Past events

WOLEC. On 11 May Stéphane Hirschi (Université de Valenciennes et du Hainaut-Cambrésis)  will give a talk in French on « Chanson et intermédialité »

Les recherches intermédiales ont prouvé depuis quelques années la richesse et la multiplicité du genre chanson. Loin d’être un simple texte mis en musique, il repose sur des relations intermédiales complexes entre de nombreux médiums, tels que le théâtre (qui peut notamment influer sur l’interprétation) ou le cinéma (par exemple dans les vidéoclips). Étudier la chanson nécessite donc de voyager entre toutes ces disciplines afin de mieux comprendre sa puissante faculté à nous transporter dans l’espace-temps.

The lecture will take place in room 5.C.402 on the VUB Etterbeek Campus, from 11 am till 1 pm. A small lunch will be provided. Participation is free, but please send an e-mail to or to confirm your presence.


WOLEC. On 27 April Annelies Augustyns (Universiteit Antwerpen) will give a talk on: ‘Urban Experience in the Third Reich: A Topopoetic Analysis of German-Jewish Autobiographical Literature from Breslau.’ The lecture will be held in Dutch.
My research project aims to contribute to the understanding of the representation of the German-Jewish urban experience in life writing from Breslau during the Third Reich, on a contextual and a textual level. The relation between ‘Aryan’ and ‘Jew’ in the Third Reich was structured in, and through, space. Breslau’s urban space is therefore neither simply a negative constraint nor merely a passive surface onto which Nazi anti-Semitism in the city is mapped.
As will be shown in this research project, spatial form and spatial strategy were an active element of segregation and destruction. Urban space should therefore be regarded as more than a social given, it is, within the context of persecution, a narrative construction in Jewish writing that incites to imaginative figurations of alternative, resisting spaces. Thus, one needs to take into account that mental processes are constructed through space, which is articulated in written and spoken language. Accordingly, informed by insights from geocriticism (Westphal), the literary analysis of the representation of German-Jewish heterotopias will shed new light on the experience of racialized segregation and the textual specificity of Jewish life writing during National Socialism.
The lecture will take place in room 5.C.406 on the VUB Etterbeek Campus, from 12 am till 1.30 pm. A small lunch will be provided. Participation is free, but please send an e-mail to or to confirm your presence.


WOLEC. On 1 March 2017 Alyssa Verhees (Vrije Universiteit Brussel) will give a talk on: ‘Ekfrasis voorbij: het kunstwerk als ding in het oeuvre van Stefan Hertmans.’

Tot nu toe werden kunstwerken in de literatuur vooral bestudeerd in het licht van ekfrasis, waarbij de aandacht voornamelijk uitgaat naar hetgeen dat afgebeeld wordt op het kunstwerk en hoe deze voorstelling omgezet wordt in de beschrijving. Een kunstwerk is echter ook een object waarmee een personage interacteert en dat op zijn beurt weer invloed heeft op het personage. Ik wil de klassieke visie op ekfrasis aanvullen met inzichten uit de thing theory (Brown 2015), waarbij enerzijds de beschrijving van de objecten en anderzijds de interactie tussen het kunstwerk en het personage bekeken wordt. In mijn voordracht wil ik de relatie van het object tegenover het personage onderzoeken aan de hand van de antropologische theorie van Alfred Gell.

In Art and Agency (1998) beschrijft Gell de manier waarop kunstwerken ingebed zijn in sociale relaties, die hij de ‘art nexus’ noemt. Gell ziet kunstwerken niet in het licht van hun esthetische waarde of hun symbolische betekenis die door het publiek ontcijferd moet worden, maar kijkt naar de sociale context van onder andere de productie, de circulatie en de receptie van het werk. Deze aspecten doen denken aan Igor Kopytoffs visie op de objectbiografie (1986). Hij gaat ervan uit dat objecten fases hebben in hun leven en dat ze dan telkens een bijzondere functie representeren.

