April 11-13, 2019 Persisting Souls in Literature, Art, History and Philosophy in the English-Speaking World Co-organized by the Catholic University of Paris (EA 7403) and Paris-Diderot University (LARCA Research Centre – UMR 8225) To be held at the Catholic University of Paris,


How does the soul traverse time? When did the soul become the psyche? How is the soul conceived of in cultures around the world and how do such perceptions reverberate in the English-speaking world? From Plato’s vision of the body as a prison of the soul (soma – sema) in Phaedrus to Foucault’s reverse statement, in Discipline and Punish, that the soul is « a prison of the body », the concept has been open to constant reinterpretation. This conference will consider the ways in which the soul has migrated from its origins in mythology, philosophy, and theology to find new developments with thinkers like William James and R.W. Emerson, for instance, and pervade literary and artistic forms as well as historical representations.

The persisting soul transcends all boundaries – those of the body, of life and death, of the visible and the invisible, and of the individual mind. Souls refuse the limitation of time, the partitioning of history, of land and academic discipline. The idea of the soul brings together a variety of epistemological categories from the fields of religion and metaphysics which are rich in possibilities. In various ways, through their survivals, returns or reincarnations, the souls of the dead may persist – not only to endure, but to insist and persevere, steadfastly pursuing a specific purpose through the agency of the living. As persisting souls appear, speak on, fight on, or even resist, they convey the ability of the past to inspire, rule or haunt the present. They intervene in the lives of nations and reveal the permeability of history and politics, the spiritual and the supernatural. We find the recurrence of long-dead historical figures persisting in texts of all kinds (literature, political discourses, pamphlets, biography, historiography) as well as in artistic and popular visual representation. The notion of the soul has an extraordinary ability to address contemporary issues. One may think of the wide spiritualist trend within political movements (amongst abolitionists and nineteenth-century feminists in Britain and the United States for example). We might also conjure up the spirits of the American gothic, or those of Caribbean, South African or Indian writing and art as expressions of the disruptive and often repressed conflicts that a community cannot consign to the past. This opens onto questions of violence, race, gender, class and national identities of all kinds. Be it in Elizabethan drama, post-modern or post-colonial writing or art, photography, film, journalism, art installation or historical document, the enduring presence of the soul probes the seemingly clear-cut ontological line between distinct states of being.


Topics may include, but are not limited to:

–     Issues of perception (confronting madness with mysticism and the supernatural) and artistic representation, questioning the ability of the visual arts (painting, sculpture or architecture) to represent the invisible

–     Continuation of legacies, transcending Zeitgeists through permanence and/or ubiquity.

–     Transmission or influence, involving possibilities of reinterpretation, appropriation and translation. We might consider patterns of haunting, spectrality, inspiration, or obsession, by intertextual or palimpsestic practices

–      The representation of the soul in cinema, literature, photography, painting, music, sculpture, architecture…

–     The notions of persistence, transmutation, migration, reincarnation, reembodiment; the avatars of the soul

–     The persistence of the souls of historical figures through history and time.

–     Spiritualism in history and literature; the communication of the living with the dead

–     Soul and nation / politics / history; transnational perspectives of soul persistence

–     Collective souls

–     The soul and the post-human

–     The soul in medicine and science

–     The global and post-colonial soul and its migrations

–     Soul and feminism / gender / queer theory

–     Soul and race / slavery / abolitionism

–     The enslaved soul; the souls of master and slave in slave narratives or slavery fiction

–     Soul, spirit and psyche

–     The return of the dead /Freud’s Return of the repressed

–     The alienated soul and the asylum, mania, mental health and curing the soul

–     The haunting souls of those who were persecuted or forgotten

–     The Gothic potentialities of persisting souls

–     The soul and the invisible. E.A. Poe: “Invisible things are the only realities”

–     The dual soul: light and darkness

–     The place of the soul in the definition of humanism

–     The soul and the intersectionality of the individual

–     The transcendentalist soul and Over-Soul

–     The immanence or remanence of the soul in nature or objects

–     Textual souls

–     Soul and translation


We welcome papers from variety of disciplines, such as literature, arts, history, anthropology, sociology, religious studies, psychoanalysis, or translation studies as well as the use of diverse theoretical tools.


