Archive

WRITERS AND PAINTERS
12 November 2015, 6-8pm
Senate House, London, room 261.

‘They couldn’t see the forest for looking at the trees’: Emily Carr’s colonial modernism

When Emily Carr (1871-1945) returned to Vancouver from France with paintings that expressed the impact on her palette and linear design of Parisian post-impressionism her compatriots missed the detail of her earlier work, and were dismissive. Carr was however convinced that ‘the old way of seeing was inadequate to express this big country of ours’ and particularly the place within it of First Nation sculptors whose art fused landscape and culture on a grand scale. Carr’s spirited autobiographical writing provides a commentary on her aspiration to do more than record the existence of indigenous artefacts in their context. The paper traces the impetus given to her ambition by the Scottish Colourist J D Fergusson (1874-1961), and links her development with that of the Australian modernist Margaret Preston (1875-1963).

Angela Smith is an emeritus professor in English Studies, and was a founding member and Director of the Centre of Commonwealth Studies, at the University of Stirling in Scotland. Her books include East African Writing in English (Macmillan 1989), Katherine Mansfield and Virginia Woolf: A Public of Two (Clarendon 1999), and Katherine Mansfield: A Literary Life (Palgrave 2000). She edited Jean Rhys’s Wide Sargasso Sea for Penguin (1997), and Katherine Mansfield Selected Stories for Oxford World’s Classics (2002). With Gerri Kimber she edited The Poetry and Critical Writings of Katherine Mansfield, volume 3 of the Edinburgh Edition of the Collected Works of Katherine Mansfield, published in 2014.

D.H. Lawrence and visionary awareness: “not so much because of his achievement as because of his struggle”

Reflecting on the often-neglected paintings of D. H. Lawrence (1885-1930), this paper considers the impact of painting upon Lawrence’s conception of aesthetics. Besides completing original paintings on large canvases (in oil and watercolour) in his last years, Lawrence produced visual artwork throughout his life; a fact which is often ignored, even by Lawrence scholars. Drawing from the miscellaneous collection of materials at the Harry Ransom Centre in Texas, the presentation will discuss reproductions of work in various media (including floral designs on porcelain, watercolour paintings – copies and originals – ink drawings, pencil sketches, cover designs and motives). The paper also provides a critique of the few who have discussed Lawrence’s work as a painter: these critics, keeping an (outdated) literary-critical cap on, tend to use the paintings to prop up pre-existing, allegorical readings of Lawrence’s life and thought.

Elliott Morsia is a PhD student at Royal Holloway. His thesis on ‘D. H. Lawrence & Genetic Criticism’ is focused on the manuscripts and rough drafts of Lawrence and considers Lawrence’s writing processes in the context of modernism and the more archetypal compositional styles of other contemporary authors.

 

“‘Twenty-six things at once’: Pragmatic perspectives on Frank O’Hara and Norman Bluhm’s Poem-Paintings”

Dr. Catherine Gander (Queen’s University Belfast)

Created over a couple of Sunday mornings in the Fall of 1960, the twenty-six collaborative Poem-Paintings of the artist Norman Bluhm and the poet Frank O’Hara represent what Bluhm later called a spontaneous ‘conversation’ between the painter and the poet.  In this talk, Catherine Gander adopts a number of pragmatist positions to reconsider these overlooked works as essential examples of verbal-visual interaction that extend their ‘conversation’ to greet and involve us in a relationship that is at once interpersonal, integrated, and embodied. The works, Gander argues, constitute what John Dewey terms ‘art as experience’; in their back and forth exchange of verbal and visual gesture, abstraction and denotation, the Poem-Paintings are the ‘cumulative continuity’ of ‘the process of living’, dramatizing the shifting, spontaneous and multiple dimensions of interpersonal conversation, and in so doing, indicating a new path toward interconnective and equal exchange between word and image.

Catherine Gander is a lecturer in American Literature and Visual Culture at Queen’s University Belfast. She has published widely on the subject, and her monograph Muriel Rukeyser and Documentary: the Poetics of Connection (Edinburgh, 2013) won the biennial IAAS (Irish Association for American Studies) monograph prize.  Her latest book Mixed Messages: American Correspondences in Visual and Verbal Practices (with Sarah Garland) will be published by Manchester University Press later this year, and she is currently at work on another book, Pragmatic Perspectives on American Avant-Gardes.

‘Silence, sound and city films and fictions of the 1920s and 1930s’

Professor Laura Marcus (University of Oxford)

This talk uses examples of late silent and early sound films (including F.W.Murnau’s Sunrise  and Paul Fejos’s Lonesome) to explore the relationship between the visual and the aural in the cinema of the period, and the charged role played by representations of urban modernity in this context.  It closes with brief discussion of novels (including works by Woolf, Graham Greene and Patrick Hamilton) in which relationships between silence and sound are played out in literary terms.

