The Screenwriter’s Bible

By Jan Baetens

Yves Lavandier, La Dramaturgie. L’Art du récit

Les Impressions Nouvelles, 2019


There are countless books on “how to write”, and the number of topics they cover, the types of audiences they cater to, the dreams and ambitions they may help or fail to realize, the styles they use, the tricks of the trade they offer (for free or for sale), the profiles of authors that take the risk of giving advice to future competitors, is even bigger. It should therefore not come as a surprise that many colleagues in cultural studies have taken the literary advice business–hovering between vocational training and personal development and many other things in-between or beyond these two extremes–as one of their favorite study topics.


Their job will become easier and I guess also more exciting thanks to the new edition of what is considered the screenwriter’s bible, the one and only that actually deserves this title: Yves Lavandier’s Dramaturgy, a seven hundred (large) page book that revisits the fundamentals of storytelling as defined by Aristotle in his Poetics, and that rethinks, enlarges, deepens, and illustrates them with examples of contemporary narrative from different media (theater, cinema, comics, television, fantasy, etc.).

Trained at Columbia University by František Daniel, Stefan Sharff and Milos Forman, Yves Lavandier is both author and script doctor, and his book is a brilliant synthesis of this twofold life-long experience. Of all the (yes, countless) books on scriptwriting and storytelling and how to do it, this is by far the best one I know of, and frankly the only one I have on my desk when asking questions about the relative qualities and problems of specific plot structures. Lavandier does not pretend to reinvent narrative theory; his major aim is to help writers, professional as well as non-professional ones, to solve the many questions that emerge when one tries to tell a good story. He does so by emphasizing the fundamental role of general, classic laws, often forgotten or discarded, and by illustrating them in an extremely original way.

Rather than exclusively focusing on positive examples, such as the inevitable: this is how Hitchcock shows the superiority of suspense on surprise, he also gives negative examples, highlighting what can go wrong when one forgets the basic rules of the game. These examples all are extremely convincing for three reasons: 1) they are all motivated by a larger theoretical framework (Aristotle’s poetics), 2) their number is close to infinite: almost every page of the book discusses various examples, 3) they also concern masterpieces and great authors: Lavandier is not afraid of drawing our attention to what goes wrong in this or that scene of, for instance, Lubitsch’s To Be or Not To Be (which is also praised as an example of nearly perfect dramaturgy), what could have been improved in this or that sequence by Hitchcock or Spielberg, or which detail or plot element should have been removed, modified, or simply used differently by Truffaut, Brecht or Chaplin.

Lavandier’s Dramaturgy is not a must-read: it is a must-use, for starting as well as for experienced writers. One of the many lessons one can learn from it, is that storytelling remains both very simple and highly mysterious. Anybody can do it, at any time, and anybody can always enjoy improving, provided one accepts to critically judge one’s own achievements.

European Congress of Qualitative Inquiry

February 7 – 10 2017 // Leuven, Belgium

After 12 successful editions of the International Congress of Qualitative Inquiry from our partner at Illinois University in the US, we are pleased to announce that the first European edition of the congress will be hosted in the beautiful city of Leuven, Belgium.

On behalf of the Network Qualitative Research Leuven and our distinguished partners, I extend a very warm welcome to qualitative researchers worldwide.

The venue of ECQI 2017 will be KU Leuven, situated near Brussels, the capital of Europe, and a centre of learning for almost six centuries now (founded in 1425). KU Leuven has grown substantially and has become a multi-campus university employing over 11,500 persons and hosting more than 50,000 students, 14% of which are ‘international’ students representing 147 different nationalities.

The 1st edition of the European Congress of Qualitative Inquiry is a unique event for sharing knowledge and seeking new collaboration and partnerships. It provides opportunities for addressing the common challenges that qualitative researchers face in their own geographical regions or research disciplines. Most importantly the Congress is a lively event, providing ample opportunities for interacting with friends and colleagues and learning about the latest developments and innovations in qualitative inquiry. Following the example of ICQI, we offer you a space where you may feel comfortable experimenting with new ideas and critical thoughts and push the boundaries of what we currently perceive as best practice in qualitative research.

