Hansard as literary reception: the uses of poetry in Australian political debate

Please join us for the next CuSPP Seminar (taking place both in-person and via zoom)

Thursday 8 June, 1-2pm, AD Hope Conference Room (see CuSPP email or contact julieanne.lamond@anu.edu.au for zoom link).

Julieanne Lamond and Fiannuala Morgan

Hansard – Australia’s record of parliamentary debate – might seem an unlikely site for literary analysis. It is, however, a publisher of original poetry and its criticism, a forum for the performance and citation of poetry, and a complex archive of literary reception in Australia since Federation. When literary works are followed into extra-literary contexts (such as parliament), working assumptions about their status as politically subversive or otherwise come under pressure. Debates in literary studies about the role of critique in the discipline have revealed how common it has been to position the act of reading literature as one of political resistance, or to read a specific work as complicit in or subversive to particular discursive regimes or political positions. In focusing on Hansard in the way we do here, we are reading along, not against, the grain of the imbrication of literature and political power, in a context in which the decisions made in Australia’s Federal parliament had profoundly negative impacts on many people living here. In this paper, we discuss our findings in relation to the uses of poetry in Australian Commonwealth Hansard from 1901 – 1950, focusing on how the work of  one early settler Australian poet-parliamentarian, John Cash Neild, is put to use in Parliamentary speeches as recorded in Hansard.  The performance and discussion of Neild’s poetry in Hansard, in the contexts of the debates in which it is situated, demonstrate the complexity of the racialist attitudes at play in the development of the legislation underpinning what came to be known as the White Australia Policy.

Julieanne Lamond teaches literary studies at Australian National University, and has published essays on literary reception, reading history, gender and literary value, and 19th century and contemporary Australian literature. She is president of the Association for the Study of Australian Literature, and co-editor of the journal Australian Literary Studies. Her recent monograph, Lohrey, on Tasmanian writer Amanda Lohrey, was published by Melbourne University Press in 2022. 

Fiannuala Morgan is a PhD Candidate in Literature at Australian National Unviersity and a Senior Librarian at the National Library of Australia. Her recent publications include the monograph Aboriginal Writers and Popular Fiction: The Literature of Anita Heiss (2021) and the edited collection Black Thursday and Other Lost Australian Bushfire Narratives (2021). 

Chloe Riley, PhD Thesis Proposal Review

Please join us for the next CuSPP Seminar (taking place both in-person and via zoom)

Thursday 25 May, 1-2pm, AD Hope Conference Room (see CuSPP email or contact wesley.lim@anu.edu.au for zoom link).

This creative writing thesis explores the life of famed Australian criminal Frances Knorr, and the politicised representation of deviance and criminality in neo-Victorian literature. This study will consist of two components: a creative component, in the form of a novel, and an accompanying dissertation. The novel will detail the final two years of the life of Frances Knorr, exploring the events surrounding her trial and conviction for the murders of three infants. The narrative will reflect Knorr’s life within the social climate of Melbourne in the early 1890s, and the significance of her trial amidst the influx of infanticides during this period. The accompanying dissertation will explore the construction of nineteenth century deviance and criminality through a disability and crip lens, and its politicised use in neo-Victorian fiction as a mnemonic device to commemorate marginalised histories. A study of Margaret Atwood’s Alias Grace (1996) will explore how Atwood portrays women’s deviance and criminality in terms of disability, and how this portrayal commemorates marginalised women’s history, and the collective trauma of gendered violence. This study will act as a model for reading the way Frances Knorr, and the forgotten history of infanticide and baby-farming in nineteenth century Australia, have been commemorated in two works of fiction: The Notorious Frances Thwaites by Kellinde Wrightson (2014), and The Hanging of Minnie Thwaites by Judith Rodriguez (2012). Finally, this study will place my original novel in the context of existing Knorr literature, exploring how my novel explores Knorr’s perceived deviance and criminality within the social climate of 1890s Australia, and interprets it through the lens of disability, neurodivergence, and trauma.

