Dr Benjamin Dalton

Photograph of Dr Benjamin Dalton

Department of Modern Languages
Teaching Fellow in French, Sexuality and Gender

Contact details

Address
Ashley Building
University of Birmingham
Edgbaston
Birmingham
B15 2TT
UK

Dr Benjamin Dalton is a Teaching Fellow in French, Sexuality and Gender. His research lies at the intersections of French studies and the medical humanities. In particular, he is interested in how contemporary French thought, literature and film can dialogue with medical science to help us understand how bodies transform and metamorphose throughout life. He is also interested in how French philosophy can allow us to imagine new forms of empowering and emancipatory healthcare.

Benjamin is currently developing a monograph, based on his doctoral research, about the contemporary French philosopher Catherine Malabou and her exploration of the mutability and transformability of the body through her central concept of ‘plasticity’. The monograph is provisionally titled Plasticity in Contemporary French Thought, Literature and Film: Witnessing Transformations with Catherine Malabou. Benjamin is also the author of numerous publications on Malabou and plasticity, including an interview with Malabou in Paragraph entitled ‘What Should We Do with Plasticity?’ (2019).

Benjamin is interested in interdisciplinary research methods which bring researchers in the humanities together with scientists. During his PhD at King’s College London, he designed and led the prize-winning project ‘Narrating Plasticity: Stories of Transformation between the Plastic Arts and Neurosciences’, which brought clinical neuroscientists together with the ceramicist Amanda Doidge. This project asked: how does the plasticity of the plastic arts relate to the (neuro)plasticity of the brain as conceptualised by neuroscience? How might art and philosophy innovate alongside clinical neuroscience in exploring the brain’s plasticity? He has also spoken about his personal experiences of the brain and neurosurgery, as well as the ‘Narrating Plasticity’ project, in his public talk at HowTheLightGetsIn festival: ‘Narrating the Brain’

Benjamin’s research is now turning to the question of how contemporary French philosophy conceptualises the hospital and other clinical spaces and might in turn innovate and transform these spaces. His article in Essays in French Literature and Culture, ‘The Plastic Hospital: Catherine Malabou’s Architectural Therapeutics’ (forthcoming 2021), argues that Malabou’s philosophy can help us imagine new kinds of clinical spaces which celebrate bodily transformation and allow patients to express bodily changes in new, emancipatory ways.

Qualifications

  • BA Modern and Medieval Languages (French and German), University of Cambridge
  • MPhil European and Comparative Literatures and Cultures, University of Cambridge
  • PhD in French, King’s College London

Biography

Following an undergraduate degree in Modern and Medieval Languages (French and German) and an MPhil in European and Comparative Literatures and Cultures at the University of Cambridge, I completed my PhD in French at King’s College London in 2020. My doctoral thesis was entitled ‘Plasticity in Contemporary French Thought, Literature and Film: Witnessing Transformations with Catherine Malabou’. Here, I explored Malabou’s interdisciplinary philosophy of bodily transformation and biological mutability in relation to depictions of corporeal metamorphosis in contemporary French writing and film. I argued that contemporary French film and literature are currently bearing witness to the mutability of the biological body in ways which simultaneously resonate with, challenge and extend Malabou’s own thought. I am currently developing this research into a monograph.

Following my PhD, I taught as a lecteur at Université Paris Nanterre (2019-21). During this time, I also taught courses in philosophy, literature and film at Université La Sorbonne Nouvelle in Paris, where I created and taught the masters course ‘Queer Literature, Film and Thought in English in the 20th and 21st Centuries’.

I am joining the University of Birmingham 2021-22 as Teaching Fellow in French, Sexuality and Gender.

Teaching

I teach French core modules at intermediate and advanced levels, including ‘French Cultures and Identities’.

I also teach on the MRes in Sexuality and Gender Studies.

Research

My research is situated broadly in contemporary French thought and cultural production. More specifically, I explore how French thought, literature and film dialogue with current and ongoing research in biomedical science in order to approach and conceptualise the innate transformability, mutability and plasticity of the body. My doctoral thesis and recent publications have focused largely on the work of the contemporary philosopher Catherine Malabou, putting her concept of ‘plasticity’ into dialogue with depictions of ‘plastic’, mutating bodies in contemporary French literature and film. My research also has a focus on questions of gender, sexuality, and queerness. I am interested in how philosophical and scientific explorations of bodily mutability and metamorphosis intersect with current queer theory and queer cultural production.     

For instance, my book chapter, ‘Cruising the Queer Forest with Alain Guiraudie: Woods, Plastics, Plasticities’ (2019), looks at how the filmmaker Alain Guiraudie’s depictions of queer sexuality and desire are inextricably bound with cinematographic explorations of biological and ecological mutability and transformation. I have also explored themes of biological mutability, queer political protest, and healthcare in the films of Robin Campillo, and am currently co-editor of the forthcoming Special Issue of Modern and Contemporary France: ‘Robin Campillo’s 120 Battements par minute (2017): Screening AIDS, Activism, and Queer Identity in Contemporary France’ (forthcoming 2022). I also recently co-organised the international 3-day conference ‘Contemporary Womxn’s Writing and the Medical Humanities’ (July 2021), following a 13-part seminar online seminar series of the same title. Among the themes explored in the seminar series and conference was the question of how contemporary (fiction, philosophy, autobiography, etc.) can help imagine and innovate truly emancipatory, queer healthcare.

I am currently developing a monograph based on my doctoral research into the philosophy of Catherine Malabou and her central concept of ‘plasticity’, tentatively titled Plasticity in Contemporary French Thought, Literature and Film: Witnessing Transformations with Catherine Malabou. Beyond that, my research is now turning to the question of the hospital in contemporary French philosophy, asking: how can French thought re-imagine and transform hospitals and clinical spaces to benefit patients? On this topic, my article ‘The Plastic Hospital: Catherine Malabou’s Architectural Therapeutics’ is forthcoming in Essays in French Literature and Culture in 2021.

Publications

Recent publications

Article

Dalton, B 2021, 'The Plastic Hospital: Catherine Malabou's Architectural Therapeutics', Essays in French Literature and Culture, vol. 58, pp. 191-210.

Dalton, B 2020, 'Forms of Freedoms: Marie Darrieussecq, Catherine Malabou, and the Plasticity of Science', Dalhousie French Studies, vol. 115, pp. 55-73.

Dalton, B 2019, 'What Should We Do With Plasticity?: An Interview with Catherine Malabou', Paragraph , vol. 42, no. 2, pp. 238-54.

Chapter

Dalton, B 2019, Cruising the Queer Forest with Alain Guiraudie: Woods, Plastics, Plasticities. in Beasts of the Forest: Denizens of the Dark Woods. John Libbey & Company/University of Indiana Press, pp. 65-91.