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The fleeting nature of short forms

Les temps de la fulgurance : forces et fragilités de la forme brève

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Published on Wednesday, December 20, 2017


Les formes brèves font l’objet d’un intérêt grandissant de la part des chercheurs. Notre colloque, international et interdisciplinaire, s’inscrira dans ce paysage selon un angle d’approche inédit. Si la notion du bref n’est bien sûr pas synonyme de celle du court, il nous semble intéressant de questionner le rapport des formes brèves au temps, ou plutôt aux temps de la fulgurance, en nous intéressant tout particulièrement à leurs enjeux, leurs atouts et leurs limites, en lien précisément avec cette temporalité protéiforme. La fulgurance instaure une nouvelle dynamique temporelle dans la forme brève. Il serait aussi pertinent sans doute de s’interroger sur une poétique de la fulgurance, voire sur son éthique.


18-20 April 2018

Location: Maison de la Recherche Germaine Tillion, University of Angers, France; Museum of Fine Arts, Angers France  (19 April 2018)

Research group: CIRPaLL, University of Angers


  • Karima Thomas,
  • Cécile Meynard


This event is the latest in a series of workshops and symposiums that have already been organized in 2016 and 2017 by the University of Angers and the University of Nantes for the FOBrALC[1] project, and indicates a growing interest for short forms research in the newly formed conglomerate of Loire Valley and Brittany Universities, France.

The concept of brevity is, of course, not necessarily synonymous with shortness, and the question of the relationship between short forms and time, or rather transience, deserves more critical attention. We are particularly interested in the multifaceted interaction between form and time: “The Cyclopses, sons of Earth and Sky, when they were imprisoned by C(h)ronos, Time, formed the trinity of thunder—flash—and lightening bolt and gave it to Zeus in exchange for their freedom”[2]. It is as if the liberation from time and duration were concomitant with the fleeting nature of the flash, and the intensity of the lightening strike. Freedom from time does not, however, signify the absence of time.

In the concept of fleetingness, or transience, time is seemingly unhinged. Between the unchangeable time of the maxim[3], the immediateness of the aphorism[4], the instantaneity of the fleeting image that, once retransmitted, “erases the trace of time”[5], the ephemeral time of performances (land-art, photos posted on Instagram, news briefs, news flashes…), precise time that shrinks, and/or extends into duration (diaries, Facebook posts, tweets, poetry collections), the fragmented times of television series proposing a story through a series of “micro-narratives,” or the repetitive temporality of story loops, fleetingness creates a new dynamic in the short form. It would undoubtedly be relevant to examine the poetics of transience or even its ethics. We could consider, for example, photographic shots stolen by paparazzi or taken during natural catastrophes, or even demonstration banners or websites that overflow with maxims for our modern times. The diversity of these practices leads us to examine the strengths as well as the weaknesses of short forms: their effectiveness and moral relevance as well as the question of sustainability or long term conservation.

Perhaps the idea of fleetingness might also reveal the danger inherent to short forms, that of the unfinished, the risk of irrelevance or nonsense, or even of incomplete reception. It might also generate in short forms the force of shock, as laconic, lapidary bursts could serve as proof of semantic and semiotic effectiveness, and also as a promise of sustainability and conservation.

The notions of brevity and fleetingness could also be associated with the following:

1. Interconnected concepts:

  • The immediate, instantaneous, ephemeral
  • Intensity, violence: explosion, shock, impact
  • Tone and style: laconic, lapidary, dry, brusque, aggressive; changes in style brought about by changes in form (email, twitter…)
  • Mysticism: revelation; myths and the sacred
  • Creation and its energies: dazzling, overflowing
  • Fragmentation, the relationship between the complete and the incomplete, the inexpressible
  • Possible contradictions: finesse vs. coarseness, concentration vs. reduction, density vs lightness, the ephemeral vs. the sustainable

2. Artistic Forms

  • Performances, land-art, street-art, bandes dessinées, comic strips, flashmobs, photography…
  • Literary short forms: Flash-fiction, nano-fiction, embedded stories, anecdotes, poetry…
  • Scenic and audiovisual short forms: theatre, cliff-hangers, television micro-narratives …
  • Practices, receptions and uses: zapping, “teasers,” concentration/selection (abstracts, extracts, summaries), stylisation, synthesis, modes of knowledge and comprehension of the world, culture, of reality through short forms (pedagogical, therapeutic, and scientific uses), caricature, stereotype, etc.

3. Forms of expression, of communication and information : manifestoes, slogans, posters, news briefs, media reports, promotional speeches, trailers …

In order to better understand the complex and multiform concept of the “short form” through the prism of temporality, we hope to have a wide-ranging interdisciplinary approach in areas as varied as literature, history, philosophy, information sciences, linguistics, didactics, sociology, medicine, psychology, the arts, performance, the economics of creative practice, etc.

Submission guidelines

Proposals for papers in English or in French (350-500 words) should be sent to Karima Thomas (karima.thomas@univ-angers.fr) and Cécile Meynard (cecile.meynard@univ-angers.fr), along with a brief CV (3/4 -- 1 page)

by 21st January 2018.

The scientific committee will examine proposals and send notice of acceptance by 25 January at the latest.

Comité scientifique

  • Ailsa Cox (littérature britannique, université d’Edge Hill)
  • Elke d’hoker (littérature britannique, université de Louvain)
  • Yvon Houssais (littérature française, université de Franche-Comté)
  • Yannick Le Boulicaut (traductologie, université catholique de l’Ouest)
  • Gérald Préher (Littérature américaine, université de Lille)
  • Michelle Ryan-Sautour (littérature britannique, université d’Angers)
  • Walter Zidaric (études italiennes, université de Nantes)
  • Shannon Wells Lassagne (Cinéma et Télévision, Université de Bourgogne)
  • Anne Vincent (Arts Plastiques, Université Catholique de l’Ouest)
  • Martine Hennard Dutheil De La Rochère (Littérature comparée, Université de Lausanne)

Notes et références

[1] Formes brèves dans les Arts, la Linguistique et la Culture, financé par le CPER, MSH- Ange-Guépin, Région des pays de la Loire. (Short Forms in the Arts, Linguistics, and Culture)

[2] Florence Delay, Petites formes en prose après Edison, Fayard, 2001, p. 9

[3]Roland Barthes, « Réflexion ou sentence et Maxime », Degrès Zéro de l’Ecriture, Seuil 1972, p. 45

[4] Alain Montandon, Les formes brèves, Hachette, 1992, p.70.

[5] Alain Gauthier, « Le temps c’est l’image », Quaderni N°16, 1991-1992, p.46.


  • Maison de la Recherches Germaine Tillion - Campus Belle Beille
    Angers, France (49)


  • Sunday, January 21, 2018


  • forme, brève, temporalité


  • Cécile Meynard
    courriel : cecile [dot] meynard [at] gmail [dot] com
  • Karima Thomas
    courriel : karima [dot] thomas [at] univ-angers [dot] fr

Information source

  • Karima Thomas
    courriel : karima [dot] thomas [at] univ-angers [dot] fr


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

To cite this announcement

« The fleeting nature of short forms », Call for papers, Calenda, Published on Wednesday, December 20, 2017, https://doi.org/10.58079/z59

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