Author Archives: Dr Sian Adiseshiah

CFP for WHN2016 conference

‘What Happens Now: 21st Century Writing in English’ 4th Biennial International Conference, 27-30 June 2016, University of Lincoln

Conservative Politics/Radical Poetics

The 21st century gets more and more odd. Thomas Picketty claims we are returning to 19th century economic relations between capital and the masses. In Britain we have re-entered conservative politics despite the most blatant bankruptcy of capitalism since the Thirties, but at the same time the potential break up of the United Kingdom and with the European Union would be political developments as structurally decisive as the end of empire or World War I. Much the same is true in Europe and the world where conservative and radical visions seem to hang in the balance.

In literature too there is a curious mix of stasis and innovation. Modernism retains its mesmerising influence and literary writers like Zadie Smith, Tom McCarthy and Will Self still profess allegiance to its ageing paradigm – is that radical or conservative? Hilary Mantel and Jonathan Franzen have been immensely successful with the well-made novel: does that mean they are middlebrow? In poetry the war between mainstream and (post)modernism rumbles on, shorn of much of its vitriol but not of its substance: but are Grand Old Men like Geoffrey Hill, JH Prynne or Paul Muldoon revolutionaries? – and who reads contemporary poetry anyway, even in literary studies? In theatre debates continue over the political implications of new writing v devised theatre, the dramatic v post-dramatic, and passive v active spectatorship; meanwhile West End and Broadway musicals attract twice as many theatre goers as those attending plays.

In the 2016 WHN conference we invite scholars of 21st century literature to discuss radicalism and/or conservatism in form, function and affect. We welcome work on all forms of literature including fiction, poetry, drama, theatre, life writing, and graphic novels that has been published/performed since 2000.

Please send 250-350 word abstracts for 20-minute papers with brief biographical notes (about 50 words) in word format to the conference email address: by October 31st 2015. Panel proposals also welcome.

Conference organisers: Dr Siân Adiseshiah, Dr Ruth Charnock and Dr Rupert Hildyard.

Please send 250-350 word abstracts for 20-minute papers with brief biographical notes (about 50 words) in word format to the conference email address: by October 31st 2015. Panel proposals also welcome.

Wednesday 3rd December, 4.15-5.30, MC3107

Dr Ruth Charnock, Lecturer in English, School of English and Journalism

‘By Heart’: caring about music in Dana Spiotta’s Eat the Document

The American novelist Dana Spiotta’s 2006 novel Eat the Document thinks through the radical potential of the 1970s anti-Vietnam movement via the 1990s. In the early 1990s, Jason Whittaker, son of Mary Whittaker, an activist from the movement who has changed her identity, sits in his room and listens to Beach Boys’ bootleg outtakes. Through Jason’s repetitive and intent listening, the novel explores the possibility of the outtake as an object of care, an object that demands [and, perhaps, rewards] a form of commitment from its listener that transcends that required by the released single. This paper will use the outtake in Eat the Document as a way to think about the utopian possibilities of listening, pace Ernst Bloch, whilst also exploring larger questions of care, caring and political activism in contemporary American culture.

First seminar of Term 1 2014-15

On 8th October Dr Andrew Wallace, Senior Lecturer, School of Social and Political Science, presented a paper called: ‘Scum, sluts and skivers: struggling over value in ‘austerity’ Britain’ to an audience over 80.

Andrew discussed the ‘workshy skiver’, ‘scum’, and ‘chav’ as examples of widespread class-based devaluation in ‘Austerity’ Britain. Referencing David Graber and Bev Skeggs, he talked about the culturalisation of inequality and the personalisation of structural failure.  However, the efforts of left-inclined journalists and scholars to repudiate claims about worklessness and fecklessness and to engage in struggles over readings of human value and worth, Andrew argued, have left the central perameters of class devaluation in place.  His hope is to pursue a resistance to and rethinking of categories of valuing and abjection – perhaps through an evasive gaze – and to ask who is doing the judging and why?


Seminar on Neo-Victorianism organised with 19C Research Group

Wednesday 14th May 2014, MC0024, 4.15-5.30
Professor Angela Thody, Centre for Education Research and Development
‘Neo-Victorianism across the education spectrum: a quiz to amaze you’
Dr Ben Poore, Lecturer in Theatre, Film and Television, University of York
‘What Use Our Work?’ Sherlock Holmes, Ripper Street, and the Neo-Victorian Detective in Print and on Screen
The past five years have seen a sequence of television detective series, from Whitechapel to Sherlock to The Suspicions of Mr Whicher to Ripper Street, which have attempted new ways of exploring and exploiting our ongoing fascination with Victorian crime. In particular, these series have foregrounded the work of the detective and the beginnings of forensic methods of detection, whether to attempt an up-to-the-minute update of Victorian techniques, or to offer an account of the institutional and cultural contexts in which the early detectives operated. Between them, each of these four series conform to John Scaggs’ taxonomy of how historical crime fiction appropriates the past: through relocating to the present (Sherlock), through a trans-historical framework (Whitechapel), and through ‘straight’ historical fiction (Mr Whicher, Ripper Street) which is built around historical events (Scaggs, Crime Fiction, 2005: 129).
Publishing has provided ample examples of these trends for many years, from the classic trans-historical works of literary neo-Victorian fiction such as A.S. Byatt’s Possession, to the trail of Ripper- and Sherlock Holmes-derived pastiches stretching back at least as far as the 1970s. And this is before we consider the scale of fan-fiction and, with it, the changing nature of publishing and distribution.
As a specialist in recent Sherlock Holmes adaptations on screen and stage, I aim in this talk to broaden the terms of my inquiry, and ask: what is it about the Victorian period‘s tropes, totems and taboos that we’re drawn to? Why is the resuscitated figure of the Victorian detective so resonant in2014? And how do historical detective series, in print and on screen, serve the economics of the culture industry in the 21st century?