Call for papers: The Humble in 19th, 20th and 21st-Centuries British Literature and Arts

An EMMA conference to be held at

Montpellier 3 University on March 27-28, 2015.


The Humble in 19th, 20th and 21st-Centuries British Literature and Arts


This conference will both expand and renew our work on Ethics of Alterity in 19th, 20th and 21st-Century British Literature and Arts. The relation to the other will be envisaged as a “way of being other” through the category of the humble. Through the double meaning of its etymology, humbleness refers to a social condition and/or a way of being. It can be defined as “being low in rank or station” or as “being aware of one’s own limitations or weaknesses”, i.e., as an awareness of one’s ability to fail.

This conference will be an opportunity to explore the humble as a theme in 19th, 20th and 21st Century British Literature and Arts and as an aesthetic or ethical category. From a neo-Platonist ethics (as defended by Levinas), we shall thus turn to a neo-Aristotelian one (as defended by Nussbaum or Ricoeur, among others), which also implies a form of practice. We propose to address how British literature and art connect with the ideals defended in the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries by philosophers, economists, politicians and jurists—from John Stuart Mill’s concept of happiness to the Welfare State and the ethics of care—and we will examine how aesthetics connect with ethics as well as with politics.

The humble may be understood as:

  • A form of economic, psychological, religious or aesthetic destitution, poverty, precariousness, dispossession, humility, vulnerability, etc.
  • A “form-of-life” (Agamben), a utopia or any other form of reaction to a social status quo.
  • A new paradigm for the human, at a time when the sovereignty of the subject has been defeated and the subject has become autonomous, as well as a paradigm for the living.

The humble may be regarded as disenabling or enabling, disempowering or empowering (Rancière, The Ignorant Schoolmaster).

Food for thought:

-how the humble or a humble voice interacts with a text, how a poetics of the humble may be created,

-how the humble literary genres and arts of the Victorian, Edwardian, Modernist, post-modern or contemporary periods relate to the canonical literary genres or arts,

-how the humble is represented (phenomenal realism, modernist aesthetics, post-humanism, etc.) and what genres or modes the humble privileges,

-the various forms of humble arts, from printmaking to Kitsch or some forms of land art, etc.

The list is not restrictive.

Proposals bearing on the humble as a theme in 19th, 20th and 21st-Century British Literature and Arts and signalling to a poetics of the humble or the epistemological, ethical or political significance of the humble will be considered..


Proposals in English of about 300 words should be sent to Isabelle Brasme (, Jean-Michel Ganteau ( and Christine Reynier ( by December 15, 2014.

Selected papers will be published in Horizons Anglophones/Present Perfect at the Presses Universitaires de la Méditerranée.