Laura Marcus is Goldsmiths’ Professor of English Literature at the University of Oxford.   Her book publications include The Tenth Muse: Writing about Cinema in the Modernist Period (2007) and Dreams of Modernity: Psychoanalysis, Literature, Cinema (2014).   Current research projects include a study of the concept of ‘rhythm’ in interdisciplinary contexts (with a focus on the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries) and a book on literature and the cinema, which looks in particular at the relationship between writing and the silent/sound transition in film.

Poems and Pictures

Clive Bush‘s talk will mainly concentrate on Pictures after Poussin, and deal with some or all of the following points

1) On the circumstances which prompted the book.
2) On the question of ekphrasis and the history of the relation between poetry and painting.
3) Why the issue of ekphrasis is only sometimes relevant to Pictures After Poussin.
4) Some of poetic influences which assist the formal aspects of the book, in European and American modernism, including William Carlos Williams and Pictures from Brueghel.
5) A short reading from a poem, together with a brief comment on the three books in which Allen Fisher and Clive Bush have presented their work together, including Lingerings of the Large Day (Five Seasons, 2014).

Allen Fisher’s talk is mainly a review of three approaches to responding and providing pictures for three books of poetry by Clive Bush. The illustrated talk endeavours to unpick the different ways in which decisions about how to facture each sequence of works takes place and then how choices are arrived at in each book considered. The seminar will conclude with brief attention to an image and a text factured by Allen Fisher as part of a single artefact.

BIOS 

Clive Bush is Emeritus Professor of American Literature at King’s College London and the author of some ten books: four monographs on American literature and culture. The latest, The Century’s Midnight: dissenting European and American Intellectuals in the Era of the Second World War, was published in 2010. He has also written a book on contemporary English poets: Out of Dissent: five contemporary English poets, covering the work of Thomas A. Clark, Allen Fisher, Bill Griffiths, Barry MacSweeney and Eric Mottram, together with an edited anthology of their work. He has five books of poetry, the latest of which, Lingerings of the Large Day, came out less than two months ago with Five Seasons Press.   He has been associated with the British Poetry Revival since the late 1960s. At the University of Warwick he helped organize the first Arts Festival of Contemporary Art, which included Basil Bunting, Roy Fisher, Tom Philips, and Carolee Schneeman’s experimentalist feminist movies. From the Sixties to the Eighties he organised a weekly series of poetry readings with Paul Merchant that included not only the then young poets of the British Poetry revival, and Basil Bunting, but also American poets including Muriel Rukeyser, Robert Creeley, Jerome Rothenberg, Jonathan Williams, and Allen Ginsberg.

He pioneered American and Film Studies at the University of Warwick, where he taught for twenty-four years, and was Chair of the English Department at King’s College. He has done most of his scholarly work at Yale University, where he has been in receipt of a number of American Council of Learned Society and Beinecke Rare Book Library fellowships.

Allen Fisher, is a poet, painter and art historian. His website is: www.allenfisher.co.uk.

He is the author of 150 publications of poetry, graphic work and commentary; his Fluxus performance and conceptual work of the 1970s developed into new visual work, now in many international collections including the Tate. He is publisher of SPANNER and co-publisher of Aloes Books. He is Emeritus Professor of Poetry and Art at Manchester Metropolitan University.

Most recent books: SPUTTOR, Veer Books 2014, Proposals, Spanner Editions 2012 and LEANS, Salt Publications 2007.

Forthcoming books for 2015 include a collection of essays on aesthetics from the University of Alabama Press; the Allen Fisher Reader edited by Drew Milne and Redell Olsen from Shearsman Publishing; a Companion to the work of Allen Fisher, edited by Robert Hampson, also from Shearsman.

Art Writing
in collaboration with Art Writing Writing Art, a Bristol-based research group for those interested in the intersections between art, writing and art history.

Kevin Brazil, ‘Samuel Beckett and the Histories of Art’

Samuel Beckett described the discussions and lists of paintings that fill his diaries and correspondence as the work of an ‘obsessional neurotic.’ In the years after the Second World War, this obsession led him to embark on a short lived career as an art critic, in order to theorise how to overcome his ‘fatal leaning towards expressiveness.’ German Expressionism and postwar tachisme were the necessary negations for Beckett’s writing and aesthetics, and there are striking similarities between the starkly expressive images of Beckett’s fiction and drama and the work of painters like Caravaggio, Elsheimer and Brouwer. But there was more to Beckett’s obsession with art than what his dismissed as the comparisons of a ‘three-penny iconography.’ As this allusion to Panofsky hints, Beckett’s was also an obsession with, and a distinct interpretation of, the history of art. This was shaped by the developments of art historiography in the early twentieth-century, and bears comparisons to developments later in the century. But these histories of art are rarely only about painting, expanding out into wider theories of history, culture, and aesthetics. This paper hopes to explore Beckett’s relationship to art in ways which move beyond iconography by historicising his encounters with theories of the history of art, and by teasing out his own interpretation of art’s history. By doing so, it hopes to show that Beckett’s engagement with art enables us to understand the position of his writing within the wider intellectual history of the twentieth-century.

