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MLAC Events Bulletin: 16th-22nd January

Monday 16th January

IAS Fellows’ Seminar – The Importance of Oscillations?

13:00-14:00, IAS Seminar Room, Palace Green, Professor Mark Fricker (Oxford University, UK)

A variety of imaging techniques have allowed visualisation of dynamic processes in living systems across a range of scales from microns to meters. In a number of instances, imaging has revealed that critical processes are associated with fluctuating or oscillatory phenomena, rather than running at a quasi steady state. Thus, we are beginning to question whether oscillations are in fact the norm in biological systems, but have been previously obscured by population averaging inherent in most biochemical approaches or linear extrapolation from a series of snapshot images. Mathematical modelling has been used to simulate a few of these processes, and can capture complex behaviour using relatively simple interactions between activator and inhibitor fields in reaction-diffusion systems and Turing patterns. The underlying mechanisms (diffusion and feedback) follow basic biophysical principles, and may reflect fundamental building blocks of ‘biological logic’ rather than the boolean operators more familiar from computing science. This seminar will present a number of examples that illustrate oscillatory phenomena and simulations as a basis for discussion on organising principles in biology.


Fellows’ seminars take place on Monday lunchtimes in the seminar room at Cosin’s Hall.

Places are limited and so any academic colleagues interested in attending a seminar should contact the Institute in advance to reserve a place.

Contact for more information about this event.


‘Company’ by Samuel Beckett

15:00-16:00, Repeated daily until 20th January 2017, Chapel of the Holy Cross, Durham Cathedral

The Hearing the Voice project is delighted to announce that experiential audio performances of Samuel Beckett’s Company will take place in the Chapel of the Holy Cross in Durham Cathedral from 16 to 20 January 2017.

Both moving and mysterious, Beckett’s Company is the story of a voice that comes ‘to one on his back in the dark’. This voice, which the protagonist can neither verify or name, ‘tells of a past’. In a performance of the text that is at the same time immersive and exploratory, the audience are invited to become the central character in this enigmatic story world.

Marcel Proust, on which Beckett wrote an essay in 1930, defined the experience of lying in bed before falling asleep as a ‘relaxation of consciousness’, sometimes triggered by the reading of a novel. This is a moment in which imagination takes over and the Self becomes liquid, malleable and multiple. Inspired by this liminal image of relaxation, we will ask each member of the audience to lie in one of the nine beds we have placed in the chapel. The illumination will go off, and the voice of Company will address them – synesthetically paired, as Beckett’s text suggests, with a pulsing sourceless light. Imagine.

Performances will take place daily at 3pm, 5pm and 7pm in the darkened Chapel of the Holy Cross.

All welcome. Places at these free events are limited to nine people per performance, so early booking is essential.

Reservations via Eventbrite here.

Contact for more information about this event.


Annual Leslie Brooks Lecture: Professor Linda Williams (University of California Berkeley) ‘“Tales of Sound and Fury” Signifying… Something, or, The Elephant of Melodrama’

17:30, ER142

Melodrama has seemed a contradictory term. On one hand a special genre for suffering women, on the other hand a genre of blood and thunder action; on one hand failed tragedy, on the other the pathos of an age that seeks a hidden moral legibility. Melodrama is unruly; it is what Henry James, speaking of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, called a leaping fish that alights first in one medium then another but seems to continually eludes our grasp. Considered as a mode, not a genre it has been seen by many scholars to dominate not only the popular drama of the nineteenth century, but also Hollywood cinema and television. Peter Brooks’s pervasive notion of the “melodramatic mode” has given critics much to appreciate in melodrama beyond a failed aspiration to be tragedy. However, in Brooks’s schema, melodrama’s presumed “excess” has prevented it from being understood as the norm of popular entertainment, not its deviation. This paper argues for the normalization of the term melodrama as the major mode of popular stage, film and television and for the abolition of the term “classical” as an ahistorical, misleading misnomer.


