Research Seminar, 5 December 2018: Jessica George on H. P. Lovecraft’s Weird Fiction

Jessica George (Independent scholar) will be presenting her paper, ‘”[T]hey were men!”: H.  P. Lovecraft, Anthropocentrism, and the Alien’, at 5.00 p.m. on Wednesday, 5 December 2018, followed by an expert response from James Machin (Royal College of Art). The event will take place in the University of Wolverhampton’s George Wallis Building, MK 204.

Recent criticism on weird fiction has emphasised the ways in which the weird decentres the human and reveals the inadequacy of human methods of understanding. The weird may not be able to present an entirely inhuman worldview, but it undercuts anthropocentrism, approaching what Eugene Thacker calls the ‘world-without-us’, the vision of a world defined by the absence of humanity. Such approaches yield productive readings, but have often tended to elide the extent to which weird fiction engages obsessively with the nature and status of humanity itself, confronting and reinscribing both the species anxiety that emerged in the wake of the widespread acceptance of evolutionary theory in the nineteenth century, and attitudes to race and species deeply imbued with Euro-American imperialism. At the Mountains of Madness by H. P. Lovecraft (1890-1937), the best-known exponent of weird fiction,  deals at length with anxieties around human origins and the potential future of the human species, and this talk will use this text to explore how the weird tale can simultaneously undermine anthropocentrism and retrench hierarchical conceptions of human superiority.

About the Speakers
Jessica George received her PhD from Cardiff University and is now a writer and academic, specialising in Weird fiction, literature and science in the long 19th century, Gothic authorship and fandom, and Welsh writing in English.


Jame Machin received his PhD from Birkbeck, University of London, and is now Visiting Lecturer at the Royal College of Art. He is the author of Weird Fiction in Britain 1880-1939 (Palgrave 2018), the first study of the emergence of  ‘weird fiction’ from Victorian supernatural literature, and is editor of the forthcoming anthology, Faunus: The Decorative Imagination of Arthur Machen (MIT Press 2019).



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Olfactory Fictions: Smell, Culture and Literature in Modernity

The University of Wolverhampton’s Centre for Transnational and Transcultural Research and The Memory Network present a public talk by Professor Sebastian Groes from the School of Humanities, 14 November 2018, 5.30-6.30 pm, Wolverhampton Art Museum. All are welcome. To book a place for this free event, click here.

The human nose sticks out through a hole in paper isolated

“We live in a sanitised culture whereby the drive for hygiene – including the masking of smells and the artificial scenting of spaces and bodies – results in a loss of smell awareness.

“This is worrying: our relationship to ourselves, other people and the world depends on our sense of smell. Recent science has shown that there is a strong relationship between olfaction and depression.

“Writer Italo Calvino warned against the loss of smell: ‘the noseless man of the future’ will lose emotions and have a reduced ability to make sense of life altogether. Olfactory Fictions offers literature as a critical perspective on the ways in which our changing sense of smell impacts on human experience and behaviour.”


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Professor Sebastian Groes on Information Overload, the Brain and Evolution

Part I: Can your head ever be full?

In the digital age our brains process an incredible amount of information. This causes concern. We suffer from fatigue and sleeplessness, and from new diseases such as infostress and data addiction. We’re all becoming information rich and knowledge poor. But, though information overload can be dangerous, it might also trigger new steps in our evolution.

Teju Cole’s Open City (2012): ‘He motioned to his head. In fact, I’m full.’

In the digital age we contend with an incredible amount of information. Many of us, especially in the wealthy west, engage in many forms of communication: we get up and go to sleep reading and writing emails, and we’re never not plugged into social media. The nature of labour has also shifted from physical activity to brainy stuff. People worry about cognitive overstimulation. We suffer from fatigue and sleeplessness, and from new diseases such as infostress and data addiction. We’re distracted and unable to make rational decisions, fear social exclusion and identity loss. Our memory is detrimentally affected because our brain no longer has the time to properly soak up information. As quantity on triumphs over quality, we are all becoming increasingly information rich and knowledge poor.

In his book Future Shock (1970), Alvin Toffler argues that our rationality and our ability to make decisions are undermined by overload: ‘When the individual is plunged into a fast and irregularly changing situation, or a novelty-loaded context, however, his predictive accuracy plummets. He can no longer make the reasonably correct assessments on which rational behaviour is dependent.’

