Calls for papers – Appels à communication/publication

International Conference on Annie Besant (1847-1933)
London, 30 September-1 October 2017

The Theosophical Society in England ( ) is holding a two-day international conference on Annie Besant (1847-1933) at the TSE Headquarters at 50 Gloucester Place, London W1U 8EA on Saturday and Sunday, 30 September and 1 October 2017.

The chair of the first day of the conference, which is primarily concerned with Annie Besant’s public work as a feminist, secularist, socialist and anti-imperialist, will be Dr Muriel Pécastaing-Boissière of the University of Paris-Sorbonne, Paris 4 (author of the new biography Annie Besant (1847-1933) : la lutte et la quête, soon to be published in English).

Those who wish to submit a paper for the first day on any aspect of the subject should send a summary of not more than 200 words by 1 June 2017 to Mr Leslie Price, secretary of Programme Committee, at TSE History & Archives (history&archives(at), copied to leslie(at) Speakers will normally have 30 minutes including questions.

Conference participants will be responsible for their own travel, meals and accommodation.  Those presenting papers will be exempt from registration fees and will also be admitted free to the second day, chaired by Kurt Leland (author of Invisible Worlds: Annie Besant on Psychic and Spiritual Development), which is a study day concerned with research problems in assessing Besant’s Theosophical work. If you wish to register for the conference, or to be kept informed of the programme, please contact The Theosophical Society in England (

[Muriel Pécastaing-Boissière writes:] It is impossible to study late-nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century Britain without coming across Annie Besant’s name. So the fact that she has fallen into relative obscurity, at least among the general public, remains difficult to understand.
From a historiographical point of view, Besant seems to have become a victim of trends in historical research that increasingly favour highly specialised and circumscribed studies. Most research has been limited to specific struggles, especially her pioneering fight in 1877–78 for the right to information on birth control and her support of the Match Girls’ Strike of 1888. Her influence on British secularism and socialism are just beginning to be re-evaluated. Yet the logic behind her personal evolution, leading from an early religious crisis to secularism, socialism, Theosophy, and Indian nationalism, has barely been addressed.
Besant’s conversion to Theosophy remains poorly understood and has even been ridiculed by researchers who underestimate the scope of the late-Victorian spiritual and occult revival, in which the Theosophical Society played a critical role. Some writers even lose interest in the second half of Besant’s life or evaluate her earlier struggles with scepticism in light of this conversion. Conversely, though the Theosophical Society has done a remarkable job in preserving and making available Besant’s Theosophical texts, many of its members remain unfamiliar with Besant’s life prior to her conversion.
Furthermore, in a climate of understandable post-colonial guilt, the role that this British woman played in India is an embarrassment to some Western historians, who tend to minimise it. Thus her presidency of the Indian National Congress in 1917 has been almost completely forgotten in the West — even though Indians themselves have preserved the memory of Besant as one of their freedom fighters. Streets in Chennai, Mumbai and indeed many other places in India bear her name and a prominent golden statue of Besant stands on the Chennai seafront alongside monuments to other influential Indian leaders. Despite the criticism of her cautious reformist approach that was expressed in her lifetime by more radical nationalists — including Gandhi — and that are occasionally repeated by Indian historians, Besant remains sufficiently well-known for the State Bank of India to have used her name and image in a publicity campaign in the early 2010s, with a slogan proudly proclaiming: “The banker to this Indian.”
Sadly, Annie Besant’s having been a woman may also have prevented her from passing into posterity. Though she worked and fought alongside a number of talented men in a spirit of brotherhood, many of them would be surprised today to learn that their memory has often eclipsed that of their female comrade.
The purpose of the Theosophical Society in England’s two-day international conference on Annie Besant is to bring together researchers on all aspects of her public life and work, so as to reflect on Besant’s ideological and spiritual evolution within the religious, ethical, social, and political context of her time.

Curiosity and Desire in Fin-de-Siècle Art and Literature

11-12 May 2018

William Andrews Clark Memorial Library,
University of California, Los Angeles

“Curiosity, and the desire of beauty, have each their place in art, as in all true criticism. When one’s curiosity is deficient, when one is not eager enough for new impressions and new  pleasures, one is liable to value mere academical properties too highly, to be satisfied with worn-out or conventional types.”
Walter Pater

“What is termed Sin is an essential element of progress. Without it the world would stagnate, or grow old, or become colourless. By its curiosity Sin increases the experience of the race. Through its intensified assertion of individualism it saves us from monotony of type. In its rejection of the current notions about morality, it is one with the higher ethics.”
Oscar Wilde

Victorian theorists of aesthetics such as Walter Pater and Oscar Wilde saw curiosity and desire working in tandem in the creation of beauty. And while these two quotations reflect the dissidence across interpretations of aestheticism at the time, they are united in their emphasis on passionate engagement and creativity as necessary elements of academic scholarship itself. We wish to capture this spirited energy by bringing together scholars from around the world to explore the ways in which the fusion of curiosity and desire permeated the art and literature of the British fin de siècle.

