Société d’Études Anglaises Contemporaines (SEAC) / La Nouvelle de langue anglaise (JSSE)

Responsables :

Catherine Bernard (SEAC) : Université Paris Diderot — Paris 7

Gerald Preher (JSSE) : Université Catholique de Lille


Atelier I

Jeudi 7, 15h30-18h30

Salle V307



Suzanne Bray

Université Catholique de Lille

G.K. Chesterton and the Impossible Revolution

For those writing in Britain later on in the 20th century, the period between 1890 and 1935 is often viewed with nostalgia. However, for those who lived through these years, it was an era of great insecurity with the threat of anarchist or Bolshevist revolution and the fear that big, powerful European nations would invade their smaller, weaker neighbours. In addition, new movements in art, music and literature gave an impression of increasing chaos. All G.K. Chesterton’s literary production must be seen in this context. This paper will examine, in context, how Chesterton’s revolutionary ideas are portrayed in his fiction and mainly in his most political short story cycle, The Man Who Knew Too Much (1922). It will analyse how the stories provide a strong criticism of British political life at the time and show why, in Chesterton’s opinion, the only revolution which would really give any power to the people was very unlikely to happen.



Horatiu Burcea

Université Paris I — Panthéon Sorbonne

“Times of Unbelief”: Staging the Rise and Fall of British Travel Writing During the Interwar Period

The first half of the 20th century is a time period when the exploration of the world’s territories became finalised, and most of the British travel writers of this period, express the feeling of evolving in a world where everything is déjà-vu, fully captured through sign and symbol and travel narratives invariably reproduce romanticised and stereotyped images of otherness. This paper seeks to analyse these literary postures in relation to national and transnational phenomena – the democratisation of tourism, the evolution of currents of thought (especially the modernist pursuit of tabula rasa, the questioning of romantic canons and the delegitimization of essentialist and orientalist discourses), the traumatic shock caused by the Great War, the expansion and professionalisation of the sciences (notably topography and anthropology) – but also (and most importantly) as a purely rhetorical strategy: the aim of skilfully reactivating one’s sensitivity, curiosity, desire for escapism and thirst for ordalic risk-taking through a discourse that carefully stages and rhetorically exacerbates their continuous repression.



Leila Haghshenas

Université Paul Valéry — Montpellier 3

(R)evolutionizing Self-identity in The Wise Virgins(1914) by Leonard Woolf: Towards a Relational subjectivity

Woolf’s second and last novel, The Wise Virgins (1914), is best remembered for the self-negating and at times insulting portrait the writer depicts of himself. Published right before the outbreak of the First World War, the novel drew modest attention from both the public and critics. Woolf’s autobiographical novel explores different modalities of selfhood and otherness through Harry’s constant interrogations about his own identity and his efforts at self-negation. This paper focuses not only on Leonard Woolf’s choice of autofiction but also on his alter ego’s (r)evolutionary trajectory from a marginalised highbrow person to an empowered and open individual capable of combining social and intellectual life. With this aim, I will draw on Nishida Kitarô’s logic of absolutely contradictory self-identity and “basho” (place) as well as Eakin’s concept of relational self. As the Japanese philosopher, Nishida maintains, the self has to be “made nothing” so that it could open up to others and therefore to its truer self. Moreover, Nishida’s metaphor of the self as a place of interaction helps shed some light on Harry’s attempts to connect with others and to reconstruct his new identity.



