Modern Languages, News

Derek Schilling joins Contemporary French and Francophone Cultures Editorial Board

Liverpool University Press is delighted to announce that Professor Derek Schilling will be joining the Editorial Board of Contemporary French and Francophone Cultures.

Derek Schilling is Professor of French at Johns Hopkins University, where he teaches courses in modern and contemporary literature and film and directs the Centre pluridisciplinaire Louis Marin. He holds a co-ordinated doctorate from the University of Pennsylvania and the Université Paris 8. His chief research domain is geopoetics and geocriticism, specifically the relation of the literary and filmic record to the history of town planning and suburbanisation in France since 1900. In Mémoires du quotidien: les lieux de Perec (Presses universitaires du Septentrion, 2006) he explored Perec’s sociology of everydayness in relation to the rhetoric of the memory place and various site-bound observational practices. A forthcoming study, Banlieues de mémoire: géopoétique du roman de l’entre-deux-guerres, examines the emergence of the Paris suburb as a leading chronotope in novels published at the turn of the 1930s, by the likes of Simenon, Céline, Queneau, Dabit, and Berberova.

A scholar of documentary and fiction film, Schilling published in 2007 the comprehensive monograph Eric Rohmer in Manchester UP’s “French Film Directors” series. His most recent film-related publication, co-edited with Philippe Met, is Screening the Paris suburbs: from the silent era to the 1990s (Manchester UP 2018). Its fifteen contributors address the long history of representations of greater Paris, delving into tropes of escape, alienation, local struggle, criminality and stigmatisation. Other recent articles explore the work on René Vautier; place names in Georges Perec’s fiction; Louis Malle’s direct cinema of the 1970s; and plant closure documentaries and the memory of labour in the new millennium (“France’s Labour Lost,” forthcoming in France in Flux, eds. Ari Blatt and Edward Welch, Liverpool UP 2019). Schilling is a member of several editorial boards of journals in the United States including French ForumFrench ReviewMLNSymposium and, in France, the Revue des Sciences Humaines.

Charles Forsdick, James Barrow Professor of French at University of Liverpool and Series Editor of CFFC, said, “We are delighted to welcome Professor Derek Schilling as a new member of the editorial board of Contemporary French and Francophone Cultures. Derek is one of the leading international specialists on modern and contemporary French literature and culture, particularly well known for his extensive work on geocriticism and the relationship of literature and film to space and urbanisation in France since 1900. A specialist on authors such as Simenon, Céline, Queneau and Perec, he has also published widely on contemporary French film. Derek joins us as we celebrate the publication of the 50th title in the series and will offer invaluable advice and support as we commission our next 50 volumes mapping out the major movements and tendencies in twentieth- and twenty-first-century French and Francophone cultures.”

If you would like to submit a book proposal to the series please get in touch with Chloe Johnson at You can find out more about the series here.

History, Liverpool Interest

The contribution of Black seafarers to British maritime history – in conversation with Ray Costello

 The Black Salt exhibition at the Liverpool Maritime Museum is due to reveal the contribution Black seafarers to some of the most significant maritime events of the past 500 years. To celebrate its opening we spoke to Ray Costello, author of the accompanying book Black Salt: Seafarers of African Descent on British Ships about the roles of and experiences of Black sailors in the British navy. 

Black Salt

The Black Salt exhibition opens at the Liverpool Maritime Museum 29th September. Could you tell us a bit about the exhibition?

This major exhibition the Merseyside Maritime Museum are putting on is derived from my LUP book, Black Salt: Seafarers of African Descent on British Ships (2012). It will occupy most of the ground floor, beginning in the reception area, and is to be presented as –

BLACK SALT: “… in the shipboard company of ‘old salts’… the greatest ‘melange’ of different cultures, races and languages… an important ingredient were seafarers of African descent – Britain’s Black Salt.”

I had already approached LUP to publish Black Salt when Rachel Mulhearne, the former Head of Merseyside Maritime Museum, told me that she was very keen on the idea of staging an exhibition based on this topic. This seemed a good idea at the time, as the book would be a good companion, but it was unfortunately at a decidedly ‘iffy’ time insofar as funding was concerned. At the time, the exhibition did not happen but fortunately the book went ahead and was considerably more than a slim ‘companion book’, never to be forgotten by the Maritime Museum, thanks to Janet Dugdale, the Head of Waterfront and Rachel’s successor, who was adamant that this exhibition was going to happen one day. Through her determination, it has!