Ik wil Gells antropologische theorie naar de romanwereld transponeren. Om te verhouding tussen personage en (kunst)object te onderzoeken kijk ik naar de productie, circulatie en receptie van het object binnen de vertelling. Centraal staan voor Gell hierbij de relaties tussen de index (het kunstwerk), de artiest, de recipiënt en het prototype (datgene waar de index voor staat). Elk van deze aspecten kan zowel de handelende (agent) als de ondergaande rol (patiënt) vervullen. De vraag die mij specifiek interesseert, is niet wat agency is, maar wanneer – in welke contexten of fases – een kunstobject agency heeft, hoe de personages hiermee omgaan, en wat voor gevolgen dit heeft voor de interpretatie van een roman.

Als uitgangspunt neem ik de roman Oorlog en Terpentijn (2013) van Stefan Hertmans. Deze roman confronteer ik met het verhaal ‘Landschap met vogels’ (2001) van dezelfde auteur, waarin Neerhof met witte pauw van Melchior de Hondecoeter een prominente plaats inneemt.

The lecture will take place in room 5.C.402 on the VUB Etterbeek Campus, from 12 am till 1.30 pm. A small lunch will be provided. Participation is free, but please send an e-mail to or to confirm your presence.


WOLEC. On 16 February Marc Farrant (Goldsmiths, University of London) will give a talk on: ‘“With so many millions of souls to count [...] what does it matter if they miss one?”: The Word of God in Coetzee’s Jesus Novels.’

This paper explores the complex and allusive world of J.M. Coetzee’s two most recent fictions, The Childhood of Jesus (2012) and The Schooldays of Jesus (2016). Critics have argued that these novels constitute a mystifying and ambiguous ‘late style’; reliant on self-quotation, feigned seriousness, and repetition. Theo Tait remarks that the recent Schooldays of Jesus is both ‘bloodless and diagrammatic, like its fictional world’. Conversely, I argue, the two Jesus novels represent and constitute a remarkable culmination of Coetzee’s literary and philosophical writings. Beneath Coetzee’s ‘dry and studiedly unremarkable’ prose lies a palimpsest of both direct and indirect intertextuality. These works draw upon a lifetime’s worth of creative and critical engagements with philosophy, theology, and literature. If these novels do constitute what Elizabeth Costello, in Coetzee’s eponymous novel, terms a ‘literary theme park’, they are the richer for it.

Coetzee marshals a deceptively simple world to inform the backdrop of an extraordinary act of literary thinking; my term for the philosophical texture and effects of his novels, especially those post-Disgrace (1998). The worlds of Novilla and Estrella become the stage for a conflict that has defined Coetzee’s oeuvre: that between reason and passion. This is played out through the deployment of a host of thematic concerns and questions that have characterised Coetzee’s creative output: the possibility of self-truth, historical embeddedness, animal life and embodiment, the problem of abstraction and quantification, and linguistic and verbal determinism. The two novels explore and draw upon a host of influences, notably from a German tradition: Kleist, Nietzsche, Musil, Kafka, but also Beckett, the ancient Greeks, the apocryphal gospels, Dostoevsky and other sources. This paper does not intend to trace genealogies of allusion, however, but rather to illustrate the fundamental logic of Coetzee’s literary thinking through the works’ implicit and explicit affinities, including with Coetzee’s earlier works. What emerges in these final works is a profound syntax of the heart – a heart-speech – that constitutes an ironic and timely critique of both theological and secular conceptions of the after-life. These latest works not only add to a now richly philosophical corpus, but culminate an aesthetics, politics, and ethics of finitude.

The lecture will take place in room 5.C.402 on the VUB Etterbeek Campus, from 12 am till 1.30 pm. A small lunch will be provided. Participation is free, but please send an e-mail to or to confirm your presence.


WOLEC. On 16 January Atinati Mamatsashvili (Université Paris-Sorbonne (Paris IV)/Staatsuniversiteit Ilia Tbilisi) will give a talk on: " Déconstruction de l’imaginaire antisémite : Klee, Heartfield, Beucler, Thomas.”

