Tag Archives: Caribbean literature

Talk in London next week

On Friday 17th July, I will be giving a talk (in English) on Joseph Zobel at the British Library in London. The talk forms part of my collaboration with the British Library, particularly the team in the Eccles Centre, and we have been planning it for some time.

I am really looking forward to talking about my research into Martinique at the British Library, and will reveal all about a mystery image of Martinique which holds an unexpected lost connection with Zobel! I’ve been putting out some teasers on Twitter about this: https://twitter.com/ZobelProject

Here’s a short description of Friday’s talk:

  • Joseph Zobel, French Caribbean author

Louise Hardwick discusses Joseph Zobel’s work and its contribution to understandings of Négritude, colonialism and post-slavery Martinique.

I’m excited to have a chance to share my various Zobel-related adventures, from archives to school visits, in Martinique and France over the past few months with audiences in the UK. The talk takes place take place between 12.30-14.00 in the Bronte Room, British Library Conference Centre, 96 Euston Road, London NW1 2DB You can find a summary of my talk here: http://www.bl.uk/eccles/events.html And you can book a free ticket, which includes tea and coffee, here: http://www.eventbrite.co.uk/o/eccles-centre-summer-scholars-series-2015-8254723394 Venez nombreux!

Visiting Maryse Condé and Richard Philcox

Recently, I was lucky enough to see Maryse Conde and Richard Philcox in London. Maryse was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize this year, and we talked about her recent work, including Mets et Merveilles which has just been published.

We also discussed my project on Zobel. Maryse and Richard remembered meeting Zobel in Africa, although they did not know each other well.

In her childhood memoir, Le Coeur à rire et à pleurer (1999) / Tales from the Heart (trans), Maryse’s first encounter with  Zobel’s literature is a pivotal episode which I really enjoy teaching to the students on my University course. After having read La Rue Cases-Nègres with me first, it is always interesting to see how they react to Maryse’s own discovery of the text. In the same book, Maryse makes a comment which has inspired me to delve deeper into Zobel’s work and life: “La lecture de Joseph Zobel, plus que des discours théoriques, m’a ouvert les yeux” (p. 103)

I won’t be updating the blog for a few weeks now, so I’ll leave you with some video material. In 2010, Maryse and Richard accepted my invitation to give Guest Lectures at the University of Birmingham, and you can watch all of Maryse’s lecture by clicking here: http://www.birmingham.ac.uk/schools/lcahm/departments/french/events/2010/maryse-conde-lecture.aspx

This Academic Life: May 2015

I was in Martinique all of April, so haven’t updated “this academic life” entries for two months. Time to rectify that!

The past two months have been exceptionally rewarding. It is hard to believe that my fieldwork for the 2015 Zobel centenary is over, as I had been planning it for two years. That’s a lot of emails between the UK and Martinique!  Events ran really well and talking about my work on Zobel with people from his native region was a fantastic experience which has helped me to gain new perspectives about my research project. These kinds of events are increasingly important for researchers based in the UK, as new government guidelines are encouraging us to incorporate “impact” into our research projects – i.e. working with other people outside academia. It was all the more challenging to run these events in French, and in the Caribbean to boot, but I really enjoyed both the intellectual and linguistic activities. Speaking on French TV was a daunting first media experience, although it all went well. I think that I will try to attend one of the University’s media training courses in future, for more tips and advice.

In other news, the Universities of Birmingham and Nottingham are strategic partners, and I co-supervise a PhD student with a colleague at Nottingham through the Midlands Three Cities AHRC Doctoral Training Partnership. Strengthening the ties between our institutions, I gave a seminar paper at Nottingham in early May on my research on Zobel, and it was excellent to meet more colleagues over at Nottingham, and to gather feedback on my work to date.

I’m also working hard on my partnership activities with the British Library in London. I’ll be giving a talk on Zobel in July, and will post more about that nearer the time.

Summary of activities in Martinique

Since I returned from Martinique, I haven’t had much free time to update the blog! I have given an invited seminar paper on Joseph Zobel at the University of Nottingham, and then last week was in London to discuss my project with colleagues at the British Library, where I’ll be giving a talk on Zobel in July (more on that in a future blog post…).

I’ve also begun reflecting on the activities I undertook in Martinique in April for the launch of the ‘Year of Zobel’ marking Zobel’s centenary, and have produced this summary of my fieldwork:

Dr Louise Hardwick has just returned from AHRC fieldwork in Martinique in the French Caribbean, where she undertook archival research and was an invited speaker at the festivities marking the centenary of author Joseph Zobel’s birth.

For the past two years, Louise has been preparing the centenary in collaboration with colleagues in Martinique, thinking about how her contribution can help to change the way that people in Martinique understand Zobel’s works. One of the key aims of the centenary visit was to discuss Zobel’s international reputation with Martinicans. Many Martinicans are unaware that he is a literary ambassador for the island and its rich culture.

