Before Maastricht: Identity and Place in European Writing before the EU

deadline for submissions: 
January 31, 2023
full name / name of organization: 
Institute for English Studies, University of Luxembourg

Call For Papers

27th-28th April 2023, Institute for English Studies, University of Luxembourg

Before Maastricht: Identity and Place in European Writing before the EU

Virtual papers welcome!


“The past is a foreign country, they do things differently there…” The opening line of L.P. Hartley’s 1953 novel The Go-Between sets the tone for a work that comments on a traumatic ‘hideous century’ and on the challenges of piecing together personal and collective identities in a present haunted by the past. As reflected in Hartley’s novel, the need to build identity models adapted to the present demands the investigation and interrogation of the ways in which these identities are informed by past responses to large-scale political destabilisation. The European Union can be seen as an attempt to prevent such shattering destruction and to durably contain fascist and communist movements, honouring the immense blood toll of 20th-century conflicts. The supranational structures of the EU have become central facets of contemporary European identities, which some perceive as essential instruments of European stability, while others decry their potential for uniformity and exclusion.

As the 21st century approaches its 25th year, the nations and people of Europe find themselves confronted with a difficult present, marked by the repercussions of COVID-19, Brexit, war in Ukraine, and a global energy crisis. These events and crises invite comparisons with, and distinctions from, the challenges of previous centuries that continue to inform much of the contemporary discussion around the ideological and political collective identity of Europe and the European Union, as well as personal identities within Europe.

The idea of Europe as a political and cultural community, and what is defined as (and as not) European, has preoccupied writers and artists for centuries, and continues to generate fierce debate among scholars across and throughout disciplines. Literature, as a prominent medium of imagining, reflecting on, and constructing identities, can offer significant insight into the ways in which Europe was conceptualised before the organisational structures of the EU started developing at the midpoint of the 20th century. Literary writing, fictional or non-fictional, enables an understanding of cultural responses to the events of history and is therefore vital to forging insights into the foundations of present identity models, their spectrum, and their history.

This conference addresses the pressing need for a historical perspective on real and imagined forms of European coherence and invites scholars to investigate literary, aesthetic, and philosophical engagements with European identity produced before the formation of the European Union.

We welcome abstract proposals on the following topics:

•          Nationality and statehood in literature

•          Borders in literature

•          Transnationalism and Transculturalism

•          Multilingualism

•          Sociolinguistics

•          Periodicals as literature

•          Functions and limitations of literary form

•          Periodicals as texts of revolution

•          The novel in Europe

•          European identity in Cold War literature

•          ‘New’ European identities

•          Migrant literature

•          Identity in the Digital Humanities


This list is non-exhaustive and proposals for papers on other topics will also be considered.

Please send a 250-word abstract along with a short biographical note to Prof. Anne-Marie Millim (, or Dr. James Gallacher ( by 31st January 2023. Papers should not exceed 20 minutes. Please submit your proposal in Word-format only.

Subject to change in the ongoing international health and travel situation, this conference will consist of both virtual and in-personal panels. Please indicate your preference for either type (or both) when submitting your abstract.


Keynote Speakers TBC.