This two-day conference is jointly organized by the International Walter Pater Society and the William Andrews Clark Memorial Library, world-renowned for its holdings of rare and manuscript materials from the period, notably Oscar Wilde, George Egerton, Alfred Douglas, Charles
Ricketts, Aubrey Beardsley, Max Beerbohm, and the fine presses of the fin de siècle. The conference will include workshops in which groups of scholars will carry on exploratory discussions that relate to the Clark’s extensive fin-de siècle collections.

We welcome proposals for either conference papers or workshop contributions.

Conference papers will be twenty minutes in length and should address the conference theme in relation to works by Pater, Wilde, or other figures from this period. We encourage interdisciplinary approaches, linking literature to the visual arts, music, performance, or science, as well as exploring the international dimension of the British fin de siècle. Topics may include, but are not limited to:

·      Critical methods and the critics’ desires
·      Desire and the senses
·      Scientific and literary curiosity
·      Tastes and taxonomies
·      Empiricism and its discontents
·      Textual and material objects
·      The bizarre and the grotesque
·      Curiosity and the archive
·      The collection and the fetish
·      Ekphrastic practice
·      Different desires

Workshop contributions will consist of pre-circulated papers (circa 2,000 words), which speakers will introduce in five-minute presentations on the day. They should address one of the following three themes:

·      Aestheticism, curiosity, and desire
·      British aestheticism and French culture
·      The aesthetic book: fin-de-siècle printing and publishing

Proposals (300 words) for either papers or workshop contributions should be sent to no later than 1 October 2017. Conference Organizers: Joseph Bristow, Dennis Denisoff, Stefano Evangelista, and Charlotte Ribeyrol. The conference is cosponsored by the International Walter Pater Society, the UCLA Center for 17th- and 18th-Century Studies, and the William Andrews Clark Memorial Library.


The London Victorian Studies Colloquium : a Residential Postgraduate Weekend – 7-9 April 2017 – At the Royal Holloway University of London

Click HERE for more information



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Illustrating Identity/ies

A conference organised by IDEA, Illustr4tio and Illustration Research Network

9th-10th November 2017, Université de Lorraine, Nancy, France

Confirmed keynote speaker: Professor Alan Male

This conference, co-organised by IDEA (EA 2338, Interdisciplinarité Dans les Études Anglophones) at the Université de Lorraine, the Manchester School of Art (UK), the Université de Bourgogne Franche-Comté (EA 4182 TIL, Texte Image Langage), Université de Haute Alsace (EA 4363 ILLE, Institut de recherche en Langues et Littératures Européennes) and Université de Valenciennes et du Hainaut-Cambrésis (EA 4343 CALHISTE, Cultures, Arts, Littératures, Histoire, Imaginaires, Sociétés, Territoires, Environnement), invites participants to explore the interdisciplinary and cross-cultural means through which illustration, in all of its forms, contributes, and has contributed historically, to the shaping of ‘identity/ies’.

The study of illustration provides powerful insights into not only the representation, but also the construction of identity – including gender identities, national and political identities, subcultures, hybrid identities and performative identities. Illustrators as cultural agents have the power to both reinforce and problematise ‘the visual vocabulary of politics’ (Steven Heller, Iron Fists: Branding the 20th Century Totalitarian State, 2008; rep. 2010) through their use and manipulation of cultural narratives and stereotypes.

Illustrators often navigate several personas when creating artwork – for example the desires of the client, the reception of the audience, and the voices within the text. They may also produce highly personal and subjective work documenting emergent or performed identities in relation to historical, geographical, social, cultural and phenomenological matrices.

We are keen to encourage critical and theoretical frameworks which foster understanding of the cultural relevance of illustration, and to examine the links between book history, print and digital culture and identity. Both practice-led and theoretical papers are welcome. Papers may cover any form (book illustrations, extra illustrations, press cartoons, digital art, etc.) or type (decorative, narrative, scientific, technical, historical, educational, satirical, etc.) of illustration from the Early Modern period or Renaissance to the present day.

Subjects for discussion may address (though are not limited to) the following themes and questions:
◾The political agenda of illustration/illustrators: illustration as critique and social or political protest
◾The illustrator as agitator, mediator, witness and/or opinion former
◾The performance and performative aspects of illustration
◾Illustrating identity/ies and changing technologies
◾The participation of illustration in the construction and definition of individual identity
◾The participation of illustration in the construction and definition of collective / cultural / social / political / ethnic identity/ies
◾The illustration of historical and ‘grand narratives’ relating to national identity/ies

Please submit 300 word proposals for a 20 minute presentation to Nathalie Collé (IDEA & Illustr4tio) at and Desdemona McCannon (Illustration Research) at Proposals for workshops and poster presentations are also welcome. Deadline: Monday 15th May 2017.



