Anne-Mette Bech Albrechtslund on Goodreads

A balancing act: Putting up bookshelves on a social media platform

Join us for this week’s CuSPP Seminar

Thursday 12 September, 1pm, Milgate Room, AD Hope Bldg, SLLL

This talk concerns the interplay between social media and contemporary reading practices as seen from a qualitative, discourse-oriented perspective. The popular social book cataloguing site Goodreads is used as a starting point to examine and discuss the dynamics of a developing digital reading culture, focusing on the use of so-called ‘bookshelves’ on the site. While Goodreads has been successful in creating the kind of participatory culture which may directly influence the publishing communication circuit, it has also become increasingly clear in recent years that there are strong economic and strategic interests tied to the platform’s business model. Suspicions and worries about Goodreads’ increasing commercialization have often been aired among users, not least in the continuing discussions on the site about the purpose of bookshelves, and the policies relating to them certainly seem to be an indication of that. In this talk, I will present examples of these discussions and discuss how these can be seen part of an appropriating strategy where users claim ownership of the online space they inhabit and act as literary curators and critics in their own right.

Anne-Mette Bech Albrechtslund is a Danish researcher in the fields of media and information studies with a background in comparative literature. She is currently a Visiting Fellow at the SLLL. Her published research focuses on digital reading culture, gaming communities, internet research methods, and more.

Katie Cox on ‘Superpowered Security’

Superpowered Security: Cruel Optimism in Marvel’s Iron Man Films (Exit Presentation)

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Thursday 29 August, 1pm, Milgate Room, AD Hope Bldg, SLLL

Over the course of the War on Terror, it has become commonplace to note that the United States and allies now exist in a permanent state of emergency, such that once-exceptional security measures are now the norm. Katie draws on the work of Lauren Berlant to argue that national security has become an object of cruel optimism: a fantasy that sustains the nation, like the promise of ‘the good life’, but which proves either impossible to achieve or “too possible, and toxic”. Viewing security as a cruelly optimistic attachment allows us to untangle the ways in which constant escalation of security measures wears people down, even while it provides the nation with the “conditions of possibility” that guarantee its endurance.  

Katie examines Marvel’s Iron Man films, using the relationship between Tony Stark and the Iron Man suit to think through the cruel optimism in the logic of security discourse. As superpowered representations of United States national security practices, the Iron Man films demonstrate an affective entanglement between national security and optimistic fantasies of technological progress, prosperity, and freedom. Nevertheless, Iron Man’s relationship with his technology is nothing if not cruel; his dependence on the Iron Man suit fosters a sense of insecurity, such that he begins to create the threats he seeks to prevent. I argue that the Iron Man films neither fully critique or endorse United States national security policy post-9/11, but instead reflect a public struggle to reconcile the optimistic promises linked to national security in the political imagination with the lived reality of crisis as an everyday norm. 

Katie Cox is a PhD student in Literature at the Australian National University, specialising in speculative fiction, popular film, and critical theory. Her research has been featured on local and international radio, and in 2018 she won the People’s Choice Award for the ANU 3 Minute Thesis Grand Final. 

Thomas Nulley-Valdés on ‘universalist trajectories’ and the Global South

Semi-universal trajectories from the Global South: A comparative Casanovian study of Vicente Huidobro and José Donoso

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Thursday 22 August, 1pm, Milgate Room, AD Hope Bldg, SLLL

The Chilean poet Vicente Huidobro (1893-1948) and the Chilean novelist José Donoso (1925-1996) both demonstrated universal ambitions for their literary oeuvre: the former through his avant-garde creacionismo poetry, and the latter through formal novelistic experimentation during the Latin American literary Boom of the 1960s. A Casanovian micro/macro-level methodology rearticulates their respective literary trajectories within the literature-world by considering not solely their creative texts but also extra-literary material (manifestoes, letters, chronicles) and contexts, all mutually informing perspectives which illustrate this halfway universalisation. This critical perspective sheds light on their eventual unaccomplished desires of transcendence of the national paradigm, rejection of extra-literary political commitment, and pure dedication to literary poetics, through their eventual return and settlement within a national tradition and engagement with these very same issues. As such, Casanova’s theory is valuable for understanding these complex literary paths but is problematized theoretically in turn through an analysis of this failed universal trajectory of authors from the Global South.

Thomas Nulley-Valdés is a lecturer in the Spanish Programme at the ANU. His main research interests include: the macro and micro-level analysis of texts, authors, and contexts; contemporary short story anthologies; and World Literature theories and methodologies. For his doctoral research he has conducted over 25 interviews with contemporary Latin American authors and editors and has published some of these interviews.

Gabrielle Carey on ‘Katherine Mansfield’s Cousin’

Elizabeth von Arnim was born Mary Beauchamp in Kirribilli in 1866. At 24 became a Prussian countess  and moved to Pomerania where she ‘somewhat mutinously’ bore five children while secretly writing under a pen name. Always able to recognise literary talent, von Arnim employed E.M. Forster and Hugo Walpole as tutors for her daughters. On being widowed, she began an affair with H.G. Wells which was followed by a marriage to Bertrand Russell’s brother and then a 12-year romantic liaison with a man 30 years her junior. So how did she find time to write 21 best-selling comic novels, one memoir and a sell-out play?

Gabrielle Carey is writer of non-fiction interested in resurrecting forgotten Australian writers. Her most recent book, Falling Out of Love with Ivan Southall,  was about the hugely popular and internationally awarded children’s writer of the 1960s and 70s. In 2014 her book about Randolph Stow, Moving Among Strangers, won the Prime Minister’s Literary Award for Non-FIction. In 2019 she was the H.C. Coombs Creative Arts Fellow. She is currently a Visiting Fellow with the School of History and trying to finish a biography of Elizabeth von Arnim.

Beate Langenbruch, A Walk through the Garden

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Thursday 8 August, 1pm, Milgate Room, AD Hope Bldg, SLLL

Vegetal enclosure inviting to meditation, idyllic framework for political reflection or locus amoenus for lover’s rendez-vous in Old French poetry and romance: the garden reveals its high and flexible potential in Medieval literature. Do we remember that the epic Song of Roland (ca. 1100) settles the first of its dramatic scenes in two orchards? As a green theatre, the mighty trees of in Beroul’s Tristan and Isold witness an interesting double play, becoming both a lookout and a trap for the lovers’ enemies. Other novels, such as Chretien of Troyes’ Erec and Enide or Cligès consolidate the lacy features of branches by constructing hidden playgrounds for either chivalry combat or secret lovers. Of course, the first garden exposed on a French stage is Eden, since the first religious play in this language is the Jeu d’Adam, that already knows how useful special effects are…

Our walk through these medieval gardens will discuss the close interaction of Nature and Human culture, and investigate on the patterns that the diverse genres of Old French literature will display when setting up the green scenery.

Beate Langenbruch is a German researcher, Associate Professor at ENS de Lyon in France, and member of the CIHAM research group (UMR 5648) on history, archeology and literature in the Middle Ages. As a specialist for French medieval texts, she investigates in particular on Old French Epics. Other fields of interest and research are réécriture of medieval texts, their literary genre, medieval gender studies, translation studies and cultural transfers.

Tania Evans on monstrous masculinity on TV

Fucking with Fangs: Monstrous queer male mothers, affect, and online fan reception

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

Toxic masculinity is recognised by psychologists and academics as a gender role that is dangerous for men as well as women, one which leads men to experience high rates of suicide, violence, and substance abuse. At the same time, popular culture is recognised as a site where identity, including gender identity, can be shaped, re-thought, and re-considered. This seminar will investigate how queer depictions of monstrous masculinity in popular television maintain and disrupt audiences’ understanding of toxic masculinity with a focus on the family and reproduction. Popular films, television, and novels, especially those that deal with monstrosity, offer an exemplary site for challenging toxic masculinity and reach millions of men across the globe. Filmic and literary monsters present a complex commentary on normative masculinity that can also be used to bridge the critical divide between affect theory, masculinity studies, queer theory, and digital literary and reception studies. I will demonstrates how certain mass cultural texts invite audiences to reject their attachment to toxic masculinity, and how these textual strategies might be mobilised to change broader gender roles that harm men, women, and non-binary people.

Tania Evans is an associate lecturer in cultural studies at the ANU. Her doctoral project explored masculinity, violence, and fantasy in George R. R. Martin’s series A Song of Ice and Fire and its television adaptation, Game of Thrones, and a research manuscript based on this work is currently under external review with Edinburgh University Press. She has also written essays on gender in popular culture, in Gothic Studies, Fantastika, Masculinities, and Aeternum: The Journal of Contemporary Gothic Studies.

Textual Critique Through the Artist’s Eye: John Austen’s ‘Hamlet’

Through the Artist’s Eye: John Austen’s Hamlet explores the way in which the visual art can subtly reflect unique and partially transgressive interpretations of characters’ implied interiority in Shakespeare. It takes taking John Austen’s highly aesthetic, art nouveau illustrated edition of Hamlet, dating to 1922, as a case study, paying close attention to symbol, gesture, expression and overall artistic composition as they reflect Austen’s close reading of the play as text. Ahead of his time, the artist anticipates late twentieth-century critical and performative interpretations of, in particular, Hamlet and Ophelia. Thus, this thesis sets out to demonstrate Austen’s artistic ingenuity and foresight, and to highlight the critical value of interpreting artistic renderings of Shakespeare’s characters as a form of literary critique. The republication in 2010 of Austen’s Hamlet signals a renewed appreciation for illustrated editions of Shakespeare, making this project a timely contribution to the field of research pertaining to Shakespearean visual art. Prior to 2010, Austen’s contribution to the visual artistic world of Hamlet had gone unnoticed for much of the twentieth-century, most likely because his copies had been, before this time, extremely limited in number. Provocative and imaginative, his illustrations present an unprecedented dark prince, a complicated and independent Ophelia, a diabolical Ghost, and host of disturbing, deeply symbolic, supernatural, feminine entities. Women are no longer relegated to the background in his Hamlet,as in so many onstage, visual artistic and filmic adaptations of the twentieth-century; instead, they are granted a position centre-stage, with the Greek goddess Nemesis (‘Vengeance’) as their fierce, relentless representative.

Luisa Moore is a PhD student in the School of Literature, Languages and Linguistics. Her research focuses on twentieth-century visual artistic representations of Shakespeare, and how these images shed light on an artist’s reading of the text and the implied interiority of Shakespeare’s characters. Her written thesis takes John Austen’s highly imaginative, art nouveau illustrated Hamlet (1922) as a case study.

Louisa Kirk, Fantasy and Event in Nella Larsen’s Passing

Join us for this week’s CuSPP seminar:

Fantasy and Event in Nella Larsen’s Passing

Thursday 30 May, 1pm, Milgate Room, AD Hope Bldg, SLLL

UPDATE: Unfortunately due to illness, this week’s TLS will not be running. Our TLS series will start back in Semester 2.

Nella Larsen’s Passing (1929), a noteworthy text of the Harlem Renaissance, portrays the strong and strange connection between Clare and Irene, two women who racially ‘pass’ between black and white in 1920’s New York. The novel is often treated as a mysterious text, examined through the lens of race or read for latent lesbianism. While the complex and illusive nature of the passing encourages multiple interpretations, few scholars, if any, closely read Irene’s and Clare’s connection as friendship. Accounting for the force of race and the sexual ambiguity of Clare’s and Irene’s connection and reading their bond as friendship facilitates an examination of the text from another direction, offering insight into a particular kind of female friendship; one in which identification appears to lead toward a repulsive and desired merging. Drawing on the work of Sianne Ngai on female envy and Judith Butler on identification, this paper argues that Passing presents a friendship in which likeness threatens to turn into consuming sameness, as the basis of the friendship shifts from identification to emulation, fantasy to event. Passing, therefore, depicts a female friendship which negotiates blurred boundaries: race and sexuality, the self and other, want and fear.

Louisa Kirk is undertaking her PhD in English Literature at the Australian National University, examining female friendship in North American texts of the 20th and 21st century. In 2017 Louisa won the Leslie Holdsworth Allen Memorial Prize for the best Honours thesis in English at the ANU. Louisa received a 2019 Stella Prize/ANU Gender Institute internship in Melbourne, Australia.

Kate Oakes, Till the Cows Come Home: A Scene from the Novel Westhill

Join us for this week’s CuSPP seminar:

Till the Cows Come Home: A Scene from the Novel Westhill

Thursday 23 May, 1pm, Milgate Room, AD Hope Bldg, SLLL

In Animal Studies discourse, farms are places of marginalization and cruelty. Agricultural practices involve the killing of astonishing numbers of animals, and demonstrate, quite graphically, what Dinesh Wadiwel calls the “continuing warlike domination” of the nonhuman animal (285).

Simultaneously though, farms, and particularly ethically focused farms, are unique sites of human-animal interaction, where interspecies bonds are purposefully or incidentally cultivated. Agricultural communities are well placed to recognize what Derrida termed “unsubstitutable singularity” (9).

In his seminal essay “Why Look at Animals?” John Berger captures the inherent contradictions of farming when he writes that historically animals were “subjected and worshipped, bred and sacrificed” (7). Farms are places of human-animal familiarity, and human-animal brutality. How then are these conflicting ideas to be reconciled to form an ethically minded and rounded understanding of agriculture? More specifically, how can fictional literature play a role in examining the nuance, ambiguity and contradiction of these spaces? The creative component of my PhD thesis grapples with this thematically, and one scene particularly aims to explore the nexus of conflicting ideas and feelings. In this scene the protagonist Charlotte tells of her attempt to aid a farming family when a sudden flood causes two of their dairy cows to become stuck in the marshy banks of the River Denum.

Kate Oakes is a PhD student in the School of Literature, Languages and Linguistics, working on a Creative Writing thesis. She is writing a Bildungsroman novel set in rural southern England, and her research deals primarily with Animal Studies scholarship, and the novels of Victorian author Thomas Hardy.

Book Launch: Christie Margrave, Writing the Landscape: Exposing Nature in French Women’s Fiction 1789–1815

Please join us on Tuesday June 4 at 4pm to celebrate the launch of our new colleague Christie Margrave’s book, Writing the Landscape: Exposing Nature in French Women’s Fiction 1789–1815, which has just been published with Legenda. The launch will take place from 4-5pm in the AD Hope Conference Room (room 128 at the end of the hall) and will be hosted by the French Research Cluster, the School of Literature, Languages and Linguistics and the Humanities Research Centre. Please spread the word; all are welcome and drinks and nibbles will be provided.

In the meantime, learn more about Christie’s book here:

Women novelists were among the most popular authors of the First Republic and First Empire, yet they are frequently overlooked in favour of their canonical male counterparts. Their penchant for sentimental novels has led some later critics to take their writing at face value as apolitical and domestic, at odds with France’s violent convulsions. Furthermore, their carefully crafted presentation of natural settings has, thus far, been dismissed completely. Yet, as Christie Margrave shows, the natural landscape was far from being a casually chosen backdrop for writers such as Cottin, Genlis, Krüdener, Souza and Staël. Rather, the ‘escape into nature’ given to their female protagonists was a means to expose and confront the everyday reality and emotional suffering faced by women in the Revolutionary decade and Napoleonic Empire. By highlighting self-expression, and by celebrating the figure of the melancholic wanderer, the social misfit, or the visionary, in the setting of an often tempestuous Nature, they also exerted substantial influence on the literary Romanticism which was soon to capture the European imagination.

We look forward to seeing you there.