The most recent conference, which Anna Gural-Migdal co-organized with Sándor Kálai at the University of Debrecen, in Hungary, once again revealed the capacity of the AIZEN to establish productive relations on the four corners of the Earth, so that research on naturalism can move forward all over the world. Our Association’s eighteenth international conference, titled “Zola, Mirbeau and Naturalism,” took place from June 8-10, 2017. This conference had a part in the commemorative events for the Mirbeau Centenary, celebrating Zola’s important contemporary.

From left: Sándor Kálai and Anna Gural-Migdal, organizers-in-chief of the conference

The conference had as its objective to underscore what brings Zola and Mirbeau together, or at least justifies a comparison, in order to inspire a renewed reflection on the Zolian heritage and on the conception of naturalism. Such goals echoed not only the intellectual project of our Association, but they also allowed us to present a very original commemorative event. Our collaboration with the University of Debrecen gave us, furthermore, the opportunity to organize a conference in Central Europe and to appreciate the scope of Zola’s and Mirbeau’s influence in this cosmopolitan cultural space, specifically through the diffusion and reception of their writings. Moreover, we made it our objective to highlight the influence of naturalism on Central European writers, such as those from Hungary, Poland, Austria or Slovakia, while at the same time respecting the specific regional and national characteristics of their works.

University of Debrecen

We are proud to have collaborated with the Department of French Studies and the Department of Communication and Media Studies in a highly regarded and leading European University such as the University of Debrecen.

Bartha Elek, Vice Rector for Academic Affairs, University of Debrecen

The exceptional character of this conference was also a result of the presence of Dr. Brigitte Émile-Zola, great-granddaughter of the writer and member of the AIZEN since its foundation. We also had the pleasure to welcome three European invited speakers: Éléonore Reverzy, Professor of 19th-century French literature at the Université Sorbonne Nouvelle-Paris 3; Susan Harrow, Ashley Watkins Professor of French at the University of Bristol; and Miklós Konrád, researcher at the Institute of History at the Research Centre in Human Sciences of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. Thank you to all three for their participation in this conference.

Brigitte Émile Zola giving an interview with the press

This symposium, through the richness of its content and its highly international dimension, honoured the University of Debrecen by bringing to its doors talented participants from three continents and seventeen countries: Belgium, Brazil, Canada, England, Finland, Germany, France, Japan, Hungary, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Slovakia, Switzerland, the United States, and West Bank.

Journalists from the Hungarian press and television were present to cover the event, which aired on the local news. An audiovisual document presents interviews with Brigitte Émile-Zola, the former French Ambassador to Hungary, invited speakers and the conference organizers: A dozen articles about the conference were published in Hungarian newspapers, and many of them are available on-line. This event was therefore also a huge success in terms of capturing media attention.

AIZEN Conference family portrait