From the legends of the Holy Grail to science fiction apocalypse, Late Summer Lectures 2016 explored a host of topics in literature and culture. Lectures were given by postgraduate and postdoctoral researchers from around the UK.
Alchemy, the Philosopher’s Stone, and the Holy Grail, by Curtis Runstedler
The philosopher’s stone and the holy grail are two of the most sought-after artefacts in myth and legend. Both promise great power – and both carry great risks to those who seek them. From the medieval stories of Thomas Malory and John Lydgate, through to the modern movies of Indiana Jones and Harry Potter, Curtis Runstedler takes us on a quest through literature and film in an attempt to track down the meaning of these elusive objects.
Breathing in Science Fiction, by Arthur Rose
From Darth Vader’s laboured respiration, to the divers gasping for air in James Cameron’s The Abyss, the sounds of breathing in science fiction are not only memorable, they also draw attention to the act of breathing itself. In this talk, Arthur Rose breathes new life into the genre. While most of the time we do not think about our own habitual breathing, science fictional adventures in places where air is in short supply help us to reflect upon the importance of our breath, and the significance of its loss.
The Gothic Theology of Frankenstein, by Jon Greenaway
Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein presents a monstrous creature that has terrified generations of readers as the embodiment of evil. But just how monstrous is the creature really? And who is the more evil, the creature or his creator? Jon Greenaway, of the Manchester Centre for Gothic Studies discusses the theological beliefs that were prominent in Mary Shelley’s own day, and in light of them he asks us to take another look at the novel’s hideous progeny.
Cuthbert: A Not So Benevolent Saint, by Abigail Steed
Over a millennium since his death St Cuthbert is venerated by the thousands of visitors, both men and women, who attend his shrine in Durham Cathedral each year. In the early years of the Cathedral, though, in the midst of a monastic power struggle, women were not so welcome in this great building. Abigail Steed retells some of the stories and legends that sprung up around Cuthbert, who allegedly enacted miracles of vengeance and suffering on any woman who dared to approach his tomb.
The Contemporary Apocalyptic Imagination, by Diletta De Cristofaro
From nuclear war to climate change, the hands of the doomsday clock appear to be ticking inevitably closer to catastrophe. Diletta De Cristofaro (Harlaxton) surveys how modern writers have responded to the threat of a global apocalypse. She wonders why so few recent novels imagine optimistic scenarios in which global annihilation provides the chance for humankind to rebuild a more utopian civilisation on the other side.