In Rivière-Salée, where Zobel was born, there was keen public interest in Louise’s work. With the help of her University students, Louise contributed to an exhibition on Zobel at the Médiathèque de Rivière-Salée, a high-tech public library. Louise asked her students for their opinions of studying Zobel, and used the information in the exhibition to show young Martinicans that their literature is influencing young people at the throughout the world.

Louise was welcomed to Rivière-Salée by the Mayor, Andre Lesueur, and was invited to give a public talk to launch the town’s celebrations, which led to a lively debate and some great audience feedback.

At her school presentations, what better way to introduce pupils to Birmingham than by letting them know that the University welcomed the 2012 Jamaican Track and Field team.

Louise gave a presentation to 100 school pupils at the Lycée Joseph Zobel in Rivière-Salée, a school named after Zobel which holds an annual “Joseph Zobel Week”. She also spoke to 700 pupils at the middle school Collège George-Elisabeth during their whole-school celebrations of Joseph Zobel’s centenary.

The launch of the
The launch of the “Year of Zobel” at la villa Laguerre in Petit-Bourg
M. le Maire Andre Lesueur launches
The Mayor of Rivière-Salée, André Lesueur, launches “Joseph Zobel week” at Joseph Zobel High School
The Mediatheque - a high-tech public library - in Riviere-Salee
The Mediatheque – a high-tech public library – in Riviere-Salee (for some reason, WordPress won’t accept accents in my captions any more, although it did above!?!)
Louise with Raphaelle Bouville, her collaborator at the Mediatheque in Riviere-Salee, in front of the exhibition panels that Louise and her Birmingham students helped to create
Louise with Raphaelle Bouville, her collaborator at the Mediatheque in Riviere-Salee, in front of the exhibition panels that Louise and her Birmingham students helped to create

This report can also be viewed at:


3 QUESTIONS A… TV interview

Here’s the link to my TV interview (in French) for the channel ATV in Martinique about my activities during the Zobel Centenary!

The programme is called “3 QUESTIONS A”, although the presenter Jean-Marc Pulvar definitely asked more than 3 questions…

This was my first TV interview and everything happened very quickly. I had no idea what line of enquiry Jean-Marc would take – after a quick sound check, the cameras began to roll and the questions started to flow!

I had watched the programme before – it runs as a segment during the evening news and is one of the best-known daily programmes on Martinican TV. The strapline is “les hommes et les femmes qui font l’actualité de la Martinique” – the men and women who are making the news in Martinique – so I am honoured to be counted as someone who is shaping the Martinican news!

p.s. J’ai réussi à dire un petit bonjour aux lycéens du Lycée Joseph Zobel 🙂

Permanent link:


The original link (the show was up online on ATV’s website for a week):


Summary en français of my public talk in Rivière-Salée

I have received the following write-up of the talk I gave at Rivière-Salée’s Centre Culturel last week, and with the kind permission of the author, who is an MA student at the University of the Antilles, I have reprocuced it below.

It was a pleasure and a privilege to share my work on Rivière-Salée’s most famous author in his place of birth.

Thank you for this summary, Françoise, I am delighted you enjoyed my talk!

Bonne lecture!

J’ai assisté ce mercredi 22 avril à une conférence sur Joseph Zobel, dans son fief natal, à l’occasion du centenaire de la naissance d’un « petit nègre de Petit-Bourg » dont le génie littéraire a été traduit dans le monde entier. C’était un avant-gardiste de la Négritude et de la Créolité, et il a trouvé en Louise Hardwick, enseignante-chercheur à l’université de Birmingham, en Angleterre, une grande spécialiste de son œuvre.

Zobel, Césaire, Fanon et Glissant ont été de grands hommes dont les écrits représentent une richesse étonnante de la culture antillaise et ont permis de faire rayonner la Martinique à l’étranger. Si Aimé Césaire est le plus connu, son ami, Joseph Zobel a une place de choix dans le cœur des Martiniquais, et plus particulièrement des Saléens.

C’était très impressionnant de rencontrer « une étrangère » venir parler avec autant de fascination et de passion d’un “enfant du pays” à travers la littérature qu’il a léguée aux générations suivantes. Louise Hardwick prépare un ouvrage sur cet écrivain majeur afin de faire découvrir au plus grand nombre la portée de l’œuvre d’un génie né il y a cent ans, sur les terres salées.

Ce qui fut enrichissant, c’est sa réflexion “écocritique” sur la relation de Zobel avec la terre (jardin créole et morne). Cette enseignante-chercheur de passage sur l’île jusqu’au 29 avril vaut la peine d’être écoutée. Sa maîtrise du français est remarquable.


Amicalement, Françoise DUVAL

Etudiante en Maîtrise à l’Université des Antilles 

This week – launch of the Year of Zobel in Martinique

I am honoured that Rivière-Salée invited me to give the opening talk for the Year of Zobel.

