Next week features the Michaelmas Term meeting of OCCT’s Fiction and Other Minds Seminar. On Wednesday 10 November, at 5:15pm GMT, Professor Jennifer Gosetti-Ferencei (Johns Hopkins), will be discussing ‘Cognitive Ecology in Literature: Ecocritical Thinking in the Poetics of Modernism.' While ecological literary studies began with environmentally sensitive studies of realist nature writing and have tended voluminously to romantic evocations of landscape, the ecological turn to modernist works is still emerging. This paper will outline an ecologically relevant critique of human cognition within modern poetic thought—grounded in Hölderlin and Nietzsche but expressed in Rilke and other modernist writers—focusing not primarily on the depiction of non-human nature but on the critique of human cognition of it. Informed by recent and phenomenological approaches to cognition, this interpretation will present modernist poetics as contributing to a cultural ecology, initiating alternative ways of thinking in our relation to the non-human world.
In Fourth Week, on Monday, our Discussion Group welcomed Yousif M. Qasmiyeh for a discussion of, and reading from, his acclaimed poetry collection Writing the Camp (2021). This event was streamed online. For more information about the collection, and to purchase a copy, click here.
Calls for Papers and Events
1. CfP: Spectacular Orientalism in Early Modern Europe (1529 - 1683)
24 - 25 February 2022
Hosted by the Centre for Comparative Literature, Goldsmiths, University of London, in collaboration with the Society for European Festivals Research. Papers are invited on any aspect of the conference’s theme. The deadline has been extended to 19 November 2021.
These two days of talks and discussion will explore new perspectives on the representation of the Orient in early modern European art and performance between 1529 and 1683, the period framed by the two sieges of Vienna by Ottoman armies. The conference will examine different settings in which the Orient was imagined and talked about. In particular, it will interrogate various types of public display common in early modern societies, in which the self-projection of power and identity was often interwoven with the spectacle of the Other: courtly and public festivals, civic ceremonies and rituals, etc. It will also consider staged productions, notably operas and ballets, whose multisensorial character added to the inherent orientalist tendency towards display, while heightening the attraction of the exotic for their audiences.
Edward Said has argued that the spectacle in Orientalism was meant to substitute for and so mask the crude violence of the colonial enterprise. But was this the case of orientalist representations in the C16th and C17th? On the contrary, early modern scholars have shown that, far from arising from a desire for self-enhancement and imperial ambitions, early modern attitudes were, in many cases, a defensive reaction fostered by a sense of inferiority and vulnerability. Early modern Orientalism was undoubtedly affected by geopolitical factors, notably the expanding Ottoman Empire and its advances in Eastern Europe, but also the growing importance of Persia, India, China, and Japan in the second half of the C17th. In terms of wealth, power and technology, Europe was inferior to both its Middle Eastern and Far Eastern rivals.
However, it is true that early modern Orientalism relied on genres and aesthetics that allowed for a profound ambiguity towards the imaginary East. Twisted stereotypes, fabrications and misconceptions coexisted with fresh impressions about the Orient and a genuine interest in Eastern cultures, as evidenced in the growing number of travelogues which went to inform performances of the East back in the West. Denigration and fascination were shared in equal measures. Representations also evolved in a way that reflected and revealed Western needs, concerns and agendas, and served as imaginary resolutions of real anxieties about Islamic wealth and might, or a nostalgic feeling of backwardness towards Far Eastern opulence.
It is our hope that papers will address the rhetorical multiplicity and instability of early modern Orientalism in the performing arts, as well as sketch its possibilities for change in the C18th, or contrast the imaginary construct of the Orient in public spectacle, with the real appearance of Eastern envoys, who took the opportunity offered by their official welcome to project their culture and religion to the delight of onlookers.
Proposal for papers should be sent by 19 November 2021 to Professor Marie-Claude Canova-Green (email@example.com). Paper proposals should not exceed 300 words.
