On the virtues of slow scholarship and small numbers

By Kélina Gotman, Lecturer in Theatre and Performance Studies

It is mid-July. The vote for Brexit has happened, leaving many stunned into silence or shocked into outrage, or a combination of both. We haven’t managed to advertise extensively for the smooth & striated: form event and consider cancelling. Then reconsider. It will be strong – perhaps strongest – in small numbers, with a focused few. To do it now means to allow ourselves the luxury (is it a luxury?) of … for lack of a better term … going with the flow, thinking on our feet. Improvising. And that’s also what it is about: ways to think together in a space, on our feet, drawing; to read, transversally, to cut across a couple of texts and discover resonances and recombinations, to think laterally, perhaps.

We have decided for this event to focus on two key texts in twentieth-century art and philosophy, and to rethink not only their critical genealogies (the way Pierre Boulez’s work on pulsed and non-pulsed time, in “Time, Notation, Coding” in particular informs Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari’s arguably far wider-reaching and still inestimably influential chapter, “1440: The Smooth and the Striated,” from Capitalisme et schizophrénie 2: Mille Plateaux), but also the way both these complex works trouble ways of thinking linearity, teleology and what seems to be an overwhelming preference for the rhizomatic in contemporary art, including particularly in music and dance.

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Shakespeare 2.0: Pray tell, what is a ‘MOOC’?

By Rachael Nicholas,  PhD candidate (University of Roehampton), MOOC mentor, and alumna of the King’s MA in Shakespeare Studies

In case you’d missed it, 2016 marks the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death. Whilst some of the celebrations have commemorated the man himself, the catalogue of performances and special events comprised a celebration of afterlives, focusing on the 400 year history of encountering Shakespeare and his works. Their sheer range is a testament to the part that adaptation across different media has played in the construction of what we understand as ‘Shakespeare’ today.

The proliferation of media technologies has not only given rise to new modes of adaptation, but also to new ways of distributing and accessing Shakespeare’s work. It is now possible to open out live performances to audiences around the world through live broadcasts to cinemas, and increasingly, for free online. The question of what it means to encounter performances of Shakespeare through the digital – for both production and reception – is central to my own research project on live relay audiences. But to encounter Shakespeare through ‘performance’ is of course not the only way to encounter Shakespeare.

Continue reading Shakespeare 2.0: Pray tell, what is a ‘MOOC’?

Prize-winning responses to modernism

By Helen Saunders, PhD student

In 2013, the King’s Centre for Modern Literature and Culture  (CMLC) was founded and launched its annual prize for Creative Responses to Modernism. Since then, postgraduate students working in modernist studies have been invited to submit their responses to modernism and its artistic explosions in whatever art form seems most appropriate. For some entrants, these have been homages, pastiches or parodies; submissions have both continued and challenged the modernist project. The centre and prize are run by Dr Lara Feigel and Professor Erica Carter.

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Loving, Living and Resisting: a Postcolonial Conversation

By Diya Gupta, PhD researcher, Department of English – find her here.

Choti yeh hai teri saanp ki hi lehar Dogana

Khati hun tere vaste main zahar Dogana

(This plait of yours is the wave of a serpent, Dogana

I take poison because of you, Dogana)”

– Lines from nineteenth-century Urdu Rekhti poet Insha Allah Khan


What do we know about the representation of same-sex romantic and sexual relations in early nineteenth-century north India? And how does this relate to the transnational realm of early twentieth-century democratic thought? A postcolonial conversation on recent publications by two outstanding postcolonial scholars revealed how love and desire, revolutionary ethics and aesthetics, connect these two worlds in the final King’s in Conversation with series for 2015/16.

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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

South Asians and the First World War: Reflections

by Dr Natasha Awais-Dean, Project and Communications Manager  of ‘Cultural Exchange in a Time of Global Conflict: Colonials, Neutrals and Belligerents during the First World War’ (HERA)

Fig 13


Despite there being over 1 million South Asian soldiers fighting in the war alongside two million Africans as well as troops from New Zealand, Australia, and Canada, there has traditionally been a rather narrow and Anglo-centric view of how the history of the First World War has been communicated within Britain. Yet, the true story is far more complex and wide-ranging than this suggests.

Over the last two years, there has been greater visibility of the South Asian contribution to the First World War but we still have a long way to go. Now that we have reached the midpoint of the centennial commemoration, how do we keep up the momentum while at the same time find a way, as Dr Santanu Das notes, to go ‘beyond simple recovery and commemoration’ and address the complexity of the history? How do we find creative ways of engaging with the South Asian contribution to draw in fresh generations?

What seems to have been driving this greater visibility of the South Asian war story in Britain is its relation to a broader British Asian identity today – can the contribution of the South Asian soldiers, who served alongside English Tommies, be used to achieve greater racial harmony? Indeed, could this be the key to healing the current racial and ethnic divides in our society (something that we are perhaps feeling now more than ever), but without sanitising any of the horrors of the war or ignoring the racial hierarchies and inequalities that marked the colonial war experience? The need for authenticity is paramount, to maintain integrity in dealing with this often messy history in both an ethical and, crucially, productive manner. Continue reading South Asians and the First World War: Reflections

‘A new route discovered’: On Shakespeare’s Sonnets

by Dr Clare Whitehead, Research Assistant

First published in 1609, Shakespeare’s sonnets are among the most accomplished and absorbing poems in the English language. They are also some of the most beloved and have enjoyed a vibrant afterlife, with continued readings, recitations, and reprints fortifying Shakespeare’s claim in Sonnet 60: “My verse shall stand”. These remarkable poems do not stand alone however, but rather, alongside the many works that they have inspired.

Continue reading ‘A new route discovered’: On Shakespeare’s Sonnets

London is my East: A Reflection on Travel

By Dr Alvin Eng Hui Lim, department alumnus and postdoctoral fellow at the National University of Singapore.

I’m on a British Airways flight from Changi airport, Singapore to Heathrow, London. The cabin crew, a mix of ethnicities, leaves me alone after the initial smiles and courtesies with the inflight entertainment, only punctuating my viewing experience a couple of times to serve me microwaved food – mostly chicken, or vaguely tasting like it.

I’m at Heathrow. A Chinese custom officer chides me in impeccable English for not completing the landing card before I join the queue. I do as told, and my voice struggles to complete a sentence when another custom officer addresses me and stamps my passport.

“What are you here for? What are you studying?”

“PhD. Theatre. At King’s College London.”

Maybe it is my face and how I sound. An inner joke seems to flash across his face as it changes. I am free to go.

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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


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

From the Department of English at King's College London