Dr Richard Taws (UCL), Dr Ann Lewis (Birkbeck), and Dr Silke Arnold-de Simine (Birkbeck) will explore the contested but highly productive concept of intermediality, and its relation to ideas of adaptation, through case studies taken across English, French, and German-speaking cultures. Presentations will focus on Eric Rohmer’s film about the French Revolution, L’Anglaise et le duc (2001), illustrations and film versions of Marivaux’s bestseller La Vie de Marianne (1731–42) and Nosferatu, F. W. Murnau’s 1922 screen adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1897). This workshop will analyse different kinds of intermedial encounter, and the rich suggestiveness of this form of representation as a reflection on the possibilities of different media.

For links to the abstracts and recordings for this event, please click here.

Part of Birkbeck Arts Week 2014.

Panel discussion with Vladimir Jankovic (Manchester), Richard Hamblyn (Birkbeck), and Esther Leslie (Birkbeck). Clouds are not only meteorological phenomena: they are also ethereal bodies with a long history of association with the emotions and with literary and social metaphor. Join Vladimir Jankovic, Richard Hamblyn and Esther Leslie for a discussion about clouds from eighteenth-century meteorology and Alexander Pope to cloud computing and Cy Twombly.

For links to the abstracts and sound recordings for this event, please click here.

Part of Birkbeck Arts Week 2014.

Abstract. Recent work on Victorian culture has highlighted the way the material world of “things” entered literary texts. A special category of rather gruesome things are body-objects: things made from human bodies. This talk will meditate on how Victorian authors approach these objects, examining them in relation to several terms discussed in recent work, such as relic, commodity, fetish and souvenir. I will then talk about the way that the flayed human skin becomes a way to explore a historically recent past event—the French revolution—as a traumatic moment of savagery within modernity in Carlyle and Wilkie Collins’s The Law and the Lady.

Pamela Gilbert (Florida)

Listen to an audio recording of Pamela Gilbert’s talk below:


Abstract: From George Egerton’s short stories in Symphonies (1897) to Michael Field’s poetry in Sight and Sound  (1892) and Vernon Lee’s essays in The Beautiful (1914), late-Victorian and Edwardian women authors offered scintillating visions of the spiritualist philosophies that came to define the era’s neo-pagan movement. In my talk, I wish to consider these often eroticized renderings of the natural environment not only as symbolic of women’s attraction to other humans, but also as interrogations into the place of the individual in an earth-centred belief system that challenged aspects of the scientific materialism, industrialism, and consumerism of the age. As such, these women’s diverse works contributed to an empassioned, neo-pagan vision that presaged recent posthumanist and eco-spiritualist inquiry into the relationship of the self to nature.

Dennis Denisoff (Ryerson)

Listen to an audio recording of Dennis Denisoff’s talk below:

Abstract: This presentation looks at select themes in the cultural formation of climate concept from Montesquieu and Humboldt to Nietzsche and Huntington. I am in particular interested to explore the rationales behind – and criticisms of – the representations of climate as agency in the nineteenth-century discourses on political philosophy, medicine, economy, travel, geography, and racial theory. Taking on board difficulties involved in surveying such a large tract of nineteenth-century terrain, the paper focuses on whether such representations might be described as fetishistic, i.e. those arising when the mind ceases to realize that it itself has formed the images of things to which, subsequently, it posits itself as in some kind of subservient relation. What light can this approach shed on more recent critiques of climate reductionism in public policy?

Vladimir Jankovic (Manchester)

Listen to an audio recording of Vladimir Jankovic’s talk below:

Abstract: This talk investigates the role of visual display in the celebrated nineteenth-century trials in Britain of Arthur Orton, widely known as the ‘Tichborne Claimant.’ Familiar to historians as a cause that attracted popular working-class support and propelled the reformation of the Court of Chancery in 1875, the Tichborne trials (1871–1874) were also, I argue, an important landmark in the history of portraiture, photography and modern visual culture.

Jennifer Tucker (Wesleyan)

A report of Jennifer Tucker’s talk TBP

Abstract: The Victorian experience of sculpture was mediated by the desire to get ‘very much nearer to the actual touch of the artist,’ as Edmund Gosse termed it. This talk will consider how this desire for the sculptor’s touch escalated in parallel with the perception that sculpture was becoming divorced from its creators’ hands, seeming more inherently replicable than its sister art by virtue of its capacity to be recast. The nineteenth-century saw the development of a series of machines which threatened to eradicate the human touch from what had long been characterised as a mechanical art. By retracing the history of these ‘sculpturing machines’ and the literature they inspired, this paper provides a productive context for understanding the many nineteenth-century texts preoccupied with replication, reproduction and multiple incarnations. Taking Thomas Hardy’s The Well-Beloved as a central text, and drawing on novels by George Eliot, Henry James and Vernon Lee, my paper will argue that these novels powerfully engage with late nineteenth-century angst surrounding the reproduction of sculpture and the corresponding suspicion of its circulation in multiple incarnations.

Angela Dunstan (Kent)

Listen to an audio recording of Angela Dunstan’s talk below:

Abstract: It has been almost forty years since Peter Brooks released his pathbreaking and influential book, The Melodramatic Imagination: Balzac, Henry James, and the Mode of Excess (1975). Over these decades, and partly on account of Brooks’s important arguments, melodrama has not only undergone critical rehabilitation; it has also become perhaps the most important category for those who would link twentieth-century cinema with the century that came before them. But melodrama’s mode of excess has deep connections with a sentimental mode of moderation that features emotion mediated by reciprocal sympathy. The sentimental, it can be demonstrated, both set the conditions for melodrama’s emergence around the time of the French Revolution and continued to co-exist with melodrama through figures like Mary Shelley and Dickens and into the age of cinema. The kind of story Brooks wishes to tell, in short, becomes richer and more complex when melodrama’s manichaean extremes of character, gesture, and style are understood to evolve from, and with, the moderating effects of ‘putting oneself in the place of the other.’

James Chandler (Chicago)

Listen to an audio recording of James Chandler’s talk below:

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