Bilingual Lab
Monthly Series
with Iris Colomb & Jérémie Wenger

Full Price: £120 for all or £30 per session

Concession 1: £60 for all or £15 per session 

Concession 2: £40 for all or £10 per session

4 Sessions Starting Wednesday January 18th

6-8:00pm (GMT) via Zoom

Bilingual Lab is taught by two writers who grew up in French, live in English and write in both. Their four-part monthly series, rooted in twentieth-century French poetry, is a collection of discrete experiments. From letter-based constraints to visual strategies, linguistic hacks to multilingual structures, each session comes with its own set of references, questions and tools opening up new ways of playing with, between and beyond language(s). Looking into the postwar context of the Oulipo (“Ouvroir de Littérature Potentielle”) will lead you to examine the tensions between the near mathematical precision of writing constraints and their expressive potential. French Spatialist poets Ilse Garnier and Pierre Garnier will invite you to produce poetry beyond language(s) through visual meaning-making. You will explore the practice, meaning and implications of wordmaking through the work of French philosophers, as well as examples drawn from French and English literature. Finally, you will examine pieces in which poets switch and slip
between English and French to create new spaces between languages.
Bilingual Lab is open to monolingual and bilingual poets, and welcomes writers of all levels of experience. Writing in languages other than English will be warmly encouraged but is by no means compulsory. You are welcome to sign up for individual sessions or all 4.

 

Session 1 January 18th: Generative Systems: Oulipo & Beyond 

In this session, we will explore the generative power of formal constraints in the context of poetry.
Looking at the postwar context of the Oulipo (“Ouvroir de Littérature Potentielle”) will allow us to
introduce a selection of their letter-based techniques and discuss tensions between the near
mathematical precision of writing constraints and their expressive potential. After looking at examples
of French and English language works produced through Oulipian techniques, we will go on to explore how formal constraints can be applied to various languages as well as to multilingual pieces. Students will then experiment with these methods themselves.

Session 2 February 15th: Concrete Poetry & Spatialism 

In this session, we will look into producing poetry beyond language(s) through visual meaning-making. We will explore the materiality of language through concrete poetry, an international movement that blurs the boundaries between literature and the visual arts, and involves attempts to produce textual works that seamlessly cross linguistic borders. We will focus on the work of French Spatialist poets Ilse Garnier and Pierre Garnier. Their endeavour to free the poem from the fixity of the page, projecting it into the reality of daily life, will prompt us to create new types of reading experiences by composing and producing our own three-dimensional poems.

Session 3 March 15th: The Craft of Wordmaking 

In this session, we will explore the practice, meaning and implications of wordmaking, from three
angles: technical, conceptual and literary. The first will introduce tools from linguistics. The second will
cover a few remarkable concept-words created by French philosophers, showing word coinages at
play at the frontier between literature and thought. Finally, through examples drawn from writers such
as Francis Ponge and especially James Joyce, we will appreciate how word creation can take place
within literature itself. Using our toolbox and examples, we will try our hands at our own coinages. In
so doing, we will be able to play with the very building blocks of language and compare French and
English in terms of accepted norms of correctness, linguistic flexibility, and creativity.

Session 4 April 12th: Multilingual & Interlingual Poetry 

In this session, we will examine pieces in which poets switch and slip between English and French to
create new spaces between languages. After considering various aspects of French/English
bilingualism, we will look at interlingual poems by Georges Perec, that can be read equally in French
or in English, and present a range of contemporary approaches to multilingual writing. Through these
examples, we will discover a variety of techniques such as code-switching, bilingual dictionaries,
eccentric homophones and outlandish homographs, and discuss the complex experiences multilingual pieces