Tag Archives: toulouse

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.

Toulouse conference with Patrick Chamoiseau

(Version française ci-dessous/ French version below)


I’ve just got back from beautiful Toulouse where I gave a paper at the conference ‘Patrick Chamoiseau et la mer des récits’ (Patrick Chamoiseau and the sea of stories), held at the University of Toulouse – Jean Jaurès (campus photos below).

maison de la recherchelibrary

For the full programme, click here: Chamoiseau Conf Toulouse Sept14.

My paper was about Ecocriticism in the work of Zobel and Chamoiseau, and you can find out more by looking at my blog page on ECOCRITICISM/ECOCRITIQUE.

In addition to the academic paper, and more nerve-wrackingly, I also participated in a Round Table public discussion at an annual festival called ‘Toulouse La Novela’. This wonderful festival of ideas, science and culture takes place in the heart of the city each year. Our round table took place in a beautiful park in a Big Top tent (see photos below)!

At the round table, I explained the main ideas of my conference paper on biodiversity and the environment to the Toulouse public, and talked about Birmingham Institute for Forest Research and the need for researchers in the sciences and humanities to take a more joined up approach to tackle environmental challenges. A couple of joggers, wondering what was going on in the tent, even popped in! Patrick Chamoiseau then responded to the themes of my paper. He spoke with such passion about the Martinican environment that I’m feeling inspired to push on with my research into ecocriticism in Zobel’s work.

round table


Je viens de rentrer de Toulouse, où j’ai donné une conférence lors du congrès ‘Patrick Chamoiseau et la mer des récits’. Pour le programme, cliquez ici: Chamoiseau Conf Toulouse Sept14

Dans ma contribution, il s’agissait d’une exploration de l’écocritique chez Zobel et Chamoiseau. Pour en savoir plus, jetez un coup d’œil à la page ECOCRITICISM/ECOCRITIQUE.


De plus, j’ai participé (non sans trépidation) à une Table ronde dans le cadre du festival Toulouse La Novela. Ce festival d’idées, science et culture a lieu chaque année au cœur de la ville. Notre table ronde a eu lieu dans un très beau parc sous un chapiteau !

Le grand rondLe Chapiteau

Lors de la table ronde, j’ai résumé les idées principales de ma communication sur la biodiversité et l’environnement au public toulousain, et j’ai parlé du Birmingham Institute for Forest Research, en soulignant qu’il faut que les chercheurs dans les domaines des sciences et des humanités se réunissent afin de répondre aux défis environnementaux. A mon très grand plaisir, quelques joggeurs, curieux de voir ce qui se passait sous le chapiteau, ont pris la décision de rentrer pour écouter notre discours ! Ensuite, Patrick Chamoiseau a répondu aux thèmes de ma communication. Il a parlé de l’environnement martiniquais avec tant de passion que j’ai hâte de reprendre mes recherches sur l’écocritique chez Zobel…