As it’s a new academic year, it’s once again time for a new series of café conversations. Here is the series I’ve organized for this year; every session is free and open to anyone.
Humanities Café Conversations
October 2013 to May 2014
Run by staff and students in LDC, AMS, PSI, and LCS at UEA
All cafés take place at 3 pm in the White Lion Café at 19-21 White Lion Street in Norwich. All conversations are free and open to everyone.
Dr David Nowell-Smith
How did Beethoven compose when he was deaf? How did the phonograph and the telephone transform how people heard one another’s voices—and their own? What is the voice we hear when we read silently, and why does it sound so different from the voice we hear when we read aloud? And how do works of art—poems, but also films, song, sound art—make use of, and intensify, these daily experience of voice?
Chekhov’s Seagull – a play and its problems
Dr Nola Merckel and Stephen Picton
When Anton Chekhov’s play The Seagull premiered in 1896 it was a resounding failure in the opinion of its audience, critics and the writer himself. How, and why, did a play once so condemned come to be regarded as one of the most important developments in modern theatre, and what makes Chekhov’s plays so radical, fascinating and open to reinvention? What can they say to us now? And how far can you go in taking creative liberties with ‘the classics’? To tie in with a current production of The Seagull at Norwich’s Maddermarket Theatre, director Stephen Picton and Dr Nola Merckel will talk about the appeals, challenges and dangers of staging this play.
What Makes a Great Political Speech?
Professor Alan Finlayson
Politics involves a lot of talking, arguing and debating. Whether it is Cameron and Miliband addressing their party conferences, activists at Hyde Park or local residents speaking against a planning decision people use their words to persuade others to see things one way rather than another. How do they do this? What ways of communicating make a speech not just good but great? This café conversation will address these questions and establish whether or not politics can ever be poetic.
Two Countries Divided by a Common Language? Translating from English to English
Dr B.J. Epstein
Translation isn’t just from one language to another; it can also be from one dialect/version of a language to another dialect/version. Harry Potter can be translated from British to American. Shakespeare can be bowdlerised. Emily Dickinson can have her poems shortened. Robert Burns can be translated from Scots English to standard BBC English. Why do such translations occur? And how? In this café conversation, we’ll discuss such translations and try our own.
The Curious Case of the Dog that Said ‘Ouah’
Animals in comics are peculiar creatures. A French dog will go ‘ouah ouah’, an Italian rooster ‘chicchirichì’, a Dutch cow ‘booe’. But even heart beats, burps, yawns, phones ringing, engines, punches and fires make different sounds in different languages - or do they? This talk will look at the phenomenon of onomatopeia (soundwords) in comics, and how written words sound in our minds, without sounding like the written word!
Film Subtitling – Myths and Riches
Dr Marie-Noëlle Guillot
In reviews of foreign films, subtitles are generally only ever mentioned to be berated as inaccurate or approximate representations of the dialogues acted out in the original, sniggered at for losses or other such misdemeanours. For (some) film subtitlers, the greatest reward is apparently that audiences should experience foreign films as though they were watching them in their own language. In other quarters, aspiring to this kind of ‘invisibility’ is described as corrupt. Amateur subtitlers are increasingly taking things into their own hands and with their novel practices bringing into the public eye these largely unspoken debates about audiovisual translation. This café conversation will go behind the scenes of subtitling and explore the positions reflected in the ongoing controversy and what they mean for our encounters with the foreign, linguistically and culturally.
Poetry and the Possibility of Speaking about the Unspeakable
Dr Cecilia Rossi
In The Echo of My Mother / El eco de mi madre (Waterloo Press, 2012) the Argentine poet Tamara Kamenszain explores some difficult questions: what happens when a parent develops Alzheimer's? How do we deal with Alzheimer's? How, if at all, can we talk about this condition? Is it important that we do? Why? Poetry offers the possibility of finding the words to talk about the most difficult questions facing us. The café conversation will be partly a discussion of these questions and partly a reading of the beautifully moving poems in this collection.
The Difference Satire Makes
Dr Jo Poppleton
From Juvenal to Private Eye, satire has always been thought capable of changing things in the world. The satirist attacks those in power, in order to expose their corruption: it rips off the skin to show the truth behind the illusion; it reveals what’s going on underneath the façade. But what sort of power does satire really have? How sure is the satirist about their ability to effect change, and how far can satire be considered as politically and socially subversive?
