Sydney English Research Seminars

Join the staff and colleagues of the English Department for vibrant discussion on a variety of topics.

All seminars will be held on Wednesdays at 3pm in the MECO Seminar Room S226, Level 2 John Woolley Building (entrance via Media and Communications door), unless otherwise advised.

Semester 1, 2017

March 22
Daniel Dixon,
Beyond Doubt: Believing (in) the Authors of American Essays

April 5
Daniel Anlezark
Old English Poetry and the Problem of History

April 19
Jane Rickard
Readers of Ben Jonson’s 'Works' (1616) from the seventeenth century to the present

May 3
Philip Steer
Literary ‘Climate Modelling’ and Nineteenth-Century Australian Pastoralism

May 17
Robert Phiddian
Gulliver and satirical catharsis
(This talk is co-sponsored by the Australasian Humour Studies Network; Peter Kirkpatrick and Peter Marks will be discussants)

May 31
Alyssa O’Brien
Story, image, affect: Research as Performance (plus Joyce)

Semester 2, 2016

August 3
Liam Semler,
The Arrival, Form and Meaning of the Early Modern Grotesque in England

This paper is based on the introduction to his book manuscript The Early Modern Grotesque: English Sources and Documents, 1500-1700. The manuscript is a large collection of sources and documents from English Renaissance texts that discuss or refer to the grotesque. The sourcebook is arranged chronologically and the sources are annotated and cross-referenced. This dataset gives an expansive insight into the discourse of the grotesque from 1500-1700 in England. An aim of the collection is to help widen the scholarly discussion of the early modern English grotesque beyond the usual parameters which tend to prioritise the theories of Wolfgang Kayser and Mikhail Bakhtin. The primary terms for the grotesque that are traced through two centuries of English writing are ‘grottesco/grotesque/grotesque-work’ and ‘antic/antique/antique-work.’ These are explored in relation to other key terms and English visual imagery. It is hoped that a richer sense of the specifically English grotesque from 1500-1700 will emerge from this analysis of the textual archive.

Liam Semler is currently Chair of the English Department at the University of Sydney, and was director of the Medieval and Early Modern Centre in 2012-13 and president of the Australasian Universities Language and Literature Association from 2009-13. His research interests include Shakespeare pedagogy and the teaching and learning of literature at school and university; the classical inheritance in English Renaissance literature; early modern women’s writing; and early modern literature and the visual arts with particular reference to ‘mannerism’ and the ‘grotesque’ from 1500-1700.

August 17
Elizabeth McMahon,
Shipwrecks, Islands, and the Catastrophic Scene of Writing

Ships and islands are connected through the narrative progression of the voyage and by a shared metaphorics that includes the State and human interiority. This inter-relation produces a field of meaning in which the castaway island is not only the consequence but also the mirror of shipwreck. This paper will map out the relationship between the historical and literary catastrophe of shipwreck in the context of the colonial age of sail, including the Australian archive. It will examine how the catastrophe of shipwreck and the castaway island produces scenes of catastrophic writing that derange authorship and the authority of the State.

Elizabeth McMahon teaches in the School of Arts and Media at the University of New South Wales. One of her primary research areas is the literary island imaginary and her monograph Islands, Identity and the Literary Imagination was published in 2016. She co-edits Southerly journal and the Rethinking the Island series for Rowman and Littlefield International.

