Kate Flaherty: ‘Moving Women: How the Touring Actress Changed Shakespeare’

Moving Women: How the Touring Actress Changed Shakespeare

Thursday 21 September, 1pm Milgate Room, AD Hope Bldg, SLL

Gail Marshall contends that the Victorian-era actress was chiefly valued for her statuesque qualities – her stately stillness and blank beauty that linked her to classical culture, and exonerated her from the charge of artful self-fashioning. Helena Faucit was lauded for her embodiment of this Galatea aesthetic. The artless, sculpted-marble quality of her beauty was lauded as purity and, peculiarly for an actress, she was seen as a paragon of female virtue. In contrast, her American counterpart, Charlotte Cushman was known for her movement: she was an athletic physical performer, especially in male roles such as Hamlet and Romeo, and she travelled back and forth across the Atlantic and Pacific on tour. My paper uses these very different actresses to investigate the concepts of movement and mobility within public discourses of gender in the 19th century. Both actresses were widely acclaimed for their Shakespeare roles and both were described as moving audiences. However, the qualities attributed to their performances indicate contrary understandings of what constituted force, skill and truth in performance. I suggest that this reveals a micro-shift towards recognition of the expressive range and creative autonomy of the female performer which, in turn, transformed how Shakespeare’s plays could make meaning for the modern world.

Dr Kate Flaherty is Lecturer in English and Drama, SLLL. Her research focuses on how Shakespeare’s works play on the stage of public culture. Her monograph Ours as we play it: Australia plays Shakespeare (UWAP, 2011) examined three plays in performance in contemporary Australia. More recent work investigates Shakespeare on the colonial stage and the public interplay of the dramas with education and the politics of gender and empire.

Russell Smith: Frankenstein in the Automatic Factory

Frankenstein in the Automatic Factory

Thursday 31 August, 1pm Milgate Room, AD Hope Bldg, SLLL

On 4 November 1818, some eight months after the anonymous publication of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Dr Andrew Ure performed a series of galvanic experiments at Glasgow University on the body of Matthew Clydesdale, hanged for murder an hour earlier. According to Ure’s lurid account published in the 1819 Quarterly Journal of Science, the dead man resumed breathing, opened his eyes and appeared to gesture towards the terrified spectators. In this paper, however, I focus on Ure’s subsequent career as the first scientific consultant to industry and one of the principal theorists of the industrial revolution. Pilloried by Marx in Capital as the ‘Pindar of the Automatic Factory’, Ure was an influential advocate for the transformation, not only of the production process, but of the labouring body, by automatic machinery. Ure’s definition of the word ‘AUTOMATIC’ from his Dictionary of Arts, Manufactures, and Mines serves to link his electrical experiments and his theorisation of capitalist production:

AUTOMATIC: A term used to designate such economic arts as are carried on by self-acting machinery. The word is employed by the physiologist to express involuntary motions.

I want to explore Frankenstein, modernity’s most protean fable, as a text emerging from the reconceptualization of life and the living body in the industrial revolution, as matter that can be animated by forces such as electricity, and can thus be heightened, sustained, managed and disciplined – in a word, engineered – in the service of capitalist production.

Dr Russell Smith lectures in modern literature and literary theory in SLLL.

Jyoti Nandan: White – A Misogynist?

Patrick White – A Misogynist? (With special focus on The Twyborn Affair)

Thursday 24 August, 1pm Milgate Room, AD Hope Bldg, SLLL

Patrick White has been called a misogynist. My paper discusses to what extent this is the case. There is no denying that White’s male characters are drawn in much greater depth and more empathetically than his female characters. White’s initiate, that is, the one with the potential for growth and illumination is almost always male. However, paradoxically, many of White’s central concerns are also the fundamental concerns of feminism. A thread that runs through all his work is the acknowledgement and reconciliation of dualisms which have structured Western and Christian thought. Feminists have argued all along that binary oppositions such as mind/body, masculine/feminine, self/other – common in the cultural construction of reality – underlie women’s subordination for the inequitable valuation of their constituent terms results in a discriminatory conception of the ‘normal’.

Dr Jyoti Nandan is an Honorary Associate Professor in the School of Literature, Languages, and Linguistics, ANU. Her research has mainly been in the area of New Literatures in English. She has in the main employed a post-colonial feminist critical approach for the analysis of literary texts in this area..

Monique Rooney: Queer Objects and Intermedial Timepieces: Reading S-Town

Queer Objects and Intermedial Timepieces: Reading S-Town (2017)

Thursday 10 August, 1pm Milgate Room, AD Hope Bldg, SLLL

This paper takes as its queer object a serialised podcast. With its story about John B. McLemore, a clockmaker from Woodstock, Alabama, S-Town is a blockbuster success from the producers of Serial (2014-2016) and This American Life (1995-present) (the 7-part series was downloaded 16 million times in the first week of its release, with that number now exceeding 40 million). Against both affirmative and negative reception of S-Town—responses that tend to position the podcast either as transcending or as reproducing the idea of a backwards or lagging South—this paper argues that S-Town is an intermedial narrative incorporating various media that themselves comprise competing temporalities. Indexing these alternative temporalities are the intricate designs of clocks and sundials that tell of mythological time and seasonal and diurnal rhythms. There are also tattoos and other inscriptions that mark both bodies and sundials. My argument attends to the animate and inanimate forms narratively contained within the podcast, touching on Rebecca Schneider’s idea of ‘inter(in)animation’ and Elizabeth Freeman’s challenges to ‘chrononormativity’ in the process. From within this intermedial structure, John emerges as an intermediary whose engagement in processes of self-objectification and historical re-enactment complicates a normative timeframe and confounds conventional subject/object relations.

Dr Monique Rooney teaches literature, film and television in the School of Literature, Languages and Linguistics, ANU. Her current research explores the intermediality of the Australian ‘New Wave’ period.

Christine Regan on Harrison, Rimbaud and the Communards

v. Revisited: Harrison, Rimbaud, and the Communards

Thursday 27 July, 1pm Milgate Room, AD Hope Bldg, SLLL

Tony Harrison (1937 – ) is one of England’s greatest political poets, elegists, and verse dramatists of the 20th and 21st centuries, and the stature of his contribution to literature has been recognised by the canonisation of his poetry and prestigious awards. Harrison’s most famous poem is v. (1984), an urban elegy that satirizes its literary model, Thomas Gray’s Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard (1751). Where the poor remain silent and spoken for in Gray’s Elegy, v. unmutes the poor, and its giving voice to the rage of an illiterate Neo-Nazi skinhead led to Tory calls in the tabloids and in parliament for that ‘torrent of four-letter filth’ to be banned. Harrison’s poetry is highly allusive and revisiting this extraordinary poem, v., unearths new layers of meaning. This paper examines the importance for Harrison of the great 19th-century French poet Arthur Rimbaud (1854-91). It is in v. that Harrison most directly expresses an enduring identification with Rimbaud. To understand the political significance of Rimbaud’s presence in v.—and why Rimbaud is important for Harrison’s politics—it is important to keep in mind that Rimbaud was a Communard. The paper will explore the importance of the French radical republican tradition, in the form of the Paris Commune of 1871, for Harrison’s political thought and for the interpretation of Rimbaud in v. This state-of-the-nation poem suggests an alternative social model to neoliberalism in Britain and late capitalism by turning to the Communards—and Rimbaud as ‘the first poet of a civilization that has not yet appeared’—to illuminate utopian possibilities about how to ‘transform the world’ and to ‘change life’.

Dr Christine Regan is the author of The Rimbaud of Leeds: The Political Character of Tony Harrison’s Poetry (2016) and essays on Harrison’s life and work. She is developing a new study of contemporary poetry.

Lunchtime seminar: Imogen Mathew on How Anita Heiss Rewrites the Public Intellectual

Anita Heiss Rewrites the Public Intellectual for 21st Century Australia

Thursday 27 July, 1pm Milgate Room, AD Hope Bldg, SLLL

Aboriginal intellectual interventions in contemporary Australia come in many shapes and sizes, from the @IndigenousX twitter account to Stan Grant’s 2015 IQ2 Racism address. My research gives one account of how these interventions play out in the Australian public sphere through an extended case study of Anita Heiss, a Wiradjuri woman from Central NSW. Heiss is an author, academic, activist and—as I argue in my thesis—public intellectual. My thesis is structured around two of Heiss’s most important interventions in the Australian public sphere, her commercial women’s fiction and her role in the 2011 court case Eatock vs Bolt, where Herald Sun journalist Andrew Bolt was found guilty of Racial Discrimination. These interventions may appear to have little in common yet Heiss pursues the same argument in each, that the rich diversity of Aboriginal life and experience far exceeds the limited stereotypes that animate the Australian imagination. My research extends beyond a close reading of the court case and her commercial women’s fiction to incorporate a reception study of Heiss’s interventions. To this end, I examine user-generated reviews of Heiss’s literary output in what Simone Murray calls ‘the digital literary sphere’. The original contribution made by this project is two-fold. On one hand, I present the first sustained academic account of Heiss’ fiction and its reception. On the other, I contribute to ongoing debates about the role of the Public Intellectual, particularly as she is interpreted and constructed in 21st century Australia.

Imogen Mathew is a PhD candidate in SLLL. Her writing has been published in the Journal of the Association for the Study of Australian Literature (JASAL), Contemporary Women’s Writing, Australian Humanities Review and Australasian Journal of Victorian Studies (forthcoming 2017).