Caryl Phillips, Crossing the River: "the many-tongued chorus"

full name / name of organization: 
Vanessa GUIGNERY, Ecole Normale Supérieure de Lyon, France.


This international conference seeks to offer new perspectives on Caryl Phillips's fifth novel Crossing the River. Published in 1993 and the recipient of the James Tait Black Memorial Prize in 1994, Crossing the River weaves together four narratives of forced displacement and throws light on the slave trade in Africa in the 18th century, the journey back to Africa of emancipated slaves from America in the 19th century, the ordeal of a former slave turned frontierswoman and defeated pioneer in the American Wild West and the alienation of an Englishwoman and a black GI in England during the Second Word War. Spanning three centuries and criss-crossing three continents, the novel raises questions relating to identity, belonging, uprootedness, responsibility, loss and nostalgia.

Contributors are invited to adopt a variety of approaches that will illuminate the main themes, narrative strategies, literary traditions, modes of writing, generic traits, structural principles and any other component of the novel. Proposals may focus on, but are not restricted to, the following topics:
- Diasporic identities
- Diasporic writing
- Exile and unhomeliness (Bhabha)
- The ethics of responsibility
- Alternative histories of slavery and colonisation
- Spatial and temporal crossings
- Narrative fragmentation
- Narrative empowerment
- Intertextuality and literary ancestors
- Generic hybridity
- A polyphony of voices
- Dialogism and pastiche
- Individual and collective traumas
- "rememory" (Toni Morrison)
- "double-voicedness" (Gates) and double consciousness (Du Bois)

Papers will be delivered in French and English. They will be peer-reviewed for publication in the scholarly journal CYCNOS, a publication of the Laboratoire Interdisciplinaire Récits Cultures Et Sociétés of the University of Nice Sophia Antipolis.

Contributors are invited to send a provisional title as soon as possible, and then an abstract in French or English (300 words) along with a short biography (200 words) to Vanessa Guignery ( Christian Gutleben ( and Catherine Delesalle-Nancey ( by 30 June 2016.

Scientific and organising committee:
Vanessa Guignery, ENS de Lyon – IUF
Christian Gutleben, University of Nice Sophia Antipolis
Catherine Delesalle-Nancey, University of Lyon 3