September 7
Tony Bennett,
Mind the Gap: Towards a Political History of Habit

Habit has become a lively topic of debate across a range of contemporary fields of inquiry: in affect theory, sociological accounts of reflexivity, the neurosciences, cultural geography, actor network theory, aesthetics and philosophy. This has paralleled its increasing prominence as a matter of practical concern in debates focused on the need for new and/or transformed habits in relation to racism, waste management, climate change, the routes and routines of urban life, and so on. In this paper I bring these two concerns together by examining the ways in which authorities of various kinds (philosophical, sociological, psychological, neurological, biological, and aesthetic) have constituted habit as their points of entry into the management of conduct. I shall be particularly concerned with the ways in which varied strategies of intervention into the ‘conduct of conduct’ developed since the mid-nineteenth century have posited a gap or interval in which the force of acquired or inherited habits is temporarily halted. It is this gap that opens up the possibility of re-shaping habits by providing scope for practices of freedom and self-determination that escape the constraints of habit, understood as a form of automatic repetitive conduct. At the same time, this gap provides an opportunity for conduct to be re-shaped by being brought under the direction of epistemological or aesthetic authorities which aspire to ‘mind the gap’ that is produced when the mechanisms of habit are temporarily stalled. The point of entry into these questions will be provided by recent programs for ‘minding the gap’ developed at the interfaces of sociology, aesthetics and the neurosciences.

Tony Bennett is Research Professor in Social and Cultural Theory at the Institute for Culture and Society at Western Sydney University. His interests span a number of areas across the social sciences and humanities, with significant contributions to the fields of literary theory, cultural studies, cultural sociology, and museum studies. His work in literary studies includes influential assessments of the relations between formalist and Marxist criticism, and critical appraisals of Marxist aesthetic theory. In cultural studies his work has had a formative influence on the study of popular culture and he has played a leading role in the development of cultural policy studies. His work in cultural sociology includes major surveys of the social patterns of cultural practice and consumption in both Australia and Britain, and critical engagements with the sociology of literature and audience and reception theory. His work in museum studies has contributed to the development of the 'new museology' particularly in the light it has thrown on the role of museums as instruments of social governance.

September 28
Thomas Ford,
Translating the clouds: Goethe’s poem to Howard

Goethe’s 1821 Howards Ehrengedächtnis (“Howard, an Inscription”) has attracted significant critical attention as a poem about the relationship between poetry and meteorology, art and science. The Howard named in the title was Luke Howard, whose 1803 terminology of cloud formations (stratus, cumulus, cirrus, nimbus and their various hybrid combinations) remains in modified use today. Most recent accounts have read this poem as celebrating a possible unification of scientific and poetic modes of knowledge. Goethe’s status as a poet-scientist–someone deeply invested in reimagining this relationship for an alternative modernity–has made him a vital reference point in thinking about transdisciplinary research that might link the arts and sciences in our current ecological moment.

But the reading offered here is more dialectical, even negative. Goethe’s inquiry into meteorological language is transformed in this poem through its semantic relationship with two of the poem’s other central concerns: translation and print textuality. I show that, for Goethe, thinking about the scientific naming of clouds also involved thinking about the translation of classical Sanskrit texts into modern European languages. The full meaning of the modern scientific conception of nature, that is, could only be grasped from the emerging horizon of world literature. And from this perspective, I argue, in coming to praise Howard, Goethe also came to bury him.

Thomas H. Ford is a Lecturer in Literary Studies at Monash University. A Cultural History of Climate Change, a volume he co-edited with Tom Bristow, was published by Routledge this year.

October 5
John Frow,
Icon, Iconoclasm, Presence

WJT Mitchell tells of a colleague who persuades his disbelieving students of the magical relation between an image and what it represents by asking them to take a photograph of their mother and cut out the eyes. The episodes of iconoclasm in the Byzantine empire and Reformation Europe were centrally concerned with the real presence of the godhead in the icon, with the meaning of the Incarnation, and with the literal or figurative presence of Christ in the Eucharist. At play in the iconoclastic violence of early modernity was the passage of the image from the church to the museum (what Benjamin calls a passage from cult value to exhibition value) and a revalorization of the image – at once a disenchantment and a re-enchantment – which sets up a subsequent and repeated tension between effects of presence and the sometimes violent critique of presence in the iconoclastic artwork. I look at some of the interpretive consequences of taking the force of images seriously, at the technology of the gaze embodied in the modern art museum, and more generally (and critically) at the notion of presence in both images and texts.

