Category Archives: 20th – 21st Centuries

Lockdown Reading Recommendations from the English Department

Six members of the King’s English Department have pulled together a list of the books, poems, and writing that have been inspiring them during lockdown.

This post was originally posted on Between the Acts, a space for writing by students of the Faculty of Arts & Humanities, and shared via the Offer Holder Hub by Ellen Englefield and Hannah Hungerford.

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The Dark Theatre: A Book About Loss

by Professor Alan Read

In the 1980s Alan was director of Rotherhithe Theatre Workshop, a neighbourhood theatre based in the Docklands area of South East London, in the 1990s he worked as a freelance writer in Barcelona and was Director of Talks at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London, and from 1997-2006 he was Professor of Theatre at Roehampton University where he directed a five year AHRC research funded programme on performance, architecture and location exploring theatre and public ceremonial in rational housing blocks and council estates.

The Dark Theatre was written as a critical response to my first book Theatre & Everyday Life (Routledge, 1993). This book mimicks the ambitions and two-part structure of that earlier work but takes stock of the intervening quarter-century turn towards financialization and precarity in Western Europe, exploring a ‘general economy of performance’ by way of response to these capitalized conditions. The Dark Theatre is not an updating of the source work but instead engages with questions of community, ecology, and what I call ‘cultural cruelty’ as evidenced in practices ranging from theatrical acts to legal processes.

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Techno-heartache: Reflections on the Telepoetics Symposium

by Imogen Free
Imogen Free is a first year PhD student at King’s College London, researching modernist women’s writing, sound technology and the politics of aurality (1930-1956).

One note held her ears through the hollow thunder of traffic: in shells of buildings the whirr of unanswered telephones. They were insistent
Elizabeth Bowen, To the North

In these ‘unprecedented’ times, I’ve been surprised to discover how much I’ve missed the postgraduate research community at King’s. I miss the distinctly un-academic chatter in our research room, sharing coffee with my supervisor, and the strange charm of the floppy triangles of sandwich, with beige fillings of unidentifiable flavour and lukewarm, headache-inducing wine after conferences. Sandwiches aside, it’s been a period in which we’ve been reflecting on how our institutions can support their students and staff and it’s been a lonely, uncertain, distressing time for many reasons other than the pandemic. But I have also been fortunate enough to participate in some of the changes the research community have had to make in order to stay in contact and find modes of communion with one another, as we become ever more reliant on the medium of telecommunication.

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Alfred Cohen: An American Artist in Europe

by Max Saunders, Professor of English at King’s College London

Max Saunders shares the story behind the exhibition Alfred Cohen: An American Artist in Europe which was due to open at The Arcade at Bush House in March 2020. The exhibition had to close to early due to COVID-19, but is now available to view online.

When my step-father, the painter Alfred Cohen died in 2001, my mother, Diana Cohen, and I decided that rather than having a funeral or memorial service, which he’d have hated, we’d celebrate his life with a memorial exhibition in his studio instead. As I started tracking down his earlier work for the show I became fascinated with how different it had been and how many different but equally engaging styles and techniques he had evolved. He was a much more versatile and mercurial artist than I’d realised.

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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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