How does it emphasise the ways in which sailors of African descent contributed to Britain’s maritime identity?

Black seamen have served on British ships since at least the Tudor period, and by the end of the period of the British slave trade at least three per cent of all crewmen were black and a far higher percentage since. Both the new exhibition and the book, Black Salt: Seafarers of African Descent on British Ships, (Liverpool University Press 2012), help to highlight this overlooked group of servicemen by examining the work and experience of black sailors in the British merchant marine and Royal Navy. These ranged from all over the Black Diaspora, from impressed slaves to free Africans, British West Indians, and even remembering African Americans who served on British ships both before and after the independence of the American colonies.

One of the most important roles has also been in wartime, of course, spanning centuries. This includes not only actually fighting in the Royal Navy, but also the tremendous contribution made by black merchant seafarers. At the Battle of Trafalgar, one of Britain’s most important naval victories, sailors of African descent can be found in a variety of roles. The outcome of the battle would determine the command of the oceans for decades, of course, and when Nelson gave his famous signal, ‘England expects that every man will do his duty’, many of his ‘old salts’ had sailed and fought with him before, including Britain’s seamen of African descent.

How does the exhibition depict the challenges faced by sailors of African descent both at sea and ashore?

In the exhibition we show that the dangers faced by even free early black sailors during the slave trade era could range from being captured by enemy ships and sold in America and the West Indies to being sold by the captain of the ships on which they served.

Later in their history, black crew working below deck could sometimes be overcome by heat exhaustion, especially in the tropics, when the temperature could rise to anything between 120 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Black tartaric acid ointment was used to smear on burns, most men working in the stokehold wearing protective leather boots and an old pair of trousers. Trimmers in the bunkers sometimes wore little more than boots. This, then, became the norm well into the twentieth century and lasting until the decline of British shipping.

How did you come to focus your research on the topic of sailors of African descent in the British navy?

Over the past year I have enjoyed co-curating this exhibition, so I am naturally pleased. It had to be Liverpool, of all locations, as its old black community is largely derived from seafarers. As black seafarers have been an established part of both the Royal and Merchant Navies for centuries, it comes as a surprise to many that, although there been at least a publication in the United States about their own black sailors, there has been never a comprehensive exhibition or book on the topic in Great Britain. Any national memorial to seafarers of African descent is still lacking. The history of seafarers of African descent on British ships is very much a forgotten narrative, unknown to most people, and we have been happy to perhaps play a small part in rectifying this situation!

The book draws attention to the fact that the navy was possibly unique in that black and white could work alongside each other. Was this the case in any other industries? What was the impact of this?

You could say that black and white sailors simply had to have some sort of relationship, as, particularly in the Royal Navy, charged with protecting King and country, they were very much reliant upon one another. This did have its limitations, however, as there was always the possibility that as soon as they set foot on dry land their relationship could at least be altered as the cold reality of the societal norms of the day were re-established once more. Even aboard ship, there could be expressions of segregation, such as the ‘chequeboard’ system of a black crew keeping watch for so many hours, only to change with an all-white crew for the next watch. Few other forms of employment in shore jobs offered even a temporary relaxation, as men would be working together, or more likely segregated, in a very different ‘world’ from the strange little society of the ship at sea. In spite of these restrictions, we always find exceptions throughout the book, and in many different scenarios, an example being the officer who kept up a life-long friendship with a black able seaman, even leaving him something in his will. There was a good reason – this black seafarer had saved this officer’s life at the Battle of Trafalgar!

How did the experiences of black seamen or sailors differ to those of their white counterparts?

In the 18th and early 19th centuries, covering the Napoleonic Wars, they were to be found in deck occupations such as gunners, deck-hands and ‘top men’. ‘Top men’ were very much respected by both crew and officers alike, as they had the responsibility of working at heights in the rigging, setting sail and looking out for enemy ships, etc.