Information overload is nothing new. Ann Blair’s study of 16th- and 17th-century scholarship, Too Much To Know (2011) and Katherine E. Ellison’s work on the 18th-century society suggest that ‘[e]very age has been an information age’. In The Victorian Internet (1998), Tom Standage shows that in the nineteenth century the telegraph and the stock ticker drove people insane. In Little Dorrit (1855-57), Dickens made fun of the growing bureaucracy of England’s imperial project with the Circumlocution Office.

The problem is that our brains are basically still the same as those of Stone Age people living 10, 000 years ago. There is a huge mismatch between the tasks that we want to do, and the brain’s limited capacity.

Continue reading

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Research Seminar: Extremities and Obsessions in Nineteenth-Century Literature, 24 Sept. 2018

We welcome ERASMUS exchange staff, Professor Ludmilla Kostova and Dr Yarmila Daskalova, University of Sts Cyril and Methodius, Veliko Turnovo, Bulgaria, to Wolverhampton, and invite all to a research seminar on ‘Extremities and Obsessions in Nineteenth-Century Literature, Monday, 24 September 2018, 14.00 – 16.00, Arena Theatre Seminar Room.

Dr Daskalova will contribute a paper on Haunting Romanticisms: Day-Dreaming and Obsessive Imagery in the Works of Edgar Allen Poe and Peyo Yavorov, followed by Professor Kostova’s “A dainty morsel for the executioner”: Terrorism and Femininity in Late-Nineteenth-Century Anglophone Popular Fiction.

All are welcome.

About the Speakers:

Ludmilla K. Kostova is Professor of British literature and cultural studies at St. Cyril and St. Methodius University of Veliko Turnovo, Bulgaria. She has published on eighteenth-century, romantic and modern British literature and as well as on travel writing and representations of intercultural encounters. Her books include Tales of the Periphery: the Balkans in Nineteenth-Century British Writing (St. Cyril and St. Methodius University Press, 1997) and Travel Writing and Ethics. Theory and Practice (Routledge, 2013).

Yarmilla Daskalova is Senior Lecturer in English at the University of Sts Cyril and Methodius, Veliko Turnovo, Bulgaria. Her research areas include British, Irish, and American Studies; romanticism and post-romanticism; and comparative literature. Her publications include studies of Emily Dickinson, Edgar Allan Poe, and W. B. Yeats, often alongside Bulgarian novelists and poets, such as Emil Andreev, Svetlozar Igov, Marina Tsvetaeva, and P. K. Yavarov.

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Faculty of Arts Staff Research Conference, 2 July 2018

CTTR staff will be presenting their latest research at the Faculty of Arts Staff Research Conference on Monday, 2 July 2018, from 11-1pm (Room MC331), all staff and students welcome. Speakers include:

Dr Frank Wilson, ‘That Memorable Scene’: Visual and Literary Iconography of King Charles the First in Seventeenth- and Eighteenth-Century Literature’

Dr Nicola Allen, ‘Incendiary Politics: Writing the Suffragettes’

Dr Stephen Gregg, ‘Nasty Religion’

Dr Irina Moore, ‘Vilnius Memoryscape: “Razing” and Raising of Monuments, Collective Memory and National Identity’

Prof Sebastian Groes, ‘Memory in the Twenty-First Century’

Dr Benjamin Colbert, ‘British Women’s Travel Writing Database: an Exploration’

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Research Seminar: 24 April – Dr Annika Bautz on Walter Scott, Celebrity, and Stage Adaptation

Dr Annika Bautz, Plymouth University, will be speaking on ‘The “universal favourite”: Daniel Terry’s Guy Mannering; or, The Gipsey’s Prophecy (1816)’, Tuesday, 24 April 2018 14.00 – 15.30, Room MC232. All are welcome.

This paper explores the contemporary reception of the first adaptation of a Walter Scott novel for the stage, Daniel Terry’s Guy Mannering, or, The Gipsey’s Prophecy (1816). Many more people, from a much wider socio-economic background, would have seen Terry’s version between 1816 and 1724 than would have had access to the novel. Reviews of the play indicate that its popularity was enhanced by Scott’s extraordinary fame and status, and indeed, was judged by its closeness to the novel. Terry’s play paved the way for a rush of stage adaptations of Scott novels, and presents one of the many spin-offs that Scott’s works inspired and enabled. The play, in turn, contributed to shaping the reception of the more popular novelist of the early nineteenth century.

About the speaker:
Dr Annika Bautz is Head of the School of Humanities and Performing Arts at Plymouth University, where she specializes in Romantic and Victorian fiction, book history, and reception studies. Her books include Libraries, Books, and Collectors of Texts, 1600-1900 (2017) and The Reception of Jane Austen and Walter Scott (2007).  She is currently working on adaptations and after-lives of Walter Scott’s works.

