the characters of Falstaff in King Henry IV and Autolycus in The Winter’s Tale, Shakespeare portrayed a number of endearing rogues whose notion of honour was reminiscent of the paradoxical ethos of the pícaro, “the exemplary embodiment of anti-honour”.  Many of these fictional figures are heirs to the Greek mètis, to the ruses of the Baron de Maupertuis, translated by William Caxton in 1481 as The History of Reynard the Fox, and to early Spanish picaresque novels. The question is how the picaresque novel “grafted itself in England on the national tradition (that of the beggar books and Thomas Nashe’s Jack Wilton), which it inflected in the direction of anathema against vice”. 
The marginal characters known respectively as rogues and pícaros have already been the subjects of various academic studies, yet separately. The perspective envisaged here proposes to compare them and place them in dialogue, in order to question the creation, circulation and evolution of literary models from one period to another (Middle Ages and Renaissance) and from one country to another (Spain and England). One may thus wonder what these fictional representations tell us about the society in which they acted, about its socio-political choices on the one hand, and about the expectations and answers of readers and spectators on the other. One may wonder whether (and/or how) rogues find their places in society or how they stand out from it, and where the author stand especially in a socio-political context in which conformism and utopianism often intersect.
When do these specific terms, ‘rogues’ and ‘pícaros’, appear and why precisely at this point? According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the first occurrence of ‘rogue’ dates back to 1489, meaning “idle vagrant, vagabond”, but the meaning changes in 1568, when it begins to designate “a dishonest, unprincipled person; a rascal, a scoundrel”; the English language appropriated the term ‘pícaro’ in 1622, as a synonym of ‘rogue, scoundrel”.  However, these two terms, which are not exactly synonymous, do not cover a similar reality. Do borrowings exist from one country to another, thus preserving the specificity of each term? When were the various works (popular pamphlets, prose ballads, stories, plays) that represent them translated from English to Spanish or from Spanish to English? What did these translations target? For example, why is there a gap of about twenty-four years between the publication of Mateo Alemán’s Guzmán de Alfarache and its translation by James Mabbe? How did the representation of the notion of anti-honour evolve? Why did Richard Head take up the picaresque vein at the time of the Restoration with The English Rogue and not earlier? These are some of the questions this conference aims at answering.
Scientific Committee: William C. Carroll (Boston University, USA), Michel Cavillac (University of Bordeaux Montaigne), Pierre Darnis (University of Bordeaux Montaigne), Pascale Drouet (University of Poitiers), Gordon McMullan (King’s College London, England), Valentín Núñez Rivera (Université de Huelva, Espagne), Fabrice Quero (University of Paul-Valéry Montpellier 3)
Proposals (300 words maximum for the abstract + a written bio-biblio of 200 words maximum + please specify if you are interested in having your paper published) should be sent before late August 2021 to email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org
Proposals may be submitted (and papers given) in 3 languages: French, English and Spanish.
 Gérard Genette, Des genres et des œuvres, Paris, Seuil, 2012, p. 131.
 Maurice Molho & Jean-François Reille (éd.), « Introduction à la pensée picaresque », Romans picaresques espagnols, Paris, Gallimard, “Bibliothèque de la Pléiade”, 1968, p. cv.
 Marcel Bataillon, Le Roman picaresque, Paris, La Renaissance du livre, 1931, p. cxxx.
 See, for example, Craig Dionne and Steve Mentz (eds), Rogues in Early Modern English Culture, Ann Arbor, University of Michigan Press, 2006 ; Pascale Drouet, De la filouterie dans l’Angleterre de Shakespeare : Études sur Shakespeare et ses contemporains, Toulouse, Presses Universitaires du Mirail, 2013.
 Oxford English Dictionary, “rogue, n. and adj.”, A.n.1, puis 2.a.
 Ibid., “picaro”.
