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Urban mysteries in the 19th century: circulations, transfers, appropriations

Les mystères urbains au XIXe siècle : circulations, transferts, appropriations

Literature, History, and Medias

Littérature, Histoire, Médias

*  *  *

Published on Wednesday, January 23, 2013


Ce colloque a pour but d'étudier le phénomène mondial de traduction et d'adaptation des Mystères de Paris d'Eugène Sue et de s'intéresser ainsi au premier large phénomène de mondialisation médiatique et culturelle.


This Conference is organised by the research centre RIRRA 21, Université Montpellier III in collaboration with Centre d'histoire du XIXe siècle, Universités Paris 1/Paris 4 and Medias 19 on November 14th and 15th (Montpellier), November 16th (Paris) 2013


Between June 19th 1842  and October 15th 1843 the publication of Eugène Sue's The Mysteries of Paris in the Journal des débats was a mediatic blast in France. Théophile Gautier's famous jest gives us an idea of this success: « Sick people waited to die until the end of The Mysteries of Paris; the magic words “la suite à demain” kept them along from day to day, and Death itself understood that they would not rest on the other side unless they knew the ending to this strange tale.”  Taken by the number of letters he received and by the success of his oeuvre, the author develops his narrative  of  the urban underworld and criminals to include a social and political reflection. The novel is published in several editions, adapted on stage and declined into various by-products. But this first literary mass-success was not only the most important media phenomenon that France had ever seen, it was also the first example of cultural globalisation. In the months following the French publication, the novel was translated in multiple languages and gained international success from southern Europe to North America, from northern Europe to Latin America, in Russia, throughout the Commonwealth, and, finally, at the turn of the century, even in Japan and China. These translations are often already adaptations. But more than anything, Les Mystères de Paris set off the writing of hundreds of novels worldwide with considerable local variations. Examples are Reynolds' Mysteries of London (1844-1848),  Juan Martínez Villergas' Los misteríos de Madrid (1844), Ned Buntline's The mysteries and miseries of New York (1848), Edouard Rivière's Antonino y Anita ó los nuevos mysterios de Mexico (1851), Camilo Castelo Branco's Os Mistéros de Lisboa  (1854), B. Del Vecchio's I Misteri di Roma contemporanea  (1851-1853), several Mystères de Montréal like Hector Berthelot's from 1892 …. In addition to the repetition of the title, in each of these countries there are myriads of novels on the urban question, the representation of crime, and social exploration. They also contribute to the democratisation of literature in that they are generally distributed on cheap materials (newspapers, penny blood, dime novels...) enabling the development of national cultures. A number of these novels, by means of adapting Sue's initial model to the situation in the reception country and hybridising it with the generic traditions of the local literature contribute to a reflection on the national question.

The congress planned in Montpellier on November 14th and 15th and in Paris on November 16th 2013 aims to study this first large phenomenon of media globalisation and follows up a series of seminaries organised in Montpellier, Mexico City (2011), Quebec (2012)... Thus, our aim is not to reexplore these archives through a series of monographs but to explore from a transversal and transdisciplinary point of view the circulation, transfers, and transformations of objects.

Papers on the following subjects are therefore particularly welcome :

  • Papers on until now unstudied archives, especially those of Asia, Africa, Eastern Europe, Latin America... The French and Canadian archives have already been treated by the organising team and papers will appear shortly on medias19.org while there already is a fair amount of scholarship on their counterparts in Britain, USA, and Spain. In this category, papers on a single text or simple presentations of the current state of research in a single country are to be avoided.
  • papers analysing these texts from a non literary point of view. Contributions from historians, sociologists, translation specialists, linguists are especially welcome.
  • papers on the contextualisation of the phenomenon, for example linking the production of the genre to the detective novel, the emergence of social statistics, panorama literature, or to general reflections on the City, on poverty, on social underworlds, and to the reportage.
  • papers taking into account the dimension of cultural transfers and the circulation of material objects. In what way do the texts circulate ? What is the profile of the cultural go-betweens in charge of the translation and edition of the urban mysteries ?
  • papers on methodological questions related to what appears already to be a sort of world literature or treating on a global or local scale the question of the definition of the genre.
  • transversal papers aiming to compare and evaluate the different archives and to show the circulation, transformation, and appropriation of urban, criminal, sexual, political, social, and/or racial motives or the hybridisation of generic models.
  • Papers on the adaptations of 19th century urban mysteries in film, television, comics taking into account the transmodality of these urban stories founding our modern media culture.

 Submission guidelines

Propositions for papers (200 words abstract + short CV) are expected

before February 15, 2013

to the following addresses: marieeve.therenty@sfr.fr and dominique.kalifa@univ-paris1.fr

We welcome papers in French and in English (in that case a written translation into French is wished). Papers in other languages might be considered.

A page on medias19.org (« actualités ») will provide interested scholars with a series of resources.

The conference will cover accommodation and meals for all participants with accepted papers. Due to limited funds, participants must seek funding for transportation from their host institutions. The organising committee might help with alternative solutions in case of difficulties.

Scientific committee

  • Paul Aron (FNRS, Université libre de Bruxelles),
  • Georgia Gotsi (Université de Patras, Grèce),
  • Micheline Cambron (Université de Montréal),
  • Dominique Kalifa (université de Paris I-Sorbonne),
  • Mathieu Letourneux (Université de Paris Ouest-Nanterre),
  • Catherine Nesci (Université de Californie, Santa Barbara),
  • Guillaume Pinson (université Laval, Québec),
  • Corinne Saminadayar-Perrin (Université de Montpellier III),
  • Gisèle Sapiro (EHESS),
  • Laura Suarez de la Torre (Instituto Mora, Mexico),
  • Marie-Ève Thérenty (Université de Montpellier III),
  • Anne-Marie Thiesse (CNRS),
  • Alain Vaillant (Université de Paris Ouest-Nanterre),
  • Yoan Vérilhac (Université de Nîmes),
  • Helle Waahlberg (Université de Montpellier III).


  • Montpellier, France (34)
  • Paris, France (75)


  • Friday, February 15, 2013


  • transferts, medias, intermédialité, roman, représentations, ville, identités, nation


  • Marie-Eve Thérenty
    courriel : marie-eve [dot] therenty [at] univ-montp3 [dot] fr

Reference Urls

Information source

  • Marie-Eve Thérenty
    courriel : marie-eve [dot] therenty [at] univ-montp3 [dot] fr


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

To cite this announcement

« Urban mysteries in the 19th century: circulations, transfers, appropriations », Call for papers, Calenda, Published on Wednesday, January 23, 2013, https://calenda.org/236172

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