John Frow is Professor of English at the University of Sydney and the author, most recently, of The Practice of Value (2013), Character and Person (2014, paperback edition 2016), and the second edition of Genre (2015). He is currently working on a project on institutions of interpretation.

October 26
Fiona Lee,
Graphic Narratives and Cultural Translation: The Work of Lat in the Age of Globalizability

Recent discussions on world literature have dwelled on translation as a key node of analysis for understanding the global production and circulation of literary and cultural texts. How does the graphic narrative, given that it combines visual and verbal modes of representation, engage in the work of cultural translation? What insights on producing literary and cultural history might be derived from analyzing the circulation of graphic narratives across different linguistic, cultural contexts? In this seminar, I present the work of the Malaysian cartoonist, Lat, as a case study to address the questions above. Lat’s most renowned work, The Kampung Boy (1979), first appeared nearly simultaneously in English and Malay for reading publics in Malaysia, and has since been translated into 13 languages worldwide. Moreover, cultural translation fundamentally shapes the coming-of-age narrative of a Malay boy growing up amidst the rapid change of postcolonial modernisation in multilingual, multiracial Malaysia. Examining the role of translation in its production and circulation, Lat’s work–I argue–challenges the commonly held assumption that producing global literary cultural histories requires moving away from national paradigms of analysis. On the contrary, it underscores the importance of attending to how nation and race serve as underlying, intertwined logics of cultural difference that render his work globally legible in a wide array of contexts.

Fiona Lee recently joined the University of Sydney’s Department of English as Lecturer. She researches and teaches in the fields of postcolonial studies, 20th and 21st-century literature, and cultural studies. Her current book project develops translation as a critical concept for analysing formations of race and nation in the making of Malaysia.

Semester One 2016

Wednesday 16 March, Paula Rabinowitz
Cold War Dads: Fathers and the National Security State

Wednesday 6 April, Hilari Gatti
The Liberty Discourse in Early Modern Europe 1500-1650: Milton's Areopagitica in context.

Wednesday 20 April, Isabelle Hesse
Competitive Memories: The Holocaust and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict in Contemporary Britain

Wednesday 4 May, Alex Bubb
‘Cheap Orientalism’: Popularizing Persian, Arabic and Sanskrit Classical Literature in Victorian Britain

Wednesday 18 May, Ian David
‘Narrative as Deception: Lone Gunman to Mass Guilt in America’

Wednesday 15 June, Gary Watt
‘Shall I descend?’: Rhetorical Stasis and Moving Will in Julius Caesar

English Seminar Series - Semester Two 2015

Wednesday July 29 Alix Beeston
‘Composite Visions: Writing and Photography in American Modernism’

Monday August 3 Tillotama Rajan
‘Unspacing: The Architecture of Poetry in Shelley's Alastor and Keats' The Fall of Hyperion’

Wednesday August 12 Louis Armand
‘UnAmerican Fictions: All That's Solid Melts into Weird’

Wednesday August 26 Peter Marks
‘He Loved Big Data: Utopias and a Cultural Studies of Surveillance'

Wednesday September 9 Stephen Knight
‘Kicking the Prince Regent Downstairs: The Politics of George Reynolds' Major Victorian Novels'

FRIDAY September 25 Rush Rehm
‘Comparative Clytemnestras’. CCANESA
Please note venue to be Centre for Classical and Near Eastern Studies in the Madsen Building at 4pm

Wednesday October 7 Peter Minter
‘Settlement Defiled: Ventriloquy, Pollution and Nature in Eliza Hamilton Dunlop's "The Aboriginal Mother"'

Wednesday October 14 Peter Kuch
‘Irish working class fiction in Australia 1860-1960'

Wednesday October 21 Paul Giles
‘Ulysses: Antipodean Parallax and the Circumference of Empire’

English Seminar Series - Semester One 2015

March 11 Matthew Sussman
‘On Stylistic Virtue’

March 25 Benjamin Kahan
‘After Sedgwick: Epistomology of the Closet 25 Years Later’

