Tuesday 8th March: Professor Eve Patten

No seminar this week, but NEXT week — Tuesday 8th March — we have an exciting paper lined up from Professor Eve Patten from the School of English:

“‘Joostice and Liberty’: Virginia Woolf and Charles Stewart Parnell”.

Professor Patten’s primary research interests are in nineteenth-cevepicentury Irish literature and culture and twentieth-century British and Irish writing, particularly the fiction of the two world wars. She has published and edited numerous works including Samuel Ferguson and the Culture of Nineteenth-Century Ireland, Literatures of War, and Imperial Refugee: Olivia Manning’s Fictions of War.

Usual time and place: 5pm in the Hub.

Enjoy Reading Week!

Abstracts for Tuesday February 23rd

‘silent ambassadors of national taste’ – W.B. Yeats’s Sculptural Coins

Jack Quin

University of York and Research Assistant with Prof. Tom Walker on the interdisciplinary project ‘Yeats and the Writing of Art


Coins are relief sculptures. Throughout the nineteenth-century British coins were designed and made by renowned sculptors including Benedetto Pistrucci, Joseph Edgar Boehm, and Leonard Charles Wyon. And leading sculptors, painters and art curators formed committees to solicit and select designs, including Frederic Leigthon. Distinct from colossal statuary, coins could circulate from person to person, around countries and continents. At the apex of the British Empire, coins featuring the face of Queen Victoria were the most reproduced and widely circulated images in any artistic medium.


As chairman of the Irish coinage committee, W.B. Yeats spearheaded the search for appropriate sculptors to design the new coinage, the first Irish coins produced since 1822. When Yeats described coins as ‘the silent ambassadors of national taste’ in an address to the Senate upon beginning his chairmanship of the committee, he was no doubt aware of the considerable undertaking. His statement suggests a commitment to making a mute and politically uncontroversial mint, but it might also be an acknowledgement that coins silently disseminate an iconography of power across the population of a nation or empire.


This paper will propose that the coinage deliberations from 1926-1928 were an important aspect of Yeats’s enduring interest in sculpture, and that the coins in Yeats’s poems and prose can be re-examined as durable, portable relief sculptures. The coinage committee’s membership and method of soliciting coin designs bears significant resemblances to Yeats’s recommendations for commissioning public monuments. And I will examine instances in Yeats’s later poetry where he uses the coin as a visual arts medium of portraiture in ekphrastic episodes, as durable talismans that record and transmit national myths, or as structural metaphors for the poem itself.


Night: Another Frontier in American Wilderness Studies?

Sarah Cullen

M.Litt student of American Literature 

Wilderness studies is a strand of ecocriticism which, according to Roderick Nash, permits the critic to read fiction in relation to its depiction of uncultivated and otherwise undeveloped land. Although American wilderness studies have been concerned predominantly with the wilderness of the New World’s forests, Nash’s definition of wilderness as “Any place in which a person feels stripped of guidance, lost and perplexed” allows the critic to consider alternative avenues for wilderness studies. As such, this paper will argue that the American night time is a viable avenue of literary study.

This paper will do so by over viewing how several nineteenth century American authors such as Charles Brockden Brown and Nathaniel Hawthorne dealt with night in their work. As A. Robert Ekirch observes of preindustrial societies, “Night alone permitted the expression of man’s inner character.” The cover of night time often paradoxically provides the fictional American subject with a space in which to dis-cover, not only the injustices and hypocrisies of American society, but also that society’s own complicity in these actions. Though often a time of fear, night time for these American writers is crucial. It is often a space in which to explore issues considered too unsavoury for daylight hours by the American establishment. It is through this night-space that the ghosts of America’s past (and present) are brought to life.

Finally, this paper will argue for the importance of night within the field of literary studies. The Western world is increasingly losing its dark skies due to a year-on-year increase in artificial lighting. It is only now, at the beginning of the twenty-first century, that scientific and ecological thought is catching up with these literary forebodings. Perhaps wilderness studies, through an appreciation of the night, can in small way contribute to the reversal of this loss.




Tuesday February 16th



We have a very exciting guest speaker coming to the Staff Postgrad Seminars next Tuesday in the Hub: Professor Lionel Pilkington from NUI Galway. His paper will be entitled “In it for the sheer love of it: Theatre, Actors, and Neoliberal Capitalism in Ireland c. 1979-1986”.

Prof Pilkington’s research focuses on Irish drama, theatre and Irish cultural history, postcolonialism and Irish studies, and culture and politics in Northern Ireland. His published works include Theatre and the State in 20th Century Ireland: Cultivating the People (2001) and Gender and Colonialism (1995).

We’re delighted to be welcoming Prof Pilkington, and will be hosting a wine reception after his talk in the Hoey Ideas Space of the Hub. Hope to see you all on Tuesday at 5!

Abstracts for Tuesday February 9th!

Katie Moten


Adaptation as Salvage – Retrieving the Past’s Cultural Values in a Post-Feminist Present


Imelda Whelehan writes that, when we adapt, we frequently remake the story in our own image, rather than with reference to the values of the past. By this, she means that when we encounter ideas from the past that are unpalatable to our contemporary sensibilities – such as historic ideas about race or gender – we rewrite them to align with our more contemporary egalitarian ideals. This paper argues that, while this is true, there are also instances where we celebrate the values of the past and where adapters can be said to be contributing to a project that attempts to rewrite the present with reference to the cultural values of the past. I suggest that this celebration of the past is not always about looking back with rose tinted glasses or being nostalgic: it can also be about retrieving something that is missing from or there is a lack of representation of in contemporary culture. I particularly want to argue that Victorian ideals about female friendship, female community, and mother-daughter relationships are a strong focus of adaptations: novels and stories that feature these themes have been selected for adaptation by writers interested in exploring these relationships in a contemporary culture where there is a dearth of depictions of such relationships between women. I will suggest that these representations of female homosocial relationships are important in the post-feminist climate in which we currently exist, where feminism is seen as obsolete: such representations can work to offer examples of female affection and solidarity in a culture where these ideas are not often explored.


Rohan Harry Swamy 



The co-dependency conundrum: Understanding the dynamics of the Superhero-Supervillian relationship through the Batman and Joker


In the summer of 1939, the May issue of Detective Comics, (#27) artist Bob Kane and writer Bill Finger introduced, what was to become a legendary icon of sorts, the Bat-Man. Almost a year later, in April 1940, both, Kane and Finger collaborated once again along with artist Kerry Robinson to introduce another iconic character, and the arch-nemesis of the Bat-Man, the Joker.

Seven and a half decades later, the comic characters, which have spawned a series of animated and live action film franchises, and television series, merchandise, fan films amongst others, have gone on to cement their statuses as pop-culture icons the world over. The Joker, infact, holds the distinction of being one of the very few super-villians whose popularity if not exceeding, is equal to that of his arch nemisis, and has only strengthened over time.

Through this paper we aim to research and read into the psyche of the two characters, their continuing co-dependent relationship, and how over the decades, trying to tamper with the core essence of that relationship has almost sounded the death knell for the superhero franchise.

To understand the nature of the relation that these two characters have, one needs to go deep into the roots of the creation of both of them individually and understand what makes or breaks them. For instance in the case of the Batman, or his alter ego, Bruce Wayne, his grief over the events of one bad day, vis-a-vis the mugging and shooting of his parents in Crime Alley, transforms his life inexplicably, pulling him away from a life of normalcy to that of battling crime and criminals, who have been instrumental for rot setting in, in Gotham city’s cultural fabric.