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New Voices: Sculpture & Literature



Conference dates
Wednesday 20 and Thursday 21 October 2021

Keynote speakers
Hannah Black (artist, writer and critic)
Dr Eleanor Dobson (University of Birmingham)

Conference outline

New Voices Annual Conference for Postgraduate and Early Doctoral Research, in partnership with the Henry Moore Institute and University of Leeds.

Sculpture and literature are often separated by a disciplinary divide but have also come together in works and ideas as wide ranging as monuments, poetry and performances. This conference will build on a growing body of scholarship exploring what can be gained from working at the intersection of sculpture and literature. Is it possible to think or write ‘sculpturally’? Can sculpture be considered ‘literary’ in terms of theory or theme?

In 2010, Jas Elsner charged that Art History was ‘nothing other than ekphrasis’, a detailed description of objects found in text. If this is true, how do we distinguish between the narratives we tell about sculpture and its existence as a material object? How might insights from literary studies offer different or similar ways of approach - can we ever go beyond description? These questions and more inspire this call to engage with the proximity of our mediums and learn from alternative perspectives.

We welcome contributions from all postgraduate and doctoral researchers who are engaged with research around art, art history, visual culture and literary studies and work on any aspect of the wide-ranging and interdisciplinary themes of sculpture and literature. Topics of interest include, but are not limited to:

  • The relationship between sculpture and poetry / drama / fiction / non-fiction
  • Sculpture and art criticism / art historical writing
  • Depictions of sculpture in literature (ekphrasis)
  • Sculptors who also work / worked as writers
  • The influence of literature on sculptors / the influence on sculpture on writers
  • The written and visual language of sculpture
  • Literature as a sculptural form / sculpture as a literary form
  • Relationships between sculpture and literature as impacting receptions or inciting reactions
  • Sculpture made from literary materials
  • Sculpture reflecting literary forms
  • Translation practices between sculpture and literature
  • Collaborations between writers and sculptors
  • Monuments to literary figures
  • Growing significance of libraries / books in artistic practices
  • Citational practices (postmodernism)

The Association for Art History’s New Voices is a two-day annual conference that highlights current postgraduate and early doctoral research from around the world. Organised by the Association for Art History’s Doctoral and Early Career Research Committee (DECR) in partnership with the Henry Moore Institute and the University of Leeds, we invite papers that reflect the broad interests of our cross-disciplinary research community. As such, the conference will address the topic of the relationship between sculpture and literature across all time periods and without geographic boundaries.

The conference forms the inaugural event of the Sculpture & Poetry research season to be held in Leeds between October 2021 and February 2022. The conference is due to be held online on Wednesday 20 and Thursday 21 October 2021. Speakers will have the opportunity for their presentations to be included in a digital archive to celebrate the research season.


We welcome proposals for 20-minute papers. Please email paper proposals of no more than 300 words, along with a 150-word biographical note, by Friday 10 September 2021.

We request that potential speakers also indicate if they would like their presentation to be recorded and contribute to the Sculpture & Poetry digital archive.

Proposals should be emailed to with the email subject ‘New Voices Paper Proposal’.