Monthly Archives: December 2014

3 months in… and some thoughts on Japan

I’ve been blogging about Zobel and my activities for three months now. It’s really encouraging to see that the site has had hits from all over the world!

I’ve received great feedback from Zobel’s daughter, Jenny, and the Martinican author Patrick Chamoiseau. I’d like to encourage any other readers to please leave a comment, and help me develop this blog into a helpful tool for others out there with an interest in Martinican literature.

In an unexpected twist, the blog has received over 50 visits from Japan! After I spoke at a Round Table at the Toulouse La Novela public festival, a retired Physics professor in the audience, Jean Léotin, contacted me about a conference he was organising in Martinique.

The prestigious 5th International Symposium on Terahertz Nanoscience took place 1-5 December 2014 in Martinique: http://nanojapan.rice.edu/teranano5.shtml.

Prof. Léotin felt my work could help his conference delegates to understand the history and culture of the island they were visiting, and kindly added a link to my blog to the conference homepage.

Delegates came from all over the world, with many from Japan (previous Symposia had been held in Japan).

It’s a development I could never have envisaged, but perhaps it’s particularly fitting, as from the late 1960s, Joseph Zobel developed a very strong interest in Japan and Japanese culture (as related in a newspaper article).

As a young student, he had dreamed of studying Art and Architecture, but was refused a colonial scholarship to study a subject which the authorities deemed ‘unsuitable’ for a young man of his social origin, an episode recounted in the semi-autobiographical novel La Fête à Paris, 1953. Remarkably, in his later life, it was the discovery of Japanese art which finally enabled Zobel to pursue this interest. He became trained in the floral art of Ikebana and the art of Shiatsu massage, in addition to studying Japanese garden design.

My project will develop a more thorough exploration of Japanese influences in Zobel’s later work, demonstrating that he is a more exciting, complex, transnational author than critics have previously allowed.

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AHRC Leadership Fellows Conference

I’m just back from several days of rushing up and down the country for professional development events!

I was in Sheffield for the Arts and Humanities Research Council Leadership Fellows Conference on 26th November. As one of the researchers funded through the prestigious new Leadership Fellowships scheme, this was a valuable chance for me to discuss my research project and public engagement activities with my peers, senior colleagues and with representatives of the funding council.

I discovered lots of other fantastic research projects, and two which really struck a chord with my own research interests were Rebecca Braun’s AHRC project  ‘The Author and the World’ and Nicola Frith’s work on Mapping Memories of Slavery: Commemoration, Community and Identity.

In addition, I gave an invited presentation ‘Advice on Applying for ERC Funding’ at the AHRC Peer Review College members and Early Career Researchers Event for Languages and Linguistics researchers at the University of Warwick on 28th November, where I was fascinated to speak with Charles Burdett about the AHRC ‘Transnationalizing Modern Languages’ project . Find out more about the project goals and team at their website.

I also took part in a third AHRC event here at the University of Birmingham on 19th November. The AHRC Tenth Anniversary Consultation Day, “Crowd Sourcing the Anniversary” was led by my colleague Dr Richard Clay, AHRC Commons Fellow, and brought together Early Career Researchers from all AHRC-funded disciplines for lively debate and a planning session for future AHRC events with the general public.

These events are a far cry from sitting in a library with my primary texts – but they are essential for helping me shape my  work and think about its development and delivery. Rather than being a “lone scholar”, it’s also really important to remember our work is part of a larger community of researchers and has the potential to reach wider public audiences.

This week, it’s back to the books though…!