Ce que nous proposons par cette intervention, c’est de nous focaliser sur la dimension politico-historique de l’œuvre d’art – que ce soit une fiction littéraire, une peinture ou un photomontage. Nous efforçons d’examiner par quel biais l’esthétique arrive à déconstruire l’historicité et en opérer une critique acerbe, même au détriment du danger de mort encouru par l’auteur. Nous allons suivre, à travers les œuvres d’écrivains et d’artistes, tels qu’André Beucler (1898-1985), Édith Thomas (1909-1970), Paul Klee (1879-1940) et John Heartfield (1891-1968), leur engagement dès l’avènement du nazisme, contre l’idéologie fasciste, contre l’antisémitisme, contre la mentalité de ceux qui se sentaient dérangés de « l’encombrement israélite » (Beucler).

« Pour que l’histoire se représente, il faut détruire la simple continuité de surface qu’offre la photographie » – écrivait Siegfried Kracauer. C’est notamment de cette manière que procède John Heartfield dans ses photomontages. Ces derniers « détruisent » la surface de la photographie, de l’image représentée (qui peut aussi être un tableau) afin d’en re-créer une autre dans laquelle se lit l’Histoire dans sa « vérité de fait » (Arendt). « L’art ne reproduit pas le visible, il rend visible » – écrit de son côté Paul Klee, celui qui dénonce les persécutions des Juifs dès 1933. Ses tableaux procèdent de manière analogue – ils agissent par la dislocation et la reconstruction – pour reconstituer l’ensemble de l’idée, rallier une graphie à une autre, faire assembler la croix gammée dispersée en rectangles séparés sur une surface plane (Région près de H).

Le texte Beuclérien est très proche de ce procédé artistique. Ses textes créés une contre-affiche à l’idéologie nazie qui se focalise en particulier sur la « question juive ». Lorsque Édith Thomas écrit le Journal intime de Monsieur Célestin Costedet (1940-1941), elle arrive à retracer le mieux et d’une manière absolument exceptionnelle le fondement majeur sur lequel se base cette idéologie autoritaire ou totalitaire : détourner la vérité, pour ensuite non pas l’effacer, mais le manipuler et la présenter comme fausse. Le texte tomassien, à l’instar d’un photomontage, dévoile à travers la narration d’un personnage endoctriné, une idéologie poussée jusqu’à l’absurde – pour que cette absurdité puisse déconstruire le mensonge afin de pouvoir éclater l’aveuglement humain.

The lecture will take place in room 5.C.402 on the VUB Etterbeek Campus, from 12 am till 1.30 pm. A small lunch will be provided. Participation is free, but please send an e-mail to or to confirm your presence.


WOLEC. On 8 December Audrey De Landtsheer en Ellen Voets will present the results of their Master Theses, titled ‘Evolution of the Portrayal of Women in Rewritings of Charles Perrault’s “Bluebeard”’ and ‘Differences and similarities in the portrayal of women in fairy tales written by female authors across the ages’.

The lecture will take place in room 5.C.402 on the VUB Etterbeek Campus, from 6.30 pm till 7.30 pm. Participation is free, but please send an e-mail to or to confirm your presence.


WOLEC. On 24 November Julio Monteiro (University of Brasília) will give a talk on: "Literature, History, Memory: The Historical Novel in Suriname.”

Historical novels by Surinamese authors do not fit entirely into categories provided by European authors in their attempts to regard historical novel as a genre (Lukács 1937, De Groot 2009). Actually, historical novels in Suriname differ themselves from the 19th Century European definition of the genre in so many ways that only a different approach, maybe a completely new one, can lay the foundations of a full-fledged understanding of the genre in Suriname and the region. It is sometimes difficult, if not impossible, to apply Western canonical labels to the literature produced in Suriname; it can be argued that the conventions of oral literature in the country (and in the region as a whole) that migrate to written, Westernized literature, may work against certain Western aesthetical conventions which may regard them as plain or circular (Kempen1993,2002) due to the focus on the message itself, on the weaving of stories about the various ethnical forefathers of present-day Suriname. The weaving of such stories serves a double purpose:  reaffirmation of the self, as far as the various ethnic groups are concerned, and the quest for a national identity regardless of ethnicity.