Chloe Riley (they/she) is a neuroqueer Australian writer based on Wurundjeri country. They hold an honours and a master’s degree in creative writing from Monash University, for which they received first class awards. They were first published in Verge in 2017, for which their short story ‘The Lemon Tree’ was runner-up for the Verge Prize for Prose. Their second short story ‘The Mermaid’ was published in the New Zealand journal Aotearotica in 2018. Their currently unpublished novella Ecdysis, submitted as part of their master’s thesis, is a lesbian narrative loosely based on Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre and Henry Lawson’s ‘The Drover’s Wife’.

Two Worlds: Allegory as the Structure of Appearance in Dante’s Divine Comedy and Kim Scott’s Benang: From the Heart.

Please join us for the next CuSPP Seminar (taking place both in-person and via zoom)

Thursday 18 May, 1-2pm (see CuSPP email or contact monique.rooney@anu.edu.au for zoom link).

Within and against the western tradition, allegory is a structure that supports the appearance of things that cannot appear in any other way. Professor Machosky applies this observation about how allegory works as “a structure of appearance” as a way to consider the Dreaming/Law/Lore of the Aboriginal peoples of Australia.  In recent post-colonial (or, as it is perhaps better described, continually colonial studies), negotiations with the idea of “the other” are becoming increasingly self-critical and problematized, at least a recognition of the western hegemony.  Allegory is the saying of the other, literally, “saying other than”, and so it is, perhaps inherently, a structure appropriate to properly engage with something “other” and allowing it to be just different, resisting a desire to appropriate it into western modes of  knowing. In this presentation, Professor Machosky will share her revised understanding of allegory as a structure of appearance rather than a structure of meaning, including analysis of how it applies to the western canonical allegory of Dante’s Divine Comedy. Then she will propose how, as a structure that supports the appearance of two things in the same space at the same time, allegory might be a way for western academics to comprehend the Dreaming/Law/Lore of Aboriginal peoples without appropriating it into western epistemological systems of signification and meaning. Prof Machosky will then propose how this approach applies to Kim Scott’s Benang: From the Heart and its exploration of Harley’s discovery of not only the two worlds foundational to Aboriginal being, but also the two worlds of colonization that appear in the hi/story of Australia.

Brenda Machosky is Professor of English and Humanities at the University of Hawaii West Oahu, a regional university with a majority of Native Hawaiian, Samoan and Pacific Islander students and a diverse range of ethnicities from the Pacific region and the continental United States. Professor Machosky teaches courses in world literature, postcolonial literatures and theory, English literature, and literary theory. Brenda is editor of Antipodes: A Global Journal of Australia/New Zealand Studies, an American-based journal that publishes scholarly work about literature, media and culture of the Antipodes and also creative work by in-country and non-resident writers. The journal has a goal to include more writing about and by Indigenous people of these regions. Brenda also serves as president of the American Association for Australasian Literary Studies. Her current research concentrates on Indigenous literatures of Australia and Aotearoa as well as her lifelong study of allegory, and she is developing a book that brings these two interests together, called World Without Fall. Her published books include Structures of Appearing: Allegory and the Work of Literature (Fordham 2013)  and the edited volume, Thinking Allegory Otherwise (Stanford 2010). Recent essays include “Allegory and the work of Aboriginal Dreaming/Law/Lore” in the Routledge collection, Allegory Studies: Contemporary Perspectives; “Alexis Wright’s Storytelling Novel and its ‘particular kind of knowledge’” and “Kim Scott’s True Country as Aboriginal Bildungsroman.” Forthcoming is an essay on Phenomenology and Allegory in the Oxford University Press Handbook on Allegory, edited by David Parry.

Fabiana Jardim, What does it mean to take care of images? Reparations, grief and justice regarding (images of) violence 

Please join us for the next CuSPP Seminar (taking place both in-person and via zoom)

Thursday 4 May, 1-2pm (see CuSPP email or contact monique.rooney@anu.edu.au for zoom link).

“What does it mean to take care of images? Reparations, grief and justice regarding (images of) violence.” Inspired by a range of theoretical perspectives, including those of Susan Sontag, Judith Butler, Ariella Azoulay, Sharon Sliwinski, Georges Didi-Huberman and Saidyia Hartman, this paper reflects on the relationship between images and violence. In particular, the paper focuses on theories and practices of Latin-American and, mainly, Afro-Brazilian and Indigenous artists who have revisited archives of violence. These artists have stretched the limits of our imagi-nations to produce re-readings and re-assemblages that both attend to and reveal what survives in the archives in the face of the violence that also made them possible.

