This weekend we’re joined by two excellent speakers to talk about two very different topics indeed! You can sign up here for free. You can support the project here (one-off or monthly) and links will be provided to support the speakers individually.
On Saturday 8th, we’re joined at 10am and 6pm BST by Neil Cocks to talk ‘Uncanny Uncanny: Disrupting Australian ‘Anxious Proximities’
In this 2 hour talk I aim to make strange a discourse of making strange, thinking through what might be uncanny in critical responses to ‘The Australian Uncanny’. I will begin to read in detail two of the defining works in the field, Alan Lawson’s ‘The Anxious Proximities of Settler (Post)colonial Relations’ (2004) and Alison Ravenscroft’s The Postcolonial Eye: White Australian Desire and the Visual Field of Race (2012).
Lawson is interested in repeated elements in Australian settler narratives, utilising Freud’s ‘The Uncanny’ and Jameson’s Dialectical Materialism to account for the absurd, racist imagery in them. I argue that Lawson’s account of the uncanny itself suffers uncanny effects: in the very act of identifying the definitive patterns of settler narratives, Lawson finds himself repeating them, the sober historical account returning as a settler narrative, the settler narrative returning as a form of the historicism that will bring it to light.
The second section of the talk (time allowing) introduces a counter narrative to Lawson’s. I understand his work to be implicitly challenged by Alison Ravenscroft, who returns to it the politically significant notion of an embodied viewer or reader, contending that there is a danger in accounts of the uncanny that work to break down differences between settler and indigenous positions. I contend that such a commendable political position also, on this occasion, introduces unacknowledged repetitions of the anxious, uncanny effects it seeks to diagnose. The choice, as I read it, is between a structural uncanny that cannot fully take on ‘affect’ , and an ‘affective’ uncanny that cannot fully take on the disruptions of perspective. In reading through these texts, I am not claiming to offer the last word on ‘ The Australian Uncanny’ in theory. In Reading Ravenscroft and Lawson I will attempt to highlight some points where my own reading stalls.
Within my talk, I am aiming to engage Ravenscroft’s revisionist reading of the indigenously signed text, ‘The Bunyip’, a strange tale of monsters, hauntings, and place. An extract from this very short text will be available prior to the talk, as will a brief bibliography, and a Work in Progress article that articulates my thinking on ‘The Australian Uncanny’ in more detail.
On Sunday 9th, we’re joined at 4pm and 9pm BST by Lindsey Carman Williams to talk ‘Spiritualism, the Female Medium, and Ghosts in Victorian and Edwardian Supernatural and Occult Tales’
The female medium was a powerful figure in the movement of Spiritualism. In the domestic and public spheres, she transgressed the boundaries of sexuality, class, and gender through daring séances in darkened rooms. The female medium not only impacted the spread and popularity of Spiritualism and the women’s rights movement, but also British and American women writers’ short stories. In this talk, I will discuss the importance and impact of Spiritualism on Victorian and Edwardian women writers’ supernatural, occult, and ghost stories, as well as their portrayal of the female medium in these works. I plan on discussing ghostly tales written by women writers such as Rhoda Broughton, Edith Nesbit, Rose Terry Cooke, Edith Wharton, and Sarah Orne Jewett. We will look at the Spiritualist female medium and her interactions with ghosts, ghost-seers, sceptics, and male psychical investigators to see how she transgresses the boundaries of space, the (female) self, scientific knowledge, and trauma in order to disrupt Victorian dominant ideologies of otherness, social class, and gender performance. This talk will be of interest to audience members who are intrigued by the occult in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Overall, the purpose of this talk is to highlight the influence of real-life female mediums on British and American women writers’ supernatural, occult, and ghost tales, who provided inspiration for challenging patriarchal culture.