Articles

2015.03.batchelor

Gender and genre in The Lady’s Magazine

‘The world is a large volume’: The Lady’s Magazine and Romantic Print Culture

Jennie Batchelor, Tuesday 1 Dec 2015, CEIR Seminar Series

When I met Jennie Batchelor (University of Kent) in the CEIR office about an hour before she was due to speak, it was with an air of excitement that she, jokingly, asked if the paper could wait: she was having far too much fun in Cardiff’s Special Collections and Archives, examining copies of The Lady’s Magazine. Her research into this publication is part of a two-year Leverhulme-funded project entitled The Lady’s Magazine (1770–1818): Understanding the Emergence of a Genre’, which aims to provide a bibliographical, statistical and literary–critical analysis of one the first recognisably modern magazines for women. The project aims to produce a host of publications about the contents of and contributors to the magazine, as well as a fully annotated index available online. Thankfully, Batchelor did go ahead with the talk in Cardiff, offering fascinating insights into The Lady’s Magazine and its position in romantic print culture. (more…)

harding

The Covert Canon

The CIA and the Literary Canon: The Case of Encounter Magazine

Jason Harding, Tuesday 17 Nov 2015, CEIR Seminar Series

Roughly half an hour before Jason Harding (Durham University) arrived to give his paper on ‘The CIA and the Literary Canon: The Case of Encounter Magazine’, Anthony, Mikey and I were trying to think of a good hashtag for the talk’s live-feed on Twitter. HardingSeveral suggestions were made, including #HardingCIA, or simply #CIA. Anthony, however, cautiously suggested that these could attract unwarranted attention from the organisation, who are, in fact, now users of the social network.

With over one million followers, at first it seems strange that America’s Central Intelligence Agency would make use of a platform that has, in the past, had significant cyber-security issues. The organisation’s Tweets, however, draw very little attention to their work, which leaves their posts quite uninteresting. (They frequently circulate facts about former US Presidents, and post photographs of combat aircraft and military uniforms.) Yet behind this unadventurous façade, their presence on Twitter does suggest covert observance or undercover surveillance, and there is, of course, no way of tracking which pages they frequently monitor. (more…)

2015.01.badmington

Signs of the Times

For Henriette’s Tomb: Barthes, Mourning, Mallarmé

Neil Badmington, Thursday 12 Nov 2015, CEIR Seminar Series

barthes

Roland Barthes

Roland Barthes, who would have been one hundred years old last Thursday 12th November, once described the photograph as ‘a kind of primitive theatre, a kind of Tableau Vivant, a figuration of the motionless and made-up face beneath which we see the dead’. Today, a photograph has emerged of the moment before three gunmen burst into the Bataclan Theatre in Paris last Friday 13th, killing eighty-nine people who were enjoying a gig by the Californian band, Eagles of Death Metal.

Barthes’s ideas about photography stem directly from the death of his mother, Henriette, and are published in Camera Lucida, from 1980. In that remarkable text, Barthes outlines his concepts about the ‘studium’ of a photograph—that which is ‘always coded’, and the ‘punctum’—that which is not; it is that small detail in a photograph that speaks of its ‘truth’, it is what ‘pierces’. Looking at the photograph taken at the Bacalan last Friday evening we can see that the studium—the culturally coded content of the photograph—is apparent in the hair styles of the members of the audience, the clothes they are wearing, their hands aloft in the air making the ‘devil horns’ sign (signifying that they are watching a rock band) and even the way the angle the photograph is taken from. The punctum, for me (and, as Barthes tells us, the punctum is often a very personal reaction), is a man standing alone, to the right of the image—just in shot, near the edge of the photograph itself—who reminds me of one of my friends. I could go into more detail, here, regarding the punctum and my reaction to it, but I won’t out of respect for the people who were there. (more…)

VCoT Local Customs Still

Rob Walker, Victorian Cut-out Theatre: Stranger in a strange land

This is the third in a series of occasional posts by writer and filmmaker, Rob Walker, whose YouTube series, ‘Victorian Cut-out Theatre’, celebrates the esoteric, strange and downright weird Victorians by animating contemporary illustrations in the tradition of Monty Python.

‘It is the eve of St George’s Day. Do you not know that to-night, when the clock strikes midnight, all the evil things in the world will have full sway? Do you know where you are going, and what you are going to?’ She was in such evident distress that I tried to comfort her, but without effect. Finally she went down on her knees and implored me not to go; at least to wait a day or two before starting. It was all very ridiculous but I did not feel comfortable. However, there was business to be done, and I could allow nothing to interfere with it. I therefore tried to raise her up, and said, as gravely as I could, that I thanked her, but my duty was imperative, and that I must go. She then rose and dried her eyes, and taking a crucifix from her neck offered it to me. I did not know what to do, for, as an English Churchman, I have been taught to regard such things as in some measure idolatrous, and yet it seemed so ungracious to refuse an old lady meaning so well and in such a state of mind. She saw, I suppose, the doubt in my face, for she put the rosary round my neck, and said, ‘For your mother’s sake,’ and went out of the room.’—Dracula, Chapter 1

This scene from Bram Stoker’s novel, lays the groundwork for terror as Jonathan Harker enters the Carpathian Mountains, hoping to locate the man who hired him. First, however, Harker is introduced to strange food, strange landmarks and even stranger people. The opening of ‘Dracula’ plays a little like a travelogue, as Harker tries his best to reconcile his new surroundings with his ‘modern’ Victorian upbringing. This scene would proliferate hundreds of copycats in horror literature and cinema. We see it adapted in the film Nosferatu (1922), the first screen adaptation of Stoker’s novel. The German solicitor, Hutter, plans to find the castle of Graf Orlok after a short meal at an inn, only to be told by the proprietor that ‘You can’t go any further tonight. A werewolf is roaming the forest.’ It doesn’t matter what language you speak, or culture you’re from, there is always a place where the food tastes funny and the people are strange. We even have a version of this scenario in the American West, where I grew up. It always begins with ‘You ain’t from ’round here, are ya?’ (more…)

Close-up from 'A Touch of Murder'

Rob Walker, Victorian Cut-out Theatre: Robot butlers and the art of detection

This is the second in a series of occasional posts by writer and filmmaker, Rob Walker, whose YouTube series, ‘Victorian Cut-out Theatre’, celebrates the esoteric, strange and downright weird Victorians by animating contemporary illustrations in the tradition of Monty Python.

My first foray into the world of the mystery story began in the fourth grade when I read ‘The Adventure of The Speckled Band’ by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. I fell in love with Sherlock Holmes from that day forward, and the hawkish detective led me by the hand to Agatha Christie and my countryman, inventor of the mystery story, Mr E. A. Poe. It wasn’t long before I began reading the entirety of the Holmes canon, and was thrilled to finally run across a collection which featured the original illustrations by Sidney Paget. Paget would create the definitive Sherlock Holmes in his work for The Strand Magazine, and this would be the look by which all future portrayals would be judged. Paget’s illustrations led me to seek out other Victorian illustrators, and I soon found my way to Tenniel, Rackham and Caldecott. If I am to trace the roots of Victorian Cut-out Theatre, or at the very least episode #11, ‘A Touch of Murder’, I would discover the partnership of Doyle and Paget. These artists both led me to explore their own inspirations and contemporaries, allowing me to draw my own connections. It would be decades later, almost out of necessity, when I would put these twin inspirations together in the first episode of VCoT. (more…)