Carolyn Pedwell – Text -Mood - Affect

The mood within Cultural Studies has become increasingly disdainful of the legacies of textual analysis. At their intersection, the purported affective, ontological and new materialist ‘turns’ have been represented as moving away from the privileging of text and discourse as key theoretical touchstones and indeed beyond poststructuralist approaches premised on linguistic, semiotic, discursive and psychoanalytic frameworks more generally.  From these perspectives, any attempt to preserve the integrity of the epistemological tools of the textual, discursive and cultural turns is marked as decidedly out of step with the affective thrust of contemporary cultural theory. Appreciating the nuances and complexities of the diverse contributions associated with these various conceptual ‘turns’, however, urges us to examine how many thinkers extend and enrich a much longer genealogy of scholarship concerned with the nature of texts and textual formations as ‘discursive- material’ assemblages, the materiality of language and its affective excesses, and the particular relations of feeling we finds ourselves in with texts.  In this session, I consider how we might understand contemporary cultural analysis as a form of ‘mood work’ that is at once discursive and material, textual and affective, political and aesthetic.


Ruth Connolly -Reading the Maternal Imagination in the Seventeenth Century

This seminar considers the early modern concept of the maternal imagination. The belief that a pregnant woman’s desires or fears could physically imprint themselves on a developing foetus producing, in extreme cases, ‘monstrous births’,  was supported by medical discourses and popular thinking. We will look at the history of the ‘maternal imagination’ as a concept in medical and literary work and explore the assumptions about women’s agency and power that it encodes. We will also relate it to ideas of artistic creativity through the metaphor of the poet-in-childbirth widely used in this period to represent the gestation of ideas and the labour of writing. We will focus here on specific work by John Milton and by Hester Pulter that represents scenes of childbirth and plays on ideas of maternal imagination.


Andrew Shail - Models of Menstruation in the Eighteenth & Nineteenth Centuries

This session will look at examples of theories of the cause of menstruation during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, including the first instance, in the late 1870s, of the model we still hold today. Students will prepare by reading extracts from medical texts published between 1703 and 1889 and will be asked to identify both the shifts in thinking about the female body that these texts witness and the competition between theories at key moments.


Stacy Gillis - The Early Twentieth-Century Orgasm

This seminar considers the formulation of sexual desire and pleasure in early twentieth-century British culture.  We will consider the orgasm in literature (particularly the ‘sex novel’, which came to prominence in the late 1890s) against the backdrop of the rise of popular interest in psychoanalysis and sexology, the aftermath of the Wilde trial, and suffragette-led debates about the role of women in marriage.  We will be reading extracts from this material, and considering the representation of orgasm and pleasure in the work of Elinor Glyn and E.M. Hull.


Raewyn Connell“Peeling off the Skin: Transsexual Women’s Embodiment in Gender, Medicine and Politics”

Description TBC.


Stephen Kelly - Embodied Books from Codex to Kindle

This session will explore the ‘interiority’ of books, from medieval codices and early printed books, to contemporary meditations on the materiality of texts such as Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves (2000) and Ann Carson’s Nox (2009).  It will reflect on the supposed ‘dematerialisation’ of texts with the emergence of hypertext and e-readers and will invite participants to explore the politics of the supposed elision of materiality which often accompanies pronouncements on digital textualities.


Helen SmithLooking at Books

Recent scholarship has emphasised the materiality of the text: the rewards and challenges that come from considering the book as object. But what does it mean to think about the book as an object of attention - of aesthetic, scientific, and sensual scrutiny? In this seminar, we will consider a range of early modern paintings, furniture, poems, natural philosophical, and technical writings that take books as their subjects, and depict them as alluring, curious, and, in various ways, effective objects. We will ask what kinds of interiority - and what kinds of surface effects - are produced by these representations and imaginings, and how these materialisations of the book shaped approaches to reading and book use.        


Kate Chedgzoy & Catherine Alexander - In the Book, in the Body, in the Home: Jane Loraine’s Recipe Book, 1684-6

This seminar will use the interior space of a seventeenth-century MS recipe book held in the Special Collections of Newcastle University’s Robinson Library as the point of departure for an examination of other kinds of interiors, and of the exterior spaces and forces with which they interact and which shape them. Jane Loraine was a Northumberland gentlewoman: the recipe book signed by her shows that such a textual production can create a space for the sharing of ideas and domestic advice among women in a locality, and in a more dispersed community. Focusing on medicinal recipes, the book shows how the care of the interior of the human body, taking place within the space of the home, was a site of women’s work, collaboration, and community.


Emma Short - The Hotel in Literature, 1890-1939

This session aims to explore the significance of the hotel in literature between 1890 and 1939. We will examine how the hotel is used by writers throughout this period in a number of different ways: to think through ideas concerning the social and cultural conditions of modernity, particularly in terms of changing understandings of class, gender, and sexuality; to contemplate more abstract concepts such as the nature of selfhood and subjectivity; and to explore new ways of structuring, framing and driving their narratives.


Jane Hamlett - Reading the Asylum Interior

This session will explore the interiors of lunatic asylums (as they were known to contemporaries) in nineteenth and early twentieth century England. While the Victorian asylum is often thought of as a dark, threatening place, where inmates were kept in dire conditions, in fact, medical authorities began to pay more attention to the therapeutic potential of the interior in this era. Drawing on Foucauldian understandings of the asylum as a place of discipline as well as postmodernist architectural critiques of the social construction of space, we will use primary evidence, including photographs and rare patient letters, to think through the interpretation of these intriguing interiors.


Sarah Kember - Sexing the Smart Home

There has always been a futurism of the home and one of the defining features of futurism is nostalgia or a return to the past. Twenty-first century visions of the smart home include networked, invisible, intelligent, speech-enabled computational systems manifest in ordinary, everyday objects like kitchen worktops, mirrors, doors and toilets. By examining such visions in art and industry, in literature and in promotional materials, we will establish first a genealogy of the smart home, a specific historical return to the 1950s and second, a strategy for addressing the re-traditionalisation of gender roles and other forms of containment, confinement and regression that go along with the otherwise utopian prospects of technological change.