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Mr James Strowman

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Member of the Department of Music  


James’s PhD thesis, supervised by Prof. Julian Horton and Dr Patrick Zuk, examines how the music of Henri Dutilleux (1916–2013) engages with post-1945 cultural and political concerns in France. More specifically, the thesis shows that the composer’s “obsession with the idea of memory” is on the one hand a fixation on the collective trauma of the Second World War and the Holocaust, and on the other hand a reflection on the phenomenological processes of memory, in particular Sartre’s phenomenology, which was developed during the Occupation. In this sense, this doctoral project analyses Dutilleux’s music through an understanding of the complex role France played in these key historical events and explores how his commitment to the ‘duty of memory’ (‘devoir de mémoire’) is reflected in his approach to composition.

Prior to his doctoral studies, James completed a BA (2014; first-class) and an MA (2015) at Durham University Music Department. He is the recipient of an Arts and Humanities Research Council Doctoral Studentship awarded by Northern Bridge.

James is presently working as a lecteur in the English Department of Université Paris Cité and an adjunct at Université Sorbonne Nouvelle.

Previously, he served as the editor of the Centre Pompidou’s magazine, Balises (2018–2019). 

Conference Papers 

‘“Anthem for Doomed Youth”: Reading Trauma through the Sublime in Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem’, ‘Music/Sound Through the Lens of Trauma: Methodology, Theory and History’ conference, Utrecht University (July 2022). 

‘“Dear Ezra, who knows what cadence is”: Musical Settings of Modernist Poetry’, ‘Modernist Structures’ conference, Société d’études modernistes (SEM), Université Caen Normandie (June 2022). 

‘Breaking the Silence: Representing Trauma in The Shadows of Time by Henri Dutilleux’, ‘Trauma Studies in the Medical Humanities International Conference: New Directions for Research’, Durham University (April 2018). 

‘“La mémoire, l’histoire, l’oubli” : « double discours » dans la deuxième symphonie d’Henri Dutilleux’, ‘Congrès doctoral international de l’Institut de recherche en musicologie’, Université Paris Sorbonne, Maison de la recherche (April 2018). 

Ainsi la nuit d’Henri Dutilleux : La mémoire entre parenthèses’, doctoral seminar ED267 Arts & Médias, Université Sorbonne Nouvelle (April 2018)


Current Research


Intermedial links between music and poetry:

  • Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem and Wilfred Owen’s war poetry
  • Musical settings of modernist poetry by John Cage, Elliott Carter, and Virgil Thomson

Research interests

  • Twentieth-century French history
  • French poetry and literature
  • The music of Henri Dutilleux
  • Music and memory
  • Musical modernisms
  • Musical settings
  • Anglophone modernist poetry
  • Phenomenology