Diane Drouin

Sorbonne Université

“Too Surrealist for the Surrealists”: Mina Loy’s Artistic Revolutions

Mina Loy’s autobiographical novel Insel, inspired by the German painter Richard Oelze, portrays a character deemed “too surrealist for the surrealists.” This innovative work, set in Paris in the 1930s, echoes Wyndham Lewis’s Tarr, while approaching the Surrealists’ experimentations with occultism and what Loy calls “black magic.” Loy did not fully embrace the political revolution advocated by the French Surrealists and kept evolving on the margins of the movement. However, I will argue that she invented her own kind of Surrealism, with a predilection for free associations and visual creativity in which dreams played a crucial part. This will lead me to analyse the intricacies of the Surrealist aesthetics and of the psychoanalytical revolution in Loy’s work, imbued with Freudian theories – the two had met in Vienna in 1922. More specifically, the concepts of “figurability,” “displacement,” and “condensation” as devised by Freud and Lacan, will shed a new light on Loy’s linguistic inventions. Relying on Marjorie Perloff’s reflections on Futurism and Modernism, and on Michel Remy’s study of British Surrealism, I will explore Loy’s take on the artistic revolutions of her time, both in her novels and in her visual art.


Atelier II

Vendredi 8, 9h-10h30

Salle V307



Karen Zouaoui

Université Paris Descartes

Trying “to do things with words” in the Sixties: the British Experimental Novel at the Crossroads Between the Discursive and the Material

This paper proposes to consider the “meaning-making activity,” to paraphrase the linguist Paul Thibault, as a catalyst for thinking the subversive representations of authority, art and culture that make up most of the experimental novels of the Sixties. The discourses and narrative stances suggested by the experimental novels of the 1960s are indeed laden with political subtext which goes beyond the immediate context of the Sixties and which raises more questions about the changing status of the work of art and how culture is shaped by hemogenic discourses. It will be argued here that an important platform for revolution can be found at the crossroads of the discursive and the material conditions of reading as they are laid down in the experimental novels by the avant-garde writers of the Sixties. Contrasting Johnson’s practice with Brigid Brophy’s and Christine Brooke-Rose’s with J.G. Ballard’s in his one and only experimental novel, The Atrocity Exhibition (1970), will help us to delineate the framework for this subversive discourse and to outline the grammar of revolutionary ‘discursive consciousness’ (Anthony Giddens).



Marie-Lise Paoli

Université Bordeaux Montaigne

Revolutionary Sounds and Silences at the Royal Opera House?

Under the broad theme of the revolution metaphor in the arts, this paper will address the paradoxes of institutionalized avant-garde opera and dance at the ROH. The Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, is proud of being home of two of the most famous opera and ballet companies in the world, and claim that it “has kept opera looking forward for more than three hundred years.” The question is, if the ROH commitment to innovation is patent, have the new pieces programmed over the past decade “revolutionized” the world of opera and dance? What is the subversive impact of the new operatic and choreographic commissions? To what extent can “revolutionary” be equated with “avant-garde,” especially for those who contend that “there may be fewer things less avant-garde than the avant-garde” (Camplin)? To assess what can spark the genuine “shock of the new” evidenced by Robert Hughes, the operas of two major British composers, Judith Weir and George Benjamin, and the ballets of a prominent British choreographer, Wayne McGregor, will be examined to compare and contrast their alleged audacities.



Caroline Duvezin-Caubet

Université de Nice, Côte d’Azur

“The author is not dead; the author is legion”: Fanfiction’s Quiet Revolution

Fanfiction continues to be derided in mainstream journalism, yet scholars have long recognized and exploited its values in and out of the classroom. This talk would aim to provide a quick overview of this area of studies, situating landmarks organizations (The Organization for Transformative Works, The Harry Potter Alliance), platforms (Livejournal, AO3,, Wattpad) and researchers (Henry Jenkins, Anne Jamison, Francesca Coppa, Louisa Stein) to show how fanfiction’s grassroots ‘revolution’ can illuminate our conception of the canon (and especially how it can be queered by this paradigm shift). This could be illustrated by a few excerpts from famous fanfictions based on canonical British works, presumably Sherlock Holmes, Harry Potter and maybe Doctor Who. Given the breath of scholarly work, this approach has no chance of being either comprehensive or revolutionary, but it shall certainly highlight the subversion inherent to fanfiction as a postmodern form and theory of narrative.


