Unstable environments | Porous boundaries: Re-thinking Women’s Creative Research Practice
Combining literary, theoretical and creative perspectives, this panel explores how feminist methods of analysis and writing are transforming the possibilities of interdisciplinary academic research in the 21st century. Whilst framed broadly by feminist thinking, the four practices under discussion are all shaped by the researchers’ innovative approaches to creating distinctive disciplinary ‘landscapes,’ which aim to go against the grain of established critical approaches. Criss-crossing diverse currents of thought, each practitioner will set out a series of provocations, informed by key ideas and themes drawn from their current research projects. The second objective of the panel is to open up a wider discussion about setting up a network of interdisciplinary researchers, who share the speakers’ dynamic and fluid approach to disrupting contemporary critical discourses.
Penny Simpson’s project ‘Narrating the agency of the migrant in a literature of ekphrasis’ investigates the role of women artist-writers in the creation of new narratives about migration. It examines the process of writing as a process of construction, created in open dialogue with other disciplines. In particular, it centres on an interpretation of ekphrasis as the slippage between text and image, a richly ambiguous space for exploration. How might a ‘literature of ekphrasis’ act as catalyst for transforming narratives of the migrant experience? This question is discussed with reference to the work of Leonora Carrington and Unica Zürn.
Dr Penny Simpson, Fixed Term Teacher and Associate Fellow, University of Essex
Stanislava Dikova’s paper ‘Writing women’s agency: citizenship and political life at mid-century’ focuses on the relationship between mid-century literature and discourses of citizenship emerging in the aftermath of the Second World War. An important yet overlooked text, Olivia Manning’s The Balkan Trilogy (1960-65) charts the pre-war and wartime experience of British expats in Romania who are forced to flee to escape the invading German armies. Its thematic preoccupation with issues such as displacement and forced migration raises important and timely questions about the role of women writers in developing post-war theories and representations of citizenship, statelessness, and human rights.
Dr Stanislava Dikova, Associate Fellow, University of Essex
Jessica Houlihan’s contribution ‘Writing constraint: race, gender, and modernist aesthetics’ discusses the development of a black feminist modernist aesthetic in Sarah E. Wright’s overlooked novel This Child’s Gonna Live (1969). Wright’s narrative praxis represents the complex intersections of race, gender and economics during the Depression, the material conditions of black rural life in the United States, and the spatial politics of these constraints. It argues that the novel’s claustrophobic qualities, its interiority, and its fragmentation, give textual embodiment to feelings of confinement and stasis experienced by the character of Mariah, whilst crucially exposing the hegemonic practices of white patriarchy underlying them.
Jessica Houlihan, Doctoral Researcher, University of Essex
Elaine Ewart’s ‘Writing from the edge: interdisciplinary engagement with coastal environments’ explores her work as a creative writer, situated in the emerging field of archipelagic theory. She will discuss her current practice-as-research, which focuses on coastlines and islands, places characterised by change and precariousness, on a porous and unstable border between land and sea. Drawing on ecofeminist cultural theorists such as Stacey Alaimo and Astrida Neimanis, she will explore ways in which her creative practice invokes a fluid intermingling of literary and scientific disciplines to challenge dominant cultural narratives, and ask how we, as writer-researchers, might continue creative interdisciplinary conversations and collaborations.
Dr Elaine Ewart, Associate Fellow, University of Essex