InicioL’exil au Moyen Âge, entre tourment et plénitude

InicioL’exil au Moyen Âge, entre tourment et plénitude

L’exil au Moyen Âge, entre tourment et plénitude

Exile in the Middle Ages: from Torment to Plenitude

Exile in the Middle Ages: from Torment to Plenitude

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Publicado el miércoles 22 de mayo de 2019 por Anastasia Giardinelli


Ce colloque a pour objectif de définir les divers aspects du concept de l’exil au Moyen Âge – exil réel ou exil métaphorique – à travers les prismes du droit, de l’histoire, de la littérature, et de la linguistique. Ce colloque constituera une première approche paradigmatique d’un sujet assez peu exploré, tout du moins dans la sphère des études médiévales. Divers axes de recherche pourront être envisagés. Les propositions dans les domaines suivants (et/ou dans une perspective interdisciplinaire) seront les bienvenues : littérature française et anglaise, littérature comparée, narratologie, linguistique, traduction, études culturelles, histoire, religion, philosophie. Les communications proposées pourront être de nature théorique, descriptive ou empirique (essais, synthèses, études de cas, études comparées).



International Colloquium, 7-8 November, 2019

Université Catholique de l’Ouest (UCO), Angers, France


The mere mention of the term “exile” conjures up a myriad of vivid images and emotions : the Jewish tribes deported to Babylon by order of Emperor Nebuchadnezzar (586 BC); the image of the poet Ovid, isolated on the shores of Tomis, complaining about the distress of solitude in the elegiac couplets of his Tristia; or, in a different vein, the peaceful image of St Anthony the Great (251-356), alias the Anchorite, leading a contemplative life far from the bustle of secular society, in the Egyptian desert, a most propitious place for divine revelation. Human history has been punctuated by the experience of exile since the dawn of time, be it forced expulsion or voluntary isolation. Many are those who “by the rivers of Babylon [...] sat down and wept when [they] remembered Zion” (Psalm 137:1). If exile lies in the dialectics of estrangement from one’s native land, the paths to exile are nevertheless manifold and multifaceted. In this respect, the etymology is rather telling as it sheds light on the original meaning of the term exile pertaining to the law lexicon.

Diachronically, exile stems from the Latin exul, exsul “a banished person; one driven from his native land”1, a compound noun formed from the prefix ex- “out”, denoting a removal from a starting point, and a stem probably deriving from the Proto-Indo-European root *al “to wander, to go”2. In this perspective, exul conveys the dual notions of expelling and wandering. It is little wonder that exile became the appropriate legal term for punitive banishment in Roman law. Thus, the exercise of power rested on the enforcement of a legitimate sentence, considered as a well-deserved penalty for breaking the law. Although such a sentence spared the culprit’s life, the disgrace of exile was acutely felt and often deemed worse than capital punishment.

However, some philosophers banished from society managed to lessen the suffering of exile by sublimating so dreaded an experience into “a metonymy for the human condition”3, as the historian Jennifer Speake points out. In his Consolation to Helvia, the Stoic philosopher Seneca (4 BC-65 CE), meditating on the sources of true happiness and the universality of exile, declared: “inside the world there can be found no place of exile: for nothing that is inside the world is foreign to mankind”4.

If exile in ancient times took many different forms and was often at the heart of the human condition, how far did that remain true in medieval times? How did people in the Middle Ages conceive of the notion of exile? At a time when the “problem of universals” arose, could the human experience of exile be viewed as a subject of universal significance? Was the ethical vision of exile central to the stability of medieval society? Had the concept of exile changed significantly in the legal system since ancient times? Was it still perceived as the worst punishment that could be inflicted on a human being? In the religious sphere, was the experience of exile equated with a mere displacement under duress, or a deliberate, intentional estrangement? How did medieval literature explore the exilic condition? How did the literature of exile mirror the feelings of the outcast, like the Old English anhaga, this “solitary being, recluse”5: rejection, abandonment, dislocation, otherness, loneliness, alienation, nostalgia or the yearning for homecoming? For an individual who lived outside the bounds of the community was exile a metaphor for psychological bondage? Or, in contrast, was it perceived as a haven of peace in which the exiled writer could completely fulfil his potential? In that vein, is it possible to think of exile as an absolute condition of freedom, or at least utopian freedom, for the uprooted man?

The colloquium aims to delineate the multifaceted aspects of the concept of exile in the Middle Ages - real or metaphorical exile - through the prisms of law, history, literature, and linguistics. This colloquium will offer a preliminary paradigmatic approach to a relatively unexplored territory, at least in the sphere of medieval studies. Various lines of research are therefore possible. Proposals in the following areas (and/or in interdisciplinary perspectives) are welcome: English and French literature, comparative literature, narratology, linguistics, translation, cultural studies, history, religion, and philosophy. The proposed papers may be of a theoretical, descriptive or empirical nature (essays, syntheses, case studies, comparative studies).  

Submission Guidelines

The format of the colloquium will consist of thirty-minute papers followed by discussion. Proposals should include an abstract (no more than 500 words) specifying the title of the paper, and a short biography of the author.

Proposals must be sent by

20 july 2019

to both of the following addresses: and 


(1) Félix Gaffiot, Dictionnaire Latin Français (1934), Paris : Hachette, 1995, p. 639. 

(2) Joseph T. Shipley, The Origins of English Words. A Discursive Dictionary of Indo-European Roots, London: London University Press, 2nd edition, 1984, p. 6.

(3) Jennifer Speake, Literature of Travel and Exploration: A to F, London, New York: Fitzroy Dearborn, 2003, p. 416.

(4) Lucius Anneaeus Seneca, Moral Essays: Vol.2, translated by John W. Basore, Cambridge (Mass.): Harvard University Press, 1990, Book XIIOn Consolation to Helvia, p. 441.

(5) J.R. Clark Hall, A Concise Anglo-Saxon Dictionary (1894), Toronto, Buffalo, London: University of Toronto Press, 1991, p. 22. 

Scientific Committee

  • Leo Carruthers, professeur émérite d’études médiévales anglaises, Sorbonne Université
  • Stephen Morrison, professeur émérite des universités, Université de Poitiers
  • Elisabeth Pinto-Mathieu, professeur de langue et littératures médiévales, Université d’Angers, et Directrice du CIRPaLL (Centre Interdisciplinaire de Recherche sur les Patrimoines en Lettres et Langues)
  • Claire Vial, maître de conférences, Université Sorbonne Nouvelle – Paris 3
  • Martine Yvernault, professeur émérite des universités, Université de Limoges
  • Carole Bauguion, maître de conférences, UCO, Angers


  • Univerité Catholique de l'Ouest - Angers - 3 Place André Leroy 49100 Angers
    Angers, Francia (49)


  • sábado 20 de julio de 2019

Palabras claves

  • real exile, metaphorical exile, Middle Ages, Late Middle Ages, High Middle Ages, exile, punitive banishment, intentional estrangement, rejection, abandonment, dislocation, otherness, loneliness, alienation, nostalgia, utopian freedom


  • Carole Bauguion
    courriel : carole [dot] bauguion [at] uco [dot] f

Fuente de la información

  • Carole Bauguion
    courriel : carole [dot] bauguion [at] uco [dot] f

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« L’exil au Moyen Âge, entre tourment et plénitude », Convocatoria de ponencias, Calenda, Publicado el miércoles 22 de mayo de 2019,

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