CfP: Pop-rock Music and 2000s Cinema (an online symposium )


“No one listens to Springsteen anymore. He’s history!”

(Blinded by the Light):

Pop-rock Music and 2000s Cinema

– An online symposium –

Université Sorbonne Nouvelle, CREW, EA 4399 (France), Université Reims Champagne-Ardenne, CIRLEP, EA 4299 (France)

Organisers : Clémentine Tholas & Catherine Girodet

Keynote Speaker: Mark Duffett (University of Chester, UK)

Dates : 6 -8 pm (Paris Time) on :

                        Friday 29th January 2021 

                        Friday 5th February 2021 

                        Friday 12th February 2021

                        Friday 19th February 2021

Deadline for submission: 7th December 2020 

Please send a 250-word proposal to and

Presenters will be eligible to apply for publication in Imaginaires, an online academic journal of Reims University.

Scientific committee:Christophe Chambost (Université Bordeaux Montaigne), Catherine Girodet (CIRLEP, Université Reims Champagne-Ardenne & EMMA, Université Paul Valéry), Elsa Grassy (Université de Strasbourg), John Mullen (Université de Rouen), David Roche (Université Paul Valéry), Antoine Servel (Université Paris-Est Créteil), Clémentine Tholas (Sorbonne Nouvelle).All presentations will be conducted in English.

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Over the last 20 years, popular music has featured more prominently in cinemas, notably in the form of music biopics that dramatise the lives and careers of popular musicians across the generic spectrum: from rock and pop to country folk, blues, soul or rhythm and blues. A cursory glance at such biopics as Blinded by the Light (2019), Rocketman (2019), or Ray (2004) testifies to the tonal breadth and vitality of this syncretic genre.

In fictionalising the cultural and the personal, music biopics, biographical films, and music films conflate two popular art forms – cinema and music – that intermingle individual and collective experiences and speak to the collective consciousness and imaginary.

Music biopics lie at the intersection of two temporal and affective perspectives: whilst popular music provides the audience with an immediate and corporeal experience of sociability and intersubjectivity (Frith, 1996), popular cinema provides a mediated space for projecting fictionalised reality and reflecting upon it. Therefore, music biopics rely on a dual temporality: a vivid present story and retrospective construction. For example, when watching Ray which dramatizes Ray Charles’s career against the backdrop of Segregation racism, the viewer is immersed in the present time of Ray’s narrative whilst retrospectively reflecting upon the Segregation era in the US. 

Moreover, music biopics can be approached as a peculiar social process. In compelling imaginary identification with protagonists and artists, popular cinema and music enable a momentary collapse of ordinary subjective, interpersonal, and social boundaries (Gefen and Laugier, 2020; Frith 1996) and therefore offer an “immediate experience of collective identity”(Frith, 1996). Insofar as they bring together individuals whose social interactions are otherwise loose or non-existent (Frith, 1996; Blistène, 2020, online article), music biopics may be conducive to “weak ties” (Granovetter, 1973) and thus create indirect interactions between loosely related individuals.

Consequently, music and films conjure up real or imagined communities with their own semantics (i.e., signature style, language, textual and visual references), rituals, and shared experiences (at the concert, at the cinema). The social interaction amongst fans thus acts as a means to define oneself both individually and collectively, and to place oneself in wider “imaginative cultural narratives” (Frith, 1996, p 275)

To what extent do music biopics operate as transnational “memory sites”, i.e., material and immaterial objects that crystallise an individual or collective memory, suspend time, and bring together various social groups around peculiar values and ideals in order to lay claim to a collective identity (Nora, 1989)?

It is noteworthy that D.W. Griffith defines cinema as the laboring man’s university, thereby bringing to light its educational value and its ability to reach across social, cultural, and educational divides (Griffith, 1916). Could the music biopic use popular music to this educational end?

As part of this symposium focusing on the interactions between 2000s cinema and pop-rock, we invite submissions that consider the following issues (but not exclusively):

·       The music biopic as a form of “life-writing”

·       Imaginary world and real world

·       Imagined communities

·       The popular imaginary

·       Cultural narratives

·       Cultural memory

·       Identity construction

·       Popular values

·       Intermediality

·       Music biopic fandom

·       Myth-making

·       Celebrity studies

·       Re-empowering the ordinary

·       Fictionality and realism

·       Affective alliances

·       Imaginary identification

·       Cultural reinvestment

·       Cultural aspirations

·       Marketing appeal