Dr Jo Drugan
Communicating with others involves ethical challenges, particularly when we try to cross language or cultural barriers. This cafe explains why communicating ethically can be difficult, drawing on recent research in philosophy and translation. We will identify some useful strategies to cope with such challenges by examining real-life practical examples, drawn from the work of professional communicators (translators and interpreters).
Dr Jeremy Noel-Tod
Dr Jeremy Noel-Tod
What do we need to know when we read a poem? Many people find the unfamiliar quality of much modern poetry daunting. But the poet T.S. Eliot believed that poetry could 'communicate before it is understood': if so, what is it that a poem communicates? We will look at a range of modern poems that ask us to follow them into new ways of knowing the world, and consider the kinds of knowledge that we can bring to them as readers.
A Room of Our Own
Dr Claire Hynes
Virginia Woolf’s essay A Room of One’s Own has been described as a landmark of feminist thought. The essay published in 1929 explores the disadvantages faced by the woman writer and concludes that a private room and money are necessary if she is to progress. How relevant are Woolf’s views to women today? And what should we make of her ideas that men established literary traditions through the centuries and women must therefore develop their own writing styles?
“The Nearer Home, the Deeper”
What makes a place home? Is a sense of belonging in a place dependent on familiarity with the local landscape; on having social networks; on knowing a particular language? Are we bound to represent and defend the places we call home, and if so, how? This cafe will explore notions of home and belonging via the work of Henry David Thoreau. In the postcolonial United States, nineteenth century writers were tasked with providing representative models of American personhood for the nation’s reading public. Thoreau took this role seriously, requiring us as readers to reassess what it means to be ‘at home’.
Writers, Interviews and Journalism, with Henry James
Dr Kate Campbell
It’s easy to take interviews for granted although they are central to modern life. Most of us will have had job interviews and we will at times have read interviews with famous writers and other celebrities. The kind of interviews that we know in journalism have been around for considerably less than two hundred years. After glancing at their history, this conversation explores some of the issues that interviews by writers and with writers raise, with discussion of two or three interviews, including the response of a famous writer, Henry James, in a rare interview that might have been a hoax.
But is it Literature?
Dr Clare Connors
The word ‘literature’ seems relatively uncontroversial. We talk of reading literature, of studying literature, of literary prizes and of literary fiction. But what, exactly, do we mean by this? What makes certain kinds of writing ‘literary’ and others not? In this café conversation we’ll do a ‘blind tasting’ of a number of different bits of writing, to see whether – without any other clues – we can separate literary from non-literary writing. And we’ll use this experiment as the basis from which to explore our own and other people’s definitions of literature, to see whether it is possible, or helpful, to arrive at any consensus as to the meaning of this word.
Paradoxes of the Visible and Other Ways of Seeing.
Dr Jake Huntley
When the King admires Alice for being able to see nobody coming along the road towards them it highlights a paradox of visibility within written representation (just as ‘highlighting’ this suggests how language frequently turns to the specular as part of that representation). This conversation will look at examples of ekphrasis and also writing that engages with such paradoxes of the visible as Alice finds in Through the Looking Glass, along with considering other ways of seeing that can be represented in other media.
“Resting in Peace, Not in Pieces”: Collecting and Displaying Human Bodies
Dr Jacqueline Fear-Segal and Dr Rebecca Tillett
Should human bodies, or parts of them, be placed on public display? For which groups or peoples does society most often condone this practice? What are the historical, moral and aesthetic implications for us, as viewers? How should contemporary descendants respond to their recent relatives being stored and exhibited? Should human remains in public and private collections be returned home? Does death represent the cessation of human rights?
Anne Frank and Justin Bieber: Discussing the Holocaust in the 21st Century
Dr Rachael Mclennan
In April 2013, Justin Bieber visited the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam and caused international controversy with comments he made in the museum's guestbook. This cafe conversation takes this episode as a case study and starting point for examination of a number of wide-ranging issues. Why did Bieber's comments matter? What might this incident, and the attention it received, reveal about attitudes towards discussion of the Holocaust in the twenty-first century?