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Staging European languages and memories: the sounds and rhythms of the Great War

ucyow3c24 November 2014

pencil-icon Written by Stefanie van Gemert, PhD candidate, UCL Dutch

I-died-in-hell-1024x682

Is there a particular rhythm to war and violence? And if so, does it sound staccato, repetitive like machine guns and marching boots? Or are its sounds tempting, magical perhaps? Do they appeal to universal feelings of longing – for mum to be proud, for the kiss of a pretty girl? Alex Marshall’s article in Saturday’s Guardian explores these questions, discussing the allure of the ‘ISIS anthem’.

On Tuesday 4 November we did something similar at the Bloomsbury Theatre, exploring sounds of the First World War in a multimedia and multilingual performance: ‘I died in hell – (They called it Passchendaele)’.

A century after the Great War began, violence seems to be everywhere. Even in peaceful Bloomsbury we cannot escape the updates on our mobile phones: yet another child wounded, another journalist killed.

As global citizens, we are extremely well-connected and yet continuously distracted, under the bombardment of 140-character shallow opinions and beeping newsfeeds. How can we, in this state, relate to the overwhelming global violence in a personal manner?

This event, organised by the Centre for Low Countries Studies and the Flemish-Dutch cultural magazine Ons Erfdeel, involved a writer/artistic director, a translator, a video artist, seven students from UCL’s School of European Languages, Culture and Society (SELCS), two professional actors and a European collection of poetry and film footage of the Great War. Its collage-like structure and its multilingual approach underlined the global aspect of this conflict: something to be reminded of in November when poppies appear to be symbols of a straightforwardly English tradition.

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You Must Read This Book!

Siobhan Pipa6 June 2014

Everybody has a favourite book, something that you return to time and time again. It might be a dog-eared copy of Lord of the Rings, a well-thumbed version of Pride and Prejudice or my personal favourite, To Kill a Mockingbird.

must_read_book_istockThese are all pretty popular ‘favourite’ books – making regular appearances on must read lists but what about lesser known novels:  the best book you’ve never heard of?

This was the question posed on Wednesday night in the UCL Festival of the Arts event ‘You Must Read This Book!’.

Chaired by UCL President & Provost, Professor Michael Arthur, seven UCL academics were given five minutes each to pitch the book they believed we should read.

Here’s a quick summary of their choices and why they think their book should have won:

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Auschwitz revisited?

ucyow3c5 June 2014

pencil-iconWritten by Phil Leask, Honorary Research Associate in UCL SELCS (UCL German)

The Auschwitz story – murder on a vast scale, planned, programmed, administered and executed by the Nazis in accordance with an ideology – is too terrible, requiring only homage, beyond the bounds of revisiting, reinterpreting and coolly analysing.

auschwitz awkward

Auschwitz

Or is it?

That was the central question in the UCL Festival of the Arts event Awkward approaches to Auschwitz on 29 June. Three years into their major project funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, the Reverberations of War group from the School of European Languages, Culture and Society revisited Auschwitz. Literally.

They went there and looked, took photos, checked distances, traced the patterns of movement of those doing the killing and those taken to be killed, roamed around the vast complex beyond where the tourists go, located factories and factory sites where slave labour had been used and people had been worked to death, and tried to see it both as it had been and in its present-day context.

Then came the awkward questions …

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