Monday, December 14, 2015

Editorial, CQ 57.4

The great new issue of Critical Quarterly is out now, including the work of Kasia Boddy, Ashley Tauchert and others. Subscribers can read my editorial here.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Editorial - Critical Quarterly 57.2

The new issue of Critical Quarterly is out now. It contains many good things, including our first economics column by Kevin O'Rourke. In our editorial, Colin MacCabe and I reflect on the aims of the magazine. Subscribers can read it here.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Literatures of Anti-Communism

Benjamin Kohlmann and I have edited a special issue of Literature and History called 'Literatures of Anti-Communism' which is out now. The issue contains essays by Tyrus Miller, Marina MacKay, Ben Harker and Nick Hubble, as well as an introduction by Benjamin and me. Here's how we start our introduction:
Some two decades after the fall of the Soviet Union, this special issue reflects on the literary and cultural aspects of one of the twentieth century's most influential and under-theorised political orientations. Anti-communism is difficult to conceptualise because it brings together a diverse grouping of writers and thinkers who in many cases seem to have little else in common. Taken together, the contributions to this special issue argue that we should not attempt to locate anti-communism on a left-right spectrum as it has inspired anarchists, social democrats, free-market fundamentalists, and fascists in equal measure. The question of whether anti-communism constitutes a coherent ‘ideology’ is muddied by the fact that it frequently advertised itself as the alternative not simply to communist ideology, but to ideology as such. Anti-communists often shared an attitude analyzed by Raymond Williams, insisting that ‘[s]ensible people rely on experience, or have a philosophy; silly people rely on ideology’. But perhaps this self-conscious rhetoric of de-politicization is the very thing that ensured anti-communism's success as an ideology, and that helps to explain its portability across diverse national contexts and its adaptability to a wide range of political and cultural concerns. 
Further details of the issue are online here

Game of Thrones

I wrote a piece for the New Humanist about Game of Thrones, which you can now read online here.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

2 + 2 = 5: the politics of number in writing about the Soviet Union

My article about numbers, arithmetic, mathematics and Communism has been published by Textual Practice. Here's the abstract:
Why did British writers, when they wrote about the Soviet Union, often deploy the imagery of numbers, arithmetic and mathematics? This paper scrutinises a number of such instances, including Orwell's famous use of the equation ‘2 + 2 = 5’ in Nineteen Eighty-Four and Koestler's fascination with Euclid's proof of the infinitude of prime numbers in The Invisible Writing. These are put into relation with less celebrated works where questions of number or of mathematical reasoning are politicised by being applied to the Soviet Union. The paper situates these literary representations in relation to three key debates that intersected in interesting ways. Firstly, a debate about utilitarianism's attempt to quantify social goods and the Romantic rejection of that attempt; secondly, a debate about the philosophical foundations of mathematics (which involved Russell, Wittgenstein and Heidegger); and finally, a debate about the relation between mathematics and dialectical materialism, which involved key British and Soviet scientists and mathematicians and reflected on the position of science under Communism. Taking my cue from recent calls by Alain Badiou and Steven Connor for a rapprochement between the humanities and mathematics, I argue that this was a period in which numbers and arithmetic were profoundly politicised in literature.
You can read the article here.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

New Worlds: Science Fiction and Beyond

I have been thinking a lot about science fiction lately, as I'm teaching a new third year module about it with my esteemed colleague Jake Huntley. We decided we wanted to test the boundaries of the genre so we're including some less obviously sci-fi texts alongside more generic material, and calling it 'New Worlds: Science Fiction and Beyond'. We've organised the module into four 'blocks', on time travel, scale, insects, and cities, and we're showing related film and TV in a series of screenings that run in parallel to the seminars. This is the skeletal outline we're starting with, fleshing it out along the way. The students develop their own projects.

Week 1 – Introduction Patrick Parrinder, 'Working Daydreams, Workshop Definitions', Gwyneth Jones 'The Icons of Science Fiction', Isaac Asimov, 'Let's Get Together'
screening: The Terminator (1984)

Week 2 – Time (travel) I H.G. Wells, The Time Machine; Robert Heinlein, ‘All You Zombies’; Michael Moorcock, ‘Behold the Man’ (New Worlds version)
screening: Day of the Daleks (1972)
Week 3 – Time (travel) II Kurt Vonnegut, The Sirens of Titan, excerpt from Mark Currie, About Time, Laura Mulvey, 'Passing Time: Reflections on Cinema from a New Technological Age'
screening: La Jetée (1962)

Week 4 – Scale I Jonathan Swift, Gulliver’s Travels [extract]; H.G. Wells, Food of the Gods
screening: The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957)
Week 5 – Scale II J. G. Ballard, ‘The Enormous Space’, ‘The Last World of Mr Goddard’, ‘This Way to Innerspace’; John Wyndham, ‘Meteor’; E.H. Gombrich, 'Ambiguities of the Third Dimension' (from Art and Illusion)
screening: Home (2003) (BBC adaptation of 'The Enormous Space')
Week 6 – Reading Week

Week 7 – Becoming Animal/Becoming Insect I Franz Kafka, ‘Metamorphosis’; George Langelaan, ‘The Fly’; Steven Connor 'Mutable Fly' from Fly; Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, 'Becoming Animal' from Milles Plateaux
screening: The Fly (1986)
Week 8 – Becoming Animal/Becoming Insect II Laline Paull, The Bees; Roald Dahl, ‘Royal Jelly’, Claire Preston, 'Political Bee' from Bee; Samuel Beckett, excerpt from Molloy (Moran's Bees)
screening: Alien (1979)

Week 9 – Sci Fi Cities/Architectural Space I China Mieville, The City & The City
screening: Alphaville (1965)
Week 10 – Sci Fi Cities/Architectural Space II J.G. Ballard, High Rise.
screening: Shivers (1975)

Week 11 - Project Conference
Week 12 - Project Conference