Linda Williams teaches courses on popular moving-image genres. She has also taught courses on Oscar Micheaux and Spike Lee, Luis Buñuel and Pedro Almodóvar, melodrama, film theory, selected “sex genres,” and The Wire. Her books include Hard Core: Power, Pleasure and the Frenzy of the Visible (second edition 1999, University of California Press), Playing the Race Card: Melodramas of Black and White, from Uncle Tom to O.J. Simpson (2001, Princeton). She has edited a collection of essays on pornography, Porn Studies (Duke, 2004). Her most recent books are Screening Sex (Duke, 2008), a history of the revelation and concealment of sex at the movies and On The Wire (Duke 2014). She is currently editing an anthology on melodrama with Christine Gledhill called Melodrama Unbound.

Contact for more information about this event.


Tuesday 17th January

Seminar – The Physiology and Habitat of LUCA

13:30-14:30, IAS Seminar Room, Cosin’s Hall, Palace Green, Professor William F Martin (Heinrich-Heine University Düsseldorf, Germany)

The concept of a last universal common ancestor of all cells (LUCA, or the progenote) is central to the study of early evolution and life’s origin, yet information about how and where LUCA lived is lacking. Professor Martin (and team) has investigated all clusters and phylogenetic trees for 6.1 million protein coding genes from sequenced prokaryotic genomes in order to reconstruct the microbial ecology of LUCA.

Professor Bill Martin is an evolutionary biologist with an active interest in biochemistry. He completed his undergraduate degree in Biology at the University of Hannover, and PhD in Genetics under the supervision of Heinz Saedler at the Max Plank Institute for Breeding Research in Cologne. After his PHD he joined the University of Braunschweig for 10 years. In 1999 he was appointed Professor at the Heinrich-Heine University Düsseldorf.

His research group at the Institute for Molecular Evolution pursues research on the biochemistry and evolution of chloroplasts, mitochondria (including their anaerobic forms, hydrogenosomes), and eukaryotes. We use laboratory experiments and bioinformatic techniques to pursue these questions and to probe even earlier phases of evolution, going back to life’s origin, with the help of gene and genome comparisons.

Professor Martin has served as an Editor for many journals and is currently the Editor in Chief of Genome Biology and Evolution.

Booking is essential. Please contact or contact Pauline Edmondson on Ext: 42859.

Contact for more information about this event.


Preparing Large Grant Proposals for the AHRC and the ERC

15:00-16:30, Learning Centre, Palace Green Library, Professor Simon Gaunt, (Kings College London)

Professor Simon Gaunt (King’s College London) was Principal Investigator for the Arts and Humanities Research Council-funded research project Medieval Francophone Literary Culture Outside France ( and he now runs the European Research Council-funded project The Values of French ( In this workshop, he will talk about the process of developing research ideas into project bids, about writing the applications and responding to peer review, and about research collaboration. It should be of interest to anyone developing AHRC, ERC or other large project bids, whether they work on the medieval or other periods. All Durham staff and postgraduates are welcome, please click here to register.

Contact for more information about this event.


IMEMS Lecture: Romancing the Truth: Vernacular History and the Origin of Fiction

17:30, Learning Centre, Palace Green Library , Professor Simon Gaunt (Kings College London)

This event is free to attend and open to all and will be followed by a drinks reception in the Courtyard Café, Palace Green Library. Please click here to register for this event and other IMEMS lectures.

In her influential Romancing the Past, Gabrielle Spiegel argued that early 13th-c. vernacular prose played a key role in enabling a truly historical discourse to disengage itself from fictional writing. Her analysis often presupposes, however, definitions of ‘fiction’ and ‘history’ that do not map comfortably either on to medieval terminology, or on to medieval textual practice. The early thirteenth-century Histoire ancienne jusau’à César—one of Spiegel’s key texts—repeatedly offers or alludes to multiple versions of well-known episodes of its ‘history’ (such as the Trojan horse or Eneas’ descent into hell), in order explicitly to vaunt the verisimilitude of its own account in contrast to the fables in circulation.

This lecture will argue that texts like the Histoire ancienne thereby define ‘fiction’ far more clearly than they do ‘history’ and also that the transmission of the Histoire ancienne can be used to demonstrate that the fluid boundary between ‘history’ and ‘fiction’ remains problematic—and fascinating—throughout the Middle Ages. Indeed, the category to which the various forms of writing in vernacular prose (whether ‘historical’ or ‘fictional’) are all committed is the truth, but how then is the truth to be told in the relatively new and unstable medium of vernacular prose?

Contact for more information about this event.


Wednesday 18th January

Navigating Interdisciplinarity Workshop

9:00-13:00, Kenworthy Hall, St Mary’s College

Interdisciplinary and cross-disciplinary collaboration contains challenges at each stage in the research process. These include different foci of attention; different conceptual approaches and models; different languages; different kinds of data and forms of analysis; different kinds of output; different measures or assessments of quality. How can interdisciplinary projects be developed coherently? How do practitioners learn to engage productively with other disciplinary areas? In a partnership between the Institute of Advanced Study and the Department of Anthropology, this half-day workshop makes use of anthropology’s expertise in cultural translation.

Designed to assist cross-disciplinary communication and support collaborative interdisciplinary research, this half day workshop will focus examples on the IAS’s annual theme and include members of the IAS Fellowship.

Registration to attend is essential. Please contact: to book a place.

Contact for more information about this event.


‘In the vessel harmoniously combined’: Food and Medicine in Medieval Islamic Culture

19:30-21:00, Lecture Room EH009, Elvet Hill

A talk by Professor Daniel Newman, School of Modern Languages and Cultures, Durham University. This lecture is hosted by the Friends of the Oriental Museum, as part of the 2016/17 series.

The Arab culinary tradition is one of the oldest and richest in the world; starting in Baghdad, it spread across the Islamic Empire, and beyond, to Western Europe, where its influence can be observed in early cookery manuals. The extant sources, including the world’s oldest complete cookery book, demonstrate the interconnectedness between Arabic medicine and food, therapy and sustenance, as dishes were endowed with medical properties.

In addition to discussing the principal features of medieval Arab cuisine, the talk will highlight the links between medicine and food, based on textual sources from the 9th – 15th c. A.D.

This lecture is open to all. Lectures are free to the Friends of the Oriental Museum. For visitors there is a small charge of £3 (£1 concession).

Contact for more information about this event.

 Early Modern Group Seminar: Brodie Waddell (Birkbeck, London), ‘The Scribbling Tradesman: Writing for Fun and Profit in Early Modern England

16:30-18:00, Seminar Room 1, History Department, 43 North Bailey

Contact for more information about this event.

Recovery Stories

16:30-19:00, Palace Green Library Cafe

We warmly welcome people from the voice-hearing community to join this informal gathering and share individual experiences of recovery from mental distress in a supportive space. Facilitated by Mary Robson, this event will be an opportunity to share stories, creative writing, spoken-word poetry, art, and music which reflect and express personal recovery journeys. Refreshments will be provided.

Please register in advance for catering purposes. Places can be reserved here through Eventbrite:

Contact for more information about this event.



North East Premier of the documentary-film ‘Healing Voices’

20:00-22:00, Empty Shop, Durham

Healing Voices is a new social action documentary written and directed by PJ Moynihan of Digital Eyes Film, and explores the experience commonly labelled as ‘psychosis’ through the stories of real-life individuals, and asks the question: What are we talking about when we talk about ‘mental illness’?

The film follows three subjects – Oryx, Jen, Dan – over nearly five years, and features interviews with notable international experts including: Robert Whitaker, Dr. Bruce Levine, Celia Brown, Will Hall, Dr. Marius Romme, and others, on the history of psychiatry and the rise of the ‘medical model’ of mental illness.