There were far less favourable conditions in the age of steam than in the days of the old sailing ships, when a black seaman could occupy a far wider range of employment aboard ship in both the Royal and merchant marine. In the age of the steam-driven ironclad ships, there were changes in the employment of seafarers of African descent, who were more likely to be found below deck; as cooks, stewards and stokers from the West African coast, India and Madagascar, as they were thought to be better suited to the heat of the engine room. Steam ships required fewer sailors of the traditional type, schooled in the intricacies of rigging and sail, and a newer breed of seaman replaced them.

Larger passenger ships also meant more black seafarers occupying a life below deck, as they were not thought to be suitable for passenger-facing jobs. Compare this with the first black female captain Belinda Bennett shown in our exhibition as now being in in charge of a passenger vessel!

Was there much chance of mobility in terms of rank for black seamen and sailors?

Needless to say, during the early days, certainly the period of the slave trade, black seafarers served at a time when the status of black people in European society was possibly at its lowest ebb, regardless of their social rank in their home countries, but even during the eighteenth-century, examples of royal naval officers of African descent individuals can be found who rose above that situation, finding respect and recognition from their crew-mates. It was by no means easy, however. A very sad case was that of a Black British seamen, 25 ­year­ old Norfolk-­born Barlow Fielding, who was thought to be petty-officer material, possibly at least a boatswain, by his captain, John Colpoys of HMS Orpheus. It did not take long before Fielding asked to be demoted, as his white fellow seafarers took exception to his rank and were making life difficult. His captain tried his best to help by having him transferred to another ship, but failed, resulting in Fielding having something that we would probably now call a nervous breakdown and ending up in Hasler Hospital in Portsmouth.

The book draws upon the experiences of individuals during this time, ‘their experiences span the gamut of sorrow and tragedy, heroism, victory and triumph.’ How did you discover these experiences? Did the experience of any one individual particularly surprise or move you?

Apart from the usual secondary and primary documentary sources, contemporary narratives written or dictated by black seamen themselves were sought, alongside oral testimonies of living seamen. Oral histories are the most fascinating, as some of the sailors’ stories have never seen the light of day before, adding something new to the narrative.

Although not oral testimony, I think my favourite is probably the Jamaican-­born John Perkins, possibly the first British post captain of African descent in the Royal Navy. The rank of post captain is an obsolete alternative form of captain in the Royal Navy, extremely high-ranking, even more than an officer in charge of a ship who is usually called captain regardless of rank, or commanders, given the title of captain as a courtesy, even if they did not currently have a ship! A post captain could eventually become an admiral if he lived long enough. What is surprising is that John (nick-named affectionately by his men as ‘Jack Punch’) is that he was black and achieved that rank in 1797 when the slave trade was still in operation. Later in their history, it was less unusual to find officers of African descent on commercial vessels and smaller riverine craft, but the Royal Navy would have to wait until the late twentieth century for another black captain, along with the United States, who did not commission its first African American naval officers, a group known as the ‘Golden Thirteen’, until 1944.

There are others, such as William Hall, the first black Royal Navy recipient of the Victoria Cross, but that, as they say, is another story, also included in the Black Salt Exhibition.

How to you think the book and the exhibition pave the way for wider discussion and further research into black seafarers and their role in the British navy?

I think that there is endless scope for further research, as most people I have spoken to seem quite surprised that so little has been done in this area, as, particularly in ports such as Liverpool, black sailors are common-place. I have been delighted at the interest already shown in the book and look forward to seeing the public’s response to the exhibition. I am sure that my publishers, ever in the lead of promoting new research, are no doubt as interested as I am.

There are both individuals and groups out there whose stories, both oral and written, have hardly been looked into. My own hope is that other researchers will ‘take the bait’ and delve into what must surely be a vast area of untapped knowledge just waiting to be discovered and publicised in a way that shows just how diverse a country Great Britain really is and has been for a surprisingly long time. Both the Black Salt book and exhibition at Merseyside Maritime shows that the City of Liverpool, with its old black community descended from African seafarers, is an excellent place to start.

Ray Costello is an independent historian and writer and an honorary research fellow of the School of Sociology and Social Science, University of Liverpool.

Black Salt: Britain’s Black Sailors opens on 29th September at the Liverpool Maritime Museum. Click here for more information.

For more information on Black Salt: Seafarers of African Descent on British Ships please visit our website.