Illustration et Identité(s)

Colloque organisé par IDEA, Illustr4tio et Illustration Research Network

9-10 novembre 2017, Université de Lorraine, Nancy

Invité d’honneur confirmé: Prof. Alan Male

L’équipe d’accueil IDEA (Interdisciplinarité Dans les Études Anglophones, EA 2338) organise, les 9 et 10 novembre 2017, un colloque international et bilingue (français – anglais) sur la question des rapports entre illustration et construction d’identité(s). Intitulé “Illustration et Identité(s) / Illustrating Identity/ies”, ce colloque est organisé par l’Université de Lorraine en partenariat avec la Manchester School of Art (Angleterre, Royaume Uni), l’Université de Bourgogne Franche-Comté (EA 4182 TIL, Texte Image Langage), l’Université de Haute Alsace (EA 4363 ILLE, Institut de recherche en Langues et Littératures Européennes) et l’Université de Valenciennes et du Hainaut-Cambrésis (EA 4343 CALHISTE, Cultures, Arts, Littératures, Histoire, Imaginaires, Sociétés, Territoires, Environnement).

Il réunira, sur le Campus Lettres et Sciences Humaines de Nancy, des chercheurs d’universités françaises et étrangères, ainsi que des praticiens de l’illustration et des professionnels du livre, mais aussi des étudiants de Master et des doctorants.

Il vise à explorer des questions relatives à la manière dont l’image d’illustration, sous ses différentes formes, contribue aujourd’hui et comme elle l’a toujours fait, à la construction d’identité(s) – identités politiques, culturelles, sexuelles, sociales, nationales, et autres. L’étude de l’illustration permet en effet d’appréhender non seulement la représentation mais également la construction de l’identité à travers l’image et les motifs iconographiques. En effet, les illustrateurs sont, de manière consciente ou inconsciente, de véritables agents culturels qui ont le pouvoir de façonner, voire de problématiser, le langage visuel et les messages qu’il transmet, notamment par leur utilisation et leur manipulation, intentionnelle ou accidentelle, de récits, d’images, de clichés et de stéréotypes divers et variés. Lorsqu’ils créent une image ou une série d’images, les illustrateurs intègrent diverses demandes et attentes et divers points de vue : ceux du texte ou de tout autre support qu’ils illustrent, ceux de leurs commanditaires, ceux de leurs co-créateurs (auteurs, graveurs, imprimeurs, éditeurs) et ceux de leurs publics. Ils peuvent produire des œuvres très personnelles et subjectives, qui reflètent des identités ancrées ou naissantes, en lien avec des matrices historiques, géographiques, sociales, culturelles et phénoménologiques sous-jacentes ou évidentes.

Ce colloque s’intéresse donc aux cadres pratiques, critiques et théoriques qui permettent d’éclairer et de mieux comprendre l’impact historique, culturel et social de l’illustration, et d’examiner les liens entre l’histoire du livre, la culture de l’imprimé et la culture numérique, l’iconographie et les images numériques, et la notion d’identité. Il invite les chercheurs et les praticiens à explorer l’illustration dans ses différentes formes (illustration du livre et hors du livre, illustration de presse, illustration numérique, etc.) et ses différentes fonctions (illustration décorative, narrative, technique, scientifique, historique, didactique, satirique, etc.), de l’époque moderne à nos jours.

Il encourage la réflexion sur les thèmes et sujets suivants:
◾L’agenda politique de l’illustration/l’illustrateur: l’illustration comme forme de commentaire ou de critique social(e) et politique
◾L’illustrateur comme témoin, médiateur, commentateur et agitateur
◾La dimension performative et performante de l’illustration
◾Illustration, identité(s) et technologies changeantes
◾L’illustration de grands récits historiques et la (dé)construction des identités nationales
◾Le rôle de l’illustration dans la construction et la définition de l’identité individuelle
◾Le rôle de l’illustration dans la construction et la définition de l’identité collective / culturelle / sociale / politique / ethnique, etc.

Merci d’envoyer vos propositions de communications (environ 300 mots, pour une présentation de 20 minutes) à Nathalie Collé (IDEA & Illustr4tio) et à Desdemona McCannon (Illustration Research) Les propositions d’ateliers ou de présentations de type poster sont également les bienvenues. Date limite d’envoi des propositions: lundi 15 mai 2017.