CFP : International Conference, Vernon Lee’s Fantastic Fiction, Université de la Côte d’Opale (Boulogne-sur-Mer, France), 13-14 October 2022
Call for Papers
The multitalented woman of letters, writer of fiction, and theoretician
Vernon Lee (Violet Paget, 1856-1935) very early –and deeply—marked the
field of fantastic literature.
Many of her works, like those gathered in the collection *Hauntings* or
such as “Prince Alberic and the Snake Lady”, make use of a background
immersed in the supernatural, be it real or suggested, to deal with
questions that are recurrent in her work. Art works (sculptures, portraits,
music) or the *genius loci* (often the spirit of Renaissance or Eighteenth
Century Italy, but also Greek and Roman Antiquity, or the great Jacobean
houses in England), often provide in-between, liminal spaces that border on
the present and the past, broken into by a fascination with the historic
that disrupts all topographical and temporal landmarks.
Readers familiar with Vernon Lee’s theoretical texts have identified
narrative patterns such as the Apollonian being overwhelmed by the
Dionysiac, or the frontier between past and present or between people being
This conference hopes to ask, if we consider the fantastic as the irruption
of the supernatural in everyday life, how can we then assess and understand
Lee’s fantastic fiction when her own texts and theory suggest a complex,
fundamentally psychological process, rather than supernatural phenomena as
described in classic ghost stories?
It is possible to argue that Lee’s chosen theoretical posture on the
fantastic reveals itself when empathy is evoked by a work of art, a
portrait, a natural place or a building which arouses a feeling of
“hauntedness”. Yet at the core of so many ghost stories (some too, by Lee),
there is the assumption that the powerful personalities of the past can be
endowed with a supernatural existence being willed to do so by the
dissatisfied living. So how should one interpret Lee’s fantastic texts?
This conference would like to interrogate Lee’s position on, and place
within fantastic literature. We would also welcome broader comparisons
between Vernon Lee and other writers who shared similar geographical,
historical or artistic predilections. Lee’s decadent and cruel celebration
of the Renaissance may situate her within the “New Romance” movement whicb
boomed in the late 19th century and is exemplified by another woman of
letters, Marie Corelli. There may also be the inevitable parallels with
Oscar Wilde, or resemblances drawn between Edgar Allan Poe and H. P.
Lovecraft’s ancient drama having cast a curse on the initial protagonist’s
Perhaps the resurgence and the revival of art works or of gods and
goddesses from Antiquity may connect Vernon Lee with a literary galaxy
gathering authors like Prosper Mérimée, Arthur Machen, Gabriele d’Annunzio,
Wilhelm Jensen, Robert W. Chambers, Théophile Gautier and many others,
while the fascination of Renaissance portraits or haunted portraits is
reminiscent of Robert Browning, of Walter Pater’s meditations on Mona Lisa,
not to mention, to different degrees, novelists like Herman Melville,
Nathaniel Hawthorne, Henry James and James Branch Cabell, all of whom
endowed old portraits suggestive of some great tragedy with quasi
We invite papers in French or in English.
Please send you 300-word abstract and short personal resume no later that
14 April 2022 to Pr. Marc ROLLAND
Pr Marc Rolland, Professor at the Université Littoral Côte d’Opale,
recently published *Epouser la déesse, Essais sur la femme, le surnaturel
et l’hyperbole*, éditions Shaker Verlag, 2021
We are delighted to announce that the annual event of the International
Vernon Lee Society, co-organiser of the conference, is scheduled during
this conference most aptly taking place in Vernon Lee’s own birthplace.