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Irish Studies

Interview with Laura Kelly, author of Irish Medical Education and Student Culture, c.1850-1950

To celebrate the release of Irish Medical Education and Student Culture, c.1850-1950, we caught up with Laura Kelly to discuss the roles of women and religion in medical student culture, and how the student experience differed from that of modern day students.

Irish Medical Education and Student Culture, c.1850-1950

What drew you to this period, and why do you think this is the first comprehensive history of medical student culture on this period?

I’ve been really interested in the history of medical student experience ever since my masters thesis which focused on the social backgrounds and careers of Irish students who studied at the University of Glasgow in the nineteenth century. While studying for my masters I came across a book by Wendy Alexander on the history of the first female medical graduates at the University of Glasgow and then became interested in exploring the first generation of Irish medical women’s experiences, which was the topic of my PhD and subsequent first book. I’ve also been inspired and influenced by historians such as John Harley Warner, Keir Waddington, Jonathan Reinarz, Marguerite Dupree and Anne Crowther, who have written fascinating and important studies of medical education and student culture in the United States and Britain, as well as the work of Greta Jones, who has published widely on the history of the Irish medical profession. I became interested in discovering what was distinctive about the Irish medical student’s experience and in understanding how medical education evolved in Ireland over the nineteenth and twentieth century, as well as wanting to understand commonalities between the Irish case study and studies of medical education internationally.

The period 1850 to 1950 is a really fascinating one, not just in terms of the significant political and social changes taking place in Ireland, but also more broadly with regard to the increasing professionalization of doctors in this period, and attempts at reform of education. Class and social mobility are important concerns of the book.

I was surprised to find that there had been no comprehensive study of the history of Irish medical education since Charles Cameron’s survey of the Royal College of Surgeons and other Irish medical schools, published in 1886. Since then, there has been little written on the history of medical education in Ireland, with the exception of important articles by Greta Jones who has examined themes such as the emigration of Irish medical graduates and the Rockefeller report on Irish medical education, and my own first book, which has one chapter on women medical students’ educational experiences. There have also been a number of institutional histories also, but these tend to focus on the staff and administration of medical schools, rather than looking at the experiences of the students who attended them. My book looks at all of the Irish medical schools, rather than focusing on one, and importantly, it places students at the centre of the analysis.

You used a variety of sources including novels, newspapers, student magazines, doctors’ memoirs, and oral history accounts. Did this sources reveal anything that surprised you or changed the direction of your research?

I found that student newspapers and magazines were remarkable in terms of getting a glimpse of what life was like for medical students in the past. Most Irish universities had their own student papers from the 1900s onwards, and these had news on the medical schools as well as information about students’ extra-curricular activities, and poems and short stories written by students themselves. They revealed a lot about what it was actually like to study medicine in the early twentieth century, as well as giving me as sense of representations of medical students and attitudes towards them. The records of university sports clubs and discussions of pranks in the student press also meant that I became more interested in the interplay between sport, medical student culture and masculinity.

Diaries were also an important source for me, such as the diary of Alexander Porter, who studied medicine in Dublin in the 1860s. Porter had a challenging time as a student and frequently wrote about his fears about money and establishing himself in a medical career after graduation. These personal perspectives are invaluable.

There are also numerous memoirs written by Irish doctors which were very interesting in terms of collective memory and the particular image that doctors tried to present of their student days. In terms of novels, perhaps the most famous fictional Irish medical student is Buck Mulligan, who features in James Joyce’s Ulysses. He was based on Irish doctor Oliver St. John Gogarty, who published his own memoirs and a novel about medical student life called Tumbling in the Hay. A lesser known novel I looked at was G. M. Irvine’s The Lion’s Whelp (published in 1910) which is a fictional account of the experiences of a medical student at Queen’s University in Belfast.

My favourite part of the research, however, involved conducting oral history interviews with 24 men and women who had studied at Irish medical schools in the 1940s and 1950s. It was really enjoyable to hear about their experiences and to get those personal insights into the challenges they faced in studying medicine, as well as learning about the quality of teaching, and the gender dynamics. All of these personal perspectives really brought the book to life.

How did the medical student experience change in Ireland between 1850-1950?

