Université de Strasbourg

Isabelle Marc

Biography - Isabelle Marc

Complutense University of Madrid, Spain & USIAS Fellow, Contemporary Approaches to Artistic Creation and Reflection (ACCRA), University of Strasbourg, France

Isabelle Marc, USIAS Fellow 2021

With a PhD in French literature from the Complutense University of Madrid (Spain), where she is now associate professor, Isabelle Marc works on French contemporary culture, especially on mainstream popular music and literature. Her research focuses on the relationship between aesthetics (popular, highbrow, middlebrow), identity (national, gender and racial) and transcultural phenomena in the European context (cultural transfers and music diplomacy).

From a cultural studies and gender studies perspective, she has published extensively on French ACI (auteur-compositeur-interprète - which can be considered as equivalent to the figure of singer-songwriter in English) and popular music in general in journals such as Modern & Contemporary France, French Cultural Studies, Belphégor and Volume! La revue des musiques populaires, and on French contemporary women writers, in particular Virginie Despentes. She has recently co-edited three collective volumes: The Singer-Songwriter in Europe: Paradigms, Politics and Place (Routledge, 2016); Canon et écrits de femmes en France et en Espagne dans l’actualité (2011-2016) (Peter Lang, 2020) and Carmen revisitée/Revisiter Carmen (Peter Lang, 2020). In 2014-2015, she was awarded a Leverhulme Research Fellowship to study music transfers and cultural public policies at the University of Leeds (United Kingdom), where she co-convenes the European Popular Musics Research Group; she is convenor of the research group on Literary and Cultural Studies and Gender Studies at Complutense University and is editor of Thélème. Revista Complutense de Estudios Franceses.

During her time in Strasbourg, Isabelle Marc will be hosted by Professor Alessandro Arbo, from the research unit Contemporary Approaches to Artistic Creation and Reflection (ACCRA), and carry out her research within a new Interdisciplinary Thematic Institute (ITI) of the University of Strasbourg: the Centre for research and experimentation on the artistic act (CREAA).

Project - Pop divas: popular music, representation and gender in the digital era in France

01/08/2021 - 31/08/2022

The aim of this project is to analyse representations of French ‘pop divas’, i.e. the most popular women music artists in France, both in public and critical discourses and in their own work, over the last 20 years. It will adopt an interdisciplinary perspective, combining cultural studies and gender studies, focusing on the analysis of gender politics in the context of the digital era.

French popular music since the 2000s has undergone profound shifts in its production, mediation and reception processes, mainly under the influence of digitalization and globalization, but also in terms of gender relations: women artists are now more visible, they get more media and critical attention and obtain better commercial success. In fact, the very success and visibility of artists as different as Clara Luciani, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Aya Nakamura, La Féline, Yseult and Aloïse Sauvage challenge traditional male dominance and sexism in French popular music. Moreover, in the way they construct their identity, these women artists undermine traditional visions of masculinity and femininity, both providing and reflecting ‘queer’ models to the mainstream public. Often, they also incarnate diverse ethnic and cultural identities, which challenge the all-white and Franco-French representation of Frenchness.

The aim of this project is thus to explore this new configuration of French popular music by deconstructing the elitist and legitimised ideal of the masculine artist, which is still highly relevant in France, and to study the role played by women artists in contemporary French popular music, using artists such as Mylène Farmer, Christine and the Queens, Aya Nakamura and Angèle, as main case studies. Secondly, it aims to analyse how the most popular among these women artists are situated and situate themselves with respect to the model of the male singer-songwriter and to gender politics in general. It will further reflect on the extent to which the digitalization of culture has been a key factor in the creation and reception of these new pop divas by means of the creative use of social media, reaction videos and other public responses, and on the interaction between cultural trends and corporate interests.

France 2030