The documentary is ideal for individuals with lived experience in the mental health system, educators, peer counsellors, advocates, researchers, psychiatrists, psychologists, healthcare workers, first responders, family members, or anyone who has been touched by mental health issues in their life.

All are welcome to this free event, but places are limited so booking is essential. Tickets can be reserved via Eventbrite.

Contact for more information about this event.


Thursday 19th January

The Annual E.J. Lowe Lecture Series: ‘What is a Form of Thought?’

17:00-19:00, Birley Room, Hatfield College, Durham University, Professor Tim Crane (Cambridge)

In memory and acknowledgement of E.J. (Jonathan) Lowe’s contribution to philosophy, Durham Philosophy Department has introduced a lecture series in his name.

We are very happy to announce that the Third lecture for this series will be given by Professor Tim Crane who is Knightbridge Professor of Philosophy, at the University of Cambridge. Professor Crane is a leading figure in contemporary research into the philosophy of mind, and metaphysics more generally. As a former student of Durham, we are delighted to welcome him back as part of our on-going distinguished E.J. Lowe Lecture Series.

Refreshments will be available from 5pm, with the lecture commencing at 5.30 until 7pm.

The lecture will be followed by a wine reception

More information available at:

Contact for more information about this event.


Friday 20th January

Voices, knowledge and ignorance: Reflections on experiences of “Company”

12:00-14:00, St Chad’s College Chapel

Samuel Beckett wasn’t particularly tender with “those bastards of critics”, who were asking him for elucidations of “mysteries that are all of their making” (Letter to Alan Schneider in 1957). He had a negative stance towards academic explanations, knowledge and interpretations in general, and of his work in particular. This resistance coheres with his artistic attempt to deliver what he calls in another letter an “acceptance of ignorance” – about our self, our minds, our human quest for meaning. Among the mysteries that Beckett’s work is asking us not to grasp but to experience is our drive to concoct stories, notably about ourselves; an incessant activity that partly supports our feeling of a consistent identity. In Company, he investigates the structure of our inner storytelling by letting us perceive the paradox of being at the same time creators, narrators, and characters of our life as narrative.

Renowned Beckett scholars and performers have been invited to challenge their knowledge of the author and of the text by attending a performance of Company in the Chapel of the Holy Cross in Durham. In this public event, they will report on their experience of the performance, and on how this affected, confirmed, enhanced or called into question previous understandings of the author, of voices in his work, of the text, and of their own human inner storytelling activity. In this “little session of autology” – as Beckett defines introspective moments of exploration – knowledge and ignorance will alternate in an open discussion about the enigmatic need for stories, voices, figments and company.

Confirmed Speakers:

Peter Marinker (actor, BBC collaborator and the Voice in our performance of Company)
Ulrika Maude (University of Bristol)
Matthew Feldman (Teesside University)
Jonathan Heron (University of Warwick)
Marco Bernini (Durham University)

All welcome. Reservations via Eventbrite here.

Contact for more information about this event.

Saturday 21st January

Literary Minds

13:00-17:00, St Chad’s College Chapel, Pat Barker, Pat Waugh, Linda Anderson

Do novelists and poets ‘hear’ the voices of the characters and speakers who people their imaginary worlds? In what sense can voices from the literary past enter a writer’s creative process? Do readers experience fictional beings as heard presences? This public symposium explores the minds of writers, readers and characters as participant agents in literary experience. With a lecture by Professor Pat Waugh on Virigina Woolf, followed by a conversation with the acclaimed novelist Pat Barker and a panel discussion led by Professor Linda Anderson from the Newcastle Centre for the Literary Arts, it will open up new perspectives on literature in order to challenge our understanding of creativity, reading, fictional minds, narrative and inner speech, memory, trauma and therapy.

All welcome.

Click here for more information.


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