(posted 19 May 2021)
The View from the Anthropocene: Exploring the Human Epoch from Post-Anthropocentric Perspectives
The Institute of English and American Studies, Faculty of Humanities, University of Debrecen, Hungary, 15-16 October 2022
Deadline for proposals: June 30, 2022
“If the sadness of life makes you tired
And the failures of man make you sigh
You can look to the time soon arriving
When this noble experiment winds down and calls it a day”
In this age of ecological, economic and social crises, the notion of the Anthropocene is becoming ever more significant. Proposed by Paul J. Crutzen and Eugene F. Stoermer in 2000, the Anthropocene as a new geological epoch highlights detrimental human impact on the planet, while as a critical notion it synthetises anti-, non- or post-anthropocentric views challenging the dominant discourses and practices that place humans at the centre of the world. However, with its scope incessantly expanding and its meanings ever in flux, the Anthropocene requires constant redefinition and reassessment. So far it has been criticised for its ideological implications and several terms such as Plantationocene (Haraway 2015), Capitalocene (Moore 2016, Davies 2016), and Occidentalocene (Bonneuil and Fressoz 2017) have been offered as alternatives. Yet could we define the Anthropocene and its implications more clearly and harmoniously? Above all, it is an urgent warning about the future of ecosystems, cultures and societies alike, forcing us to realise that “we are embedded in various social, economic, and—especially—ecological contexts that are inseparably connected” (Kersten 2013). Addressing the need for coherence across versatile approaches, the conference calls for a transdisciplinary investigation of the challenges of our age.
We also realise that the Anthropocene must be acted upon, although its cry for action is crippling. As Judy Wilson put it during one of the panel discussions at COP26, “the human epoch is not only external, it is also internal”, for it not only denotes a number of ecological and social crises – including climate change, loss of biodiversity, pollution, poverty and starvation in the global south, causing waves of migration which in turn fuel global conflict –, but it also involves anxiety and apathy that render us passive in the face of these crises. As Liz- Rejane Issberner and Philippe Léna put it, it seems “as though humanity is being lethargic – waiting for the end of the film, when the heroes arrive to sort everything out, and we can all live happily ever after” (2018).
The conference aims to address some of the controversies, the lethargy and (wilful) ignorance that conceal the significance of the Anthropocene, exploring the notion itself as well as its theoretical and practical challenges from the perspectives of posthumanism, animal studies, ecocriticism and any other approaches that question anthropocentrism from their respective viewpoints. We invite proposals that may address, yet are not restricted to, the following topics:
- Critiques of and conceptual alternatives to the Anthropocene—Donna Haraway’s ‘Cthulhucene’, Jason Moore’s ‘Capitalocene’, Bernard Stiegler’s ‘neganthropocene’ and the like
- Cli-fi, dystopian and/or utopian responses to climate change Speculative and fantastic fiction related to the Anthropocene Eco-anxiety
- Fantastic texts exploring indigenous worldviews on ecology
- Literary fiction or other media that interrogate humanity’s relationship with other lifeforms Literary fiction or other media that question the human/animal boundary
- Human-Animal Studies, Literary and Cultural Animal Studies, Animal Ethics, Critical Animal Studies The non- and posthuman other (animals, plants, monsters, aliens, artificial intelligence) in art, literature, cinema and other media
- Nonhuman perspectives in literature and cinema; the nonhuman gaze Non-anthropocentric spaces and temporalities in literature and cinema Ecocriticism, environmental humanities, deep ecology and ecosophy Eco-horror; aesthetics and themes
- Bioethical considerations
- Posthumanism, post- and transhumanist frameworks, posthumanist ethics Anti-humanism, meta-humanism
- Speculative realism, object-oriented ontologies, new materialism, post-anthropocentric ecology theories, theories of social assemblage
- Object-oriented art; bioart, microbial art
- Eco-art, eco-literature, eco-media, eco-cinema
Confirmed plenary speakers include Márk Horváth and Ádám Lovász who will give a talk on the post- anthropocentric turn, and László Nemes, who will speak about his current inquiry into the ethics of de- extinction. Accompanying programmes will include a roundtable discussion addressing the challenges of the Anthropocene, with participants from various fields including philosophy, literary and film criticism, biology, and psychology; a photography exhibition; and a multimedia art event organised by the members of Művészek a klímatudatosságért (Artists for Climate Awareness). With these programmes we hope to turn the collective experience of inertia symptomatic of the Anthropocene into awareness, new forms of agency, and action.
“Time has come now to stop being human
Time to find a new creature to be
Be a fish or a weed or a sparrow
For the earth has grown tired and all of your time has expired.”
(Thinking Fellers Union Local 282: “Noble Experiment”)
The conference is planned as an on-site event, to be held in English and Hungarian, on 15-16 October 2022 at the University of Debrecen. Depending on the dynamics of the pandemic, we will nevertheless adapt and consider moving parts of or the whole conference to a digital platform. Participants will be informed about any changes via email in due time.
