Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Restless Cities

My review of Matthew Beaumont and Gregory Dart (eds.), Restless Cities (London; New York: Verso, 2010) is in the new issue of Textual Practice. The review can be accessed here.

Friday, November 5, 2010

UCL City Centre

I have become an affiliate of the UCL City Centre, a research network dedicated to the literary and cultural history of the metropolis from the Middle Ages to the present. This is an exciting new venture run out of the English Department at UCL, and it will host a variety of seminars, talks and symposia featuring artists, writers and academics. The website is here, and my profile is here. I'll update when some events are scheduled.

Monday, November 1, 2010

"On or about December 1910 human character changed"

Centenary reflections and contemporary debates: Modernism and beyond.
University of Glasgow, 10-12 December 2010

I'm giving a paper at this conference in December. Here's the abstract of my paper...

G.K. Chesterton's Politics Around 1910

In The Man Who Was Thursday (1907), G.K. Chesterton’s depicts an anarchist cell bent on destroying society. Except that as it transpires, the Central Anarchist Council is composed entirely of undercover policemen, aping the bloodthirsty views of anarchists but fiercely committed to defending the country from a ‘modern lawlessness’ articulated by ‘dirty modern thinkers’.

Yet as this paper will show Chesterton’s politics around 1910 were more complicated than his critics have tended to assume. He was seen by the modernist avant-garde as a spokesman for the old, Edwardian order, and was associated with a bland populism: ‘Chesterton is the mob’, Ezra Pound grumbled. When Virginia Woolf diagnosed the emergence of a new sensibility in 1910, Chesterton was hardly at the forefront of her mind: his hostility towards ‘dirty modern thinkers’ and his Christianity were hardly likely to appeal to Woolf’s sensibilities. Chesterton’s association with conservatism persists to this day: David Cameron’s in-house ‘philosopher’ Philip Blond cited his influence in his book Red Tory. Even Slavoj Zizek – whose interest in Chesterton is symptomatic of a minor revival – tends to cast him as a conservative.

This paper will make a claim for Chesterton as an intelligent critic of capitalism who – unlike some of his contemporaries – saw the dangers of communist collectivism. In fact, as time went on his fiercely egalitarian politics often put him to the left of Soviet sympathisers like Bernard Shaw and the Webbs, and he had more in common with anarchist thinkers such as Proudhon than The Man Who Was Thursday might lead us to assume. Focusing on What’s Wrong With the World (1910) and drawing in Chesterton’s fictional writings from this period, I shall argue that Chesterton has much to offer us in 2010, both as a political thinker and as a novelist.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Urban Confrontations

My review of Edward J. Ahearn's book, Urban Confrontations appeared in the TLS on 3/9/2010.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Ballard and Chronopolis Talk - Video

Here's a video of the talk I gave at the Ballardian Architecture symposium at the Royal Academy.

Ballardian Architecture 6 - Matthew Taunton from static tv on Vimeo.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Ballardian Architecture - Listen Online

The Royal Academy of Arts make available an audio archive of many of their events and symposia, now including 'Ballardian Architecture: Inner and Outer Space' where I gave a short talk. You can listen to my talk about 'Chronopolis' as well as all the other talks on their website.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Fictions of the City Reviewed in the TLS

This review of Fictions of the City appeared in the Times Literary Supplement for 11/06/2010. 

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Office in the Sky

My review of Merrill Schleier, Skyscraper Cinema (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2009) appears in the TLS for 21/5/2010.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Worlds Made of Concrete and Celluloid

I have an essay called 'Worlds Made of Concrete and Celluloid: The London Council Estate in Nil By Mouth and Wonderland' appearing in Cultural Ways of Worldmaking: Media and Narratives ed. by Vera NĂ¼nning, Ansgar NĂ¼nning & Birgit Neumann (Berlin: De Gruyter, 2010). 

The book collects responses to and applications of Nelson Goodman's book Ways of Worldmaking, from a variety of disciplinary perspectives. My contribution examines London council estates in film, comparing two quite different depictions in the context of Goodman's notion of 'worldmaking'. The book is coming out next month and also contains essays by my London Consortium colleagues Ben Dawson, Stephen Sale, and Steven Connor. Details are here.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Literary London 2010

I'm going to be giving a paper at the forthcoming Literary London conference, to be held at the IES from the 7th-9th July. For a number of reasons beyond my control I've never attended this before so I'm particularly excited. I'll be giving a paper called 'De-centring London: The Politics of Localism in G.K. Chesterton's The Napoleon of Notting Hill'. This is part of a larger project about which more soon...

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Ballardian Architecture: Inner and Outer Space

I'm giving a short talk as part of the Architecture programme at the Royal Academy of Arts, in a forum about J.G. Ballard and Architecture. I'll be talking about his short story 'Chronopolis' as an engagement with the Fordist and Taylorist tendencies of modernist urbanism.

Here's the blurb:

Acclaimed writer J. G. Ballard derived inspiration from aspects of the built environment that architectural convention and critics tend to overlook. This forum looks at how omnipresent but under-recognised spaces such as airports, car parks, motorway interchanges and suburban streets provided source material, and how Ballard’s perceptions may challenge and inform contemporary architecture.
Royal Academy; 2–5.30pm; £25/£16 reductions (incl. drink)

Full details (and online booking facilities) are here.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Brewer's Dictionary of London Phrase and Fable

My review of Russ Willey's Brewer's Dictionary of London Phrase and Fable appeared in theTimes Literary Supplement for 19th Feb 2010:

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Cultural Hybridity

My review of Peter Burke's Cultural Hybridity appears in this week's TLS (15/01/10)