Keynote speakers:

–        Ann Braude (Senior Lecturer on American Religious History at Harvard University)

–        Christopher Moreman (Professor of philosophy at Cal State East Bay)

–        Emmanuel Lincot (Professor of Chinese Art, History and Politics at the Catholic University of Paris)

–        Joseph Urbas (Professor of American Literature at Université Bordeaux Montaigne)



Introductory bibliography:

–        Andrews, Barry M., Transcendentalism and the Cultivation of the Soul (Amherst, Boston: University of Massachusetts Press, 2017).

–        Aquinas, St. Thomas, Summa Theologica. Vol.1, part 1 (New York: Cosimo, 2007).

–        Aristotle, De Anima: On the Soul, trans. Mark Shiffman (Newburyport, MA: Focus Publishing/R. Pullins Co, 2011).

–        Bennet, Bridget, Transatlantic Spiritualism and Nineteenth-Century American Literature (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007).

–        Braude, Ann, Radical Spirits: Spiritualism and Women’s Rights in Nineteenth-century America [1989] (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2001).

–        Colbert, Charles, Haunted Visions: Spiritualism and American Art (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2011).

–        Descartes, René, The Passions of the Soul, trans. Stephen H. Voss (Indianapolis, Cambridge: Hackett, 1989).

–        Emerson, Ralph Waldo, Essays and Lectures (New York: The Library of America, 1983).

–        Foucault, Michel, Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison (New York: Vintage, 1995).

–        Haekel, Ralf, The Soul in British Romanticism: Negotiating Human Nature in Philosophy, Science and Poetry (Trier: Wissenschaftlicher Verlag Trier, 2014).

–        James, William, Principles of Psychology, vol I. (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1890).

–       Jung, Carl Gustav, The Collected Works of C.G. Jung, ed. Gerhard Adler, Michael Fordham, & Herbert Read, trans. R.F.C. Hull (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2014)

–        Kastenbaum, Robert and Christopher M. Moreman, Death, Society, and Human Experience, 12th edition (London, New York: Routledge, 2018).

–        Moreman, Christopher M., Beyond the Threshold: Afterlife Beliefs and Experiences in World Religions (London: Rowman & Littlefield, 2nd Edition, 2018).

–        Norman, Brian, Dead Women Talking: Figures of Injustice in American Literature (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2013).

–       Plato, Phaedrus, trans. Robin Waterfield (Oxford: Oxford World’s Classics, 2002).

–       Schear, Hans, Religion and the Cure of Souls in Jung’s Psychology (New York: Pantheon Books, 1950).

–       Swedenborg, Emanuel, The Universal Human and Soul-body Interaction (De Commercio Animæ & Corporis, 1769).

–       Sword, Helen, Ghostwriting Modernism (Ithaca; London: Cornell University Press, 2018).

–       Urbas, Joseph, Emerson’s Metaphysics: A Song of Laws and Causes (London: Lexington Books, 2016).



Delphine Louis-Dimitrov (d.louisdimitrov@icp.fr), Senior Lecturer at the Catholic University of Paris

Estelle Murail (e.murail@icp.fr), Senior Lecturer at the Catholic University of Paris

Sara Thornton (sara.thornton@univ-paris-diderot.fr), Professor at Paris-Diderot University


The conference will be held in English and presentations will be expected not to exceed 20 minutes.

Final papers will be considered for publication following a peer-review process.


A 250-word abstract along with a short biographical notice should be sent to all three organizers by December 1st, 2018. Notification of acceptance will be given by December 21st, 2018.


You can find more information about the conference on our blog, https://persistingsouls.wordpress.com/





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