Seminar with Conor and Yuhki

Thanks to Conor and Yuhki yesterday for fascinating papers yesterday evening on Arthur Conan Doyle and Oliver Goldsmith. Many thanks also to all who came along!


Abstracts for Tuesday March 21st!

We have two exciting papers lined up for tomorrow Tuesday 22nd!

Dr Conor Reid (TCD) will be speaking on “The Lost Worlds of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Professor Challenger Series,” and Yuhki Takebayashi will give a paper entitled, “Oliver Goldsmith and History-Writing.” See their abstracts below.

Looking forward to seeing many of you back in the Trinity Long Room Hub at 5pm.


Dr Conor Reid 

Trinity College Dublin

The Lost Worlds of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Professor Challenger Series


“[W]hat I am writing is destined to immortality as a classic of true adventure”, states Edward Malone, narrator of Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World (1912). One imagines that Conan Doyle, having witnessed the phenomenal popularity of his Sherlock Holmes stories, could declare this with some degree of confidence. Indeed, The Lost World has remained Conan Doyle’s most well-known and influential non-Holmes story for over a century. Far less frequently read or critically analysed, however, are the remaining works in the Challenger series, a group of texts comprising two novels, a novella, and two short stories, spanning the period from 1912 to 1929. As a series the Challenger stories can seem somewhat disconnected, with changes in narrator, tone, authorial intent and genre as the series progresses. However, there is a fundamental connection between the stories, and examining the series as a whole brings this to the fore, in the extent to which all five tales attempt to explore, record, verify and, ultimately, conquer lost or impenetrable worlds. Challenger, as scientist-adventurer, is at their centre as they each attempt to use objective, empirical science to access and authenticate a lost world. In this regard, each story centres on scientific evidence, while at the same time dangerously and often humorously flirting with fraud. This paper, therefore, will explore the ambiguous, and often contradictory, nature of the lost worlds of Professor Challenger.


Yuhki Takebayashi

Trinity College Dublin

Oliver Goldsmith and history-writing


Oliver Goldsmith (1728?-1774) was a prolific writer whose works include translations, reviews, essays, children stories, plays, biographies, history-writings and a popular natural history work. But it was his poem, The Traveller, which won him recognition among his fellow writers and elevated him to the status of a literary celebrity. To this day he is largely valued and remembered as a poet.

In contrast, his historical works have fallen into a state of limbo. Modern scholars refer to them in the capacity that they provide support for arguments with little elaboration as to how this particular genre of writing may be used appropriately. In other cases the histories are dismissed outright.

This paper will discuss the changing reception of Goldsmith’s oeuvre and trace how modern scholarship has come to de-value his historical outputs as mere hackwork. Particular attention will be paid to Michael Griffin’s work, Enlightenment in Ruins (Bucknell University Press, 2013), as it is the most recent extended study of Goldsmith. His division of Goldsmith’s writings into two categories, with the poems being distinguished as “useful” pieces and the histories being demoted as a confused patchwork of other authors’ works will be reflected upon. Following this, problematic issues associated with such interpretations will be pointed out. Importantly, the need to clarify the historical status of history-writing will be referred to and elaborated upon. Histories as political tracts; as “polite” texts and as an experimental frontier during the Enlightenment will be detailed. To this extent, figures such as Clarendon, Voltaire, Hume and Robertson and their histories will be referred to. Lastly, based upon these reflections, tentative ways Goldsmith’s history-writings may be of use to Goldsmith studies will be provided. Before concluding, this paper will broadly and briefly discuss how the methodology of historical investigation of genres may be of continuing benefit to the scholarly examination of authors.

Special guest speaker for Tuesday March 15th

Dr Ashmita Khasnabish

 ‘Negotiating Capability: Sea of Poppies: a Diasporic Construct’.

Different location this week: Room AP3.19 in Aras an Phiarsaigh at 5pm.


The talk, based on the chapter V of Negotiating Capability and Diaspora: a Philosophical Politics, focuses on the theory of diaspora / globalization through the Indian philosopher Amartya Sen’s theory of justice which strikes at the root of oppression. Sen de-constructs that master-slave paradigm and gives us an opportunity to think in a fresh way about injustice. He owes his theory a great deal to John Rawls’s political philosophy, in which Rawls proposes that one has to inculcate communitarian identity, or the focal group, prior to developing an international community. However, Sen opposes that; a focal group, according to Sen, is parochial and he thinks that Rawls’s model, which unites everyone in the community through political justice and overlooks all the differences through the “veil of ignorance” may not work for different international groups. This chapter is an engagement and dialogue between Sen’s theory of capability and the Bengali novelist Amitav Ghosh’s vision of diaspora in the light of his novel Sea of Poppies. I see a distinct connection between the two authors as the theory of capability works as a twofold theory to uncover dis-crimination of underdogs, immigrants, and people of diaspora and to work as a positive willpower to achieve one’s goal, if one could learn to inculcate it positively. Sen boldly articulates his complaint about utilitarianism in his The Idea of Jus-tice and although it seems that it is directed toward only economics, it encompasses all kinds of discrimination when not just women are treated as second-class citizens—all the immigrants are treated as underdogs too. Sen observes, “The utilitarian calculus based on happiness or desire-fulfillment can be deeply unfair to those who are persistently deprived, since our mental make-up and desires tend to adjust to circumstances, particularly to make life bearable in adverse situations” (The Idea of Justice 282).