Recruiting new members for 2013-2014

Are you interested in joining the atelier? We’re holding an open meeting on Wednesday 30th October at 2pm, in the Graduate School Training Room (Ellen Wilkinson Building).

It would be great to see you! If you can’t make that meeting but are still interested in being involved, please email christopher.vardy@manchester.ac.uk to be added onto our mailing list.

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Matt Houlbrook 12th December 2012

For the third instalment of the atelier we were very lucky to have Dr. Matt Houlbrook from the University of Oxford come to speak to us. The focus was on Matt’s latest research on confidence tricksters in interwar Britain. The session was very much a conversation between Matt and atelier members, which proved a productive way for us to share and explore a lot of different ideas.

 

Matt’s work seeks to rethink understandings of interwar British history through the figure of the confidence trickster and the concept of plausibility. Matt argued that the 1920s and 1930s were the most radical turning point in twentieth century Britain, but are often thought of in terms of what came before and after. The confidence trick allows a way of thinking about the precarious state of expert knowledge, questions of authenticity and the break down of boundaries between cultural, social and political life at this time.

 

We had read Matt’s article ‘Thinking Queer: the social and the sexual in interwar Britain’, which discusses the confidence tricksters Josephine O’Dare and Sydney Fox. We were interested in the idea of subjectivity and self-fashioning and how macro-level histories can be mapped out on individuals. Matt was especially interested in what historians can do with queer theory when they step outside queer identities.

 

One of the main questions to arise from this discussion was how Matt was using the concept of plausibility. Had plausibility been used as tool by other historians and how indebted was it to queer theory? Atelier members wondered how ‘plausibility’ might be used in conjunction with their own research. This prompted a discussion that included whether the sonic could play a similar role to plausibility, how plausibility distinguished itself from performativity and how plausibility spoke to new aspirations to fashion a sense of self.

 

This led to a debate about interdisciplinarity. There was some debate about whether interdisciplinarity was now out of fashion, whether it still offered exciting inspiration for researchers and, pragmatically, how it impacted on employability.  The conversation then moved to how our disciplines deal with theory. The literature students talked of a rift between those who relied more and those who relied less on theory. Matt spoke of the continued importance of cultural history to historical studies and argued that the social periphery is culturally central. We discussed how to justify a narrow focus in our work and when and why that was deemed acceptable. We then came back round to the idea of plausibility and how it might apply to translation and the potential for any translation to be plausible.

 

Overall, Matt’s generosity with his time and ideas sparked a very stimulating and wide-ranging discussion. We really appreciated the opportunity to engage with his work and to consider how it might inform our own research and practice.

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Atelier Member 2012/13

–          Christopher Vardy is studying for a PhD in English and American Studies, focusing on the significances of the 1980s, consumer culture and neoliberalism in contemporary historical fiction.

–          Clare Murray using a theoretical framework informed by Foucault’s concept of governamentality, she is exploring how the built environment can be used as a tool of governance and the implications of this in a post-dictatorship. She is doing this by focusing on key National Socialist buildings in Berlin and analysing the materiality of the sites, the discourses that have been constructed around them since unification as well as reception to the sites.

–          Clare Tebbutt is writing her PhD on medical and popular understandings of ‘sex change’ in interwar Britain. Her wider research interests lie in ideas of the body and in the interplay of culture, activism and theory.

–          Maarten Walraven is a third year PhD candidate in History with a background in Cultural Analysis. His PhD listens to the soundscapes of Manchester and the Ruhrgebiet between 1850 and 1914 and the way different people heard different sounds in different ways. From noise to silence, the impact of sound on the urbanising and industrialising societies of Western Europe reveals how this society was shaped.

–          Jan Gryta is first year PhD candidate in Polish Studies. Reaching for different  historical methodologies, memory studies and sociology he aims at analysing dynamics of politics of memory in urban environment. He investigates memory work connected to Holocaust and Jewish heritage in chosen polish cities.

–          Sean Irving is exploring the impact of economist and philosopher Friedrich Hayek on the development of neoliberalism.  Particular interests are the concept of spontaneous order as a representation of modernity and the relationship between liberty and the efficient use of knowledge.

–          Anne-Marie Stead is a final-year PhD student in Italian Studies. My research entails an original investigation of the archive of the Manchester-based publishing house Carcanet Press. From this, I’m drawing on Bourdieu’s conception of the literary field and Latour’s Actor-Network Theory to construct an analysis of the press’s history of Italian translation from a sociological perspective.

–          Veronica Pizzarotti is a 3rd year PhD student. Her project analyses the reception of the Italian Renaissance epic poem Orlando Furioso by Ludovico Ariosto in Great Britain over a period of two hundred years (1591-1791), by looking at the forms and features of its English translations. Her research combines together across the disciplines areas of Italian philological studies, translation studies, reception studies and history of the book

–          Sophie Preston: The French novelist Marcel Proust, the French philosopher and semiotician Roland Barthes, and the American artist Cy Twombly are joined by the ‘doodle’ and the emphatic gesture of drawing to write. The three inhabit an indecision of genre; Proust and Barthes both drew as they wrote, while Twombly wrote to draw. Their works point to the indefinite of the gesture, of incomplete communication subjugated by language. First year Art History PhD Researcher, Sophie Preston, acknowledges and celebrates the necessity of writing without words, of having to draw.

–          Allison Criddle is a second year PhD candidate in Art History and Visual Studies. Her research listens, looks and touches at Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo (1958), conducting sensate encounters with the spiral as the central visual motif of return. The turning filmic gesture is framed through a fall into and across the topographies of language, power, memory and sound, through cinematic and photographic narratives of control, and contemporary artist renderings of remembrance as illusion.

–          Laura Pennachietti is a PhD student in the department of Italian studies and my project deals with Italian translations of postcolonial English novels which feature non-standard varieties of English – more specifically, I look at the way these varieties have been translated into Italian. I also investigate the role played by publishing houses in influencing the process of translation of these novels.

–          Jane Stedman is a second year PhD student in the English and American Studies department, examining space, gender and nation in contemporary Scottish fiction.  My work seeks to interrogate the cultural nationalist paradigm that has dominated Scottish studies.  I focus on the navigation of space and depiction of gender in contemporary Scottish fiction to emphasise the crucial ambivalence of these novels, which both insist upon their Scottishness and refuse easy incorporation into overarching nationalist narratives.

–          Ed Owens: My doctoral thesis is composed of three parts. Primarily, it offers the first comprehensive assessment of the way that ordinary people have made sense of the British monarchy and experienced the public image of the royal family in the period 1919 to 1969. It also analyses how the image of monarchy has been communicated by a range of media and how new media in particular has affected the popular experience of monarchy. Finally, it offers original insight in to the way the monarchy has sought to present an image of itself to the rest of British society. Through a wideranging use of many previously unsused sources – including documents located in the Royal Archives, the Mass Observation archive and the BBC written archives centre (to name but a few) – this thesis advances historical work on twentieth-century reception studies, interrogating the way the media has influenced how people have understood their relationship with monarchy, and the place inhabited by the Crown in everyday life.

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Nuclearity: When Fact and Fiction Come Together July 2012

For its second instalment, the Culture and History Atelier was delighted to welcome Dr. Jonathan Hogg from the University of Liverpool. Dr. Hogg is currently writing on a book called British Nuclear Culture: Official and Unofficial Narratives in the Twentieth Century and co-editing a special edition for the British Journal for the History of Science on the concept of nuclearity, due out at the end of 2012. Part of his research on nuclear culture he presented to the Atelier.

Dr. Hogg’s presentation focused on the experience of nuclear culture, which is what Dr. Hogg has called ‘nuclearity.’ This concept conveys a series of narratives which mix fact and fiction and through them Dr. Hogg wants to come to the assumptions of ‘regular’ people. The first thing that is challenged by discussing nuclearity is the existing literature, which has so far taken a top-down approach, basing itself on official records. Other ideas that challenged are self, nationhood and existence within British culture and how these were disrupted by nuclearity. Different countries had different nuclearities and the psychosocial spaces within which this nuclearity expressed itself need to be analysed as much as the shoving away of nuclear fear.

For his research Dr. Hogg mainly used newspapers to understand nuclearity. One example of Dr. Hogg’s research that he discussed was an article in the Daily Express where several people from different backgrounds were interviewed to prove that there was no such thing as nuclear fear among the people. The quotes, however, show a form of resignation and fear about nuclear fall out. Within one article there is a narrative and a counternarrative. Especially women felt that had no control over a nuclear future and feared for their (future) families. There was a unified understanding of the danger, but the interviewer used this to say there’s no emotion, people just face up to the reality. Families in the nuclear age deal with the anxiety in a similar way: resignation.

After Dr. Hogg’s fascinating presentation the floor was opened for questions by the Atelier. The first question asked how nuclear fear can be related to other fears, such as the coming of the Apocalypse. Dr. Hogg argued that it was different because nuclear fear was modern process that can be used to reveal a dark side of Modernity. He also mentioned Eisenhower’s Atoms for Peace speech as an example of how nuclear developments were portrayed as something that gave the world a bright future, but that in everyday life this feeling was not often shared.

The Q&A continued and via a question on how Dr. Hogg selects his subjects and sources the discussion flows into the problems of oral history. More common points are brought up, such as the need to think about questions and how to interpret what people tell you. The most important aspect, however, is to be aware of when someone mentions a banality, because that says something about how ingrained certain beliefs are within a society. The discussion flowed into a question on how to define Britishness. Dr. Hogg said to pay attention to the sources and that an interest in language reinforces a sense of identity, in this case Britishness.

It was pointed out that the notion of nuclearity is very slippery and that maybe it pertains to the public/private narrative. This narrative is part of how historians historicize the self and tackling these issues are a part of what Social and Cultural History do in order to write historians that are not top-down. In this process, historians need to be aware of what knowledge is assumed and, in this case, that there was a certain knowledge of nuclear danger. People were also suspicious of science as something that could invade the places where they lived and even their bodies. Part of it is about how institutions take away responsibility, a common theme in modernisation theory.

The Atelier is once again thankful to artsmethods@manchester for making our events possible.

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Punk, post-punk and subcultures: Professor Nick Crossley, Atelier, May 2012

The Culture and History Atelier – an interdisciplinary group of postgraduate scholars from the School of Arts, Languages and Cultures at the University of Manchester – were delighted to welcome Professor Nick Crossley. Professor Crossley is the author of eleven monographs and numerous journal articles and book contributions. His most recent work – which he discussed with the atelier – focuses on social network analysis as a means of understanding the formation and dynamic of punk and post-punk subcultures in Manchester and London.

Following a presentation that focused on his theoretical work and linked to a draft chapter of an upcoming monograph on the topic, the Atelier and Nick discussed the methodological and conceptual questions that his work engages with. After explaining that his work is informed by – and situated within – the fields of both sociology and musicology, Nick responded to a question about the importance of physical space on subcultural formation. He argued that his work departs from Actor Network theory’s suggestion that space has agency, and foregrounds instead the ways that ‘shared understandings’ of spaces shape collectives.

Questions on the definitions of ‘relationship’ – a crucial element of social network analysis – and of the fluidity or permanence of subcultural conventions, followed. Nick was also asked about the source material which informed his network maps, and he acknowledged that while the mythologisation of punk and post-punk narratives was an issue, the factual material was often easily verifiable.   

Nick was asked what scope social network analysis had to analyse absences or blockages in the network. He agreed this was a methodological concern, but that the concept of ‘structural holes’ from network literature was useful and aided understandings of these less visible or overt elements of the network. The study’s focus on the aesthetic pleasure of experiencing music – termed  ‘sonic sociability’ – was discussed, and Nick confirmed that he sees his work as a corrective against accounts of musical subcultures that divorce their analysis from the social experience of music itself. Nick confirmed that his monograph will include discussions of gender, sexuality and race that are often airbrushed from histories of the ‘white male’ punk movement.

Finally, Nick was asked about the influence of Bourdieu on his work. He agreed that it was important to map fields in terms of resources, but argued that Bourdieu was too dismissive of networks and overly concerned with strategic or rational choices. He also suggested that some Bourdieu scholars used his work too rigidly and too reverentially, meaning it was liberating to move away from a programmatic application of Bourdieu in his own work.

