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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Storytelling: Finding Humanity in Difference, and Difference as Humanity

Madison Pollack | November 6, 2017
The cartoonist Liana Finck recently published an article online called “Love Song,” where she worked through the issue of whether or not to post sketches about her relationship publically. A frequent contributor to The New Yorker, Finck has garnered a following on Instagram by posting autobiographical cartoons of her interpretations of moments on the subway, in coffee shops, and, often, in love. In “Love Song,” Finck writes that her cartoons are her “way of taking my story back from strangers on the street—and men I’d met on dating apps—who saw me as a minor character, if they saw me at all.” Finck’s Instagram is not merely a view into the artist’s inner life: it is her desperate and universal plea to be recognized as having one at all. By giving her inner workings a public platform, Finck enables herself to reclaim subjecthood in a world that is constantly taking it away from her.

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Rap au féminin: What can France’s female hip hop scene teach us about identity politics?

Ellen Davis-Walker | 25 April 2017

Mathieu Kassovitz’s 1995 box office sensation La Haine has long been credited with propelling French hip hop on to the global stage. Drawing on original material by Ministère AMER, NTM and MC Solaar, the film’s soundtrack managed to capture the sonic traces of social unrest on the fringes of French society. Whilst France’s victory in the 1997 FIFA World Cup seemed to mark a momentary coming- together around the inclusive slogan ‘Black-Blanc-Beur’ (Black, White, Arab), the contentious and fractured question of national identity has continued to dominate the country’s musical and political landscape ever since.

The emergence of rap au féminin (female rap) over the past decade marked a significant step in the development of multi-faceted ‘French’ identity. While anglophone female artists of the early 2000s were predominantly focused on debunking “the sexual and material objectification faced by women in the industry,” this article will ask how rap au féminin has offered artists the possibility to explore both what it meant to be a woman in this period, and what it meant (and still means) to be French.

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Toilet Block

Gina Maya | 3 April 2017.

Bears do it in the woods, they say, but Westerners do it as God ordained it, in a room labelled male or female. Never mind that gender-segregated toilets appeared not in Biblical times but the Victorian age; the issue of public toilets is becoming one of the touchstones of our post-Brexit, post-Trump age, regarding who goes where, and whether or not trans- or non-binary-identifying people count as legitimate.

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The Contemporary Citizen in Fatma Aydemir’s Ellbogen

Charlotte Kessler | 6 March 2017

Fatma Aydemir’s debut novel Ellbogen (2017) addresses the experiences of immigrants in Germany in the face of the current political and social climate. ‘Ellbogen’ is German for ‘elbow’ and refers to the pressures in society that cause people to elbow their way to the top in order to be successful. The novel is a striking portrayal of the second generation of immigrants, who are often the children of so-called ‘guest workers’. It captures sensations such as loneliness, alienation and the search for belonging, which Aydemir does through telling the heart-warming story of a teenage girl of Turkish descent living in Germany and by using the colloquial language of Turkish teenagers who mix German and Turkish slang. The observation of migration experience does not end there. There are various situations and characters that lend themselves to an analysis in regard to Claire Sutherland’s chapter on citizenship and migration in Nationalism in the Twenty-First Century (2012).

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Reading As If To Live

Tess Goodman | 6 March 2017

In Fun Home, Alison Bechdel describes learning the word “lesbian” from the dictionary at age thirteen (74). As she ages, she finds one book after another that explore this word, leading eventually to two realizations: one, that she “could actually look up homosexuality in the card catalog,” and two, that she herself is a lesbian (75). For her, the former discovery is the catalyst for the latter, which she calls a “revelation not of the flesh, but of the mind” (74). Her reading reveals a larger world, bringing her into touch with herself.

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United We Shall Eat/Read: A Bite of China in the Printed Form

Chienwei Pan | 9 January 2017

To begin, let me share a photo I took when I first visited the Confucius Institute for Scotland. As one can see in the picture, three books are arranged with deliberate care, with Shejian shang de Zhongguo (A Bite of China, 2012) displayed in front of the book-length Introduction to the Confucius Institute (2010) and accompanied by Kongzi mingyan lu (The Famous Remarks of Confucius, 2006).

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You are what you read? Why reading is a fundamental threat to identity

May 2, 2016 | Louise Adams.

In a moving passage of Dickens’ novel, the ill-treated David Copperfield remembers ‘sitting on my bed, reading as if for life’.[1] His words capture an experience of reading that will be familiar to many – one of freedom and fulfilment. By engaging with books we escape our immediate circumstances, broaden our horizons, and discover ourselves more fully.

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