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Showing posts from January, 2013

Between Bodies 2013

I'm very excited to say that a conference that myself and Dr Margaret O'Neill (NUI Maynooth) have been organising for the last nine months or so is very close! The conference seeks to think about bodies and embodiment, especially bodies in their liminality and interaction, and bodies in Irish literature, culture and history. We have three really brilliant plenary speakers and no less than sixteen panels covering everything from wounds to space, maternity to modern fiction. It's primarily a literature-centered event, but we also have contributions from geography, art history, the medical humanities and more.

It's going to be exciting (I hope), and there are lots of details (including a full, albeit provisional, programme) you can peruse just by clicking the Between Bodies link on the toolbar above.* Or simply click here.

The conference is kindly supported by the School of English, Theatre and Media Studies at NUI Maynooth, and Fáilte Ireland.

* After the conference, th…

40 Monograph Challenge #2: British Romantic Writers and the East

Loath as I am to violate my own criteria so swiftly after starting my challenge of reading recent monographs, this book is not actually from 2000 or later - it's 20 years old. I must admit this surprised me (I thought it was a little more recent), but as it is a monograph I really should have read before in detail, I'm going to include it anyway.

Title: Nigel Leask, British Romantic Writers and the East: Anxieties of Empire (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992)

Methodology: Leftist New Historicism turned to the colonial
Critical Context: New Historicism, Edward Said, Homi Bhaba, some early 'non-politicised' work on Oriental motifs in Romantic literature (e.g. Schwab)
Thesis: Although Europe does define itself against its colonial Others, this is not without anxiety. The empire-building project itself is haunted by fears of corruption: of becoming 'Oriental' (violent, tyrannical) and of the 'Other' appearing at the heart of the Same.

In a nutshell: Le…

A Note on Nature

I've recently been watching the fantastic BBC nature documentary 'Africa', and thinking quite a lot about nature, violence and evolution. I've also recently had an argument (I think this one did become an argument, rather than a mere debate...) about nature with a student, which stemmed from the admittedly provocative statement on my part that nature didn't exist.

Part of the problem, I think, is that I was making two rather different, albeit interrelated, arguments (intellectual flaw on my part). The first is material, and responds to the notion that much of what we describe as nature is actually framed and altered by human activity - from farmland that little resembles the farmland of even one hundred years ago, to the economic and legal hive of activity that allows certain 'wilderness' areas to survive as wildernesses. This has become a momentous argument now, given that human activity is so extensive (climate change, water pollution etc) that there is l…

Swift's Corinna and the Pathetic Body

Swift's biting 'A Beautiful Young Nymph Going to Bed' is a poem built on a foundation of disgust. Turning away the muse at the close seems a somewhat belated, even deliberately ironic, gesture, since Swift has already dragged the reader's eye across a grotesque variety of sores, wasted flesh and abject fluids. The standard reading of the poem's disgust is to indict it for misogyny (as is standard with most readings of Swift, with the notable exception of Margaret Anne Doody's 'Swift Among the Women'), and see cruelty directed at a monstrous female flesh - in particular, the ageing female flesh. Male desire can make nothing of a female body that does not fit ideals of beauty, and thus dehumanises it. Yet in seminars this week there were some interesting attempts by students to take the poem against the grain, and I'd like to explore that possibility further.

One undergraduate picked up on a certain note of pathos which accompanies the absolute passivi…

40 Monograph Challenge #1: The Shock of the Real

Last year, I decided that my research was threatening to become too ruthlessly pragmatic - in that if I was writing an article or chapter on something, I would attempt a solid survey of the major criticism and then scour only what was specifically relevant to finishing the piece. Unlike during a doctorate, when I had enough time to read and read and read, I began to feel that maybe I was losing touch with what was going on in Romantic/Long 18th Century Studies more generally (it's also hard to attend conferences, and see what is going on at the cutting edge, when the pressures of the academic job market catapult you around repeatedly). There were also fields of study in Romanticism (emotion and affect, for instance) which I was fascinated by, but when I talked to people actually researching primarily on those topics, I felt hopelessly under-read.

As such, I decided to set time aside (with varying degrees of success) to read up-to-date monographs essentially unconnected with what I…