CFP: Literature and the Video Essay. Researching and Teaching Literature Through Moving Images


CFP: Literature and the Video Essay. Researching and Teaching Literature Through Moving Images

Editors: Adriana Margareta Dancus (University of South-Eastern Norway) and Alan O’Leary (Aarhus University)

This special issue explores how the video essay can function as an academic and pedagogic resource in the study and teaching of literature.

Literature and literature instruction are central components in the language subjects. In this special issue, we use the term ‘literature’ in a broad sense to encompass narratives in different genres and media, including picture books, comics, feature and documentary films, narrative apps, and computer games with an intrinsic aesthetical value. Didactic perspectives on literature encompass questions about why and how to teach literature as well as what literary texts to choose from in the language subjects. Further, we adopt a ‘performative’ approach to research whereby the video essay is conceived as a form that generates new theoretical and analytical insights.

Contributors will produce own video essays (5-12 minutes) accompanied by an academic guiding text between 1000-1500 words that fleshes out the relevance of the topic, positions the video essay in a larger academic context, and provides critical reflections on the process of making the video essay.

We welcome contributions in English, Danish, Norwegian or Swedish.

Abstracts (300 words) and a one page-mood board which visualizes the project should be sent to by May 31, 2023.


Why the video essay in literary studies?

Since its very inception, the audiovisual has always struck a core with children and youth. Young generations who grow up in the digital age are both avid consumers and producers of audiovisual content. What can the audiovisual afford the teaching of literature and how does the audiovisual impact literary scholarship in the digital age? These questions are important to explore if we keep in mind the following paradox facing Nordic educational systems, especially the teaching of language subjects in Nordic schools. On the one hand, statistics show that Nordic children and youth spend significant amounts of time on social media and gaming, while the desire to read literature, as well as the amount of time spent on reading for pleasure, enjoyment, and meaningful cultural experiences, drops significantly with age, particularly among boys (Hansen et. al, 2022; Ipsos, 2022; Swedish Ministry of Culture, 2020). On the other hand, a consistent body of scholarship shows how reading literature is important for the development of critical thinking, democratic skills, and emotional literacy, to name a few (see Andersen, 2011; Nussbaum, 2016; Tørnby, 2020). In Norway, the educational reform from 2020 seeks to address this paradox by promoting a combination of formal, contextual, and interdisciplinary pedagogical approaches that encourage an aesthetic and critical engagement with literature (Norwegian Directorate for Education and Training n.d.).

Parallel to these developments, the video essay has gained academic terrain in the last decade. [In]Transition: Journal of Videographic Film and Moving Image Studies is the first peer-reviewed academic journal exclusively dedicated to videographic film studies, and an increasing number of academic journals publish video essays in special issues or independently. Most scholarly video essays produced today spring out of film, media, and game studies. Scholars in these fields praise this format for its capacity to rejuvenate and enhance academic film and TV criticism, incite critical cinephilia, make film students focus on the conceptual challenges and poetic possibilities of digital technology, and afford important reflections on the balance between poetic and explanatory modes of knowledge production (see Grant 2013, 2016; Keathley 2011, 2012; Keathley et al. 2019; Lavik 2012). Christian Keathley (2011), a founding editor of [in]Transition together with Catherine Grant and others, argues that the best video essays are marked by a unique combination: “a simultaneous faithfulness to the object of study and an imaginative use of it” (183). Grant (2013), who over the years has produced a significant amount of video essays, further underlines that the video essay is not about the translation of written film studies into audiovisual ones, but an attempt to create ontologically new scholarly forms that can live alongside traditional scholarly writing such as articles or monographs.

‘How’ the video essay in literary studies?

In a literary context, the video essay encourages an intimate, exploratory, and performative approach to literary studies that can engage with the expectations of young generations who grow up with access to the Internet and advanced portable digital devices. Most importantly, the video essay can inspire new ways of doing academic literary criticism and teaching literature in the digital age.

Relevant inquiries include, but are not limited to:

  • How can the video essay afford presentation and learning of complex literary phenomena?
  •  What possibilities lie in the “showing” and “moving” of literature through techniques such as juxtaposition, superimposition, split screen, fast and slow motion, pausing, zooming or mixing sound, etc.?
  •  What kind of literary knowledge is produced when digital skills are put in the service of making video essays about literature?
  • How is the video essay suited to the fleshing out of and engagement with the multisensory and affective impact of literary texts?
  • What kinds of collaborations and collaborative forms of learning does the video essay encourage in literary studies?
  • How can the video essay contribute to interdisciplinarity in literary studies?
  • How does the video essay allow the exploration of literary theory centered around notions of authorship, genre, adaptation, and intertextuality?
  • What can the practice-based methods of the video essay offer scholars and students of literature?
  • How, and to what extent, can video essay-making help to develop a creative-critical competence in practitioners and students?

Guest editors:

Adriana Margareta Dancus is Professor of Norwegian at the University of South-Eastern Norway. Her research focuses on the affective investments afforded by contemporary Nordic cinema and literature and vulnerability as a resource. Dancus is the author of Exposing Vulnerability: Self-Mediation in Scandinavian Films by Women (Intellect/The University of Chicago Press 2019) and co-editor of Vulnerability in Scandinavian Art and Culture (Palgrave McMillan 2020) and Litteratur og sårbarhet (Universitetsforlaget 2021).

Alan O’Leary is Associate Professor of Film and Media in Digital Contexts at Aarhus University, Denmark, and Visiting Researcher in the Centre for World Cinemas and Digital Cultures, University of Leeds, UK. He has published video essays in [in]Transition and 16:9 and his most recent book is a study of the 1966 postcolonial film classic The Battle of Algiers (Mimesis International, 2019). He is working on a videographic ‘monograph’ on the poetics of videographic criticism and his ‘Workshop of Potential Scholarship: Manifesto for a parametric videographic criticism’ was published in NECSUS in 2021.

Contributors and forms of collaboration:

Scholars in the fields of literature, art, film, TV, media, computer games, education and education research are invited to submit contributions to this special issue.

To foster an academic community around the video essay as form of research and teaching in literary studies, we structure submissions in four phases, with submission two and three being followed by a digital work-in-progress seminar in which we discuss our projects as a group together with the editorial team:

- Abstracts (300 words) and one page-mood board which visualizes the project
- Rough cut of video essay
- Fine cut of video essay and first draft of academic guiding text
- Final cut of video essay and final draft of academic guiding text

The exacts dates for the work-in-progress seminars will be communicated to authors well in advance.

Guidelines for the video essay and the guiding text:

The video essay and the guiding text will be reviewed together according to the following criteria:

- Originality: the project makes an important and innovative contribution to knowledge and understanding
- Significance: the project expands the range and depth of existing research
- Rigor: coherence of aesthetic means and epistemic goals and/or clear arguments, precise methodology, powerful analysis, good citation practices (of written and audio-visual sources), follows ethical guidelines for research in the humanities
- Technical and stylistic execution: good sound quality, cinematography, editing and text/typography that serve the purpose of the project

While the co-editors cannot support the technical development of the video essay, we use the work-in-progress seminars to advise on the aesthetic and conceptual development of the piece.

The final cut of the video essay is handed in as a separate .mp4- video-file. The guiding text is handed in a Word-file according to the house style guide of the journal.

Working timetable:
31 MAY 2023: Submission of abstracts and mood board
JUNE 2023: Individual response to authors of abstract
SEPTEMBER 2023: Rough cut of the video essay
OCTOBER 2023: Work-in-progress seminar: Discuss rough cuts
DECEMBER 2023: Fine cut of the video essays and first draft of the academic guiding text
JANUARY 2024: Work-in-progress seminar: Discuss fine cut and first draft
MARCH 2024: Final cut of video essay and final draft of academic guiding text
MAY 2024: Individual feedback from peer reviewers
JULY 2024: Submit revised video essays and academic guiding text after the peer review
FALL 2024: Publication expected

Cited works and recommended readings:
Andersen, P.T. (2011). Hva skal vi med skjønnlitteraturen i skolen?. Norsklæraren, 2(11), 15–22.