Committed to strengthen the qualitative research agenda in Europe, we particularly invite contributions that address the important aspect of quality and reflexivity in qualitative inquiry.  Quality criteria and quality frameworks used to judge our own work and the work of others are constantly negotiated in the context of emerging areas of qualitative methodological innovation and new ways of conceptualizing qualitative inquiry. We recognize the value of flexible, emerging and progressive approaches to qualitative research developed in response to the often wicked, challenging topics we study and welcome contributions that are provocative, creative and critical towards our own established toolbox of qualitative research approaches.  To maximize learning potential, we invite researchers to share transparent audit trails of methodological decisions made in qualitative research projects and reconstruct their research logic for others. We hope to welcome many of you to join us in evolving debates on what constitutes good practice in qualitative inquiry and by doing so, influence the direction, focus and atmosphere of potential future editions of ECQI.

We are looking forward to welcome you in Leuven, a bustling city with many museums, monuments and historic buildings(incl. Unesco World Heritage) and a rich gastronomy, claiming to be ‘The place to beer!’.

On behalf of the Network Qualitative Research Leuven,
Karin Hannes, conference chair

More info:

More videos:

Keynote Speakers

norman-k-denzinVirtual introduction to the European Congress of Qualitative Inquiry by Norman Denzin, conference chair of the International Congress of Qualitative Inquiry.

Norman K. Denzin is Emeritus Professor of Communications, Sociology, and Humanities at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Denzin is the author or editor of more than two dozen books, including Indians  on Display; Custer on Canvas; The Qualitative Manifesto; Qualitative Inquiry Under Fire; Searching for Yellowstone; Reading Race; Interpretive Ethnography; The Cinematic Society; The Voyeur’s Gaze; and The Alcoholic Self. He is past editor of The Sociological Quarterly, co-editor (with Yvonna S. Lincoln) of four editions of the Handbook of Qualitative Research, coeditor (with Michael D. Giardina) of 12 plenary volumes from the annual International Congress of Qualitative Inquiry, co-editor (with Lincoln) of the methods journal Qualitative Inquiry, founding editor of Cultural Studies/Critical Methodologies and International Review of Qualitative Research, and editor of three book series.

mats-alvessonMats Alvesson is Professor of Business Administration at the University of Lund, Sweden, and, part-time, University of Queensland Business School, Australia and Cass Business School, London. He has done extensive research and published widely in the areas of qualitative and reflexive methodology, critical theory, organized culture, knowledge work, identity in organizations, gender, organizational change, management consultancy etc. He has published 20 books with leading publishers and hundreds of articles, many of which are widely cited and used on higher levels in university education. Recent books include Understanding Gender and Organizations (Sage, 2009, with Y. Billing), Reflexive Methodology (Sage, 2009, with K. Sköldberg), Interpreting Interviews (Sage, 2010), The Triumph of Emptiness: Consumption, higher education and work organization (Oxford University Press, 2013) and Constructing Research Questions: Doing interesting research (Sage 2013, with J. Sandberg)

About his talk: Identifying and solving mysteries in empirical research. A methodology for generating novel and interesting theories is by challenging the links between empirical material and theoretical conclusions. Many researchers approach robust quantitative or qualitative data (generated through grounded theory, experiments, ethnographies, observations and so forth) as both the basis delivering theoretical insights through proper analysis and as the final arbiter of their theories’ truthfulness. I, by contrast, do not regard empirical material as the royal road to theory, no matter how diligently and rigorously it has been collected and how technically well it has been analysed. Instead, I see theory and empirical material in a constant interplay with the latter as a source of inspiration rather than as the ultimate arbiter for the latter. Theory and empirical material must be in constant dialogue, interrogating and refining each other, with special attention being paid to discontinuities, paradoxes and mysteries. I consequently suggest a methodology for theory development through encounters between theoretical assumptions and empirical impressions that highlight breakdowns. It is the unanticipated and the unexpected – the anomalies that puzzle the researcher – that are of particular interest in the encounter. These do not just appear, they need to be creatively created. Accordingly, theory development is stimulated and facilitated through a special interest in what does not work in an existing theory or in received wisdom. The ideal of this research methodology can be summed up as including two elements, the identification of a mystery and its solution. It means the active use of empirical material not to confirm and reproduce but kick back and challenge dominant ideas and developing something unexpected and novel. The talk is based on Alvesson and Kärreman: Qualitative Research and Theory Development, Mystery as Method, Sage 2011).

