Conferences and Workshops

Nicolas de Staël, Figure by the sea, 1952

First Undergraduate Research Workshop: ‘Abstractions’

Wednesday 8 December 2010

2pm-4.30pm, G113 (Ground Floor), 21 Woodland Road, Bristol


Annual conference: ‘Relating the Senses’ (23-24 February 2008)

The ninth annual conference of the Centre was held at Burwalls on the weekend of 23rd –24th February. The organisers were Richard Hobbs, Susan Harrow and Bradley Stephens.  We were particularly pleased to welcome as a speaker Boris Wiseman (University of Durham) who leads an international research initiative in this area: Qualia: Thinking the Senses.

The conference programme was as follows:

Session 1: Olfactory Visions

Lesley Stevenson (Thames Valley University)
‘« Ce que les gens épais ne voient pas dans la peinture »: the strange case of the cheese that did not smell’

Cyrielle Ruinart (University of Nottingham)
‘Olfactory Advertisements: do you smell the message?’

Session 2: Lessons in Looking 

Bradley Stephens (University of Bristol)
‘Sight and Insight in Victor Hugo’

Claire O'Mahony (Kellogg College, Oxford)
‘Tromper l'œil: André Mare camoufleur, Combat and Cubist Decoration’

Aine Larkin (Trinity College Dublin)
‘Fowl Murder and Culinary Art: Lessons learnt from Françoise in Proust’s A la recherche

Session 3: Contours of Synaesthesia  

Karen Quandt (Princeton University)
‘Countering the Song with the Tableau: Lamartine and the Sense for the Mimetic in the Nouvelles méditations poétiques

Maya Hadeh (Université Blaise-Pascal, Clermont-Ferrand)
‘« Les parfums, les couleurs et les sons se répondent », ou la théorie de la synesthésie chez Baudelaire’

Session 4 (Keynote): Lévi-Strauss

Boris Wiseman (University of Durham)
‘Structuralism, Symbolist Poetics and Abstract Art’

Session 5: Poetry, Music and Painting

Thérèse Dolan (Temple University, Philadelphia)
‘Edouard Manet’s Pastel of Cabaner as a Synesthete’

John House (Courtauld Institute of Art)
‘Fantin-Latour and Wagner in 1864’

Session 6: Boundaries and Transience

Jason Hartford  (University of Oxford)
‘Man and the Face of Hunger’

Laura McMahon (University of Cambridge)
‘Blindness, Voice, Touch: Duras and the Limits of the Filmic Image’

Bronwen Martin (Birkbeck, University of London)
‘Le Clézio and the Aesthetic Experience: A Semiotic Reading’

Session 7: (Im)palpable Crossings

Rachel Sloan (Courtauld Institute of Art)
‘The Alchemist's Touch: pâte de verre and Symbolism, c. 1884-1907’

Nancy Ireson (Victoria and Albert Museum, London)
‘Looking beyond the Gaze: the Lure of the Loge’

Natasha Grigorian (Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge)
‘Relating the Arts: Paul Valéry’s melodrama Sémiramis and the impact of the Ballets Russes’

Sublimely Visual: the Art of the Text (5-7 September 2008)

Textiles, poetry, doodles, narrative, typography, film, painting, glassware, monuments, and masks were among the media explored at Sublimely Visual: The Art of the Text, a conference of the Centre for Visual and Literary Cultures in France which was generously supported by BIRTHA.  This 12th BIRTHA Conference was hosted at the Burwalls Centre for Continuing Education. The conference was organised by Susan Harrow. 

Around forty academics – cultural historians, art historians, and specialists in visual-textual culture and word/image relations – met to explore new approaches in visual reading applied to texts and visual/material culture.  Among the questions addressed were: how does writing receive or resist the textures and figures of visual media?  How do writers write colour and light?  How are visual analogies translated, transfigured or anticipated by the writer and by readers?  Which new directions in critical thought can enhance our understanding of the interrelations between visual art and writing?  How does the art essay resist its aesthetic object, and become a subject in and for itself?  How do literary texts enrich - or obstruct - our reading of art, and vice versa?

The distinguished Plenary Speakers were Stephen Bann (University of Bristol), Anne Freadman (University of Melbourne) and Jean Duffy (University of Edinburgh).

Stephen Bann’s plenary on ‘Letters in liberty: How colour entered the concrete poem?’, with its illuminating weaving of the correspondences and differences between European and South American visual poetry, inaugurated several defining themes of the conference that were explored by delegates: modern and contemporary poetry, and the illustration and visualization of narrative (Hugo, Baudelaire, Verne, Zola, Cendrars, Apollinaire, Eluard, Michaux, Ponge, Noël, Dohollau, De Chirico, Modiano).  

Anne Freadman’s plenary contribution, ‘Colette: an eye for textiles’, offered a sumptuously illustrated comparative study of text and textile, was central to the discussion around material culture and journalism, the graphic arts, the decorative arts, particularly the relations between visuality and tactility (Emile Gallé, Montesquiou, Delaunay, Otto Neurath, Beckett, Bracha Ettinger, 1920s fan-magazines). 

The closing plenary paper by Jean Duffy, ‘Looking Back to the Future: Memorial Culture in Pierre Bergounioux and Marie Darrieussecq’, explored themes of history and commemoration, ethnography and autobiography, migration and transculturalism, in a major inter-aesthetic reading of narrative, artefact, film and digital art that amplified some of the key preoccupations of the conference (Proust, Aragon, Nabokov, Tanguy Viel, Memmi, Bouvier, Khattari, Godard, Truffaut, Franju, Varda). 

Among the institutions represented were the Courtauld Institute of Art and the Universities of Melbourne, Princeton, UCLA, Indiana (Bloomington), Johns Hopkins (Baltimore), Kentucky, Virginia, Trinity College Dublin, Växjö, Leeds, Cardiff, Royal Holloway, Bath, Bangor, UWE, Birmingham, Edinburgh, Reading, St Andrews, Swansea, Southampton, Nottingham, Oxford, Bristol.  Sincere gratitude is expressed to BIRTHA for financial support, and to Debra Blackmore-Squires, Acting BIRTHA Administrator, for impeccable conference administration.

Selected essays developed from papers delivered at this conference – and beyond – are now being edited for publication.