ANNUAL SYMPOSIUM OF THE SOCIÉTÉ DES ÉTUDES BRITANNIQUES CONTEMPORAINES
The Spatial Imaginary in Contemporary British Literature and the Arts
18th- 19th October 2013 University of Nantes (France)
The “spatial turn” which was largely initiated by Henri Lefebvre’s work La production de l’espace opened up new perspectives to investigate both literature and the arts through their intrinsic relation to the imaginary.
The renewal of interest in the category of the imagination (J.Su, 2011) affords new tracks to study contemporary fiction writers (P. Ackroyd, M. Ali, J.Barnes, E.M. Forster, J. Fowles, G. Greene, K. Ishiguro, D.H. Lawrence, Z. Smith, V. Woolf), by adopting renewed approaches that may differ from the postmodern and postcolonial paradigms. Departing from a tradition going back to Kant, and more largely the Romantics, contemporary thinkers no longer draw a neat dividing line between reason and the imagination, confining the latter to the realm of aesthetic judgment and artistic creativity. They tend rather to see the magination as a way to reach and shape other forms of knowledge, or to attain to knowledge by different means, through oblique, circuitous ways. Far from being a safe retreat, severed off from the world, the imagination may be said to be fully engaged in it. It is no longer associated to the ethereal and the abstract but should instead be seen as an intensification of the real, through “a transgression of the senses,” as André Brink once put it. Seen in this perspective, space in literature, and more generally in the arts (paintings, visual arts and installations etc.), is no longer limited to a tropical, metaphorical or rhetorical function. Space, which is no longer reduced to the level of setting or backcloth/ground, pertains to the artistic experience, both at the production and reception levels. Edward Said’s claim that “[a]fter Lukács and Proust we have become so accustomed to thinking of the novel’s plot and structure as constituted mainly by temporality that we have overlooked the function of space, geography and location,” might probably call for a slight corrective.
Contemporary criticism by encouraging the dialogue between cultural geography and the poetics of space seems to have heeded Thomas Hardy’s words: “I don’t want to see landscapes…[as] scenic paintings [or]…original realities [but rather as]… the expression of what are sometimes called abstract imaginings.”We invite contributions addressing the links between the poetics of space and the imaginary in the different areas of contemporary British studies: fiction; poetry; drama; plastic arts and theory.
Many possible directions can be considered and the following list is by no means exclusive.
– From the pre- and post-millennial urban visionary to an update on the regional novel at the beginning of the second millennium. (R. Lehmann, A. Powell)
– Cosmopolitan and heterotopic spaces (Ford Madox Ford, W. Self).
– The perception of the city in diasporic fictions (, D. Dabydeen, B. Evaristo, H. Kureishi, S. Rushdie, S. Selvon).
– Journeys to the antipodes or the poles in neo-historical novels (W. Golding, M.Kneale, L. Norfolk).
– Recurrent topoï in contemporary novels: the remains of the British estate novel (A. Hollinghurst, I. McEwan, E. Waugh), the stage, theatrical houses, music halls (A. Carter, S. Waters).
– Spatial configurations (labyrinth, spiral, installations) (I. Sinclair), architecture/texture, architectonics.
– The dynamics of space (perambulation, flânerie).
– The invention of imaginary spaces (utopia, dystopia, uchronian and futuristic places).
– Spatial hauntology (genuis loci, dybbouk) revenance.
– Theatrical spaces, spatial palimpsests (A. Ayckbourn, S. Beckett, T. Stoppard).
– The revival of canonical forms: the pastoral, green writing: Romanticism and ecology (T. Hughes, P. Larkin, E. Morgan).
– Space and theory, Mapping, artialisation.
Abstracts (200 words) with a short bio. must be addressed by June 15th to either :