Centre de Recherche Bretonne et Celtique

Centre de recherche
bretonne et celtique

Collex Persée

The "Periphery" - Research project on Breton literature


  • Scientific directors: Mannaig Thomas et Nelly Blanchard
  • Project span: 2012-2014
  • Project type: creation of a database on Breton literature, conferences, publications
  • Subject: Breton language and literature
  • Keywords: Breton, literature, writers, literary sociology, literary history, sociolinguistic
  • Forthcoming conference: Des littératures périphériques 30-31 May 2013, Brest

Scientific partners:

  • IKER, UMR 5478
  • CRPHL, EA 3003
  • CELIFRAB, University of Liège
  • Rennes métropole Library
  • Yves-Le Gallo Library
  • Brest’s Museum of Fine Arts

Financial support: MSH-B, UBO, Conseil général du Finistère, Brest métropole océane, Conseil régional de Bretagne

Project presentation

The major fields of literature usually revolve around a “hub” where most of the production is found, with other smaller areas of focus orbiting around this main hub. This hub or “centre” dominates as a result of its prestige, the scale of its readership and the density of its recognition entities (Cf. B. Denis and J.-M. Klinkenberg,  2006). “Periphery” is defined by the distance whether spatial, social, national, ideological, sociolinguistic, intellectual or political, which generates distortions in the perception of the norm. As with other types of literature which follow similar patterns (i.e. literature of other regional languages), a new approach to Breton literature can be made through the exploration of intertextuality (Cf. G. Genette, 1982) and the porosity that can be found between different types of literature and, more generally, between different artistic fields. “Periphery” should be understood both in terms of its relations with the outside world – hence the need for a common, international reflection on the modelling of the connections and ruptures between peripheral and central literature – and in the internal relations, that is to say, relations which are specific to the Breton literary field (Cf. Bourdieu, 1991). The aim here is to identify the various places of socialization and the various networks of the actors and producers of the field – hence the need for data on the authors’ social and institutional paths that could enable both literary and socio-historical analyses. Finally, thanks to the combination of a comparative and modelling approach on the one hand, and careful cross analysis of hard facts on the other, it will be possible to understand one of the specific aspects of the “Breton point of view”, namely the “narcissistic” reflection of authors on the essence of Brittany (Cf. Le Berre, 2006). In particular, we shall try to answer the following question: what does an artist say about him/herself when he/she speaks about Brittany?

The project can be divided into three tasks:

Task 1: Peripheral literatures (conference)

This component can be thought of as a general introduction to the subject that will enable researchers with various backgrounds to meet and explore the notion of periphery. The conference will be held in Brest on 30-31 May 2013.

Task 2: Trajectories of Breton language authors (database)

We are implementing a database that will contain our entire catalogue and will be updated regularly. We shall start with the available data on Breton prosopographical authors from the origins of this literature to the twenty-first century. The main database will contain Breton-language authors and will be linked to a “works” database and a “periodicals” database. The cross-checking of these three databases will provide essential information needed to shed new light on the Breton literary field (networking and structure).

Task 3: “Dire la Bretagne, se dire” (interdisciplinary workshops)

Three interdisciplinary workshops will bring together researchers in literature, visual arts, film, architecture, music, etc. This comparison of these different fields of research will help establish the broad lines of analysis, identify patterns, and question specific or original facts. A partnership with Brest’s Museum of Fine Arts will develop the iconographic aspect of the project. The objective is to identify the specific aspects of each field but also to connect them with one another. In the end, these collective works will be drawn together in an overall conclusion. The outcome of these workshops will be published in a book, with each article highlighting the most relevant characteristics of these issues.