Atelier III

Samedi 9, 9h-10h30

Salle V307



Françoise Clary

Université de Rouen

“To lift facts, things and happenings to the planes of rhythm, feelings and significance”: the Modernist Revolution of Aesthetics in the Sketches and Novella of Jean Toomer’s Cane (1923)

This contribution aims to demonstrate that Jean Toomer revolutionizes storytelling, as the sketches and the short-story gathered in Cane offer a new, subversive mode of writing, free from the canonical structures of story-telling, such as the generally accepted notion of plot. Outlining the criteria  of adequacy for metaphors in the representation of social reality, with reference to Paul Ricoeur’s « La métaphore et le problème de l’herméneutique », the three principal uses of metaphors (as a didactic or illustrative device/ as elaborated into a model/ as a paradigm) will be discussed in order to show that Toomer makes the meaning of his stotytellling implicit in the involved pattern of imagery, the subtle movements of symbolic actions or objects, and the shifting rhythm of syntax, or diction. Bridging imagination and narration, Toomer’s revolution in the art of storytelling includes metaphoric juxtapositions that make it possible to liberate the poetic feel of things from the prosaic way of conveying emotion in canonical storytelling.



Armelle Parey

Université de Caen

Revolutionary Closure in A.S. Byatt’s Neo-Victorian Fiction

Neo-Victorian novels are defined by the fact that they re-present Victorian times while foregrounding the distance between the time represented and the time of the representation (see Heilmann and Llewellyn 4). This distance usually allows for revision and sometimes alternative versions of stories or history, or explorations of aspects of the Victorian era originally left in the shadows by its novelists. Of particular interest in this context are endings and closure. Endings and conclusions are always significant in a novel as the sign of the Zeitgeist. A.S. Byatt has written several texts that qualify as neo-Victorian –“Precipice-Encurled” (1987), Possession (1990) and the two novellas included in Angels and Insects (1992). It will be interesting to read these texts in the context of Byatt’s unorthodox stand regarding endings: “I think closure is the really revolutionary narrative mode at the moment” (Interview with Treddell 24). I propose to explore “revolutionary closure” in Byatt’s neo-Victorian fiction, focusing notably on her rewriting of the “happy ending” and on her treatment of female characters.


Atelier IV

Samedi 9, 11h-12h30

Salle V307



Alison Offe

Université Catholique de Lille

La Réforme anglicane : la révolution d’Henri VIII dans les romans historiques britanniques du XXIe siècle

La Réforme constitua un moment décisif pour l’Angleterre ; elle est plus ou moins présente dans les fictions historiques britanniques du vingt-et-unième siècle sur la période. Bien que les personnages principaux qui ont amené la Réforme soient aux premiers plans dans les romans de Philippa Gregory, C. J. Sansom et Hilary Mantel, le bouleversement religieux n’occupe pas la même place dans l’histoire selon l’auteur. La Réforme y est représentée comme une révolution religieuse n’évoquant que très peu la religion. Certes, le lecteur qui cherche surtout à se divertir retient plus facilement, par exemple, les accusations d’adultère à l’encontre d’Anne Boleyn plutôt que ses efforts pour promouvoir la nouvelle religion ; il est néanmoins indiscutable qu’elle participa au changement politique et théologique du pays. La Réforme religieuse de l’Angleterre ressemble, au travers d’un grand nombre de ces textes, davantage à une révolution politique à des fins personnelles qu’à une véritable réforme de l’Eglise.



Alexandre Privat

Université Paul Valéry — Montpellier 3

The Events of 1968 in Adam Thorpe’s No Telling (2003): a Silent Revolution?

In No Telling, Adam Thorpe combines the repressed events of family secrets with the social changes affecting French society between the 1950s and 1960s, which culminate in the riots and general strikes of May 1968. If the theme of family secrets inevitably calls to mind the haunting effects of trauma, No Telling explores the oblique mediateness of events, by connecting available traces to snippets of events, whether they are concerned with past silenced histories or unpredictable upcoming crises. The mediateness between the event and the subject is one of the recurrent features of Adam Thorpe’s works. By “mediateness” I mean the connection and disconnection of the subject to and from the “transmission” of the event, which needs rephrasing as “intermission,” since this transmission is never transitive in terms of visibility and intelligibility, but on the contrary indirect and full of gaps. No Telling testifies to a change in the narrative configuration of the relationship between the subject and the intermission of events. This configuration that aims at entangling the subject in events while preserving their intermission is phenomenological, thus allowing for a dramatic structure that culminates in the events of May 1968.