Nick’s generosity with both his work and time made for a fascinating and mutually beneficial session, and has spurred the atelier on to continue its programme of interdisciplinary engagement with the work of leading scholars.

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Guest Speakers 2011/2012

In 2011/2012 (Semester 2) two scholars were invited to participate to the Atelier project, discussing their ongoing research:

29 May 2012: Professor Nick Crossley (Sociology, University of Manchester)
http://www.manchester.ac.uk/research/nicholas.crossley/

4 July 2012: Dr Jonathan Hogg (History, University of Liverpool)
http://tulip.liv.ac.uk/pls/new_portal/tulwwwmerge.mergepage?p_template=
hist&p_tulipproc=staff&p_params=%3Fp_func%3Dteldir%26p_
hash%3DA442641%26p_url%3DHI%26p_template%3Dhist

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PhD students 2011/2012

In 2011/2012 the Atelier was run by 12 PhD students, drawn from a range of disciplines within the School of Arts, Cultures and Languages at the University of Manchester. Here are their research profiles:

CENTRE FOR TRANSLATION AND INTERCULTURAL STUDIES

  • Katie McAllister ‘s research applies social narrative theory to the translation of politically committed drama. The thesis aims to use narrative analysis to investigate and challenge the dichotomy between the political and the aesthetic and to assess the capacity of ontological narrativity to illuminate activism in the form of dramatic text and performance.

  • Kalliopi Pasmatzi is a 3rd year PhD student in Translation Studies at CTIS. Her research interests lie in literary translation, sociological approaches to the study of translational phenomena and the cross-cultural transfer of ideas and cultural products.
    http://www.llc.manchester.ac.uk/ctis/phd/theses/pasmatzi/
  • Caroline Summers is a third-year PhD student in German Studies and Translation Studies.  Her research examines the writing of the German author Christa Wolf in English translation, combining Foucault’s concept of the author-function with a narrative mode of analysis to explore how authorship is reconstructed in the transfer between languages and cultures.
    http://manchester.academia.edu/CarolineSummers/About

DRAMA

  • Sabina Shah’s research aims toward an alternative visual perspective of the oppressed Muslim woman stereotype. The key question driving the inquiry is whether established stereotypes might be subverted, and if so in what ways and to what effects? As such, the project is inspired by Muslim women’s activist-scholarship and implements practice-as-research to investigate the making of meaning regarding visual representations.
    www.sabinashah.blogspot.com

ENGLISH & AMERICAN STUDIES

  • Jude Riley is a first year PhD student in English and American Studies. His research examines the function and construction of cognitive disability in the literature of the American South between 1925 and 1960.  Influenced by the growing field of disability studies, his work examines why cognitive disability was so important to Southern writers in particular, why it appears so frequently in their works and how disability intertwines with representations and constructions of race and gender. His research interests include disability, modernism, eugenics and the history and culture of the American South.
  • Christopher Vardy is studying for a PhD in English and American Studies, focusing on the significances of the 1980s, consumer culture and neoliberalism in contemporary historical fiction.

GERMAN STUDIES

  • Clare Murray:  using a theoretical framework informed by Foucault’s concept of governamentality, she is exploring how the built environment can be used as a tool of governance and the implications of this in a post-dictatorship. She is doing this by focusing on key National Socialist buildings in Berlin and analysing the materiality of the sites, the discourses that have been constructed around them since unification as well as reception to the sites.

HISTORY

  • Clare Tebbutt is writing her PhD on medical and popular understandings of ‘sex change’ in interwar Britain. Her wider research interests lie in ideas of the body and in the interplay of culture, activism and theory.
  • Maarten Walraven is a second year PhD candidate in History with a background in Cultural Analysis. His PhD listens to the soundscapes of Manchester and the Ruhrgebiet between 1850 and 1914 and the way different people heard different sounds in different ways. From noise to silence, the impact of sound on the urbanising and industrialising societies of Western Europe reveals how this society was shaped.

ITALIAN STUDIES

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