1936 commemoration of the Paris Commune. Courtesy of ArtStor.

Political Forms

Organiser: Emilie Morin (English and Related Literature)

Philosophers and theorists of all persuasions have reflected on the relations between the creative imagination of writers and artists and political circumstance. Numerous texts – for example, Theodor Adorno’s studies of the avant-garde, Jacques Rancière’s reflections on the political, or Caroline Levine’s recent book on artistic forms and their political work – scrutinise the political dimensions of literature and art, in the twentieth century in particular. Yet it is often difficult to apprehend the changing political scope of literary and artistic forms, and it is often difficult to apprehend the contexts in which some types of work have come to be categorised as political interventions and others have been perceived as devoid of political currency.

What is the line that separates the political work from the apolitical work? In what circumstances have artistic hopes and ambitions become invested with political significance? In what circumstances have modern art forms been perceived as politically transformative?

The aim of this research strand is to bring together perspectives garnered from the sociology of art and literature, critical theory and political history, in order to invite a reflection on the theoretical and methodological positions that have nourished debate about the legibility of political forces and the capacity of experimental visual, performative and literary strategies to challenge the remit of political affirmation. We will examine some of the rich literature addressing the relation between art and politics, through a range of reflections on the documentation of political history, the role of the archive, the many nuances of political activism, and the long history of marginal forms such as the manifesto, the pamphlet, the petition and the radiophonic broadcast. As such, the aims of the project are to open up a reflection on the models of thought that underlie categorisations of political literatures and art forms, and to generate a discussion of the intellectual debts that underlie contemporary discussions of political efficacy.

Events are open to all. If you are interested in political history, critical theory and political philosophy, in the political dimensions of art and literature, or in interdisciplinary reflections on politics, then do join us.

Forthcoming events

Monday 30 April, 5:30-6:30pm, BS/118, Berrick Saul Building

‘Political Forms’ reading group, Summer meeting. We will discuss Judith Butler’s 2012 Adorno lecture, ‘Can One Lead a Good Life in a Bad Life?’, available from https://www.radicalphilosophyarchive.com/wp-content/files_mf/rp176_article1_judith_butler_adorno_prize_lecture.pdf. All welcome. Contact: emilie.morin@york.ac.uk

Thursday 3 May 2018, 5.30PM to 7.30pm. Treehouse, Berrick Saul Building

Art and Politics Today. CModS research seminar by Professor David Barnett (Theatre, Film and Television, York) and Ruth Kelly (Centre for Applied Human Rights, University of York).

This research seminar will focus on artistic production and politics today. David Barnett’s talk will consider how Brechtian approaches to staging an apparently political play – Arthur Miller’s The Crucible – can reveal and fashion a politics rarely acknowledged in performance. Drawing on research in Uganda and Bangladesh, Ruth Kelly's talk will consider how producing art can help to open space to imagine new political possibilities. All welcome. Contact: emilie.morin@york.ac.uk

Friday 25 May, 1 pm to 5.45 pm, BS/008  

Political Memory and its Archives: Symposium.

How is political memory layered, recorded and reconfigured? This symposium considers some of political memory’s many archives, in the literal and the figurative senses, and explores the traces left by exile, displacement, war and political struggle. The symposium has been conceived as a platform for interdisciplinary discussion and features 30-minute talks on political history’s intersections with archives, memory, film, literature and the visual arts. This event is free and open to all. Lunch and refreshments will be provided. To register please email emilie.morin@york.ac.uk

Speakers: Dr Lauren Arrington (Institute of Irish Studies, University of Liverpool); Professor Max Silverman (Department of French, University of Leeds); Kate Sweeney (English and Creative Writing, University of Newcastle); Dr Clare Tebbutt (History, University of York); Professor Michael White (History of Art, University of York)

Schedule for the symposium

Past events

Monday 12 February, 5:30-6:30pm, BS/118, Berrick Saul building

‘Political Forms’ reading group, Spring meeting. We will discuss two short chapters from Alain Badiou’s Metapolitics: ‘Against “Political Philosophy,”’ pp.10-25, and ‘Politics As Truth Procedure,’ pp. 141-152. Both can be read from https://archive.org/details/BadiouAlainMetapolitics

All welcome. Contact: emilie.morin@york.ac.uk

Monday 20 November, 5:30 pm. Treehouse, Berrick Saul building
‘The Politics of Happiness.’ CModS research seminar by David Dwan (University of Oxford) and Emilie Morin (York).

This research seminar will be an occasion to think about how we can probe and possibly overturn common assumptions about ‘the political writer’. There will be two talks: David Dwan’s talk will focus on George Orwell and the politics of happiness, and Emilie Morin’s talk will discuss Samuel Beckett’s perspective on political action and its rewards. All welcome. Contact: emilie.morin@york.ac.uk

Monday 6 November, 5:30-6:30, BS/118, Berrick Saul building
‘Political Forms’ reading group, Autumn meeting. We will discuss Jacques Rancière’s ‘Problems and Transformations of Critical Art’ (from Rancière’s Aesthetics and Its Discontents). Available from http://www.aaronvandyke.net/summer_readings/Ranciere-Problems%20and%20Transformations%20of%20Critical%20Art.pdf. All welcome. Contact: emilie.morin@york.ac.uk