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Warwick seminar for interdisciplinary French Studies - 2021 programme

All seminars this year will take place on MS Teams. All are welcome. To access the events please click on the MS Teams link for the relevant seminar, displayed below. Please email the convenor, Oliver Davis, at O dot Davis at warwick dot ac dot uk, with any questions.

Recordings of past papers from this series can be accessed here.

Tuesday 9th March (Week 9), 6.00-7.30pm: Vincent Bruyère (Emory), ‘Three Pandemic Narratives: BPM (2017), Le Horla (1887), La Rage des Loups (1590)’

Let’s face it, the occasion of this paper is saturated by the COVID-19 crisis. As part of an ongoing conversation on the contours of the present pandemic, its ambition is to map out zones of intervention in a field foreign to humanistic inquiry. With reference to three stories from the recent and not so recent past, I ask: where do literary and cultural studies fit in an economy of knowledge driven by preparedness and predictive models? If contributing to the study of zoonoses often means joining a surveillance network, what kind of contribution can we expect from a focus on narratives? In other words, is there room for the après-coup in epidemiology? And finally, in prospective terms, can we conjure up the pandemic past as something other than a cache of frightening images anticipating on our worst-case scenarios, or as something other than a future-perfect held in abeyance by the governance of emerging infectious diseases? To join this seminar please use this Teams link.

Tuesday 4th May (Week 2), 6.00-7.30pm, Lisa Downing (Birmingham): ‘Against Affect: Towards a Feminist Neo-Enlightenment’

The language of emotion is historically gendered and racialized. This is because, since the Enlightenment project of the eighteenth century, women and people of colour have been associated with emotionality and white men with logic and reason. In the book I am currently writing, Against Affect, I question a number of shibboleths about feeling and reason, and their relationship with progressive values, gender, and freedom in the 21st century. I argue that the popularity of the ‘affective turn’ in the academic humanities has coincided with the broader deployment of a public rhetoric that prioritizes – and exploits – feeling over reason, issuing from both the left and right wings of politics in the UK, USA, and Europe.

In this talk, I will discuss some of the ideas emerging from the book project and their implications for contemporary feminism and culture. Using a methodology that combines Michel Foucault’s discourse analysis with insights from feminist theory and critical race studies, I explore how the strategic deployment of a language of emotion in both the academic and cultural ‘affective turns’ may constitute a ‘new normativity’ in the Foucauldian sense of a privileged and hegemonic set of ideas, underpinned by power, that emerge as truisms. In sum, I argue that prioritizing ‘feeling’ may not benefit those historically excluded from ‘reason’ – in fact quite the reverse. To join this seminar please use this Teams link.

Tuesday 25th May (Week 5), 6.00-7.30pm, Agnieszka Piotrowska (University for the Creative Arts): 'What does a (nasty) woman want? – combining theory, practice and literary influences'

In this talk I present my research on the figure of the ‘nasty woman’ which I discussed in my 2019 monograph of the same name, suggesting that the rise of ‘the nasty woman’ is linked in culture to the #Metoo movement and subversion of the patriarchal system. Here I show my newly published video essay and explore how the idea can be applied in different contexts across different cultural outputs. I suggest a video essay might offer a productive path for this research. In this work I have juxtaposed material from three films about female desire – made by women at different historical moments in time, in different countries. These are: The Piano (1993) by Jane Campion (New Zealand), Fuga (2018) by Agnieszka Smoczynska (Poland) and Portrait de la jeune fille en feu (2019) by Celine Sciamma (France). In the Polish context it is particularly important that these three films about female desire speak to each other, as Poland has been late in acknowledging its links to international feminism. In the work are also evoked the recent Polish Nobel Prize Winner for Literature Olga Tokarczuk and Wislowa Szymborska, the Polish poet who won the Nobel Prize in 1996. However, this method might invite further exploration of the links between different cultural and artistic outputs. In the French context, apart from famous French feminists, might we also trace the links to the single-sex romances in Colette and the Claudine novels, for example? Could another video essay be made about the same 3 films, focusing on the French links instead, thinking through different associations relating to the aesthetics of eroticism in the film, including Anaïs Nin and Marguerite Duras? Is the video essay method therefore a way of thinking about scholarship differently? The paper will be followed by a response from Mary Harrod. To join the seminar please use this MS Teams link.