CFP : “The Dark Side of the Mediterranean World” (Nice, France, 27-28 April 2012)

Call for Papers
Southern Horrors : The Dark Side of the Mediterranean World Seen from Northern Europe and America (1453-1939)
University of Nice (France)
27-28 April 2012

“The Mediterranean is the human norm. When men leave that exquisite lake /./ they approach the monstrous and the extraordinary.” This view, expressed by a character in A Passage to India, is a perfect example, in its extreme form, of that “passion for the Mediterranean” that John Pemble discusses in one of his books.  However, the fascination that Northern Europeans (and, a little later Americans also) felt very early for this “exquisite lake” was rarely so strong that, coming from a very different political, social and cultural context, they did not also discover features of the “monstrous” and “extraordinary” on the shores of the Mediterranean. While Northern perceptions of the beauty, vitality, spirituality and sensuality of Mediterranean societies have been the subject of numerous scholarly studies, less attention has been paid to what “stern people that winter suited”,  to cite Charles Kingsley, inevitably found troubling about them. It is this reverse side of the coin, where cruelty, decreptitude, ignorance and oppression dominate, that this conference sets out to explore, less with a view to revealing the “truth” about the “Southern horrors” of the Mediterranean that the arts, literatures and other forms of writing (travel narratives and memoirs, diaries, journalism, political speeches, diplomatic dispatches…) of the North reported, described (and sometimes imagined) than to attempt to establish the historical conditions – cultural, social, aesthetic and personal – that determined their perception (or their invention) and inspired their representation. From there, an effort will be made to sketch out some conclusions concerning what the repulsion, indignation, phobias found in these representations tell us about the customs, values and certainties of the civilisations of Northern Europe and America at different phases of their history – from the fall of Constantinople to the end of the Spanish Civil War.

By Mediterranean World is understood the geographical area extending from the Strait of Gibraltar to the Bosphorus and the Levant (to these can be added on the one hand the western regions of the Black Sea, notably Bulgaria, and on the other Portugal). Fernand Braudel’s criteria will be adopted for the northern and southern limits of this world: from Donzère to Timgad, from the first olive trees encountered when coming from the North to the clusters of palm trees growing on the edge of the desert.

The following themes are not exclusive. They provide some indications as to the desired overall orientation of the conference.

.       Violence in the Mediterranean world: wars, massacres, assassinations, persecutions, forced migrations.
.       Natural disasters: volcanic eruptions, earthquakes.
.       Diseases and epidemics: the plague, malaria.
.       The horrors of religion: catholicism and superstition.
.       From classical grandeur to the horrors of the present: meditations on decadence
.       Geographies of horror: towns and villages of the South, “so much ruin and neglect” (Dickens).
.       The exoticism of horror and the horror of exoticism: leprous inns, filth and bedbugs, brigands and beggars.
.       When horror comes from the North: adulteration and disfigurement by tourism.
.       When horror rises towards the North: the papist menace, migrations and mafias.
.       When the horrors of the South seize the imagination: Jacobean drama, the Gothic novel..

Proposals in the form of an abstract in English or French of c.250 words should be submitted by November 20th 2011.
Contact Martine Monacelli at or Gilbert Bonifas at


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