Ben Hutchinson delivers Think Kent lecture

Ben Hutchinson, Professor of European Literature in the Department of Modern Languages, has given an online lecture on the study of Comparative Literature for the University of Kent’s Think Kent series, which is now available on YouTube.

Building on his recent book Comparative Literature: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford University Press, 2018), Professor Hutchinson suggests that Comparative Literature is both the past and the future of literary studies. Its history is intimately linked to the political upheavals of modernity: from colonial empire-building in the 19th century, via the Jewish diaspora of the 20th century, to the postcolonial culture wars of the 21st century, attempts at ‘comparison’ have defined the international agenda of literature. But what is comparative literature? Professor Hutchinson’s talk introduces Comparative Literature as an agent of international and interlinguistic relations.

By briefly considering the history of the discipline – and the metaphors through which it is generally understood – the lecture offers an accessible means of entry into a notoriously slippery subject, and shows how comparative literature tends to be like a Rorschach test, where people see in it what they want to see in it. Ultimately, comparative literature emerges at the very heart of literary criticism – for as George Steiner once noted, ‘to read is to compare’.

The Think Kent lectures are a series of TED talk-style lectures produced with the intention of raising awareness of the research and teaching expertise of Kent academics and the international impact of their work.

The talk may be viewed below or on YouTube via the link:
https://youtu.be/V34vu01jpS4

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Chia-Yuan Lin wins BPS award

Dr Chia-Yuan Lin, Postdoctoral Research Associate in the Department of English Language & Linguistics, has won an award from the British Psychological Society (BPS), enabling him to travel to the International Laboratory for Brain, Music and Sound Research in Montreal (BRAMS) in Canada, to work with and Professor Simone Dalla Bella.

Chia-Yuan will work on the ‘Does Language Have Groove? Sensorimotor Synchronisation for the Study of Linguistic Rhythm’ research project, an international collaboration between Dr Tamara Rathcke (Lecturer in Linguistics in the Department of English Language & Linguistics), Dr Simone Falk (University of Paris III, Sorbonne Nouvelle) and Professor Dalla Bella, funded by the Leverhulme Trust.

For more details about BPS awards and grants, please see the page here:
www.bps.org.uk/about-us/awards-and-grants

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Mathilde Poizat-Amar delivers Think Kent lecture

Dr Mathilde Poizat-Amar, Lecturer in French in the Department of Modern Languages, has given an online lecture entitled ‘Why Is Travel Literature So Interesting?’ for the University of Kent’s Think Kent series, which is now available on YouTube.

In a now globalised and increasingly connected world, where we can collect information about unknown places without having to open a book, travel literature could easily pass for an endangered species in the literary landscape. Yet, despite the concurrence of Internet and the ever-growing importance of major literary genres (such as the novel or the autobiography for instance), travel literature stands the test of time – both in terms of popularity and critical importance.

Mathilde’s talk takes the case of modern and contemporary French Travel Literature to present a few reasons why travel literature is so resilient to change, and why studying travel literature matters more than ever.

The Think Kent lectures are a series of TED talk-style lectures produced with the intention of raising awareness of the research and teaching expertise of Kent academics and the international impact of their work.

The talk may be viewed below or on YouTube via the link:
https://youtu.be/0fXwCvXkWZU

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Xiofan Amy Li on Chinese aesthetic traditions

Dr Xiaofan Amy Li, Lecturer in the Department of Comparative Literature, has published an article in the latest edition of the journal Word & Image, Volume 34, Issue 3entitled ‘A Distant Dream: Balthus, Henri Michaux, and the Chinese Aesthetic Tradition’.

Word & Image concerns itself with the study of the encounters, dialogues, and mutual collaboration (or hostility) between verbal and visual languages. It provides a forum for articles that focus exclusively on the special study of the relations between words and images from all historical periods and perspectives, both theoretical and practical.