In order to address the aforementioned issues, this paper will focus on the works of two Surinamese authors, Cynhtia McLeod and John H. de Bye. The choice for the authors is based on factors such as the visibility of both authors in Suriname and abroad, their research-based novels and the presence of shared history and experiences with neighboring Brazil, especially on the topics of slavery and Jewish migration.

The lecture will take place in room G.1.0.20 on the VUB Etterbeek Campus, from 12 am till 1.30 pm. A small lunch will be provided. Participation is free, but please send an e-mail to or to confirm your presence.


WOLEC. On 4 November 2016 Jan Vanvelk (KU Leuven) gave a talk on: "'The Animal, the Alien, the Machine: The Rhetoric of Humanity in H .G Wells”.

Ever since Charles Darwin’s The Origin of Species (1859), but especially after The Descent of Man (1871), the question of human sociability was increasingly complicated with the instability of the notion of the human itself. The answer to the question of what it meant to be human had an immediate effect on how those humans would achieve some degree of cooperation and collective solidarity in the face of what was perceived to be animalistic selfishness. In the broader range of Anglo-Saxon cultural discourse, ‘the human animal’ was an animal subjected to natural processes, unable to act with enough agency so that it could overcome its own instincts, leading to a depressing view of human beings as morally egoistic ones, ultimately only concerned with their own well-being (and that of those close to it), but never with the general species’s. In my own research, I study the work of early science fiction writers who took up Darwin’s challenge and tried to frame new ways in which human sociability could be defined and promoted. If nature was as ruthless as it appeared to be, mercilessly killing off the unadapted and the unfit, then maybe humanity could introduce its own goals and its own sources of meaning, using stories to disseminate those in an attempt to create an ethical process (in the words of Darwin’s prophet, Thomas Henry Huxley) as a counterforce to the natural process. This presentation will try to give an answer as to how literary studies could methodologically digest this broader literary historical context as the inspiration for a research program, and how science fiction studies, with its strong emphasis on genre in the past decades, can think the relationship between aesthetic projects, historical constellations, and socio-political challenges that still exist to this day. The genre of science fiction is regularly considered to be a politically fruitful thought exercise, in which previously unavailable imaginative ‘worlds’ function as a point of comparison for our own quote-unquote ‘real’ world, challenging its most intimate inevitabilities. Yet this aesthetic program itself has a long history, with many writers struggling to actively embrace it in all its ramifications, and even if they do, those writers all too often offset their writing with continuous hints of irony and play. As one example to make things a bit more concrete, I will talk a little bit about H. G. Wells (1866-1946), a writer who today is not as well-known as he was in the first half of the previous century (when he was practically a celebrity), but whose writing today is still able to inspire science fiction films, comics, books, drama, fan fiction, among a plethora of other mediums of expression.

The lecture took place in room 5.C.402 on the VUB Etterbeek Campus, from 12 am till 1.30 pm.


WOLEC. On 14 January 2016 Bram Lambrecht (KU Leuven) will give a talk on: "Ik, jij, wij. De morele exemplariteit van Alice Nahons poëzie”.

In zijn lezing presenteert hij eerst beknopt de algemene lijnen van zijn promotieonderzoek over de encyclopedische, morele en artistieke autoriteit van middlebrow-literatuur uit het Nederlandse taalgebied tijdens het interbellum. Vervolgens spitst hij zich toe op een van zijn casussen: het kleine poëtische oeuvre van de populaire tussenoorlogse dichteres Alice Nahon. De centrale these van Brams presentatie luidt dat Nahons gedichten een veelzijdige morele – en vooral emotionele – autoriteit (willen) vervullen en dat het affectieve ethos van het lyrisch subject daarbij garant staat voor de geloofwaardigheid van die boodschap. De constructie van de identiteit en morele autoriteit van het lyrisch ik en de retorische technieken die daarbij worden aangewend, staan centraal in de analyse. Die wordt gestuurd door theoretische concepten als ‘exemplariteit’ (Bouju e.a. 2007, David 2010, Giavarini 2008) en ‘ethos’ (Amossy 2009 en 2010, Korthals Altes 2014).

