Anxieties of the Historical Novelist
Reconstructing the 19th Century in Fiction
22nd May @ 5.00pm
- Terrific Apparition, Seen During the Recent Fog at Westminster (Punch, 1869)
The historical novelist is perhaps the most anxious creature inhabiting the micro-pantheon of fiction-producing gods. To him belongs the inherent burden of the genre to achieve through his art what science has so far proved incompetent to invent: a time machine of words, the equivalent of the Tardis in paperback form. His dreams are haunted by the knowledge that the most exhaustive research would never convey but his own subjective perception of a past era as studied through (mainly) second-hand sources. The critical component of my PhD observes this tortu(r)ous procedure of striving towards a non-existing truth; concentrating on the reconstruction of the 19th century in fiction, I discuss the discovery of sources, their authentication and functional incorporation into the narrative. If ‘fiction is the truth inside the lie’, then historical fiction is the truth inside the lie that could, perhaps, be the truth…
Dimitris Kalpouzos, alias Dimitris Melicertes as pen names go, was born in Athens in 1988. He studied Greek Philology and Linguistics at the National & Kapodistrian University of Athens before undertaking the MA in Writing at the University of Warwick. He now lives and writes in London, working on a historical novel for the PhD in Creative Writing and Practice-based Research at Royal Holloway, University of London, under the supervision of Benjamin Markovits. His first translation was a short story by Santiago Roncagliolo, The Alongside Passenger, from Spanish into English and Greek. In 2012 he translated into Greek the ‘Fantastic Diaries of Bathsheba Clarice de Trop’, a series of children’s books by author Leila Rasheed, which are published in the UK by Usborne and in Greece by Metaihmio.
The Blown Definitions
Dictionary Definition Form in Contemporary Poetry
22nd May @ 6.00pm
The dictionary functions as a repository of collective cultural and linguistic knowledge. What happens if we don’t feel represented by the dictionary? In my own dramatic radio poem, ‘The Blown Definitions’ (dramatic radio poetry is defined here as radio poetry for two or more voices of at least fifteen minutes in length) I explore the processes and difficulties of definition – and the role of the dictionary – through an invented disappearing language and its one last remaining expert and arbiter. Throughout the poem the dictionary (an artificial intelligence) functions in a similar way to the chorus in ancient Greek drama, disrupting and commenting on the temporal narrative.
The dictionary definition is fundamentally different to the poem in its intended use: it’s designed to function as a record of existing language use, not as a space in which meaning can be questioned and re-created. The definition’s intended function requires a focus on more ‘rational’ and translatable aspects of language rather than the less directly representational aspects explicitly utilised in poetry. The dictionary definition provides a structure within which language may conform to its more utilitarian purpose and also exceed and transcend it. Through analysis of the work of contemporary poets including Robert Pinsky, Kei Miller, Anne Carson and Jen Hadfield, and in the context of my own dictionary work as part of my dramatic radio poem, I will demonstrate how the poet’s creative deconstruction of the dictionary definition can both celebrate and subvert the dictionary’s authority, playing with notions of subjectivity and objectivity, of closed and open texts. The dictionary definition’s association with cultural memory and history makes it an ideal space for discussion and reconfiguration of cultural meaning.
Kate Potts’ doctoral thesis works towards a poetics of the dramatic radio poem, focusing on the ways in which the medium of radio shapes and defines the form. Kate’s debut poetry pamphlet Whichever Music (tall-lighthouse, 2008) was a Poetry Book Society Choice and was shortlisted for a Michael Marks Award. She received an Arts Council Writer’s Award in 2009. Her first full-length collection is Pure Hustle (Bloodaxe, 2011). Kate’s poetry has been widely published in magazines and anthologies including The Forward Book of Poetry 2012 (Faber, 2011) and, most recently, Dear World & Everyone In It (Bloodaxe, 2013). She teaches Creative Writing for Morley College and The Poetry School, and is currently a writer in residence at Kingston University. She is co-organiser of a series of site-specific poetry events, Somewhere in Particular.
