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MLAC EVENTS BULLETIN: 4th-10th December


Monday 4th December


Analysing Breaking Bad

17:30-18:45, ER157, Daniel Grausam, James Smith, Sam Thomas

Breaking Bad is commonly regarded to be one of the greatest television dramas of all time. In this seminar Durham researchers will discuss how their current projects intersect with a variety of the show’s themes.

DANIEL GRAUSAM will discuss how Breaking Bad explains contemporary American television’s uncanny fascination with the legacies of the nuclear age.

JAMES SMITH will look at how Breaking Bad engages with the practices and politics of surveillance, and will examine how the show debates the possibilities for ‘escape and evasion’ in the digital era.

SAM THOMAS will discuss the show’s investment in a sense of place and region, such as border politics in the specific context of contemporary New Mexico, as well as how Breaking Bad transforms aspects of the Western genre.

The seminar is open to all and free to attend, and there will be a chance for Q&A and discussion. It is organised by Durham’s Centre for Modern Conflicts and Cultures.

Contact for more information about this event.


Greening the Zombie: Environmental Horror in Times of Crisis”

19:30, Hild Bede Senior Common Room, Kerstin Oloff (MLAC)

Contact for more information about this event.


Tuesday 5th December


MLaC Language Café

17:00, Durham Student Union, Dunelm House

Everybody is welcome to attend – students as well as people from the wider community – who want to practise a foreign language informally. Members from several languages will be present. See the attached poster or:

For more information please contact Laura Wichmann (


Music Research Seminar: How they played, or how they heard? Thoughts about historically-informed performance 

14:00-15:15, Concert Room, Music Department, Dr George Kennaway (University of Leeds)

George Kennaway (University of Leeds) discusses new methodologies for discovering historical performance practices, involving the recovery of a wide range of socio-cultural contextual knowledge. Everyone is welcome to attend.

Until quite recently, the basic approach to recovering old historical performance practices was simply empirical: extract data from treatises, examine instruments, look at pictures, and where relevant, listen to early recordings.

In many cases, this is the only feasible approach, and it continues to generate essential information. But some recent research in this field has adopted different methodologies, directed at recovering a wide range of socio-cultural contextual knowledge. This is necessarily more speculative, focusing attention not only on the act of performance but of reception, while aware that the very concept of a musical ‘work’ is under question. This lecture will explore some threads of current research to suggest a different historiographical approach to support the performance of old music today.

Contact for more information about this event.


IAS Fellow’s Public Lecture – What is and to what end does one study Astronoetics? Explorations of Space after the Sputnik (Arendt, Blumenberg, Levinas)

17:30-18:30, Senate Suite, University College, Dr Jörg Kreienbrock (Northwestern University)

On Oct. 4 1957, Sputnik 1, the first artificial Earth satellite was launched. It provoked not only immediate political, scientific, and technological reactions usually described as the “Sputnik shock”, but also an intense philosophical discussion. Dr Kreienbrock will explore this philosophy of the space age in Hannah Arendt, Emmanuel Lévinas, and Hans Blumenberg. Blumenberg’s suggestion to inaugurate a new discipline he would ironically name “astronoetics” will guide Dr Kreienbrock’s investigation. What are the implications of the human being’s ability to leave the Earth and possibly exist on other planets?

This lecture is free and open to all.

Contact for more information about this event.


Monstrum: The Castle of Otranto, Gothic Fiction and the Origins of Genre

18:15-19:15, ER141, Fred Botting (Kingston University)

When he subtitled his novel The Castle of Otranto as a ‘Gothic story’, Horace Walpole could have little realised that he would give life to the genre that remains popular to this day. This free public lecture will look at where the Gothic came from. Join the conversation via #WalpoleLegacies.

Note that the date of this lecture has changed to 5th December, not 12th December as originally advertised.

As a genre or, at the very least, as the first modern subgenre, Gothic fiction emerges ex nihilo, fully dressed in the features, devices and tropes of a distinct form of writing. The Castle of Otranto is subtitled ‘a Gothic Story’. At a stroke, as if out of nothing, textual elements conferring generic distinctiveness combine with paratextual devices to be furnished with extra-textual critical affirmation as a ‘new species’ of writing: Horace Walpole becomes the ‘father’ to numerous literary offspring well into the nineteenth century – and beyond.

