My research began in the area of the French avant-garde, specifically Dada and Surrealism in French literature and film. I am more recently interested in how the study of experimental culture might be combined with areas outside of languages or indeed outside of the Arts and Humanities altogether.
With colleagues from Anthropology, Nursing and Law, I am part of a team to have been awarded around £7K by the University’s Institute of Global Innovation for a pilot project on the relationship between humour and trauma (developing out of work on the avant-garde, my angle is the use of dark and absurd humour as a response to traumatic experience, as well as the more general role played by language and culture in facilitating policy, meaning and progress in responding to major problems). Supported by the IGI strand for gender and the global south, the project will take place in Sierra Leone in 2019, looking at the use of comedy and humour in working with survivors of gender-based violence. Through connections to NGOs (local, national and international) and the NHS, there is the potential to extend the results of the project in comparative contexts. The project will be prefaced by a workshop on humour and resilience at the University’s Institute for Advanced Studies, bringing together UoB researchers from 4 of the 5 different Colleges as well as important external contributions from researchers and NGOs.
These new projects build on a number of publications in the area of the ‘classical’ or ‘historical’ avant-garde.
My most recent book is Dada as Text, Thought and Theory (Oxford: Legenda Research Monographs in French Studies, 2015). Arguing for a significant reappraisal of one of the twentieth-century's most prominent cultural movements, the study combines close textual analysis and Dada history to approach topics either ignored or resisted by most traditional criticism, including women Dada poets, psychoanalysis and madness, and the history of ideas, including Buddhism and quantum physics.
Over 2014 I worked with Saskia Warren on a feasibility study into a heritage space related to the Birmingham Surrealist group led by Conroy Maddox. The project was funded by the Communities and Culture Network+ and involved workshops and a round table as part of a Birmingham Surrealist Laboratory.
I am also interested in Dada and Surrealism as part of a tradition of experimental or (would be) 'radical' French culture. With my colleague Emma Wagstaff I co-edited a special issue of Nottingham French Studies (2011) on the French avant-garde, in the aim of expanding the periodisation and scope of the avant-garde canon, as well as the methods used to understand individual authors and bodies of work. My other published research in this area considers French avant-garde work from the 1920s and 1930s within a variety of contexts, including European cultural and intellectual responses to armed conflict, combat testimony from soldiers, modern geo-politics and the (so-called) 'so-called 'war on terror'', and the politics and commodification of avant-garde art. I have also drawn on Dada and Surrealism in looking at collaborative experimental work produced on film and video by Jean-Luc Godard and Anne-Marie Miéville in the 1970s and 1980s.
My monograph on Tristan Tzara (1896-1963) - Modernist Song: The Poetry of Tristan Tzara (Oxford: Legenda, 2006) - represents the first book-length study of poetry written by the man remembered popularly as 'the Father of Dada', whose life in literature continued for nearly four decades after the totemic Sept manifestes Dada of 1924.
I have corresponded with galleries, cultural organisations and researchers about the various research topics described here, and it is always a pleasure to hear from colleagues or students working in related areas. I am very happy to discuss possible supervision, collaboration and external examining, or to respond to questions about any aspect of my work.