This key note is sponsored by the Faculty of Economics, KU Leuven.

maggie-maclureMaggie MacLure is Professor of Education in the Education and Social Research Institute (ESRI) at Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU). She leads the Theory and Methodology Research Group in ESRI. Her most recent research projects have centred on early childhood education, and the issue of ‘behaviour’ in school. Maggie is the founder and director of the Summer Institute in Qualitative Research. Her book, Discourse in Educational and Social Research, won the Critics’ Choice Award from the American Educational Studies Association.

About her talk: Rethinking reflexivity in the ‘ontological turn’. Reflexivity has been a powerful concept for qualitative research. It has challenged narrow definitions of ‘objectivity’, and attempted to repair the fatal breach that such definitions posit between researchers, participants and knowledge. However I want to reconsider the status of reflexivity, from within the ontological or materialist ‘turn’ in theory. This ‘turn’ – a loose confederation of disparate influences from Barad, Braidotti and Deleuze, among many others – is prompting a radical rethinking of the methods and the conceptual architecture of qualitative inquiry. It presents a profound challenge to the humanism that still underpins much of the research endeavour, with its privilege of language, discourse and culture over matter and nature. Can reflexivity be rethought within the new materialisms; or is it irrevocably tainted through its association with human entitlement, and the distancing effects of language and representation? Barad asserts that ‘we’ are components of each research apparatus that engages the world: that we are born from the ‘agential cut’ that also produces the ‘data’ and our relation to it. What would an immanent reflexivity look like, and how would it work? I suggest that we might think of reflexivity, after Laura Cull (2011), as a kind of immanent attention or ‘ontological participation’, and explore some of the methodological and ethical implications for qualitative inquiry.

Symposium ‘LIFE-WORK: Alternative forms of life writing’

In December the British novelist A.S. Byatt will be awarded the Erasmus Prize 2016 for her contribution to life writing. To mark the occasion, the Centre for Gender and Diversity of Maastricht University and the Praemium Erasmianum Foundation are hosting a symposium on alternative forms of life writing.


Photo by Michael Trevilion

When? November 17th, from 13:00 to 18:00.

Where? Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, Soiron building – Spiegelzaal (first floor), Grote Gracht 80-82, Maastricht.

Biography and autobiography are more popular than ever. Biopics and biographical television serials draw masses of viewers while even scholarly biographical tomes such as Maaike Meijer’s biography of the poet M. Vasalis (2011) become unexpected bestsellers. But writing and re-writing our lives’ stories, by ourselves and by others, is a process that also takes place in many other forms than the traditional biography or biopic. And even within these forms many unorthodox approaches are gaining currency. In this symposium we will highlight a number of the new and unexpected forms that life writing is taking in the 21st century. We investigate the challenges posed to such life-work by the arts and the new media, but also explore the opportunities for re-inventing ourselves that they offer.

Presentations will enquire into the performative character of biopics; the challenges of inter-country adoption for (re)-constructing a coherent life story; forms of life writing in film, in the visual arts, and in performance art; the articulation of collective memories in post-communist Romania; the challenges of articulating the self for people with autism or people suffering from dementia, and many other aspects of contemporary life writing outside the traditional forms of the (auto)biographical narrative.

Confirmed speakers are Leni van Goidsenhoven, Louis van den Hengel, Sandra Kisters, Maaike Meijer, Codruta Pohrib, Aagje Swinnen, Christophe Van Eecke, and Lies Wesseling.

Original article:

For extra info: and

Hermes: Contemporary Perspectives on Media and Genre Interactions (12-16/06)

By Gert-Jan Meyntjens

How do media affect and change literary genres? Which new literary genres emerge under the influence of different media? How do genres work as classification instruments in different media? These are the main questions that will concern us during the Hermes-symposium that will be organized in Leuven from June 12 until 16.

The Hermes Doctoral Consortium for Literary and Cultural Studies is a collaboration between eleven universities (10 European, 1 American) that annually organizes a symposium about a specific theme. During one week PhD-students from the different partner-universities present their own work, a keynote lecture and seminar are given by a specialist in the field, and activities are organized alongside.

