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International conference – Crime Fiction and Democracy

Published on November 8, 2022 Updated on November 8, 2022

The proposed multidisciplinary conference intends to explore the complex, multifaceted relationship between crime fiction and democracy, from the late 19th century to the present.
Organized by the Centre de Recherches Anglophones (Université Paris Nanterre) and Queen’s University Belfast, in partnership with the Centre de recherches pluridisciplinaires multilingues (Université Paris Nanterre).


from June 22, 2023 to June 23, 2023

Recent research has highlighted crime fiction’s relationship to democratic institutions and shown the productivity of reading the history of the genre against the development and consolidation of Western liberal States. This conference seeks to build on such approaches and extend them in two ways.
Firstly, it will focus on crime fiction’s relationship not only to state institutions but, more generally, to the transformative spirit of democracy – a spirit which, according to our working hypothesis, is one of the forces that has driven and is still driving the growth and success of the genre, in its various manifestations. The conference will therefore aim at linking crime fiction’s sociological and cultural history to the achievement or failure of democratic aspirations in different national and international settings and at different periods. It will, on the one hand, try to show how the genre may have represented a modernizing, democratic force within the literary field overall, particularly as its aesthetics often foregrounds vernacular linguistic practices and attitudes, thus subverting traditional scales of values and paving the way for a more egalitarian vision of literature. On the other hand, it may also highlight how crime fiction has, at times, harboured or promoted reactionary, authoritarian or ‘vigilante’ tendencies. These conflicting positions within the genre – sometimes within single works – reflect both crime fiction’s ideological diversity and the elusive nature of democracy, as an elusive concept whose understanding may shift considerably depending on time and place. But they also, overall, testify to the role of crime fiction as a literary testing-ground for democratic impulses and values.
Secondly, the conference aims at a wide historical and geographical scale, in order to account for the evolutions and manifestations of crime fiction in various cultural areas. It will welcome papers looking at the cultural and political history of the genre both in regions where it has long been established (as in the US and Western Europe) and in others where it has only more recently been recognized, as in Eastern Europe and Russia, Africa, Asia, the Arab world, the Caribbean or Latin America. In such regions, too, the conference will aim at correlating the rise of crime fiction with the emergence, affirmation, rejection or breakdown of democratic aspirations.
In order to explore these theoretical perspectives, this conference invites 20-minute papers, either in English or French, focusing on the multiple connections between democracy and crime fiction throughout the world, and seeking, if possible, a broad analytical approach rather than the analysis of single works.

Suggested bibliography
  • Bloom, Clive, Cult Fiction: Popular Reading and Pulp Theory, Basingstoke, Macmillan, 1996
  • Boltanski, Luc, Énigmes et complots : Une enquête à propos d'enquêtes, Paris, Gallimard, coll. « NRF essais », 2012
  • Boucher, Anthony, “The Ethics of the Mystery Novel,” in Howard Haycraft, ed., The Art of the Mystery Story (1946), New York, Carroll & Graf, 1983
  • Broe, Dennis, Class, Crime and International Film Noir, Globalizing America’s Dark Art, Basingstoke, Palgrave, 2014
  • Corcuff, Philippe, Polars, philosophie et critique sociale, Paris, éditions Textuel, coll. « Petite Encyclopédie critique », 2013
  • Damrosch, David; Haen, Theo d’, Nilsson, Louise (ed), Crime Fiction as World Literature, New York, Bloomsbury Academic, 2017
  • Foucault, Michel, Surveiller et punir, Paris, Gallimard, 1975
  • Hardt, Michael & Negri, Antonio, Empire, Cambridge, Mass., Harvard UP, 2000
  • Haycraft, Howard, Murder for Pleasure, The Life and Times of the Detective Story, New York, Appleton, 1941
  • Jay, Paul, Global Matters: The Transnational Turn in Literary Studies, Ithaca, Cornell University Press, 2010
  • Koselleck, Reinhart, The Practice of Conceptual History: Timing History, Spacing Concepts, translated by Todd Samuel Presner & al., Stanford, Stanford UP, 2002
  • Manchette, Jean-Patrick, Chroniques, Paris, Payot, Rivages, 1996
  • Mandel, Ernest, Delightful Murder: A Social History of the Crime Story, Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press, 1984
  • McCann, Sean, Gumshoe America: Hard-Boiled Crime Fiction and the Rise and Fall of New Deal Liberalism, Durham, Duke UP, 2001
  • Miller, D.A, The Novel and the Police, Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1988.
  • Müller Elfriede et Rueff, Alexandre, Le Polar français. Crime et histoire, Paris, La Fabrique éditions, 2002
  • Oliver, Kelly & Trigo, Benigno, Noir Anxiety, Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press, 2003
  • Pepper, Andrew & Schmid, David, Globalization and the State in Contemporary Crime Fiction: A World of Crime, London, Palgrave, 2016
  • Pepper, Andrew, Unwilling Executioner: Crime Fiction and the State, Oxford, Oxford UP, 2018
  • Platini, Vincent, Lire, s’évader, résister: Essai sur la culture de masse sous le IIIe Reich, Paris, La Découverte, 2014
  • Rabinowitz, Paula, Black & White & Noir : America’s Pulp Modernism, New York, Columbia University Press, 2002
  • Selim, Samah, Popular Fiction, Translation and the Nahda in Egypt, Cham, Palgrave Macmillan, 2019
  • Tadié, Benoît, Front criminel : une histoire du polar américain de 1919 à nos jours, Paris, PUF, 2018
  • Wald, Alan, Trinity of Passion: The Literary Left and the Antifascist Crusade, Chapel Hill, University of North Carolina Press, 2007
  • Žižek, Slavoj, Living in the End Times, London, Verso, 2010
Please submit proposals of up to 250 words, together with a bio of approximately 100 words, by January 15, 2023 to Dominique Jeannerod, Andrew Pepper and Benoît Tadié: d.jeannerod@qub.ac.uk; a.pepper@qub.ac.uk; benoit.tadie@parisnanterre.fr
Notifications of acceptance will be sent out by February 15, 2023. The conference is planned as an in-person event.

Scientific committee :
  • Margaret Atack (University of Leeds)
  • Katia Ghosn (Université Paris 8)
  • Brooks E. Hefner (James Madison University)
  • Alice Jacquelin (Université Paris Nanterre)
  • Dominique Jeannerod (Queen’s University Belfast)
  • Matthieu Letourneux (Université Paris Nanterre)
  • Andrew Pepper (Queen’s University Belfast)
  • David Platten (University of Leeds)
  • Lucia Quaquarelli (Université Paris Nanterre)
  • Benoît Tadié (Université Paris Nanterre)
Partners :
  • Centre de Recherches Anglophones, CREA EA 370 (Paris Nanterre)
  • Centre de Recherches Pluridisciplinaires Multilingues, CRPM (Paris Nanterre)
  • Queen's University Belfast (Royaume-Uni)

Updated on 08 novembre 2022