Archive for Podcasts

Dr Cécile Bishop, “The Truth about Amin”: History and Fiction in Filmic Portrayals of Idi Amin

Events, Podcastson November 13th, 2013No Comments

Tuesday 26 November, 5.00pm, IN243

The podcast of this talk is available at

In an interview about his 2009 book on post-Amin Uganda, The Teeth May Smile but the Heart Does Not Forget, Andrew Rice declared to the New York Times: ‘If one historical figure could be said to embody the continent as it is stereotypically imagined — dark, dangerous, atavistic and charged with sexual magnetism — it would be Idi Amin Dada’. This remark encapsulates one of the key challenges raised by the representation of postcolonial dictatorships in Africa: the difficulty of offering a description of these regimes that would avoid reproducing colonial stereotypes about the continent.

This paper examines three films about Uganda dictator Idi Amin:  Général Idi Amin Dada: Autoportrait (1974), by Franco-Swiss documentarist Barbet Schroeder, the British drama The Last King of Scotland (2006) by Kevin MacDonald, and the ‘exploitation’ film The Rise and Fall of Idi Amin by Kenyan director Sharad Patel (1981). Focusing on the articulation of fiction and history in these works, the discussion will explore the political and ethical issues raised by the potential recuperation of postcolonial African realities as sensational topics for filmmakers. However, it will show that any such discussion needs to address the following paradox: although ethical/political responsibilities are often set in opposition to notions such as ‘aestheticization’ in representations of violent or traumatic political realities, those are in fact deeply entangled in contingent aesthetic and generic conventions.

Adam Ganz discusses ‘The Gestapo Minutes’

Events, Podcastson November 13th, 2013No Comments

Weds 13 November, 5pm, IN007

The podcast of this talk is available HERE.

Adam Ganz (Media Arts, Royal Holloway) discusses his recent radio play ‘The Gestapo Minutes’, first broadcast on BBC Radio 4 in July 2013 and which, taking an historical episode as its basis, fascinatingly explores power, ethics, guilt and trauma. Ganz is interested in the possibilities and limitations of adapting and dramatizing historical events, and the gaps and silences of the archive.

 Synopsis of the Play:

‘Mainz, Summer 1945 and the war is over. Michel Oppenheim, for 6 years head of the Jewish Community, has survived, thanks to his non-Jewish wife. Now Gerhard Schwoerer the Gestapo Officer with whom he had regular meetings throughout the war has come to beg him for a testimonial, which could save him from a war crimes trial and execution. Oppenheim must decide whether to help the man who sat across the table during the previous years of horror and humiliation.’

Adam Ganz is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Media Arts at Royal Holloway, and also active as professional screenwriter and director for radio, film and television. His principal research interests focus on audiovisual narrative, with particular reference to the migration of audiovisual production processes to the digital, and on the TV development process and other forms of collaborative narrative including the collaboration between author and audience.

 See also:

 The play can be accessed here:

Robert Gordon, ‘Cultural Responses to the Holocaust in Italy’

Podcastson June 6th, 2013No Comments

The podcast of this event, held on 6 February 2013, can be found HERE.

Hanna Meretoja, ‘Trauma, History and the Ethics of Storytelling’

Events, Podcastson February 4th, 2013No Comments

The podcast of this event can be found HERE.

Date: 5 March 2013

Time: 5.00 pm

Venue: Royal Holloway, WIN005

A profound suspicion of narrative form is widespread in trauma studies. Not only is trauma seen as de facto inassimilable to narrative understanding, but also stories as such are frequently considered to be ethically problematic in their very attempt to make sense of traumatic experience, because the act of narration is taken to reduce something singular into an account that gives it a general meaning. This paper suggests that such a position largely depends on a subsumptive model of understanding, which underlies, for example, much of poststructuralist criticism of the violence of understanding. This paper explores an alternative, more hermeneutically oriented approach which may make it possible to rethink the ethical potential of storytelling.  The paper also discusses how the current suspicion of narrativity echoes the crisis of storytelling in postwar Europe, when a new generation of novelists (such as the nouveaux romanciers) felt that storytelling is inadequate in responding to the traumatic experience of the Second World War. Contemporary literature, in turn, may help us acknowledge not only the violent dimension but also the ethical potential of narrative. In the light of Julia Franck’s Die Mittagsfrau (2007, The Blind Side of the Heart), the paper analyses, in the post-Holocaust context, the way in which nothing in stories guarantees the actualization of their ethical potential and the way in which narrative identities imposed on us may lead us to repeat harmful emotional and behavioral patterns. The paper examines how seeing storytelling as a process of reinterpreting experience may allow us not only to acknowledge the temporal, inevitably unfinished character of storytelling, and its implications for confronting collective and personal trauma, but also to analyse when narratives enlarge the space of possibilities in which we can act, think and re-imagine the world together with others, and when they restrain or impoverish the possibilities open to us, reinforcing painful repetition of traumatic experience.


