What Holds Us Together: The Parallel Crafts of Darning, Medicine and Literary Criticism

Sarah Stewart | December 4, 2017
Scrolling through Instagram a few months ago, I came across a video about Celia Pym, a textile artist and finalist in this year’s Women’s Hour Crafting Prize who has been spending time at the V&A darning people’s clothes. In the last 10 years, Pym has been interested in invisible but mostly visible mending – that is, rebuilding damaged fabric in a garment, restoring the warp and weft to exactly match the surrounding fabric for invisible mending, or, in the case of visible mending, choosing different colours, materials and weaves to fill the hole, making visible where the damage occurred. A kind of kintsugi for clothes. Pym notes that repair is not actually the aim, but more of a byproduct: ‘my interest is really in the opportunity, through mending, to talk to that person. I find if I ask someone if they have holes in their clothes and could we talk about them, something real gets said that really interests me about grief, or maybe about loss, or maybe just about love’ (Victoria and Albert Museum).

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Remembrance of Novels Past: Nicholson Baker’s “Memory Criticism”

Richard Elliott | 6 March 2017

From the masterpieces of Marcel Proust and Virginia Woolf to recent classics such as Julian Barnes’s The Sense of an Ending, the subject of memory has exercised some of the finest minds of modern literature. Indeed, think of the last novel you read and chances are that a good deal of the narrative was devoted to memory, whether in the form of childhood memories (as in Zadie Smith’s Swing Time), traumatic memories (Eimear McBride’s The Lesser Bohemians), or, more atypically, prenatal memories (Ian McEwan’s Nutshell).

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“My boy’s wicked smart”: Gramsci and Good Will Hunting

Ian Anderson | 23 January 2017.

This Christmas, the mystical cerebral alchemy induced by 10-yr-old Macallan, cheese, and endless well-loved films on TV (invariably already 20 minutes in; nonetheless, you just know you’re going to watch them anyway) threw up a connection between Good Will Hunting (1997) and the ‘wicked smart’ stuff I read up at the university; namely Antonio Gramsci, whose theories have some light to shed on an ostensibly ‘working-class drama’. Allow me to explain.

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Plastic Art in the Anthropocene

28 November 2016 ¦ Kate Lewis Hood.

The Anthropocene is the name for a proposed geological epoch that marks the extent of human impact on the Earth’s systems and processes. This impact includes the sharp increase in CO2 levels in the atmosphere, but also other changes which are less widely discussed, such as the transformation of the nitrogen cycle, or the mass extinction of species. Although the Anthropocene Working Group only recommended that the term be adopted officially in August of this year, the Anthropocene has already been taken up as a cultural concept, with implications and possibilities for the arts as well as the sciences.

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Who Owns Bridget Jones? The Contemporary Canonicity Conundrum

14 November 2016 ¦ Juliet Conway.

Recently a child showed me his favourite book; a written version of The Angry Birds Movie, which is already a film based, of course, on the popular App. When asked what he thought of the book, his reply was ‘it was good’, but ‘the birds weren’t the same as the game’. As a literature student I should probably balk at the idea that his favourite literature is the account of a pixelated bird, but instead he got me thinking. In a world where fiction is communicated in so many forms, which one is given precedence when contradictions occur?

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Reading Between the Panels: Comics and Critical Theory

November 9, 2015 | Tom Sewel.

How do we read comics? How are the ways in which we read comics changing? For most of their history, the ways in which we have read and talked about comics has been left to comics fandoms to decide. While this has produced a passionate proliferation of reading approaches, it has meant that critical rigour has only very rarely been brought to bear on this uniquely multi-modal narrative form. With the academy’s relatively recent acceptance of comics as literature, this public conversation is now seeing a seismic shift.

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Trying to Research the History of China and Japan While Knowing Absolutely no Chinese or Japanese. (And never going to China or Japan.)

November 1, 2015 | Adam Cohen.

I’ve now written two dissertations during two different degrees with a grand total of 25,000 words on Japanese and Chinese history and yet whenever I tried to tell anyone what I was working on I would, without fail, have the following conversation: ‘Oh so how well do you speak Japanese/Chinese?’ I don’t, and I sure as hell can’t read it. ‘When are you going out to China/Japan?’ I’m not, at least not before the deadline. These were fair enough questions to ask and no doubt someone who did speak the language would have written a much better thesis than the one that I churned out. I know a lot of people though who started to narrow down a global research area, came up against these language/travel barriers, and immediately veered away from non-English history entirely, and I think this leaves a wealth of potential scholarship unexplored.

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