Appel à contributions

The revolution metaphor has been one of the most lastingly influential ones in modernist and contemporary literature and visual arts. It has informed the history of aesthetics and its periodization, the Modernist revolution unfolding in a succession of sub-revolutions captured in the “isms” that, in the arts, came in quick succession from Post-Impressionism to Vorticism, or Surrealism. Formal experimentation and an agonistic relation to the dominant aesthetics inherited from the 19th century were central to the modernist revolution and the narrative has remained till today the dominant one, with its emphasis on literature and art as revolutionary events, always in excess of the known.

Whether defined as revolutionary or, more often in Anglo-American criticism, as avant-garde, literature and the arts radically redefined their relation to society and history, form itself being endowed with utopian agency. In Terry Eagleton’s words “the ‘poetics’ of previous revolutions ha[d] been of an ‘expressive’ or ‘representational’ kind. But the ‘form’ of the future society [was] that of a ceaseless self-surpassement of ‘content’” (Criticism and Ideology, 1976, 184). Criticism has also emphasized the utopian purport of literature and the arts, from Fredric Jameson’s exploration of utopia in Archaeologies of the Future (Verso, 2005) to Toril Moi’s very recent essay Revolutions of the Ordinary: Literary Studies after Wittgenstein, Austin, and Cavell (University of Chicago Press, 2017); and one of course may return to Peter Bürger’s seminal Theory of the Avant-Garde (1974) or to Gabriel Josipovici’s analysis of modernism’s legacy in Whatever Happened to Modernism? (2010).

The joint workshop organized by the Société d’Études Anglaises Contemporaines and the editors of the Journal of the Short Story in English will be the occasion to revisit such a narrative, as well as some of its aesthetic and historical implications. If the form taken by such a revolution in Modernist literature has been explored at length, its theorization by modernist writers and artists and by later readers may offer us a different take on that turning point. Later conceptions of the relation of art to social and political change may also shed a different light on the revolutionary impact of literature; one may think of Orwell’s controversial essay “Inside the Whale” (1940), or the political agenda of later experimental writers such as B.S. Johnson, Alan Burns or Christine Brooke-Rose. Similarly, literature’s revolutionary potential may also be traced in contemporary literature’s treatment of identity politics, whether in the field of gender identity, cultural or ethnic identity.

Papers may take as their focus British literature of the 20th and the 21st centuries, as well as British visual arts of the same period. They may also turn to the genre of the short-story, whether American or British, from the 19th to the 21st centuries. They may also take an interest in essays, diaries, or any other genre or format in which artists and writers choose to explore their understanding of aesthetic revolutions.

Possible topics or issues to be examined (list non exclusive):

— Modernism’s avant-garde aesthetics, from the Vorticists to the Surrealists and Modernism’s political agenda;

— The reaction against the avant-garde in the 40s and 50s;

— The revolutionary agenda of the Angry Young Men;

— Gender revolution(s), from Virginia Woolf or May Sinclair, to Angela Carter;

— British political cinema, from the experimental cinema of the 60s, to Ken Loach and Mike Leigh;

— Theories of literary commitment, from H.G. Wells to Tom McCarthy;

— The subversive emergence of new literary formats: from the short-story cycle to electronic literature;

— Literary utopia and dystopia.

Proposals of 400 words (+ short critical bibliography) and a short biographical note should be sent to Catherine Bernard and Gerald Preher, before January 5th 2018.

Papers will be submitted for publication to Études britanniques contemporaines or to The Journal of the Short Story in English (both peer-reviewed).