Balthasar Klossowski de Rola (1908-2001), known as Balthus, was a Polish-French artist; and Henri Michaux (1899-1984) was a Belgian-born poet, writer, and painter. The constant echo of a seemingly ‘Chinese aesthetics’ in Balthus’s and Michaux’s works gives rise to a few important questions: how do Balthus’s and Michaux’s creative practices and works engage with and re-invent the Chinese aesthetic tradition? What new understandings of Balthus and Michaux will be revealed if they are seen in the light of Chinese notions about painting, calligraphy, and poetic imagery? What would this say about the relation between artistic influence and creativity, especially in the case of the transformation of aesthetic forms and ideas across cultures and time? By discussing how Balthus’s figurative and landscape paintings relate to the Zhuangzi’s dream imagery and Song dynasty shanshui (mountain-water) paintings, and how Michaux’s ink paintings are integrated into his critical endeavor to break away from Orientalist stereotypes, it is argued that both artists are transformed by the Chinese aesthetic tradition, as well as actively transform how it is understood.

To read the full article, please see the page here:
www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/02666286.2018.1460566

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Alvise Sforza Tarabochia delivers Think Kent lecture

Dr Alvise Sforza Tarabochia, Lecturer in Italian in the Department of Modern Languages, has given an online lecture entitled ‘Making Madness Visible: Early Italian Psychiatric Photography’ for the University of Kent’s Think Kent series, which is now available on YouTube.

The 19th century saw the birth of psychiatry, photography and also Italy as a unified country. Their histories are curiously intertwined. While Italy was a young country, struggling to unify the provision of psychiatric health care across the peninsula, psychiatry was itself having a hard time, struggling to give visibility to its object – madness – and to its clinical practice, locked up, as it was, behind the walls of the asylum. Photography came to the rescue, enabling psychiatrists to make madness visible, in the portraits of the patients, and to advertise its clinical practice as a well organised, orderly and scientific endeavour.

The Think Kent lectures are a series of TED talk-style lectures produced with the intention of raising awareness of the research and teaching expertise of Kent academics and the international impact of their work.

The talk may be viewed below or on YouTube via the link:
https://youtu.be/mHOaU6ODbkg

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Benjamin Vis publishes on comparing social life in urban form

Dr Benjamin Vis, Eastern ARC Research Fellow (Digital Humanities) in the Department of Classical & Archaeological Studies, has just published a new book entitled Cities Made of Boundaries: Mapping Social Life in Urban Form (UCL Press, 2018). The book has been made freely available for all through Open Access.

The book presents the theoretical foundation and concepts for a new social scientific urban morphological mapping method, Boundary Line Type (BLT) Mapping. Its vantage is a plea to establish a frame of reference for radically comparative urban studies positioned between geography and archaeology. Based in multidisciplinary social and spatial theory, a critical realist understanding of the boundaries that compose built space is operationalised by a mapping practice utilising Geographical Information Systems (GIS).

He gives a precise account of how BLT Mapping can be applied to detailed historical, reconstructed, contemporary, and archaeological urban plans, exemplified by 16th to 21st-century Winchester (UK) and Classic Maya Chunchucmil (Mexico). This account demonstrates how the functional and experiential difference between compact western and tropical dispersed cities can be explored.

The methodological development of Cities Made of Boundaries will appeal to readers interested in the comparative social analysis of built environments, and those seeking to expand the evidence-base of design options to structure urban life and development.

For full details, to either purchase copy or download an Open Access PDF, please see the publisher’s page here:
www.ucl.ac.uk/ucl-press/browse-books/cities-made-of-boundaries

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Understanding Unbelief featured by the BL

One of the public engagement projects funded by the Understanding Unbelief programme led by Dr Lois Lee, Research Fellow in the Department of Religious Studies, featured in the British Library’s (BL) Sound and Vision blog this week, part of the project undertaken by Paul Merchant on ‘Unbelief in Life Story Interviews’.

The article focuses on the BBC’s Millennium Oral History project, which recorded an interview with an 11-year-old girl describing her atheism in 1999.

‘The clip is engaging not just because the interviewee is charmingly open and positive,’ explains Paul in the post, ‘it is also because it seems to wake us up from a strange dream in which the only people who talk about atheism are rather senior, male intellectuals of one sort or another.’

