Poetry Between Languages: Heather Dohollau

Research output: Book/ReportBook

Abstract

This book on the Welsh-French poet Heather Dohollau (born 1925) reveals a missing chapter in the history of twentieth-century European literature. It offers the first full-length study in any language of her œuvre: twelve volumes of poetry, one novel and one collection of essays in French, as well as substantial as-yet-unpublished works in English. My aim is to place this exceptional figure on the map of contemporary French literature. No monograph on her work has as yet been published, although articles in both French and English have testified to its richness, formal variety and thematic density, suggesting that a more sustained and developed analysis is called for. Dohollau is one of the rare women poets in French to have received critical attention in France as well as abroad, in the form of two prestigious international colloquia dedicated to her, as well as anthologies, independently published articles, and a documentary film. Among those who recognise her significance are her late friend Derrida, some of the foremost poets of France (Yves Bonnefoy, Pierre Jean Jouve), various French and British academic and non-academic writers (including Meic Stephens and Jean-Luc Nancy) and the Centre Culturel International de Cerisy-la-Salle, with which Dohollau has been involved on a yearly basis since 1980, and where a colloquium was dedicated to her work in June 2005.

Dohollau has made an important and distinctive contribution to issues central to postwar poetry: place, memory, exile, language and languages. Her exceptionally varied and highly developed dialogues with the visual arts and with philosophy are remarkable in extent and form. These dialogues deserve close attention in the context of increasingly widespread interdisciplinary approaches to modern French literature (as exemplified by your series Chiasma). As a poet in two languages, Dohollau sheds new light on current reassessments of the philosophy of language and translation studies. Like Samuel Beckett, she turns this liminal stance into the foundation of her poetics.

My exploration of Dohollau’s work is deliberately wide-ranging in its thematic approaches, with a view to producing groundwork on a multifaceted but under-studied œuvre. My themes are all brought together as manifestations of an overarching paradigm: that of the crossing or transition, which derives from Dohollau’s life trajectory, from her successive exiles and from her bilingualism. These five themes are:

· representations of place, exile and memory
· translations of the visual into words
· a search for an open poetic form through rhythm
· the choice of French and the idea of poetry itself as a foreign language
· an exploration and questioning of the boundaries between language and the unsaid

As a gateway to Dohollau’s work, this book approaches it from the text upwards, so as to let the poems speak for themselves. My first objective is to explore a broad corpus of texts in their entirety, for the first time. This will enable me to bring out the movements and shapes of individual poems and sequences. Secondly, I illuminate distinctive features of Dohollau’s poetics by tracing specific themes and formal aspects throughout her work; this also enables me to outline some of the ways in which her poetics has evolved since the publication of Seule enfance in 1978. In order to foreground Dohollau’s contribution to (and reassessment of) problematics bearing a more general cultural resonance, I also situate her poetry in the broader canvas of Western literature and twentieth-century continental thought.

LanguageEnglish
PublisherRodopi
Number of pages250
StateAccepted/In press - 2019

Fingerprint

Poetry
Language
Poetics
Exile
Colloquium
Thematic
France
French Literature
Poem
Poet
Distinctive Features
Yves Bonnefoy
Language Studies
History
Continental
Jean-Luc Nancy
Trajectory
European Literatures
Writer
Philosophy of Language

Keywords

  • poetry French bilingualism poetry and visual arts poetry and philosophy women's writings

Cite this

Poetry Between Languages : Heather Dohollau. / O'Connor, Clemence.

Rodopi , 2019. 250 p.

