Julia Tanner

Julia Tanner

Research Postgraduate Student

Summary: *My research explores the relationship between swarms, sensation and subjectivity in the poetry of Jorie Graham and the ethnographic film of Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Verena Paravel.

Thesis title: The Aesthetics of the Swarm in Selected Works by Jorie Graham, Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Véréna Paravel

Supervisor: Professor Graham Huggan

My research examines the ecological implications of the contemporary American ethnographic film and poetry of the poet Jorie Graham and Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Véréna Paravel, collaborators at Harvard’s Sensory Ethnography Lab. These creative artists are based at Harvard University, where I am currently a fellow in the Department of Visual and Environmental Studies. 

I put these artists’ distinct bodies of work into conversation with each other through a focus on their representations of swarms of animals, humans and machines. Disorientating and unremittingly physical, the swarmic representations in these poems and ethnographic films can, I argue, extend empathy to seemingly faceless groups that are revealed to be made up of individuals. Investigating the aesthetics of the swarm in these multisensory works, my doctoral thesis asks how these swarmic encounters can generate a heightened awareness of our own ecological connectedness. 

Having been housed in departments across the humanities, from my home discipline of English to those of Visual and Environmental Studies, Philosophy and Anthropology, I have been an interdisciplinary scholar from the outset. Basing myself firmly in the Environmental Humanities, I am able to draw together insights from these various disciplines in order to ask how the artists I am studying – who themselves cross borders of discipline and media – create visceral experiences of ecological change that have strong political and ethical implications. 

My research is generously funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council through the White Rose Consortium for the Arts and Humanities. Prior to my doctoral research, I completed my masters degree in Women’s Studies at the University of Oxford. During my BA at the University of Leeds, I spent a year on Erasmus studying diverse subjects at Paul-Valery University III in Montpellier. 

Conference Papers

'Jorie Graham’s Swarming Sensations: Immersion and Contemplation in ‘Prayer’ (Never 2002)' at the Ecopoetry Symposium: Poetry, Creativity, and Environment, University of Leeds, 27 February 2016. 

'The Swarm in Urban Ecologies: the Multisensory Véréna Paravel's Foreign Parts (2010)', at Undisciplined Environments: International Conference of the European Network of Political Ecology (ENTITLE), KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, Sweden, 24 March 2016. 

'Urban Ecologies and the Affect of the Swarm in Véréna Paravel’s Foreign Parts', at Forms of Feeling: Navigating the Affective Turn: English Graduate Organisation Conference, University of Massachusetts Amherst, USA, 2 April 2016.

Related Activities

Fellow at Harvard University Department for Visual and Environmental Studies, March-September 2016

Co-organiser of University of Leeds' Environmental Humanities Research Group, School of English, 2016.  

Presented at Lunch Poems, School of English, University of Leeds, 16 March 2016 


I will be teaching: American Words/American Worlds (Level 3), 2016-2017, Semester 2.