“The animal in literature, between fantasy and fantasy” (online)

The animal in literature, between fantasy and fantasy

on the occasion of the 400e anniversary of the birth of Jean de La Fontaine

29 – 30 October 2021

Faculty of Letters of Babeş-Bolyai University (Cluj-Napoca)


On the occasion of the 400e anniversary of the birth of Jean de La Fontaine, we will try, based on the work of the French fabulist, to reopen and renew a file already often and at length treated in European culture: the literary bestiary, its imaginary modulations, of the fantasy to the fantastic, and the hermeneutical scope attributed, over time and modulations of knowledge, to these diverse and recurring actors of poetry, tale, novel, theater and of course fable that are animals.

However, the time of La Fontaine seems to have marked a decisive evolution of knowledge in this field: it is then that “the history of animals”, where since Antiquity the weaving of the inherited discourses mixing imaginary and reality dominated, leaves place for “scientific” zoology based on empirical observation and critical thinking. We know the debate between Cartesians and their neo-Epicurean adversaries on the soul of beasts, which owes much of its success to Speech to Madame de La Sablière inserted in the second collection of Fables. Much remains to be analyzed on the repercussion in the literary imagination of this fracture that has arisen within knowledge and manifested by a split between the discourse of the scientist and that of the poet – an expression of the change inepisteme occurred between the Renaissance and the xviie century, if we follow the analyzes of Michel Foucault.

This is, moreover, only one of the episodes in the long history of ideas and images inspired by the animal world and by its relations with man from the most remote times to the most recent: this story covers the entire spectrum of the imaginary from dreamlike enchantment to horror, the entire spectrum of sensitivity ranging from effusion to terror, the entire aesthetic spectrum ranging from the comic to the monstrous. We will be able to travel through the eras, from the age of founding myths and early tales to the most contemporary fiction, in various European cultures which on this subject often share the same vision of things.

To classify the results of these approaches, which can be very varied, we propose three major areas of reflection:

– the first will be devoted to La Fontaine animal painter, in fables as in his other works where real or fictitious zoology can intervene in one form or another;

– another will be devoted to the “hieroglyph” animal in literature and in the written and oral tradition (tales, legends, song, opera and ballet librettos, comics, etc.): we will be interested in the emblematic character attached to a particular species of the bestiary and to the aesthetic, emotional, moral imaginary… to which the works in which they appear testify, over the course of history;

– a final field of study may relate more specifically to the dreamlike and fantastic imagination of animality, around ancestral reveries reincarnated in the modern and contemporary imagination, such as fairy-like or monstrous metamorphoses, alliances and conflicts between species and with the human species, the image of animals in science -fiction and anticipation, etc.


– ***, “The lost bestiary”, French studies, issue prepared by Nicole Deschamps and Bruno Roy, vol. 10, No. 3, 1974.

– Bianciotto, Gabriel, Michel Salvat, Animal epic, fable, fabliau, Acts of IVe Colloquium of the International Renardian Society, Évreux, September 7-11, 1981, Paris, Presses Universitaires de France, 1984.

– Bornecque, Pierre, The fabulist fountain, 3e ed. revised and corrected, Paris, SEDES-CDU, 1983 [https://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/bpt6k3323467b.texteImage].

– Calvet, Jean, Marcel Cruppi. The Bestiary ofʼclassical antiquity, Paris, F. Lanore, 1955.

– Dandrey, Patrick, The Factory of Fables. Essay on the poetics of La Fontaine, followed by To read and understand (finally?) “La Cigale et la Fourmi”, 3e ed., Paris, Klincksieck, 2010.

– Delacampagne, Ariane and Christian, Strange and fabulous animals. A fantastic bestiary in theʼart, Paris, Citadelles & Mazenod, 2010.

– Delfour, Julie, Imaginary bestiary, Paris, Seuil, 2013.

– McCulloch, Florence, Medieval Latin and French Bestiaries, Chapel Hill, University of North Carolina Press, 1962.

– Mordeglia, Caterina, Talking animals. 1-Literature, theater, songs. 2-Literature, theater, drawings, Florence, Sismel, ed. del Galluzzo, 2017 and 2020.

– Pastoureau, Michel, Bestiaries of the Middle Ages, Paris, Seuil, 2011.

– Poirier, Jacques (dir.), Lʼliterary animal: animals and words, Dijon, University Publishing of Dijon, 2010.


Communications will be limited to 25 minutes followed by a few questions. The conference will take place online and papers will be presented in French.

Papers, in a format of around 1,500 characters, written in French, will be accompanied by a brief bio-bibliographic notice of around 200 words.

Proposals will be received until July 15, 2021 at the following address: [email protected] A response will be sent to contributors no later than August 5, 2021.


Andreea BUGIAC: [email protected]

Marius POPA: [email protected]

Scientific committee

Patrick DANDREY (Sorbonne University)

Alain GÉNETIOT (University of Lorraine)

Ramona MALIŢA TANC (University of West Timisoara)

Pierre RONZEAUD (Aix-Marseille University)

Livia TITIENI (Babeş-Bolyai University)



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