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International Conference
March, 27-28 2014
University of Rouen
Anne Besnault-Levita, Anne-Florence Gillard Estrada

Call for papers
Beyond the Victorian and Modernist Divide

Ezra Pound’s injunction to “make it new!” or Virginia Woolf’s “on or about 1910” statement have long been used in order no support a version of modernism as a strictly aesthetic revolution — or crisis — implying an essential break with Victorian art, culture and ideology. In the last decade, however, the crucial transition between the nineteenth and twentieth centuries has been variously reassessed. In the wake of the new modernist studies and of the recent revaluations of the Victorian period, a growing body of scholarship now challenges traditional periodisation by examining the existence of overlaps and unexplored continuities between the Victorians, the post-Victorians and the modernists. Once separated by a critical and cultural break, Victorian and modernist scholars have become preoccupied with a similar search for cultural and aesthetic complexities that make it possible to move beyond doxic discourses and fixed dichotomies: the past and the present, outer life and inner life, materiality and spirituality, tradition and innovation, ideology and aesthetics.
This international conference would like those scholars to join forces and contribute to this new phase in the Victorian-modern debate from a broad range of perspectives across the disciplines: literature, criticism, the visual arts, history, science and philosophy. The emergence or re-emergence of ideas such as the “modern”, the “new” or “change” at the turn of the century is an indisputable fact that we want to acknowledge and re-contextualize by examining the different meanings and practices they encompass. From there, we wish to explore the birth and perpetration of two critical meta-narratives and their interdependence: the myth of “high modernism” and the myth of “Victorianism”. If there is no clear repudiation of history and heritage on the modernists’ part, if “rupture” was a useful fiction, if the challenge to traditional aesthetics and ideology was already a Victorian preoccupation, then we definitely need to remap modernism and Victorianism simultaneously.
The papers that we call for are meant to contribute to a trans-disciplinary publication whose synopsis could be the following, although it is far from being fixed.

I- Periods, words, labels: historicizing and contextualizing the idea of the “break”
II- Victorian, Edwardian and modernist literature: unexplored lines of filiation
III- Art history, aesthetic philosophy and the visual arts across the Victorian/Modernist divide
IV- Science, philosophy, ideology: landmarks for a new history of ideas
V- New approaches to identity, gender and the self: from mid-Victorians to modernist ideologies and practices.

Keynote speakers

Professor Michael Bentley, University of St. Andrews
Professor Melba Cuddy-Keane, University of Toronto

Scientific Committee

Pr Catherine Bernard, University Paris-Diderot — France, XXth-century literature and art
Dr. Anne Besnault-Levita, University of Rouen — France, British Modernism, genre and gender studies
Pr Michael Bentley, Université of St. Andrews — UK, XIXth-century and early XXth-entury British politics
Pr Myriam Boussahba-Bravard, Université Paris Diderot — Paris 7, France, XIXth-century social and political history, women’s history and gender history
Pr. Laurent Bury, University of Lyon 2 – France, XIXth-century literature and visual arts, President of the Société Française d’Etudes Victoriennes et Edouardiennes (S.F.E.V.E.)
Pr Melba Cuddy-Keane, University of Toronto Canada — modernism, narratology, globalism/internationalism, book history/print culture
Dr Stefano Evangelista, University of Oxford — UK, XIXth-century English literature, comparative literature, Aestheticism and Decadence, gender and visual culture
Pr Isabelle Gadoin, University of Poitiers — France, XIXth-century literature, art history and visual arts
Pr Elena Gualtieri, University of Groningen — Netherlands, modern English literature and culture, visual arts
Dr Anne-Florence Gillard-Estrada, University of Rouen — France, XIXth-century English literature, art criticism and visual arts, Aestheticism and Decadence
Pr Catherine Lanone, University of Paris 3 — France, XIXth-century literature, modernist literature
Pr Laura Marcus, New College, Oxford — UK, XIXth- and XXth-century literature and culture
Pr Christine Reynier, University of Montpellier — France, modernist literature, XXth-century literature
Dr Philippe Vervaecke, University of Lille 3 – France, XIXth- and XXth-century social and political history

The proposals (300 to 500 words with a short biographical notice) should be sent to Anne-Florence Gillard-Estrada ( and Anne Besnault-Levita ( by September 15th 2014. Notification of acceptance: October 15th.

Selected Bibliography

Armstrong, Tim, Modernism, Technology, and the Body: A Cultural Study, Cambridge, Cambridge UP, 1998.
— Modernism: a Cultural History, Cambridge: Polity Press, 2005.
Bentley Michael, “The Evolution and Dissemination of Historical knowledge,” The Organisation of Knowledge in Victorian Britain, ed. Martin Daunton, Oxford, Oxford UP, 2005, 173-198.
— Modernizing England’s Past: English Historiography in the Age of Modernism, 1870-1970, Cambridge, Cambridge UP, 2005.
Blakeney-Williams, Louise. Modernism and the Ideology of History: Literature, Politics, and the Past, Cambridge (GB), Cambridge UP, 2002.
Bullen, J. B. ed., Writing and Victorianism, London and New York, Longman, 1997.
Chapman, Raymond, The Sense of the Past in Victorian Literature, Beckenham (Kent), Croom Helm Ltd, 1986.
Cuddy-Keane, Melba, Anna Hammond and Alexandra Peat, Modernism: Keywords, Wiley-Blackwell (forthcoming).
Culler, Arthur Dwight, The Victorian Mirror of History, New Haven and London, Yale University Press, 1985.
Feldman, Jessica R., Victorian Modernism: Pragmatism and the Varieties of Aesthetic Experience, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2002.
Heyck, Thomas William, The Transformation of Intellectual Life in Victorian England, Beckenham (Kent), Croom Helm, 1982.
Huyssen, Andreas, After the Great Divide: Modernism, Mass Culture, Postmodernism, Bloomington (Ind.), Indiana University Press, 1986.
Kaplan, Carol M., and Ann B. Simpson eds., Seeing Double: Revisioning Edwardian and Modernist Literature, New York, St. Martin’s press, 1996.
Longenbach, James, Modernist Poetics of History: Pound, Eliot and the Sense of Past, Princeton, NJ, Princeton University Press, 1987.
Keen, Suzanne, Victorian Renovations of the Novel: Narrative Annexes and the Boundaries of Representation, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1998.
Maxwell, Catherine, “Atmosphere and absorption: Swinburne, Eliot, Drinkwater”, in Algernon Charles Swinburne: Unofficial Laureate, eds. Catherine Maxwell and Stefano Evangelista, Manchester University Press, 2013.
Meisel, Perry, The Absent Father: Virginia Woolf and Walter Pater, New Haven; London, Yale University Press, 1980.
Parejo Vadillo, Ana, Women Poets and Urban Aestheticism: Passengers of Modernity, New York, Palgrave Macmillan, 2005.
Prettejohn, Elizabeth, Art for Art’s Sake: Aestheticism in Victorian Painting, Yale University Press, 2007.
—“From Aestheticism to Modernism, and Back Again”, Interdisciplinary Studies in the Long Nineteenth Century, 19, n° 2, May 2006.
Ross, Stephen, Modernism and Theory: A Critical Debate, London, Routledge, 2009.
Smith, A and J. Wallace eds., Gothic Modernisms, New York, Palgrave, 2001.
Zemgulys, Andrea, Modernism and the Locations of Literary Heritage, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2008.

Conference Location: Rouen (Normandy), France
Conference Starts: March 27, 2014
Conference Ends: March 28, 2014

CFP Submission Deadline: September 15, 2013

For more information, contact: Besnault-Levita Anne