Retrotopias (Pagaille, literature review and comparative media)

Call for publications for the third issue of the magazine Mixeda review of literature and comparative media


Court in 2017 Retrotopia Published posthumously by Zygmunt Baumann, it questions the relationship Western societies maintain with the past. According to the sociologist, these will be characterized by a loss of faith in the future, “which has become a nest of all nightmares” (BAUMANN, 2017). Thus, they will be animated by a nostalgic movement toward a fantasized past that is supposed to provide stability by reconciling security and freedom. This impulse, defined by Bauman as retrotopia, is characterized as reactionary, closed-minded, prone to political and social regression, and prone to building communitarianism. From a different but complementary perspective, Francois Hartog’s thought on presentativity has made a similar observation about our contemporary societies, locked in a “moment of arrest, stasis” (HARTOG, 2003), unable to project themselves into an overwhelmingly anxious future (HARTOG, 2003), a crisis of time. locked in.

This is the third release Mixed thus suggesting that fiction is often fed by this retrotopic impulse to build parallel universes, possible worlds, “regressive utopias” (MURVAI, 2018) to dialogue with the modern world, to enrich it, to imagine what could be to the disappointing present or reflexive projection that gives. Is this phenomenon really a “constant of the human mind facing time” as Benedicte Bremard and Marc Rolland claim? From golden age to regretor is it a particularly salient feature of our current societies, which have suffered a crisis of imagination?

The proposed reflection invites to work on both retrotopical works and works that question the phenomenon of retrotopia, and to develop a retrotopical reading of works that are not.

Proposals for articles may address one or more of (but not necessarily limited to) the following areas, adopting a comparative, intercultural and/or cross-cultural perspective:

Possible arrows:

The diachronic dimension of retrotopias:

What are the golden ages that ignited and still ignite fiction? For example, how the 17th century was fed by the return to Antiquity (The Adventures of Telemachus by Fenelon, 1699) to build utopias? Indeed, Peter Murvay notes that until the end of the 18th century, utopias were either regressive, located in an idealized past, or post-historical, establishing imaginary enclaves outside of history. We can also think about how European romantic fiction was nourished by the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, building a medievalism out of “cardboard” (GAUTIER, 1835), or how the first Latin American romanticism appeared in the colonial natives. period sources of national identity. One can also question how contemporary fiction, especially historical novels, imagine the times, often serialized through historical reconstructions that revise and reshape the social and political realities of the period under review. the place of women and racialized people.
Given less temporal thickness, we might also wonder how a generation gains power over imaginations by making its own childhood the dominant background in the fiction of an era: how, for example, does a generation’s generation? The 80s, the majority of contemporary art productions (JJ Abrams and Amblin Entertainment productions)?

Retrotopias and Possible Worlds:

What is the relationship of retrotopia with neighboring genres such as uchronia, utopia, science fiction, steampunk style? Because it dreams of other possible worlds, retrotopia can be considered as counter-science fiction. Indeed, retrotopic works allow for the exploration of time experiences and narrative modes that evoke unfulfilled futures (Brigitte Giraud, live fast, The vortex of life By Olivier Treiner or Square Root of Being by Wajdi Mouawad, reshaping the past and reinventing history. We can also think of fictions that explore the butterfly effect, dealing with the idea of ​​contingency, the unpredictability of history. Apocryphal Napoleon (1836) Louis Geoffrey, of High Castle Master (1962) by Philip K. Dick or more recently Civilizations (2019) by Laurent Binet.

Retrotopia and aesthetics:

At first glance, retrotopia is conveyed through backward-looking aesthetic forms and is based on a regressive relationship to writing and imagination. An example of this is the troubadour style in painting and its constant recourse to pastiche, reflecting “both dissatisfaction with current events and exhaustion of creative forces” (PUPIL, 1985), a weariness that can still be found today. audiovisual forms of remake. Therefore, retrotopia has a chance to be kitsch, like in the series Chronicle of the Bridgertons ? From an intermediate point of view, one might wonder if retrotopia favors a return to vintage formats such as vinyl, film, pixel aesthetics, revaluing yesterday’s tools and sometimes technical flaws. On the contrary, can we consider retrotopia a place of reinvention of forms and genres, a place of creativity in turmoil fed by the limitation of this return to the past imagination?