To read the British Library blog post, please see:
http://blogs.bl.uk/sound-and-vision/2018/09/recording-of-the-week-english-atheist.html

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Amalia Arvaniti on the research of intonation

Amalia Arvaniti, Professor of Linguistics in the Department of English Language & Linguistics, will be giving a talk at the University of Leiden, entitled ‘Tackling Variability in Intonation Research and Analysis’, tomorrow 14 September 2018.

Intonation is essential for communication as it conveys information that helps listeners make inferences about the pragmatic intent of the speaker. Despite increased understanding of intonation’s importance, there is little agreement even about essential aspects of its structure and meaning. This is at least in part because research has eschewed the study of intonational variability, seeing it as a problem rather than a natural facet of speech production that needs to be understood and accounted for in studying and modelling intonation.

The talk will present a principled approach to the study of intonational variability (Tame Intonation, or TINT) together with results from a number of studies that put TINT to practice.

The workshop is entitled ‘Prosodic Variation Across Languages: The State of the Art in Comparative Prosodic Research’, and is funded by the Leiden University Centre for Linguistics (LUCL), and the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO).

For full details of the workshop, please see the LUCL webpage here:
www.universiteitleiden.nl/en/events/2018/09/prosodic-variation-across-languages

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Understanding Unbelief public engagement projects

The Understanding Unbelief programme, led by Dr Lois Lee, Research Fellow in the Department of Religious Studies, has just announced the public engagement projects awarded funding through the programme.

Just some of the highlights include projects on ‘National Life Stories’ with the British Library, a three-episode podcast series ‘Meet the Unbelievers’ for History Hit, as well as an hour-long documentary ‘A History of Unbelief’ hosted by Dan Snow; a documentary film ‘Between Beliefs’ produced by Banyak Films, and resources for teachers ‘Understanding Unbelief in the RE Classroom’ produced RE Today Services.

For a complete list of the awards, including further details of the individual awards, please see the page here:
https://research.kent.ac.uk/understandingunbelief/research/public-engagement-projects/

 

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Nostalgia podcast with Reshmi Dutta-Flanders

The latest episode of the podcast series on ‘Nostalgia’, hosted by Dr Chris Deacy, Reader in Theology and Religious Studies in the Department of Religious Studies, has just been released.

In this week’s interview, Chris interviews Dr Reshmi Dutta-Flanders, Honorary Research Fellow for the Department of English Language & Linguistics. Reshmi grew up in Calcutta and came to the UK to study English at King’s College London in 1989. In this fascinating conversation, Reshmi compares her experiences of previously studying literature in India and how she was able to acquire various research skills.

Reshmi talks about the influence of her aspirational parents. Her father was a survivor of the Partition, and ended up doing an Engineering Degree in Wolverhampton. She also discusses her own experience of an arranged marriage, and we learn that her mother has just written a book, at the age of 80, in the field of Religious Studies.

Reshmi has often felt a need to prove something to herself, and has often felt a sense of dissatisfaction and never really felt a sense of belonging. She discusses how fear has often prompted her to push herself forward, and we talk about the degree to which education can be seen as an enjoyable pursuit and how it might be possible to enjoy what one is doing in the moment without worrying unduly about the future. Reshmi reflects on how nothing in her life has been prescribed, and how once she has finished one project she has an urge to start something new. We also learn why she is not comfortable recycling old ground.

The interview also covers Reshmi’s childhood influences, and how the life journeys delineated in 1970s Abba songs were sources of fantasy in her conservative upbringing. Reshmi also discusses how she saw her university lecturers in the UK as her gurus, and how coming to university gave her an identity which she didn’t have at the time.

In the final part of the interview, Reshmi speaks candidly about her experience of teaching in Category B and C prisons where her students were often inveterate and institutionalized prisoners. This has been one of the inspirations for her recent book on crime fiction, and Reshmi talks about her different apprehensions of working in male and female prison environments. The interview ends by considering whether it is possible to be nostalgic about negative experiences, and how Reshmi did not have goals so much as a value system predicated on the importance of peace, security and stability.

The podcast is available here:
https://audioboom.com/posts/6993486-reshmi-dutta-flanders

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