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“Renovate, dod gast you, renovate!”: where next for modernist studies?

by Charlotte Jones, Teaching Fellow in Victorian and Modern Literature at King’s College London

“Going where it is possible to go would not be a displacement or a decision, it would be the irresponsible unfolding of a program. The sole decision possible passes through the madness of the undecidable and the impossible: to go where (wo, Ort, Wort) it is impossible to go.”

Derrida, On the Name (Stanford UP, 1995), 50.

In one of the most durably useful of all modernist expressions of the value of novelty, Ezra Pound called on art to “make it new”. Putting aside the fact that Pound’s slogan was itself the product of historical recycling ­– the source is probably an anecdote about Ch’eng T’ang (Tching-thang, Tching Tang), first king of the Shang dynasty (1766–1753 BC), who was said to have a washbasin inscribed with this inspirational motto – these three words are commonly recited as the epitome of what modernism stands for: rupture, revolution, innovation, defamiliarisation, the logic of creativity-in-destruction that fortifies the avant-garde.

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On dissent; or, learning how to say no

PhD candidate Pavan Mano explores how the seeming reticence of Singapore’s biggest queer movement to openly challenge the status-quo is in fact its key organising strength.

Photo credit: Jnzl’s Photos, Flickr.

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“Time is the Enemy”: The Wristwatches of 1917

Still from 1917 Official Trailer, Universal Pictures (2019)

PhD researcher Lizzie Hibbert reflects on Sam Mendes’s First World War epic 1917. Please note: this piece contains spoilers!

Sam Mendes’s 1917 (2019) is as much a film about time as it is about war. The first indication of this comes in the film’s trailer, which is set to a soundtrack of ticking clocks. It opens on a wide shot of an un-helmeted British soldier running perpendicular to advancing troops towards the camera. The reedy ‘tick… tock…’ of a watch is just audible beneath ominous music and accelerating bootsteps. Suddenly we are underground by torchlight, and the ticking has transformed into the weighty, echoing hands of a pendulum clock. There is a split second of silence and then an explosion.

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Jerome Caja’s ‘Cosmetic Miracles’ and ‘Post-Apocalyptic’ Drag in 1990s San Francisco

To celebrate the launch of the new Queer@King’s goes to Church series, in collaboration with KCL Chaplaincy, Victoria Carroll reflects on the sacrilegious artwork and drag performance of Jerome Caja (pronounced Chi-a), an important figure in the queer arts scene that flourished in early 1990s San Francisco.

Jerome Caja, The Last Hand Job (1993). Collection Anna van der Muelen.

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Queering the obscene: how the archives shaped my PhD

From books banned in Boston to films cut in Maryland: in the summer of 2019 PhD candidate Katie Arthur visited five archives in four US states to grapple with questions of queerness and obscenity in the censorship cases of author William S. Burroughs and filmmaker John Waters.

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