Anne Liebig | 4 February, 2019
To be or not to be – who has not heard, used, or abused this phrase, written down over 400 years ago? Who cannot conjure up a spontaneous image of the Bard, or name at least one of his plays? Shakespeare has performed a feat that few other writers have achieved across the globe: he has been elevated to a symbol of national culture. But when did you last stop and ask yourself what the point of having a so-called national poet really was?
Anne Liebig | 4 February, 2019
Chris Jardine | 10 December, 2018
It has been two and a half years since the United Kingdom’s referendum on EU membership. While this decision has dominated the political landscape ever since, less attention has been paid to the linguistic innovations, reincarnations and clichés this event has had on and within the English language. Given that the wider Brexit debate has been hijacked by a failed Tory leadership candidate, whose choice in language has been met with disdain by even his allies, and a bizarre anachronism from North East Somerset, a linguistic decoding of some of the key terminology is long overdue.
Natalie Wall | 12 November, 2018
We know that fashion moves in seasons, however we are less inclined to think about how trends may be products of our political, or financial climate. The recent trend for transparent plastic garments could be a reflection of our desire for transparency in our muddied political sphere.
Anne Liebig|10th June 2017.
‘This is a true story.’ Every connoisseur of the Coen brother’s timeless classic Fargo and its equally cult-like series spin-off about small-town megalomania will appreciate the tongue-in-cheek quality of so blatant a lie. The sentence is repeatedly dangled in front of the viewer at the beginning of each episode as a propitious prop for make-believe, calling viewers to rejuvenate their sense for a suspension of disbelief and jump right into this mellifluent maelstrom of snow storms, ice deserts, and funny accents. If it is only popular entertainment, what does it have to do with our current post-truth political climate?
Aran Ward Sell | 20 March 2017.
In a recent Inciting Sparks article, Tess Goodman writes that libraries are hubs of intellectual community. ‘In libraries,’ she writes, people ‘find anchors on the great sea they must navigate.’ Goodman’s article concludes: ‘P.S. We all need books. Support your local library.’ The article you’re reading might be considered a regretful postscript to this postscript:
P.P.S. Public libraries in the UK are dying.
Alberto Nanni | 20 February 2017
Politics have always been full of buffoons and this is no news. In America currently, being allegedly rich and charismatically outrageous seem more important than intelligence and integrity for political success. But is this something new? The newly elected president of the United States is not an isolated case. As an Italian expat, I can’t help but think that Trump has at least one renowned precursor: Silvio Berlusconi. And I don’t just limit their similarities to their orange complexion.
Dylan Taylor | 6 February 2017
In 1835, Alexis de Tocqueville observed that Americans have “a lively faith in the perfectibility of man…They all consider society as a body in a state of improvement”. Such descriptions help explain our common stereotype as pragmatic idealists with a penchant for exaggerated emotions and an uncomfortable awkwardness in the face of negative, or even ambivalent, sentiments. Studies  have implied what many introverts could readily describe: America is a land where being quiet or reflective can induce strange looks or even pity. Being slow-to-judge—a trait so often honored by moral philosophers throughout history—is, to that subset of Americans which subscribes to a masculine, red-blooded vision of our tenets, seen instead as a sign of weakness and naiveté. This diluting of issues into binaries—weak or strong, moral or immoral, right or wrong—is a cultural tendency that has seemed to reach its apotheosis in the theatrical build-up to the new presidency and its traumatic fallout.
Josh Simpson | 6 February 2017
Memes. We’ve all liked them, shared them, maybe even created them: those images, videos, and texts that are humorous (or at least attempt to be). They’ve replaced, in the online world, the editorial cartoons of print newspapers and journals. They are made to become viral in a time when “140 characters” seems more a description of our attention span than of Twitter’s prescribed limits and increasing amounts of information are crowding the real estate of our screens.
Let’s talk about the more serious aspect of memes (don’t groan). Do they desensitise us to the real issues behind all the jokes? Are they responsible for the recent proliferation of #fakenews and “alternative facts,” formerly known as lies?
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).
Ruby Katz | 23 January 2017
The British Monarchy. With its tumultuous history of fame, fortune, and infamy, it’s safe to say this royal entity has withstood a lot. Obviously, things have changed over the years and power has shifted from the family to the government, a process beginning with the reading of the Magna Carta and continuing with the Glorious Revolution of 1688, the Bill of Rights Act of 1689, and the Act of Settlement in 1701. A constitutional monarchy, the royals act as head of state, with their role considered “politically neutral”, and by convention “largely ceremonial” . The role of the royal is to serve as an embodiment of the nation, more a symbol for nationalism than a force of rule. The United Kingdom has therefore emerged a hybrid of democracy and family, giving a thorough nod to its royals as an outmoded yet still sustained institution.