Dr Sarah Dillon, ‘The Horror of the Anthropocene’


Dr Sarah Dillon, University of Cambridge, ‘The Horror of the Anthropocene’, Wednesday 2nd March, 4.15-5.30, MC0024

‘The Horror of the Anthropocene’

Launching off the eventual publication of Beckett’s short story ‘Echo’s Bones’ in 2014, this paper proposes that the early twenty-first century is beginning to see, and will continue to see, a literary mainstream incorporation of the story moves of the horror genre akin to the literary mainstream incorporation of the story moves of science fiction which we witnessed in the late twentieth century. Working with John Clute’s distinction between affect horror and genre horror, the paper presents four strands of argument and evidence in support of this theory: the first is sociological; the second draws from science; the third from philosophy; and the fourth is an act of literary critical close reading of Cormac McCarthy’s ‘The Road’.

Dr Marie Thompson, Everyday Sonic Warfare…

Wednesday 10th February, 4.15-5.30pm, MC0024

Dr Marie Thompson, Lincoln School of Film and Media, ‘Everyday Sonic Warfare: Affect and the Weaponised Use of Classical Music’

Over the past thirty years in Britain, Canada and the United States, classical music has come to function not just as art or entertainment but as a sonic weapon. It is used a means of dispelling and deterring ‘loiterers’ from certain social spaces – including shopping mall, bus stations, fast food outlets and car parks. This talk examines the affective and ideological dimensions of the weaponised use of classical music. I propose that weaponised classical music functions as an audio-affective deterrent, referring to two seemingly conflicting claims. On the one hand, classical music is suggested to ‘improve’ the behaviour of ‘undesirable’ loiterers through due to its purported capacity to soothe and calm. On the other, classical music is understood to drive away and inhibit loiterers from occupying a space by generating ‘negative’ affects – feelings of irritation, alienation and annoyance. As that which both soothes and removes, the weaponised use of classical music can be connected to two overtly affective musical practices: the use of muzak in the Fordist and post-Fordist workplace; and the use of music as a mode of torture. However, classical music’s effectiveness as a repellent is partly informed by its ideological and symbolic associations. Consequently, the weaponised use of classical music highlights the complex relationship between affect, ideology and signification.

PhD projects

The final 21st Century Research Group seminar of Semester1 will take place on Wednesday 9th December, 4.15-5.30 pm in MC0024.

We will hear from the following PhD students working on 21st-century topics, who will each speak for 10 minutes:

Rachel Barraclough is a third-year PhD candidate in the School of Film and Media working on Japanese horror films from the late 1990s/early 2000s within a Deleuzian and phenomenological theoretical framework.

Jess Day is a first-year PhD candidate in the School of English and Journalism working on utopianism, sex, and contemporary women’s writing.

Niall Flynn is a second-year PhD candidate in the School of Film and Media working on the recently emergent field of ‘media ecologies’ in media and cultural theory.

Andrew Rowcroft is a third-year PhD candidate in the School of English and Journalism working on Anglo-American contemporary fiction and post-Marxism.

Adam Rush is a second-year PhD candidate in the School of Fine and Performing Arts working on the intertextual character of 21st-century musical theatre and its role within popular culture.

Prof Mike Neary, Collegiality and the Cooperative University

Collegiality and the Cooperative University – higher education for the 21st century

Wednesday 11th November, 4.15-5.30, MC0024

Professor Mike Neary, School of Political and Social Science,
The framework for a co-operative model of higher education proposed here offers a challenging perspective to the wide-ranging debates about the future of democratic public higher education that ‘kicked off’ in England in 2010 and around the world (Mason 2011). These debates have re-emerged with renewed intensity during the recent spate of University occupations in the Netherlands and at a number of London University Colleges. We recognise the importance of fighting to maintain free public higher education as well as defending democratic academic values within the current university system, and we want to celebrate the achievements of Rethink UoA and the ‘New University Movement’ as well as the Free Education campaign in England. At the same time we are aware of the continuing dangers of co-option, recuperation and exhaustion as negotiations for institutional reform progress through the complex labyrinth of university committee structures; as well as the ever-present threat of police violence that hangs over any academic and student protest. In this context it is important to continue with experiments in democratic decision-making in ways that constitute a genuine transfer of power from the current university leadership and management to students, academics and other forms of university labour, including cleaners, porters and catering staff.

Dr Siân Adiseshiah, Spectatorship & the New (Critical) Sincerity

Wednesday 21st October, 4.15-5.30, MC0024. All welcome!

Dr Siân Adiseshiah, School of English and Journalism, ‘Spectatorship and the New (Critical) Sincerity: The Case of Forced Entertainment’s Tomorrow’s Parties’

This paper considers Forced Entertainment’s Tomorrow Parties (2011) as an example of the New Sincerity – an aesthetic mode that has emerged in the wake of postmodernism, particularly visible in contemporary American fiction. The particular contribution here is the trans-disciplinary shift from fiction to theatre studies as the New Sincerity – as theorised by American fiction scholars via Lionel Trilling’s Sincerity and Authenticity (1972) and David Foster Wallace’s essay ‘E Unibus Pluram: Television and U.S. Fiction’ (1993) – is assessed in terms of its applicability to the specificities of theatre performance.
A trusting and trusted spectator is central to the operational practice of sincerity in performance. In many ways Tomorrow’s Parties succeeds in interpellating such a spectator; however, it remains a piece performed by an experimental theatre company renowned for engaging in metatheatrical innovation, immersive practice and ironic game playing, all of which haunt this particular performance. To account for this troubling of sincerity – and all performance is on one level insincere – the term ‘critical sincerity’ is coined, a term that describes the knowingness that certain theatre pieces – like Tomorrow’s Parties – exhibit of the inherent insincerity of performance, while simultaneously striving for a sincere encounter.