Congrès SAES 2018

Dans le cadre du prochain congrès de la S.A.E.S. qui se tiendra les 7, 8 et 9 juin 2018 à l’Université Paris Nanterre, l’atelier de la Société Française d’Etudes Victoriennes et Edouardiennes (SFEVE) accueillera vos propositions de communications sur le thème retenu, à savoir “Utopia(s) and Revolution(s)”.


Utopia(s) and Revolution(s)

The United Kingdom can certainly be described as a land of revolutions great and small, in more senses than one: religious, glorious and industrial, among others. That many “revolutions”– in areas as varied as the sciences, technology, politics, health, morality, spatial planning or social organisation in general – are grounded in utopian thinking of various kinds and hues, is perhaps equally true: many of the practical changes in social organisation first came to life as pieces of fictional writing imagining an allegedly better future.

Besides revolutions, utopian thought is another distinguished British tradition. Thomas More possibly initiated (or perhaps revived) it more than five centuries ago when he coined the word ‘utopia’, although Roger Bacon’s vision of a harmonious scientific community created a form of precedent in the 13th century. Francis Bacon’s New Atlantis (1627) or Henry Neville’s Isle of Pines (1668) are also essential early landmarks of Utopian territory. The Harringtonian message of the constitution of the Commonwealth of Oceana (1656) has left its mark on political thought well beyond the boundaries of Britain, the former colonies and Empire or Commonwealth; it travelled beyond Whiggism into the liberal democratic wave that swept across the world in the 19th and 20th centuries.  Since the coinage of the word by Thomas More, there is a long tradition of British utopias advocating or simply hinting at radical changes. In the Victorian and Edwardian eras for instance, the reaction of  philanthropic mill-owner and social reformer Robert Owen to the dramatic  changes of the period  has left a dual (and perhaps ambivalent) legacy of political and social reformism on the one hand and socialist utopianism (or utopian socialism) on the other. Both attitudes find numerous echoes in the Victorian and Edwardian socio-political imagination.

Nor is utopian thinking in the 19th century limited to socialist or communist inspirations à la William Morris (News from Nowhere, 1890). Revolutionary, reformist or simply alternative programmes for an improved social organisation all coexisted, and sometimes cohabited, within individual visions of a better tomorrow. Even the more anti-socialist and liberal-minded of utopian projects, such as J.S. Buckingham’s ‘Model Town’ of Victoria (National Evil and Practical Remedies, 1849) proposed a “revolutionary” programme of social change through spatial planning and strong bye-laws, all the better to curb working-class intemperance and immorality, pollution, unemployment, and other problems of the modern industrial city. The utopian collectivism of liberal thinkers was quite distinct from that of the socialists, but, utilitarian though it was, it did propose a form of collective organisation of the means of coexistence of the various social classes. B. W. Richardson’s Hygeia, A City of Health (1875, dedicated by its author to the teachings of B. Chadwick) is but one example of this strand of utopian socio-political imagination, one which proposes to enact limited, sometimes small revolutions centred on specific problems without throwing the whole fabric of society into question. Ebenezer Howard’s ‘Garden City programme’ (Tomorrow! A Peaceful Path to Real Reform, 1898), whose numerous references to Victorian utopias can almost serve as an inventory, is another famous one, which was followed by localised attempts to implement the programme.

In order to further explore the relations between utopian and revolutionary schemes in the Victorian and Edwardian eras, the SFEVE workshop invites contributions on the Utopia(s) and Revolution(s) of the period. Papers looking into utopias dealing with issues relating to social class, race/ethnicity, sex and gender roles, nature/the environment, the urban and rural dimensions, and alternative forms of political organisation are particularly welcome. Proposals on Victorian and Edwardian literary utopias or their significance for later utopian literature would also be of particular interest in order to trace both continuity and divergence in the history and representations of utopian thought. As the notion of utopia can also be understood in its widest sense of estrangement and otherness resulting from the description of a non-existing place, including “dystopia” as well as “heterotopia”, rather than strictly in the original meaning of a “good place”, submissions dealing with the definition and development of either term are also encouraged.

Proposals for a twenty-minute paper along with a short biographical note should be sent by January 10, 2018 to:

– Jean-Yves Tizot (jean-yves.tizot(a)

– Sara Thornton (sara.thornton(a)

– Fabienne Moine (fabienne.moine(a)

– Laurence Roussillon-Constanty (laurence.constanty(a)