Thursday 24 November 2022

International conference – Crime Fiction and Democracy

International Conference – Crime Fiction and Democracy

Université Paris Nanterre 22-23 June 2023

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).

The proposed multidisciplinary conference intends to explore the complex, multifaceted relationship between crime fiction and democracy, from the late 19th century to the present.

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, Mysteries and Conspiracies Detective Stories, Spy Novels and the Making of Modern Societies, Translated by Catherine Porter, Cambridge: Polity, 2014

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, Discipline and Punish, translated by Alan Sheridan, New York: Pantheon Books, 1977

Hardt, Michael & Negri, Antonio, Empire, Cambridge: 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 UP, 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, Meurtres exquis: une histoire sociale du roman policier, Montreuil: PEC, 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. 

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:;

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)

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