“Paris and London 1851-1900: Spaces of Transformation” (International)

Deadline: May 18, 2015

Location: Oxford University, London

Dates: October 23-24, 2015

CFP Link

Keynote speaker: Patrick McGuinness (Oxford)

Closing speakers: Diana Cooper-Richet (UVSQ), Michel Rapoport (UVSQ)

We invite proposals for the international conference entitled “Paris and London 1851-1900: Spaces of Transformation”, which will be held in Oxford this October, bringing together early career researchers (doctoral students, as well as more established scholars) whose work addresses the question of the cultural transfers between London and Paris during the second half of the nineteenth century.

The two capital cities – which are privileged lenses through which to assess the progression of the modern metropolis –, have often been the focus of studies, from cultural history to great literary changes, most of which have been examined from a global perspective. And yet, it is only recently that the two cities have been surveyed comparatively: the aim of the conference is thus to concentrate exclusively on the cultural exchanges between the two capitals and to consider what that cross-Channel circulation, that back-and-forth flux has brought to one or/and the other.

Indeed, most studies analysing nineteenth-century Paris agree to view the French capital as culturally dominant in the Victorian era. From Walter Benjamin (Paris, Capitale du XIXème siècle) to Patrice Higonnet (Paris, Capitale du monde), Paris seems to rule supreme in the realm of arts and throughout the modern age. Nevertheless, London simultaneously and likewise asserts its status as a model for global transformation: the British capital is the centre of the largest colonial empire, the heart of industrialisation, urbanisation, as well as the core of developing capitalism, all of which undeniably elevate it to a position of « world-city » (Asa Briggs, Victorian Cities). Therefore, in a situation of intellectual emulation, the two cities mirror each other as much as they establish themselves in opposition one to another: they both seem to establish themselves as each other’s paragon. The influx of artists and intellectuals between Paris and London reflects a desire to build one’s identity through competition, but also through a spirit of cultural community, and, to some extent, a cosmopolitan ideal.

The relations between the two cultural capitals are likely to be determined by an experience of alterity. This confrontation gives way to a new space where the boundaries between art and identity become blurred. This circulation necessarily leads to creativity: the notion of travelling then shows a process of cultural construction by, against, and with the other. Indeed, the modernisation of transport in the second half of the nineteenth century contributes to the transnational mobility of people as much as to a wider diffusion of ideas. This is the reason why the timeline of this conference has been defined as the period spanning from the first to the last universal exhibition of the century which subsequently took place in London (1851) and Paris (1900): indeed the two events appear as both reflective monitoring centres and creative laboratories of modernity. The aim of the conference is first to examine how and to what extent Paris and London emerge as what Baudelaire calls “la galerie immense de la vie”, in constant evolution while already opening up to the globalisation of the twentieth century. The conference also wishes to question the concerns raised by the process of constructing a national or transnational identity, the latter being directly shaped by cultural exchanges between the two transforming cities.

Please submit your abstract (250 words) and a short academic biography (50 words) to parislondonxix@gmail.com by Monday 18 May. Delegates will be invited to speak for 20 minutes and papers may be presented in French or English.

Following the conference, each of the presented papers will be considered for publication in a critical anthology scheduled for publication late 2016/early 2017.

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