Prof. dr. Mieke Bal

Mieke Bal is a resident KNIR fellow in the autumn of 2017 (She also was a resident KNIR fellow in the autumn of 2015). During her stay at the KNIR she teaches a Masterclass on Travelling Cultures. She also presents her latest feature film Reasonable Doubt, which presents scenes from the lives of, and foregrounds the relationship between René Descartes and Queen Cristina of Sweden, and was partly shot in Rome during a previous KNIR fellowship held by Mieke Bal.

Mieke Bal (1946) was professor emeritus in Literary Theory at the University of Amsterdam. She was also Academy Professor of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences and co-founder of the Amsterdam School for Cultural Analysis. She has taught at the universities of Utrecht and Rochester, and has acted as supervisor for up to 80 PhD dissertations. For her groundbreaking and globally recognised academic work, she was awarded a knighthood by King Willem Alexander of the Netherlands in March 2017.

Bal has published some forty books on a wide range of subjects. Her research interests include classical and biblical antiquity, Baroque and modern art, contemporary literature, feminism, mental illness, the critique of capitalism, and migratory culture. Bal’s Narratology: Introduction to the Theory of Narrative (1985; 4th revised edition 2017) is a seminal introduction to the systematic study of narrative, in which she adapts structuralist concepts and terms as tools for the analysis of stories. In her Quoting Caravaggio: Contemporary Art, Preposterous History (1999) Bal investigates how twentieth-century artists set up a dialogue with old-master art. Re-theorizing notions of linear influence and temporality, Bal introduces the concept of ‘pre-posterous history’ to help understand how modern quotations of and allusions to Caravaggio renew our understanding of his work. In Travelling Concepts in the Humanities: A Rough Guide(2002), she explores the deployment of concepts in interdisciplinary cultural analysis. In a series of case studies, Bal eschews more conventional methodologies based on a single paradigm or discipline in favor of an open re-examination of concepts as they ‘travel’ between disciplines, historical periods, and (cultural) contexts.

Recently, Bal has completed a trilogy of works on political art. Specifically, she seeks to understand how art can be politically effective without espousing particular political causes. In each of these books, she focuses on the oeuvre of an individual artist and their medium of choice. Of What One Cannot Speak (2010) examines the work of Colombian sculptor Doris Salcedo, Thinking in Film (2013) looks at the video installations of Finnish artist Eija-Liisa Ahtila, and Endless Andness (2013) engages with the abstract spatial interventions of Belgian artist Ann Veronica Janssens. In 2016 she published In Medias Res: Inside Nalini Malani’s Shadow plays, and in 2017 Emma & Edvard Looking Sideways: Loneliness and the Cinematic,  with an exhibition she curated at the Munch Museum in Oslo.

In addition to her academic work, Bal is a video artist whose films and installations have been exhibited internationally. As a member of the film collective Cinema Suitcase, she made several experimental documentaries that mostly revolve around issues of migration. With Michelle Williams Gamaker, she directed the feature-length film A Long History of Madness (2011). Based on the book Mère Folle by French psychoanalist Françoise Davoine, the film is a so-called ‘theoretical fiction’ that examines how madness can be treated analytically. Bal and Williams Gamaker have written and produced a second feature film Madame B (2014), a modern interpretation of Gustave Flaubert’s 1856 masterpiece Madame Bovary.

On her work see:
– Mieke Bal Reader, Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 2006
– About Mieke Bal, Deborah Cherry (ed.), Oxford, Wiley-Blackwell, 2008
– www.miekebal.org