Kevin Brazil is a DPhil candidate in English Literature at New College, University of Oxford, working on a thesis on the relationship between postwar fiction and visual art. He has articles published or forthcoming in the Journal for Modern Literature and Modernism/modernity, and is a contributing editor on the Beckett Digital Manuscripts Project.

Henry Mead, ‘T. E. Hulme and Abstraction’

T.E. Hulme’s art criticism comprises a major theoretical contribution to British modernism. This paper argues first that Hulme’s visual aesthetic evolved consistently from his Bergsonian theory of 1911 to his advocacy of Worringerian abstraction in 1914, a process that clarified the particular abstract style that he most admired. Fulfilment of this style became Hulme’s criterion in evaluating various artistic factions, including the Camden Town, Bloomsbury, and Vorticist groups. In struggling to express his precise position in relation to theirs, Hulme drew dividing lines using metaphors of political revolt, biological evolution, and warfare. These figures of speech respond vividly to the historical moment and reflect a profound impulse, in art, writing, and life, to establish essential fixed qualities existing within or above the messy flux of sensory experience. The result is one of the most vigorous commentaries on the emergence of abstraction in the pre-war period.

Henry Mead is a Research Associate at Teesside University, UK, and Bergen University, Norway. He has published extensively on the aesthetics and politics of the Edwardian avant-garde, and this year co-edited a volume on Broadcasting in the Modernist Era. Forthcoming work includes a chapter on modernism and theology in the Brill anthology Modernism, Christianity and Apocalypse, and a book on T.E. Hulme to be published by Bloomsbury in 2015.

Sam Rose, ‘Inference and Intention in Formalist Art Writing: Lessons from Michael Baxandall’

Writing on formalism in the visual arts has always been divided. On the one hand the theory is regularly attacked on the basis of its empty, static, content-less and thus aestheticist or escapist nature. On the other it is defended by the very same writers when form is linked with ‘style’, with the ‘communication’ of thoughts and feelings, and thus used to infer things about production and the worlds of makers. Many historical accounts of this latter aspect have been proposed, and deciding between them is a major task in itself.

This paper aims instead at a generalised account of form’s appeal: the reason why, pragmatically rather than historically, formalist method of a particular kind is an almost inevitable feature of art writing. The desire to find an account as minimalist as possible in its intellectual-historical claims involves a turn away from high philosophical ‘foundations’ of critical practice, and a focus instead on description of its rhetorical operation. Something of this sort, I suggest, can be provided by a combination of formalism’s connection to style and process with Michael Baxandall’s meditations on the language used in art history and art criticism.

Sam Rose is a Research Fellow at Peterhouse, Cambridge. He is currently completing a book on art writing, aestheticism, and art theory in twentieth-century England.

Twin Practices: Writing and Painting
presented by the Cultural Institute at King’s, in association with Royal Holloway’s Literature and Visual Cultures Research Seminar.

Scheduled to coincide with the opening of the exhibition ‘Art and Life: The Paintings of Beryl Bainbridge’, this symposium will explore the work of figures who – like Bainbridge – cross disciplines. Jane Thomas will begin the day by reflecting on the connections between Bainbridge’s novels and paintings. The event will then consider some remarkable modernist precedents: the creative relationship of Virginia Woolf and her artist-sister Vanessa Bell, the subject of Maggie Humm’s talk, and the little-known canvases of D. H. Lawrence, introduced by Geoff Dyer. Bringing us up to the present, the writers and painters Frieda Hughes and Roma Tearne will describe in their own words what it means to have ‘twin practices’.

Speakers

Jane Thomas
‘Beryl Bainbridge: the stories that pictures can tell’

Jane Thomas is Reader in Victorian and Early Twentieth-Century Literature at the University of Hull. She has written two critical monographs and several articles on Thomas Hardy. She also publishes on contemporary women’s literature and is particularly interested in the creative interplay between word and image. She is currently working on the connections between literature and sculpture in the later Victorian period. She has an additional research interest in contemporary women’s writing, in particular the novels of Beryl Bainbridge.

Maggie Humm
‘Virginia Woolf writer. Vanessa Bell artist: “the same pair of eyes only different spectacles”’

Professor Maggie Humm is an Emeritus Professor in the School of Arts and Digital Industries, University of East London. Her recent publications on Woolf include Snapshots of Bloomsbury: The Private Lives of Virginia Woolf and Vanessa Bell (Rutgers UP and Tate, 2006), The Edinburgh Companion to Virginia Woolf and the Arts (Edinburgh and Columbia UP, 2010) and chapters in Cambridge Companions, Virginia Woolf’s Bloomsbury and Contradictory Woolf. She has written about the Polish artist Joanna Rajkowska, and is researching the connections between Maï Zetterling, Simone de Beauvoir and Virginia Woolf.

