Category Archives: Contemporary

Book Review: Martino Sclavi’s ‘The Finch in My Brain’

by James Rakoczi, PhD researcher, Department of English

The cover image of Martino Scalvi’s ‘The Finch in My Brain’

Reading Martino Sclavi’s The Finch in My Brain (Hodder & Stoughton, 2017) took longer than expected. I found myself slowing down, re-reading passages, trying to work out how the text relates to itself, to its images, and to the people in Sclavi’s life.

My copy of the text is now defaced by marginalia, doodled over in an inky green.

Page 308, for example, tells me to re-read p. 215. I turn that page, and p. 216 directs me to p. 268, and so on. My copy has gone a bit rhizome: an ecology of self-citation…

In early 2011, living in LA, Italian film producer Martino Sclavi was experiencing bad headaches. He thought it was the coffee, or the stresses of script-writing to deadline. In fact, it was a grade 4 glioblastoma – an extremely severe brain tumour. During a script-reading, Sclavi became increasingly delirious. Driven to a hospital by a friend, Sclavi recalls how his friend’s words ‘stopped having a meaning for me… just sound with no information. A rhythm with no shape’ (p. 43). This loss of ‘meaning’ but retention of ‘shape’ characterised not only Sclavi’s immediate crisis but presaged the direction his life would take.

Continue reading Book Review: Martino Sclavi’s ‘The Finch in My Brain’

Conspiracy and Enlightenment: ‘Speculations’ Series at King’s

by Carleigh Morgan, former Fulbright scholar and current PhD candidate in the Department of English

The seminar series ‘Speculations’ at King’s hosted a conversation on 27 April about conspiracy theories in relation to the political spectacle of Trump and the upsurge in global conversations about disinformation, ‘fake news‘, and the alarmist sense that trust in expertise is crumbling. Two interventions – one from myself and one from Clare Birchall – structured the focus of the event on a closer inspection of what we mean by the term ‘conspiracy’. How can conspiratorial thinking be useful for solidifying formative political movements? Can it, perhaps, mount counter-oppositions to some of the more disturbing mobilisations of right-wing political activism?

Continue reading Conspiracy and Enlightenment: ‘Speculations’ Series at King’s

The long read: Just Women and Violence

by Ella Parry-Davies, PhD researcher funded by King’s College London and the National University of Singapore, working on performance, place, and memory, and Myka Tucker-Abramson, Lecturer in Contemporary Literature. With a postscript from Kélina Gotman,  Lecturer in Theatre and Performance Studies

“The male is a biological accident: the Y (male) gene is an incomplete X (female) gene, that is, it has an incomplete set of chromosomes. The male is an incomplete female, a walking abortion, aborted at the gene stage. To be male is to be deficient, emotionally limited; maleness is a deficiency disease and males are emotional cripples.

SCUM is too impatient to wait for the de-brainwashing of millions of assholes. Why should the swinging females continue to plod dismally along with the dull male ones? Why should the fates of the groovy and the creepy be intertwined? A small handful of SCUM can take over the country within a year by systematically fucking up the system, selectively destroying property, and murder.”

(Valerie Solanas, “The Scum Manifesto”, 1967)

“If sexism is a by-product of capitalism’s relentless appetite for profit then sexism would wither away in the advent of a successful socialist revolution. If the world historical defeat of women occurred at the hands of an armed patriarchal revolt, then it is time for Amazon guerrillas to start training in the Adirondacks.”

(Gayle Rubin, “The Traffic in Women”, 1975)

“Homoexplosion is a radical queer/ trans group of fly fatherfuckers. We advocate people fucking in the street and burning shit—especially cops.”

(NYC Queers Bash Back Against NYPD, 2009)

Image via AP: Two protesters wearing black carry a black banner emblazoned with 'Queers Bash Back: Bash Any Face the Many'
Image via AP, 2009: Two protesters wearing black carry a black banner emblazoned with white text that reads ‘Queers Bash Back: Harm any face the many’.

We live in a moment of amplified violence, or at least a time in which certain kinds of violence have become more visible. New forms of surveillance, and heightened attention to the reported arming of both so-called individual terrorists or terrorist cells, as well as hostile nations, often speaks less to new threats than to carefully crafted states of emergency. However, at the same time, we are seeing an increasing incidents of hate crimes, intensified and increasing police brutality and state violence, and the continued expansion of the War on Terror.

Continue reading The long read: Just Women and Violence

Interview: The Still Point

Following the successful launch of The Still Point Issue 2, we speak with Mariam Zarif, editor-in-chief 2017-2018, about the new team’s vision for the journal. Mariam is a PhD researcher in the Department of English at King’s, writing on New Woman male writers as ‘transvestities’ and the politics of cross dressing in the fin de siècle. She heads up an editorial team composed of PhD researchers at King’s, UCL, Queen Mary, and the School of Advanced Study.

Find The Still Point Journal online, on Facebook and Twitter.

The Still Point Journal

KE: Could you tell us a bit about The Still Point and how it was originally conceptualised? How is it different from other literary journals?