Thank you to all who attended the Centre culturel in Rivière-Salée on 22 April!

My talk was in French, and was called “Joseph Zobel, le romancier de la Négritude”? I was delighted to be able to answer so many questions from the audience afterwards – thank you for this enthusiastic exchange!

And today it was a pleasure to speak at the Collège Georges Elisabeth during their “Hommage à Joseph Zobel” – congratulations to all the pupils who took part, and to all those who attended!

But it’s not over… If you are near a TV in Martinique tonight I’ll be speaking about Zobel on ATV for the programme “3 Questions à”…(3 Questions for…) and then on Zouk TV for a special episode on Zobel.

Follow updates on Twitter @Zobelproject


Paris Book Fair / Salon du Livre

A quick post this week as I’m preparing to leave for fieldwork in Martinique!

So I’ll share some more photos of the Salon du Livre in Paris – the event welcomes 200 000 visitors per year, and the Martinique Stand had programmed a series of events around Joseph Zobel, in which I was lucky enough to participate! This was a real opportunity to change the public perception of Zobel, in the presence of the French Minister for Overseas, George Pau-Langevin.

Firstly, the official launch of a new graphic novel adaptation of Zobel’s first novel, Diab’-là, by Roland Monpierre:

DSC00038  DSC00098DSC00100

Roland was kind enough to invite me to take part in an interview on the Stand Martinique so that I could discuss the international significance of the novel and his adaptation.

Special thanks go to Patricia Thiery who organised and co-ordinated all of these events and who runs the group “Passions Partagées” – I was honoured to collaborate with them!

Here are other pictures of events at the Salon du Livre with Jenny Zobel, Euzhan Palcy, Lyne-Rose Beuze, Jean-Michel Martial, Jean-Marc Rosier and Julienne Salvat – I will blog on this in more detail when I return from Martinique!

DSC00164 DSC00094 DSC00097 DSC00082DSC00123 DSC00157George-Pau Langevin in our audience

This Academic Life – March

This month has been pretty much dominated by Salon du Livre preparations and the event itself, which was fantastic. It was extremely valuable to discuss my work on Zobel during a public debate with key cultural figures who are also interested in him from Martinique and France. You know it has been a good discussion when, unprompted, a member of the audience asks if they can take the microphone and respond to the comments we were making!

This represented a real leap forward for my work to change the public understanding of Joseph Zobel and Caribbean literature more generally. My Round Table comments drew some very positive and helpful feedback, and I’m now in the final stages of planning more research and public engagement activities in Martinique…

I’ve included the write-up of my Salon du Livre activities which appeared on the University of Birmingham news pages below:

Paris Book Fair

Louise Hardwick was an invited speaker at the prestigious Paris Book Fair this weekend, and participated in a Round Table debate on Joseph Zobel’s legacy.

The debate was organised by the Ministry for Overseas France in collaboration with a French group of cultural advisors, museum curators, writers, artists and academics who are working on Joseph Zobel. The event was a major milestone in Louise’s programme of activities in the UK, France, Martinique and the USA as an AHRC Early Career Leadership Fellow.

At the Round Table, Louise spoke alongside Professor Romuald Fonkoua from the Sorbonne, artist Roland Monpierre who has just launched a graphic novel adaptation of one of Zobel’s novels, and members of the Zobel family, Jenny Zobel and Charlotte Zobel, who are actively involved in exploring Joseph Zobel’s legacy.

Louise discussed her current AHRC-funded research project on Zobel, which will lead to a complete reassessment of Zobel’s many novels, short stories, poetry and other cultural output (including painting, sculpture and radio broadcasts), giving rise to a more complete understanding of the impact of this prolific author who played a major cultural role in Martinique, Senegal and France.

The French Minister for Overseas France, George Pau-Langevin, was present in the audience, as was the President of the Martinican Cultural Commission, Yvette Galot, who praised the Round Table debate for improving the public understanding of Zobel’s significance, commenting that “it is essential to continue this vital work on Zobel’s heritage.”

Zobel’s best-known novel La Rue Cases-Nègres and its film adaptation Sugar Cane Alley by Euzhan Palcy are both widely studied across the Anglophone world, from the USA to Australia. Euzhan Palcy, who is based in New York, and Martinican Head of Museums Lyne-Rose Beuze were also present at the Salon du Livre, and provided their invaluable perspectives on Zobel’s legacy.

Tweet Tweet @ZobelProject

I would like to extend my warmest thanks to the Zobel family for these images of our Round Table on Joseph Zobel!

The lively debate led to great feedback from the audience, which included members of  the public, Martinique officials and the French Minister for Overseas Territories, George Pau-Langevin.

Salon du Livre Louise Table ronde Salon du Livre Table ronde

The Joseph Zobel Project is now live on Twitter, and I’ve been tweeting highlights from my Salon du Livre experience, with more to come over the weekend.

Follow the latest developments at @ZobelProject