For the nineteenth century, and much of the twentieth century, the British and Irish medical profession were inextricably linked and had much in common. In common with their counterparts in Britain, elsewhere in Europe, and the United States, Irish medical students were warned about the importance of cultivating diligence, good behaviour and avoiding the company of idle students in an effort to improve the behaviour of medical students, who were conventionally viewed as badly-behaved, an image which persisted into the twentieth century. As reports of bad behaviour by medical students began to decline, their image was remoulded into a more respectable one by the late-nineteenth century. Additionally, traits such as nobility and heroism became more important, thus reinforcing ideals about medicine being a ‘manly’ profession, particularly significant as women began to be part of the student body in Ireland from the 1880s. Sport, in particular, rugby, became important in maintaining cohesive social bonds.

Sir Patrick Dun's Rugby Football Team, 1895

Sir Patrick Dun’s Rugby Football Team, 1895.

Courtesy of RCPI Heritage Centre. (

I was interested to discover that teaching at Irish medical schools was generally of a poor standard for much of the nineteenth and twentieth century in Ireland. On top of this, Irish medical schools were beset with economic difficulties which meant that practices such as night classes, grinding and the issue of sham certificates were common in the earlier period. Moreover, owing to increased competition between medical schools, Irish students had a huge amount of power as consumers in the period. Medical students were not passive consumers either. Students also actively began to get involved in the concerns of the profession in the nineteenth century too and their complaints highlight not only the inadequacies of teaching at Irish schools, but also that students were beginning to see themselves as part of the profession and therefore felt entitled to get involved in such discussions. For instance, student protests were often concerned with appointments to hospital or university staff which students not agree with, or cases where an “outsider” had been appointed. Emigration was also an important part of medical student life across the 100 year period.

You also start to see changes in terms of the student body from the 1940s and 1950s. There were more international students, as well as ex-servicemen who began their medical studies in Ireland. Also, following the 1936 change in canon law, medical missionary nuns gradually became part of the student body, in particular at the medical schools at UCD and UCC which had a strong Catholic ethos.

Medical students of the past also share much in common with their counterparts today. Emigration is still really common for new Irish medical graduates, while there are also concerns about medical students possessing the appropriate traits to become good doctors, which partly resulted in the introduction of the HPAT (Health Professions Admissions Test) in 2009. However, there have also been important changes. For instance, today female students predominate in medical school applications in Ireland, a pattern which is mirrored by medical schools internationally. And medical students also face new concerns such as ‘burn out’ and the working pressures experienced by junior doctors.

How did religious divisions affect institutions and the student experience?

There was significant sectarianism within the Irish medical profession in both the nineteenth and twentieth century, however, I was surprised to find that this does not appear to have affected Irish students’ experiences in a major way. Oral history respondents who studied in the 1940s and 1950s also did not recall major rivalries between the different institutions; often such rivalries were quite benign in nature, and were played out on the sporting field. Religion was also an important factor in choice of medical school, and evidently, although Catholics began to increase in numbers in the medical profession from the mid-nineteenth century, they still continued to attend the Catholic University and the Queen’s Colleges over Trinity College, and for later generations of Catholic students in the mid-twentieth century, University College Dublin and the former Queen’s Colleges were preferred.

What was the role of women in Irish Medicine at this time?

Many people don’t know that Irish medical schools were at the forefront with regard to the admission of women to the medical profession in the nineteenth century. The King and Queen’s College of Physicians in Ireland was the first institution in the United Kingdom to take advantage of the Enabling Act of 1876 and admit women to its degrees in 1877. From the 1880s, Irish medical schools opened their doors to women students. Numbers of female students matriculating at Irish medical schools were initially low. In the ten year period between 1885 and 1895, only forty-one women matriculated at Irish medical schools. Numbers of female medical students gradually increased during the years of the early twentieth century, peaking as they did in Britain during World War One, before declining again after the war. At Queen’s College Belfast, for example, one in twenty medical students in 1912 were female, while by 1918 one in four were female.

Women medical students, being in the minority, stood out in the medical student body and were often characterised in a certain way. In Ireland, female medical students were often thought to have a ‘civilising’ effect on the male student body. At the same time, female medical students were often figures of fun in the contemporary student press. In the student press, the male medical student was usually depicted as boisterous, sporty, and extremely sociable. Women medical students, on the other hand, were generally represented as being better behaved, more studious and hard-working than their male counterparts.