MZ: The Still Point is a medium that celebrates creative and innovative writing and research experiences. Founded by King’s English PhD researcher Francesca Brooks in 2015, the journal was designed to offer research students a space of ‘one’s own’, where they can reflect on their research experiences. Continue reading Interview: The Still Point

YouTube, iPads, and Videotape: archives of HIV/AIDS activism

Featured image: Living With AIDS (1987-1999), Gay Men’s Health Crisis records, Manuscripts and Archives Division, New York Public Library.

by Dan Udy, LAHP/ AHRC PhD researcher working on “Going Viral: Queer (Re)Mediations in the YouTube Decade”

When Sarah Schulman and Jim Hubbard began filming interviews for the ACT UP Oral History Project in 2002, the history of HIV/AIDS activism was largely consigned to videotape. Having aligned with the emergence of handheld camcorders, it was the first political movement to be documented on video and from within its ranks: amateur recordings, artist tapes, and independent TV productions all formed a staggering cultural archive that tracked how marginalized communities took healthcare, research, and advocacy into their own hands during the early years of the HIV/AIDS crisis.

NYPL ACT UP Oral History iTunes - Ann Northrop
Veteran activist and broadcaster, Ann Northrop, NYPL ACT UP Oral History Archive

For over 20 years these tapes were consigned to personal collections and institutional archives such as the New York Public Library (NYPL), where the Manuscripts and Archives Division holds the most extensive public collection of such videos in the world. Here, facsimiles of original tapes could be watched on monitors, but the analogue nature of these materials made it difficult to circulate them beyond the library’s walls. Continue reading YouTube, iPads, and Videotape: archives of HIV/AIDS activism

What is to be done? The politics of reaction

by Carleigh Morgan, PhD Candidate in English Research, Christine Okoth, LAHP funded PhD candidate in Contemporary American Literature, and Bryony White, LAHP funded PhD candidate in Performance Studies

In response to the results of the US presidential election, staff and students of the King’s English Department hosted a Trump Teach-In on 23rd November 2016. The workshop consisted of brief talks and activities, many of which were student-led and all of which offered a multitude of different perspectives on an event that will have lasting global repercussions.

zine image collective

Continue reading What is to be done? The politics of reaction

The Cosmo Davenport-Hines Poetry Prize: 2016 winners

by Ruth Padel, Poetry Fellow

The Cosmo Davenport-Hines Poetry Prize was set up to commemorate a student who loved poetry. His father Richard is always one of the judges, and I was delighted to be invited to chair the four-judge team alongside my colleagues Elizabeth Eger and Alan Marshall. We had 152 entries and the theme was ‘Time’, a general enough title to be interpreted in many more than 152 ways.

Our individual shortlists of ten had few overlaps, but one of the joys of judging the prize is discussing poems with colleagues and learning from their different ways of reading and responding. ‘Reading Poetry’ is a first year course but learning new ways of reading poetry is a lifetime’s work for everybody, and the long list we eventually worked down to this year reflects the state of contemporary poetry: extraordinarily varied.

For the first time, we awarded six Commendations, in addition to the three winners, because we couldn’t bear to give the other poems up. We also awarded a joint Third Prize: the difference between these two poems reflects the whole spectrum of possibilities for poetry today.

Featured image © Michael Handrick.


Cosmo Davenport-Hines Poetry Prize winners 2016

Joint Third Prize

Poem One, by Valeria Marcon Poem One Continue reading The Cosmo Davenport-Hines Poetry Prize: 2016 winners

People and Poems at Political Demos

 

by Penny Newell, PhD student in the English Department

Unlike the categories of political economy, poetry will never be essential to a correct definition of capitalist society. In this sense, it will never need to exist – but it is exactly in this sense that it has something to contribute                                                                                                               Danny Hayward, ‘Militant Poetics

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A political demo is nothing without people. But what is it without poems?

On a Saturday in March 2016, over 20,000 people marched through London in solidarity with refugees who are forced to flee from their homes. The event was the yearly Stand Up To Racism national march, with the continuing aim of speaking out against racism.

We stood gathered on the smoothed flagstones of Trafalgar Square, cold, fidgety, absorbing words that confirm the great injustices of the world, eating fig rolls and sipping tea… as is the way with these things.

I wondered if anyone else was remembering the times they’d stood here before: Anti-Austerity. SlutWalk. Pride. The passage through, on the way to hear Jeremy Corbyn’s speech, when my friend turned to me and said ‘I’ve got goosebumps…’ Continue reading People and Poems at Political Demos

footnotes, [alt+cmd+f] 1.a living encyclopedia of research

 

by Fran Allfrey and Charlotte Rudman, PhD students in the Department of English and co-presenters and producers of Footnotes Radio Show, KCL Radio

We were always the talkers, the thinkers-out-loud, the ones just spilling out what came into our heads in seminars, to the disdain or amusement of our fellow undergraduates. But now as PhD students – teaching classes and attending research seminars – sometimes we restrain ourselves: worried that a half formed musing might be taken as our critical point of view; watching ourselves say ‘Is it this…? Or is it that…? Am I making any sense?’ and feeling unprofessional, that we’ve exposed ourselves as frauds.

But outside of the conventions of classroom or conference, we know that the most exciting moments come in conversations with ‘your people’. Your people can take many forms: maybe you’re in the same chronological discipline (medievalists), or perhaps your research concepts (Aristotelian philosophies across different times), or obsessive tracking of images, of poetics (of water, of sound) enter into dialogue irrespective of imagined boundaries in time or place. Continue reading footnotes, [alt+cmd+f] 1.a living encyclopedia of research

The Wild Court Poetry Magazine

By Declan Ryan, Visiting Lecture in Poetry and Creative Writing

The idea for setting up the website which became wildcourt.co.uk was knocking around almost as soon as I came to teach at King’s in 2014.

I had previously run a reading series called Days of Roses out of which two anthologies and a supporting blog had developed. The hope was to bring Days of Roses in a new form into King’s, then develop it into a more international, wide-ranging magazine and, in time, imprint. Continue reading The Wild Court Poetry Magazine