When Shakespeare is deprived of his tongue
Anxieties of translation, presentation and reception in a postcolonial world
May 18th @ 5.00pm
In the UK’s 2012 Cultural Olympiad, the Globe to Globe festival commissioned 37 international theatre companies to perform Shakespeare’s 37 plays in 37 languages on the Globe stage in London. Shakespeare’s text was not provided in translation; a screen giving scene summaries was the only aide to the audience of what was happening on stage. Following this, Iqbal Khan’s Much Ado About Nothing for the Royal Shakespeare Company assembled a British Asian cast speaking Shakespeare’s original text, in a production set in contemporary old-Delhi, which performed in Stratford upon Avon before transferring to London. Both are in contrast to Tim Supple’s 2006 Indian Midsummer Night’s Dream, which brought together all-Indian and Sri Lankan practitioners under an English director, used indigenous music, and attempted to faithfully translate the play into several Indian languages to accurately reflect both Shakespeare’s metre and a version of the multilingual reality of daily Indian urban life. No translation back to English was offered. This production toured across India and internationally. Finally, in India’s 2012 Bharat Rang Motsav, Suman Mukhopadhyay’s King Lear offered the play in performance in Bengali, while a screen above the proscenium provided line-by-line translation of the Bengali into the contemporary hybrid of Hindi and English: Hinglish.
My research considers whether Shakespeare’s text will cease to matter (and whether this matters itself) as audiences with no familiarity of the plays, watch them in languages they also don’t understand; languages ‘other’ to Shakespeare’s revered idiom. Examining how particular translations were effected, presented, and received reveals some of the underlying politics of perception and post-colonial anxiety that still surrounds cross-cultural approaches to Shakespeare and his work. In the alchemical space between original text and translation, and where text meets performance, such attitudes are challenged. My work draws on feminist and postcolonial theory and creative practice, and ultimately argues that as fresh linguistic and cultural understandings are formed, Shakespeare’s text itself is submerged and renewed; thus it might endure through endless permutations even as its importance seems to fall away. This presentation is part of my practice-based thesis on King Lear, which I read as a gendered and postcolonial text in order to interrogate both its place in India’s history, and paradigms of behaviour in India today.
Preti Taneja is a Visiting Lecturer and Doctoral researcher in Creative Writing at Royal Holloway, University of London, and Creative submissions editor of the online journal Exegesis. She is also a journalist and filmmaker specialising in human rights. Her campaigning documentaries from Kenya and Rwanda among other places can be seen on erafilms.co.uk. The award winning feature film ‘Verity’s Summer’ which deals with secrets surrounding British involvement in the torture of Iraqi detainees, is on general release in cinemas and online in 2013. veritys-summer.com
+ See Lear’s Indian Daughters: http://bloggingshakespeare.com/lears-indian-daughters
‘Browning in the world of Hammer films’
A close reading of two poems by Mick Imlah
8th May @ 6.00pm
In this presentation, I will place Mick Imlah’s early work in an historical context by performing a close reading of his Browning-esque dramatic monologue, ‘Quasimodo Says Goodnight’. Through the close reading of another poem, ‘Doing It’, I will reveal that – contrary to the conventional view of his work – Imlah often wrote about subjects that were quite close to home. I will also read some of those recent poems of my own that I feel have been particularly influenced by my close reading of Imlah’s work.
Robert Selby is studying for a Creative Writing PhD under the supervision of Andrew Motion. His PhD consists of a concise but detailed biography of the late poet Mick Imlah and a close reading of his work, as well as putting together a collection of his own poems. A recipient of a Keats House bursary, his poems have appeared in the TLS, the Guardian, The Dark Horse, and elsewhere. Four appeared in the recently published anthology, Days of Roses II.
+ See: http://pure.rhul.ac.uk/portal/en/persons/robert-selby%28f14080c9-0d7d-4004-9cac-39e73efbb4a3%29.html
Skeleton Consciousness and Theatre
13th March @ 5.00pm
This presentation will focus on what it means to have a skeleton and what it means for the practice of theatre. The question of skeletal awareness goes beyond developing ease and spontaneity as performers. Bones are potential objects that lie in wait within people – to which death will bring object birth. In the meantime, they can be used as teachers of performance skills, in a similar way to puppets and objects and the ground. I ask how considerations of the skeleton in performance can provide a route towards the disintegration of binarized categories of animate-inanimate and subject-object, such that performance as physical philosophy can become the site of a lived ethics.
Kristin Fredricksson is a performer and theatre maker. After training with Jacques Lecoq in Paris in the 90s, she worked as a performer and theatre director mainly outside the UK, returning to form the company Beady Eye in 2009. Her recent performance work has been autobiographical, layering cinefilm, video, puppetry, text and movement in loosely narrative pieces. The company tours nationally and internationally and won a Total Theatre Award in 2009. She is also a Feldenkrais practitioner and translator of academic theatre texts (French to English).