Roma Tearne
‘The Articulate Eye’

Roma Tearne is a Sri Lankan-born artist and writer living and working in Britain. She arrived with her parents in this country at the age of ten. She trained as a painter, completing her MA at the Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art, Oxford. For nearly twenty years her work as a painter, installation artist and filmmaker has dealt with the traces of history and memory within public and private spaces. In 1998 the Royal Academy of Arts, London, highlighted one of her paintings, Watching the Procession, for its Summer Exhibition. As a result her work became more widely known and was included in the South Asian Arts Festival at the Ikon Gallery, Birmingham, in 1992. She is also a successful novelist. Her first novel Mosquito (2007) was shortlisted for the Costa Book Award first novel prize.

Frieda Hughes
‘Painting and Poetry as Dual Disciplines’

Born in London in 1960, Frieda Hughes is both a painter and a writer. As a painter, she exhibits regularly in London and Wales. As a writer, having published several children’s books, Frieda’s first book of poetry, Wooroloo, was published in the US by Harper Collins in 1998 and in the UK by Bloodaxe Books in 1999, when it received a Poetry Book Society Special Commendation. Four subsequent collections have followed to date: StonepickerWaxworksForty-Five and The Book of Mirrors. Frieda’s next collection, Inventory, is due for publication with Bloodaxe in 2015. From 2006 to 2008 Frieda wrote the weekly Times poetry column. Having long ago decided that she no longer wished to paint portraits, Frieda records her observations of people in her poems: their relationships with one another, their strengths and weaknesses, their curious and sometimes demanding personalities, and their personal conflicts. Conversely, although she is a figurative artist who paints landscapes, Frieda finds that she is more easily able to record her emotional landscape in paint than in poems – albeit as abstract images. In her talk Frieda will discuss the journey that has defined – and then combined – the two disciplines that govern her life.
friedahughes.com

Geoff Dyer
‘Costing the Soul Far Less: D. H. Lawrence’

Geoff Dyer’s new book Another Great Day at Sea, about his time on an American aircraft carrier, is published in May 2014. His awards include the E. M. Forster Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, a Lannan Literary Fellowship and, most recently, a National Book Critics Circle Award for the essay collection Otherwise Known as the Human Condition. A Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, he is currently living in Venice Beach, California. His books have been translated into 24 languages.
geoffdyer.com

Tom Overton
Chair

Tom Overton catalogued John Berger’s archive at the British Library as part of an AHRC-funded Collaborative Doctoral Award with the Centre for Life-writing Research, King’s College London, and is the author of an ongoing history of the British Pavilion at the Venice Biennale 1938–present (venicebiennale.britishcouncil.org). He has curated exhibitions at the Whitechapel Gallery and King’s Cultural Institute, Somerset House, and in 2012 he organised a series of events including an exhibition, free school and conference to mark the 40th Anniversary of Berger’s Ways of Seeing and G. Tom is currently working on a book based on the Berger archive as a Henry Moore Institute Research Fellow 2014–15.

‘Realism, alter-realism and the problem of legibility’

Professor John Roberts (University of Wolverhampton)

As Fredric Jameson rightly notes in his recent book Antinomies of Realism (2013), contemporary discussions about realism have a peculiar chimerical character: it is, “either denounced or elevated to the status of an ideal (aesthetic or otherwise).” This notion of the concept of realism as somehow both missing and acting as an Ideal horizon for art, literature and film, is of course, hardly surprising, for historically realism has equally been the source of a conservative foreclosure of art’s formal and cognitive possibilities, and an impossible object of political and critical combativeness and disclosure. This is partly why the debate today rarely gets beyond its classical antinomies: Lukács versus Brecht; naturalism versus social realism. One would be foolish to say the terms of these face-offs were now completely dead, yet nevertheless, there is much that needs to be rethought in relation to the debate, allowing us to take what might still be claimed for realism beyond its received categories, in a world where the ‘great realist novel’ and the renewal of realism through modernism lie behind us. In this paper, I will explore the possibility of a new space for realism, through what I call ‘alter-realism’, a realism that draws on its own self-divided, aporetic and processual condition.

John Roberts is Prof. Art & Aesthetics at the University of Wolverhampton, and the author of a number of books, including The Intangibilities of Form: Skill and Deskilling in Art After the Readymade (Verso, 2007), and The Necessity of Errors (Verso, 2011). His new titles, Photography and Its Violations (Columbia University Press) and Revolutionary Time and the Avant-Garde (Verso) are to be published soon.

