Beate Langenbruch, A Walk through the Garden

Join us for this week’s CuSPP seminar:

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

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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.

Monique Rooney, Mediating Sovereignty: The Crown as ‘Interbrow’

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Mediating Sovereignty: The Crown as ‘Interbrow’

Thursday 16 May, 1pm, Milgate Room, AD Hope Bldg, SLLL

This paper reads The Crown as an example of narrative ‘interbrow’—my coinage for middlebrow stories produced in the time of the internet. The Crown depicts British royalty as susceptible to middlebrow culture pervading late-twentieth century life, with its enmeshment of mass media networks. In its first two seasons at least, The Crown’s portrayal of Queen Elizabeth II positions her as a figure whose performance of detachment, and upholding of ideals of monarchical impartiality, are in tension with the commoditising effects of mass media. Billed as a ‘Netflix Original’, although written by respected playwright Peter Morgan, the series formally enacts and thematically explores the limitations and possibilities of the sovereign subject’s autonomous judgement from within a culture conditioned by deeply mediatised desires and consumer-based drives. This paper looks at the series’ entanglement of middlebrow perspectives with twentieth- and twenty-first century media, revealing not only the way in which royalty fail to escape culture-industrial intermediation but also drawing attention to The Crown’s representation of tenuous yet tenacious bonds between women. It does so by focusing on two episodes that read together juxtapose the publication of a ‘nude’ photograph of Princess Margaret with her sister Elizabeth’s embodiment of the crown.

Monique Rooney is a Senior Lecturer in the English Program, School of Literatures, Languages and Linguistics at The Australian National University. She is the author of Living Screens: Melodrama and Plasticity in Contemporary Film and Television (2015) and the co-editor, with Guy Davidson, of Queer Objects (Routledge, 2019). Her essays on contemporary intermedia have recently been published in Angelaki and New Review of Film and Television Studies. Her current project investigates the role of ‘interbrow’ in a range of contemporary media.

Will Peyton, Liu Cixin’s Diqiu Wangshi Trilogy

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Liu Cixin’s Diqiu Wangshi Trilogy

Thursday 9 May, 1pm, Milgate Room, AD Hope Bldg, SLLL

This thesis examines Liu Cixin’s Diqiu Wangshi (The Remembrance of Earth’s Past), a Chinese science fiction trilogy whose translation is unprecedentedly popular in the Western world. In his interviews and critical writings, Liu Cixin often explains that he is predominantly influenced by modern and contemporary Anglophone authors, including George Orwell, Arthur C. Clarke, Aldous Huxley and Ray Bradbury, among others. By considering Liu’s trilogy in view of such influences, this thesis breaks down the aesthetic and thematic components of Diqiu Wangshi, these being scientism, humanism, technologism, historicism and utopianism. It also considers the influence of the Chinese author Wang Meng’s youth fiction Qingchun Wansui and how its idealism helps to shape the aesthetic and moral character of Liu’s work. The purpose of this analysis is to account for the originality of Diqiu Wangshi, arguing that its ingenuity is found in its conscious engagement with translated fiction rather than in the literature of Chinese science fiction. The dissertation more generally aims at exploring how contemporary Chinese writers of the post-Mao period are clearly more influenced by western translated fiction and universal thematic concerns than current critical approaches seem to suggest.

Will Peyton is a PhD candidate in SLLL. He has published in The International History Review, The China Story and Science Fiction Studies.

Can You Ever Truly Separate Art From The Artist?

7 – 9:30pm, 9 May, Manning Clarke Hall.

The ANU Learning Communities present this free event in collaboration with ANU Advancement (ANU Alumni).

Against the backdrop of the rise of the #metoo movement, the conviction of paedophiles and the pushback against misogynists throughout history, how do we react and process art connected to an artist who was a terrible person?

Come along next Thursday to watch CuSPP Researcher Monique Rooney argue in this fantastic event.

Admission is free however seating is limited, so registration is essential.

Visit the event page here for more details and ticketing information:

Manuel Clemens, How (Not) to Become Tolerant: Affects and Habitus in Lessing’s Nathan the Wise

Join us for this week’s CuSPP Seminar:

How (Not) to Become Tolerant: Affects and Habitus in Lessing’s Nathan the Wise

Thursday 2 May, 1pm, Milgate Room, AD Hope Bldg, SLLL

The coincidences and phantasms that open Lessing’s Nathan the Wise reappear throughout the entire drama and even bring about its happy ending. While the usual interpretation of the plot maintains that the illusions held by the protagonists of the play—such as their superstitions, unrestrained affects and prejudices—are overcome via a learning process and transformed into tolerance, I maintain a different view. In my presentation I will argue, first, that these illusions are gently enlightened, rather than overcome, and, second, that this process only ostensibly leads to tolerance. As a consequence, my analysis focuses on the negotiation between tolerance and intolerance, and finally arrives at the conclusion that the maid Daja actually represents tolerance better than the protagonists, because she is the only one from whom tolerant endurance is demanded.

In my interpretation, the play represents how not to become tolerant because of the gap between the privileged notion of tolerance exemplified by the main characters, such as Nathan’s daughter Recha and the Templar who rescues her, and the disadvantage experienced by the maid Daja, whose affective life is rendered illegitimate by the development of the play. The affective life of the main protagonists follows Bourdieu’s model of a privileged habitus and Daja, a maid and supporting character, is excluded from it. My reading of Nathan the Wise reverses the conventional understanding of tolerance as something that always refers to the main characters. Instead of focusing upon how they exemplify tolerance, I focus on the process through which their tolerance is constituted (and its difficulty), which enables me to argue that it is easier for them to become ‘tolerant’ than it is for Daja.

Manuel Clemens has taught in the German program in SLLL since August 2018. He has previously taught at Rutgers University, Leuphana University. Germany, and University Iberoamericana and the University of Michoacán, Mexico. His work focuses on the vexed relationship between aesthetics, education and politics in the constitution of liberal society.