Please note that the conference is likely to held online and the number of papers (in English exclusively) will be relatively small.
To allow time for discussion the papers should not last more than 20 minutes.
2. Event: Towards a Taxonomy of Guilts
5 November 2021
1.00pm - 2.00pm GMT
Seminar series in partnership with the Centre for the Study of Cultural Memory (CCM) and Birkbeck Guilt Working Group
Co-convened by Joseph Ford (IMLR), James Brown and Sam Ashenden (BBK)
This two part seminar will take place on 5 November and 10 December.
5 November: Part 1 (1pm - 2pm GMT)
These two papers introduce some of the themes of the work of the Guilt Group by drawing them together in relation to an obvious core question about what we mean by guilt. There are several current definitions of guilt, and one of them (the one that is most commonly articulated by contrasting guilt with shame), has a particular salience. We seek to avoid definitions of that kind. That’s partly because guilt strikes us as intrinsically plural, and in turn because several different discourses and practices have conceptions of guilt that are in some degree internal to themselves. If that were the extent of guilt’s plurality, one would need a multidisciplinary approach to map its forms. The only snag is, they wouldn’t have much to do with each other, beyond the curious circumstance of these different conceptions all happening to be denoted by the same word: guilt, in legal, psychological, religious, political, and other senses. But the situation is more complicated than this, for these different forms interact, and in this first paper we’ll seek to map these interacting forms of guilt, by locating them schematically in terms of several underlying dualisms. The result is an approach to guilt(s) that is at once genealogical (the mutations and interactions of guilts over time are among the things that make it resistant to definition), and generatively structural.
10 December: Part 2 (1pm - 2pm GMT)
The second paper in this series aims to demonstrate the practical value of the approach to guilt that we outlined in November. We’ll do so by examining several cases. We won’t make a final decision about which examples to explore until after we’ve seen what’s of interest to members of the CCM/Guilt seminar. However, the peculiar ways in which guilt can figure in cases of contested whistleblowing are indicative of the kind of thing we’re likely to discuss. Much discussion of whistleblowing assumes more stability in relation to guilt in the way whistleblowing plays out than one can always find in practice, where the situation can easily become strange and fluid. Inasmuch as guilt is a feeling (something fully accepted only during the twentieth century), the guiltiest in a legal and/or moral sense are sometimes all but immune to it. The relatively righteous whistleblower who seeks to call wrongdoers to account by the professed standards of the organisation in which they both work, may well feel the guilt the guilty deny. Indeed, whistleblowers will often have a sense of guilt foisted on them, and sometimes identify with it so much as to seek to punish themselves—in extreme cases, by contemplating suicide. We’ll seek to show some of the complicated ways in which legal, psychological, moral, ritual, and other kinds of guilt can interact, and will conclude by outlining a form of guilt that’s emerged as central in our thinking: constitutive guilt.
Samantha Ashenden teaches in the Department of Politics at Birkbeck, University of London. She is the author of Governing Child Sexual Abuse: Negotiating the Boundaries of Public and Private, Law and Science (2004), co-editor (with Chris Thornhill, University of Manchester) of Legality and Legitimacy: Normative and Sociological Approaches (2010), and (with Andreas Hess, UCD) of Judith Shklar’s lectures On Political Obligation (2019) and Between Utopia and Realism: The Political Thought of Judith N. Shklar (2019). With James Brown she co-edited the 2014 special issue of the journal Economy and Society on guilt. They convene the Birkbeck Guilt Group.
James Brown is an Associate Research Fellow in the Department of Politics at Birkbeck, University of London. He teaches theatre at Richmond University, and theatre, literature, and film at IES London. He has published on Shakespeare, social theory, science fiction, romanticism, and literature in film. In 2014 with Sam Ashenden he co-edited an interdisciplinary special issue of the journal Economy and Society on guilt. They convene the Birkbeck Guilt Group.