This year, Cultural Studies staff-members at KU Leuven will be organizing the symposium. On Monday, they will welcome professor Jim Collins (University of Notre Dame, author of the inspiring Bring on the Books for Everybody) for an introductory keynote lecture and a seminar. After that, over the course of the week, PhD-students will give talks about topics as seemingly diverse as the narrating of pornographic images, Shakespeare’s execution scenes in contemporary performances and spatiality in horror literature and video games.

All those who are interested are welcome at the Auditorium Wolfspoort, Schapenstraat 34 from Sunday evening 12/06 until Thursday 16/06.

More details and the programme can be found through the following link:


Hypertextual trauma: Porpentine’s Twine games and the borders of self-narration

By Kahn Faassen
(Student Advanced Master in Literary Studies)

Many interesting narrative experiments have hatched in the margins of the Internet. The paper I wrote for the course Literature and Psychoanalysis in the Advanced Master in Literary Studies gave me the opportunity to take a closer look at a very particular type of textual art that has developed online: Twine games.

Faassen1Twine is a free, user-friendly indie game engine which allows a very broad audience to create, share, and experience interactive stories. Many of these new game developers are not part of the demographic usually working for, or targeted by, the mainstream gaming industry and it shows in the works they create. Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, or Transgender (LGBT) artists find in Twine a very useful platform to tell the kind of stories they are interested in, and these stories are markedly different from the narratives primarily written by and marketed towards cisgender heterosexual men. Whereas most games of the latter variety are competitive and control-based, and the player’s primary objective is beating them, many Twine games focus on making the most of their medium’s interactive and storytelling potential, and primarily emphasise player affect and experience.

One game developer in particular jumps out for using Twine to tell stories that matter to her: an online artist named Porpentine. As a transgender woman who struggles with the debilitating effects of trauma and disability, her games are for her a way to authentically deal with gender dysphoria, social stigmatisation and depression, and to reach out to other people who are in similar situations. In my paper I looked at her work as a new form of autopathography, an autobiographical illness narrative irreverently straining the limits of literature, using its medium to the fullest extent to create a rapprochement between the game and the writing subject (as a self-narrative, a kind of textual therapy), and between game and gamer (which gives it an interesting political dimension).

In order to create this proximity of lived experiences, Porpentine uses the Twine game mechanics to create a sense of intimacy, intending her games to be what she calls “sensory plugins for the brain”, which give the player an impression of what it is like to live with certain constrains. The way in which the games attempt to make a deeply personal therapeutic struggle with illness and trauma into an interactive experience is a de-pathologising move, and opens up the possibility of a profound subversion of widely accepted ideas concerning embodiment, gender and normalcy by facilitating player identification.

In her games, Porpentine works with and against constraining elements in a variety of ways. Sometimes she actively pushes against them, such as when she is confronted with the perceived limitations of a programme such as Twine. She constantly experiments with the restrictions of digital media, trying to bridge the gap between what is often thought of as a cold, impersonal means of communication and the intimate, personal stories she wants to tell. One of her games, With Those We Love Alive, introduces a particularly interactive element to involve the player, asking them to mark their skin with ‘sigils’, specific symbols which to them personally signify concepts such as ‘severing’, ‘pain’ or ‘shame’, in the course of the story. This turns the game into a physical experience which the player quite literally carries with them even after the game has ended.

Other times, she exploits the particular structure of the Twine engine, which uses clickable hyperlinks to propel the narrative in ways that allow her to curtail the player’s agency. She does this by forcing the player to go through the same repetitive actions, visiting the same places (links) before allowing him or her to progress with the story. As a consequence, the spatial structure of the games starts to feel claustrophobic and even hostile, creating the impression that its protagonists are stuck in a system that is alienating, harmful, or even deadly, but which they nevertheless help perpetuate. This is a clever and very effective way to implicate an immersed player in a system of violence which, implicitly or explicitly, turns against him- or herself.

