If I’m quick, this might even go up on the blog before Bill Marshall’s Cinéma-Monde conference on ‘Film, Borders, Translation’ that starts this evening with a screening at the MacRobert of Chloé Leriche’s 2016 film Avant les rues. The conference continues over the next couple of days, with participants from across the UK, North America and Australia, and papers from three French at Stirling colleagues. David Murphy will be talking about ‘Filming the First World Festival of Negro Arts, Dakar 1966’, Elizabeth Ezra will give a paper entitled ‘TransFormations: Cinema’s Uncanny Origins’ and, as for me (Cristina Johnston), I’ll be talking about the ‘ruptures, cooperation and paradoxes’ of Franco-Iranian cinema.
It’s a busy time for conference over the next week or so, as Stirling is also running its annual Arts and Humanities postgraduate conference tomorrow on ‘Arts and Humanities Research Through a Gender Lens’ and our own French at Stirling PhD student, Fraser McQueen, will be there, talking about ‘Islamophobia as a gendered phenomenon in French radicalisation cinema.’ And then, next week, Fraser is off to the University of Birmingham for the SFPS Postgraduate Study Day where he’ll deliver a paper entitled ‘Borders between us and them in female radicalisation fiction.’
The past couple of blog posts have focused on French at Stirling students’ achievements and activities – now it’s time for an update on what staff have been up to and what’s coming up for us over the weeks and months ahead…
Congratulations, firstly, to Fiona Barclay who has just learned that she has been awarded a prestigious AHRC Early Career Researcher Leadership Fellow award which she will hold for 23 months from July 2018 onwards. The award will enable Fiona to work on a major project entitled ‘From colonisers to refugees: narratives and representations of the French settlers of Algeria.’
Back in December, David Murphy was invited to serve on the fiction jury at the 8th Algiers International Film Festival: ‘an intense but fascinating week, watching lots of films and meeting filmmakers, actors and other creative artists from all over the world. There was even time for a visit to the famous Casbah, which will be familiar to students from La Bataille d’Alger. Our special jury prize went to a wonderful Algerian film En attendant les hirondelles by a young Algerian director, Karim Moussaoui. You should be able to catch it in Scotland later this year.’
David is also the main organiser for the Scottish tour of the exhibition ‘Putting People on Display’, a pared-down version of a major exhibition (‘Human Zoos: The Invention of the Savage’) organised by the French colonial history research group, ACHAC, which was held at the Quai Branly Museum in Paris in 2011/12. Three additional posters focusing on the Scottish context have been specially commissioned for this Scottish tour and a longer blog post will follow…
At the end of last year, Cristina Johnston was involved in organising the Stirling-based component of ATLAS’s week-long translation workshops. The workshop brought together a group of translators working between French and English, giving them an opportunity to focus on the translation of a range of articles and chapters under the ‘Translating History’ umbrella and under the expert guidance of Stirling’s Emerita Professor Siân Reynolds (translator, among many other things, of the crime fiction of Fred Vargas) and experienced translator Diane Meur. Workshop participants were also given the opportunity to talk to students on our postgraduate Translation Studies programmes and to visit Stirling’s own Pathfoot Press, courtesy of Kelsey Jackson Williams.
The dossier on ‘Cinema and Childhood’ Cristina coordinated with contributions from a group of Stirling undergraduates (past and present) was also published towards the end of last year in Intellect’s journal of undergraduate film scholarship Film Matters. The dossier contains articles on representations of ‘Orphan Annie’ by Hayley J. Burrell, a comparison of La Vita è bella and The Boy in the Stripded Pyjamas by Floriana Guerra, an examination of children and the destruction of innocence in WWII films by Laura Jones, analysis of ‘children as the uncanny’ in The White Ribbon from Regina Mosch, Ralitsa Shentova’s exploration of girlhood, fairytales and reality through Atonement and Crows, Lewis Urquhart’s essay on ‘concealed childhoods’ in Caché and Conor Syme’s reflections on childhood faith in science fiction. A fantastic set of articles by some impressive future film scholars!
Elizabeth Ezra’s book The Cinema of Things was published by Bloomsbury in early November last year, and her updated chapter on ‘The Cinemising Process: Film-Going in the Silent Era’ is in the 2nd edition of The French Cinema Book just out from the BFI. And, as Elizabeth launches her new option module on Children’s Literature, we’re particularly pleased to be able to sing the praises of her children’s novel Ruby McCracken: Tragic without Magic which was named by The Herald as ‘One of the Nine Best Books for Children and Teenagers’ in its Christmas 2017 round-up. The novel also won the 2016 Kelpies Award for New Scottish Writing for Children.
Bill Marshall – whose ‘Cinéma-Monde’ conference will take place in Stirling at the end of May – was recently invited to the University of Vienna where he gave a talk entitled ‘Quebec Cinema as Global Cinema?’ and, later this month, he will be at UNISA (South Africa) where he will deliver a keynote on ‘Deleuze, Guattari, Hocquenghem: Anti-Oedipal Texts and Minor Cinemas’ as part of their February Lectures on ‘Queer Life in the Global South.’
And our Language Team (Jean-Michel DesJacques, Mathilde Mazau and Brigitte Depret) continue their hard work updating our language programmes, including our new format of oral and aural teaching for final year students which enables them to benefit from weekly 15-minute paired sessions, as well as more standard classroom-based conversation practice.
More to follow on much of the above as the blog continues its revival!
Just to round up this series of updates to the blog for just now, a quick overview of events French at Stirling staff have been involved in over the course of this past month.