Hanna Meretoja

Professor of Comparative Literature, University of Tampere (

 Adjunct Professor of Comparative Literature and Research Fellow, University of Turku(

Helen Vassallo, ‘The Day Nina Simone Stopped Singing: Gender, War and Trauma’

Events, Podcastson January 10th, 2013No Comments

Scan1Date: 30 January 2013

Time. 5.00 pm

Venue: Royal Holloway, room WIN005

For the podcast of this session, click HERE.

The Day Nina Simone Stopped Singing is a semi-autobiographical narrative by Lebanese author Darina Al-Joundi, which recounts her coming-of-age during the Lebanese civil war and explores the entwining of socio-historical trauma and personal experience. Al-Joundi was raised in an unorthodox household: her father, a Syrian political exile, wanted to raise his daughters as “free women” in a society which made this “freedom” unrealizable, constraining Darina within other, equally harmful, stereotypes. The analysis thus examines the quest for one woman to find a secular “freedom” in a society characterized by religious conflict and gender inequality, and reveals this quest to be fraught with personal and social trauma. It will conclude by evaluating possibilities for “freedom” in exile in France, considering the extent to which Al-Joundi’s representation of the “free woman” challenges traditional dichotomies between East and West regarding notions of liberty, particularly as they are incarnated by women.

Whose Tragedy? Cultural Representations of Disability

Events, Podcastson December 13th, 2012No Comments

 The podcast of this event can be found HERE.


Whose Tragedy? Cultural Representations of Disability 

A ‘Trauma History Fiction’ Workshop

Royal Holloway, University of London

March 21st 2013, 11am-6pm


Organised by Dr Hannah Thompson, RHUL

Received wisdom tells us that disability is a wholly negative occurrence to be avoided or cured wherever possible, a disaster which blights an individual’s life and causes terrible suffering and hardship. This way of thinking about disability, which has been defined as the ‘personal tragedy model’, is so pervasive as to have become the standard framework for defining and discussing disability. 

But recent work in Disability Studies offers an alternative way of conceiving disability.This new model, the ‘personal non-tragedy’ approach, works to challenge the meanings of notions such as ‘normality’, ‘cure’ and ‘beauty’ which underpin the negative way in which disability is traditionally conceived. In so doing, ‘personal non-tragedy’ seeks to valorise disability as a positive – even desirable – facet of individual and collective experience. 

This one-day workshop will explore ways in which representations of disability and the disabled in literature, film and the visual arts conform to or undermine the ‘personal tragedy’ model and how such representations might contribute to, or hinder, the development of the ‘personal non-tragedy’ model. ‘Disability’ will be understood in the widest possible way, encompassing, for example, physical and mental impairment, sensory deprivation, and conditions which are either permanent or temporary.

Questions discussed during the workshop might include: 

  • What are the ethical implications at stake in the representation of disability?
  • How is the reader or viewer implicated in such representations?
  • Who can speak about disability? Does speaking about disability mean different things across the disabled/non-disabled divide?
  • Are the two models exhaustive / mutually-exclusive / co-dependant? Are there other ways of thinking about disability?
  • What is the role of the metaphorical or the symbolic in representations of disability? What are the implications of metaphorical readings?
  • What is at stake in the experience of the reader/viewer/writer when discussing or responding to disability?
  • Is ‘disability’ a useful term of reference? Is it possible to generalise disability to this extent? Would more specific terms be more or less helpful?

 This workshop will take place as part of Royal Holloway’s ‘Trauma Fiction History’ series ( at c4cc, 16 Acton Road, London ( It is the result of thinking which began with the ‘Nineteenth-Century Monsters’ seminar in March 2010. (

As well as providing a forum in which to discuss Disability Studies’ relationship to cultural production through a predominantly (although not exclusively) French perspective, it is hoped that this workshop will be the first step in establishing a network of colleagues working on Disability Studies in Modern Languages with a view to an eventual AHRC Networks Grant.

About the Organiser:

Dr Hannah Thompson is a Senior Lecturer in French at Royal Holloway, University of London. She has published widely in nineteenth-century French literature, and her second book, Taboo: Corporeal Secrets of Nineteenth-Century France is forthcoming with Legenda. She is beginning a new project on blindness in French literature and culture and is particularly interested in Disability Studies’ relationship with French Studies. Her blog ‘Blind Spot’ ( uses elements of the ‘personal non-tragedy’ model to highlight the sighted world’s fraught relationship with the blind and partially blind.




