Current research projects

New Ekphrastic Poetics, French Studies, volume LXIV, no. 3, July 2010

French Studies

This Special Issue of the leading journal French Studies (Oxford University Press), edited by Susan Harrow, contributes to current debates in the cross-disciplinary field of ekphrasis, as theory and as a form of writerly practice. Across the range of textual and other media examined here, the contributors unsettle, challenge and ‘complexify’ traditional assumptions about what ekphrasis does and what it might do. The dialogue between the contributors is active and sustained. Alive to the changing theoretical landscape, they put new descriptions of ekphrasis to work on modern and contemporary French and Francophone visual culture and textual studies. In this the authors respond to – and contribute to – the discipline-defining work of Mieke Bal, James Heffernan and W.J.T. Mitchell through their readings of the complex relations between textual and visual media. As they probe key issues at the visual–verbal interface, the Introduction and the five articles combine interdisciplinary focus and specificity with a strong appeal to the wider constituency of researchers in visual/textual culture studies and text-and-image studies. The intellectual concerns of ‘New Ekphrastic Poetics’ resonate with current issues in French and Francophone studies, especially its developing dialogue with visual culture (including screen studies), its enduring fascination with hybrid modernism and postmodernism, its preoccupation with intercultural (including postcolonial) relations, its engagement with corporeality and performativity, and its pleasure in textuality and writerliness. The Special Issue was conceived for a readership concerned with a wide range of textual and visual production.

  • Susan Harrow (Bristol), ‘New Ekphrastic Poetics’
  • Elizabeth Geary Keohane (Trinity College Dublin), ‘Ekphrasis and the Creative Process in Henri Michaux’s En rêvant à partir de peintures énigmatiques (1972)’
  • Clémence O’Connor (St Andrews), ‘Translating Non-Figuration: Heather Dohollau’s Poems on Pure Visuality’
  • Emma Wagstaff (Birmingham) ‘“Des matières, non des images”: Bernard Noël’s Creative Art Criticism’    
  • Margaret Topping (Cardiff), ‘Travelling Images, Images of Travel: Nicolas Bouvier’s L’Usage du monde 
  • Lia Nicole Brozgal (UCLA), ‘Blindness, the Visual and Ekphrastic Impulses: Albert Memmi Colours in the Lines’ 

Word Unbecoming Flesh – Beyond Text, Across Media

As confirmed in last year’s report, the Centre is a participant in Dr Ika Willis’s project to study the future of the book as ‘Word Unbecoming Flesh – Beyond Text, Across Media’. This project has been given BIRTHA funding and is progressing strongly. The member of our Centre best placed to contribute a workshop to its programme is Siobhán Shilton, who was on Research Leave during 2007-08.  It is anticipated that she will be increasingly involved in this project. She is currently organizing an event for it, in collaboration with the Arnolfini, to take place in the summer term of 2009. This will involve a public talk by an artist who will present her work on the theme of journeys between France and the Maghreb in new media art. The talk will be followed by an academic seminar on this theme in the visual arts. External speakers include Dr Margaret Topping from the University of Cardiff. During a period of research leave in 2007-08, Siobhán Shilton was in dialogue with several Paris-based artists whose work focuses on the themes of travel, diaspora and immigration, and will continue to organise similar, related events.


Cultural Crossings in Contemporary Art

Siobhán Shilton is beginning work on a new project which aims primarily to trace the evolution of a still-emerging canon of ‘diaspora art’ against the complex and shifting background of relations between European and non-European francophone regions and countries, including France, Belgium, Switzerland, the Maghreb, Western and Central Africa, former ‘Indochina’ and the Caribbean. The project, which has given rise to a funding application to the European Research Council, will highlight the heterogeneity of a virtually untouched corpus of photography, video, installation and performance art.