Faculty of Performance, Visual Arts & Communications


Seminar Series 1

In this section:

Seminar Series 1.1

Nuit et brouillard and l’art concentrationnaire
Reading and screening
Adorno declared that, in the wake of the Holocaust, all culture fails before the reality of atrocious suffering, rendering obscene all pleasure-giving forms of representation. Yet he also admitted that suffering demands representation and that the aesthetic might be its only voice. This project will consider not the ethical implications of representing the Holocaust but rather the connections between aesthetics and politics in the formation of what only became known as the cultural memory of the Holocaust two decades after the event. The project is divided into two parts. The first part will move from David Rousset’s understanding of a ‘concentrationary universe’ and Hannah Arendt’s thesis on totalitarianism to a consideration of Jean Cayrol’s critical/political concept of a ‘concentrationary art’, proposed most memorably in the film Nuit et brouillard by Resnais and Cayrol. The second part will consider ways in which a concentrationary (or totalitarian) imaginary has seeped into popular cultural forms and become normalized. If Cayrol and Resnais gave us a way of critically understanding the relationship between horror and the everyday, postmodern popular culture often presents us with an assimilation of one into the other with little or no cultural politics of resistance to its effects.

Throughout the series we will be asking the following questions:

  • what were the aesthetic strategies used in the first attempt at analytical commemorative representation of the concentrationary universe in Alain Resnais’s Nuit et brouillard (1955)?
  • how did Resnais and Cayrol define a politics of resistance to the ‘totalitarian disease’?
  • how did the politics of representation introduced by the film constitute what Cayrol termed an ‘art concentrationnaire’?
  • how was this vision of art as politics dependent on the creation of an anxious relationship between horror and the everyday rooted in surrealist aesthetics?
  • what are the other main features of this ‘language’ of cinematic representation and how does its combination of sound, image, text and archive footage constitute a departure in post-war art, cinema and literature?
  • what are the legacies in post-war culture of Cayrol and Resnais’s collaboration and aesthetic-political propositions?


26 September 2007
Screening of Nuit et boruillard (1955) and setting the terms of analysis
3 October 2007
David Rousset L’univers concentrationnaire and other deportee writings. 10 October 2007 Horror and the Everyday: Jean Cayrol and l’art concentrationnnaire.
17 October 2007
Hannah Arendt, ‘The Concentration Camps’ (1948).
24 October 2007
Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism (1951).

The second part of the seminar will perform a close reading and textual film analysis of Nuit et Brouillard/Night and Fog with a weekly screening of sections to be analysed in the light of a range of recent texts.

14 November 2007
Nuit et Brouillard/Night and Fog: uncanny anxiety.
21 November 2007
Nuit et Brouillard/Night and Fog: fascism and the cinematic.
28 November 2007
Nuit et Brouillard/Night and Fog: the text.
5 December 2007

Seminar Series 1.2

Nuit et brouillard/Night and Fog in context.

Guest speakers

30 January 2008
Georges Didi-Huberman (EHESS, Paris)
Camps Opening: Eyes Closing

13 February 2008
Kay Gladstone (Imperial War Museum)
Memory of the Camps

27 February 2008
Emma Wilson (University of Cambridge)
Resnais and the Dead

12 March 2008
John Mowitt (University of Minnesota)
Showing ‘Cinema as Slaughterbench of History: Nuit et Brouillard’.

14 may 2008
Sylvie Lindeperg (Sorbonne and EHESS, Paris)
Nuit et Brouillard: a history of gazes.

15 October 2008
Griselda Pollock (University of Leeds)
The Politics of a Shot: Serge Daney on Jacques Rivette on abjection Pontecorvo’s Kapo (1962).

22 October 2008
Debarati Sanyal (University of California, Berkley)
History’s Endless Cry: Auschwitz as Allegory of Algeria in Night and Fog.

29 October 2008
Libby Saxton (University of London)
Regarding the Suffering of Others: Nuit et Brouillard.

5 November 2008
Joshua Hirsch
Night and Fog and the Origins of Post-traumatic Cinema.

19 November 2008
Max Silverman (University of Leeds)
The Concentrationary Paradigm in Nuit et Brouillard.

3 December 2008
Griselda Pollock (University of Leeds)
The Aesthetics of Resistance versus the Cultural Politics of Consolation ca. 1955

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