Please send a 250 word abstract of your proposed paper with a brief, max. 100 word biography to email@example.com by June 30, 2022. Those who wish to present in Hungarian are also welcome, but are kindly asked to include an English version of their abstract and mini bio in their application. Responses will be given by July 31, 2022.
It is intended that a selection of the papers based on the conference presentations will be published, either in a separate collection of articles or a thematic volume in a scholarly journal.
Zsófia Novák and Borbála László (PhD students, Department of British Studies, IEAS, UD);
Tamás Bényei, DSc (professor, Department of British Studies, IEAS, UD);
György Kalmár, PhD (reader, Department of British Studies, IEAS, UD).
Political Polarization in 21st Century Societies: What It Is and Why It Matters
University of Rouen, France. ERIAC research centre, 20th-21st October 2022
Deadline for proposals: 1 March 2022
The term “polarization”, which has its origins in physics and mathematics is used in many countries nowadays to refer to political phenomena. Depending on the context, it may refer to a process or to a resulting situation; it may describe a state of affairs or express a desire to return to consensus and cooperation. It can be used both in an everyday sense meaning the same as “division” and in an academic sense, linked, for instance, to the dysfunctions of an institution; it can be used in a party-political sense, or in a wider sense concerning politics and society. This semantic flexibility no doubt helps explain the popularity of the term, but it means that we must carefully map the movements from one meaning of “polarization” to another and the importance of such movements in different national or other contexts.
In the United States, while the media use the term as a synonym for “division”, some political scientists speak of “asymmetric polarization” to help explain the dysfunctions of political institutions. In the US, the debate around polarization brings up a number of questions. Political scientists attempt to establish whether citizens are actually more divided than previously, or whether it is more that the two main parties have each become more ideologically coherent. Other questions debated include the extent to which the two parties are affected by polarization in an identical manner, whether polarization originates within political elites or among voters, as well as the role played by old and new media in the rise of polarization.
In Latin America, a continent marked historically by the strength of presidentialism and by high levels of inequality, two factors which reinforce political conflict, the term “polarization” has long been used. The massive waves of protest of recent years have meant that the term is increasingly present in the media, referring to the exacerbation of tension and the radicalization of people’s attitudes. There is a risk that it become a quick-fix label of superficial analysis.
In Europe, there is no shortage of examples of political polarization. In Spain the economic crisis has led to the entire post-dictatorship social and political settlement being put into question. The upheavals around the United Kingdom’s decision to leave the European Union, or the “Yellow Vests” crisis in France constitute further indications, as does the rise of a series of “anti-system” movements, or movements for independence, across the continent.
A process of polarization has also been noted concerning specific political questions or spaces, and the weakness of the “centre ground” has often been remarked upon. The impressive political distance separating the two successive leaders of the British Labour Party (Jeremy Corbyn and Keir Starmer) is a key example, but one could also mention the division among British feminists concerning trans rights, or the sharply contrasting positions on the French Left concerning the recent demonstrations against government policy on the pandemic. In addition, groups advocating direct disruptive action (such as Extinction Rebellion in Britain or the Yellow Vests in France) can muster public support unthinkable thirty years ago.
This conference will allow us to question, collectively, the concept of polarization and to produce a critical analysis of the use of the term, and of its links with other political phenomena such as consensus or political violence, in the context of the democratic structures of different countries. Is polarization in itself a problem? Does the term polarization help forge a crucial prism through which one can grasp and analyse social and political reality today, or on the contrary does the idea lead to an oversimplification of complex processes? What aspects does the term help understand and what aspects does it leave to one side? How far is it useful to shed light on present political situations? How much political space remains for nuance, diversity, and difference so central to Western democracies?
In approaching these debates, one might look both at real phenomena of polarization, and at academic uses of the term (asymmetrical polarization, affective polarization, polarization on social networks). Topics might include the genealogy of this concept in political science, party-political polarization, polarization in connection with social struggles and the link between political polarization, the media, and social networks.
Proposals for papers
Proposals should be no longer than 500 words in length and should be accompanied by a short biographical note. Papers will be in English or in French and will be limited to thirty minutes (followed by ten minutes of discussion). They should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org and to email@example.com before the 1st March 2022.
(posted 19 November 2021)