‘Fiction and painting: the case of Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the d’Urbervilles’

Professor JB Bullen (Royal Holloway, University of London)

Many nineteenth-century novelists had an interactive relationship with the visual arts but none so more than Thomas Hardy who, before he turned to fiction, was trained as an architectural draughtsman. As a consequence, Hardy’s novels are infused with pictorial effects. Sometimes these take the form of composition or the grouping of figures; sometimes they extend to lighting and illumination, but often they interact with the very conceptual structure of the novels, changing and adjusting the way in which things are seen, felt and understood. Tess of the d’Urbervilles is perhaps the best example of this, and in this lecture J B Bullen points to the way in which Hardy used the painting of J.M.W. Turner, as an emotional vehicle at some of the most crucial moments in the narrative and asks what kind of interpretation we can put on this amalgam of image and text.

J.B. Bullen is Professor Emeritus at the University of Reading and holds the Chair of English Literature and Culture in the Department of English at RHUL. He has had a long-standing interest in interdisciplinary studies and his books include The Expressive Eye: Vision and Perception in the Work of Thomas Hardy (OUP 1986), The Myth of the Renaissance in Nineteenth-Century Writing (OUP 1995), and The Pre-Raphaelite Body: Fear and Desire in Painting, Poetry and Criticism (OUP 1998). In 2003 he published a history of the Byzantine Revival entitled Byzantium Rediscovered (Phaidon Press), and in 2005 European Crosscurrents: British Criticism and Continental Art, 1810-1910 with Oxford University Press. His critical biography of Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Rossetti Painter and Poet was published by Frances Lincoln in 2011 and Thomas Hardy: The World of His Novels also by Frances Lincoln in 2013 .

LIFE-WRITING AND THE VISUAL

Dr. Lee-Von Kim, ‘Still life writing in Marguerite Duras’s The North China Lover

This is a book.
This is a film.
This is night.

Marguerite Duras, The North China Lover (1991), p. 6.

In The Lover, Marguerite Duras’s autobiographical account of her adolescence in Indochina, the author speculates at length on an imagined photograph, never taken, of herself as a teenage girl aboard a ferry on the Mekong River. Her fascination with this photograph becomes a sustained act of cinematic ekphrasis in The North China Lover, Duras’s rewriting of The Lover published less than a decade later. Here, her life narrative is imagined cinematically, as a series of scenes; included in the text are directorial notes about casting and shot angles, concluding with a list of images (or stills), non-diegetic insert shots for the as-yet unrealised film. This paper explores the interconnections between photography and cinema in Duras’s life writing, and considers how the authorial self is revised and re-visioned.

Lee-Von Kim is Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in Autobiography in Comparative Perspective at the University of Oxford and Affiliated Research Fellow at New College. Her current research project focuses on seriality and revision in life writing, with a particular focus on the relations between visual and verbal self-representation. She is co-editing a special issue on photography for the journal Life Writing, which will appear in 2015.

Dr. Susie Christensen, ‘Come as your Madness: The Diaries and Costumes of Anaïs Nin’

In October 1953 Anaïs Nin (1903-1977) attended a fancy-dress party in Malibu held by the painter Renate Druks. Each guest was asked to come in a costume representing his or her ‘madness’. Nin described her own costume as including ‘skin coloured net stockings up to my waist […] my head inside a birdcage […] around my wrists strips of paper on which I had copied lines from my writing – out of context’. In this paper I analyse a photo of Nin’s costume for this party in the context of her ongoing self-fashioning in both costumes and in writing which was one of the defining aspects of her artistic output. Both Nin’s costume and her diaries claim to represent some portion of her psyche. What is the relationship between these two forms of self-representation?

It is significant that Nin included her own writing as part of a costume documenting her madness. Anaïs Nin wrote diaries obsessively and almost continuously from the age of eleven in 1914 until near to her death in 1977 aged seventy-three. Nin’s diary-writing has been variously understood by Nin and her critics as both illness and as therapy. To what extent might we think about Nin’s diaries as part of the ‘madness’ represented by her costume? And, given that Nin wrote that ‘lying is the only way I have found to be true to myself’ and explained that her ‘main theme was that one could only find reality by discarding realism’ what are we to make of the ‘truth’ status of both her diaries and her costumes? Can they be understood in any sense as an accurate representation of Nin’s life, her identity, or her ‘madness’?

Susie Christensen recently completed her PhD at King’s College London where she is based in both the English Department and the Centre for the Humanities and Health. Her PhD research investigates the centrality of supposedly non-mental states and forms in modernist literature, neurology and medical psychology from 1860-1939. She also has a particular interest in the diary form. More recently, Susie has begun work on a new project which considers the depiction of psychic interiority in literature from 1919-the present in relation to both the concept of ‘modernism’ and the history of neuroimaging. She co-founded and runs the London Interdisciplinary Discussion Group which is hosting a series of events at the Science Museum.  She has forthcoming work in Textual Practice and Literature Compass.

TEXT AND THE MOVING IMAGE

Dr. Catherine Grant, University of Sussex. “Some new eloquence”? On the written word in audiovisual film studies practice. 

