University of London Institute in Paris

9-11 rue de Constantine
75007 Paris

‘Circulation/s: Women’s Writing in French and Urban Space’

This seminar focuses on creative literary responses to women’s mobility in andthrough contemporary urban space. It asks how urban space and its uses by women are changing and explores various ways of representing this in recent women’s writing in French. We aim to use the notion of ‘circulation/s’ as an invitation to think through the varying modes of women’s mobility that take account of but go beyond established concepts such as flânerie. The seminar will consider how types of mobility inflect women’s writing of urban experience and how this produces varied effects such as insight, belonging, excentricity or outsiderness. It will also investigate how women’s mobility and stasis – both speeding up and slowing down – can be disruptive in different contexts.

This event is organised by Shirley Jordan and Kate Averis.


14:30 – 16:30 : Panel, chaired by Kate Averis (University of London Institute in Paris)

  • ‘From the Musée Rodin to Rainbow Corner: The Groult Sisters and Wartime Paris’ - Imogen Long (University of Hull)
  • ‘Sur les traces de… Circulations extérieures et intérieures de Shumona Sinha  (et quelques autres auteures dans l’espace urbain)’ - Mark Lee (Mount Allison University)
  • ‘Les silences de la ville: le cimetière, ses récits et ses représentations dans Souvenir d’une journée parfaite de Dominique Goblet’ - Catherine Mao (University of London Institute in Paris)

16:30 – 17:00: Coffee/tea

17:00 – 18:00 : Reading and Q&A with Joy Sorman, author of Paris Gare du Nord (2011) and L’Inhabitable (2016). In conversation with Anna-Louise Milne, author of 75 (2016) and editor of The Cambridge Companion to the Literature of Paris (2013).

The city and its marginal or neglected spaces take on the role of principal protagonist in several of Joy Sorman’s works. From Gros œuvre (Gallimard, 2009) to L’Inhabitable (first published with photos by Eric Lapierre in 2011 by the Editions alternatives, and in a new edition in 2016 in the collection L’Arbalète) and also Paris Gare du Nord (2011), she offers meticulous description of living spaces or spaces of living to reveal strategies for survival and forms of solace in the environments that humans shape for themselves. Drawing on Perec’s example, Joy Sorman builds her own procedures for seeing what often escapes us as we navigate the city. This conversation will consider the role of constraints, commissions and chance in city-related writing. It’ll discuss what it takes to step behind the walls of condemned housing, or to loiter in one of the busiest stations in the world, especially as a woman, and more specifically as a woman who writes.

18:00 – 19:00 : Vin d’honneur

Centre for the Study of Contemporary Women's Writing