Fabiana Jardim is Associate Professor at the Faculty of Education – University of São Paulo, Brazil and a Visiting Fellow at the College of Arts & Social Sciences – Australian National University (CAPES/PrInt Scholarship). Her research focuses on the themes of Latin American governmentality, citizenship, violence and memory, trying to theoretically account both for the history of invasion and slavery as for the dictatorships and new regimes of violence that mark the recent history of the continent. On the theme of governmentality, she has published an interview with Colin Gordon (“A brief genealogy of governmentality studies: the Foucault effect and its developments”); on the theme of State and authoritarianism, with Osvaldo López-Ruiz and Ana Lúcia Teixeira, she has published the chapter “The trickster logic in Latin America: leadership in Argentina and Brazil”)

Belle Joseph on Thinking about Evil, Justice and Redemption in the Nazi Concentration Camps

Thinking about Evil, Justice, and Redemption in the Nazi Concentration Camps: Contemporary Reflections and Poems Written by French Inmates (1943-1945)   

Thursday 20 April 2023, 1pm-2.20 pm, Milgate Seminar Room, AD Hope or via zoom (contact monique.rooney@anu.edu.au for link)

The widespread public outcry following the liberation of the Nazi concentration camps and the revelations of the atrocities committed in them, as questions were asked about how such moral depravity could have been enacted and demands made for justice to be served to the perpetrators, is well documented. Less well known is the existence of texts written by concentration camp prisoners during their captivity that engage with precisely such questions of evil, justice, and moral renewal. In this seminar, I look at poems and reflections written by French political prisoners (former Resistants) in the concentration camps of Buchenwald, Mittelbau-Dora, Ravensbrück, and Auschwitz. These writings interrogate the conscience and motivations of the perpetrators and contemplate what form justice may take. From a belief in the necessity of retribution, through the suggestion that punishment will be self-inflicted, to an explicit rejection of hatred and vengeance, the poets of the camps display a variety of stances towards the crimes they witnessed. But what brings them together is an emphasis on the figures of goodness they saw as serving as a moral beacon for prisoners and an enduring faith in ultimate justice and redemption. 

Dr Belle Joseph is a Visiting Fellow at the School of Literature, Languages and Linguistics (ANU). She has a forthcoming book, Saving Words: Poetry, Trauma, and Survival in the Nazi Concentration Camps (1943-1945), with Liverpool University Press.    

Jean McNeil (University of East Anglia), Writing about the Environment

Writing about the environment and climate change in fiction and non-fiction.

Thursday 30 March 2023, 1pm-2.20 pm, Milgate Seminar Room, AD Hope

How do we write compelling fiction that also recognises the epochal event of the Anthropocene? This seminar will explore the politics and aesthetics of writing about the environment and the climate emergency in fiction and non-fiction. We will look at examples from key writers as well as refer to students’ work-in-progress and literary influences. Jean will give a short talk and then open the seminar up to discussion and if appropriate writing exercises. 

Professor Jean McNeil has published fifteen books, spanning fiction, memoir, poetry, essays and travel. She is Professor of Creative Writing and directs the programme at the University of East Anglia in Norfolk, UK. Her account of being writer-in-residence with the British Antarctic Survey in Antarctica, Ice Diaries, won both the Adventure Travel and Grand Prize at the Banff Mountain Film and Book Festival in 2016.  She also collaborates with visual artists and has curated two international exhibitions on the Anthropocene, in Barcelona, Spain in 2020, and forthcoming in Andorra in June 2023.