Research output: Book/ReportBook

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N2 - This book on the Welsh-French poet Heather Dohollau (born 1925) reveals a missing chapter in the history of twentieth-century European literature. It offers the first full-length study in any language of her œuvre: twelve volumes of poetry, one novel and one collection of essays in French, as well as substantial as-yet-unpublished works in English. My aim is to place this exceptional figure on the map of contemporary French literature. No monograph on her work has as yet been published, although articles in both French and English have testified to its richness, formal variety and thematic density, suggesting that a more sustained and developed analysis is called for. Dohollau is one of the rare women poets in French to have received critical attention in France as well as abroad, in the form of two prestigious international colloquia dedicated to her, as well as anthologies, independently published articles, and a documentary film. Among those who recognise her significance are her late friend Derrida, some of the foremost poets of France (Yves Bonnefoy, Pierre Jean Jouve), various French and British academic and non-academic writers (including Meic Stephens and Jean-Luc Nancy) and the Centre Culturel International de Cerisy-la-Salle, with which Dohollau has been involved on a yearly basis since 1980, and where a colloquium was dedicated to her work in June 2005.Dohollau has made an important and distinctive contribution to issues central to postwar poetry: place, memory, exile, language and languages. Her exceptionally varied and highly developed dialogues with the visual arts and with philosophy are remarkable in extent and form. These dialogues deserve close attention in the context of increasingly widespread interdisciplinary approaches to modern French literature (as exemplified by your series Chiasma). As a poet in two languages, Dohollau sheds new light on current reassessments of the philosophy of language and translation studies. Like Samuel Beckett, she turns this liminal stance into the foundation of her poetics. My exploration of Dohollau’s work is deliberately wide-ranging in its thematic approaches, with a view to producing groundwork on a multifaceted but under-studied œuvre. My themes are all brought together as manifestations of an overarching paradigm: that of the crossing or transition, which derives from Dohollau’s life trajectory, from her successive exiles and from her bilingualism. These five themes are:· representations of place, exile and memory· translations of the visual into words· a search for an open poetic form through rhythm· the choice of French and the idea of poetry itself as a foreign language · an exploration and questioning of the boundaries between language and the unsaidAs a gateway to Dohollau’s work, this book approaches it from the text upwards, so as to let the poems speak for themselves. My first objective is to explore a broad corpus of texts in their entirety, for the first time. This will enable me to bring out the movements and shapes of individual poems and sequences. Secondly, I illuminate distinctive features of Dohollau’s poetics by tracing specific themes and formal aspects throughout her work; this also enables me to outline some of the ways in which her poetics has evolved since the publication of Seule enfance in 1978. In order to foreground Dohollau’s contribution to (and reassessment of) problematics bearing a more general cultural resonance, I also situate her poetry in the broader canvas of Western literature and twentieth-century continental thought.

AB - This book on the Welsh-French poet Heather Dohollau (born 1925) reveals a missing chapter in the history of twentieth-century European literature. It offers the first full-length study in any language of her œuvre: twelve volumes of poetry, one novel and one collection of essays in French, as well as substantial as-yet-unpublished works in English. My aim is to place this exceptional figure on the map of contemporary French literature. No monograph on her work has as yet been published, although articles in both French and English have testified to its richness, formal variety and thematic density, suggesting that a more sustained and developed analysis is called for. Dohollau is one of the rare women poets in French to have received critical attention in France as well as abroad, in the form of two prestigious international colloquia dedicated to her, as well as anthologies, independently published articles, and a documentary film. Among those who recognise her significance are her late friend Derrida, some of the foremost poets of France (Yves Bonnefoy, Pierre Jean Jouve), various French and British academic and non-academic writers (including Meic Stephens and Jean-Luc Nancy) and the Centre Culturel International de Cerisy-la-Salle, with which Dohollau has been involved on a yearly basis since 1980, and where a colloquium was dedicated to her work in June 2005.Dohollau has made an important and distinctive contribution to issues central to postwar poetry: place, memory, exile, language and languages. Her exceptionally varied and highly developed dialogues with the visual arts and with philosophy are remarkable in extent and form. These dialogues deserve close attention in the context of increasingly widespread interdisciplinary approaches to modern French literature (as exemplified by your series Chiasma). As a poet in two languages, Dohollau sheds new light on current reassessments of the philosophy of language and translation studies. Like Samuel Beckett, she turns this liminal stance into the foundation of her poetics. My exploration of Dohollau’s work is deliberately wide-ranging in its thematic approaches, with a view to producing groundwork on a multifaceted but under-studied œuvre. My themes are all brought together as manifestations of an overarching paradigm: that of the crossing or transition, which derives from Dohollau’s life trajectory, from her successive exiles and from her bilingualism. These five themes are:· representations of place, exile and memory· translations of the visual into words· a search for an open poetic form through rhythm· the choice of French and the idea of poetry itself as a foreign language · an exploration and questioning of the boundaries between language and the unsaidAs a gateway to Dohollau’s work, this book approaches it from the text upwards, so as to let the poems speak for themselves. My first objective is to explore a broad corpus of texts in their entirety, for the first time. This will enable me to bring out the movements and shapes of individual poems and sequences. Secondly, I illuminate distinctive features of Dohollau’s poetics by tracing specific themes and formal aspects throughout her work; this also enables me to outline some of the ways in which her poetics has evolved since the publication of Seule enfance in 1978. In order to foreground Dohollau’s contribution to (and reassessment of) problematics bearing a more general cultural resonance, I also situate her poetry in the broader canvas of Western literature and twentieth-century continental thought.

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