Avant-Garde Study Group – Reading Groups for Research Students

Evi Heinz

The Avant-Garde Study Group was set up in 2017 and is currently co-organised by Paul Ingram, Robyn Jakeman and myself. I was keen to get involved in the running of the group because I think it provides an important forum for postgraduate students working in the general field of experimental, modern literature and art to discuss their own research and learn about that of their peers. Working on your own, very specific research project can sometimes feel quite isolating and co-organising the Avant-Garde Study Group has been a great way for me to participate in a stimulating intellectual exchange.

We meet every other week during term time to discuss different manifestations of avant-gardism in the nineteenth and twentieth century, including but not limited to such movements as Expressionism, Cubism, Futurism, Vorticism, Constructivism, Dada and Surealism. All members of the study group are invited to suggest topics for discussion and lead individual sessions based on their personal interests. Reading or viewing materials are circulated in advance and each session begins with a brief introduction of the topic by the session leader, followed by an open discussion.

The open format of the study group, which is shaped by the research interests of the participants, means that it is a great way of meeting other researchers working in related fields and learning more about their work. I like the friendly and informal atmosphere at our meetings and that the group has attracted a good mix of participants, including PhD students, ECRs, independent researchers and Masters students from Birkbeck and beyond. Next academic year we hope to organise some one-off events and socials beyond the regular study group meetings. In particular, we’re planning a screening of rarely-seen avant-garde short films.

The study group has given me the opportunity to lead sessions on specific texts and topics closely related to my own research and has allowed me to interrogate my broader understanding of the (historical) avant-garde in incredibly fruitful ways. Being able to practice presenting aspects of my research and discussing them in detail with a group of my peers has been an invaluable experience and I look forward to many more exciting sessions in 2018/19!

The Avant-Garde Study Group meets during term time on alternate Tuesdays from 7-9pm and are always keen to welcome new members. For more information please contact avantgardestudygroup@gmail.com or find us on Twitter (@agstudies).

Author: ubesta002

Graduate Research School Administrator

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