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 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:

Join Zoom Meeting:

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.

Zack Karpinellison on Starstruck: Old Sydney vs New Canberra

Zach Karpinellison, “Starstruck: Old Sydney via New Canberra”

Thursday 27 October, 4.30-6pm, A. D. Hope G28; online (contact

In this work-in-progress paper, I am arguing that the National Film and Sound Archive’s restoration of Gillian Armstrong’s 1982 musical Starstruck led to the creation of a new version of the film which functioned to erase and unmake the original. In this seminar, I will look at some of the differences between the restored and unrestored versions of Starstruck. These differences provoke questions about nostalgia, authorial intervention, and national memory. In particular, I will draw attention to the way that the restored version of the film anchors itself to the American cut, and I will consider how this affects cultural and social perception of Australianness in relation to this obscure Sydney-based musical.

Zach Karpinellison is a second-year PhD student in the Interdisciplinary Cross-Cultural Research program at ANU. His work takes place at the intersection between screen and museum studies, and the subject of his research is the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia.

Wannes Dupont on “Pinks, Reds and Post-war Blues”

Wannes Dupont (NUS Yale Singapore), “Pinks, Reds and Post-war Blues: Homosexuality and Global Institutions in the Early Cold War Era”

Thursday 3 November, 12.30-1.30 pm, A. D. Hope G28; online (contact

Today, as pluralism and the civil integration of sexual minorities have become hallmarks of Western countries’ liberal identity, we must recall that the opposite was the case when the notion of ‘the West’ emerged out of the ruins of World War II. During the 1940s and -50s, North America was in the grip of simultaneous ‘Red’ and ‘Lavender’ scares that involved the active persecution of communists and queers at scale. These scares reflected the need for moral restoration after a period of drastic social changes. This talk addresses how Europe also saw an unprecedented wave of homophobia between 1945 and 1965. It demonstrates how local dynamics resonated with transnationally circulating concerns to bolster a widespread fear of ‘homosexual seduction’. During the long 1950s, however, growing international cooperation in the lap of the newly founded United Nations and organisations like Interpol also paved the way for homosexuality’s (partial) decriminalisation during the 1960s and the 1970s.

Wannes Dupont is currently Assistant Professor of History at Yale-NUS College in Singapore, but will become a Lecturer in the History of Sexuality at the University of Edinburgh come January. He previously conducted research as a postdoctoral fellow at Yale University and as a postdoctoral fellow of the Flemish Research Foundation at the University of Antwerp. His research focuses on the European and global sexual past, queer history, reproductive politics, and the intersections of biopolitics and religion.

This seminar is funded courtesy of the Research School of Humanities and the Arts Visiting Fellows scheme

John Flower (University of Kent), “Some Thoughts on the Present State of the French Novel”

John Flower (University of Kent), “Some thoughts on the present state of the French novel”

Thursday 13 October, 4.30-6pm, A. D. Hope G28

With nearly 600 new novels published every year, to talk of recurrent themes or preoccupations in recent years is at best hazardous if not a waste of time. There is the usual cry that the vast sprawling novels of the nineteenth century and the masterpieces of the twentieth requiring the reader’s time and patience are still to be regretted, and that the impact of the visual—notably television and the comic strip—has encouraged a taste for instant consumption. That various aspects of contemporary politics and society have drawn novelists’ attention is clear; at the same time well-established concerns such as the Occupation or memory and history or the role of women, for example, continue to inspire some writers and satisfy their editor’s commercial ambitions.

Prof John Flower is Emeritus Professor of French at the University of Kent.  He has held professorial posts at Exeter UK and in France at Paris X-Nanterre and Bordeaux. He has published extensively on French literature, culture and politics since the early twentieth century, notably on the work of François Mauriac. He was founding editor of the Journal of European Studies and until 2021 its general editor.

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

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

Maureen Gallagher on Decolonial Gazing and Hermeneutic Resistance

Thursday 6 October, 4.30-6pm, A. D. Hope G28

“Decolonial Gazing and Hermeneutic Resistance: Black German Challenges to White German Cultural Hegemony in the Museum”

This work in progress essay highlights the ways that Black Europeans, in this case in the German context, challenge universalizing notions of cultural heritage to highlight decolonial possibilities and interrogate the collection, display, and spectatorship of museum objects in majority-white contexts. I use the Berlin Ethnological museum in its former and current iterations as a representative example of debates about collecting and looking at museums, showing how thinkers like Fatima El-Tayeb and Kum’a Ndumbe III and initiatives like No Humboldt21! offer challenges to universalizing discourses and reflect the gaze back on whiteness. Finally, I offer a reading of a literary challenge to this universalism in Sharon Dodua Otoo’s 2021 novel Adas Raum (Ada’s Realm).

Maureen Gallagher is a lecturer in German Studies at ANU. She holds a PhD in German Studies from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and is currently working on a book manuscript on whiteness in Wilhelmine German youth literature and culture based on her dissertation. Her research and teaching interests include race and gender in German colonial literature, Black German Studies, connections between German Studies and Indigenous Studies, and inclusive, anti-racist and decolonial teaching practices.

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

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

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