Although my earlier research has shown that the first generation of women students at Irish universities were treated in a positive manner, moving into the twentieth century and a more conservative Irish society after the establishment of the Irish Free State, women medical students became an increasingly segregated part of the student body.

A Bevy of first years on the way to the anatomy room

‘A Bevy of first years on the way to the anatomy room’.

Photograph from L.E. McLoughlin (ed.), Surgeon’s Log, annals of the schools of surgery, Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, (Dublin: Regal, 1949). Courtesy of the RCSI Heritage Collections. (

How does this book pave the way for further research in the development of medical education throughout Irish history?

I hope it will! I feel that there is much potential for future research on the history of university education and student culture more broadly in Ireland. Although there have been a number of histories of Irish universities, as with histories of medical schools, these have tended to focus on administrative changes in these institutions and on the professors involved in teaching. There is much scope for research into the experiences of students and student culture more generally in Ireland, and as this book shows, there are a variety of sources available to do this. Moreover, I would love to know more about the experiences of medical students who trained in the 1960s and 1970s. There is also further scope for further work on the history of the Irish medical profession. In recent years, there have been a number of valuable studies which have significantly enriched our understanding of the Irish medical profession, for instance, with regard to issues such as emigration (Greta Jones), the First and Second World War (David Durnin), in the field of psychiatry (Catherine Cox) and in the medical missionary movement (Ailish Veale). Considering the huge amount of emigration of Irish doctors in the 1940s and 1950s, a project which explored the experiences of doctors who emigrated in this period would also enrich our understanding of the Irish medical profession.

Laura Kelly is Lecturer in the History of Health and Medicine at the University of Strathclyde.
For more information on Irish Medical Education and Student Culture, c.1850-1950, please visit our website.
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The Changing Discourse in Spanish Art and Culture – An Interview with Paula Barreiro López

Paula Barreiro López, author of Avant-garde Art and Criticism in Francoist Spain, discusses the changing discourse in Spanish culture following the regime of Francisco Franco. 

LUP: Hi Paula, could you tell us a bit about the book?

This book surveys the aesthetic discourse in connection with the artistic practises that decisively influenced the shaping of the avant-garde during the Franco dictatorship in Spain (1939-1975). It discusses the creation and the various shifts of this discourse that linked culture and ethics/politics and also analyses its impact on the intellectual and artistic landscape (visual, print and exhibition culture) especially during the last decades of Franco’s regime.

LUP: Could you expand on this for readers who are not familiar with the history of Spain in this context?

In the 1950’s Franco’s Spain became a strange, but nevertheless accepted ally in the Western camp of the increasingly heated up Cold War. The paradox of an autocratic country being part of the ‘free world’ was felt by a lot of Spanish artists and intellectuals, who had to confront the dilemma of linking the particularities and necessities of a developing society run by the dictator Francisco Franco with the exigencies of the avant-garde that was arising in the country. In this situation various art critics (Vicente Aguilera Cerni, José María Moreno Galván, Alexandre Cirici, Tomàs Llorens, Valeriano Bozal, Simón Marchán), who began to maintain close contacts with other intellectuals in foreign countries, would gain importance. Participating in the contemporary aesthetic debates in the Americas and above all in Europe, their role as mediators became decisive as they introduced new methodologies and arguments in their theoretical discourses that found their way to the Iberian Peninsula. They got involved very closely with avant-garde groups becoming equal peers in artistic movements. Equipped with their theoretical knowledge these so-called ‘militant critics’ participated actively in the artistic creation by instilling questions of liberty, the commitment of the artist and the social commitment of the arts, elements that significantly mapped Spanish culture as the 1960 ́s advanced.

These intellectuals, and the shifts they incited in the conception of the arts during the second half of Francoism, are at the centre of this book about the distinct character of the Spanish avant-garde and the cultural field. Their manifold activity affected Spain’s cultural production in different ways. It shaped the artistic activities of the avant-garde and vanguard art, and helped decisively to raise social and political awareness within the cultural scene and universities.

 LUP: What is new about this book and what made you want to write it?

