Lauren Goodlad (Rutgers University) on “The Lifecycle of Writing Subjects.”

Join us for this special CuSPP Seminar, featuring Lauren Goodlad (Rutgers University)

Thursday 13 October 10:00-11:30am (AEST), ZOOM ONLY

“The Lifecycle of Writing Subjects: An Interdisciplinary Approach to Large Language Models” 

This paper uncovers the “realities” of AI with an emphasis on the machine learning technologies that drive the new surveillance economy and its characteristic structures, social relations, and onto-epistemological conditions of possibility. I dwell on large language models (LLMs) because these systems for generating human-like text are the subject of heightening commercialization and debate, and I discuss them in relation to Ted Chiang’s The Lifecycle of Software Objects (2010). Though this novella follows a long line of fictional works that render “AI” in terms of an anthropomorphised technology that does not exist, its near-future storyworld is nonetheless illuminating of today’s data-driven systems for prediction and optimization, and their relation to the material conditions and “lifecycle” of writing subjects.

Lauren M.E. Goodlad is Distinguished Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Rutgers, New Brunswick. She is the chair of Critical AI @ Rutgers and the editor-in-chief of Critical AI, an interdisciplinary journal published by Duke UP that will be launched in 2023. Goodlad’s work on language models overlaps with a new project, Genres that Matter: The Ontological Work of Nineteenth-Century Fiction, and a recent (December 2020) co-edited special issue of MLQ, What Is and Isn’t Changing: Critique after Postcritique. She is the lead US PI for an NEH-funded international collaboration between Rutgers and ANU which has centered on data ethics and data ontologies.

ANU COVID Safe event: social distancing, masks mandatory, COVID safety officer.

Online: Zoom meeting ID 8619 8419 0389, Password 2022

Monique Rooney on Malabou’s Anarchy and Varda’s Sans Toit ni Loi (1985)

Join us for the next CuSPP Seminar (taking place via zoom)

Thursday 25 August 2022, 5.00pm – 6.30pm (Please note that this seminar is beginning at the later than normal time of 5pm; please note also that this seminar is taking place via zoom ONLY; please contact for the link and password).

The Pleasure of Self-Erasure: Catherine Malabou, (Sexual) Anarchy and Agnès Varda’s Sans Toi ni Loi (1985)

Adventures and solitude of a young vagabond (neither withdrawn nor talkative), told by those who had crossed her path, that winter in the South of France. But can one render silence, or capture freedom?

The film wanders between Mona and the others. We glimpse their lives, and then move on. I really liked all the characters in this story, here and there, like small “figures” in a winter landscape, where, coming toward us, walking, is a rebellious girl. (Agnès Varda, “Publicité,” quoted in Sandy Flitterman-Lewis, To Desire Differently 285-6).

This work-in-progress paper reads Agnès Varda’s Sans Toit ni Loi (meaning “without roof or law”) through the lens of Catherine Malabou’s conceptualisation of anarchy as order without command or beginning (“Politics of Plasticity: Cooperation without Chains,” 2021, and Pleasure Erased: The Clitoris Unthought, 2022). I elucidate key elements of Malabou’s anarchy and, in particular, I highlight her argument that the clitoris (a “little pebble” or “scruple”) is a symbol of sexual anarchy. The paper also draws on Rebecca J. DeRoo’s argument that Varda cultivated “strategic naivety,” with her public presentation of her apparently artless relation to cinema history enabling her negotiation of, and survival within, a male-dominated industry. DeRoo also highlights the disruptive role that non-cinematic works, including Renaissance painting and vernacular photography, play in Varda’s films. My paper suggests that it is the intermedial role of photography and ancient myth that meaningfully punctuate both Sans Toit ni Loi’s montage and narrative. My paper ultimately suggests that the female film-maker partially occludes the anarchic (“wandering”) nature of film itself, training its attention instead on the image of the “rebellious girl” that is Mona Bergeron (Sandrine Bonnaire).

Monique Rooney teaches literature, film, television and new media in the English program, School of Literature, Languages and Literatures (ANU). The author of Living Screens: Melodrama and Plasticity in Contemporary Film and Television (2015), she is currently writing a book titled Brow Network: Programs and Promises. The plan is that this paper’s reading of anarchy in Varda will be published as part of a collection of essays on Malabou in an upcoming special issue of Film-Philosophy.

Derek Allan, “The Very Idea of Art”

Join us for the next CuSPP Seminar (taking place via zoom)

Thursday 28 July, 2022, 4.30 – 6pm.

The Very Idea of Art

Donald Preziosi, an influential modern voice in art history, argues that his discipline has proved ‘particularly effective in naturalizing and validating the very idea of art as a “universal” human phenomenon’. If this claim is true, it would mean, in my view, that art history has done a serious disservice to our modern understanding of art. For as the French art theorist, André Malraux, points out, the idea of art is definitely not a universal human phenomenon, there being ample evidence that the vast majority of cultures throughout history, have not regarded their painting, sculpture, poetry, and music as ‘art’.

Today, of course, we willingly regard many works from non-European and early cultures as art and welcome them into art museums, but this is a recent development, barely more than a century old. This paper examines certain major issues arising from this situation, including: when and why the idea of art arose; the radical change in the word’s meaning that occurred after Manet; how this change led to the inclusion of many non-European and ancient works in our modern world of art; and the inadequate responses to these developments by modern philosophers of art and art historians.

Dr Derek Allan is a Visiting Fellow in the School of Literature, Languages and Linguistics at the Australian National University. His principal research interests are the theory of art and literature, European literature, and visual art. Derek’s publications cover figures such as Dostoyevsky, Laclos, Goya and the twentieth-century art theorist and novelist, André Malraux. His most recent publication is a book entitled André Malraux and Art: An Intellectual Revolution. It is also available in French.

ANU COVID safe event: Social distancing / masks mandatory / COVID safety officer

Online: Zoom Meeting ID: 861 8419 0389 / Password: 2022

Amy Walters (Thesis Proposal Review) on Maggie O’Farrell’s Fiction

Unstable Ground: Tracing a Gothic Lineage in Maggie O’Farrell’s Fiction

Since her debut in 2000, British author Maggie O’Farrell has published eight novels and one memoir, achieving consistent commercial success and several major awards, culminating in the 2020 Women’s Prize for Fiction. Despite such recognition, O’Farrell remains under-critiqued in both scholarship and non-academic literary criticism. Critics have particularly neglected O’Farrell’s extensive engagement with the Gothic tradition and have consequently both underestimated her feminist concerns and misinterpreted her signature atmosphere of haunting as psychological suspense, rather than as a Gothic trope intimating a species of knowledge at the borders of the tangible and the supernatural.

In this TPR presentation, I question how O’Farrell is situated in the post-millennial British literary landscape, drawing on both the small body of academic scholarship pertaining to her, and her non-academic reception. I then present an overview of my research to date, arguing for a reconsideration of her fiction in light of the Gothic tradition, focusing on how she reinvigorates tropes associated with the Female Gothic, and how her consistent use of the discourse of haunting relates to both her preoccupation with mortality, and the Gothic’s historic formation in opposition to the enlightenment’s discourse of rationality. I also provide an overview of my proposed thesis structure, methodology and timeframes.

Amy Walters is a PhD candidate in English Literature at the ANU and has been passionate about Maggie O’Farrell’s work since discovering it a decade and a half ago at the age of sixteen. She is also a writer and critic, and her work has been published in the Canberra Times, Kill Your Darlings, Meanjin and The Saturday Paper among other places.

ANU COVID safe event: Social distancing / masks mandatory / COVID safety officer

Online: Zoom Meeting ID: 861 8419 0389 / Password: 2022

Scarlette Do on Vietnamese Socialist Utopia in Đặng Nhật Minh’s 1980s Films

Vietnamese auteur Đặng Nhật Minh is highly regarded both inside and outside of the country for his poetic films and skilful negotiations with the censors at the Ministry of Culture. This paper examines two of Đặng’s films—When the Tenth Month Comes (1984) and The Girl on the River (1987)—against the backdrop of socio-political reforms and the Third Indochina War, during which time the socialist utopia once promised by the Communist Party of Vietnam became irretrievably lost. Situating the two films as revisions of the Revolutionary Cinema canon, I identify the ways in which Đặng navigates censorship to make known the Vietnamese community’s deep disillusionment and mourning for war deaths. Despite their critiques of the nation-state, the films nevertheless exhibit fixation on the lost socialist utopia through the thematic focus on the tomorrow that never materialised. Imbued with melancholia, Đặng’s films ultimately perpetuate within spectators yearning for this tomorrow, orienting their gaze away from the imperfect present and the encroaching neo-liberalisation of Vietnamese society.

Scarlette Do is a second-year PhD student at the Australian National University. Her research examines films about the Second Indochina War using interdisciplinary frameworks, including psychoanalysis, gender, and nationalism. When she is not researching and teaching, Scarlette serves as National Co-Director of the One Woman Project, a nonprofit focused on upskilling young people to challenge gender inequity in their local and national communities.

ANU COVID safe event: social distancing and masks mandatory

Alice Grundy’s Exit Seminar: Editing and Publishing in Australia

Thursday 30 June, 4.30-6pm, A. D. Hope G28 (Note change of venue)

Please find link and password for livestream of this seminar here

While many scholars acknowledge that a book’s passage to publication is managed, aided and afforded by the labour of many people, in most literary scholarship such labour is ignored – perpetuating what Jack Stillinger calls ‘the myth of solitary genius’ (1991). My thesis examines the role of editing with two ends: first to reveal the dynamics at work in editorial and publishing practices; and second to better understand some of Australia’s most celebrated texts. Publishing studies is taught at a number of universities but there remains a divide between those who teach in these streams and scholars of literature. In taking six case studies – three fiction, three non-fiction – and through the use of archival research, literary criticism and book history, I demonstrate just how wide-ranging editorial intervention can be and how significant it is for our reckoning with literary production and the resulting texts. By examining Swords and Crowns and Rings by Ruth Park, The Multiple Effects of Rainshadow by Thea Astley and Tirra Lirra by the River by Jessica Anderson I show how editors act as social barometers, as facilitators and inhibitors of creative practice. By examining Don’t Take Your Love to Town by Ruby Langford Ginibi, My Place by Sally Morgan and Bad Manners by Kate Jennings, I show the dangers of good intentions, the power of intellectual engagement and the politics of cutting. This paper offers a new mode for literary and archival scholarship, foregrounding editorial labour to better understand literary work.

Alice Grundy has worked as an editor in trade publishing for over a dozen years, including as Associate Publisher at Brio and Managing Editor at Giramondo. She has taught Professional Editing at UTS and presented workshops and seminars at writers’ festivals around Australia, in India and China. Her articles and reviews have been published in Australian Literary Studies, The Sydney Review of Books, Overland and The Conversation and she has a forthcoming minigraph, Editing Fiction, Three case studies from post-war Australia with Cambridge University Press.

ANU COVID safe event: Social distancing / masks mandatory / COVID safety officer

Xiang Li on ’The Drover’s Wife’ Stories

Rewriting, Reflecting and Resisting: Gender, Reception and ‘The Drover’s Wife’ Stories

Thursday 5 May, 4.30-6pm, A. D. Hope Conference Room.

Henry Lawson’s 1892 short story ‘The Drover’s Wife’ has inspired many reinterpretations over the years. The constant (re)reading and (re)writing of the story enable discussions of and debates over gender, race, national identity and Australian culture. From Murray Bail’s 1975 short story to Leah Purcell’s 2021 film, the idea of ‘The Drover’s Wife’ has grown into a unique phenomenon in the Australian literary and cultural landscape. Previous scholarship tends to revolve around Lawson’s original and a few well-known stories from the 1970s and 1980s. This thesis examines the ‘wife’ phenomenon in its entirety, with a particular focus on recent renditions such as Ryan O’Neill’s 99 Reinterpretations (2018) and Purcell’s multi-genre adaptation project. Drawing on concepts from rewriting theory, reception theory, gender studies as well as cultural history, the thesis captures the way changing conceptions of gendered identities inform both the critical and creative reception of ‘The Drover’s Wife’ from the 1890s to where we are now.

Xiang Li is a PhD candidate in Australian literature at ANU.

ANU COVID safe event:
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Contact: for further enquiries or to obtain the zoom link

Paul Magee on “the Retrospective Nature of Poetic Mimesis”

Bringing the Original into Being by Copying It: On the Retrospective Nature of Poetic Mimesis

Thursday 28 April, 4.30-6pm, A. D. Hope Conference Room.

For zoom link for this event and/or to be added to the CuSPP member list contact:

A long line of commentators (Johnson 1751; Attridge 1982; Ford 2021) have pointed out how little the sounds in any given line of poetry relate to the actual sounds (e.g. the pounding of horses’ hooves) they are purported to imitate—even as poets and critics continue to assess poetic soundscapes in such terms. Could it be that the mimesis in question is less about imitating a pre-existing reality than producing, by insisting on it, a link between a meaning like “horses hooves” and a suggestive soundscape, that will come to sound like horse’s hooves for ever afterward? Maybe this is what actors do more generally: create what will come to be taken as imitation. The paper proceeds to argue that the rightness associated with poetic coinages partakes of a similar retrospectivity. In sum, the poet’s mot juste (“perfect word”) is not opposite to, but rather predicated upon, a direct engagement with arbitrariness.

Paul Magee is author of Stone Postcard (John Leonard Press 2014), Cube Root of Book (John Leonard Press 2006) and the prose ethnography From Here to Tierra del Fuego (University of Illinois Press, 2000). Suddenness and the Composition of Poetic Thought is forthcoming from Rowman & Littlefield International’s Performance Philosophy series in April 2022. Paul is Associate Professor of Poetry at the University of Canberra.

ANU COVID safe event:

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Louisa Kirk, “Women’s Friendship in 20th Century American Novels”.

A matrix of becoming: Women’s friendship in 20th century American novels
(Exit Seminar)

Thursday 24 March, 4.30-6pm, A. D. Hope Conference Room.

For zoom link for this event and/or to be added to the CuSPP member list contact:

Few women would disagree with the idea that female friendship is—alongside the romantic and familial—one of the social pillars upon which their life is built. Certainly, women’s writing throughout space and time reflects its significance. However, women’s friendship has been largely academically ignored with some key exceptions and a peak of interest in 1970s and 80s feminist writing. Since Aristotle, when friendship is studied, it is most often by men and, although not announced as such, when male scholars write of ‘friendship’ they tend to universalise the specifics of male friendship. This presentation presents the work of my thesis to address the question, ‘What is friendship to women in literature?’ I present an original contribution drawing on Bracha Ettinger’s work on the matrixial to argue for a new theorisation of female friendship through the close reading of novels written by American women in the 20th century. In my understanding, female friendship is a space between two or more women co-created and co-constrained by its participants. Female friendship is produced by psychic (re)encounter and requires a play of closeness and distance in a way that is specific to female friendship and differentiates it from women’s other relationships.

Louisa Browne Kirk is a PhD candidate in literature at the ANU. She is an intersectional feminist and a writer and researcher on women’s textual friendship.

ANU COVID safe event:

Check In CBR app / social distancing / masks mandatory / registered COVID safety officer

Leslie Barnes, ”Smoke and Mirrors”

“Smoke and Mirrors: Sex Work and Rithy Panh’s Cinematic Image”

Thursday 24 February, 4.30-6pm, A. D. Hope Conference Room.

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This paper examines the narrative authority of the sex worker in Rithy Panh’s Un Soir après la guerre (1998) and Le Papier ne peut pas envelopper la braise (2007), two films that counter the discourses surrounding sex work with the voices and lived experiences of individual sex workers. When read together, the feature and the documentary question the divide and hierarchy between fiction and nonfiction, both in terms of genre distinctions and in relation to the subject of each film: the reality and representation of sex work. Drawing on theories of cinema as window and mirror and developing Panh’s use of windows and mirrors in each film, I argue that Panh’s cinematic image of sex work challenges the assumption of a ‘transparent’ relationship between the cinematic production and the profilmic event, undoing the presumed links between perception, action, and effect. The extent to which this image upsets filmic norms and ‘epistephilic’ desire, that is, the desire on the part of the viewer to know and to connect knowing with acting, is evidenced in the films’ critical and popular reception, which reveals an ongoing discomfort before the sex worker who speaks for herself.

Leslie Barnes is Associate Professor of French Studies at ANU. She is author of Vietnam and the Colonial Condition of French Literature (Nebraska, 2014) and co-editor of The Cinema of Rithy Panh: Everything Has a Soul (Rutgers, 2021). Her current project studies literary and cinematic narratives that engage with questions of sex work, mobility, and human rights in Southeast Asia. She has published on these and other subjects in Journal of Vietnamese StudiesModern Language Notes, and Humanity.