On 18 March, Elizabeth Ezra gave a public talk on ‘Androids and Humans, or How Globalisation Makes Us Human’ as part of a series of talks chaired by Cristina Johnston on the University’s 50th anniversary Community Open Doors Day. This past week, Cristina was invited to introduce a public screening of Claude Chabrol’s Une Affaire de femmes at the Cameo cinema in Edinburgh, alongside Edinburgh postdoc Hugh Mcdonnell. The screening is part of Mihaela Mihai’s ERC-funded project on Greyzones.
And, winning the battle for the most far-flung location this month, Bill Marshall gave a paper on ‘’Lionel Soukaz: Historicity and Time’ as part of a panel on ‘Cruising the Seventies: Glancing Backwards at Queer Cinema’ at the SCMS conference in Chicago.
As well as our new group of Semester 1 students and new Masters students on our Translation programmes, we’re also delighted to be welcoming back to Stirling recent Stirling French and History graduate Fraser McQueen who’s embarking on a PhD with us. Fraser will be supervised by Fiona Barclay with additional supervision from Nadia Kiwan at Aberdeen. His research topic is ‘Race, religion and communities of friendship: literary and filmic contributions to French political debates post-2005’ and we’re particularly pleased that Fraser was awarded an AHRC scholarship to fund his research.
We’re looking forward to keeping you posted on Fraser’s work over the months ahead but, in the first instance, you can read his article on the current burkini controversy in The Conversation. The article was also republished in The New Statesmanand we’re sure there’ll be much more to follow.
Fraser will be joining a growing community of doctoral students supervised by French at Stirling staff on a wide range of topics. Martin Hall is currently working on ‘British Cinema: Historicising Theory’ with Bill Marshall as his supervisor while Bill is also supervising Angus Macdonald’s thesis on ‘New French Horror Cinema.’ Angus’s 2nd supervisor is Elizabeth Ezra who also supervises Katie Moffat’s research project which examines ‘Transnational Nordic Film Culture and Minority Politics.’ As well as being 2nd supervisor for Fraser and continuing his supervision of Juliet Tenshak’s research on contemporary Nigerian fiction, David Murphy has also just taken on a supervisory role for Education student Mostafa Gamal who is working on ‘Ethical, reflexive encounters with internationalisation in FE: an autoethnographic conversation’.
We hope to have a chance to post more about these projects and their authors over the months ahead.
In May of last year, I was contacted by a colleague at St Andrews who asked if I would be willing to chair a discussion with Jean-Pierre Jeunet at the Byre Theatre. This ‘Conversation with Jean-Pierre Jeunet’, as it was billed, was being held to launch a new series of cultural events at the theatre, and I was asked to chair the event because I had written a book about Jeunet’s films (with the searingly original title Jean-Pierre Jeunet, published in the University of Illinois Press Contemporary Film Directors series in 2008).
I was a bit apprehensive about the whole thing, not because I would have to moderate a discussion in front of hundreds of people; not because I hadn’t thought much about Jeunet’s films since I’d published the book; and not because I would also be interviewing Reif Larsen, the author of the novel on which Jeunet’s latest film was based, but whose work I had not read. None of these things bothered me unduly: I was used to standing up in front of large groups of people; I could swat up again on Jeunet’s work in preparation for the interview; and Larsen’s novel looked as though it would be fun to read. No, what bothered me was the fact that I had never met Jeunet before, and I knew that when artists and critics meet, things don’t always go well. It’s one thing, as a scholar, to work on someone who is long gone—say, Shakespeare, or Méliès—and who, therefore, cannot contradict your interpretations of their work. But it is quite another thing to come face to face with someone about whom you have devoted an entire study, and who might not like what you have said about them.
But then I read Larsen’s book, and I loved it. (The book is called The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet, a title changed in the film to The Young and Prodigious T.S. Spivet.) I enjoyed the novel for its own sake, but it was also immediately apparent why Jeunet had been drawn to it—it exhibits a quirky inventiveness, a boundless energy very similar to that found in Jeunet’s films. In fact, I learned while preparing for the interview that Larsen had been influenced by Jeunet’s work when he wrote his book, which makes for a kind of endless chicken-and-egg story if you think about it too long.
Meeting Reif Larsen an hour or two before the event on the 14th of October began to put me at ease. Both he and his wife, Russian literature scholar Katharine Holt, were extremely likable, and, since they also came from the US, we swapped stories about the Old Country, and about our experiences as expats in Scotland. But then Reif said casually, no doubt oblivious to the fact that he was confirming my worst fears: “Jean-Pierre can get a little funny at times. Don’t take it personally. He really hates academic interpretations of his work.” Great, I thought; just fantastic.
And indeed, when Jeunet himself appeared before our entrance on stage, our conversation was initially quite stilted. I asked him what he was working on at the moment, and he said, somewhat testily, “Sex.” I took his response to mean a film about this topic, rather than a personal exploration of the subject, though I was in no hurry to find out which of these two alternatives he intended. I imagined our interaction on stage as consisting of similarly halting exchanges, and began to think that maybe this event wasn’t such a good idea after all.
But here’s the thing: once we were seated on stage and began talking in earnest, Jeunet’s wariness melted away, and he was absolutely charming. We had a great conversation, which somehow seemed to flow quite naturally; Larsen and Jeunet already had a good rapport with each other, and the three-way dialogue format worked well. The time flew by. In other words, it was all good. Afterwards, we went to dinner at a lovely restaurant (which was also much better than I had expected), where I sat between Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Reif Larsen, and we talked about the works—the novel, the film, and even the scholarly book—that had brought us all together.