Let me start with the second question first. Already when writing my PhD thesis about written about Geometric Abstraction in Spain I had noticed two things. Firstly, the artistic creation was much more connected to the theoretical debates of that time and the players taking part in the latter were highly politicised.

Secondly, the art scene in Spain and the theoretical debates were very much connected via certain intellectuals abroad and therefore Spanish Art was, could and should be seen in the international context of that time. Thus, I wanted to broaden my focus. I left Spain for a couple of years to work abroad, first in France and then in Great Britain. I started to look at art and cultural phenomena during the Franco Regime. Occasionally some connections and figures that I had first noticed during my PhD re-surfaced and also other intellectual figures from different European countries important for the cultural field of that time gave more colour to the network that was forming in my mind. Nevertheless, looking for literature that could give me specific information about these important connections, I noticed that there was a serious lack of bibliography about this topic in English.

I do not pretend to reinvent the wheel, but actually, this I think this book helps to fill a gap in the history of Spanish Art and builds on scholarship on the second and final phases of the regime (1950s until the 1970s) by proposing a new interpretation of the art, culture and politics of that time and the first reading ever of their complex interactions and their repercussions for the Spanish culture. The study bases on extensive archival material, until now unavailable in English and a lot of it published for the first time, and uses an interdisciplinary approach (touching art history and theory, intellectual history, politics as well as ideology) that brings a new facet into the evaluation of art and culture in general.

LUP: What audience did you have in mind when writing your book?

I think this topic is interesting for scholars in art history, visual, cultural and museum studies of modern Spain, in particular, and Europe in general. It also addresses, and this I think is important, a much broader readership that includes, in my eyes, professionals, such as journalists, culturally interested in Spanish History and Culture as well as students and University teachers.

I think the book is perfect for teaching purposes at university level. The first two introductory chapters provide a concise overview of the art, culture and politics during Francoism and I think that this part of the study is very useful for undergraduate teaching. The three following chapters provide an in-depth study of the intertwined transfer processes, intellectual networks, aesthetic debates and artistic practices during Late Francoism, which – in my eyes – is addressing the theoretical and practical interest of graduate students who want to know more about cultural processes in Europe and in Spain in particular during the 1950s until the 1970s. Although the complexity of the argument is increasing, especially in the three chapters following the introduction, using an advanced political, cultural and artistic vocabulary, terminology is always introduced and explained accordingly as the argument develops and therefore I think the reader will acquire a lot of knowledge on different levels when reading the text.

In general, the interdisciplinary focus that the book touches on:art, aesthetics, culture and politics makes it suitable for students studying in the fields of Art History, Aesthetics, Cultural History, History and Hispanic Studies.

  LUP: Does the book contain reproductions of that which exemplify the interconnection of the aesthetic discourse and artistic practices?

 The material reproduced includes artworks, photography and print material mostly coming from archives and private collections. Most of it is difficult to find and has so far not been available for a general readership. The reproduced artworks illustrate well the connection of the Spanish Avant-Garde with the European art scene but also the specificity of their socio-political context of creation. The art & design objects exemplify the theoretical basis of their creation and the socio-political intentions of their creators and in context with their written analysis it becomes evident why many of these works have often been (and are still being) interpreted differently in an international context despite their often intended anti-regime character. This way a specific Spanish paradox becomes clear and it will be shown why the regime itself tried to co-op modern art in order to modernise its image.

LUP: Has any scientific angle influenced for your study and why?

 The book puts forward an original and innovative point of view analysing the reciprocal processes of cultural transfer, the adoption of foreign aesthetic theories and ideas as well as their adaption to the specific Spanish socio-political context and it shows the importance of culture in general, which was understood as a battle field against the repressive politics of the Franco regime.

Therefore the book is indebted to a cultural historic approach that takes high culture, popular culture, politics as well as the history of ideas in account studying the reciprocal transfer processes within these fields and across European and American geographies. It seemed to me that, especially today, as we focus rather on connections and networks instead of separations, which also reflect more and more working across scientific boundaries, such an interdisciplinary approach would be of interest.

 LUP: What are the greatest strengths of this book?