Annie Ring, The Lives of Others (book launch and lecture)

New book launch and lecture: The Lives of Others (dir. von Donnersmarck, 2006). Politics, aesthetics, surveillance

Thursday 9 March 2023, 1pm-2pm, ADH Conference Room

Annie Ring is Associate Professor of German and Film in the School of European Languages, Culture and Society at University College London, UK. Her research focuses on German and comparative film, literature and philosophy. This new book talk will include a close analysis of the award-winning German film The Lives of Others, with clips and still images, as part of wider launch celebrations for the new book she is speaking about today, The Lives of Others, BFI Film Classics. Annie Ring is also the author of the monograph After the Stasi, Bloomsbury 2015, paperback 2017, and  co-editor of two books published with colleagues in Denmark and the US: Architecture and Control, Brill 2018, Uncertain Archives: Critical Keywords for Big Data, MIT Press 2021, which is coming out in Chinese translation this year, and the forthcoming Citational Media: Counter-Archives and Technology in Contemporary Visual Culture, edited by Annie with her colleague in London Lucy Bollington, due to be published this October with MHRA Legenda Visual Cultures. She sits on the editorial board of Paragraph: A Journal of Modern Critical Theory and the steering group of the UK’s German Screen Studies Network. She received a prestigious Leverhulme Trust Research Fellowship to work on the book she is currently writing, on German cinema, surveillance and ‘the digital’.

Monique Rooney, What Should We Do with Our Brow?

Monique Rooney (ANU), What Should We Do with Our Brow?

Thursday 9 February 2023, 4.00pm-5.30pm via zoom (please email monique.rooney@anu.edu.au for zoom link)

“How do you distinguish yourself in a population of people who all got 1600 on their SATs” asks Mark Zuckerberg (played by Jessie Eisenberg) of his girlfriend Erica Albright (Rooney Mara) in the opening of David Fincher’s The Social Network (2010). While Mark distinguishes himself as a Harvard student with a perfect SAT, he attempts to demean Erica for what he implies is her affiliation with a middle-tier school (Boston U) while quizzing her as to her view of him. Erica promptly breaks up with Mark and he returns to his dorm where he resentfully blogs about her bra-size. Unable to stop thinking about her “nice face,” Mark distracts himself by programming “Facemash,” an online platform inviting Harvard students to rank the “hotness” of their peers.

The scene dramatises the importance of “brow”—the systematic valuing of intellectual and artistic attainment—in a film that links meritocratic, and particularly male, anxiety to the birth of Facebook. In exploring operations and meanings of brow discernible in contemporary networked literature, film and new media, my paper draws on such path-breaking concepts of Catherine Malabou’s as the (explosive) plasticity of the brain, our alienation from consciousness in a time of distributed intelligence, and the promise of decorrelated (anarchic) as opposed to correlated (ranked and measured) subjects. I consider persistent meanings of brow rankings as these have moved and mutated from early 20th century phrenology to taste-making and networking.

Monique Rooney researches and teaches literature, film, television and new media in the School of Literature, Languages and Linguistics (ANU). Her book Living Screens: Melodrama and Plasticity in Contemporary Film and Television (2015) draws on Malabou’s theory of plasticity to argue that  metamorphosis and mediation are vital to melodrama’s persistence from the eighteenth century to the present. This paper comes from her current book project Brow Network: Programs and Promises, which argues that brow (as in highbrow, lowbrow and middlebrow) registers our sensitivity to ubiquitous cultures of measurement and ranking.

Jenny Wustenberg in conversation with Rosanne Kennedy

Jenny Wustenberg (Nottingham Trent) in conversation with Rosanne Kennedy (ANU)

“German Memory Culture and Politics: the Documenta 15 Controversy in Context”German Memory Culture and Politics: the Documenta 15 Controversy in Context”

Thursday 17 November, 4.30-6pm, A. D. Hope G28

When Documenta 15 opened in Kassel, Germany this year, it ignited controversy that plagued it throughout. A massive artwork, ‘People’s Justice’, produced by Indonesian collective Taring Padi and displayed in Kassel’s main square, was immediately criticized as antisemitic. The painting was removed and the Indonesian collective in charge of curating Documenta 15, ruangrupa, issued an apology. The curatorial collective took the premise of lumbung–an Indonesian word associated with community rather than the individual–as a basis for inviting Global South artists and collectives to participate. Even before Documenta 15 opened, controversy swirled around the Palestinian collective, Question of Funding, which had supported the BDS movement against Israel. The Documenta controversy has generated extensive commentary on topics including antisemitism, fascism, Israel/Palestine, decolonialism in the arts and international and national frames of reception. In this seminar, Rosanne Kennedy will be in conversation with Jenny Wustenberg, who will provide an overview of German memory culture and politics to help us better understand the Documenta controversy. Rosanne, who visited Documenta 15 and other exhibitions in Berlin featuring work from the Global South, including by First Nations Australian artists, will summarise some of the critical commentary on the debate and share her reflections as a visitor.

Jenny Wüstenberg is Professor of History & Memory Studies at Nottingham Trent University. She is the author of Civil Society and Memory in Postwar Germany (Cambridge UP 2017) and the co-editor of Agency in Transnational Memory Politics (with Aline Sierp, 2020) and the Routledge Handbook of Memory Activism (with Yifat Gutman, 2022) and De-Commemoration: Making Sense of Contemporary Calls to Remove Statues and Change Place Names (with Sarah Gensburger, forthcoming). Her research interests concern the contentious politics of memory, slow-moving change, and methodology in memory studies.

Rosanne Kennedy is Associate Professor of Gender, Sexuality and Culture and Literary Studies at the Australian National University. Her research explores the diversity of cultural forms through which writers, filmmakers and activists mediate and activate the past in the present, and appears in Memory Studies, Signs, Biography, Comparative Literature Studies, Studies in the Novel, Australian Feminist Studies and elsewhere.

Colleagues who are interested in reading about the controversy can find articles by Michael Rothberg, Dirk Moses and others here: http://newfascismsyllabus.com/category/opinions/documenta/

Join Zoom Meeting: https://anu.zoom.us/j/86184190389?pwd=YzVadHNLdFhjRGRxZ0Fmc1RiVEZZQT09

Meeting ID: 861 8419 0389 / Password: 2022

Sandra Young on Adaptation as Renewal

Sandra Young (University of Cape Town), “Adaptation as renewal: the transformative impact of Hamlet’s travels”

Monday 21 November, 4.30-6pm, A. D. Hope G28

The brooding, introspective, post-Freudian Hamlet, prototype of modern Western subjectivity, has increasingly been made to reckon with the struggles of dispossession, political turmoil and police surveillance as the work has travelled globally. I consider the impact of Shakespeare’s global travels on the figure of Hamlet, and on the play’s capacity to effect discomfiting social critique, when reimagined in non-traditional centres of Shakespearean theatre-practice. Shakespeare’s most famous character has been revitalised through the work of theatre-practitioners and film-makers alert to the political imperatives of their contexts, such as rural Brazil (Zé Celso’s radical Ham-let of 1993 and 2001), India-administered Kashmir (Haider, dir. Vishal Bhardwaj, 2014), post-independence Nigeria (Wèsóo, Hamlet! Or, the Resurrection of Hamlet, by renowned Nigerian playwright, Femi Osofisan, 2014), and consequently, too, the London stage, as was evident in the National Theatre production in 2010, with its emphasis on surveillance. The Freudian interpretative framework, dominant during the last century, has had to reckon with the politics of dispossession and repression brought into relief by the complexities and inequities of a decolonising world. I draw on Edward Said’s insights into the effects of ‘traveling theory’ to conceptualise these transformations: for Said the vocabulary of ‘borrowing and adaptation is not adequate’ to speak of the transformation theory undergoes in unanticipated new contexts. He points to the profound sense of ‘affiliation’ (his emphasis) and creative renewal when ideas travel. The mutuality Said recognises is apposite too, I argue, when considering the transformative impact of Hamlet’s travels and the solidarities and resistances new interpretative contexts across the globe have yielded.

Sandra Young is Professor of English Literary Studies at the University of Cape Town. Her scholarship pursues questions of social justice in works both imaginative and historical. Her most recent book, Shakespeare in the Global South: Stories of Oceans Crossed in Contemporary Adaptation (Bloomsbury Arden, 2019), examines innovative adaptations that engage Shakespeare to tell new stories of dispossession across the global South. Her first book, The Early Modern Global South in Print: Textual Form and the Production of Human Difference as Knowledge (Ashgate, 2015), traces the emergence of a racialized ‘South’ in early modern geographies. Her research explores contemporary cultures of memory in the aftermath of injustice, too, in a range of forms, including testimony, life narrative, visual art, museum practice, and even organised protest. In her current book project, ‘An Intimate Archive: Personal Memory and Public Commemoration in the Aftermath of Apartheid’, she examines the intimate quality of post-apartheid public life and its archive.