Full details of seminars taking place in the 2009/10 academic year.
28 Oct 2009
The English Literature research seminar series was established in 2009. One of the aims of the first series was to invite colleagues from across the university, and with an interest in English Literature, to talk about their current research in the form of a seminar paper to stimulate debate. This is a step towards establishing, with Humanities (Falmer), faculty- and university-wide inter-curricular and multi-disciplinary links (eg with the Centre for Research in Memory, Narrative, and Histories) aimed at collaboration in fields including literature, humanities, cultural and historical studies, psychology, and social sciences.
This series has already proved successful in fostering contacts amongst colleagues in Eastbourne, Hastings, Grand Parade and the Universities of Sussex and Otago, New Zealand.
All seven research seminars – held early on Wednesday evenings in the new Checkland Building at Falmer - have been free. Papers last approximately 25-30 minutes, followed by discussion. There is also the opportunity to meet, talk, and have a drink beforehand. The events have been well attended so far by some 20-30 participants on each occasion, including academics, students (both undergraduate and postgraduate), as well as members of the general public. Announcements are disseminated on the webpages of the Centre for Research and Development (CRD) which also archives the information.
28 October: Prof Chris J. Ackerley, Department of English, University of Otago, New Zealand and Malcolm Lowry on the Web
Chris Ackerley is Professor of English at the University of Otago in New Zealand where he has lectured since 1976, being Head of Department in 2001-03. Prior to that, he studied for his BA and MA at the University of Canterbury, New Zealand and for his PhD at the University of Toronto
Chris’s main research field is Modernism, with expertise in the fiction of Malcolm Lowry and Samuel Beckett. He also has research interests in Nabokov, Eliot, Pound, Joyce, J. G. Farrell, Borges, and Roa Bastos. His research speciality is Annotation.
Books which he has authored, or co-authored, include: A Companion to ‘Under the Volcano’ (1984), Demented Particulars: The Annotated ‘Murphy’ (2004), Obscure Locks, Simple Keys: The Annotated ‘Watt’ (2005), The Faber Companion to Samuel Beckett (2006), as well as A History of the Otago Bridge Club (1996).
Chris is currently working on a critical edition of Samuel Beckett’s Watt and a comprehensive study of Samuel Beckett and Science. He is also co-editing An Encyclopedia of Samuel Beckett and updating his 'Hypertextual Companion to Under the Volcano' (2006).
18 November: Prof Stuart Laing, Pro-Vice-Chancellor Academic Affairs, University of Brighton, 'The Anatomy of Excess: J. G. Ballard’s The Atrocity Exhibition'
J.G. Ballard’s The Atrocity Exhibition (published in 1970) remains one of his most puzzling and shocking books. This paper discusses Ballard’s claim that "from The Atrocity Exhibition you could reconstitute the late sixties almost in toto and get it all right".
The paper originates from a contribution to a conference which launched the 2005 Tate Liverpool Exhibition, ‘Summer of Love: Art of the Psychedelic Era’ and touches on the (now somewhat archaic) question of how certain kinds of writing may reflect or articulate the underlying features of specific socio-historical moments. It will offer a reading of The Atrocity Exhibition in light of Ballard’s comment that "You’ve got to use, I think, a much more analytical technique than the synthetic technique of the Surrealists". Reference will also be made to John Peel’s posthumous autobiography and to Adrian Henri’s painting The Entry of Christ into Liverpool.
Prof Stuart Laing’s recent and current research interests include: mid twentieth century English writing (1920-1980); interfaces of cultural studies and media studies; and higher education and community engagement.
3 March: Nigel H. Foxcroft, University of Brighton, 'The Shamanic Psyche of Malcolm Lowry: An Intercontinental Odyssey'
In pursuit of Malcolm Lowry’s spiritual odyssey on his mystic mission to attain truth and salvation, this inter-disciplinary paper investigates his quest for harmony, uniting man’s natural, supernatural, and celestial roots. This involves a study of his application of philosophy, psychoanalysis, anthropology, cabbalistic astrology, and even voodoo in ‘landscape of memory’ publications such as Under the Volcano and Dark as the Grave.
Influenced by Sir James Frazer’s ethnographic research into the Aztec mind, Lowry combines modernism with astrology, magic, the occult, and, indeed, shamanism. His cross-cultural worldview provides us with an anthropological basis for psychotherapeutic and shamanic healing, together with a sense of psychogeographic regeneration by ethnographic and artistic means.
It is claimed that Western civilization relies heavily on the materialistic principles of universal reason, derived from the Scientific Revolution, at the expense of aesthetic and spiritual values. A new Renaissance in intellectual thought is essential for the realisation of Lowry’s paradisiac symbol of the soul of Eridanus in the reconciliation of the rational, scientific intellect of the Enlightenment with the subconscious, imaginative intuition of European Romanticism.
10 March: Richard Jacobs, University of Brighton, 'Fallen Women/ Fallen Narratives: Chapter 14 of the novel I Am Happy '
The ‘fallen woman’ in the Victorian novel is the ideologically necessary counterpart to the ‘angel in the house’. Narratives of fallen women, as ‘othered’ or ‘bad’ narrative, serve to legitimate and naturalise the Edenic ‘good’ master-narrative of heterosexual middle-class marriage in the novel’s drive towards closure.
This paper considers ways in which ‘fallen’ narratives come to stand for a kind of pure or mere fictiveness or pattern in the novel and discusses narrative form in terms of appropriation and coercion, as well as suggesting further strategies deployed in the Victorian novel whereby typologies of narrative shadow each other in an Edenic and fallen relation.
The paper is part of a novel which contains, dispersed among a narrative of loss and exclusion, an examination of the impact on literary texts of the myth of the Fall, in the form of eight lectures delivered by the novel’s protagonist on an American university campus. The relationship and counterpointing between the biographical plot and the critical material in the lectures make up the novel’s inner life.
24 March: Prof Deborah Philips, University of Brighton, ‘Love in a Post-Colonial Climate: Post-War “Exotic” Romance Fiction’
The rose of romance, the globally recognised logo of Mills and Boon publishers might seem to be a very English rose, but the fantasy of true love has always involved a measure of international travel. While Love is claimed by the publishers and authors of Mills and Boon as universal, eternal and unchanging - the forms and contexts for Love shift in different historical and geographical contexts. The post war heroine is a very different creature from her pre war and current incarnations and the settings for romance are rather different in the aftermath of 1945. The Mills and Boon view of the world was expressed for most of the 1950s with a strap line on the dust jackets of their fiction: 'Are you reading this book in some place far away from London - in New Zealand or Australia, in South Africa or Canada or in Singapore?'. The readers and writers of the popular romance were necessarily implicated in the transition from Empire to Commonwealth after the Second World War. The market for romance fiction had changed, and so the map of romance and the hero's and heroine's place within it had to shift.
As the colonies of the British Empire were becoming the newly independent states and territories of the commonwealth, the fictional construction of Englishness and its place in the world could not be assumed as a secure identity. Popular romance novels of the post war period are replete what Homi Bhabha has termed the concept of 'fixity'. In the post-war colonial romance there is a recurrent narrative pattern - in which older brothers or fathers are lost, dead or enfeebled in an erstwhile British Colony, remnants of a faded Empire. The youthful heroine appears to offer a narrative future that promises reconciliation and partnership in the new shape of the Commonwealth, but nonetheless, she continues to assume a white superiority.
28 April: Jill Seddon, University of Brighton, ‘Dear Sadie: Letters and the Construction of Design History'
Paradoxically, as fewer and fewer individuals use pen and paper to write personal letters, scholars across disciplines seem to become more and more interested in studying and preserving them. (Jennifer Adams, ‘Recovering a Trashed Communication Genre: Letters as Memory, Art and Collectible’, Charles R. Acland (ed) Residual Media, 2007).
This paper examines the ramifications of letter writing for conducting business, in this case design journalism. Drawing upon a previously overlooked cache of letters between architect and designer Sadie Speight and architectural historian and theorist Nikolaus Pevsner, it analyses their correspondence as the primary means through which they agreed (often after considerable, and sometimes heated, debate) the form and content of the ‘Design Review’ section of The Architectural Review, which ran from 1944 to 1946. The letters offer a unique insight into the minutiae of magazine article production at the time, from initial suggestions for themes and products to be illustrated, to layouts and the compilation of captions, including an entertaining vision of ‘Herr Professor’ Pevsner physically cutting and pasting these into a mock-up.
At times Speight and Pevsner corresponded on a daily, occasionally twice daily, basis, and this was supplemented by meetings and, rarely, telephone calls. The geographical and temporal separation represented by their letters serves as a marker of the most significant difference between working methods then and now. This is reinforced by the physical appearance of the letters, typed upon flimsy wartime-issue paper.
The latter part of the paper moves beyond the practical information to be gleaned from the study of these letters and, using recent literary writings on epistolatory literature and life writing, seeks to explore their role in the construction of the professional persona of each of the correspondents. They offer the opportunity for an examination of a gender-inflected working relationship that was at times very difficult, as well as productive. The Speight-Pevsner letters reveal not only frustrations and irritations in the face of impeding deadlines, misunderstandings about their relative roles, culminating in Speight’s threatened resignation, but also expressions of concern about health and glimpses of domestic and social life.
The paper concludes with a consideration of the wider implications of this case study; the survival of letters as physical objects, the role of the reader who is not the intended recipient, their value as cultural repositories and their usefulness as a resource for the design historian.
19 May: Dr Kate Aughterson, University of Brighton, ‘The Courtesan and the Bed: Successful Tricking in Middleton’s A Mad World My Masters (Or the psycho-sexual geography of a bed in the seventeenth century)’
This paper argues the Courtesan and her bed are central to Middleton’s radical dramatic representations of gender and sexuality in his play A Mad World My Masters.
This early play offers a clue to both his theatrical methodology and a new answer to the conundrum of his gender politics. Middleton achieves a radical representation of female sexuality and autonomous agency, through a combination of theatrical and generic innovations.
Crucially and uniquely, Middleton’s courtesan celebrates her autonomy through her explicitly corporal talents, acting on multiple stages, which are metonymised through the physical stage property of the bed. In her rendition, the body and the bed are places of comic liberation – Middleton fuses and balances older festive comic traditions with a carnivalesque display of city practices where the new economy of credit and exchange is celebrated through the body of a courtesan. Unlike other whores and courtesans of early modern drama, who are demonised or reformed, Middleton’s courtesan raises more unstable possibilities.
This paper argues that by side-stepping the usual binaries of virtue and vice, virgin and whore, Middleton creates a third space and a third sex, from the perspective of whose bed we can view his satire on how bourgeois masculinity self-destructively displaces all sin onto the sexuality of women.