The book redraws the position of Spain within post-WWII history. I think it helps to understand culture and the vanguard artistic production of the late Franco dictatorship, discussing the intellectual and cultural field as an important battlefield for fighting the dictatorship from within. Furthermore, it is not just about Spain, it connects the intellectual landscape to the European socio-political and artistic context of that time. Therefore it gives an insight in important processes and border-transgressing networks that shaped the arts and culture from the 1950s to the 1970s in Europe. Especially today, when we try to distance ourselves more and more from centre-periphery models that imply very often a subjugation of the latter when evaluating the artistic production of the reciprocal processes between these two poles, it is essential for the understanding of Spanish art of the 1950’s and 1960’s putting it in the contemporary geopolitical context of the Cold War period.

You can find Avant-garde Art and Criticism in Francoist Spain and other titles in our Value: Art: Politics Series on our website

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Jewish Studies, News

What’s Next for The Littman Library of Jewish Civilization and LUP?

Liverpool University Press is delighted to announce an exciting new partnership with The Littman Library of Jewish Civilization. We asked Connie Webber, Managing Editor at the Library, to tell us more about the Library and its plans for the future.

The Littman Library of Jewish Civilization was founded in 1965 by Louis Littman, in memory of his father, how has the press grown and developed since its establishment?

Louis Littman founded the Library as a charitable endeavour and a true act of love. He had no knowledge of publishing but was strongly committed to the task he set himself, and he worked tirelessly to achieve his aim. For some twenty-two years, until his untimely death in 1987, he personally approached authors to write for him on the subjects he considered important, and took an interest in how the research and writing progressed. He was very much a gentleman publisher, and in many ways he was a pioneer-before he established his Library there was very little publishing of academic books in Jewish studies; indeed there was very little academic Jewish studies! It was partly due to him that the field grew as it did. In the thirty years since Louis Littman’s death, the Library has developed beyond his wildest dreams: now publishing up to ten books a year for a readership spread around the world, it has come to be recognized as a leader in the publication of academic books in Jewish studies, even though the field itself has grown very considerably in the meantime.  Its prestige is due not only to the reputation of its authors but also to the professionalism of its editorial, design, and production team, who are unstinting in their efforts to produce first-class books. Through a charitable foundation, the Littman family continues to make it possible to invest significant resources into all stages of the publishing process, including the translation of important works of scholarship from other languages. Littman’s success has been due to a combination of vision and a dedication to quality, coupled with the availability of funding to make it all possible.

What do you look for in a new book project?

Following the guidelines laid down by Louis Littman, we aim to publish works that will stand the test of time and be considered definitive in their area. We seek solidly based research that offers new insights while being accessible to the educated non-specialist as well as to scholars, and to non-Jews as well as to Jews. All proposals are carefully peer-reviewed to ensure that each book makes a real contribution to the field. Positive reviews, awards, and professional accolades all attest to the success of the endeavour.

 Do you have any particular favourites from the Littman series? Are there any books on the list that you would recommend to someone encountering the series for the first time?

It’s very difficult for me to choose favourites from the list. It’s a list that has built up over fifty years, covering a very wide range of subjects. Similarly it’s not easy to recommend where one should start. The Littman Library is a veritable treasure trove: it’s a question of what one is interested in. There are books on liturgy, history, philosophy, mysticism, and theology; on women’s studies, cultural studies, and art history; on the Sephardi world and the Ashkenazi world (including the annual Polin: Studies in Polish Jewry, with 29 volumes published to date); there are biographies and works of literature, including translations of classic works.

Finally, The Littman Library of Jewish Civilization was founded with the mission to explore, explain, and perpetuate the Jewish heritage, how can the partnership with Liverpool University Press help to further the success of this mission?

Our decision to partner with Liverpool University Press stemmed from the conviction that this partnership would give us access to a much wider market, thanks to their experienced sales and marketing team, and particularly to the various electronic marketing platforms on offer for print editions. Another major factor is sure to be the new Littman E-Library, making our books available for the first time in digital form. That was a long-cherished hope of ours, but something that was beyond our ability to achieve on our own. We were impressed by LUP’s dedicated, experienced, and enthusiastic team, and by the accolades they have received from the industry. We feel confident that we will work well together towards a long, fruitful, and mutually beneficial partnership.

To welcome the arrival of Littman at Liverpool University Press, we are offering 40% off all available titles from 6th-10th March. Use code WELCOMELITTMAN on our website.


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