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Finding the Plot

Finding the Plot

On the Importance of Storytelling in Popular Fictions

On the Importance of Storytelling in Popular Fictions

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Published on Tuesday, June 02, 2009


A conference co-organised by the Popular Cultures Research Network (University of Leeds) and the Centre de Recherches sur les Littératures Populaires et les Cultures Médiatiques (University of Limoges), 14-16 April 2010


A conference co-organised by the Popular Cultures Research Network (University of Leeds) and the Centre de Recherches sur les Littératures Populaires et les Cultures Médiatiques (University of Limoges)

14-16 April 2010

Story-telling is a basic human function. By telling stories we make sense of our own lives, of our society and of history. We live in time, our lives circumscribed by an inevitable end or dénouement, yet also woven into the lives of others, or into innumerable sub- or parallel plots. Yet plotting – the skilful structuring of event into story - has generally been considered, in Peter Brooks’ words: ‘the element of narrative that least sets off and designs high art’. Meanwhile, popular fictions are acknowledged to owe their success to the craft of story-telling, of compelling the reader to turn the pages. This compulsion was defined by Barthes as ‘le plaisir’ (instant gratification), in contrast to ‘la jouissance’ (intellectual fulfilment) that awaited those prepared to engage with the properly literary text. However, in recognition of the enduring appeal of the popular forms of the novel, researchers have recently begun to challenge the barthesian view by presenting the story rather than the text as the key locus of the reading experience. This repositioning of the story has allowed not only for the re-evaluation of the relationship between ‘high’ and low’ forms of fiction, but also for the exploration of the interface between production and reception and of the numerous extensions and diversifications of the literary into the cinematic and other fields.

Adopting an interdisciplinary approach, with contributions welcomed from scholars working (for example) in the fields of literature, sociology of culture, cultural studies, text/image, psychology, philosophy - this conference will explore the relationship between storytelling, reading and pleasure, within popular French/francophone and English/anglophone literature and associated cultural forms. The definition of ‘popular’ remains open and debatable: some highly ‘literary’ texts have also achieved massive popularity with readers.

Both theoretical papers and ‘case-studies’ are welcome.

Questions to be asked will include:

  • How does the re-evaluation of story affect our understanding of literary history since the 19th Century?
  • How have the pleasures of fiction been theorised and evaluated in anglophone and francophone cultures? How have hegemonic notions of cultural legitimacy shaped the experience of reading and the reception of texts?
  • What is the significance of storytelling now, and what new forms does it take?
  • What is the nature of literary pleasure, and is this significantly different between ‘high’ and ‘low’ cultural forms?
  • To what extent, and in what ways, does the transnational and multi-media nature of contemporary texts alter the nature of reading pleasure?
  • What is the relationship between the cognitive and the affective in the experience of reading fiction?
  • Are the pleasures of consuming fiction necessarily gendered, and how? 
  • Beyond the limitations of a critical discourse that accords literary value only to the high brow, can we distinguish between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ fictions?

The conference will be held at the University of Leeds UK, 14-16 April 2010, and will include the AGM of the international research network Coordination Internationale des Chercheurs en Littératures Populaires et Culture Médiatique.

Languages of communication: English and French.

Keynote speakers will include the novelist and essayist NANCY HUSTON.

Proposals (MAXIMUM 300 WORDS/ 1500 CHARACTERS – in English or French) are invited for papers or panels on the themes outlined above, deadline 15th September 2009 (d.holmes@leeds.ac.uk and jacques.migozzi@unilim.fr).

The focus of the conference will be on francophone and anglophone literatures and related forms (e.g. film and other adaptations) from the mid-nineteenth century to the present, and on the theoretical questions defined above.                                     

LEEDS PCRN         

  • Diana Holmes        
  • David Platten   
Limoges CRLPCM
  • Jacques Migozzi
  • Loïc Artiaga

Selective bibliography

Artiaga, Loïc (dir.). Le Roman populaire (1836-1960). Des premiers feuilletons aux adaptations télévisuelles (Paris: Autrement, 2008)

Baroni, Raphael. La Tension narrative. Suspense, curiosité, surprise (Paris: Seuil, 2007)

Barthes, Roland. Le Plaisir du texte (Paris: Seuil, 1973)

Bleton, Paul. Ca se lit comme un roman policier: comprendre la lecture sérielle (Québec: Nota Bene, 1999)

Brooks, Peter. Reading for the Plot: Design and Intention in Narrative (Oxford: Clarendon, 1984)

Constans, Ellen. Parlez-moi d’amour : le roman sentimental des romans grecs aux collections de l’an 2000 (Limoges: PULIM, 1999)

Couégnas, Daniel. Introduction à la paralittérature (Paris: Seuil, 1992)

Durand, Pascal et Lits, Marc (dir.), Hermès n° 42, « Peuple, populaire, populisme » (CNRS Editions, 2005)

Grivel, Charles. Production de l’intérêt romanesque (Paris, La Haye: Mouton, 1973)

Hoggart, Richard. The Uses of Literacy (London: Chatto and Windus, 1957)

Huston, Nancy. Professeurs de désespoir (Actes Sud/Lemeac, 2004)

- Lignes de faille (Actes Sud 2006)/ Fault Lines (Atlantic Books 2008)

- L’Espèce fabulatrice (Actes Sud/Lemeac, 2008)

Le Bris, Michel, Rouaud, Jean et collectif. Pour une littérature-monde (Paris: Gallimard, 2007)

McCracken, Scott. Pulp. Reading Popular Fiction (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1998)

Migozzi, Jacques. Boulevards du populaire (PULIM, Mediatextes, 2005)

Picard, Michel (dir.). Comment la littérature agit-elle ? (Paris: Klincksieck, 1994)

Ricoeur, Paul. Temps et récit, 3. Le temps raconté (Paris: Seuil, 1985)

Ryan, Marie-Laure. Narrative as Virtual Reality. Immersion and Interactivity in Literature and Electronic Media (Baltimore & London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2001)

Salmon, Christian: Storytelling : La machine à fabriquer des histoires et à formater les esprits (Paris: La Découverte, 2008)

Thiesse, Anne-Marie, Le Roman du quotidien : lectures et lecteurs populaires à la Belle Epoque (Paris: Le Chemin vert, 1984)

Vareille, Jean-Claude, Le Roman populaire français, 1789-1914 : idéologies et pratiques (Limoges: PULIM, Québec: Nuit Blanche éditeur, 1994).


  • Leeds, Britain


  • Tuesday, September 15, 2009


  • storytelling, intrigue, fictions populaires, plaisir du texte


  • Jacques Migozzi
    courriel : jacques [dot] migozzi [at] unilim [dot] fr
  • Diana Holmes
    courriel : d [dot] holmes [at] leeds [dot] ac [dot] uk

Reference Urls

Information source

  • Loïc Artiaga
    courriel : loic [dot] artiaga [at] unilim [dot] fr


CC0-1.0 This announcement is licensed under the terms of Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal.

To cite this announcement

« Finding the Plot », Call for papers, Calenda, Published on Tuesday, June 02, 2009, https://doi.org/10.58079/e57

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