Imagining the Body in France and the Francophone World'

Antonia Wimbush, Doctoral Researcher in the Department of Modern Languages shares a report about her latest co-organised conference, ‘Imagining the Body in France and the Francophone World'.

The interdisciplinary, cross-cultural, and bilingual two-day conference ‘Imagining the Body in France and the Francophone World’ was held at the University of Birmingham on 19th and 20th January 2018. Organised by PhD students Antonia Wimbush, Maria Tomlinson (University of Reading) and Polly Galis (University of Leeds), the conference was a lively and interactive exchange of ideas centered on the body and its representation in French and Francophone culture and thought.

Over 50 delegates from around the world attended the event, which showcased the fascinating research currently being produced on representations of the body in the Francosphere. The programme contained a rich variety of topics, themes, time periods, and media, with presentations ranging from women’s writing, to Caribbean theatre, to dancing in the Moulin Rouge. The four invited speakers gave memorable talks: Dr Kate Averis gave an opening paper on the imagining of ageing on contemporary women’s writing in French, while Dr Jacqueline Taylor’s interactive performance of écriture féminine involved encouraging the audience to sit on the floor with their shoes off while she gave her presentation from a beautiful handmade scroll. The plenary sessions on the Saturday were led by Nice-born artist Fiorenza Menini, who screened her sensual and captivating film ‘Les Attractions Contraires’, created especially for the conference, and Professor Lisa Downing, who offered a powerful and informative keynote about the right-wing women Marine Le Pen and Anne-Marie Waters.

The conference was a friendly, supportive environment for delegates to present their work on the body. Tea and coffee, refreshments, lunch and wine receptions were provided on both days, and a dinner was enjoyed on Friday evening at Côte Brasserie, giving delegates further opportunities to share ideas.

The event was generously funded by the Institute of Modern Languages Research, the Society for French Studies, the University of Birmingham and the University of Leeds. Antonia, Maria and Polly would like to thank all the sponsors, without whom the conference would not have been possible, and everyone who helped to make the conference such a success. The organisers are currently planning a publication.