Issues of paternity, however, are notably problematic given the author, the story and a period in which concerns about fiction overlap with vigorous debates across aesthetic, historical and political fields. Otranto’s novelty of fictional innovation (as ‘novum’) is shadowed by the wider resonances of its explicit aesthetic absurdity and effrontery (‘monstrum’). A ‘monster of perfection’ (a term from species-ridden eighteenth-century romantic criticism), the Gothic Story – as ‘Gothic’ – condenses, calls up and confounds many of the polarised and entangled usages of a word traversed by conflicting claims to political and national continuity, to historical, architectural or antiquarian veracities and authenticities, and to moralities and codes of fictional representation.

As a monster, moreover, Otranto assumes a more significant generic aspect: impossibly mixed in its combination of contrary aesthetic styles, tones and gestures, endlessly unravelling into the multiple sources informing its playfully genuine fabrication, the story’s forceful assertion of fictionality (of itself and its materials) comes to the fore as a strangely modern birthmark.

Image credit: Kenilworth Castle, by Tilliebean (Own work), via via Wikimedia Commons.

Contact for more information about this event.


Wednesday 6th December


Work in Progress Seminar: Dr Viktoria Ivleva and Professor Jonathan Long – The Politics of Visibility

12:00-13:00, ER153

Viktoria Ivleva: Eighteenth-century dress studies

Jonathan Long: Disgusting! Interwar pacifism and the visual politics of disfigurement

Contact for more information about this event.


Research Seminar: Who counts as a widening participation student?

13:00-14:00, A56, School of Education, Room ED134

A seminar from Prof. Stephen Gorard of the School of Education and Dr Nadia Siddiqui of the School of Applied Social Sciences, Durham University. Everyone is welcome to attend and booking is not required.

The increasing use of contextualised admissions to undergraduate higher education in the UK has brought into sharp focus the question of who should be considered disadvantaged and so deserving of assistance. Our review looked at the prior evidence on 28 categories of indicators of possible disadvantage, and our secondary analyses looked at patterns of attainment and participation in terms of these indicators 2006-2016. Among the conclusions drawn are that the wrong indicators are being used for contextualised admissions, and that contextualised admissions anyway cannot address the real problem which starts long before applications to university.

Contact for more information about this event.


Lunchtime Concert: Barbershop Harmony

13:15-13:45, Music Department Concert Room

The lunchtime concert this week will feature Full Score, the brand new barbershop harmony society. Come along to enjoy close harmonies and barbershop classics! The concert runs from 1.15-1.45 and is free of charge.

Contact for more information about this event.


Lunchtime Concert: Durham Dynamics

13:15-13:45, Music Department Concert Room

Lunchtime Concert Series:
The lunchtime concert this week will feature Durham Dynamics, one of the university’s a cappella societies. Come along to enjoy close harmonies and unaccompanied vocal classics!
The concert is free of charge and everyone is welcome.

Contact for more information about this event.


Inventions of the text: Postgraduate Seminar on T.S. Eliot and H.G. Wells

16:30-18:00, Seminar Room, Hallgarth House, Suzannah Evans and Olly Teregulova

This Inventions of the Text seminar sees two postgraduate speakers giving papers on Eliot and the influence of Jules Laforgue, and H.G. Wells’s short stories.

Suzannah Evans – Post-Prufrock: The Persistence of Laforgue

Critical consensus is that Jules Laforgue’s influence on T. S. Eliot’s writing steadily dimmed, or came to an abrupt end with the publication of Eliot’s 1917 Prufrock and Other Observations. ‘L’année 1910 marque la fin de la crise de croissance poétique provoquée chez Eliot par l’œuvre de Jules Laforgue’, Edward J. H. Green declared definitely in 1951, and critical attitudes have altered little since. A small number of Eliot’s own statements seem to support this view, and these, combined with Greene’s initial assessment of the situation, have formed the backbone of scholarly thought regarding Laforgue’s presence in Eliot’s later stages of career.

