Dr Aleksandra Vukotić, University of Belgrade, coming to Middlesex for an Erasmus+ teaching visit: 12-16 March 2018

We are delighted to host Dr Aleksandra Vukotić, University of Belgrade (Faculty of Philology) for an Erasmus+ teaching visit between March 12th and 16th, 2018. She will give three transdisciplinary interactive seminars and an Open Lecture, in the domain of media, cultural, literary and film studies.

Metafiction in Postmodern American Literature and Popular Culture

Tuesday, 13 March, 12.00-14.00 at room BG09B (Building 9)

In this session, Aleksandra will explore the reasons why metafiction became immensely popular in the 2nd half of the 20th century, especially in the 60s in the U.S. Through numerous examples from the U.S. fiction and popular culture (from ‘Pulp Fiction’ to the latest season of ‘Twin Peaks’) she will discuss why we cannot dismiss metafiction as ‘a thing of the past’ and why metafictional strategies still have the capacity to inspire us to think critically about today’s world.

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Intertextuality in Jeanette Winterson’s ‘The Gap of Time’

Wednesday, March 14, 12.00-14.00, room CG48 (College Building)

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Whoever controls your eyeballs runs the world : A “Paranoid” Reading of Media

Friday 16th March, 10.00-12.00 at room CG09 (College building).

This seminar explores one of the most pressing issues of today’s world – the problem of ever-present violence in the media and terrorism as a new world narrative. It focuses on the feedback loop between media and violence, escalating in terrorist attacks (which would be ‘nothing without the media’ as Baudrillard explained), again as reflected in contemporary fiction and film. It also discusses the misuse and abuse of the power of media, inviting the audience to think about the possible ways out of this ‘vicious circle.’ The novelists and filmmakers who closely follow and explore media strategies in their works (only to subvert them) will surely be a fertile source of ideas and inspiration.

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Aleksandra will also give an Open Lecture on Thursday, 15th March, 15.00 -17.00, Room CG43 (College building):

Negotiating the Technological Sublime: DeLillo’s and Antonioni’s Murder Mysteries

Have we placed too much faith in reason and technology? Is technology our fantasy? As we rely more and more on technological advancements and innovations, do we move away from the factual reality towards fiction and illusion? Is our wish to explain away the mysteries of our time through science and technology ultimately a death wish? Or, as a character notes in DeLillo’s Zero K, Does technology have a death wish?

Michelangelo Antonioni, one of the most influential filmmakers of the 20th century, and Don DeLillo, one of the greatest contemporary American novelists, have repeatedly adressesed these questions in their works, examining what happens with the human need for the marvellous and the sublime in the world of technology which promises revelations of all mysteries. We will discuss this topic through examples from Antonioni’s cult film Blow-Up (1966) and DeLillo’s novels Libra (1988), Underworld (1997) and Falling Man (2007), focusing on the characters’ fascination with dead bodies caught on film and photograph.

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Aleksandra Vukotić is Assistant Professor at the English Department of the University of Belgrade. She holds a PhD in American literature, and she is currently preparing a manuscript on history and fiction in the novels of Don DeLillo. Aleksandra is also a freelance translator and member of the editorial board of the Belgrade BELLS Journal published by the University of Belgrade. Her interests include, among other, contemporary American literature, selected problems of literary theory, literary and visual studies.

You are welcome to attend any or all of Dr Vukotić’s seminars. No need to register.

For an outline of all Language & Communication events the week commencing March 12th 2018, please click here.

Futures for English Studies

futuresforenglishstudies

We’re  looking forward to meeting our new first year BA English students tomorrow. We’ll be posting thoughts here from our work together on the BA English programme, things we have discussed in class, and anything relevant to the programme.

Last week, I went to a very enjoyable and interesting event at the Open University. It was an event to celebrate the publication of the book Futures for English Studies edited by Ann Hewings, Lynda Prescott and Philip Seargeant, all of whom work at the Open University.

It’s an excellent collection, exploring a range of ideas about the past, present and future of English, and there was lots of interesting discussion at the event.

I spoke there about our view of English as a broad and inclusive subject, covering work on language, literature and writing (and other things, including a wide range of genres and types of texts).

Andrew Cowan, Head of Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia, spoke about the rise of creative writing in the US and the UK, about differing views of the connections between writing and other subjects (particularly literary studies), and about differing views of the relationships between creative and critical work.

Matt Hayler, from the University of Birmingham, spoke about ‘digital humanities’ and about ‘digital cultures’, exploring different ways of thinking about each and future research directions.

These were followed by a roundtable discussion with a large number of speakers.

I was asked some very good questions after my talk, including some useful thoughts about our BA English programme.

Lots of interesting and useful points were made in the discussion and they suggested lots to think about with regard to the nature of English, how subjects interact in general, how communicative (including reading and writing) practices are changing, and lots more.

Two things which I thought were particularly interesting were that it provided evidence for two things I have been thinking for a while now:

  • that there is lots of positivity about English at the moment, confirming my view that this is an exciting time for the subject and a great time to be studying English
  • that there is a growing interest in seeing English as a broad and inclusive subject (and less interest in establishing boundaries)

I’m delighted to see more evidence for both of these!