The lecture will take place in room 5.C.402 on the VUB Etterbeek Campus, from 12 am till 1.30 pm. A small lunch will be provided. Participation is free, but please send an e-mail to or to confirm your presence. 


WOLEC. On 19 November 2015 Claus Peter Neumann (Universidad de Zaragoza) gave a talk on: "Loving the Goat: Edward Albee’s The Goat; or, Who is Sylvia as representative American tragedy”.

Edward Albee’s play The Goat; or, Who is Sylvia has been interpreted as examining the boundaries of love and passion (Billington), as a challenge to Raymond Williams’s concept of liberal tragedy and, thus, to liberalism in general (Robinson), or as a modern-day version of Greek tragedy, the goat representing the Dionysian force of desire (Davin, Kuhn). Given the play’s subtitle (Notes toward a Definition of Tragedy), it is only to be expected that the last group yield the most convincing arguments. However, although these authors point out the play’s many evocations of Greek tragedy, they neglect the fact that the play is also full of metarepresentational moments that call attention to the play as a representation to an audience. In addition, the authors treat the play in universal terms. Thus, Kuhn reads it as representing “the amazing variety and range of humanity” (30). However, the references in the play are specifically American: the protagonist is a famous (fictional) American architect who is supposed to design a whole city in the American West, whstich, of course, evokes John Winthrop’s image of America as a city on a hill, a virtuous model that other countries would have to follow. 

Against this background, this presentation reads Albee’s play as a comment on American theatre (and, by extension, culture) in general. In fact, desire, represented by the Dionysian elements evoked by the play’s title and metatheatrical references, runs through the history of American theatre from George Cram Cooke’s and Susan Glaspell’s Supressed Desires (1915) to O’Neill’s Desire under the Elms (1924) and Mourning Becomes Electra (1931) – both of which, like Albee’s play, represent reworkings of Greek tragedies – to Tennessee Williams’s many plays on the issue in the 40s and 50s, to Sam Shepard’s Fool for Love (1983), to name only the most famous ones. In most of these plays, like in Albee’s, desire turns out to be a destructive force. Albee’s The Goat, on the surface a realistic family play (the main staple of American theatre), pinpoints desire as almost an obsession in American theatre. To explain this obsession we have to turn to Nietzsche’s Birth of Tragedy, which posits Greek tragedy as a tension between the Dionysian forces, on the one hand, and what Nietzsche calls the Apollonian forces, which represent the human aspiration towards a higher goal of individual refinement and significance (Nietzsche 37). This aspiration is the same as the one contained in the concept of Winthrop’s City on a Hill and reflects American self-conception as a project of continual self-improvement, as proposed early on in Benjamin Franklin’s autobiography. Albee’s play, thus, becomes a comment on the conflict between the Dionysian and the Apollonian forces that lie at the heart of American theatre, culture and self-conception, turning the play into a quintessentially American tragedy.

 The lecture took place in room 5.C.406 on the VUB Etterbeek Campus, from 12 am till 1.30 pm. 


On 6 October 2015 professor Birgit Neumann (Universität Düsseldorf) presented her research on ‘Postcolonial Ekphrasis and Counter-Visions in Derek Walcott’s Tiepolo’s Hound – Contact Zones, Contests and Translations’.

"My talk sets out to investigate visual practices in Derek Walcott’s long poem Tiepolo’s Hound, illustrating how an engagement with verbal-visual relations might add to our understanding of postcolonial aesthetics and reading experiences. I argue that the evocation of Eurocentric visual practices and their transfer into postcolonial literatures constitutes an act of intermedial and transcultural translation, which both acknowledges the influence of imposed models and subjects them to creative processes of ex-change. Verbal-visual relations open up a site of in-between-ness, a site of contact, contest and translation, which inform practices of cultural transformation. Seen from this perspective, text-image-configurations are central to what the French philosopher Jacques Rancière (2004, 13) called the “distribution of the sensible”, understood as “the system of a priori forms determining what presents itself to sense experience.” Accordingly, verbal-visual relations may intervene in the social fabric of existing medial configurations, reworking them in a way that allows readers to experience, see and imagine the world differently."

