France and the United States in the Nineteenth Century: Publishing, Literature and Politics

deadline for submissions: 
November 1, 2018
full name / name of organization: 
Michaël Roy

Mémoires du livre / Studies in Book Culture

Volume 11, Number 1, Fall 2019

“France and the United States in the Nineteenth Century: Publishing, Literature and Politics”

Guest-edited by Michaël Roy, Université Paris Nanterre


In the spring of 1863, Wilky James, an officer in the Union Army during the American Civil War and the younger brother of William and Henry James, noted in his journal: “Today is Sunday and I’ve been reading Hugo’s account of Waterloo in ‘Les Miserables’ and preparing my mind for something of the same sort. God grant the battle may do as much harm to the Rebels as Waterloo did to the French.” Like Wilky James, many Unionist soldiers—as well as Confederates—connected Hugo’s novel, translated into English soon after it came out in French, with the bloody conflict playing out on American soil.[1] Conversely, Hugo repeatedly wrote on the subject of slavery in the United States, the root cause of the war; in particular he expressed his admiration for radical abolitionist John Brown, mentioned twice in Les Misérables.

This special issue of Mémoires du livre / Studies in Book Culture invites submissions that examine such cultural exchanges—both literary and political—between France and the United States over a period of a century stretching from the American Revolution to the Paris Commune. Borrowing from the tools and methodologies of book history and print culture studies, articles will explore the material conditions of the transnational circulation of texts, ideas and persons, with emphasis being placed on questions of publication, translation and reception. Did American editions of the work of the French poet Béranger, then a popular figure in the United States, suppress or rather emphasize the subversive power of his chansons? Was the publication of the first French translation of Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave in 1848 linked to the abolition of French colonial slavery that same year? What role did the exchange of publications play in the internationalization of the women’s rights movement advocated by Jenny d’Héricourt, the author of La Femme affranchie (A Woman’s Philosophy of Woman; or Woman Affranchised, 1860) and a resident of Chicago in the 1860s? This special issue will cover the field of the political in the broader sense of the term—including ideologies and doctrines such as republicanism, abolitionism, antiracism, feminism, socialism, communism, anarchism and utopianism—as well as all genres, forms and formats, from philosophical treatises and serialized novels to poetry and the press. Depending on the period and topic considered, articles will highlight the agents, institutions and conduits that facilitated the transatlantic dissemination of texts (or, on the contrary, stood in their way); analyze instances of revision, adaptation, recycling or remediation; assess the role of print in the construction of international networks, communities and solidarities among reformists, radicals and revolutionaries from the end of the eighteenth century to the end of the nineteenth century. While focusing on intellectual and textual exchanges between France and the United States, articles will situate these exchanges within a larger North Atlantic geography that also includes the British Isles, Canada and the Caribbean.

Submissions for papers in English or French consisting of an abstract of approximately 500 words as well as a short biographical note should be emailed to Michaël Roy (michael.roy [at] by November 1, 2018. The editorial committee will review the submissions and inform authors of its decision at the end of November 2018. Papers whose proposals have been accepted should be submitted by March 1, 2019. They will then undergo a blind peer review. Final versions are to be submitted by June 30, 2019 at the latest. Publication of the issue is scheduled for fall 2019.

[1] Louis P. Masur, “In Camp, Reading ‘Les Miserables,’” New York Times, February 9, 2013.