Wandering Across Scandinavia in Egils Saga, by Kate Marlow
An island nation that wants to be involved in the politics of wider Europe, but also removed from it. A fractious debate over power, sovereignty, the rule of law. The experiences of emigrants and immigrants. Not a potted summary of twenty-first century political events, but rather of the themes raised by the thirteenth-century Icelandic poem, Egil’s Saga, and the travels and travails of its eponymous hero. Kate Marlow tells a tale that gives us a tantalising glimpse into identity, place and history. Read more about this talk here.
Bakhtin and Shakespeare, by Helen Clifford
All the world’s a stage – one of Shakespeare’s more famous sayings, and perhaps now almost a cliché. However, Helen Clifford uses the work of Russian literary theorist Mikhail Bakhtin to cast a new light on how Shakespeare’s stage and language are indeed bounded to coordinates in the world. His metaphors often ask us to imaginatively look up or down to heaven or hell, and to visualise where different symbolic spaces might exist in the actual theatre – something that different venues and theatre companies have exploited over the centuries. Read more about this talk here.
The Classical Underworld as a Memoryscape, by Dr Madeleine Scherer
In reality death may be a one-way trip, but literature allows us to travel imaginatively to and from the afterlife, visiting the ghosts of the past, often encountering them in that strange meeting room represented throughout Western culture as the underworld. Dr Madeleine Scherer (Warwick University) is our guide to spectral depths from classical Greece to contemporary Ireland. Read more about this talk here.
Future Memory and Circular Time in Charles Dickens’ ‘The Signal-Man’, by Dr Claire Ashworth
On June 9th of 1865, sitting comfortably on his train home from Paris, Charles Dickens had a brush with death. Workmen on a bridge had failed to signal that a section of the track was missing. Several of the carriages plunged into the river below, with Dickens’ own carriage left teetering at the top. The following year, Dickens would publish his most haunting ghost story, ‘The Signalman’. Claire Ashworth shows how this inspired tale is a representation of repressed trauma, that both looks back to Dickens’ own experiences but also anticipates the work of later psychological theorists. Read more about this talk here.
A Short History of Interactive Narratives, or Flow Fiction, by George Cox
Which breakfast cereal do you prefer: Frosted Flakes or Sugar Puffs? It’s the sort of decision many of us face, bleary eyed, each morning. But if you watched Netflix’s interactive film, Black Mirror: Bandersnatch, you might recognise that this is the first choice that viewers have to make when deciding how the story of the protagonist will unfold. While the ability to choose what happens next will have seemed like a novel innovation to some, fictions that hand over power to the reader date back to the 1960s. Do you want to time-travel back over six decades? Then hit play and continue to listen to George Cox as he guides us through the labyrinthine history of interactive adventure. Read more about this talk here.
Classical Music, Conflict, and Identity in the Contemporary Novel, by Katie Harling-Lee
When we listen to classical music, some of us might think we hear a story in the melody, but in general meaning doesn’t actually live anywhere that can be pinpointed in a particular sound or tune. Novels, on the other hand, tell us a story both about the characters within the text, and the music they listen to. So what happens when we read about music in their fiction? Does it change our interpretation of the novel if we already know the song being referred to and ‘hear’ it in our mind as we read? Katie Harling-Lee invites you to try in this composition of words and music. Read more about this talk here.
The Geographic and Linguistic Identity of the American Midwest, by Molly Becker
Do you walk on a sidewalk or a pavement? Eat fries or chips? The differences between American and British English can seem trivial at times, but they point to a deeper debate around language and identity that has been fought in the literary sphere as well as everyday life.
What differentiates American writers from their English literary counterparts? And even looking within America rather than across the Atlantic, since America is a diverse and huge nation, how can one writer ever hope to represent the ‘American’ language or a quintessential American self?
Molly Becker charts how the American Midwest ended up as the pin at the centre of a complex map of language and identity. This region was memorably treated by writers such as Sinclair Lewis, whose novels of midwestern small town life came not unproblematically to be seen as representative of the nation in the mainstream.. Read more about this talk here.