The Literary Self: from Antiquity to the Digital Age

The journey to holding The Literary Self: From Antiquity to the Digital Age, began when Consuelo Martino and Caitlan Smith from the University of St Andrews took part in an Interdisciplinary workshop at the SGSAH Summer School in 2017. During the workshop Consuelo and Caitlan brainstormed a conference that could take an interdisciplinary look at confidence and the self. Soon after, Consuelo and Caitlan advertised for additional organisers to further widen their angles of approach. Miles Beard and Matthew Tibble, from the Universities of Strathclyde and Edinburgh, respectively, were selected to join, bringing backgrounds in contemporary literature and history with them.

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On Conferences as Political Spaces

Maria Elena Torres-Quevedo | April 13, 2018
When I began my academic career, as a student on a Masters degree by research, conferences seemed both exciting and daunting. They were exciting because, as an unexperienced researcher, the prospect of being in a space with people who had been doing research for years, exchanging ideas, and being treated seriously as a researcher, was extremely appealing. They were daunting because of the competitive aspect that they represented— an opportunity to share research and thoughts, and an opportunity for those with more knowledge and experience to point out the flaws therein. They would involve inherently awkward situations where you would be forced to make small talk with someone whom, in all likelihood, you shared nothing in common with, else you would stand in the corner of a crowded room, staring at your phone screen. Nevertheless, they were something to be endured because they were a necessity on the curriculum vitae of any aspiring academic, and a space to make contact with people who might be valuable to your professional network.

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Academia and the Bingo Card

Juliet Conway | 20 March 2017

While in a group of 8 PhD students recently, I discovered just how bad we all are at summarising our research. Our topics, on which each of us could wax lyrical for hours, cannot fit into a succinct summary, not at least without using several 5-syllable words. I am equally guilty of this. I try to get around the issue with a one-word answer. ‘What do I study?’: ‘Flirting’. It works, and usually gets a laugh or a politely bemused look. But if you ask me to extrapolate you’ll probably regret it. My arguments, which would (hopefully) sound eloquent and comprehensive in 100,000 words, become jumbled, convoluted and frankly indecipherable when squeezed into a few sentences. The questioner’s eyes start to glaze at the word ‘dichotomy’ and as I try falteringly to explain how flirts use intentional ambiguity to undermine notions of authority, I know I’ve already lost them.

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Sick Women and Living a Good Life in 2017

Sarah Stewart | 6 February 2017

At the closing of what my Facebook feed has collectively termed the ‘garbage fire of 2016’ and the consequent mass proffering of narratives to get through and beyond it, Achille Mbembe offered grave discomfort. Perhaps this is hardly surprising coming from the first person to think through the term necropolitics, the idea that, in modernity, ultimate sovereignty rests ‘in the power and the capacity to dictate who may live and who must die’ (Necropolitics). The concept does seem in keeping with the now-crashing visibility of the damage systemic racism, ableism, homophobia and sexism enable (brought to you by the 2016 Brexit Leave campaign and the POTUS-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named, to list but a few).

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Does soundbite culture harm research, or help it?

July 25, 2016 | Louise Adams

It is widely agreed that we live in a ‘soundbite culture’, one which prioritises short, punchy forms of communication. From the TED-Talk to the tweet to the emoji: quick and concise means immediate impact, and immediate impact means value in the present. But what should the relationship be between soundbite culture and the academy?

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Refuge and Asylum: A Gardener’s Guide

February 15, 2016 | Sarah Stewart.

Gardens are a cultural staple the world over. You would be hard put to find a major world religion in which gardens do not feature; the sheer multitude of garden-related metaphors you hear everyday are testament to our language’s continuing reliance on concepts born in gardens, not to mention the prevalence of the garden in literary and artistic traditions. For millennia, gardens have been reflections of divine order on earth; spaces to display status, but, fundamentally, they are places where people negotiate with the land, and other people, in order to thrive. Given their global relevance, what potential do gardens and gardening have to bridge barriers between cultures and people of vast differences in background and experience? Between, say, established British citizens and asylum seekers and refugees?

[tw: discussions of torture]

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