books

CEIR Speaker, 21 Feb 2017: Carrie Smith on Ted Hughes’s Birthday Letters

Carrie Smith (Cardiff University) will be presenting her paper, ‘Ted Hughes’s Birthday Letters: An Archive of Writing’, at 5.30pm on Tuesday, 21 February 2017. The talk will take place in the Cardiff University’s John Percival Building, Room 2.48, and will be followed by a wine reception.

Abstract
2016-05-smithThis paper will consider the manuscript drafts of British poet Ted Hughes’s final full-length collection Birthday Letters (1998). It will suggest that the proliferation of reported documents, photographs, journal entries and letters in the published collection is a result of Hughes’s re-encounter with these items when sorting through his late wife Sylvia Plath’s, and later his own, papers for sale. As a result Birthday Letters itself becomes a poetic archive curated by Hughes. From the opening poem, we are presented with accounts of documents that root the collection in the texture of real life. The collection works to preserve what will be lost when the papers are archived after his death; the memory-context of these photographs, drafts and objects. Hughes also provides incorrect biographical details throughout the collection. The substitution of an easily-checkable detail suggests that Hughes is creating a poetic archive of items that cannot be trusted; implying that poetry must always be questioned when mined for biography. The process of shaping his archive and literary legacy informs the collection’s focus on the fallibility of memory and the potential for documents and objects to deceive. The archive of papers tries to preserve the past, even as the arranging and destroying of the papers alters it; similarly in Birthday Letters, Hughes represents the past in poetry by using concrete items. He performs a synthesising of these items, akin to a researcher, by finding patterns in the papers. As this paper will show, the drafts of Birthday Letters form an archive of writing, placing the indeterminacy of the many variants of the manuscript page alongside the doubt over how to record a shared life in poetry.
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Narrative Voice and Gothic Otherness

Voice and Dispossession: A Comparative Poetics

Emily Rohrbach, 8 Nov 2016, CEIR Seminar Series

In the second paper of this year’s CEIR series, held in collaboration with the Cardiff Romanticism and Eighteenth-Century Seminar (CRECS), Dr Emily Rohrbach drew on her current research on voice and dispossession in ‘Gothic’ literature from Britain, Europe and America to examine its influence on the Romantic period. Rohrbach, in her usual critical style which as Dr Jamie Castell stated ‘pays attention to the small details when addressing the big questions’, analysed aspects of the narrative voice that dramatise self-reflexively its own otherness. (more…)

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‘The Clyde to California’: Robert Louis Stevenson in America

In the seventh of an ongoing series of posts, Harriet Gordon, a second-year doctoral candidate based in Cardiff’s Centre for Editorial and Intertextual Research, discusses the early steps of her project: a book historical study of Robert Louis Stevenson’s global literary networks. Harriet’s project is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council’s South, West and Wales Doctoral Training Partnership (SWW-DTP).

In 1879, Stevenson boarded a steamship to New York in pursuit of a married woman, who, less than a year later, would become his wife. Despite spanning little more than a year, this period of Stevenson’s life has been seen by many commentators as a watershed moment, for both his literary career and his sense of himself in the world. This life-altering journey began on 6 August 1879 in St Pancras Station. From here, Stevenson took a night train to Glasgow, and the next day left the Clyde for New York on the steamship the Devonia. He was following Fanny Osbourne, who had returned to California and her husband a year before. (more…)

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Location, Location, Location … and Literature

Stories by the City, Stories by the Sea: Locative Literature and Narrative Archaeology

Verity Hunt, 25 Oct 2016, CEIR Seminar Series

Unless you are extremely adept at avoiding news on popular culture, you must have, in one way or another, encountered the mobile sensation that is Pokémon Go. In the past six months this augmented reality phenomenon has launched location-based gaming into the public consciousness. In the first paper in this year’s CEIR series, Dr Verity Hunt began by encouraging us to imagine if our smartphones alerted us to nearby voices from the past, rather than the presence of Pikachus. What if your phone could provide you, for example, with a story about the Victorian world set in the place you are standing, incorporating the archaeological traces of nineteenth-century narratives that permeate the built landscapes of our cities?

This is exactly what a team at the University of Southampton are achieving with the Story Places project, combining story-telling skills with the location-based technology behind Pokémon Go to create interactive historical landscapes. Funded by the Leverhulme Trust, the project has built a location-aware, storytelling application for smartphones, which supports situated stories interwoven with the places they are read. The team worked with a range of creative writers, including undergraduate and postgraduate students, taking three case study places as way to explore the potential of the application: Southampton Old Town and Docks, the Bournemouth Natural Science Society and the Crystal Palace Park in South London. (more…)

Visiting Speaker, 29 Nov 2016: Tom Abba on Ambient Literature

Tom Abba (University of the West of England) will be presenting his paper, ‘The Road to Ambient Literature’, at 5.30pm on Tuesday, 29 November 2016. The talk will take place in the Cardiff University’s John Percival Building, Room 2.03, and will be followed by a wine reception.

Abstract
2016-03-abbaAmbient Literature—a two year, AHRC funded research project undertaken by UWE Bristol, Bath Spa University and the University of Birmingham, did not suddenly appear fully formed within a funding application. The project, defined as an exploration of situated literary experiences, delivered by pervasive computing platforms, responding to the presence of a reader to deliver story, emerges from a body of work that has sought to address the form of digital texts, grammars of writing for new technologies and interventions into situated literary practice.

Six months into the project, UWE’s Tom Abba will discuss and assess the work that informed the initial development of the Ambient Literature proposal, including Circumstance’s These Pages Fall Like Ash and a Hollow Body, and map out the territory within which Ambient Literature operates. The underlying aim of the research project; the reification of frameworks, grammars and platforms for writing Ambient Literature; informs the commissioning of three new pieces of writing during the programme of work. Alongside these, smaller experiments are being used to work through initial findings and research questions as they arise. Tom will conclude by examining the ways in which the second of these—yesterday you’re still dreaming—worked with specificities of spoken word and situated storytelling to manipulate each reader’s perception of their experience. (more…)