CREA XVIII

2019 Conference

“Horror, the Real and the Fantastic”

Sorbonne Nouvelle, 7th December, 2019

This conference builds up on CREA XVIII’s 2017 conference on “Fact and Fiction”. It aims to explore the seldom discussed realism of the Gothic and the realism of ostensibly non-mimetic moments in fiction generally and in historical discourse in the long eighteenth century. Papers will consider how the real figures and is figured, explicitly in the treatment of character, cognitive content, and cause and effect, or as underpinning in the form of narrative technique.

Horace Walpole anchored the Gothic novel in the real at its inauguration in 1764. His preface to The Castle of Otranto told readers: “allow for the possibility of the facts, and all the actors comport themselves as persons would do in their situation”. A second preface reinforced his point, declaring that “he wished to conduct the mortal agents in his drama according to the rules of probability, in short, to make them think, speak and act, as it might be supposed mere men and women would do in extraordinary positions”. Tzvetan Todorov’s definition of the fantastic depends, in turn, upon the reader’s hesitation between the comprehension of the real as uncanny and a surrender to the supernatural marvellous as such.

Edmund Burke and Mary Wollstonecraft, among others, played on those epistemological modes, in particular in their accounts of the French Revolution; so did Catharine Macaulay in her description of the execution of Charles I. 

Papers may explore the issues outlined above in various forms of expository prose as well as in fiction, drama, poetry and art. Please submit proposal for 25-minute papers before 30 September 2019 to isabelle.bour@sorbonne-nouvelle.fr