International conference. “Eccentricity”. 5-6 November 2010. |

by Jessica C. Murphy

“The most common form of eccentricity of all was one that could be seen as another exaggeration of Englishness, its innate conservatism” Paul Langford, Englishness Identified, Oxford University Press, 2000, p. 305. Any critical assessment of Englishness rests on a number of seemingly contradictory notions: amongst these, eccentricity has its special place.This conference will focus on the evolving definitions of eccentricity in English culture from the XVIth century to the present day. The aim is twofold: provide an overview of the critical history of eccentricity and conceptualise a notion that seems to be taken for granted and that crops up consistently whenever the English “character” is evoked.This event is a follow-up to the conference on Englishness held at the University of Burgundy in March 2007. Contributions are invited from specialists in literature, civilisation, art history, the history of ideas, epistemology, and word & image studies.

The literal meaning of the word “eccentricity” is geometrical and astronomical, and its figurative meaning can be translated into social, behavioural, artistic and nationalistic terms, amongst many others. Its definition rests on a paradox that can be spelled out as a series of binary oppositions between norms and anomalies, the awareness of a centre and decentring. Because eccentricity involves a form of steadfast, sustained irregularity, it becomes a constant and a guarantee of continuity. In that respect the conference will address the redefinition of the constants that were notably embodied by famous Victorian eccentrics and depicted in numerous biographies.
Specialists of literature are invited to approach the questions of understatement and reserve, the repression of scandalous texts and the establishment of the literary canon. Specialists of civilisation are welcome to contribute papers in any relevant area, such as sociology, economy, the history of medical institutions, and politics. Papers may also focus on eccentric images and address the issue of a purely stylised form of eccentricity, as well as that of visual translation⎯in the case of illustration or film adaptation⎯as the decentring of subject and text.
Generally speaking the ideological and aesthetic necessity to break with constraints will be a central topic. Papers will show whether the thematic and cultural aspects of a typically English form of eccentricity⎯which they will redefine⎯necessarily involve particular modes of representation and discourses, or particular aesthetic, rhetorical, visual and textual strategies that can be defined as eccentric as well; and if so, whether such formal eccentricity is typically English.
Deadline: please send abstracts of about 300 words (along with a short bibliography and a short biography) to Sophie Aymes ( and Laurent Mellet ( before 30 April 2010. Notification of acceptance: May 2010.
Papers can be submitted either in French or in English, but those selected for publication will have to be written in English.

Sophie Aymes
Laurent Mellet
Senior lecturers
University of Burgundy (Dijon, France)
Research Centre: EA 4182 – Centre Interlangues : Texte, Image, Langage
UFR Langues et Communication
Département d’Anglais
2, boulevard Gabriel
21000 Dijon, France

via International conference. “Eccentricity”. 5-6 November 2010. |