AUDIO RECORDING AVAILABLE BELOW:

Catherine Grant Paper

Video essays referenced in recording:

First film (9.24): La Cueca Chilena: Raúl Ruiz’s Exilic Seductions

Second film (15.56): Notes to a Project on Citizen Kane by Paul Malcolm, 2007

Third film (25.54): Film Tweets

Fourth film (28.58): Still being edited

Other films referenced can be found at AUDIOVISUALCY: Videographic Film and Moving Image Studies

“If, along the hard road to illumination, the audiovisual essay manages to find or create some new eloquence, some new sensation, or evoke some of that ‘mad poetry’ […] found in intense theorising, […] then that’s all for the good” [Adrian Martin, ‘In so many words’, Frames Cinema Journal, 1, 2013. Online at: http://framescinemajournal.com/article/in-so-many-words/

Long after the advent of the digital era, the overwhelming majority of film and moving image studies scholars still prefer to carry out and publish their film critical, theoretical and historical research in conventional written formats. As digital affordances and publications continue to proliferate, however, more and more academics are turning to multimedia forms of research like digital video essays. Interestingly, some of these emerging modes are especially indebted to the ‘provisional and subjective’ traditions of the essay film, much studied in written film studies. Such formats can inspire compelling work not only because, with their possibilities for direct audiovisual citation, they can enhance the kinds of explanatory research that have always been carried out on films, but also because of their potential for more ‘poetic’, creative and performative critical approaches to our research. Yet, even as videographic film studies have the potential to challenge the future hegemony of (especially traditional forms of) academic written language, words are far from banished from these forms. Instead, as Adrian Martin has argued, “it is the economy of critical word to illustrative image, the balance and weighting of their respective functions, that is slowly altering” (ibid.). In my contribution to this seminar I will discuss the role of captioning, written quotation, and titling in videographic film studies practice, including my own, their relation to earlier traditions of written language deployment in the cinema, and their centrality to emerging notions of ‘creative critical practice research’.

Dr Catherine Grant is Senior Lecturer in Film Studies at the University of Sussex. She is the author of numerous written studies of film authorship, adaptation and intertextuality and also of some forty film-studies videos many of which have been screened internationally at academic conferences and at film festivals and industry events (including the International Oberhausen Short Film Festival, 2012). She has curated many hundreds of videographic studies at her websites Film Studies For Free, Filmanalytical and Audiovisualcy. In 2012, she commissioned and edited an issue of the peer-reviewed journal Frames on ‘digital film studies’ (http://framescinemajournal.com/?issue=issue1), with more than twenty video-related contributions. Her article ‘Déjà-Viewing? Videographic Experiments in Intertextual Film Studies’, appeared in Mediascape, 2013: http://www.tft.ucla.edu/mediascape/Winter2013_DejaViewing.html.

Harriet Wragg, University of Oxford. ‘How to Title a Garbo Movie’

In a rare, 1926 interview, Marion Ainslee, the title writer credited for almost all of Greta Garbo’s M.G.M. films, revealed her intertitle-writing philosophy:

[T]he screen subtitle to be perfect, must have these three points.: It must be short, it must be to the point, and it must not call attention to itself. (Zanesville Times Signal, Dec 26, 1926, p.9)

A rather matter-of-fact approach from the title writer for some of the steamiest romances of the silent era! But by the mid 1920s there was no longer demand for the ‘clever verbiage’ that scenario and title-writer Anita Loos had become famous for in 1916, or for the elaborate ‘art titles’ that had enjoyed a brief vogue in the U.S.A. in the late teens and early 1920s. Unobtrusive intertitles were the order of the day and it may be interesting to note that from about this time U.S. critics and film theorists ceased to call for title-less films. Intertitles were no longer regarded as a symptom of imperfection indicating the failure of the action to tell its own story, or even of infection from other narrative art forms, but as an integral component that with skilled execution, as Ainslee suggests, was capable of perfection. There has been a resurgence of academic interest in intertitles in recent years and yet the period from the early 1920s to the transition to talking pictures 1927-30, during which the art of silent film intertitling arguably reached its most refined point, remains strangely neglected. Using archive material collected in Los Angeles this summer, this paper will offer the first detailed account of the intertitling process implemented in the newly departmentalised studio systems of 1920s Hollywood and nearby Culver City. Taking Flesh and the Devil (1926) as its case study, (Garbo’s third film with M.G.M., and the film that secured her star status), it will explore what the study of this process, and the analysis of developments between scenario and screen it enables, can reveal about what made for ‘perfect’ intertitling.

Harriet Wragg is a second year DPhil student researching silent film intertitle poetics at the University of Oxford, funded by the AHRC. She is Communications Officer for EGO (English Graduates at Oxford) and co-convenes the C20th/21st Graduate Seminar. Her article ‘Like a greeting in a valentine’: Silent Film Intertitles in Dorothy Richardson’s Pilgrimage’ was published in Pilgrimages: The Journal of Dorothy Richardson Studies in 2011.

MODERNISM AND DANCE

Dr. Susan Jones, University of Oxford. ‘The British Reception of Les Noces.’

The Diaghilev Ballets Russes production of Les Noces, with choreography by Bronislava Nijinska, music by Igor Stravinsky, and design by Natalia Goncharova, premiered successfully in Paris in 1923. Today this ballet retains its place in the repertoire as a modernist classic. But in 1926 its first performance in London was panned by most critics. This paper explores the British critics’ misunderstanding of Nijinska’s radical interpretation of Stravinsky’s score, and examines the Russian constructivist influences on its choreography and design. Paradoxically, the ballet’s innovative treatment of a Russian peasant wedding illustrates formal and thematic correspondences, so far neglected, with several aspects of British literary modernism.

Dr. Susan Jones is Fellow of St Hilda’s College and lecturer in the English Faculty, Oxford. She has published widely on Joseph Conrad and modernism, including Conrad and Women for Oxford UP. Formerly a soloist with Scottish Ballet for fifteen years, she also writes on dance, and her book, Literature, Modernism, and Dance will appear with OUP in September 2013.

Kathryn Anderson, University of East Anglia. ‘Dance of the Book’: Ballet, Text, and the Reader-Spectator.

Ballet texts are modernism’s rejects. While some are (understandably) overshadowed by their production, not all are discarded remnants of live performance. By using the ballet as a tool for formal subversion, many writers including Mina Loy, Vladimir Nabokov, Bertolt Brecht, and E. E. Cummings gained a versatile new language. Sometimes published but rarely performed, their ballet texts encourage a new look at literary modernism and, in the unlikely realm of print, vividly illustrate modernism’s audacious challenge to conventions of genre, medium, and purpose.

In this presentation, I explore the critical value of their analysis through the case study of E. E. Cummings’s 1935 ballet adaptation of Uncle Tom’s Cabin—Tom: A Ballet. For Tom, Cummings adapted his characteristic aesthetic in order to articulate intended movement, creating a new kind of kinetic verse that deserves attention as an extension of Cummings’s more classifiable poetic work. The care and style with which the ballet articulates its subject separates it distinctly from other ballet texts, which generally serve the utilitarian purpose of directing production. Instead, Tom: A Ballet conspicuously claims its own independent aesthetic importance.

In addition, as Tom: A Ballet was never performed, I consider the implications of hypothetical ‘activation’: if the poetic text exists in anticipation of its animation through dance, what should we make of it now? Can we call it a fully actualised work in its printed state and untouched by bodies, or is it merely a failed blueprint for production? As they exist today, ballet texts invite a method of reading that is unique to their own formal experiment. When we read a text like Tom, we also see and hear it: what, then, does it mean to read a ballet?

Kathryn Anderson completed her BA and MA in the United States before moving to the UK in 2010 to pursue a PhD at the University of East Anglia. She is a theatre and dance practitioner and a two-term American Scholar with the 2nd Air Division Memorial Library in Norwich. Kate is also an Associate Tutor in UEA’s School of Literature, Drama & Creative Writing, where she teaches Modernism, Literature in History, and Post-War British Drama. Kate’s doctoral dissertation examines various modernist writers’ appropriations of ballet as a literary form.

‘Samuel Beckett’s Quatre Poèmes between Music, Image and Text.’

Dr. Derval Tubridy (Goldsmiths, University of London)

The paper explores Beckett’s engagement with the livre d’artiste, focusing on Quatre Poèmes/ Four Songs (1986), a particularly distinctive triangular book in which composer Bun-Ching Lam (b. 1954) illustrates four of Beckett’s poems with a hand drawn score of music that she composed in response to Beckett’s poetry. The paper will explore the tripartite relationship between text, image and music in the book. It situates its concerns within the context of Beckett’s strong interest in music, taking into consideration key texts that engage with music such as Beckett’s Words and Music and Morton Feldman’s opera Neither, for which Beckett wrote the libretto, and evaluates the importance of the Beckett/Bun-Ching Lam collaboration in the context of Beckett’s other livres d’artistes.

Derval Tubridy is Senior Lecturer in English Literature and Visual Culture at Goldsmiths, University of London. Author of Thomas Kinsella: The Peppercanister Poems (2001), and editor of a special edition of Irish Studies Review (16/3, 2008), she has published chapters in Beckett and Nothing; A Companion to James Joyce; Contemporary Debates in Literature and Philosophy; Ireland: Space, Text, Time; Seeing Things: Literature and the Visual, The Irish Book in the Twentieth Century; and Samuel Beckett: A Casebook; as well as articles in Performance Research; The Irish University Review; Irish Studies Review; The Journal of Beckett Studies; and Samuel Beckett Today/Aujourd’hui. Her research has been funded by the Fulbright Commission and by the British Academy. She is currently working on a book on Beckett and contemporary art called Art after Beckett.

