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Poetic cinema?

Un cinéma poétique?

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Published on Thursday, February 08, 2018 by Anastasia Giardinelli


While the cinematographic aspects of modern poetry have modern already been dealt with in a few recent studies (Mc Cabe, 2009 ;Wall-Romana, 2013 ; Cohen, 2013), the poetic qualities of film have not received the same attention...



While the cinematographic aspects of modern poetry have modern already been dealt with in a few recent studies (Mc Cabe, 2009 ;Wall-Romana, 2013 ; Cohen, 2013), the poetic qualities of film have not received the same attention. Literary scholars usually consider poetic film from the narrow perspective of extending poetry beyond print (Hirschi et alii, 2017), whereas film critics typically study poetic cinema in a monographic way, with a focus on certain directors or certain trends, such as Cocteau’s vague notion of “poésie de cinéma”, Epstein’s thoughts on photogeny, the works of Russian formalists, Pasolini’s “poesia di cinema”, the 1953 symposium “Poetry and the film” around Maya Deren, and the founding of the “Film-Makers' Cooperative” in 1962 by Jonas Mekas.

Some recent studies embrace all these references (Coureau, 2014; Sitney, 2015) but still take no account of the more trivial, but nevertheless interesting, uses of the term “poetic”. Indeed, the question of poetry in film exceeds experimental cinema, though the latter raises it in an exemplary way.

In the wake of a recent Fabula LHT special issue, which traced the various uses of the adjective “poetic” in domains other than literature (Cohen & Reverseau, 2017), this symposium aims to bring to light the notion of poetic film through reference to three distinct types of discourses :

  1. essays written by film directors to define their own works as “poetic”
  2. press articles in which the term “poetic” is applied to films
  3. promotional texts qualifying films as “poetic” (texts advertizing films festivals, trailers, film posters, interviews, DVD bonus etc)

Studying those different cultural uses of the term “poetic” with regard to cinema will enable us to answer the following questions:

1. Aesthetic questions : are poetic films linked to the use of certain tropes?

How could we define the slippery notion of poetic film? Has it evolved in time? Is there such a thing as a poetic cinema? If so, could we identify its specificities, both thematic and formal? Is a (relative) lack of narrativity a central feature of poetic film? Can we identify a series of poetic tropes, like occasional lyrical stasis, a preference for silence and black and white, frequent uses of the voice-over, but also some clichés? How do films that explicitly quote, adapt or stage poetry fit in this corpus? Do they adopt a certain visual “poetic” style ?

2. Questions of values: poetry as an object of desire and an instrument of legitimation  ?

Why has poetry been a preferred term for film directors and film critics since the 1920s ?  Is it because of the mediological nature of cinema or because of the cultural legitimacy that the reference to poetry may accord to cinema? Which values are associated to poetry as a « cultural phenomenon » within the social sphere (Jeanneret, 2008) ? Is the notion of poetry used more as an expression of value than as a set of aesthetic principles ? How does this notion influence the reception of films ?

3. Questions of definitions : an indirect contribution to the history of poetry ?

What are the underlying trends and implicit references in the uses of the term “poetic” when applied to films? Which definitions of poetry can we infer from these different uses, depending on the speakers (the theory of distance, the primacy of the poetic function, poetry as a state of being etc..) ? To what kinds of poetry do the various uses of “poetic” refer, whether implicitly or explicitly (in which case the term “poetic” can occasionally be associated with such adjectives as “baudelairien”, more rarely “verlainien”, or even “surrealist”)? And, conversely, which types of poetry do they not take into account ? What can we learn from these uses and how can they contribute to a reflection  on the history of the idea of poetry ?

KU Leuven University & Cinematek (Brussels), February 8th-9th 2019

Submission Guidelines

Please send abstracts (500 words), along with a short biographical note, to Nadja Cohen (FWO/ KU Leuven)

before June 1st 2018

to nadja.cohen@gmail.com

Scientific Committee

  • Nadja Cohen (FWO/ KU Leuven)


  • Salle Ledoux - Cinematek
    Brussels, Belgium (1000)
  • Université KU Leuven
    Leuven, Belgium (3000)


  • Friday, June 01, 2018


  • cinéma, poésie, histoire littéraire, études filmiques


  • Nadja Cohen
    courriel : nadja [dot] cohen [at] gmail [dot] com

Reference Urls

Information source

  • Nadja Cohen
    courriel : nadja [dot] cohen [at] gmail [dot] com

To cite this announcement

« Poetic cinema? », Call for papers, Calenda, Published on Thursday, February 08, 2018, http://calenda.org/432424