Dr Lucy Bell

Senior Lecturer in Spanish and Translation Studies
PhD, Cantab

Academic and research departments

School of Literature and Languages.


University roles and responsibilities

  • Admissions Tutor for Languages

    Research projects


    Postgraduate research supervision

    Postgraduate research supervision

    My teaching

    My publications


    LUCY AMELIA JANE BELL (2012)The Death of the Storyteller and the Poetics of (Un)Containment: Juan Rulfo’s El llano en llamas, In: The Modern Language Review107(3)pp. 815-836 Modern Humanities Research Association

    Critics have often read Juan Rulfo's El Llano en llamas (1953) as a return to the oral storytelling tradition. My contention, however, is that his short stories constitute an eminently modern break from cultural, narrative tradition—or what Ángel Rama has termed transculturation. I first explore how the death of the storyteller, prophesied by Walter Benjamin (1936), is staged within Rulfo's stories; and second, how Rulfo uses fragmentation as a literary device, which in turn potentiates further transculturative processes. I argue that it is in the ruins of traditional narrative that new meanings, stories, and relations emerge.

    Editoriales cartoneras are independent publishers who make their books out of recycled cardboard, which have spread across and beyond Latin America over the last twelve years (since the birth of Eloísa Cartonera in Buenos Aires in 2003). They have often defined themselves, and been defined by critics, against transnational publishing corporations, but descriptions of this ‘resistance’ are often vague and sometimes contradictory. This is the first study to focus on the relationship between cartoneras and multinational publishers, examining areas of opposition and overlap. The paper begins by exploring the effects of the rise of transnational corporations on the world of publishing in Latin America, including neo-imperialistic centralization, concentration, and capture by market and political forces. It then turns to two case studies based (principally) in Mexico: La Verdura Cartonera and Pensaré Cartoneras. Close readings combined with interview materials illuminate the principles and practices of cartoneras, from community and collaboration to marginality and autonomy, that challenge those of transnational publishing corporations. My contention is that, while these tiny publishing projects cannot possibly ‘compete’ with such large corporations, what they can do is open spaces in which – to use the words of Aurelio Meza (Kodama Cartonera) – things can be done differently.

    LUCY AMELIA JANE BELL, SN Lygo-Baker (2019)Student-centred learning: a small-scale study of a peer-learning experience in undergraduate translation classes, In: Language learning journal47(3)pp. 299-312 Routledge

    This paper examines student responses to a small-scale pilot of peer learning in undergraduate translation classes. It examines the possible benefits and risks of a learner-centred approach and explores these through feedback from two groups of undergraduate modern language students attending translation classes over a semester at a UK university. With the first group, peer learning was implemented over a six-week period in the second half of the semester; with the second group, only a single 'one-off' peer-learning session was delivered. Feedback from the former group suggests a largely positive experience, while much more resistance and uncertainty are evident in feedback from the latter group. The paper explores possible reasons for successes and pitfalls in peer learning, and recommends some strategies for implementing a learner-centred model as an effective alternative to more traditional forms of translation teaching.

    LUCY AMELIA JANE BELL (2017)Recycling materials, recycling lives: cardboard publishers in Latin America, In: Literature and sustainability: Concept, text and culture

    In her contribution to Literature and Sustainability, Bell subjects the much-vaunted ‘three pillars’ of sustainability to critique via an example not from literary text but from literary production. She discusses the operations of the Latin American editoriales cartoneras publishing houses, where books are handmade from recycled cardboard and often individually produced and sold, as a material exemplar of sustainable literary intervention. 

    LUCY AMELIA JANE BELL (2014)Photography, Punctum and Shock: Re-viewing Juan Rulfo's Short Stories, In: Bulletin of Hispanic Studies91(4)pp. 437-452

    Prominent and proliferating readings locate mythical structures at the heart of Juan Rulfo's literary world. Notably, Raymond Bartra and María Luisa Ortega suggest that his works are structured around universal, timeless myths that embed individual experiences in a collective narrative. In this article, I argue that Rulfo's narrative technique is also connected with an extra-literary, eminently modern técnica: photographic technology. Rulfo's short story collection El llano en llamas (1953) is viewed through three intersecting critical frames: Walter Benjamin's writings on the modern ‘shock’ experience; the idea of the ‘knock-out’ in Julio Cortázar's theory of the short story; and Roland Barthes' notion of the photographic ‘punctum’. My contention is that an aesthetics of photographic shock underlies Rulfo's short stories, producing tears in the narrative fabric and invoking the reader's participation through particular, personal, contingent effects.

    Alex Flynn, Lucy Bell (2019)Returning to Form: Anthropology, Art and a Trans-Formal Methodological Approach, In: Anthrovision7.1 VANEASA - Visual Anthropology Network of European Association of Social Anthropologists

    This article puts forward a methodological pathway for work between anthropology and art that is premised on the relation between social and aesthetic form. It draws on the authors’ work with cartonera publishers in Latin America, small community-based collectives whose members make low-cost books from recycled cardboard in an explicit attempt to make both the consumption and production of literature accessible to wider society. We begin by describing Dulcinéia Catadora, a cartonera publisher based in São Paulo that is the ethnographic focus of this article. We then present three theoretical propositions, which enable us to analyse not in isolation from, but rather in relation to, social and political processes, asking how ethnographic practice can intersect with aesthetics in a mode which goes beyond the illustrative. We conclude by proposing what we term a ‘trans-formal’ methodological approach based on a method of ‘emulation’, opening up new possibilities for research that is multi-disciplinary, transnational, horizontal and participatory.

    LUCY AMELIA JANE BELL (2011)Articulations of the Real: from Lacan to Badiou, In: Paragraph: a journal of modern critical theory34(1)pp. 105-120 Edinburgh University Press

    This article gives a comparative analysis of the way in which Lacanian psychoanalysis and Alain Badiou’s mathematical ontology understand the category of the real, respectively, as the foundation of individual subjectivity or the name of being-as-being. A number of shifts in focus arise from the fundamental difference in the location of the void: from the individual act to the collective event; from death drive to immortal truth; from subjective destitution and cathartic purification to transformative interventions and constitutive thought. These shifts are exemplified, elaborated and analysed through a close reading of the thinkers’ respective commentaries on Sophocles’ Antigone. Foregrounding what is philosophically at stake in these differences, the article defends Badiou against Lacanian critics (most notably Slavoj Žižek and Eleanor Kaufman) by examining the ethical and political force of his innovation.

    Lucy Bell (2015)Viscous Porosity: Interactions between Human and Environment in Juan Rulfo's El Llano en llamas, In: Journal of Iberian and Latin American Research Taylor & Francis
    Lucy Bell (2018)Place, People and Processes in Waste Theory: A Global South Critique, In: Cultural Studies33(1)pp. 98-121 Taylor & Francis

    Scholars across the humanities and social sciences have long sought to theorize waste, and more particularly the relationships between humans – their history, society, culture, art and thought – and their discards. My contention, though, is that these theories, since Mary Douglas’s Purity and Danger (1966) and Thompson’s Rubbish Theory (1979), have been predominantly based in and on global North contexts and, concomitantly, have taken as their axiom the distance between our cultures, lives, experiences and our material rejects. By intersecting existing cultural theories of waste with two important emerging schools of thought – environmental justice and new materialism – I argue that the exclusion or side-lining of places, notably in the global South, where countless people live on a day-to-day basis with, on, and off waste, leads to certain imbalances, biases and gaps. Most notably, the livingness and agency of material rejects is often overlooked in theories that oppose humans and other-than-human waste. By way of conclusion, I propose the notion of ‘living waste’ – a more literal and material take on Bauman’s well-known concept ‘wasted lives’ – as a new point of departure for a reconceptualization of waste that might escape the prevailing dualisms and account simultaneously for ‘full-belly’ and ‘empty-belly’ contexts, human (wasted) lives and other-than-human waste materials, and understandings of lived experiences of waste.

    Lucy Bell, Patrick O’Hare (2019)Latin American politics underground: Networks, rhizomes and resistance in cartonera publishing, In: International Journal of Cultural Studies23(1)pp. 20-41 SAGE Publications

    Cartonera publishing emerged in post-crisis Buenos Aires with the birth of Eloísa cartonera (2003), whose founders proposed a radically new model of making books out of recycled cardboard, purchased from, and made with, cartoneros (waste-pickers). Since then, this model has been adapted across Latin America by an ever-growing number of collectives (currently around 250). In this article we ask: What relations and/or networks have enabled this model of underground cultural production to grow on such a scale? What modalities of resistance do they enable? Our contention is that Deleuze and Guattari’s theory of rhizomes helps in understanding the ways in which cartoneras work, network and spread. Examining texts and practices across Argentina, Mexico and Brazil through literary analysis and ethnography, we make a case for the political significance of cartonera networks and, more broadly, the possibilities afforded by rhizomatic formations for emerging modes of micro-political action and transnational cultural activism.

    Lucy Bell (2018)Waste matters: urban margins in contemporary literature, In: Green Letters22(4)pp. 446-450 Taylor & Francis Group
    Lucy Bell (2015)Narrative, Nature, Society: The Network of Waste in Andrés Neuman’s Bariloche, In: Modern Language Review110(4)pp. 1045-1066 Modern Humanities Research Association

    Refuse is a key theme, image and structural device in the Spanish-Argentine writer Andrés Neuman’s novel Bariloche (1999), whose protagonist is a waste collector in Buenos Aires. My contention, though, is that waste not only fulfils a narrative function, but in fact constitutes what Bruno Latour terms a ‘network’, a web of interactions between discursive, natural and social processes. Bringing together close literary analysis with insights from environmental criticism (Stacy Alaimo and Jane Bennett) and sociology (Zygmunt Bauman and Martin O’Brien), this paper reveals the complex interactions between the human and non-human world in the novel’s urban setting.

    LUCY AMELIA JANE BELL, LAJ Bell (2011)Between Ethics and Aesthetics: the Residual in Samuel Beckett's Minimalism, In: Journal of Beckett Studies20(1)pp. 32-53 Edinburgh University Press

    This article offers a comparative analysis of 1960s minimalism in visual art (Robert Morris and Richard Tuttle) and music (Philip Glass and Steve Reich) on the one hand, and Samuel Beckett’s prose texts Têtes-mortes (1967) and ‘Sans’ (1969) on the other, allowing for a rethinking of Beckett’s later aesthetics. Taking into account a lesser-known study of Beckett by Adorno and tying this in with the more famous theories of Maurice Blanchot, Alain Badiou and Jacques Derrida, the ethical dimension of minimalism is brought to the fore in order to shed new light on an art movement which has often been deemed to be a dead-end in art history. In particular, the article seeks to explore Beckett’s ethics of the minimal residue as a response to the catastrophe of the Holocaust, and as a consequent form of resistance to incorporation, appropriation and annihilation.

    Patrick O'Hare, Lucy Bell (2020)Cultural Responses to the War on Drugs: Writing, Occupying, and ‘Public-ing’ in the Mexican City, In: City and Society32(1)pp. 203-227 Wiley

    Cardboard publishers (editoriales cartoneras) are small, independent publishers linked by the recovered cardboard that covers their books, a commitment to the promotion of local authors, and a drive to make literature accessible. This cultural movement, whose actors often form part of broader social movements, has spread across Latin America and beyond, with other 250 active collectives. Drawing on ethnography conducted with some of Mexico’s thirty cartoneras, and literary analysis of their texts, this paper contributes to debates on violence and public space in the context of the brutal Mexican “war on drugs”. Dialoguing with a body of scholarship spanning from Setha Low’s pioneering urban anthropology to Jacques Rancière’s art theory, we argue that car-toneras might be considered “public-ers”, in that their book-making labor involves the production not just of books, but of new social relations, communities, and publics. By analyzing aesthetic materials in relation to the social contexts in which they are embed-ded, we demonstrate that decisions to denounce violence and perform its alternatives on the written page, and in the public plaza, are inseparable and intertwined cultural forms of action that create affective encounters, contact zones, and spaces of dissensus in the city. [cardboard publishing; social movements; urban space; dissensus; violence]

    LUCY AMELIA JANE BELL, Rex Butler (2015)"Badiou", in The Žižek dictionary Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group

    The Žižek Dictionary brings together leading Žižek commentators from across the world--and Žižek himself--to present a companion and guide to Žižekian thought. Each of the short essays examines a key term, exploring its development across Žižek's work and how it fits in with other concepts and concerns.

    LUCY AMELIA JANE BELL, Alberto Vital Díaz (2015)"Nuevas perspectivas: una aproximación a lo visual en los cuentos de Juan Rulfo", in 60 años de El llano en llamas Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México

    Esta ponencia ofrece nuevas perspectivas sobre la relación muy compleja que existe entre la técnica cuentística y literaria de Juan Rulfo y la técnica (en su doble sentido) moderna y extraliteraria de la fotografía. Para el análisis de su recopilación de cuentos El llano en llamas (1953) hago uso de tres perspectivas críticas: los escritos de Walter Benjamin en torno al shock en la experiencia moderna, la idea del knockout en la teoría del cuento de Julio Cortázar y la noción del punctum fotográfico propuesta por Roland Barthes. Mi hipótesis es que una estética de shock fotográfico estructura los cuentos de Rulfo, desgarrando el tejido narrativo e invocando la participación del lector por medio de efectos particulares, personales y contingentes. En este sentido, quiero argüir que, hasta de los cuentos que a primera vista parecen estar atrapados en el pasado, emergen nuevas perspectivas, miradas y visiones que se pueden ligar a la experiencia de la modernidad y a formas modernas de la experiencia. En aras de brevedad, me enfocaré sobre todo en el cuento que le da el título a la obra, ‘El llano en llamas’.  This paper offers new perspectives on the complex relationship between Juan Rulfo’s literary art of brevity and the modern, extraliterary technique and technology of photography. Rulfo’s short story collection El llano en llamas (1953) is viewed through three intersecting critical frames: Walter Benjamin’s writings on the modern shock experience, the idea of the ‘knock-out’ in Julio Cortázar’s theory of the short story, and Roland Barthes’s notion of the photographic punctum. My contention is that an aesthetics of photographic shock underlies Rulfo’s short stories, producing tears in the narrative fabric, and invoking the reader’s participation through particular, personal, contingent effects. In this sense, I wish to argue that even the short stories that at first sight seem to be caught in the past offer new perspectives, outlooks and visions that can be linked to the experience of modernity and to modern forms of experience. In the interest of brevity, I will focus above all on the titular short story, ‘The Burning Plain’.  

    Lucy Bell, Alex Flynn, Patrick O'Hare (2020)From cartonera publishing practices to trans-formal methods for qualitative research, In: Qualitative Research1(20) SAGE Publications

    Interdisciplinarity, multidisciplinarity and counter-disciplinarity are the hallmark of cultural studies and qualitative research, as scholars over the past three decades have discussed through extensive self-reflexive inquiry into their own unstable and ever-shifting methods (Denzin and Lincoln, 2018; Dicks et al., 2006: 78; Grossberg, 2010). Building on the interdisciplinary thought of Jacques Rancière and Caroline Levine on the one hand and traditions of participatory action research and activist anthropology on the other, we bring the methods conversation forward by shifting the focus from disciplines to forms and by making a case for aesthetic practice as qualitative research process. In this paper, the question of methods is approached through the action-based Cartonera Publishing Project with editoriales cartoneras in Latin America – community publishers who make low-cost books out of materials recovered from the street in the attempt to democratise and decolonise literary/artistic production – and specifically through our process-oriented, collaborative work with four cartonera publishers in Brazil and Mexico. Guided by the multiple forms of cartonera knowledge production, which are rooted not in academic research but rather in aesthetic practice and community relations, we offer an innovative ‘trans-formal’ methodological framework, which opens up new pathways for practitioners and researchers to work, think and act across social, cultural and aesthetic forms.

    L Bell, A Finella, M Wynne-Davies (2011)Sexual violence in literature; a cultural heritage?, In: J Brown, S Walklate (eds.), Handbook of Sexual Violence(2)pp. 52-68 Routledge

    Liam Bell, Amanda Finella and Marion Wynne Davies

    Marcy Schwartz is well known in Latin American Literary and Cultural Studies for her rigorous, innovative work on urban culture, in particular her monographs Writing Paris (1999) and Intervenciones urbanas (2000), and the volumes co-edited with Daniel Balderston (Voice-Overs, 2002) and Mary Beth Tierney-Tello (Photography and Writing in Latin America, 2006). Her latest book, Public Pages, which synthesizes ten years of research, travels and conversations, is surely her magnum opus.

    The Latin American short story has often been viewed in terms of its relation to orality, tradition and myth. But this desire to celebrate the difference of Latin American culture unwittingly contributes to its exoticization, failing to do justice to its richness, complexity and contemporaneity. By re-reading and re-viewing the short stories of Juan Rulfo, Julio Cortazar and Augusto Monterroso, Bell reveals the hybridity of this genre. It is at once rooted in traditional narrative and fragmented by modern experience; its residual qualities are revived through emergent forms. Crucially, its oral and mythical characteristics are compounded with the formal traits of modern, emerging media: photography, cinema, telephony, journalism, and cartoon art.