NeMLA: 'Littérature du déclassement': Social Descent in the Contemporary French Novel

Patrick Lyons's picture
March 10, 2022
Minnesota, United States
Subject Fields: 
French History / Studies, Humanities, Literature

CFP – Panel


'Littérature du déclassement': Social Descent in the Contemporary French Novel



53nd Northeast Modern Language Association (NeMLA) Convention

Baltimore, MD

10-13 March, 2022


Deadline for abstracts: 30 September, 2021.


Recent years have seen the emergence of a trend in French literary production preoccupied with a heightened risk of ‘déclassement’ or ‘social descent’ under the pressures of late-stage global capitalism. One highly visible example is the recent success of Virginie Despentes’ Vernon Subutex trilogy, which follows its eponymous protagonist through various stages of eviction, couch surfing, and homelessness. Despentes’ trilogy may be situated within a broader current of literary works concerned with ‘déclassement’ and homelessness published in the aftermath of the 2007-8 global financial crisis. These include Marc Augé’s Journal d’un SDF (2011), Mathieu Lindon’s Les hommes tremblent (2014), and Yannick Haenel’s Les renards pâles (2015), to name but a few.

This panel invites papers to contribute to assembling an archive of this ‘littérature du déclassement’ with an eye for the socio-historical conditions of its emergence, namely the spread of neoliberal social and economic policies under the governments of François Holland and Emmanuel Macron. The progressive deregulation of welfare securities and labor laws, alongside rises in unemployment, housing prices, and government debt in France frame an aesthetic preoccupation with social descent and homelessness in an understandable light. Along these lines, Christine Horvath suggests that, “c’est la crainte de devoir partager un jour la condition des sans-abri” that governs literary production of texts that “retrace généralement en détail le parcours des sans-abri et explicitent les motifs qui les ont conduits à la rue.”*


*Horvath, Christine. Le roman urbain contemporain en France. Paris: Presses Sorbonne Nouvelle, 2008, 132.


Abstracts of 250 words in English or French should be submitted through the NeMLA website by 30 September, 2021.


For further information, please feel free to contact Patrick Lyons ( 


Contact Info: 

Patrick Lyons, University of California, Berkeley