April 8 Olivia Murphy
‘Experiments and Poetry, 1771-1791’

April 22 Tarrin Wills
‘Viking Bodies and Viking Gender

May 6 Ben Miller
‘Non-Indigenous Editors, Indigenous Writers: The Transnational History of David Unaipon's "The Coming of the Light"'

May 20 Peter Kirkpatrick
‘Corrosive Littoral: On the Beach with Kenneth Slessor’

Semester Two 2014

July 30
Bridget Escolme
‘Laughter, Cruelty and Emotional Excess in Early Modern Drama and its Contemporary Revisions’

August 13
Andrew Carruthers
‘Notational Poetics: a Social Philology’

August 27
Nigel Smith
‘The European Marvell’

September 10
Brian Reed
‘Conceptual Writing: Poetry as Information Art’

September 24, 12:00 - 1:30pm
Graham Holderness, Professor of English, University of Hertfordshire
‘Rudely Interrupted’: the bombing of Twelfth Night'

September 30 (Tuesday)
Garrett Sullivan
‘Living and Dying in Dr Faustus’

October 15
Melissa Hardie
‘Database Animals vs Library Trolls: Kenneth Halliwell and Joe Orton’s Prosecution for Malicious Damage of Library Books’

Semester One 2014

19 March
Brigid Rooney
Christina Stead’s “Kelly File”: Politics, Possession and the Writing of Cotters’ England

2 April
Joseph Slaughter
To Live as a Photograph

11 April (Friday)
Ankhi Mukherjee
No Safe Distance: Embodied Narratives of the Urban Poor

7 May
Kate Lilley
Katherine Philips and the Poetics of Association

21 May
Mark Byron
Hibernian Hilaritas: Pound’s Eriugenian Deployments

4 June
Sam Dickson
The Late, Late, Late Show: Thomas Pynchon's California Fiction

Semester Two 2013

30 July (Tuesday, Woolley Common Room)
Alan Liu
Mickey Mouse Creativity: New Media Arts after the Ideology of Creativity

7 August
Vijay Mishra
Archive Fever: The Salman Rushdie Papers

14 August
Peter De Bolla
From the Analogue to the Digital: A New History of Concepts

21 August
Stefan Solomon
William Faulkner: Screenwriting, Form, and Late Style

28 August
David Worrall
Eighteenth Century Theatre and Social Assemblage Theory

4 September
Stephen Orgel
Real Places in Imaginary Spaces

11 September
Susan Harris
Mark Twain and the Philippine-American War: "Hogwash" and "Pious Hypocrisy"

18 September
Meaghan Morris
Legacy Ladies: Colonialism as Consumerism in the Work of Ernestine Hill

9 October
Annamarie Jagose
The Trouble with Anti-Normativity

16 October
Bob Hodge
Myth Analysis and Social Intervention: Disaster Myths from Noah to the Life of Pi

23 October
Chris Hilliard
Hate Speech and the Things Words Do: Britain, 1936-1965

30 October
Vanessa Smith
Toy Stories

Semester One 2013

13 March
John Frow (Sydney)
Character and Person: Hamlet

10 April
Deirdre Osborne (Goldsmith's, London) (with Lit & Transnationalism)
'"Skin Deep", a Self-Revealing Act: Monologue, Monodrama, and Mixedness'

17 April [Please note: this seminar to begin at 2pm]
Paul Eggert (ADFA)
'The Long 1890s, Lawson and Postwar English Studies'

24 April
Gillian Dooley (Flinders) (with Lit & Transnationalism)
'"A Dozy City": Adelaide in J.M. Coetzee's Slow Man and Amy T. Matthews' End of the Night Girl'

8 May
Peter Rose (Australian Book Review)
On the ethics, aesthetics and efficacy of diary writing

22 May
Alex Jones
'Accentual Metre in Old and Middle English'

ALL WELCOME! Enquiries:

Semester Two 2012

1 August
Dr Aaron Nyerges (Sydney)
Cather's Hieroglyphs

15 August
Professor Will Christie (Sydney)
Res Theatralis Histrionica: Acting Coleridge in the Lecture Theatre

29 August
Dr Sigi Jottkandt (UNSW)
Nabokov's Cin-Aesthesia: 'A Guide to Berlin'

12 September
Professor Graham Huggan (Liverpool) [Title TBC]

3 October
A/Professor Lee Wallace (Sydney)
Queer Home Life

17 October
Dr Mark Byron (Sydney)
Sagacious Torrents in Samuel Beckett and Thomas Bernhard

31 October
Dr Liz Pender (Sydney)
The Task of Reading: Counterformalist Tendencies in the Modernist Novel

14 November
Dr Nick Riemer (Sydney)
Language construction and the 'artefactualist' conception of grammar in the Renaissance

28 November
Dr Mridula Chakraborti (UWS)
Entering the World in Literature: the Case of the Lonely Wife in Tagore's Nastanirh

ALL WELCOME! Enquiries:

Semester One 2012 Seminars

7 March Professor Paul Giles
Antipodean American Modernisms: Federation's 'Weird Country'

21 March Dr Matt Helmers
Homosexual Panic: Fact, Fiction and the Deadly Difference Between Them

4 April Professor Rachel Blau DuPlessis (Temple)
Reflections on the Long Poem: Autobiography of a Practice

18 April Dr Sascha Morrell

2 May Dr Nicola Parsons
Jane Barker's Patchwork Poetics

16 May Professor Fred Hobson (UNC Chapel Hill)
The White (US) Southern Racial Conversion Narrative

30 May Dr Carrie Hyde
Citizenship in Heaven: The Politics of Post-Civic Expectation

Seminars 2011

9 March Sarah Gleeson-White
The Publication Process: A Glimpse at Peer Review

23 March Fiona Morrison
‘Foxy Lady’: Radical Chic and Rhetorical Markets in Christina Stead’s Letty Fox

6 April John Frow, School of Culture and Communication, University of Melbourne
Afterlife: Texts as Usage

20 April Georgiana Banita, US Studies Centre, University of Sydney

4 May Peter Gibbard
‘Words that say more than they say’: Style and Politics in Elizabethan Drama

18 May Huw Griffiths
Prosthetic Sovereignty: Body Parts in Shakespeare’s History Plays

Seminars 2010

Friday 3-5pm, Rogers Room (N397)
John Woolley Building, University of Sydney

March 12 Stephen Knight
Merlin and the Environment

March 26 Tony Voss
Refracted Modernisms: Roy Campbell (1901-1957), H. I. E. Dhlomo
(1903-1956) and N. P. van Wyk Louw (1906-1970)

April 9 AVCC Week - NO SEMINAR

April 16 Susan Lever
Australian Television Drama

April 30 Noel Polk
William Faulkner

May 14 Richard White
The Cooee’s Career in English Literature

May 28 Edel Lamb
‘Children read for their Pleasantness’: Schoolboys as Readers in Early
Modern England

July 2 Emeritus Professor Christie Davies
How and why joke cycles change as they move between countries, including Australia

Please note: the following seminar will be on a Tuesday
July 6 Professor Patricia Yaeger
Glamourous Debris: Women Trashing Infrastructure

30 July Rita Copeland, University of Pennsylvania
Insinuating Authors

13 August Judy Barbour
“Brightness fell from her hair”: Shirley Hazzard's Literary Subterfuges

27 August Kate Lilley
The Case of the German Princess: Mary Carleton’s Career in Print

10 September Melissa Hardie
The Night, The Prowler: A Queer Archive

24 September Paul Giles
Transpacific Republicanism: American Transcendentalism, John Dunmore Lang, and the Gold-Rush Circuit

8 October Brigid Rooney
Future Anteriors: Temporalities of Belonging in Australian Fiction

22 October Fiona Morrison
‘Foxy Lady’: Radical Chic and Rhetorical Markets in Christina Stead’s Letty Fox