17-19 Oct 2019 Montpellier (France)

Provisional programme

Short Fiction as Humble Fiction – Provisional Programme



Thursday 17 October

9h15-9h45 Welcome and (late) registration


9h45 Opening of the Conference

10h Keynote lecture: Elke d’Hoker


11h Coffee Break

11h30 Parallel panels

Humble Women

Regional and National Identities



13h Lunch Break


14h Parallel panels

Invisibilities 1

Hailing from Asia


15h30 Coffee break

16h. Parallel panels

Invisibilities 2

The Atlantic in Between


17h30 Short Story Competition

18h Short Story Readings 1





Friday 18 October


9h30 Parallel panels



11h00 Coffee break

11h30 Keynote lecture: Ann Marie Einhaus (Northumbria University)



12h30 Lunch


13h30 Short Story Readings 1


14h30 Parallel panels


Specific Forms


16h Coffee break

16h30 Short Story Readings 2

20h Dinner in town




Saturday 19 October


9h30 Parallel panels

American Variations

Ordinary Lives


11h break Coffee


11h30 Parallel panels

Ecocritical Echoes…



13h Lunch

Tour of Montpellier, Musée Fabre

Call for papers

Short Fiction as Humble Fiction/Reframing Short Fiction as Humble Fiction?

The title of this conference may sound like a provocative statement. It may suggest a return to a definition of the genre as a minor one, as it was the case in the 19th century, before the golden age of the short story in modernist times, when the short story was understood as being subservient to the novel (it ‘was once the condensed novel’, as Elizabeth Bowen put it) or used as a filler, in the serialization of Victorian novels.

This is obviously not what the conference means to do. We would like to reverse the perspective and claim short fiction not exactly as a minor genre but as a humble one. As a humble genre, what can the short story do that the novel cannot?  What can it better convey?

We suggest to use the ‘humble’ as a critical tool that may help reframe and redefine short fiction, a notoriously elusive genre. How do short story writers deal with humble subjects - humble humans (the poor, the marginal, the outcasts, the disabled, etc.) and non-humans (animals, plants, objects), the ordinary, the everyday, the domestic, the prosaic, etc.? How do they draw attention to what tends to be disregarded or neglected and how do they play with attention and inattention (Gardiner)? What rhetorical and stylistic devices do they use? What happens when they broach humble topics with humble tools, a bare, minimal style, for instance? How does the humble form of the short story – its brevity – fit humble topics?  Does the conjunction of the two give the short story a minor status or can it be empowering? In other words, should the humble be regarded as a synonym of ‘minor’ or as a quality and a capability (Nussbaum)?

Asking such questions will open a rich debate. How does the humble nature of short fiction connect with the epiphany, the moment of being, the event? If, along with Camille Dumoulié, we consider the ethical dimension of short fiction to be connected to/stems from its being ‘a genre of the event’, could a humble genre also be considered an ethical genreSince the term ‘humble’, from the Latin humilis . ‘low, lowly,’ Itself from humus ‘ground’’ -  is often used as a euphemism for ‘the poor’, we can consider its representation of humble characters (Joyce’s  Dubliners  or Eudora Welty’s short stories) as well as the way this genre handles the theme of poverty ( as in Dalit short fiction) or  its representations of and reflections on the earth and all that relates to the environment. The theme of the humble is also manifest In its very inclusiveness and openness to the reader, or in the very precarious nature of the genre, in its openness to other genres? Dealing with short fiction as a humble genre will thus lead contributors to take into account its interactions with humble arts and media: the art of engraving, sketching or photography used in the illustrations of the volumes or magazines in which many modernist short stories were initially published; the radio that broadcast so many short stories, sometimes read by the short story writers themselves, as occurred on BBC4 with, for instance, Frank O’Connor; the web today, with flash fiction online or video performances of short fiction, etc. How do these various art forms and media shape each other and how do these interactions construct short fiction as a humble genre? In other words, how does the motif of the humble morph into an ‘experiential category’ (Locatelli) or a poetics of the humble?

Reframing the humble as an aesthetic category will help reread short fiction and better capture its elusive contours, focusing either on well-known short fiction by famous writers that will be approached in a different light or retrieving some unfairly neglected texts from oblivion, as for examplewhat Anne Marie Einhaus has started doing in her work on The Short Story and the First World War or again, Elke d’Holker’s current work on short fiction and popular magazines..

This conference means to cross national borders and disciplinary boundaries, especially those separating literature and the visual arts or literature and philosophy. The questions asked can be broached through short fiction written in English (or in French/other languages) by writers of various nationalities over the 19th and 20th centuries until nowadays. The suggested acceptations of the term ‘humble’ are not limitative but indicative.

Proposals of about 300 words together with a short biographical note (50 words) should be sent to … by …

A selection of peer-reviewed articles will be published in The Journal of the Short Story in English and Short Fiction in Theory & Practice.


Works cited

E. Bowen, Collected Impressions, New York: Alfred Knopf, 1950, 38.

D’Hoker, Elke, and Stephanie Eggermont, “Fin-de-Siècle Women Writers and the Modern Short Story”, English Literature in Transition, 1880-1920, 58/3 (2015): 291-312.

Dumoulié, Camille, Littérature et philosophie : Le gai savoir de la littérature, Paris: Armand Colin, 2002, 55.

Einhaus, Ann-Marie, The Short Story and the First World War, Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2013.

Gardiner,Michael, “Everyday Utopianism: Lefebvre and his Critics”, Cultural Studies 18.2/3 (March/May 2004): 228-54.

Locatelli, Angela, ‘”The Humble/d” in Literature and Philosophy: Precariousness, Vulnerability and the Pragmatics of Social Visibility’, in The Humble in 19th, 20th and 21st-Century British Literature and Arts, I. Brasme, J-M Ganteau and C. Reynier eds., Montpellier: PULM, 2017, 147-64.

Nussbaum, Martha, Creating Capabilities. The Human Development Approach, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2011.

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