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Centre for Modern European Literature and Culture

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Lectures and seminars 2016-17

Below is a list of events for the 2016-17 academic year.

The Centre’s research seminar series, ‘Travels in/of European Literature’, was convened by Dr Mathilde Poizat-Amar (Department of Modern Languages). The Postgraduate Research Seminar series was convened by Clemence Ardin and Dominique Carlini-Versini (PhD students).

Tuesday 24 January 2017: Professor Emmanuel Bouju: ‘Literature on Credit: The French Novel Today’

In the past twenty years, French literature has lived on credit, or rather on the credit of the last century. Placed at the heart of a crisis of trust in public speech, in democracy (which is still undergoing a state of emergency), and in social economics, it has decreased in fiduciary value. Nevertheless this talk will argue for a new strength and a new authority for the French novel: a strength and an authority that are related to a gradual shift from “the indiciary paradigm” to the “fiduciary paradigm”.

A former student of the École Normale Supérieure, Emmanuel Bouju is a Visiting Professor at Harvard University, and is currently Professor of Comparative Literature at the Université de Rennes 2 and Senior Member of the Institut Universitaire de France. Prof. Bouju’s publications include Réinventer la littérature : démocratisation et modèles romanesques dans l’Espagne post-franquiste (with a preface by Jorge Semprún, 2002), La transcription de l’histoire. Essai sur le roman européen de la fin du vingtième siècle (2006), and Fragments d’un discours théorique (2015).

Thursday 26 January 2017: Dr Patricia Norvilla-Corvalán: ‘Historicising Virginia Woolf’s ‘The Voyage Out’: Argentina, Modernity, and the Meat Trade’

In this paper, I seek to recuperate the overlooked Latin American contexts that inform Virginia Woolf’s first novel, The Voyage Out (1915). Integrating archival research and a historicising approach, I utilise documentary evidence drawn from the research notes that Virginia Woolf conducted for Leonard Woolf’s study Empire and Commerce in Africa (1920), namely, empirical data relating to political-economic issues in Latin America and, more specifically, to Argentina. In so doing, I demonstrate that Virginia Woolf puts the complex issue of Great Britain’s neocolonial domination in Latin America squarely on the cultural agenda of The Voyage Out. I suggest that the archival documents acutely illustrate the extent of Britain’s disproportionate economic control of Argentina through the development of the meat industry that turned the Argentine Republic into the abattoir of the British Empire. I argue that this documentary evidence complements and complicates the political message of The Voyage Out, whereby Woolf mercilessly denounces Britain’s attempt to gain economic control of the continent through the predatory figure of Willoughby Vinrace and his high stakes in the meat trade. The paper also seeks to question some of the assumptions undergirding Woolf’s relationship to Latin America in an endeavour to challenge the prevailing view that her knowledge of the continent was vague, deficient and, at its worst, non-existent. Rather, I seek to show that she was the possessor of a complex socio-economic knowledge of a country such as Argentina, a claim based not only on crucial documentation gathered from the research notes she undertook for Empire and Commerce, but also on textual evidence drawn from The Voyage Out and Melymbrosia. By elucidating Woolf’s complex awareness of pressing geopolitical issues in late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Argentina, I seek to move beyond the romanticised rhetoric that constitutes an integral part of her epistolary relationship with Victoria Ocampo and that has so far framed the majority of scholarly work on this subject.

Patricia Novillo-Corvalán is Senior Lecturer in Comparative Literature at the University of Kent. She is the author of Borges and Joyce: An Infinite Conversation (2011) and the editor of the collection of essays, Latin American and Iberian Perspectives on Literature and Medicine (2015). Her second monograph entitled, Modernism and Latin America: Transnational Networks of Literary Exchange is forthcoming with Routledge in 2017.

Thursday 9 February 2017: Dr Mathilde Poizat-Amar: ‘A Gap in the Literature: Travels in 1980’s Francophone Writing’

Thursday 23 February 2017: Mylène Branco ‘L.P. Hartley’s Facial Justice and the Uses and Abuses of Cosmetic Surgery’

This paper examines the overlooked medical contexts underpinning L.P. Hartley’s dystopian novel Facial Justice (1960), especially the rise of plastic surgery procedures in the wake of the two World Wars and the early history of the National Health System (NHS). In so doing, I articulate Hartley’s serious concerns and anxieties about the growing power of the medical profession by documenting the author’s reservations about the political structures of the welfare state, which were introduced by Clement Attlee’s Labour Government between the years 1945-1951. Although acknowledged as the pillar of the newly created welfare state, the NHS and its institutional values triggered a series of moral issues around which the novel’s dystopian elements revolve. I also aim to discuss how Hartley’s Facial Justice is informed by the pioneering work of Sir Archibald McIndoe, plastic surgeon to the RAF during the Second World War, who received a knighthood for his life-saving treatments of facially disfigured soldiers. I show that Hartley utilised McIndoe’s surgical developments in order to radically transpose them to the abusive power structures underlying his dystopian society where women, not men, are the patients subjected to the unnecessary surgical procedures performed by all-powerful male physicians. Through close reading of selected passages, I analyse the sexual politics of idealisation and the resulting power struggle at work in Facial Justice.