Quatre Poèmes/ Four Songs (1986)

Kaldewey033

Bun-Ching Lam

Bun-Ching Lam photo

Suggested reading for the seminar: the four poems contained in the book are ‘Dieppe’, ‘My way is in the sand flowing’, ‘What would I do without this world’, and ‘I would like my love to die’. They can be accessed online:

Beckett poems

MODERNISM AND FASHION

Dr Vike Martina Plock, University of Exeter. ‘Virginia Woolf, Fashion and Fascism.’

This paper focuses on Virginia Woolf’s 1930s writing – especially Three Guineas and The Years – in order to analyse her engagement with fascist interventions in identity politics. I intend to show how Woolf, in focusing on the depiction of sartorial items in her writing, examines the relationship between the individual and the collective that fascist movements threatened to restructure by introducing increasingly uniform clothing. I argue that this focus on the material texture of the world in her late writing – a quasi return to the realist literary techniques she decried in the 1920s in her essay “Mr Bennett and Mrs Brown” – needs to be read alongside Woolf’s awareness of the changed socio-political landscape of the 1930s

Dr Vike Martina Plock is lecturer in English Literature at the University of Exeter. She is the author of James Joyce, Medicine and Modernity (2010) and co-editor of the interdisciplinary journal Literature & History. Currently she is writing a monograph on fashion in the work of early twentieth-century women writers such as Virginia Woolf, Elizabeth Bowen, Rosamond Lehmann and Jean Rhys.

Sophie Oliver, Royal Holloway, University of London. ‘Djuna Barnes and Fashion in the 1910s.’

This paper will outline and interpret several related instances of Djuna Barnes’s early interest in fashion, giving a reading of their relevance to her developing aesthetic. In her journalism, poetry and artwork of the 1910s we can see the beginnings of Barnes’s lifelong and productive fascination with the material aspects of dress – how the construction and the wearing of clothes tell us something about their social functions, especially in relation to women – but also the paradigm that fashion offered for her unique vision of time and her critical view of American modernity in the early twentieth century.

 Sophie Oliver is a PhD student at Royal Holloway. Her thesis approaches the relevance of art and fashion to the work of Djuna Barnes, Mina Loy and Jean Rhys in the context of a cultural study of Paris between the wars.

Download suggested reading for the seminar:

Repulsive Women

‘Object, Sign & (Punctuating) Space’

Dr. Kristen Kreider (Royal Holloway, University of London)

Roni Horn’s Pair Object III: For Two Rooms is one configuration of Things Which Happen Again: a sculpture consisting of one set of paired, identical objects arranged in any of four spatial configurations. The artwork is documented in a catalogue that, published alongside an exhibition of Things Which Happen Again at Städtisches Museum Abteiberg Mönchengladbach (1991), includes: a technical description of the artwork; Horn’s floor plans for each of its four spatial configurations; photographic documentation of the artwork’s installation in situ; and an interview with Horn. Without having a first-hand experience of the artwork, I engage specifically with Pair Object III: For Two Rooms through these various forms of documentation. In doing so, I consider Pair Object III: For Two Rooms as, in the words of art theorist and critic Mieke Bal, a ‘theoretical object’. Foregrounding theoretical thought and its visual articulation, this paper becomes a means of ‘doing’ theory through Horn’s practice; imagining the space between a viewer and two concrete objects in order to conceptualise their embodied and semiotic relation. Through this speculative approach, I look at how a sign, the indexical symbol, emerges from the spatial narrative of, first, an encounter with an unfamiliar object in one room and, second, an encounter with an identical object in another room (a different space and time).

Fig_1.4_place geo relation

Pair Object III: For Two Rooms with geometry of relation between viewer and objects in first and second room: Kristen Kreider, drawing (2006) incorporating Roni Horn, floor plan from Things Which Happen Again,catalogue(Mönchengladbach and Münster: Städtisches Museum Abteiberg and Westfälischer Kunstverein, 1991) n. pag.

Dr. Kristen Kreider is a Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing (Poetry) at Royal Holloway, University of London, where she acts as Director of the Practice-based PhD Programme across the Faculty of Arts and as Director of Graduate Studies (Practice-based) for the Department of English.  Since taking this position in 2008, she has sought to promote an interdisciplinary, socially engaged approach to contemporary poetry and poetics, and to encourage a rigorous dialogue between creative and critical practice. Situated in the expanded field of contemporary writing and text-based art practice, Kristen’s current research is to be published in a monograph entitled Poetics and Place: The Architecture of Sign, Subjects and Site (I.B. Tauris, Spring 2013).

As a poet, Kristen collaborates with architect James O’Leary. The work of Kreider + O’Leary engages with the particularities of a given site – be this a physical, architectural location or more abstract locus of creative intent – in order to open up meaning.  The work takes on many forms including performance, installation and time-based media and has been exhibited in the UK as well as internationally in Europe, Australia, Japan and the United States. http://www.kreider-oleary.net

Download suggested reading for the seminar:

BAL_Narrative Inside Out

RENDELL_Configurations 3

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