1st Session (October 18th)

Seeing Socialism: The Aesthetics of the Plan and the Transparency of Politics

Dr. Alberto Toscano
(Goldsmiths, University of London)

6-8pm, Tuesday 18th October
Senate House, Room 264 (2nd Floor)

Dr. Alberto Toscano is Senior Lecturer at Goldsmiths, University of London, and is perhaps best know for his numerous translations of the work of Alain Badiou. A cultural critic and a philosopher, Dr. Toscano has published books on the philosophical problem of individuation -Theatre of Production: Philosophy and Individuation between Kant and Deleuze (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2006)- and on the different readings and misreadings of the concept of fanaticism -Fanaticism: The Uses of an Idea (New York: Verso, 2010)-, as well as authoring articles on a diverse number of topics.

His recent work, from which this talk stems, is on the contemporary status of what Fredric Jameson refers to as 'cognitive mapping.' The project, which is soon to be published as a co-authored book entitled Cartographies of the Absolute (Zero Books), considers contemporary representations of capitalism in film and the visual arts. He is currently working on the relationship between art, political aesthetics and socialist planning, both in the revolutionary art of the 20s and 30s and in later critical debates about communism and 'transparency.'

Recommended reading:

Clark, TJ, Farewell to an Idea: Episodes from a History of Modernism (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1999), Chapter 3.

Stites, Richard, Revolutionary Dreams: Utopian Vision and Experimental Life in the Russian Revolution (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989), Chapters 7 and 8.

Michelson, Annette (Ed.), Kino-Eye: The Writings of Dziga Vertov (London: Pluto Press, 1984), Dziga Vertov's film manifestos.

All are welcome to attend.


Session 2: Excrementality (Tuesday 7th June)

‘Excrementality’ in the movies: Can Hollywood be ‘incoherent’?

Dr. Dan Varndell (Southampton and Winchester)

6-8pm, Tuesday 7th June
Senate House, room G37 (ground floor)

Every Hollywood movie, asserts Andrew Britton, in whatever genre, “must at least allow for a conservative reading" (1991:201). However, since Robin Wood coined the term "excremental city" to describe so-called "incoherent" texts (like Taxi Driver) that refuse any meaning (conservative or otherwise), Film Theory has been guilty of ignoring certain "excremental" readings of popular cinema. “Postmodernity", write George Ritzer and Douglas Goodman, “is "in" the modern in another sense altogether. It is something like the food of the modern, but that part of the food that is indigestible, which cannot be easily incorporated into the system of modernity" (2002:151n). After well over a century of forms, perhaps cinema is no longer the modern machinery through which our postmodern desires are indulged.

This seminar seeks to explore cinema as a model for cultural repression using the metaphor of the flushing toilet, and investigates Hollywood "incoherence" as its excremental remainder, provoking several questions for discussion: Can Hollywood films be incoherent, or must they always allow for a conservative meaning? Can Wood's cinematic excrescences be considered the postmodern "bones" stuck in the throat of the modern itself? This provocation encourages an open and fluid discussion of excremental Hollywood, inviting cinematic examples from big-budget Blockbusters to Vietnam War films to engage fully the question of where our cultural waste really goes in the movies.

Recommended reading:

- Corrigan, Timothy, 1991. "The Incoherent Text", in A Cinema without Walls: Movies and Culture After Vietnam (New Brunswick & New Jersey: Rutgers University Press), Chapter 2 - "Illegible Films: Texts Without Secrets," pp. 51-79.

- Wood, Robin, 1986. "Illegible Films: Texts without Secrets", in Hollywood from Vietnam to Reagan (New York, Chichester & West Sussex: Columbia University Press), Chapter 4 - "The Incoherent Text: Narrative in the 70s," pp. 46-55.

All welcome, any discipline.

N.B. Those of a mild disposition should note that toilet humour is probable.


Session 1: Interculturalism (Wednesday 25th May)


Wednesday 25th May, 6-8pm

Senate House, room 104 (first floor)


"Interculturalism and performance is perhaps the most talked about and controversial cultural practice of the late twentieth and early twenty-first century, characterising at best a sharing and mutual borrowing of the manifestation of one theatre practice by another. At worst it features the annihilation of indigenous pre-modern practices by a rapacious ‘First World’ capitalism." - Brian Singleton, 2003.

"[P]rocesses of exchange between cultures have been going on at least since the onset of modernity and, as a result, cultures permanently undergo change and transition. This situation renders any attempt to draw a clear line between ‘ours’ and ‘theirs’ futile. Yet, this is not to say that differences between cultures do not exist. The differences are simply not fixed and given once and for all; they are permanently generated anew.
" - Erika Fischer-Lichte, 2009.

A heated controversy around intercultural performance has dogged theatre scholarship since the 1970s. Recently, however, there has been an attempt to move away from the term ‘intercultural’ and all it connotes. But what exactly is interculturalism and why has it been so contentious?

This session will begin with a presentation by Emer O’Toole (RHUL). Engaging with contemporary examples of theatre practice, she will ask whether intercultural tensions are truly dissolving or if they are being swept conveniently under the carpet. Emer is a PhD Candidate in the Department of Drama and Theatre at Royal Holloway. Using postcolonial theory, her thesis tackles the intercultural debate by suggesting that there is a relationship between rights of representation, the socio-political effects of a performance, and collaborators’ agency.

Recommended Reading

Schechner, Richard, "A Reply to Rustom Bharucha," Asian Theatre Journal, Vol. 1, No. 2 (Autumn, 1984), pp. 245-253.

Bharucha, Rustom, "A Reply to Richard Schechner," Asian Theatre Journal, Vol. 1, No. 2 (Autumn, 1984), pp. 254-260.

Supplementary Reading

Fischer-Lichte, Erika, "Interweaving Cultures in Performance: Different States of Being In-Between," New Theatre Quarterly, Vol. 25, No. 4 (November 2009), pp. 391-401.

All are welcome to attend.