Symposium: Writing as Discovery: Investigating a Hidden Component of Method

Writing as Discovery:
Investigating a Hidden Component of Method
One-day cross-disciplinary symposium
Humanities Research Centre, Sir Roland Wilson Building, ANU
Friday, November the 9th 2018 (9am – 5pm)

When scientists and scholars compose papers, articles and
monographs, is it really only a matter of “writing up” what they by then
already know? Could it also be that in the attempt to articulate our
knowledge new discoveries are made?
One of the few studies in this area concluded that scientists regularly started
writing prior to the end of experimentation, to bring clarity to what they were
trying to achieve, that major discoveries occurred in the course of revision and
that collegial input at the review stage actively changed findings (Yore, Hand
and Priam 2002; confirming earlier work by Holmes 1987). But mostly the
matter is obscure, and this is true outside the STEM sector as well. When
Michel Foucault’s editors comment that the way he composed his books
“should be an object of study in its own right” (Fontana and Bertani, 2003),
they underline that the writing practices of even the most cited figures in the
contemporary humanities are simply unknown. Nor is it clear to what extent
writing functions as a vehicle for discovery in the social sciences. Across all
disciplines with the arguable exception of creative writing itself, the writing
practices of scholars and scientists remain “significantly undertheorised”
(Aitchison and Lee 2006).
Our aim is to consider the possibility that, far from being simply ancillary, the
act of writing constitutes a key plank in scientific and scholarly method.
Co-hosted by the Humanities Research Centre, ANU College of the Arts &
Social Sciences and the University of Canberra’s Centre for Creative and
Cultural Research, Faculty of Arts & Design, this symposium brings together
major thinkers from across the disciplines. Presentations will include panel
discussions, a live interview and an open workshop.
All are invited to attend and contribute their own disciplinary and creative
perspectives to the discussion.
Featuring:
• Nobel Laureate in Physiology and National Trust Australian Living
Treasure, Professor Peter Doherty
• Author of over 35 U.S. patents for the treatment of cancer, Fellow of
the National Academy of Inventors, Microbiologist, Professor Yvonne
Paterson
• Filmmaker, Cultural Studies Scholar and Former Creative Director of
the Australian Centre for the Moving Image, Professor Ross Gibson
• Labour Economist, former editor-in-chief of Labour Economics and
novelist, Professor Alison Booth
• Winner of the NSW Premier’s Biennial Prize for Literary Scholarship
and Head of the Humanities Research Centre, Professor Will Christie
• Non-fiction writer, novelist, former fellow at the Rachel Carson Center
for Environment and Society at Ludwig Maximillians University and
2018/2019 Environmental Humanities Fellow at the University of
Edinburgh, Associate Professor Saskia Beudel
• Novelist, creative writing researcher and former Fulbright scholar,
Doctor Lucy Neave
• Poet, critic and scholar in poetics, Associate Professor Paul Magee
For further information, please click here.

Image credit: Robert Delaunay, Rythme No.1

Co-organised by the Australian National University and the University of Canberra

Belle Joseph ‘Beyond Words’

Join us for this week’s CuSPP seminar:

Beyond Words? Trauma in Literature from the Concentration Camps

Thursday 25 October, 1pm, Milgate Room, AD Hope Bldg, SLLL

Cathy Caruth’s studies on trauma and literature, especially her seminal 1996 work, Unclaimed Experience, laid much of the groundwork of literary trauma theory. Caruth labelled trauma ‘the unexperienced event’. Direct knowledge of the traumatic experience, according to Caruth, is impossible; the ‘threat of death’ is never truly confronted by the victim at the time, and can only be approached subsequently and in an imperfect manner.

The question of psychic trauma in literature is of particular relevance when it comes to memoirs and other writings by those who survived the concentration camps, the scene of what have become in the collective memory the archetypal traumatic events of the 20th century. Yet to date, the considerable body of writings produced by concentration camp prisoners during their internment has been largely overlooked in debates on trauma in literature. By looking at writings from the camps by French prisoners and others, including the contemporary Sonderkommando testimonies, I will show that far from manifesting the victims’ incapacity to come to terms with what they are experiencing, these texts are evidence of the authors’ genuine engagement with the harrowing realities of internment and with the proximity of death. Traditional literary strategies, including lyricism, aesthetic imagery, and metaphor, are used to confront and interpret the traumatic events experienced. Reading these texts compels us to come up with a more nuanced model of how profound psychic trauma might find voice in literary texts at the very moments in which the traumatic events are experienced.

Dr Belle Joseph is a Sessional Lecturer in the French program in SLLL. She was awarded her PhD in French in 2017 for a thesis investigating the poetry written by French prisoners in concentration camps during the Second World War. She has a research article forthcoming in the Australian Journal of French Studies.

Russell Smith: the dead pan

Join us for this week’s CuSPP seminar:

The dead pan: Nathanael West’s unfunny jokes and modernist anti-sentimentalism

Thursday 18 October, 1pm, Milgate Room, AD Hope Bldg, SLLL

Though Nathanael West’s novels are often read in terms of an ancient and revered mode of misanthropic humour—satire—in this paper I want to draw on recent work that seeks to situate his work in relation to distinctly modern comic modes—slapstick, burlesque, black humour, and especially, dead pan. In Miss Lonelyhearts (1933), we read of the constantly-joking newspaper editor Shrike:

Although his gestures were elaborate, his face was blank. He practiced a trick much used by moving-picture comedians—the dead pan. No matter how fantastic or excited his speech, he never changed his expression. Under the shining white globe of his brow, his features huddled together in a dead, gray triangle.

Drawing on Michael North’s Machine-Age Comedy, and recent readings of West by Jonathan Greenberg and Justus Nieland, I want to draw out the inhuman aspects of West’s anti-sentimental modernist comedy. In particular, where for other modernists the mechanical aspects of human behaviour are a source of comedy, and laughter itself the most mechanical of human behaviours, West’s ‘strange and unfunny jokes’ (as he called them) depict these human mechanisms of collective emotion in breakdown, pulling out the rug of sensus communis on which satirical humour traditionally rests. The result is a comedy which may not, in fact, be funny.

Russell Smith is a Lecturer in English in SLLL. This paper will be presented later this month at the annual conference of the Australasian Modernist Studies Network on the theme of Modernist Comedy and Humour.

Upcoming HRC event: Scientists in Australian Fiction

 

Conversations Across the Creek is an initiative by the Humanities Research Centre (HRC) and the Research School of Chemistry (RSC) to provide a space for continuing dialogue among scientists, social scientists, and humanities scholars. Meetings are held monthly, with the aim of stimulating and unearthing research and teaching collaborations across the university.

Join us for the fourth Conversation for 2018, where three diverse scholars ‘cross’ Sullivan’s Creek, presenting on their latest research. The topic of this event is Creators of Culture: Scientists in Australian Fiction.

The speakers will explore the representations and dynamics of scientists in Australian fiction, and why they matter. Special guest: Peter Goldsworthy AM, award-winning poet and writer. There will also be a glassblowing performance by Mark Eliott. This event is free to attend but registration is esssential. Register now!

Monique Rooney, ‘Only Mediate’

Join us for this week’s CuSPP seminar:

Only Mediate: The Mere Interest of Interbrow in Kenneth Lonergan’s Margaret (2011) and Howards End (2017)

Thursday 11 October, 1pm, Milgate Room, AD Hope Bldg, SLLL

‘Only connect’ functions both as the epigraph to E. M. Forster’s Howards End (1910) and as the central character Margaret Schlegel’s exhortation to her husband, capitalist entrepreneur Henry Wilcox. With her exasperated ‘only connect’, Margaret means for Henry to recognise that his refusal of hospitality and condemnation of the actions of others involve blindness to his own culpability in the tragic events that have unfolded. Signalling potential hospitality in any given situation, ‘only connect’ is here a means to an altruistic end. This paper repurposes ‘only connect’ as ‘only mediate’ in order to think about bourgeois conduct underpinning middlebrow narrative, interpersonal mediation and the role of intermedia in Kenneth Lonergan’s film and television work. The television miniseries Howards End (2017, screenwriter Lonergan, director Hettie McDonald) and the film Margaret (2011, director and screenwriter Lonergan) are coming-of-age narratives in which tragic storylines pivot on the actions of young, middle-class women who insert themselves into the lives of other people. This female, bourgeois mediation can, moreover, be understood in terms of the capitalist-media environment in which both Howards End and Margaret were produced.

My coinage ‘interbrow’—crossing ‘middlebrow’ with ‘intermedia’—points to my interest in the role and significance of contemporary media in the context of bourgeois concern, with further reference to what Sianne Ngai calls ‘mere interest’. ‘Mere interest’ is a weaker or cooler version of the curious that, for Ngai, corresponds to the circulation of the artwork within a bourgeois public sphere and among late capitalist networks of production, distribution, commodification and consumption. In this context, ‘mere interest’ gestures to our aesthetic proclivities, judgements and actions as they hyperconnect, enmeshed within distributive networks. This paper considers the transformative possibilities and limits of ‘mere interest’ as a will to ‘only mediate’, investigating the interbrow of Lonergan’s productions and their portrayal of a feminine drive toward resolution for selves and others.

Monique Rooney is a senior lecturer in the English Program, School of Literature, Languages and Literature ANU. Her book Living Screens: Melodrama and Plasticity in Contemporary Film and Television (2015) explores the far-reaching legacy of Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s ur-melodrama Pygmalion as a form that is essentially about mediation and metamorphosis. She has published on the role and significance of intermedia in Angelaki and New Review of Film and Television Studies and her essay on melodrama is forthcoming in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia.

Gemma King on Denis Villeneuve’s Arrival

Join us for this week’s CuSPP seminar:

Denis Villeneuve’s multilingual cinema: Decentring space, time and language in Arrival

Thursday 4 October, 1pm, Milgate Room, AD Hope Bldg, SLLL

With dialogue in Arabic, English, Finnish, French, Hungarian, Japanese, Mandarin, Norwegian, Russian, Somali, Spanish and even extraterrestrial languages, Québécois filmmaker Denis Villeneuve’s cinema revolves around language. From 2010’s trilingual Incendies to 2017’s heptalingual Blade Runner 2049, Villeneuve’s films increasingly feature protagonists who not only speak multiple languages, but use multilingualism to exert social power. In these films, lingua francas like English and French remain essential, but it is the ability to manipulate peripheral and even marginalised languages that is key to unlocking oppressive structures and shifting power dynamics within them.

This talk analyses Denis Villeneuve’s multilingual, transnational cinema, in which characters not only understand multiple languages, but deploy them strategically. Drawing on Bill Marshall’s vision of cinema and nation in Quebec National Cinema as a ‘very mobile spiral’ (2000: 3), it charts the progressive decentring at play in Villeneuve’s 2016 quadrilingual film, Arrival.

Gemma King is a Lecturer in French at the ANU. Her research explores language, power and cultural representation in contemporary French, Francophone and transnational cinemas. Her first book Decentring France: Multilingualism and Power in Contemporary French Cinema was published with Manchester University Press in 2017, and her work has also appeared in Contemporary French Civilization, French Cultural Studies, The Australian Journal of French Studies, The Conversation and Francosphères. She is currently working on the book Jacques Audiard for the Manchester French Film Directors series.

Ally Wolfe, Broken Bodies, Remade Wholes

Join us for this week’s CuSPP seminar:

Broken Bodies, Remade Wholes:
Unwind as Frankenstein Retold and Reversed

Thursday 6 September, 1pm, Milgate Room, AD Hope Bldg, SLLL

New technologies create new opportunities for anxiety, and using human body parts to create life is a special kind of horrifying fictional procedure. At first glance, Unwind by Neal Shusterman and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein approach this concept in inverted ways. In Frankenstein, a ‘monster’ is built out of the parts of corpses, and rises against his horrified creator, while Unwind centres on a society that justifies breaking down its own children for their organs, and using these parts to sustain itself, until the children rise against it. Unwind is centred on the precept that that which is broken down still lives, in a divided state, controllable by the larger body to which it’s donated. The children broken down for parts are perceived and understood by the authorities of this fictional universe as criminals waiting to happen, excess bodies and liabilities. Frankenstein’s monster horrified Dr Frankenstein due to his perceived imperfection and lack of accuracy to his father’s vision of the perfect creation. Unwind is inspired to take its children apart due to that same disgust. Fear of what one has created and its difference from oneself pervades the horrors and potential horrors of both works.

In my paper I argue that Unwind mirrors Frankenstein in how it centres on an adult fear of the children it has created, placed specifically in a time and place where they have the technology and the lack of empathy to tell themselves that it is better not to ‘waste’ what they have made. Unwind and Frankenstein both delve into old fears and new technology, embodying and perpetuating a cycle of technology prompting anxiety prompting technology, until all fear what they have wrought.

Ally Wolfe is a PhD student in English Literature at ANU. Her work focuses on Young Adult fiction, dystopia, and technologies.