Retrotopias and communities:

Who is the target audience for retrotopias? What ideas of society do the latter convey? Are they drawn to a nostalgic past, to a lost society that needs to be found? Rather, do they aim to recreate a sense of belonging? We can be interested, for example, in the 80s and 90s, the community of fans formed around retrotopical books, series or films with renewed interest (Stranger Things, Super 8) or study the retrotopical relationship of these communities with fiction based on acquired objects and heritage tourism. Then retrotopia would be related to the concept of cult work. This is especially visible in the field of video games, where the phenomenon of retrogaming invites easy intergenerational transmission around a work established as a true cultural landmark (Return to Monkey Island).

Retrotopia and politics:

Retrotopia is often based on the idealization of the national model, emblematic figures of the era and country’s history. How does it help shape the national imagination? Should we think, like Bauman, that retrotopia is inherently conservative and reactionary, like Marcel Pagnol, who dreamed of the early 20th century as a child? Or, on the contrary, can we think that the relation of retrotopia to utopia leads these fictions to more progressive paths? In the era of globalization, are there still national retrotopias clearly defined by a certain geographical and cultural space, or are we witnessing a standardization of our imaginations and attitudes towards the past, especially constructed and nurtured by fiction, movies and films? with serials read and watched all over the world?

Terms of submission:

Proposals for articles of a maximum of 500 words, accompanied by a bio-bibliography and 5 keywords, should be sent by March 15, 2023 to the following email address:
Notifications to authors will be sent from the end of March 2023.
The article (30,000-40,000 characters including spaces) must be sent for double-blind peer review by the scientific committee by June 30, 2023.
The issue is scheduled to be published in December 2023 on the journal’s website

Drafting commission

Julie Brugier, University of Paris Nanterre
Marion Brun, University of Paris-Sorbonne and University of Artois
Hélène Dubayl, University of Paris Nanterre
Amandine Lebarbier, University of Paris Nanterre

Scientific Committee:

Anne Besson, University of Artois
Simon Bréan, Sorbonne University
Vincent Ferré, New Sorbonne
Melissa Gignac, University of Lille
Anaïs Goudmand, Sorbonne University
Marine Le Bail, University of Toulouse 2 Jean Jaurès
Matthieu Letourneux, University of Paris Nanterre
Laure Leveque, University of Toulon
Fiona McIntosh-Varjabédian, University of Lille
Jessy Neau, University of Mayotte Training and Research Center – Paul Valery University of Montpellier 3
Marie-Clémence Régnier, University of Artois
Corinne Samidayar-Perrin, University Paul Valery Montpellier 3
Marie-Agathe Tilliette, University of Littoral
Clotilde Thouret, University of Paris Nanterre
Alain Vaillant, University of Paris Nanterre


BASSET, Karine and BAUSSANT, Michèle, “Utopia, nostalgia: crossed approaches”, Memorial Conservaries [En ligne], Memorial Canneries, n°22 | 2018. URL:
BAUMAN, Zygmunt, Retrotopia [2017], trans. Frédéric Joly, First Parallel, 2019.
BESSON, Anne, BLANC, William and FERRÉ, Vincent (director), Dictionary of the Imaginary Middle Ages, The Middle Ages, yesterday and today, Vendémiaire, 2022.
BOYM, Svetlana, The Future of Nostalgia, New York, Basic Books, 2002.
BREMARD, Bénédicte, ROLLAND, Marc (director), From Golden Age to Regrets, Paris, M. Houdiard, 2009.
COQUET, Marion, DELHOMMAIS, Pierre-Antoine, In the old days, Paris, Editions de l’Observatoire, 2018.
DIKA, Vera. Recycled Culture in Contemporary Art and Film: The Rise of Nostalgia, New York, Cambridge University Press, 2003.
FANTIN, Emmanuelle, FEVRY, Sébastien, NIEMEYER, Katharina, Contemporary nostalgia, media, culture and technology, Villeneuve d’Asq, Presses Universitaires du Septentrion, 2021.
MANHEIM, Karl, Ideology and Utopia, trans. German, Jean-Luc Évard, Paris, Editions de la Maison des Sciences de l’Homme, 2006.
MURVAI, Peter, ‘Nostalgia and Post-History in Some Louis-Quatorzian Utopias (1675-1714)’, Memoirs of the Conservatoires [En ligne]No. 22, 2018. URL:
PUPIL, François, The Troubadour Style or Nostalgia for the old days, Nancy, Nancy University Press, 1985
PALLISTER Katryn (ed.), Netflix Nostalgia: Streaming the Past on Demand, Lexington Books, 2019.
SPERB, Jason, Flickers of Films. Nostalgia in the Age of Digital Cinema, New Brunswick, Rutgers University Press, 2016.

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