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Public Lecture: 17 April, Kate Lister on the History of C**t

‌‌Dr Kate Lister from Leeds Trinity University will be visiting City Campus on Tuesday 17th April 2018, 6 p.m.-7.30, MK045 to deliver a public lecture, ‘A Nasty Name for a Nasty Thing’: A History of C**t’. The lecture is free, no tickets are required, and all are welcome.

Walter Kirn called c**t ‘the A-bomb of the English language’, and he’s absolutely right (Kirn, 2005). In 2016, Ofcom (the regulator for UK communications) ranked swear words in order of offensive, and the C-Bomb came out on top. The British Board of Film Classification’s guidelines state that the word c**t can only be used frequently in films that are rated 18+. Feminists have long maintained an uneasy relationship with the word, unsure if it is empowering or demeaning.  But, how did we end up here? How did a word that signifies the vulva end up being ranked as one of the most offensive words in the English language? Join Kate Lister in an exploration of c**t and find out just how it ended up on the linguistic naughty step.

About the Speaker: Dr Kate Lister researches the history of sexuality and sex work. She owns and curates the online research project, Whores of Yore. She is a lecturer at Leeds Trinity University, a columnist for The Independent and on the board of the international sex work research hub.




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Contemporary Critical Perspectives Debate, 20 March

Tuesday 20 March, 5-6pm, MU406, Lord Swraj Paul Building, University of Wolverhampton.

Professor Peter Childs (Newman), Professor Sebastian Groes (Wolverhampton), and Dr Kay Mitchell (Manchester), Series Editors of the Bloomsbury Academic Series Contemporary Critical Perspectives,  debate some of the most pressing problems in society today, and consider how literature has responded to these issues. Concerns include digital immortality, climate change, post-truth, Artificial Intelligence, #metoo, amongst others.

All are welcome.

Contemporary Critical Perspectives provides companions to major contemporary authors, such as J. G. Ballard, Sarah Waters, David Mitchell and Hilary Mantel. For more information, see

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Public Lecture: 13 Mar., Carolyne Larrington on Game of Thrones

CTTR and the School of Humanities welcome Professor Carolyne Larrington from the University of Oxford to the City Campus on Tuesday 13th March 2018, 6 p.m.-7.30, MK045 for a public lecture, ‘Winter is Coming: Game of Thrones and Medieval Culture’, in which she considers the ways in which medievalist and neomedievalist perspectives informed George R. R. Martin’s work and the blockbuster TV series that arose from it. As this is a public lecture, please bring friends and family. No tickets required.

Carolyne Larrington is Professor of Medieval European Literature at the University of Oxford where she teaches medieval English literature. She researches in Old Norse-Icelandic literature and her most recent book is The Norse Myths which was published in 2017.She also works on Arthurian literature and in medievalism. Recent books include Winter is Coming (2015) and The Land of the Green Man (2015) on folklore and place. Current projects are: an investigation into emotion in Middle English literature and a multi-media project: #modernfairies, with Dr Fay Hield of Sheffield University.

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Dr Daisy Black – AHRC/BBC New Generation Thinker

CTTR’s Dr Daisy Black, Lecturer in English, is among this year’s winners of the prestigious AHRC / BBC RADIO 3 NEW GENERATION THINKERS COMPETITION 2018

Dr Black is a specialist in Medieval and Renaissance drama, and gender and queer theory.  She has been selected for the BBC/AHRC New Generation Thinkers scheme 2018, and will be working with the BBC to make a programme for Radio 3 on her research project, ‘Eating God: Food in Medieval Religious Drama’.  As a New Generation Thinker she will also be appearing  in a number of radio and television broadcasts and panel debates over the next few years.  Her role will be officially introduced at the Free Thinking Festival in Gateshead on the 9th-11th March.

The AHRC-BBC New Generation Thinkers competition has run since 2010. Each year, a small group of early career researchers chosen by a multi-stage selection process are trained to communicate academic ideas in creative and accessible ways to non-academic audiences. They will appear regularly on BBC Radio 3, develop programme ideas, and contribute across the BBC’s radio, TV and online output. Successful applicants will also appear at the BBC’s Festival of Ideas and other events, make short films, participate in AHRC public and academic events and receive further support from AHRC for research and communication planning. Previous winners have maintained links with the BBC and often contribute beyond their New Generation year.

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