Jacques Rancière, ‘Politics of the Landscape’ (delivered on 1st February 2021)
In this inaugural paper, drawn from research for his Le Temps du paysage : aux origines de la révolution esthétique (La Fabrique, 2020), Jacques Rancière explores the interconnections between aesthetics and politics in conceptions of landscape, starting out from an extended commentary on three events of 1790: two publications (Kant’s Critique of Judgment and Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France) and one journey, Wordsworth’s travels through the political landscape of revolutionary France. The paper is delivered in English, followed by a response from Oliver Davis and a further response by Jacques Rancière.
Vincent Bruyère (Emory), ‘Three Pandemic Narratives: BPM (2017), Le Horla (1887), La Rage des Loups (1590)’ (delivered on 9th March 2021)
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 our worst-case scenarios, or as something other than a future-perfect held in abeyance by the governance of emerging infectious diseases?
Agnieszka Piotrowska (University for the Creative Arts), 'What does a (nasty) woman want? – combining theory, practice and literary influences' (delivered on Tuesday 25th May 2021)
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? In the talk I will also reflect on the recent BAFTA award winning film Promising Young Woman (2020) and why I see it as reinscribing a patriarchal narrative. The paper is followed by a response from Mary Harrod.
Colin Davis (RHUL), 'Interpretation and Overinterpretation: Camus’s "Jonas ou l’artiste au travail"' (delivered on Wednesday 20th October 2021)
This paper has three parts. The first revisits issues in hermeneutic theory concerning interpretation and overinterpretation, with reference to Gadamer, Eco and other theorists. How do we acknowledge the fluidity of meaning whilst retaining a sense that some interpretations are better than others? How do we distinguish between creative overreading and mere error or nonsense? The second part attempts a reading of Albert Camus’s short story ‘Jonas ou l’artiste au travail’, from the collection L’Exil et le royaume, giving particular weight to its epigraph from the Biblical Book of Jonah. My suggestion is that, whilst foregrounding a self-ironising portrait of the artist as flawed and all-too-human, the epigraph and its resonance through the story suggest a much more Romantic vision of the artist as the unacknowledged saviour of humankind. The third part of the paper attempts to look back, self-reflexively, on the interpretive moves involved in this reading, to assess its plausibility and value.