The Metaphysical Thriller, 26-27 September 2013, deadline for proposals 16 June 2013

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Université de Liège, CIPA, Belspo

The Metaphysical Thriller
Bilingual Conference (English / French)
Université de Liège, CIPA, Belspo
Liège, Belgique – 26-27 September 2013
Deadline for proposals 16 June 2013

The metaphysical thriller is often considered as a 20th century phenomenon whose heydays came in the last quarter century. It is also generally associated with the development of experimental postmodern fiction. But what exactly is the metaphysical thriller?
The conference will address the "metaphysical" and the "thriller" from a diachronic and/or synchronic perspective, describing the different avatars of the detective story from Poe to Paul Auster and beyond, as well as the genre's capacity to deal with considerations that lie beyond the traditional reaches of the detective story and its various sub-genres.

Elements of metafiction and self-reflexivity are prominent in most recent metaphysical detective stories, an aspect of the genre which calls for a comparison with the more habitual structures of the "traditional" detective story. Such an approach will lead to a reconsideration of the writer-reader contract in an attempt to question the very nature of the "fictional" while making the equally urgent question of the limits of knowledge its main field of speculation and investigation. In the light of such anti-narrative strategies, the very term "metaphysical" will also be examined and confronted with other terminologies.

Despite the paucity of secondary sources on the metaphysical thriller, Patricia Merivale's and Susan Elizabeth Sweeney's Detecting Texts: The Metaphysical Detective Story from Poe to Postmodernism (1999), provides a fundamental groundwork towards a definition of the genre, emphasizing the elements of parody and/or subversion of the basic conventions of "the traditional detective-story" - a notion which is itself problematic given the richness and variety of the history of the genre since the mid-19th century.

Papers on subjects including, but not limited to, the following themes are welcome:

• the metaphysics of fiction and the fiction of metaphysics
• the close readings of writers such as E.A. Poe, Franz Kafka, J.L. Borges, Vladimir Nabokov, Umberto Eco, Alain Robbe-Grillet, Georges Perec, William Faulkner, Paul Auster, …
• the recurrent structures and motives such as the double, the locked room or the labyrinth
• Poe's legacy, the purloined-letter effect and the "man of the crowd"
• the ambiguity or meaninglessness of material clues and evidence
• the elements of metafiction and/or intertextuality
• the defeated detective
• the ontological and epistemological strategies in detective fiction
• the metaphysical thriller as a postmodern phenomenon
• the lost or changed identities
• the non-closure, the narrative circularity and the loop

Please send your 300 words paper proposals for 20 minutes papers to and by June 16, 2013.

For more information please contact:
Antoine Dechêne, Université de Liège
Michel Delville, Université de Liège
CIPA website: