2017 Late Summer Lectures

Starting at 17:30 promptly every Wednesday from 16th August – 4th October 2017 we have an exciting array of speakers all presenting papers under the theme of ‘Change’ at this year’s 2017 Late Summer Lecture Series, held at Alington House, Durham.

Lecture 1 (16th August): Ideas of Change, Rebirth and Stagnancy in the ‘Albina’ Prologue of The Middle English Prose Brut Chronicle

By Madelaine Smart, University of Liverpool

The ‘Albina’ prologue has been attached to the Middle English Prose Brut Chronicle since its first appearance in the vernacular, providing an explanation for the island being named Albion and the origin of the race of giants dwelling there. These two hitherto unaddressed mysteries were expanded upon and formed into a short but complex pre-foundation narrative that became permanently attached to the Brut in its Anglo-Norman, Latin and Middle English forms. The prologue presents the daughters of a great King, who plot to kill their husbands, are banished in boats and wash ashore a barren island, where they found a nation, naming it Albion, after the eldest sister Albina. Short on men, the sisters then propagate with devils and spawn the race of giants that Brutus conquers on founding Britain, after his own voyage at sea. Beginning and ending with long sea voyages, steeped in biblical and classical symbolism of rebirth, the nation of Albion is a second chance for Albina and her sisters. They are given an opportunity to change and redeem themselves of their former wickedness in their new and untainted land. Yet, the arrival of Brutus at the end of the text, having been reborn at sea himself, makes it clear that the second chance Albion offered has been wasted; nothing has changed and the nation has failed and Brutus is required to re-baptise the land, naming it Britain, after his own name. But why do the sisters not use this second chance and change? Why do they allow their nation to become stuck in a primal and monstrous state? In this paper, I will explore the stagnant and uncivilised Albion in contrast to the civilised and celebrated nations of Dioclician’s Syria and Brutus’ Britain that precede and follow it, discussing ideas of change, rebirth and stagnancy.

  • Madelaine is a third-year PGR at the University of Liverpool, researching the Albina Prologue of the Middle English Prose Brut Chronicle. Working predominantly with manuscripts Madelaine’s research is centred on charting the evolution of the Albina narrative in its Middle English Prose Brut form, and the differing portrayals of Albina and her story. Madelaine will be giving a conference at the CMS Graduate Conference in York, on Storytelling, in June, looking at scribal interference in manuscript retellings of the Albina Prologue. Madelaine is also the lead storyteller for The Liverpool Players at the University of Liverpool and Five Gold Rings, a Liverpool based Storytelling and Theatre Adaptation Company.

Lecture Two (23rd August): Alfred the Great through History – From Saxon Chronicles to The Last Kingdom

By David Barrow, University of York

No popular story has gone through more change than that of Alfred the Great, Anglo-Saxon king of Wessex at the end of the ninth century. After successfully defending his kingdom from Viking invasion, he put in motion a series of military, naval, educational and legal reforms that still impact our country today. ‘Rule Britannia,’ sang for years at the Last Night of the Proms, was originally written for a play celebrating this ancient British monarch. However, in the words of ‘Alfred’ himself in a recent episode of Horrible Histories: “I proved to the country I’ve got what it takes – but all people ask though: “Is it true about the cakes?””

This paper hopes to provide answers to that question and many others about the story of King Alfred. Where did the episode of burning the cakes come from? Why was it so popular? Why are the cakes the main element of his story that most people remember today? By way of a journey through the history of Alfred storytelling, I shall examine how the facts of history themselves have gone through dramatic change over the centuries. From the original Saxon chroniclers of Alfred’s life, through the eighteenth century, to the hero-worship so prevalent in the Victorian period; from Winston Churchill’s assertion that Alfred was ‘the greatest Englishman that ever lived’ to the king’s appearance in Bernard Cornwell’s The Last Kingdom and its recent television adaptation – I will show how the figure of Alfred has been moulded to suit every age. My paper shall also discuss the important influences of many historical figures of the north of England, not least St. Cuthbert (buried of course in Durham Cathedral), to Alfred’s developing legend.

  • I am a second-year PhD student at the Centre for Eighteenth-Century Studies at the University of York. My AHRC-funded research concerns representations of King Alfred the Great and the Anglo-Saxons throughout the eighteenth century, with a focus upon moments when the past was creatively invoked to respond to national crises. An interdisciplinary approach to literature informs my research, which examines epic poetry, theatre, political theory, sculpture, music, painting, ship-building and landscape gardening. I have been fortunate enough to be involved in many non-academic research projects – not least authoring a publicly purchasable Viking-themed holiday tour for a York-based travel company.

Lecture Three (30th August): The Lamentable And Trve Tragedie of M[aster] Arden of Feversham in Kent:’ When Masters became Tragic Heroes

By Iman Sheeha, University of Warwick

In this lecture, I examine the change in theatrical tradition that the anonymous play, The Tragedy of Master Arden of Faversham heralded in 1592. The group of plays usually described in criticism, since the nineteenth century, as domestic tragedies appeared between the 1590s and 1620s, distinguishing themselves by placing characters not belonging to the royal and noble classes centre stage and celebrating them as fit subjects of tragedy.  The combination of a protagonist’s humble social origins, the home-based setting of events, the personal, intimate and domestic subject matter and the tragic mode of theatrical representation that these plays share was something of a novelty at the end of the sixteenth century. Conventional theory of drama, with its origins in Aristotle, relegated the domestic, the personal and the socially humble to the medium of comedy, reserving the medium of tragedy to the depiction of socially elevated characters and to the representation of affairs of state and political rule. Examples of more traditional tragedies include Shakespeare’s Hamlet, King Lear, and Macbeth. Domestic tragedies shifted the balance, featuring English settings, English men and women, and subject matter that catered to the interests of ordinary men and women in their domestic and intimate lives.

This lecture offers insights into the change that domestic tragedies constituted, drawing on examples from five plays representatives of the genre, the anonymous Arden of Faversham (1592) and A Warning for Fair Women (1599), Thomas Middleton’s A Yorkshire Tragedy (1605), Thomas Heywood’s A Woman Killed with Kindness (1603) and Thomas Dekker, John Ford and William Rowley’s The Witch of Edmonton (1621). Key themes discussed are the genre’s departure from convention, representations of the domestic, of gender, and the use these plays make of the contemporary commonplace analogy between household and state to reflect on topics of a political nature.

  • Iman Sheeha is Leverhulme Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Department of English and Comparative Literary Studies at The University of Warwick. She holds a PhD in early modern drama from The University of Warwick. She is working on a book on representations of household servants in early modern English domestic tragedy, under contract with Routledge, forthcoming in 2019. She is also co-editing a collection of essays on the topic of early modern political culture and domestic plays, under contract with Manchester University Press, forthcoming in 2018. Her articles have appeared in Early Modern Literary Studies and The Apollonian: Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies.

Lecture 4 (6th September): Tics in the Theatre: The ‘Quiet Audience’ and the Neurodivergent Spectator

By Hannah Simpson, University of Oxford

It’s not unusual to hear people complaining about modern theatre audience etiquette. Benedict Cumberbatch made headlines in 2015 when he asked that fans to stop using their mobile phones at the Barbican Centre, Richard Griffiths has ejected spectators from the National Theatre, and the Theatre Charter, supported by no less than Stephen Fry, encourages audiences to police each other in bad spectator habits such as fidgeting, talking, and leaving the auditorium during the performance. So keen is our sense of the need for respectful silence that the modern spectator quickly forgets that the concept of the ‘quiet’ audience is a very new and very historically atypical one.

The modern spectator might also forget how the cult of the ‘quiet audience’ challenges the neurodivergent spectator, who cannot guarantee that her body will remain passively quiet during a performance. If the rustle of sweet papers or whispered comments are thought so disruptive, then what of the still more pronounced noises and movements of the neurodivergent spectator: the verbal tic or motor convulsion of the individual with Tourette’s syndrome, the self-comforting rocking of the child with autism, or the rushed exit of the individual in the grip of a PTSD flashback? In short, how does our new modern focus on audience etiquette challenge neurodiverse individuals from accessing the theatre? And how would re-establishing a ‘relaxed audience’ affect the potential of the theatre auditorium as a public sphere?

This lecture – which welcomes a noisy audience! – charts the change in accepted spectator behaviour, using written, drawn and filmed archival sources to explain the establishment of the modern ‘quiet audience’. It calls for a change in our modern theatre etiquette, with a particular focus on Relaxed Performance. It ends by theorising how changing our expectations of audience behaviour once again could re-stimulate a new phenomenological experience of the theatre, with striking affective and political consequences.

  • Hannah Simpson is a PhD student in English Literature at St. Cross College, University of Oxford. Her dissertation explores physical pain and disability in post-WWII theatre and choreography, focusing on the work of Samuel Beckett and Tatsumi Hijikata. A strong interest in disability theory, gender theory and dismodernism informs her research. She has presented and chaired at numerous national and international conferences, and has articles published in Comparative Drama and Warwick Exchanges and forthcoming in Etudes Irlandaises and the Journal of Modern Literature.

Lecture Five (13th September): Changing Entertainment: the Magic Lantern and the Nineteenth Century

By Phillip Roberts, University of York

 ‘Times are changed, and all for the worser’. Henry Mayhew, the great investigative reporter, once interviewed a street showman about the changing entertainment landscape over the early decades of the 19th century. As the commercial revolution gathered pace and manufacturers produced ever-increasing quantities of toys, instruments and media trinkets, the earlier traditions of showmanship started to dissipate in a new culture of ‘respectable’ entertainment. The showman complained: ‘Green’s dead, and all in the line’s dead, but me. The galantee show don’t answer, because magic lanterns are so cheap in the shops. When we started, magic lanterns wasn’t so common; but we cant keep hold of a good thing in these times.’

At the end of the 18th century the lantern was used as an entertainment device by travelling entertainers. It had an unseemly reputation as a device of the necromancers and charlatans, having long since lost its association with experimental science. The lantern market began to change in the first few decades of the 19th century as the lantern was taken up by new manufacturers and sold as a consumer novelty to the increasingly affluent middle classes. This was the era of the first consumer media technologies; the lantern, the thaumatrope and the praxinoscope brought fantastic visions into the homes of middle-class people and disrupted centuries old traditions of popular storytellers, who now struggled to find audiences. Jean-Antoine Nollet said that the lantern peddler’s fame had made them ridiculous in the eyes of many people.

Using an original (working) 1821 Phantasmagoria Lantern and slides from across the first half of the 19th century (plus some new slides painted especially), I will tell the story of this transformative moment in the history of media and entertainment. I will show how the new technologies of media helped to shift visual media away from popular storytelling traditions towards a new consumer culture driven by middle-class spending habits.

  • I am a researcher working with the National Science and Media Museum and University of York. I am writing a history of the magic lantern in the 19th century, aiming to show the many interrelated causes of the magic lantern industry and its ongoing effects on visual media over the following decades. I have published work in Film History, Cultural Politics, The Magic Lantern, The Science Museum Journal, Deleuze Studies and Early Popular Visual Culture and am the editor of three special issues on media culture.

Lecture Six (20th September): Panel: Life, Death, and the Victorians, with Claire Horton and Asha Hornsby

Change By Claire Horton, Loughborough University                        

 Change is, and always has been, an inevitable consequence of life and was arguably at its greatest during the long Victorian era which saw major industrial, technological, social and scientific developments, particularly in the field of Victorian mental science.  Before the nineteenth century, the mind had been viewed positively, as a faculty which strengthened an individual’s identity and contributed to defining a sense of self.   But, by the 1830s, this viewpoint had begun to change with the emergence of mesmerism, first brought to England by Franz Anton Mesmer.  Its popularity spanned the entire social spectrum and, as Alison Winter has successfully argued, effectively changed Victorian culture by becoming one of its central preoccupations.

Some of the reputed side-effects of mesmerism included ‘ghost-seeing’ which was often discussed in medical circles, especially in relation to involuntary functions of the mind including dreaming, somnambulism, reverie, hallucination and mental derangement.   Such psychological states had previously been little understood but advancements in mental science and the publication of Samuel Hibbert’s Sketches of the Philosophy of Apparitions (1824) and David Brewster’s Letters on Natural Magic (1832) linked these conditions not only to the mind but to memory itself.  Such theories attracted the attention of many novelists including Charles Dickens who explored their implications via his fiction.  However, this aspect of Dickens’ work has received relatively little critical attention despite the fact that Dickens displayed many pre-Freudian ideas in his work, especially where his ghost stories are concerned.  To demonstrate, this paper will focus on two of Dickens’ works including A Christmas Carol  (1843) and ‘The Signal-Man (1866)’, both of which may be read literally or as psychological explanations for ‘ghost-seeing’.

  • Claire Horton has been an English lecturer for several years and currently works at Lincoln University as an EAP Tutor (English for Academic Purposes).  In addition, Claire is in the final stages of her thesis on Dickens and Memory, a project undertaken at Loughborough University, and is due to submit later this year.  Claire presented aspects of this work during a conference at Goldsmith’s University in 2014.  The paper, entitled: ‘The Problematic Retrospect in David Copperfield’ has since been published by Goldsmith’s in their online journal: GLITS-e4.


Protesting Progress?: Fiction and the Victorian Vivisector (1870-1910) By Asha Hornsby

The mid-late nineteenth century vivisection debates are part of a broader narrative of rapid scientific specialisation and professionalization. Experimental physiologists claimed to have conquered feelings that corrupted or obstructed a dispassionate clinical gaze and campaigned for the autonomy of laboratory medicine from the dictates of public feeling. For the infamous experimenter Claude Bernard, ‘a physiologist is no ordinary man.’ ‘Possessed and absorbed by the scientific idea that he pursues’, he ‘does not hear the cries of animals, he does not see their flowing blood, he sees nothing but his idea’. Whilst statements such as these ostensibly showed extreme detachment, opponents remained convinced that vivisectors delighted in causing pain and were enchanted by seeing the body in parts.

Intriguingly, while the pages of physiological handbooks and anti-vivisection periodicals describe live animal experiments in detail, Victorian novels that feature vivisectors tend to shy away from representing such acts. Instead, novelists redirected their readers’ gaze upon the vivisector’s physical body which they suggested might unwittingly betray his otherwise unforthcoming interiority. This paper compares two little known propaganda stories with Wilkie Collins’s novel Heart and Science (1883) and explores how these writers tried to pin down their slippery scientists by using modalities endangered by the cutting-edge practices of experimental physiology. By combining physiognomy and pathognomy with textual terminology, anti-vivisection novelists forwarded a more traditional, scholastic, and non-invasive approach to medical practice and set those emotions which vivisectors claimed to have quashed, centre-stage. Whereas a critical eye and ability to dissect textual meaning was crucial to the Movement’s propaganda strategy, reading bodies required a less invasive approach to avoid forms of critique which looked very much like vivisections. Nevertheless, the fictional impulse to decipher what lay beneath the vivisector’s discomfiting smooth exterior raised anxious questions about the relation between the pen and the scalpel.

  • Asha Hornsby is currently a second-year PhD student in UCL’s English Department. She gained her BA in English and History at Exeter University and her MA in English from Durham. Her research interests include Victorian poetry and fiction, critical animal studies, literary ecology, protest movements, and the history of British medical science. Her thesis examines the role of literary figures and their work in the mid-late nineteenth century anti-vivisection movement.

Lecture Seven (27th September): Panel: Apocalypse or Utopia – what comes next?, with David Kross-Cane and Sarah Lohmann

After The End: Post-Human Discourse in the Late-Anthropocene, or Tentacles of Past, Present & Future By David Cross-Kane

 In the hyperstitional model…fiction is not opposed to the real. Rather, reality is understood to be composed of fictions – consistent semiotic terrains that condition perceptual, affective, and behavioural responses.

– CCRU, 1997-2003

Art and literature, most notably in the genre of Science fiction, has long depicted the Late-Anthropocene, yet, we have only recently entered the Anthropocene; an epoch determined by humanity’s influence on the Earth’s ecosystems and geology. This is the “era of saturation,” simulation, hyperobjects and cybernetic enterprise.  Manifestos linger yet seem obsolete, whilst humans gather a sense of their own rapid decline humanity accelerates towards the end. Not the end of the world, mind, just the end of us (humans). What comes after the end of humanity? What is the post-human and who are ‘They’, if there is indeed a ‘They’ to be had? Kurt Vonnegut’s Galapagos depicts the post-human form as seal-like creatures directly descended from a survivor of the Hiroshima bomb. Michele Houellebecq envelops his late-capitalist narrative, Atomised, through the voice of a new species manufactured and evolved through cloning who deem the human experience inferior to their own.

Both these narratives are haunted; the absence of the human is visible in the presence of a past-human. The human body is increasingly displaced inside and outside the world, a world post- modernity, in which a We/They relationship becomes deterritorialized and reterritorialized within the Xenosystems of the everyday. The term Xenosystem here denotes that which is systematic is also alien, an unknown system, it is the outside come inside. Late-capitalism may be one such Xenosystem, the tentacular presence of an (un)earthly horror stretching deep into our recent past, extending from the now and into the ‘what will be’. Via a reading of postmodern SF narratives, and taking into account Jameson, we can ask if the engineering of a post-apocalypse and post-human imaginary goes someway to acknowledging the impact of humanity and late-capitalism has had on the future of both the human species and the planet Earth. After all, as Mark Fisher rescripts Jameson and Žižek we recount, “it is easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism.” – what then comes after the end?

  • David Cross-Kane is a MPhil/PhD candidate at Goldsmiths, University of London in the department of English & Comparative Literature. His area of research concerns representations of the apocalypse in narrative cultures, trauma studies, and philosophy. Having previously presented papers at Goldsmiths and Trinity College Dublin, he recently presented at the Goldsmiths GLITS symposium alongside Laura Mulvey. In addition to his academic work David has written texts and produced musical works for various publications, including N-O-O-N Magazine, White Noise City and released an EP on Invada Records.

 The Coming Races: Society, the Individual and the Evolution of Utopia in the 20th Century and Today By Sarah Lohmann

Utopian literature has historically presented itself as at the service of the community, showcasing a better life for all. However, in several utopian texts from the genre’s ‘golden age’, around the turn of the last century, an interesting tendency can be found that is somewhat at odds with this stated aim. In novels such as Edward Bulwer-Lytton’s The Coming Race, William Henry Hudson’s A Crystal Age, Edward Bellamy’s Looking Backward and William Morris’s News from Nowhere, there seems to be a curious reliance on some sort of ‘natural eugenics’ that has produced humans evolved to a much higher standard. Though not always made clear, the physical and social effects speak for themselves – whether in the frightening efficiency of Looking Backwards’ ‘industrial army’, the sphinx-like elegance of The Coming Race’s Vril-ya, or the innocent beauty of Hudson and Morris’s pastoral utopians. In my talk, I will argue that this unsettling eugenicism can in fact be seen as undermining the very thing that could possibly make a literary utopia successful – the collective evolution that its societal transformation offers, rather than that of individuals. In fact, I will argue that this fact can be partially tied to the most common criticism of literary utopias: that they are mere static blueprints, inflexible and illusory. Moreover, I will contrast this paradoxical individualism with the collective-based focus of later feminist utopian novels from the 1960s, ‘70s and ‘80s, such as Marge Piercy’s Woman on the Edge of Time, Joanna Russ’s The Female Man and Sally Miller Gearhart’s The Wanderground – all of which, I will argue, present self-organising systems whose egalitarianism makes collective evolution not only possible, but highly sustainable. Finally, I will examine what these findings mean for the overall purpose of the literary utopia, as well as for its role in our current political climate.

  •  Sarah Lohmann is a PhD student at Durham University, working on 21st-century feminist utopias under the supervision of Professors Patricia Waugh and Simon James. Before coming to Durham, Sarah completed an MA (Hons) degree in English literature and philosophy as well as MLitt degrees in both ‘Women, Writing and Gender’ and analytic philosophy at the University of St Andrews. She is using this background to inform her interdisciplinary PhD thesis, which spans science fiction, utopianism, feminist theory, analytic and continental philosophy and complexity theory.

Lecture Eight (4th October): Panel: A Sea-Change: Contemporary Poetry and the Coastline, with Philip Jones and Sarah Hymas

Only a sea-change: experiences of flux and transformation at the coastline in modern British poetry By Phillip Jones

The coastline is a geography that is constantly shifting. Changes in tides make mapping the area difficult while erosion in one section of the coast can be met with the depositing of new material in another. Yet this geographical flux often occurs within predictable patterns. The rise and fall of tides are a daily occurrences while processes of erosion happen at coastlines heavily managed by human intervention.

This paper wants to explore the ways several modern British poets have responded to these patterns of change and return, examining how they enter the poetry not just at the level of ideas but in the form and language of the text themselves.

Firstly this paper will outline the long history of cultural representation of the coast as a place of change and metamorphosis, extending from Homer’s Odyssey to twentieth century writers like W. S. Graham. This section will also touch on wider social experiences of the coast as site of difference and transformation.

Having established this background, the paper will then move on to explore a range of contemporary poetic responses to this cultural lineage. The paper will look at Alice Oswald’s invocation of Proteus at the end of Dart, Peter Riley’s negotiation of change within predictable patterns of family holidays in Sea Watches, and Wendy Mulford’s experience of storms and the suddenly shifting east coast in The East Anglia Sequence.

This paper will show how contemporary poets have responded to the long cultural association of the coast with change and metamorphosis, elaborating how they have adapted these ideas, images and experiences within contemporary contexts.

  • Philip Jones is in the final year of his PhD at the University of Nottingham. His thesis explores the way contemporary British poets construct and understand coastal landscapes in their work. He is more broadly interested in the relationship of poetry to space and place and how literature might aid in the production of new kinds of geographic knowledge.

Becoming Sea: A Blurred Lyric of the Ocean By Sarah Hymas

This paper investigates how applying the phenomenology of myopia to Delueze’s concept of becoming can re-make our relationship to the sea, dissolving the duality of terrestrial and marine existences. From the perspective of a creative practitioner, I use poems from Jorie Graham’s 2008 collection Sea Change to illustrate how the lyric is able to enact the process of becoming. I consider how shifting subjectivities create entanglements between the self and other to disrupt notions of authority and fixed anthropocentric perspective; and explore the ways in which deterritorialization of language and form open up the lyric as a site of discovery for its protagonist and reader. The paper examines the lyric occasion as an individual and cultural response to the sea as simultaneously distant and embodied, visible and invisible, certain and precarious.

  • Sarah Hymas is a poet researching a practice-led PhD at Liverpool University. Funded by AHRC, she is investigating the potential of the lyric to communicate the interdependence between people and the sea; focusing on the intersection of poetry, marine and climate science and phenomenology. Her writing has appeared in print, multimedia exhibits, lyrics, pyrotechnical installations, on stage and as an improvised opera. Host is published by Waterloo Press (2010). Her artistbook Lune (2013) was featured in The Guardian Books Blog as an excellent example of the form. She continues to make artistbooks, as well as site-specific audio pieces.

http://www.sarahhymas.net      @sarahhymas



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