Late Summer Lectures 2015

From the ways in which Vikings have inspired writers through the ages, to a literary history of chocolate, Late Summer Lectures 2015 showcased some of the cutting-edge research performed by postgraduate researchers throughout the Northeast.

A Literary History of Chocolate, by Nicoletta Asciuto and Amy Smith

Happiness is as simple as a glass of chocolate.” So wrote Joanne Harris in her bestselling novel, Chocolat. But chocolate has not always been associated with pleasure alone. For the ancient Maya it served a ceremonial function, in the salons of Restoration Europe it was seen as a subversive drink, and in the twentieth century it became a symbol of mass consumption. In this selective literary history of chocolate, the editors of the Literary Kitchen blog dip their bookmarks into the melting pot and reveal that chocolate has taken on different metaphorical flavours over the years. Read more about this talk here. [MP3 version]

‘Your New Hospital for the Intellectuals’: The Literary Salon as an Alternative Space for War, by Katherine Cooper

When we think of a literary salon, we might imagine the aristocratic drawing rooms of seventeenth-century France, or decadent dinner parties in bohemian London, where writers could show off the latest artistic tastes. However, during the period before and during the Second World War there was a more serious aspect to literary salons. Salons across Europe became places where writers in exile could attempt to preserve national culture, and to challenge Fascist oppression. It was here that ideas about Europeanism, which continue to shape our identity today, were formed and debated. Katherine Cooper (Newcastle University) takes us inside the drawing and dining rooms of Europe in the 1920s and 1930s.

Old English Riddles and the Dream of the Rood, by Michael Baker

Anglo Saxon (or Old English) riddles can be both bewildering and revealing. Because these 900 year old poems are often untitled, it’s sometimes impossible to be sure just what the answer to a riddle might be. They invoke our imaginations by depicting various symbols, characters and possible solutions. In the process, we as modern readers get a sense of how Anglo Saxon writers and interpreters thought about these texts. In this talk, Michael Baker helps us decode some of these intriguing poems, especially the Old English masterpiece, The Dream of the Rood. Read more about this talk here. [MP3 version]

Victorian Vikings and the World of Saga Tourism, by Thomas Spray

Tourists today visit Iceland to confront its awesome geology, or to visit sites associated with its Viking past, but in the nineteenth century, British explorers who encountered this strange land did not always understand what they were seeing: sailors mistook puffins for flying rabbits and geographers reported icebergs that could spontaneously combust into flame. Iceland was a world of magic and mystery. As Thomas Spray explains, it was only towards the end of the century that people began to take a proper look at Icelandic culture, especially its ancient literary myths and traditions, and to see the land of fire and ice in a new light. Read more about this talk here. [MP3 version]

Narrating Everyday British Life by Authors of Muslim Heritage, Then and Now, by Sibyl Adam (University of Edinburgh) and Hannah Kershaw (University of York)

In today’s multicultural Britain, it is hard to believe that in the early twentieth century there were perhaps only 25 Indian female students in the whole country. Brought across from India to be educated in a British college in 1906, Atiya Fyzee was therefore one of the first female Muslim authors to write about living in the UK. By the twenty-first century, Britain has of course, become more cosmopolitan, but even so the recent novel Maps for Lost Lovers, by Nadeem Aslam, shows the problems South Asian migrant communities continue to face. Read more about this talk here. [MP3 version]

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