Dr Jenny Chamarette, Queen Mary, University of London

Prof Charles Forsdick, University of Liverpool

Dr Sam Haigh, University of Warwick

Dr Nick Hammond, University of Cambridge

Prof Abigail Lee-Six, Royal Holloway, University of London

Dr Vivienne Orchard, University of Southampton

Prof Naomi Segal, Birkbeck, University of London

Dr Hannah Thompson (Organiser), Royal Holloway, University of London

Dr Kate Tunstall, Worcester College, Oxford

Dr Maria Vaccarella, King’s College London




11-11:15 Registration and Coffee 

11:15-1:15pm Session One 

Whose Disability? Challenging Stereotypical Representations of Epilepsy

Maria Vaccarella (Centre for the Humanities and Health and Comparative Literature Department, King’s College London)


Sur mes lèvres, Deafness, Embodiment: Towards a Film Phenomenology of a Differently Ordered Sensorium

Jenny Chamarette (Queen Mary, University of London)


Beyond the ‘Narrative of Overcoming’: Representations of Disability in Contemporary French Culture.

Sam Haigh (University of Warwick) 


1:15-2pm: Lunch

2-3:30:  Session Two 

Ana García-Siñeriz, Esas mujeres rubias (2010): disability, gender, and the medical establishment

Abigail Lee Six (Royal Holloway, University of London)


The pain of itching

Naomi Segal (Birkbeck College, London)


‘Raw data’: autistic aloneness and the category of insight in Elle s’appelle Sabine

Vivienne Orchard (University of Southampton) 


3:30-4: Tea 

4-5:30 Session Three 

Telling, not seeing: blindness and travel writing

Charles Forsdick (University of Liverpool)


On not being deaf to the blind

Kate Tunstall (Worcester College, Oxford)


Disability and Sexuality: the poetry of Denis Sanguin de Saint-Pavin (1595-1670)

Nick Hammond (University of Cambridge)


5:30 Closing Remarks and Plans for Next Stages


Denis M. Provencher, ‘Maghrebi-French Disidentifications: Queer Performances of Gender, Religion, and Citizenship’

Events, Podcastson November 13th, 2012No Comments

Date: 5 December 2012
Time: 5.00 pm
Venue: Royal Holloway, room WIN005

For the podcast of Professor Provencher’s talk, click HERE.

Denis M. Provencher, Marie Curie International Incoming Fellow, Nottingham-Trent University & Associate Professor, University of Maryland, Baltimore County

Title: ‘Maghrebi-French Disidentifications: Queer Performances of Gender, Religion, and Citizenship’

This talk builds on recent work in anthropology, critical discourse analysis, and performance studies to examine the queer performances of gender, religion, and citizenship by self-identified gay Maghrebi-French men from my recent fieldwork in France. As a point of departure, I draw on José Esteban Muñoz’s notion of ‘disidentification’, which he defines as a strategy of resistance that ‘works on and against dominant ideology’ and that ‘tries to transform cultural logic from within’ a dominant system of identification and assimilation (1999: 11-12). In my own analysis, I examine how two French interviewees of Maghrebi descent, Toufik (2Fik) and Ludovic, ‘disidentify’ or draw on and reshape dominant ways of being and belonging in contemporary France. First, I consider a series of interviews with Toufik (2Fik), a performance artist and photographer, who works from within dominant Western notions of feminism to rewrite longstanding images of Islam in France. I will also present a series of his parodic photographs, which capture encounters between ‘liberated’ and ‘conservative’ Muslims and question dominant images of the subordinate veiled woman, heteronormativity, and traditional masculinity associated with Maghrebi-French families. Next, I consider my interview with Ludovic Lotfi Mohamed Zahed, founder of the French association Homosexuels musulmans de France (HM2F), and analyze his recent essay/autobiography Le Coran et la Chair (2012) to show how his work as an activist, scholar, and religious thinker functions from within dominant Islam and readings of the Coran to reconstruct the ‘good’ practicing Muslim and ‘good citizen’. Indeed, Toufik’s and Ludovic’s stories will help us to see how they must ‘straddle competing cultural traditions, memories, and material conditions’ in their queer performances and they must devise ‘a configuration of possible scripts of self/selves that shift according to the situation’ (Manalansan 2003: x) in order to be heard both in contemporary France and in their families of origin.

Marina Warner, ‘”What’s Hecuba to him?” Terror, Pity and the Matter of Troy (from Homer to Alice Oswald)’

Podcastson June 11th, 2012No Comments

For the podcast of Professor Warner’s talk, click HERE.

When the First Player dissolves in tears as he recites scenes from the fall of Troy, Hamlet exclaims at the intensity of the actor’s identification, by contrast with his own frozen feelings and incapacity. Hecuba’s tragedy becomes the emblem of empathy, produced more intensely by dramatic representation than by real life.
Recent, near obsessive returns to the Iliad and the matter of Troy, refract current conflicts, and these renderings and revisionings act upon the emotions and attitudes of the spectator and the reader. Marina Warner will explore the way this return to the most ancient war in literature, especially in the work of women writers and artists, makes a claim for the function of art and realigns the question of catharsis.