The lecture took place in room 5.C.402 (Profzaal) on the VUB Etterbeek Campus, from 1 till 2.30 pm. 


On Tuesday 21 April, CLIC-member Janine Hauthal held a WOLEC lecture on 'Fictions of Europe: Transnational Discourses in Contemporary British Literature'.

When: 21 April 2015, 12 am till 1.30 pm

Where: Etterbeek Campus VUB, room 5.C.402 (Profzaal)


Prof. Enrico Testa (Università di Genova) held the Cattedra Emile Lorand 2014-2015 for Italian Studies and teached a four day seminar from 23 until 26 March 2015 on varieties of literary language in the work of Italian novelists and poets since World War II.

Click here to see the flyer (in Italian and Dutch).


On Friday 27 March, Nele Wynants (ULB/UA) gave a WOLEC seminar (in Dutch) on ‘Philosophical Toys: Optical illusion at Play in Theatre and Performance’. 

"The concept of play is not only indispensable to any questioning of theatrical aesthetics, but also affects decisive tendencies in the development of science and the cultural history of scientific experimentation. Designed to trick the mind, optical instruments such as mirrors, camera obscura’s and magic lanterns functioned as ‘philosophical toys’ or ‘objects to think with’. The latter concept is media artist Zoë Beloff’s, who refers to a variety of optical toys, kinetic toys and jouets séditieux that originated in the early nineteenth century, a period marked by increasing scientific interest in exploring the relationship between vision and perception. These instruments were found to have a popular as well as a scientific attraction. Contemporary performance and media artists show a remarkable interest in these old or obsolete optical media. By experimenting with these visual media, they playfully explore the potentialities and limits of perception thereby examining how ‘seeing’ works in today’s mediatized environment. Optical devices in the work of Benjamin Vandewalle, Julien Maire and Zoë Beloff can thus be considered contemporary incarnations of the ‘philosophical toy’. This paper will discuss how these contemporary optical performances continue a scientific tradition of scopic inquiry which tended to make a spectacle of its own experiments in which scientific and aesthetic approaches intersect."

More information can be found here.

When: 27 March 2015, 12 am till 1.30 pm

Where: Etterbeek Campus VUB, room 5.C.402 (Profzaal)


Prof. Marie-Agnès Palaisi-Robert (Université Toulouse - Jean Jaurès) holds the Catedra Emile Lorand 2014-2015 for Spanish Studies. She teached a four day seminar on the Mexican author Cristina Rivera Garza from 24 until 27 February 2015. Click here to see the flyer (in Spanish and Dutch). 


CLIC research partners THALIA, CLIV and SEL organised a seminar (in Dutch) on Friday 27 February, on the theatre production Empedokles by Theater Zuidpool. Speakers included CLIC members Claire Swyzen and Gys-Walt Van Egdom. Click here to see the programme.

When? Friday, 27 February 2015, 10.00 am until 12.30 pm

Where? Foyer Theaterzaal Vooruit, Ghent

How?  To participate, please send an e-mail to, and indicate 'inschrijving Empedokles' in the subject line


The annual symposium of the Centre for Literature, Intermediality and Culture (CLIC) took place on 12 December 2014. This year’s edition focused on the interrelations between music and literature. In his keynote speech, Prof. Bruno Forment (SKAR, VUB/UGent) talked about the purposes certain stereotypical settings – gardens, prisons, temples/churches – served in opera and how those same settings affected literary genres such as the novel. Contributions by other speakers explored the relationship between music and literature from a more theoretical perspective and through specific case studies. These included operas based on a nineteenth-century Italian novel, a recent Oscar-nominated Belgian film as well as a 1993 dance production featuring music by Elvis Presley and Maurice Ravel.

Click here to see the poster.

When? Friday, 12 December 2014, 9.45 am until 4.30 pm

Where? VUB Campus Etterbeek, D2.01