The confrontation with these kinds of suffocating systems often culminates in an escape and a self-assertion of the queer disabled subject, who never succeeds in heroically vanquishing the system, but whose very existence challenges it. Motifs of abjection (slime, garbage, etc.) abound as the protagonist assumes a new liminal identity, no longer constrained by a discourse that necrotises their bodies and their modes of self-expression. Not being destroyed by structural violence is shown to be a radical act in and of itself.

The choice for a kind of art that focusses on boundaries, restrictions and liminality is evidently not an arbitrary one. Porpentine herself is constrained by the lasting effects trauma and chronic pain have on her art, which results in her deliberate choice for what she calls ‘trash art’. Trash art is an art of conscious failure, a kind of paradigmatic shift which recognises that illness and disability have a profound impact on the artist as well as on the art which they produce. It takes into account that poor and socially marginalised artists are stuck in systems centred around productivity which are heavily informed by a discourse based on the normalisation of a particular type of individuals and the exclusion and pathologisation of others. Trash art is an attempt to no longer be part of a structure that actively works against the artist, a choice made out of the pure necessity to create art in accordance with the body, to work around the restrictions one’s mental or physical health and socio-economic situation imposes upon the artistic process. It is a manifesto for art that can be characterised by interruptions (for medication, rest, etc.), for art that is fragmentary, transitory, unfinished, and often made out of the only materials that are available to a poor and socially marginalised artist: garbage. This new paradigm opens up the possibility for disabled subjects to reject a discourse that has rejected them, which allows them to make art that is no longer immaculate and bloodless, but actually focusses on how self-expression and embodiment intersect.

Porpentine’s games are remarkable not only because of the complex position they occupy at the junction of queer identity and disability, but also because of her use of an unconventional platform such as Twine in order to explore new ways to reach her audience, facilitate player identification, and in doing so challenge the stifling discourse on the subject of pathology and marginalised identities. Despite (or perhaps because of) her attempts to communicate herself authentically and create stories which focus on emotional proximity and empathy, she frequently brushes against the limitations of language, which leads to interesting experiments with metaphor as the games struggle to come to terms with the inherent resistance and opacity of language. There is no doubt that, whether they are seen as authopathographies, queer narratives, or simply novel intermedial experiments, the works created by artists such as Porpentine are rich and rewarding to investigate, but it remains to be seen if the unconventional hypertext stories that are being written in the dark recesses of the Internet will ever get the mainstream attention they deserve.

How to overcome a writer’s block: Writing Without Teachers


By Gert-Jan Meyntjens

Writing without teachers is one of the few handbooks for writing and composition that is frequently used in American creative writing classes. The outcome of the notes that Peter Elbow, professor emeritus of English literature and creative writing at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, took during the long years during which he was experiencing a writer’s block, contains exercises that mainly aim at getting and keeping the writing going. Quintessential for these purposes are the 10 minute free-writing exercises. These teach the aspiring writer the importance of letting go of control and of trusting his own intuition. Only when the writer learns to briefly stop worrying about writing nonsense (“to invite garbage”), will he be able to write and maybe even to write well.

Free-writing, however, is only Elbow’s starting point. In order to compose a clear and coherent text, the writer will have to learn how to “cook” and “grow”. “Growing” implies a change of perspective on the writing process. Instead of considering writing as a two-step transaction that consists of forming ideas in the mind and then putting them on paper, Elbow points out the importance of the writing act itself for the creative process. One cannot compose and create only in the mind. Putting words on paper is essential in helping ideas and texts to grow and evolve. On a more practical level, Elbow advices to divide the writing process into four different stages, namely “start to write”, “chaos and disorientation”, “centres of gravity” and finally “editing”. Crucial here is of course that editing only takes place in the later stages. In this way, words and ideas really do get a chance to grow.

While “growing” has to do with the overarching process of writing, “cooking” deals with specific ways in which the writer can make his text grow. These rely mainly on putting contrasting elements together and letting them clash. The writer should not only accept, but also look for contradictions and paradoxes in his writing and thinking. He should analyse the images and metaphors he uses and be open for free association. Most importantly, he has to switch regularly between writing the text and analysing the text. These interactions are paramount if he wants his material to start cooking.