Marina Warner is Professor in the Department of Literature, Film and Theatre Studies at the University of Essex, and currently visiting professor at NYU Abu Dhabi. She is a writer of fiction, criticism and history, and her many publications include studies of art, myths, symbols and fairy tales, as well as novels and short stories. She is the author of (among others): Alone of All Her Sex: The Myth and the Cult of the Virgin Mary (1976) a provocative and highly influential study of Roman Catholic adoration of the Virgin Mary; Monuments & Maidens: The Allegory of the Female Form (1985); Managing Monsters: Six Myths of Our Time (Reith Lectures) (1994); No Go the Bogey-man: Scaring, Lulling and Making Mock (1998), a study of the male terror figure from ancient myth and folklore to modern obsessions; Signs & Wonders: Essays on Literature and Culture (2003); and Phantasmagoria (2006), which traces the ways in which ‘the spirit’ has been represented across different mediums, from waxworks to cinema. Professor Warner was elected a Fellow of the (2006), which traces the ways in which ‘the spirit’ has been represented across different mediums, from waxworks to cinema. Professor Warner was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature| in 1984 and of the British Academy in 2005. In 2008 she was awarded a CBE for services to literature, and is currently President of the British Comparative Literature Association. Her most recent book, Stranger Magic: Charmed States & The Arabian Nights, published by Chatto & Windus in 2011, is a groundbreaking study that shows how magic helped to create the modern world, and how it is still deeply inscribed in the way we think today.

Colin Davis, ‘Traumatic Hermeneutics, Jean Renoir, and the Memory of War’

Podcastson February 17th, 2012No Comments

Date: Tuesday 6 March, 5.00 pm

Venue: Royal Holloway, room IN243

Speaker: Professor Colin Davis, Royal Holloway, University of London

Title: ‘Traumatic Hermeneutics, Jean Renoir, and the Memory of War’

Trauma poses one of the problems of interpretation in a particularly potent form: how can we tell that what we insist on finding is actually present in the interpreted work? As Thomas Elsaesser has put it, ‘If trauma is experienced through its forgetting, its repeated forgetting, then, paradoxically, one of the signs of the presence of trauma is the absence of all signs of it’. Trauma may be most devastatingly present when it is most vehemently denied. This paper sketches some of the methodological problems involved in interpreting trauma, and then looks more closely at some of the later films of the great French director Jean Renoir. After the critical and commercial failure of his masterpiece La Règle du jeu in 1939 and the invasion of France by Germany in 1940, Renoir moved to the US, where he lived for the rest of his life. The 13 films he made after 1940 have been largely neglected in comparison with his work of the 1930s. Some critics depict Renoir as having abandoned his earlier political interests, now preferring colourful, superficial spectacle to social commentary. The paper suggests that this is a misreading, and that the bright surfaces of Renoir’s later films screen – in the double sense of ‘mask’ and ‘put on display’ – traumatic experiences. Trauma inhabits these films even if it only indirectly disturbs their apparent cheerfulness.











Ruth Glynn and Giuliana Pieri, ‘From Fascism to the “Years of Lead”: Italian Responses to Trauma’

Podcastson November 4th, 2011No Comments

Date: Friday 2 December 2.00 pm

Venue: 11 Bedford Square, room GSB2

Dr Ruth Glynn, Senior Lecturer in Italian, University of Bristol

‘Trauma and the Leaden Years’

The legacy of Italy’s widespread and prolonged experience of political violence in the period known as the ‘anni di piombo’ (years of lead, c. 1969-83) has begun to be interrogated through the prism of trauma theory. This paper sets out the case for pursuing such a reading of the anni di piombo as cultural and collective trauma paying close attention to issues of repression and hypervigilance in Italian cultural and legal responses to those years. It then turns to address, more specifically, the traumatic import of women’s participation in the political violence of the anni di piombo, with reference to critical perspectives on the roles traditionally assigned women in discourses relating to culture and nation.





Dr Giuliana Pieri, Senior Lecturer in Italian, RHUL

‘Trauma and Memory after Fascism: Italian Art and Fascist Violence’

This paper will focus on Italian art in the period 1938-46 ca. As Italian Fascism entered its final phase, Italian artists began to show a  new violent imagery in their works. This paper will focus on war art and its contemporary and postwar reception as a means to interrogate the difficult and still debated legacy of Italian Fascism in Italy. I began to reflect upon the possible links between trauma theory and the reception of Fascism in postwar Italian culture when I curated the exhibition Against Mussolini: Art and the Fall of a Dictator (London: Estorick, 2010). Some of the images which will be the focus of my talk can be found in the exhibition website: