Spring Term 2013: Programme

After an autumn break, the Literary and Theory Seminar is back in January with a full programme of sessions, and we look forward to welcoming an exciting range of speakers:

Wednesday 23rd January (Room G35)
'Enduring Consolations'
Dr David James (QMUL)

Wednesday 30th January (Room G35)
'Problems with Trauma Theory'
Professor Tim Armstrong (RHUL)

Wednesday 6th February (IALS)
'5 Bruno Latours'
Special Session on Bruno Latour (with the Contemporary Fiction Seminar)

Wednesday 27th February (Room G35)
'"Caring" for the Environment: Notes Towards a New Materialist Critique'
Dr Adeline Johns-Putra (Surrey)

Wednesday 20th March (Room 264)
'Are Critical Theories Conspiracy Theories?' (provisional title)
Dr Devorah Baum (Southampton)

All sessions take place from 6-8pm in Senate House, University of London (with the exception of the Bruno Latour session, which will be in Charles Clore House, 17 Russell Square). Wine will be provided.

Further details will be published in advance of each session. All are welcome to attend. We wish all our attendees a happy Christmas and look forward to seeing you in the New Year!


Summer Term: Session 4

Something Lost: Words and the Voiding of Psychic Reality

Professor Josh Cohen
(Goldsmiths, University of London)

6-8pm, Wednesday 30th May
Senate House, Room G26 (Ground Floor)

In this paper, Professor Josh Cohen brings Freud and Blanchot into dialogue by way of the problem of externalization in psychoanalysis and literature. The passage from the thing to the word set out in the Freudian account of becoming conscious is ironically recapitulated in the Blanchotian account of the becoming of literature. A couple of very short stories by Lydia Davis (not coincidentally the translator of the relevant Blanchot essay) will help adumbrate this predicament.

Josh Cohen is Professor of Modern Literary Theory at Goldsmiths, University of London. He is the author of Spectacular Allegories: Postmodern American Writing and the Politics of Seeing (Pluto Press, 1998), Interrupting Auschwitz: Art, Religion, Philosophy (Continuum Guide to Holocaust Studies, 2003), and How to Read Freud (Granta, 2005). He specialises in contemporary literature and philosophy, and is also a practising psychoanalyst. His forthcoming book, The Private Life (Granta, Autumn 2013), explores the pervasive drive in contemporary life to eradicate the fundamental strangeness of the private experience.

Suggested Reading:

- Sigmund Freud, 'The Ego and the Id', Chapter 2. 
- Maurice Blanchot, 'Literature and the Right to Death,' from The Work of Fire


Summer Term: Session 3

In conjunction with the Contemporary Fiction Seminar we present....

Theory Shaping Fiction | Fiction Shaping Theory

A panel of research on critical and creative intersections in contemporary fiction, co-organised by the Contemporary Fiction Seminar and the Literary and Critical Theory Seminar.

All Welcome!

Wednesday 23rd May, 6-7.30pm at the Institute of English Studies, The Court Room (Senate House, First Floor)

Papers from:

Mark Blacklock (Birkbeck): “When is an ellipse not an ellipse? Zero-ing in on Tom McCarthy's Men in Space

Emilia Borowska (Royal Holloway): “‘Then, the world began’: Kathy Acker, Badiou, Deleuze, and the question of political emergence”

And special guest chair: Dr Emily Horton (Brunel/Westminster)



Summer Term: Session 2

Dangerous Dead Women and the Practice of Criticism

Professor Catherine Belsey
(Swansea University) 

Wednesday 16th May, 6-8pm
Senate House, Room 104 (First Floor) 


From the Icelandic sagas to The Woman in Black, women may prove more menacing in death than they were permitted to be in life. Are ghost stories concerning the malevolent return of the oppressed best read as evidence of misgivings on the part of a misogynist culture? Or is a deeper anxiety perceptible? And how far are current critical practices open to a genre of fiction that registers a sense of something beyond what culture gives us to know?
Catherine Belsey is Professor of English at Swansea University. Her work and influence on the contemporary landscape of literary criticism is such that Textual Practice dedicated a Special Issue to her work (24:6, 2010). She is perhaps best known for her works Critical Practice (Routledge, 1980, 2002) and Poststructuralism: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford University Press, 2002), but her extensive body of work encompasses such subjects as Tragedy, Desire, Milton, Shakespeare, Feminism, and Theory. Her most recent books include Culture and the Real: Theorizing Cultural Criticism (Routledge, 2005), Why Shakespeare? (Palgrave, 2007), Shakespeare in Theory and Practice (Edinburgh University Press, 2008), and A Future for Criticism (Blackwell, 2011), in which she proposes a new direction for critical practice that emphasises the pleasures of fiction and the way it engages readers. 

This is a free event. 
All are welcome to attend.


Summer Term: Session 1

Biosemiotics and the Book of Nature: Realism, Nominalism and Science Beyond Nihilism and Gnostic Earth-Hatred

Professor Wendy Wheeler (London Met)

Image by randomtruth via flick

6-8pm, Wednesday 2nd May, Senate House, Room 264 (2nd Floor)

Wendy Wheeler is Professor of English Literature and Cultural Inquiry at London Metropolitan University. Her research interests are in contemporary fiction, in literary and cultural theory, and in the ways in which these can inform aesthetic, social and political thought. She is also interested in potential meetings between the arts and sciences. In particular, in evolutionary systems theory (‘complexity’), ecocriticism, ecophenomenology, and biosemiotics, as providing new ways of thinking about human knowing and creativity in terms both of philosophical theory and also creative praxis. 

Wendy is on the Editorial Board of New Formations, and is joint journal Editor. She is also on the Advisory Board of the Association for the Study of Literature and the Environment (ASLE-UKI), and on the Advisory Board of its journal Green Letters. Her next monograph, The Human Telos: Biosemiotics, Creativity, Ecocriticism is forthcoming from Lawrence and Wishart and her recent publications include the edited volume Biosemiotics: Nature/Culture/Science/Semiosis (Open Humanities Press, 2011) and the monograph The Whole Creature: Complexity, Biosemiotics and the Evolution of Culture (London: Lawrence and Wishart, 2006).

Recommended Reading: