(R)evolution, CfP for the 28th issue of TRANS - revue de littérature générale et comparée
The word “revolution” in the modern sense and the rupture-related imaginary that has been built around it are recent developments (Vid. Jean-Pierre Bardet).[1 ] The ambiguous semantics of the word “revolution” intersects the twin ideas of reiteration (an evolution that returns) and of rupture (the platonic metabolê). To speak of “revolution” is thus to raise the question of what distinguishes the word from neighboring terms like “transformation,” “subversion,” and “reversal.” It also means taking an interest in the affinities (both phonic and semantic) that the word maintains with the notion of “evolution” in the sense of progress, while bearing in mind the reach and range of this term that is omnipresent in our discourses and our imaginaries and often used metaphorically. If any revolutionary thought is “theoretically poor” in the sense that it has “no real resonance that is not speculative […] or circumstantial,” as François Châtelet has written, the semantics of the term lends itself to multiple insights the richness of which we would like to explore in this issue.
Jumping off from Gisèle Séginger’s reflection  on the notional couple evolution/revolution and on the ideological impact of the 19th-century confrontation between these paradigms—in which it is a question of the terms’ political uses and their aesthetic and literary effects—we will expand the scope of this call for papers to the ways in which the impact of revolutions can spur thinking about history and time and help to elaborate new aesthetics. Since the end of the 20th century, we have witnessed all kinds of new social and technical “revolutions” in areas ranging from the organization of work (liberalization, privatization, etc.) to production technologies and information systems (the “digital revolution”). As vehicles for both emancipation and individual and collective alienation, these transformations have also been accompanied by all kinds of political uprisings and anti-establishment initiatives—all highly distinct from one another in both mode and expression—from the Arab Spring to the Yellow Vest movement, and from Occupy Wall Street to the Spanish Indignados and the Umbrella Revolution in Hong Kong (to give just a few examples).
Protest everywhere has been accompanied by new discourses, new means of struggle and action, new ways of naming the domination to be resisted and of defining the emergency (social, political, ecological, etc.). What imaginaries, what representations, what artistic developments have arisen from these multiple “revolutions”? What reconfigurations of revolutionary events, as Paul Ricœur might say, does literature make possible—bearing in mind that that the time it takes to elaborate stories makes this same literature an art à contretemps? How do literary works date anti-establishment events and inscribe them in collective memory? With what methods do works elaborate (or not) polyphonic writing strategies? What values do they mobilize and what are their chosen forms—novel or non-fiction, theater or poetry, major or minor forms? There is work to be done, for example, on the revolutionary forms that appear on the fringes of literature—like the revolutionary slogan, which is an instance of the issues we are talking about that has not yet been widely studied, as Zoé Carle has shown in her book Poétique du slogan révolutionnaire. Thus, the reflection we are proposing here should be broadened and applied to other contexts and other objects (poems, pamphlets, installations, etc.) through a necessarily comparative lens. To this end, it should be noted that the relevance of such an approach lies not only in its encouragement of dialogue with other disciplines but also in its bringing together of distant eras and contexts.
At a more theoretical level, these questions return us, as Laurent Jenny has pointed out, to the commonplace that links literary innovation with the idea of revolution previously defended by Maurice Blanchot in The Work of Fire (“Any writer who, by the very fact of writing is not led to think: ‘I am the revolution, only freedom allows me to write,’ is not really writing”). This formulation, however, can come to refer to very different ethical and aesthetic values depending on the era and context. Thus, it would be possible today to examine whatever “revolutionary” consequences might stem from the “repoliticization” of literary fact and the increasing attention it is bringing more than ever, according to Jacques Rancière, to minor facts and marginalized subjectivities; all this orients critical discourse towards an evaluation of the pragmatic potentialities of literature and an awareness of the performativity of “revolutionary” language.
Can we say then, at the risk of downplaying the importance of literatures of struggle, that revolution in literature is located in the renewed attention it brings to “forms of life” and in the “training in democratic virtues” it affords, as Alexandre Gefen puts it? Or does the notion take root rather in a reinvention of the literature of struggle and protest, as Sonya Florey has conceived it? Insofar as the idea of revolution often involves, at least in part, these concepts, our reflection cannot ignore recent advances in the research on literary engagement in the works of Chloé Chaudet, Sonya Florey, and others. Nevertheless, in order to avoid the univocal conception of the politically engaged work as “revolutionary,” it is necessary to consider the distinctive characteristics of the literary articulation of struggle, the contradictions that can arise from commitment or engagement, and the multiplicity of ways that it is up to literature to occupy the public space and chart the paths of the future.
Proposals (3000 characters), accompanied by a brief bibliography (titles only), must be submitted by January 16, 2022, at the latest in .DOC or .RTF or .ODT format to the address firstname.lastname@example.org. In a separate file, the sender should send a brief presentation of him/herself. The articles selected should be sent by April 7, 2022. Please remember that TRANS-, a journal of general and comparative literature, accepts articles written in French, English, Spanish, and Italian. The Committee evaluates proposals with the following criteria: pertinence to the call for papers, originality of the corpus, quality of the comparative approach or of the theoretical reflection on the proposed theme. Articles that have already been published (as articles, books, or book chapters), including in another language, will not be selected.
1 “Autour du concept de Révolution : Jeux de mots et reflets culturels,” in Le concept de révolution, François Crouzet (ed.), Histoire, économie et société, 1991, n° 1. p. 7-16.
2 “Révolution,” Encyclopédie Universalis.
3 Arts et Savoirs, 12 | 2019, online February 24, 2020.
4 Je suis la révolution, Paris, Belin, 2008.
5 Politique de la littérature, Paris, Galilée, 2007.
6 “Littérature et démocratie”, Esprit, July-August 2021, 47-56.
7 L’engagement littéraire à l’ère néolibérale, Lille, PU du Septentrion, 2013.