All are welcome to attend this free online event - you will need to register in advance to receive the online joining link. To register to attend part one starting at 1pm GMT on 5 Nov, please go to: https://modernlanguages.sas.ac.uk/events/event/25078
To attend the second part taking place 10 Dec please click here.
3. Event: Queer Homemaking II
Friday 19 November 2021
3pm - 4pm GMT
Organisers: Francesco Albé and Stephanie Ng (Cambridge)
This seminar sets to apply the theoretical explorations discussed in the previous session to the analysis of two literary texts: Maggie Nelson’s The Argonauts (2015) and Sasha Marianna Salzmann’s Ausser Sich [Beside Myself] (2017). Nelson’s cross-genre memoir evokes the intimate negotiations of sexuality, bodily transformations, caretaking, and family-making between the author and her transgender partner Harry. Salzmann’s debut novel follows Ali’s search for their missing brother, a journey into their Jewish-Russian family history, and their multiple linguistic, cultural, and gender identities. Both texts are deeply concerned with queer home-making as theorised by Ahmed, Fortier, and Kilgard: searching for queerness both beyond and within heteronormative structures of kinship through a language that evades their exclusory and totalising allure. Central questions in this reading-group-style discussion will be: what literary strategies are employed to articulate new, queer ways of homemaking? How can literature prompt us readers to read, see, feel differently?
Participants are kindly requested to read the following:
Maggie Nelson, The Argonauts (Minneapolis: Graywolf Press, 2015) – in particular, pp. 1 - 40 and pp. 87 - 102.
Sasha Marianna Salzmann, Ausser Sich (Berlin: Suhrkamp, 2017) – in particular, Chapter “Valja”, pp. 257 - 275 [German original]
Sasha Marianna Salzmann, Beside Myself, trans. by Imogen Taylor (Melbourne: Text Publishing, 2019) – in particular, Chapter “Valya”, pp. 221 - 237. [English translation]
All are welcome to attend this free online event, starting at 3pm GMT. You will need to register in advance to receive the online joining link. To register go to: https://modernlanguages.sas.ac.uk/events/event/24075
4. Event: Stephen Spender Prize 2021 Celebration
There are only two weeks to go until the Stephen Spender Prize 2021 celebration event, which will take place virtually on Wednesday 17 November, 6 - 7pm (GMT). Thank you to all those of you who have already registered!
If you haven’t registered yet, please let us know you’re able to attend by registering here: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/stephen-spender-prize-celebration-event-2021-tickets-191035390997.
It promises to be a wonderful evening of readings, interviews, and conversation, with prizes awarded by our judges Khairani Barokka, Samantha Schnee, Daljit Nagra, and Urdu Spotlight judge Sascha Aurora Akhtar. We hope that you will join us to celebrate all our winners and commendees, and to share in the pleasure of poetry in translation.
5. Event: Soviet Milk: Translating Motherhood in Contemporary Literature
This seminar is organised with the support of the University of Exeter and an AHRC Networking Grant to the organiser, Muireann Maguire. Soviet Milk is an online seminar celebrating, and exploring, the symbolism of breastfeeding in literature—specifically in fiction from Latvia and the former Soviet Union, but also in Swedish and English-language writing.
Speakers include the award-winning Latvian author, Nora Ikstena, whose 2015 novel Mātes piens (published by Peirene Press in the UK as Soviet Milk) follows three generations of Latvian women connected by mothers’ milk; B.J. Epstein (University of East Anglia), a scholar, translator, and author of Portrayals of Breasts and Breastfeeding in Literature (forthcoming with Anthem Press, 2022); Maddie Rogers, the publishing assistant at Peirene, and the host of the Borderless Book Club for fiction in translation; and Meike Zeirvogel, founding editor of Peirene Press, and author of several novels with motherhood themes, including her acclaimed Magda (2013) and most recently Flotsam (2019).
You can register at https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/soviet-milk-translating-motherhood-in-contemporary-literature-tickets-181674893497