This paper will investigate Eliot’s own attitude towards the role Laforgue played in his thinking and writing, seeking to discover the extent to which the French poet remained in his mind at later stages of his career. In terms of the theme of ‘order’, I will ask the following questions. Is there an order to Eliot’s statements on Laforgue, or are these subject to continual change? Where does Eliot place Laforgue in the literary canon? Can we, like earlier critics, see an ‘order’ of influence in Eliot’s writing – with Laforgue an early, short-lived influence, before Eliot moves on to poets such as Dante (Stephen Romer, 2011) – or is Laforgue’s influence less easily categorised? I will draw upon Eliot’s inclusion of Laforgue in his theory of metaphysical poetry, developed particularly in his 1926 Clark lectures and 1933 Turnbull lectures, to suggest that the French poet’s import for Eliot’s intellectual development may be more persistent than earlier critics have allowed.

Olly Teregulova – What Is It Like to Be a Word?: The Order of Living Signs in H. G. Wells’s Short Stories

‘[T]he world,’ as H.G. Wells wrote in his Text-book of Biology, ‘is not made and dead like a cardboard model or a child’s toy, but a living equilibrium’. In his early short stories titled ‘The Remarkable Case of Davidson’s Eyes’, ‘The Plattner Story’, ‘The Truth About Pyecraft’, ‘The Man Who Could Work Miracles’, ‘The Story of the Late Mr Elvesham’, and ‘The New Accelerator’, Wells presents the cosmos as being ordered by and composed of a living network of interconnected signs, ‘a law beyond all other natural laws.’ Lexical signs are not merely used for ordering experience by classifying the external world. As these narratives demonstrate, it is the creative exchange of signs that causes the evolutionary order of flux, effecting the synchronised development of life across all systems and planes.

Each of the six short stories emphasise signs as allowing the exploration of ineffable laws underlying paradigmatic frameworks. Wells employs his protagonists as personified synecdoche of physical forces and phenomena, with human corporeality being used to represent the following across the texts: an elementary particle under the presence of an electromagnetic force; the inversion of a chiral centre of a molecule during a chemical reaction; the struggles of a conceptual term across multiple planes of lexis, semantics, physics, reality, and representation; the relationship between the world-modelling system of linguistic constructivism and the external universe; the process of natural selection; and the phenomenon of geological time. Signs, due to their mutability, are able to cross these different planes of existence.

In ‘The Outline of History’ and ‘Human Evolution; An Artificial Process’, Wells asserts that it is through the conscious development of the communicative exchange of signs that human progress will be achieved. These short stories demonstrate how signs are indeed bestowed with the agency to restructure the framework of the universe and to grant access to alternate forms of realities.

Contact for more information about this event.


Living with Revolution: English families in crisis during the 1640s

17:30, PGL Learning Centre, Palace Greene, Professor John Morrill (Selwyn College, Cambridge) followed by a drinks reception at the Cafe, Palace Green Library.

Please note that places for this event will be allocated on a first-come, first-served basis. To book your place click here

Abstract: This lecture will argue for a neglected aspect of the civil war, the way that a range of different family issues affected political choices and political outcomes. Using a range of social examples, from working farmers and parish ministers to county gentry, and drawing its case studies mainly from East Anglia, this paper offers an opportunity to explore how gender and social change affected the course and outcome of the greatest political upheaval in post-medieval English history.

John Morrill is Emeritus Professor of British and Irish History at Cambridge, a life Fellow of Selwyn College (where he has been since
1975) and an Honorary Professor in the History Department at Durham. He is also an ordained deacon in the Roman Catholic Church. He has published 128 books and essays and supervised 127 graduate students. He is General Editor of the forthcoming 5-volume OUP edition of the recorded words of Oliver Cromwell, and a book he has edited with Robert von Friedeburg has just been published by CUP — Monarchy Tranformed:
princes and their elites in early modern Europe (2017). He has three new essays on aspects of the aftermath of the Irish ‘massacres’ of 1641-2 and is writing a full-length life of Cromwell, based on the new edition.

Contact for more information about this event.


Thursday 7th December


Continental Philosophy Reading group

13:00, A56

This session will look at one branch of the legacy of Deleuze and Guattari’s thinking, by focussing on the final chapter (‘Linguistic History 1700-2000 AD’) and conclusion from Manuel deLanda’s ‘A Thousand Years of Non-Linear History’. It should be of interest to those looking at network theory, new ontologies, ecologies, the history of language and new models of history.

All colleagues and postgraduates welcome. Please contact Luke Sunderland for a copy of the reading.


Confining the Prostitute in Eighteenth-Century London and Paris

17:40, World Heritage Site Visitor Centre, Kirstyn Raitz

Contact for more information about this event.


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