Guest lecture by Prof. Dr. Birgit Neumann (Heinrich Heine University of Duesseldorf)
The lecture will take place online via Canvas/BigBlueButton. To attend the lecture, please go to the following link: https://canvas.vub.be/courses/20486/conferences/21160/join
Jackie Kay’s work is characterised by an intermedial aesthetics that brings literature into a productive and sometimes conflictual relationship with images. My talk engages with word-image configurations in her autobiographically inspired works Red Dust Road (2010) and Fiere (2010), showing how these configurations make available new symbolic forms that accept ambiguity, conflict and plurality. Visual modes of writing engender pluralised and open signifying practices, which affect both the orders of the sayable and visible and propel modes of understanding that thrive on disjunctive connectivity, entanglement and exchange. Rigorously undoing what Jacques Derrida calls Western heliopolitics (Derrida 1978, 90), both Red Dust Road and Fiere accentuate how vision and the sense of identification it affords always rely on their so-called others. But while Red Dust Road is largely concerned with photographs and the family album, Fiere, the ‘lyric counterpart’ to the autobiographical narrative, primarily invests in ekphrastic descriptions and revisions of paintings. I am particularly drawn to the question of how the material otherness inherent in these visual media is mobilised to carve out new spaces for black identities in Britain and to articulate “the claim for the right to look” (Mirzoeff 2011, 24). In Kay’s work, re-membering and re-visioning the visual past becomes future-oriented, a means of imaging new modes of transcultural connectivity and plural identities. What becomes clear is how word-image configurations may serve as creative interventions within existing orders of knowledge, energetically restructuring the relationships between visuality, recognition and identity.
Derrida, Jacques. Writing and Difference. Trans. Alan Bass. London/Henley: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1978.
Mirzoeff, Nikolas. The Right to Look: A Counterhistory of Visuality. Durham: Duke University Press, 2011.
Neumann, Birgit & Gabriele Rippl. Intermedial Aesthetics: Verbal-Visual Configurations in Postcolonial Literatures. London: Routledge, 2020.
Birgit Neumann is Professor of English Literature and Anglophone Studies at the Heinrich Heine University of Duesseldorf and member of several international research networks. Her research is dedicated to the study of the poetics and politics of Anglophone literatures, to world literatures and transcultural exchange, to postcolonial ecocriticism as well as to intermedial configurations in postcolonial fiction. She is author, co-author and editor of a range of books and articles that explore post/colonial modes of articulation in literature and film. Recently, she has authored, together with Gabriele Rippl, Verbal-Visual Configurations in Postcolonial Literature: Intermedial Aesthetics (Routledge, 2020).