Seminars

Ghassan Hage on racism and the mob. Listen to the full conversation on White Fantasies and Arab Fictions between Ghassan Hage, Michael Mohammed Ahmad and Greg Noble.

Our Next Seminar

The Writing & Society Research Centre at Western Sydney University warmly invites you to
 
Priyamvada Gopal on Insurgent Empire: Anticolonial Resistance and British Imperial Dissidents

Wednesday 7 September
3.30pm -5.00pm
Building 3.G.55, Bankstown Campus, Western Sydney University
 
Much attention, both within imperial historiography and postcolonial literary studies, has been paid to the ways in which colonial subjects took up British ideas and turned them against empire, 'writing back' or 'striking back' when making claims to freedom and self-determination, the now well-worn 'Caliban' model, as it were, of a language learned from and deployed against the colonizer. Yet, the possibility of reverse impact has been either curiously neglected or is, at best, notionally invoked. In point of fact, careful readings of a substantial archive point clearly to the existence of such reverse influence particularly in relation to the emergence of British criticism of empire, too often read, in Whig mode, as a simple outcrop of a homegrown liberalism.

What would happen if we explored the possibility that Britain's enslaved and colonial subjects were not merely victims of this nation's imperial history and subsequent beneficiaries of its crises of conscience but, rather, agents whose resistance not only contributed to their own liberation but also put pressure on and reshaped British ideas about freedom and who could be free? Could the idea of Britain's uniquely liberal empire which was humanitarian in conception and had the liberation of its conquered subjects as its ultimate goal itself have been, at least in part, a response to the claims to humanity and freedom made by those very subjects?

One axis through which this question can be explored is that of dissent around the question of empire in Britain, with dissidents variously referred to as 'critics of empire,' 'imperial sceptics' or British 'anti-colonialists.' To examine the extent to which rebellion and resistance in the colonies and contact with anti-colonial figures shaped British domestic criticism of empire which eventually grew from muted and occasional into a more full-throated anti-colonialism is to overturn the still prevalent emphasis on political and intellectual influence, particularly as it pertains to ideas about liberty and independence, as radiating outwards from the metropole towards the periphery.

Priyamvada Gopal is University Senior Lecturer at the Faculty of English, University of Cambridge and Fellow of Churchill College. She is the author of Literary Radicalism in India: Gender, Nation and the Transition to Independence (2005), The Indian English Novel: Nation, History and Narration, and has written widely for both academic publications and the print media on literature, culture, and politics in South Asia and Britain (most notably as a columnist for The Guardian). This seminar will draw on her current research, which takes the working title of 'Half the Story: Anti-Colonialism in the Making of Britain'.

Our seminars are free and open to visitors from outside the university. If you want to come along to one of our seminars simply RSVP by sending an email to writing@westernsydney.edu.au indicating which seminar you wish to attend.

The Writing & Society Research Centre at Western Sydney University warmly invites you to
 
Kate Fagan on Archives of the Present: Temporal Shift, Maternal Legacy and Ontological Repair in the Poetry of Ali Cobby Eckermann and Natalie Harkin

Friday 9 September
11.00am -12.30pm
Building 3.G.55, Bankstown Campus, Western Sydney University
 
Not long after the publication in 2006 of her Miles Franklin Award-winning epic Carpentaria, leading Aboriginal author Alexis Wright wrote a striking essay on that novel's study of ancient and ongoing connections between narrative form, Aboriginal ontologies and coexistent temporalities. "For a long time while I was exploring how to write Carpentaria", reflects Wright,

I tried to come to some understanding of two principal questions: firstly, how to understand the idea of Indigenous people living with the stories of all the times of this country, and secondly, how to write from this perspective […] this fictional work could not be contained in a capsule that was time or incident specific (pp.2-3).

This paper reads the poetry of Ali Cobby Eckermann and Natalie Harkin through the guiding lens of Alexis Wright's profound phrase living with the stories of all the times. Both Eckermann and Harkin have published book-length, serialised long poems that explore a poetics of duration and temporal shift. Eckermann's Ruby Moonlight (2012) and Harkin's Dirty Words (2015) move deftly among contemporary realities and stories that have been told for tens or hundreds or thousands of years, many of which operate beyond philosophical and disciplinary machineries that categorise times and events as "past" or "historical". Or perhaps, more accurately, the aesthetic and cultural coordinates of Eckermann's and Harkin's poems suggest foundational Aboriginal ontologies that far exceed a "movement among" temporalities – something more in keeping with Alexis Wright's reflections upon multiple times coexisting in one instant, and on ways that works of literature might encode and enact such states of being in continuous relation.

Kate Fagan is a Senior Lecturer in Literary Studies within the School of Humanities and Communication Arts, the Convenor of the English Major, and a member of the WSU Writing and Society Research Centre. Together with Dr Ben Etherington she is developing the WSU Poetry and Poetics Project within the Centre. She is a former Editor-in-Chief of How2, the established U.S.-based journal of contemporary and modernist innovative poetry and poetics. Her current research interests include contemporary poetry and poetic theory; Australian poetry and literature; experimental poetics and narratologies; and critical theorisation of links between poetic form and ontology. She is a co-convenor of the 2016 'Active Aesthetics: Contemporary Australian Poetry' Conference at the University of California, Berkeley. She is also an internationally recognised poet and songwriter whose third collection of poetry First Light (Giramondo, 2012) was short-listed for both the NSW Premier's Literary Awards and The Age Book of the Year Award. Her album Diamond Wheel won the National Film and Sound Archive Award for Folk Recording.

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