In addition to advice for the individual writer, Elbow makes suggestions to those who want to start what he calls a “teacherless writing class”. If such an endeavour is to succeed, one should for example make sure that all members have the discipline to show up for about ten weeks in a row and to hand in a piece of writing each time, that they are open to the views of others and willing to share their own views, and that a healthy degree of dissensus is present during the class.

Writing Without Teachers is a practical book, one that is made to be used. It does not lay down rules for specific literary genres, but tries to help the struggling writer through giving him an insight in the mechanisms at work during the creative process, as well as through giving specific exercises.

Collective Biography

By Leni Van Goidsenhoven

Five researchers from several universities, working in different departments and on diverse topics, but all with a tremendous interest in Disability Studies, went to a cozy country house in a remote Belgian village. We would stay there for three days to do a ‘collective biography workshop’ under the supervision of the Australian scholar Bronwyn Davies. Prior to this three-day workshop, the group gathered weekly over the past two months for reading sessions. These reading sessions – which focused mainly on new materialism and included the writings of Karen Barad, Jane Bennett and Kelly Fritsch – would prepare us for the workshop. While reading and discussing the texts, it soon became clear that we wanted to work on disability as a practice and on how we could imagine disability differently. Therefore, we chose to start from Michel Foucault’s text on heterotopia, as well as from Kelly Fritsch’s article on Desiring Disability Differently. Nevertheless, whatever the plans and expectations may be, a ‘collective biography’ is not a practice you can fully delineate in advance.

Collective Biography, a post-qualitative research strategy and diffractive methodology developed mainly by Bronwyn Davies (1994; 2001; 2006), basically works with the telling and sharing of stories in which a theoretical concept is put to the fore. Participants in the collective biography workshop each tell a story based on an initial question or topic. It is not relevant if the story or memory is reliable or not, rather it is about creating knowledge about the construction of people and events. This research strategy assumes that knowledge not only emerge out of ‘data’ but out of the intra-action between the data and the researcher (Davies 2006).

P2 P1 P3

As a methodology, collective biography is in the first place inspired by the German scholar Rigga Haug’s memory work. Memory-work contains the writing and subsequent analysis of remembered stories that researchers collectively use to generate their own critique of theory. In the wake of Haug’s memory strategies, Davies uses memories and stories to explore the processes of subjectification (Davies et al 2001). Davies methodology, however, differs from Haug’s memory work in the sense that Haug is concerned in working from the point of view of the individualized subject and is interested in ‘therapeutic outcomes’(Haug et al 1987), whereas Davies is not. Collective Biography works with post structural theory (mainly Foucault and Butler) and against the grain of phenomenology’s liberal-humanist subject. After all, the goal has nothing to do with any therapeutic outcomes, but instead is focused on generating thinking in order to know differently. It is important to understand that collective biography works not as a strict method to be followed; instead it could be interpreted as a set of emergent possibilities. In that sense, one could for instance see that during the last decade the methodology has evolved more and more towards what Davies calls a Deleuzian/Baradian approach.

In the three days we were together we began the workshop by talking about the concepts we might draw on to understand or imagine ‘disability differently’ (in this specific case we started from the concepts: heterotopia, intracorporeal, non-antropocentric multiplicity and animacy). Furthermore, in response to the concepts, each of us told a remembered story and was then questioned by the listeners who sometimes needed more details in order to fully enter the story. The listening, of course, takes us always beyond moralistic judgements:

Emergent listening might begin with what is known, but it is open to creatively evolving into something new. Emergent listening opens up the possibility of new ways of knowing and new ways of being, both for who listen and those who are listened to. (Davies, 2014, p. 21)

Instead of sharing a memory, one of us chose to show her animation film, De code van Lode – which is still a work in progress.


The film is part of her auto-ethnographic research and tells the story of her brother’s unique and unusual language, as well as the many different interactions of the other family members with the brother. Ultimately, this showing instead of telling unexpectedly opened up new ways for us to work with the concept of animacy, heterotopic imagination and disability.

After the first telling/showing round, the following step was to write all the stories down and again reread them out loud to the group. Thus, it is a process of (re-)telling, (re-)listening and (re-)writing, it is a process of being modified through what one comes to know. At one point the stories – which were mostly about supporting or living in the presence of people with disabilities – were not individual memories anymore, but became collective stories that demonstrate how the concepts from which we started, work.

