French Visual Culture and the Microbial Imaginary – BioCriticism webinar 8th March



In the next BioCriticism webinar, on the 8th of March at 2pm CET (Paris time). Fleur Hopkins-Loféron (CNRS / Sorbonne Nouvelle) will give a talk on “French Visual Culture and the Microbial Imaginary since the Early Twentieth Century”. Her respondent will be Kirsten Shepherd-Barr (University of Oxford). All are welcome.

“Tiny New World : French Visual Culture and the Microbial Imaginary since the Early Twentieth Century”

8th of March 2024, 2 pm CET

Speaker: Dr. Fleur Hopkins-Loféron (CNRS and THALIM laboratory, Sorbonne Nouvelle University)

Respondent: Prof. Kirsten Shepherd-Barr (University of Oxford)

Meeting ID: 840 5671 1478
Passcode: 529273

Abstract: From the beginning of the 20th century, the French media imagination was struck by what was called the “microbial fury”, in the wake of Louis Pasteur. Microbes were everywhere, in the form of “love microbes” or “jealousy microbes” in vaudeville plays, as the main character in novels of scientific imagination or as a decorative element in Art Nouveau wallpapers. By presenting the rich multiform imaginary of the microbe in the twentieth century, in the visual and intellectual culture of the time (invader, tiny beauty, miniature world, chimera, monster, etc.), this talk intends to question the metamorphosis that this mysterious being has undergone over time (ally, individual, source of life, etc.). Particular emphasis will be placed on the visual cultures of the sublime, miniaturisation and the infinitely small.

Fleur Hopkins-Loféron is a postdoctoral researcher at the CNRS (UMR THALIM). Her work focuses on the points of contact between scientific imagination, history of science and technology, and the occult. Her thesis focused on early French science fiction, and in particular the merveilleux-scientifique movement (Voir l’invisible. Histoire visuelle du mouvement merveilleux-scientifique (1909-1930), Champ Vallon, 2023). Her most recent research studies the success of a form of fakirism à la française in Paris in the 1930s (Fakir. De l’Homme de Douleur au gourou, PUF, 2024). She is also the editor of the “Fantascope” collection, published by L’Arbre Vengeur, which is dedicated to the re-publication of tales of the scientific imagination. A regular contributor to La Septième Obsession and Les Cahiers de la BD, as well as artistic adviser to Le Dessous des images on Arte, she explores popular culture in all its forms (Mercredi. Icône gothique, Les Impressions Nouvelles, 2023). 

Kirsten E Shepherd-Barr is Professor of English and Theatre Studies at the University of Oxford and a Fellow of St Catherine’s College, Oxford.  Her books include Theatre and Evolution from Ibsen to Beckett (2015), Science on Stage:  From Dr Faustus to Copenhagen (2006), and Modern Drama:  A Very Short Introduction (2016).  She is also co-author, with Hannah Simpson, of two recent articles on theatrical engagements with climate change.

The BioCriticism webinar is organised by Liliane Campos, and funded by the Institut Universitaire de France.