Fictions of Science/Scientific Fictions of the French Ancien Régime (NeMLA 2020 Panel CFP)

deadline for submissions: 
September 30, 2019
full name / name of organization: 
Northeast Modern Languages Association (NeMLA)

51st Northeast Modern Language Association Convention

March 5-8, 2020

Boston, MA

Following the conference theme “Shaping and Sharing Identities,” the panel will seek to gather diverse perspectives on how literature and science mutually shaped and influenced each other in the pre-modern French literary tradition, before rigid disciplinary and institutional boundaries definitively separated the “two cultures.” In the increasingly popular fields of genre studies, the history of science, ecocriticism, and studies of the Anthropocene, the question of pre-modern French “proto-science-fiction” deserves greater attention for the ways this hybrid genre brings together different domains of knowledge and envisions alternative and future visions of the world. This panel will thus seek Interdisciplinary studies of the intersections and entanglements of literary texts and science that attempt to answer questions that still arise for us today, perhaps more urgently than ever: In what ways do literary texts represent, use, or distort emerging scientific methods, theories, and concepts? How do the epistemologies of literature and science inform each other? How do fictional texts use the “experimental imagination” (to cite Tita Chico’s 2018 monograph) to envision the results and consequences of scientific hypotheses and experiments? What can these texts tell us about Ancien Régime conceptions of the human, the non-human, and the natural world? By studying texts such as Cyrano de Bergerac’s voyages to the moon and sun, Voltaire’s philosophical novella Micromégas, or Rétif de la Bretonne’s utopian novels, for example, this panel will ask how narratives of scientific discovery and invention shape ideas about the natural world and our identities as humans.

Please submit a 150-250 word abstract and short bio by September 30th to the NeMLA submission page:

For further questions or inquiries on this panel, please contact Charlee Bezilla (chair) at