Grant, C. (2013). How long is a piece of string? On the Practice, Scope and Value of Videographic Film Studies and Criticism. The Audiovisual Essay.

Grant, C. (2016). The audiovisual essay as performative research. NECSUS.

Hansen, S.R., T.I. Hansen & M. Pettersson. (2022). Børn og unges læsning 2021. Aarhus Universitetsforlag.

Ipsos. (2022). Barn&Ungdom 2022 – Målgruppe mellom 8 og 19 år. Ipsos Barn og ungdomsundersøkelser.

Keathley, C. (2011). La caméra-stylo: Notes on Video Criticism and Cinephilia. In A. Clayton & A. Klevan (Eds.), The Language and Style of Film Criticism (p. 176-191). Routledge.

Keathley, C. (2012). Teaching the Scholarly Video. Frames, 1(1).

Keathley, C., J. Mittell & C. Grant. (2019). The Videographic Essay: Practice and Pedagogy.

Lavik, E. (2012). The Video Essay: The Future of Academic Film and Television Criticism. Frames, 1(1).

Learning on Screen. (2020). Introductory Guide to Video Essays.

Norwegian Directorate for Education and Training (n.d.). Core Curriculum – Values and Principles for Primary and Secondary Education.

Nussbaum, M. C. (2016). Litteraturen etikk – følelser og forestillingsevne. Oslo: Pax forlag.

Swedish Ministry of Culture (2020). Barns og ungas läsing (Skr. 2020/21:95). Government of Sweden.

The Cine-files. (2014). Special Issue on Video Essay.

The Cine-files. (2020). Special Issue on the scholarly video essay.

Tørnby, H. (2020). Picturebooks in the Classroom. Perspectives on life skills, sustainable development and democracy & citizenship. Fagbokforlaget.

Example video essays and collections:

This selection is intended to give a sense of some of the different registers, structures and approaches adopted by video essayists.

• Ariel Avissar (ed.), TV Dictionary. Vimeo showcase.  

· Ariel Avissar and Evelyn Kreutzer (eds.), Once Upon A Screen vol. 2 (part 1), [in]Transition 9:3 (2022).

· Johannes Binotto, Practices of Viewing. Vimeo showcase.

· Stephanie Brown, ‘Desktop Documentary and the Practice of Everyday Life’ (2021).

· Elisabeth Brun, ‘3xShapes of Home’ (2020). Screenworks 11:1 (2021).

· Allison De Fren, ‘Fembot in a Red Dress’. [in]Transition 2:4 (2016).

· Miguel Mesquita Duarte. ‘The Birds, after Hitchcock’. [in]Transition 5:4 (2019).

· Chloé Galibert-Laîné, ‘Watching THE PAIN OF OTHERS’. [in]Transition 6:3 (2019).

· Ian Garwood, ‘The Place of Voiceover in Academic Audiovisual Film and Television Criticism’. NECSUS Autumn (2016).

· _____ ‘SLAP THAT BASS zoomed’ (2021). 

· Catherine Grant, ‘The Haunting of THE HEADLESS WOMAN’ (2019).

·_____‘Touching the Film Object?’ (2011).

· _____‘UN/CONTAINED: A Video Essay on Andrea Arnold’s (2009) Film FISHTANK’.

· Christian Keathley, ‘Pass the Salt’ (2006).

· Evelyn Kreutzer, On Psycho and The Witches’. The Cine Files 15 (2020).

· Evelyn Kreutzer and Noga Stiazzy. 'The Archival In-Between’. Audiovisual Traces 4 (2022).

· Kevin B. Lee, ‘TRANSFORMERS: THE PREMAKE (a desktop documentary)’ (2014).

· _____'Mourning with Minari' (2021).

· Jason Mittell, ‘ADAPTATION.’s Anomalies’(2016).

· Darline Morales, ‘Touki Dollars’. The Cine Files 11 (2016).

· Alan O’Leary, ‘No Voiding Time: A Deformative Video Essay’. 16:9 Filmtidsskrift (2019).

· Matt Payne, ‘Who Ever Heard…?’ (2019),

· Sight and Sound. (2020-2022). Annual best video essays polls: