Organic Systems: Session 2 – report
Jun08

Organic Systems: Session 2 – report

On Thursday 23rd May 2019, we held the second workshop in our series Organic Systems, which is supported by CHASE, the Consortium for the Humanities and the Arts in South-East England. This episode of our collaboration between Birkbeck and Goldsmiths took place in Birkbeck’s Cinema. A sizeable audience came along, including CHASE PGR students and also interested members of the public who had seen the event advertised as part of Birkbeck’s annual Arts Week. Like other events in the series, the workshop had the following aims: To provide beneficial research expertise from guest speakers in designated training sessions. To hold round-table sessions in which guest speakers with strong research interests and expertise will present and discuss ideas – with contributions also welcome from the registered participants. To encourage meeting and networking among scholars in related areas, leading to the development of this research area. After a general introduction to the themes of the series, we heard from Dr James Machin, currently based at the Royal College of Art, who discussed his experience of applying for and undertaking research fellowships in fantastic literature. James successfully applied for grants to visit the Harry Ransom Centre in Austin, Texas and the University of California at Riverside. His research was not on science fiction as such but on early instances of ‘weird fiction’, overlapping with horror and Gothic, notably the writing of H.P. Lovercraft and John Buchan’s lesser-known work in this field. James showed us his applications on screen, and gave advice on making them successful. In particular, he said, be thorough, and argue the case that the archive in question is crucial to your research, which couldn’t be completed without it. In response to questions, James also described the experience of working in an archive and the thrill of encountering original material that has rarely if ever been viewed before. The second part of the day was an extended panel discussion with three speakers: Sean Cubitt of Goldsmiths; Katie Stone, who is undertaking a PhD on science fiction at Birkbeck; and Francis Gene-Rowe, who is completing his studies at Royal Holloway. The panel was chaired by Aren Roukema who is completing a PhD on science fiction and religion at Birkbeck. Sean gave a fascinating presentation involving clips from the films Source Code (2011) and Déja Vu (2006), exploring the interaction between sound and image and their construction of virtual worlds. Katie and Francis then produced more of a dialogue between two streams of thought that were supported by an extensive series of slides, headed The Strange Ecologies of Science Fiction. Films mentioned and glimpsed included the recent Avengers blockbuster and other superhero...

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Call for Papers: Productive Futures: The Political Economy of Science Fiction
May22

Call for Papers: Productive Futures: The Political Economy of Science Fiction

Conference: 12-14 September 2019 Deadline for Abstracts: 31 May 2019 Keynote speakers: Dr. Caroline Edwards (Birkbeck), Dr. Joan Haran (Cardiff University) Guests of honour: Aliette de Bodard, Zen Cho, Tade Thompson The history of science fiction (SF) is a history of unreal economics: from asteroid mining to interstellar trade, from robotic workforces to utopian communes, from the abolition of money and property to techno-capitalist tragedies of the near future. The London Science Fiction Research Community (LSFRC) invites abstracts of 300 words, plus 50 word bios, addressing economic themes in SF, and/or exploring how SF can help to widen and evolve our sense of the economic. Please submit to lsfrcmail@gmail.com by 31st May 2019. As the global economy is transformed by AI and automation, the economic themes of SF grow considerably more visible in everyday political discourse. Although capitalist liberal democracy continues to present itself as only reasonable option for ordering complex modern societies, SF offers a rich alternative tradition in which core capitalist institutions – money, finance, market, state, class, law, family – are fantastically permutated or abolished altogether. And, while mainstream economics tends to frame technological innovation as unproblematic progress – driving productivity, growth, and prosperity – SF has a much more critical and flexible understanding of how technology relates to everyday economic life. Economics often likes to believe that it is about everything and anything. What do we spend our days doing? What gets made, and how? Who gets to own, use, and consume resources? Who works, and how, and why? Why are some things valued more than others? The reality is, the models of mainstream economics are established on a set of exclusions. Intricate social and cultural institutions are swept to one side, as though they either don’t matter, or are so natural and immutable that they can be taken for granted. Socially reproductive labour and affective labour is obscured, as are the histories of colonial war and appropriation on which most modern wealth is founded. Any understanding of economic systems as structured around the intricate network of intersecting, generative identities of the people whose labour, and frequently whose bodies, constitute it, is dispensed with. Instead we are presented with Homo economicus, the egoist agent pursuing its (frequently his) fixed set of interests. And the complex ecological connectivity of the more-than-human world is reduced to ‘natural capital,’ merely another input into the production process. But many SF works – from Samuel Delany’s Triton, Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Dispossessed, Pamela Zoline’s ‘The Heat Death of the Universe’, Joanna Russ’s The Female Man, Octavia Butler’s Parables series, to Kim Stanley Robinson’s New York 2140 – radically challenge the narrowness of these visions. Such works reconnect...

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Chronitis
May15

Chronitis

Myles na gCopaleen à la recherche du temps perdu by Tobias Harris This article first appeared in the Modernist Review blog in 2016. Since it is no longer available there, we republish it here in advance of our Birkbeck Arts Week 2019 session, ’Irish Times: Myles na gCopaleen's Cruiskeen Lawn' which takes place at 7:40pm on 21st May in the Birkbeck School of Arts. Register for your free place to attend here. *** Brian O’Nolan (1911-1966) was an Irish writer who is now mainly referred to by his pseudonym Flann O’Brien, and known for his novels At Swim-Two-Birds (1939) and The Third Policeman (1967). However, in his lifetime he was far better known as Myles na gCopaleen, the name under which he published the satirical Cruiskeen Lawn several times a week in the Irish Times for a quarter of a century (as well as his novel, An Béal Bocht/The Poor Mouth, in 1941, and his plays, Faustus Kelly and The Insect Play, in 1943). Cruiskeen Lawn runs to something like four million words. Modern readers are likely to encounter it in one of several slimmed-downed compilations produced after his death, but on two occasions O’Nolan chose to reprint anthologies of Cruiskeen Lawn himself. First in 1943, he published a bilingual anthology which, as Steven Curran has argued in Éire-Ireland, sharpens its focus on the figure of Myles as a satirist and bears a mock newspaper front cover declaring: 'Myles na gCopaleen Crowned King of Ireland'. The second occasion was in 1959-1960, when O’Nolan republished about sixty columns in four numbers of a short-lived periodical which was called Nonplus, edited by the novelist Patricia Murphy (née Avis). The older O’Nolan also preserves a particular flavour of Cruiskeen Lawn by favouring some types of column over others. Whilst the character known as The Brother appears here and there and Keats and Chapman feature twice, just as in 1943, the republished columns are predominantly complex and multilingual satirical sallies into heavyweight topics: aesthetics, language, literature, politics and the national culture. (I should note that it has been suggested that many of the more ‘literary’ columns were written by co-author Niall Montgomery.) Some of this reprinted Nonplus material had already been published not once, but twice. This creates unusual effects. One such doubly reprinted column appeared first in 1946 (and this is the version that O’Nolan republishes in Nonplus, but more on that later) and again in 1958. It’s a set of preoccupations about posterity and maturity combined with strange recollections on time that turns into a plagiarising pastiche of the theories of W. B. Yeats. Sufficiently interested? Okay, I’ll try to summarise. On 7...

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Organic Systems: SF & Ecology on Screen
May14

Organic Systems: SF & Ecology on Screen

Organic Systems: Science Fiction & Ecology Today Session 2: SF & Ecology on Screen (Birkbeck Cinema): 23rd May 2019 Organic Systems is a series of four workshops on Science Fiction and Ecology, aimed primarily at postgraduate research students and supported by CHASE, the Consortium for the Humanities and the Arts in South-East England. The series is a collaboration between Birkbeck and Goldsmiths, two colleges of the University of London, and specifically between the Centre for Contemporary Literature (Birkbeck) and the Critical Ecologies research strand (Goldsmiths). Each workshop has the following aims: * To provide beneficial research expertise from guest speakers in designated training sessions. * To hold round-table sessions in which guest speakers with strong research interests and expertise will present and discuss ideas – with contributions also welcome from the registered participants. * To encourage meeting and networking among scholars in related areas, leading to the development of this research area. The second of the four workshops will be held at Birkbeck on Thursday 23rd May 2019. The programme will be as follows:   2-3: PhD Training session (BBK Cinema): ‘Fellowships in Fantastic Fiction’ with Dr James Machin (former Visiting Fellow at the University of Riverside, California and Harry Ransom Centre, Texas). 3:30-5: Panel (BBK Cinema): ‘SF and Ecology on Screen’. Speakers including Sean Cubitt (Goldsmiths), Katie Stone (Birkbeck), Francis Gene-Rowe (Royal Holloway). As well as registering with CHASE, please reserve your free place for this afternoon's session here so that we can manage attendance in this venue. 5-6: Reception outside BBK Cinema. 6-9: Screening of Solaris (1972, dir. Andrei Tarkovsky) in Clore Lecture Theatre, Birkbeck, introduced by London Science Fiction Research Community. Please book a free ticket for this screening here.   Image by Andrey Sansonov, used under a CC BY-NC-ND licence....

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Irish Times: Myles na gCopaleen’s Cruiskeen Lawn
May14

Irish Times: Myles na gCopaleen’s Cruiskeen Lawn

Tuesday 21st May 2019 7.40-9pm | Book your ticket Keynes library, 43 Gordon Square Ireland's peerless comic writer Flann O'Brien was also known as the irascible Myles na gCopaleen, under which name he published the anarchic Cruiskeen Lawn column in the Irish Times between 1940 and 1966. In this special event for Birkbeck's Arts Week 2019,  Birkbeck's Tobias Harris and Joseph Brooker will tread Myles’s elaborate multilingual labyrinth, with the help of reader Hugh Wilde.     Image: Cruiskeen Lawn, 1st March...

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The Perverse Universals of the Microeconomic Mode
May14

The Perverse Universals of the Microeconomic Mode

Thursday 20th June 2019 Room B03, 43 Gordon Square The Centre for Contemporary Literature at Birkbeck is delighted to host Dr Jane Elliott (KCL), who will be delivering a guest lecture based on research developed in her recent monograph, The Microeconomic Mode: Political Subjectivity in Contemporary Popular Aesthetics (Columbia University Press, 2018). The Perverse Universals of the Microeconomic Mode From pop phenomena such as Game of Thrones and The Hunger Games to the literary triumph of Jesmyn Ward’s Salvage the Bones, the microeconomic mode redefines human being as the intersection of inescapable embodiment, threats to survival, and what Elliott has called binary life, or the conviction that humans always choose to exist at the expense of other life. In this talk Elliott will consider the consequences of binary life for longstanding debates regarding the role of suffering, spectatorship and compassion in the recognition of universal personhood, via readings of recent films such as Wind River (2017), and Avengers: Infinity War (2018). In contrast to the dramas of inclusion and exclusion that structure narratives regarding the extension of personhood to formerly excluded forms of life, binary life produces a perversely universal version of humanity equality, in which every single conscious human being must choose whether to stay alive at someone else’s expense. Elliott argues that this radically absolute definition of human equality interrupts the hierarchical transactions of the sentimental imagination in ways that are restructuring the imagination of material injustice in the present. Jane Elliott is Reader in Contemporary Literature, Culture and Theory at King's College London. She is author of Popular Feminist Fiction as American Allegory: Representing National Time (2008) and coeditor of Theory After "Theory" (2011). This event is held in conjunction with the MA Summer Programme at Birkbeck, and with the MA Contemporary Literature & Culture. For more details contact organizer Dr Sean O'Brien, Director of the MA Contemporary Literature & Culture.   Avengers image from AntMan3001, used under a CC BY-SA 2.0...

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