Paris Conference 13/14 April 2012

Paris 2012 Dépliant

The Redefining European Symbolism conference at the Musée d’Orsay,

13-14 April 2012


The 2-day international conference on Redefining European Symbolism took place on Friday 13 and Saturday 14 April 2012. Staged in the auditorium of the Musée d’Orsay, Paris, the event was hailed a success after 14 papers were given over 48 hours to an audience of over 200, with leading academics and curators in attendance from all over Europe and North America. The event provided an excellent platform for researchers to meet and mix.

The conference was split into four sessions incorporating many facets of Symbolist research, culminating in a final afternoon dedicated to the question of Redefining European Symbolism. The first session, entitled Correspondances: littérature, théâtre, musique, was followed by Arts et identités: individualisme et nationalisme. On the second day the opening session took the themes of Contradictions: science et spiritualité, with the afternoon given to the major issue Redefining European Symbolism. The papers accentuated the wide range of Symbolism. There were papers on key figures in the wider culture, among them Wagner and Mallarmé, Huysmans and Rodenbach, as well as on artists: Rodin, Gallé and Filiger, plus the painters of Young Poland. One aim was to try to place the fluid nature of Symbolism in the broadest context of the period 1880-1910, so papers covered a panorama of topics, including theatre and the urban landscape, nationalism and colonialism, and spirituality and psycho-physiology.  A round table of specialists (Guy Cogeval, Debora Silverman, Rodolphe Rapetti, Michael Zimmermann, Edwin Becker and Richard Thomson) gathered for the final hour to discuss the value of such a broad view of Symbolism, stressing that it was not a reactionary current but one that had an important input into later 20th century culture. It was felt that there were many ‘symbolisms’, narrow definitions should be avoided,  and that a wide, inclusive and dynamic view of this fascinating period of European culture was preferable to the rather restrictive accounts which had perhaps tended to prevail.

The full audio recording will be available online shortly.

The network would like warmly to thank the Leverhulme Trust for providing the funding for this international network, the Musée d’Orsay and its Président Guy Cogeval for its hospitality and cooperation, all 14 speakers, 4 presidents, the round table and the public for attending.

Please find attached some feedback forms for those who attended the conference. Your comments would be most welcome.


Richard Thomson (Director).

Craig Landt (Administrator).

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