After circling around our stories as well as around concepts such as heterotopia, intracorporeal, non-antropocentric multiplicity and animacy, we will now write a co-authored article about imagining disability differently and disability as a practice.

Blogging the Narrative of Culture, Media and the Arts

By Anneleen Masschelein

Tom Gauld

Image courtesy of Tom Gauld.

The blog “Cultural Studies Leuven, Blogging Since 1425”, hosted by the staff of the Institute for Cultural Studies in Leuven, aims to share interesting publications and events, and give insight into our research and the best work of our students. The research of ICS Leuven can be placed on three, interrelated axes: ‘cultural theory and concepts’, ‘applied narrative’ and ‘media, art and technology’. Interdisciplinarity is of course crucial to the concept of Cultural Studies and we enjoy collaborating with colleagues from other disciplines, departments and institutions. However, these three strands, we believe, do summarize our shared project and can help make our identity as a group visible. Last but certainly not least, these three thematic focus points are not purely research-oriented but they all have practical ramifications in various events that will be organized in the coming year.

Cultural theory and concepts encompasses research on important cultural theorists and ideas that belong to the canon of cultural studies, ranging from the theorists associated with the Birmingham Centre of Contemporary Culture Studies, like Stuart Hall or Angela McRobbie, to important thinkers about culture now (Meghan Morris, Andrew Ross, Lauren Berlant, Pierre Bourdieu and Gisèle Sapiro, …) and in the past (Walter Benjamin, Jean Baudrillard, Theodor Adorno …). We also focus on certain concepts that are topical in cultural studies today: precarity, postfeminism, vernacular, identity, creative industries, amateur/professional, immunity, biopolitics and social choreography… Apart from traditional research, it is our aim to invite some of these theorists to Leuven and interview them for our blog. We will signal interesting events and there will be screenings of documentaries (or other public performances like plays or blogs…) related to theorists, theories and concepts.

Applied Narrative concerns all kinds of storytelling that are a bit outside or beside the focus of traditional narratology, i.e., the analysis of literature and film. More particularly, we study serial storytelling in quality television series, the culture of handbooks or How-To-Books for various literary genres, graphic novels and photonovels and photo narratives, illness narratives, and storytelling and new media. But also the question of dance and notation, archives and narrative and semiotic structures in culture can be seen as part of this focus. We not only study all these types of narrative, but we are also actively involved with different organizations that host events on new forms of storytelling – the Are You Series festival at Bozar or Passa Porta, a Brussels-based literary organization – and many of us enjoy working and experimenting with new narrative forms.

Media, Art and Performance is a label that groups together all work on the intersection between art, culture and technology on the one hand: the representation and social construction of technology, but also new cultural and artistic forms that stretch the limits of technologies. On the other hand, it also has to do with our mediatized society in which the distinctions between real and fiction, between authentic and fake, between live and staged have become highly complex and often problematic. This is perhaps most clear in the domain of performance in the broadest sense of the term – ranging from “art” to performing and staging the self and biopolitics – that holds up a mirror to society and ourselves and shows how the human body is always already mediatized and permeated by technology and by politics. Many of the concrete projects that staff members are involved with can be placed under this aegis. There are the collaborations of ICS with FabLab Leuven: Ex Vitro, an artist in residence program that will result in an artistic walk in the “science quarter” of Leuven, a Hackathon where hackers will remix photographic heritage, and a city quest using augmented reality that we elaborate with the city archives of Leuven. The new course on the theory and analysis of contemporary dance in collaboration with STUK will bring together various choreographers and dramaturgs in public debates. And there are several events coming up, such as an exhibition on interwar typography around the “Arts et métiers graphiques” magazine in October (University Library Leuven, opening Oct. 21st),  and a conference on ‘Photography Performing Humor’ in November (LUCA School of Arts Brussels, November 24th-25th).

As pointed out above, the three focus points intersect in interesting ways. Moreover, we are all cultural and intellectual omnivores who are basically interested in everything. So while we will try to consistently highlight our three research tracks in the blogposts, we also keep an eye open for everything interesting, especially when it comes from our students, who, in the course of their time with us, constantly feed us with new impulses and ideas.