May 13, 2016

Literary Translation Workshop with Richard Dixon, Chantal Wright and Mila Milani

Literary Translation Workshop with Richard Dixon, Chantal Wright and Mila Milani

5 May 2016.

(Contribution by Paolo Vacca)

Literary Translation Workshop

(photo credit: Gioia Panzarella)

How does translation work? Is it ‘a royal robe with ample folds’ that envelops the source text, or is it just a new skin? And, by the way, how does one become a translator?

These are only a few questions of the many that animated last Thursday’s collective exploration of the mechanisms behind the practice of translation. The event was part of the on-going Italian Research Seminar Series, beautifully organized by Cecilia Muratori and Alessandra Aloisi and kindly sponsored by the HRC. Standard seminar room, round table of roughly twenty people: teachers, researchers, graduate and undergraduate students. ‘How do you become a translator?’ Do not expect a conclusive answer, just plenty of food for thought: everyone’s story is different, after all.

Richard Dixon is a trained barrister and translator of big names such as Leopardi, Eco, Calasso. Chantal Wright is an academic and a trained translator herself, working from German, French and Spanish. Mila Milani is senior teaching fellow, with a remarkable background in the publishing industry. What ultimately counts, is ‘understanding how a language works’, Dixon says. In all its nuances. The flexibility of language was largely discussed in parallel with the specific cultural aspects that inevitably feed into the patterns of the publishing market. Milani notes: the reception of certain modes of expression, of certain figures of speech are perceived differently, depending on the target publisher. Chantal Wright looks, for example, at the translation process of German children’s books in the US, and explores how two different receptive sensitivities are at play. To what extent are we losing the original text? And to what extent are we creating a new one?

Dixon looks at sounds: the voicing of the author is crucial (‘if you are lucky enough to be working with authors that are still alive’): the challenge is not negligible – how do you render someone’s voice in a different language? (You can’t dream of someone speaking a language other than the one they normally speak, can you?). Read. Translate. Read again. A translator is a ‘really good reader’, Wright suggests. Translation is just reading, after all – a very close kind of reading, of course.

In the very last session of the workshop, Richard Dixon led his audience to the backstage of his translation performance, granting a unique opportunity to peek into his current translation project of Carlo Emilio Gadda’s La Cognizione del Dolore (not exactly the easiest literary prose in Italian to understand, let alone translate) – how can you translate ‘scaricabarilistico’? Well, I am afraid non-Italian speakers will just have to look past this word for now, because I certainly do not have a clue. But, after all, these are the challenges that make translation a fascinating process, a dynamism that enables the transfer of meaning across languages, a dynamism whose structure, and framework, determine its reception. Last Thursday, translator and audience played with language together, de- and re-constructed in a productive exchange of ideas. Those who were there will perhaps leaf through the Richard Dixon’s English published translation of La Cognizione del Dolore, and then spot that crucial word, that ground-breaking phrase or that essential sound everyone discussed about to then say: ‘I was there’. Does this sound a bit too pretentious? Never underestimate the power of translation!

February 25, 2016

MITN PG/ECR Meeting #3: Space, Place and the City

MITN PG/ECR Meeting #3

Space, Place and the City

The third MITN PG/ECR meeting took place on Wednesday 3 February, and a new research cluster on ‘Space, Place and the City’ was introduced. The aim of the cluster is to bring together postgraduate students with similar or complementary research interests, with a view to facilitating fruitful discussion, collaboration and intellectual innovation across the Warwick and Monash campuses. As a student-led, interdisciplinary group, the cluster intends to provide a motivating platform for MITN members to share ideas and experiences around themes such as place and non-place, translation, third space, migration and wandering, among others.

The cluster organisers, Alice Whitmore (Monash) and Ayten Alibaba (Warwick), briefly introduced the aims and possible outcomes of the cluster. Inter-campus ‘Reading Group’ events, which will take place throughout the year, will see participants convene via the international portal to discuss seminal texts related to the cluster’s central themes. The first reading group event will take place on Thursday 10 March. Also discussed was the possibility of a ‘Space, Place and the City’ symposium towards the end of 2016, presenting some of the collaborative research outcomes achieved throughout the year.

Alice and Ayten proposed three research questions to get participants thinking about potential avenues of research and collaboration.

1. What is a ‘city’? How do we define spaces within, or outside of, the cityspace?

2. What kinds of translation occur within and between cities? Does this differ from place to place (i.e. in London and in Melbourne)?

3. How are spaces constructed through human interaction? How does our physical movement through a place, or between two places, affect our understanding of space and belonging?

The plenary participants discussed these questions and showed, once again, how interactive and productive inter-campus events can be. A number of fascinating themes - including public space, cartography, urban design and architecture, accessibility, eco-criticism, migration and identity, place and belonging, performativity, and ‘nation’ studies (the trans-city?) - were explored, setting the scene for more profound and nuanced discussions to come and provoking a number of unforeseen juxtapositions (de Certeau and Google maps, urban interaction and entertainment, among many others). Stay tuned!

February 18, 2016

When Science Meets Theatre

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Maths and science have always been my strangers since I was young. I always hypnotise myself that I am very bad at numbers and science is just another world of mine. To see a performance talking about Quantum Mechanics sounded quite unappealing to me. Yet I was curious what it would turn out to be.

In the evening of 18th January 2016, I had a chance to see a solo performance called The Principle of Uncertainty. It was a part of the IAS visiting fellowship granted to Dr Andrea Brunello and entitled Jet Propulsion Theatre (JPT) at Warwick, which aims to convey science through theatre and to illustrate how science and humanities are connected.

The performance took place at a middle-sized lecture theatre in Zeeman Building, University of Warwick. We audiences were sitting in the room as if we were students waiting for the class to begin. When Dr Brunello, the main actor, entered the room we could notice that his role was a professor who was going to give us a lecture in the next following hour.

The topic focused on Quantum Mechanics and The Principle of Uncertainty. In the first place, I could feel that most of audiences (who I guessed most of them did not really related to these principles) seemed to be alienated from what the professor tried to explain. However, once the play kept going, the beauty of science was eventually unfolded. The lecture was not only astonishing but also entertaining.

This astonishing moment surprisingly reminded me my past when I was a little girl in a primary school. That girl used to enjoy learning maths and science and find that there was some kind of magic and miracle hidden behind there that she wanted to explore. However, when time passed and I went through a higher education, those magic and miracle finally disappeared. Maths and science turned to be boring lessons in massive tedious textbooks which I just needed to read, remember and fill them in answer sheets. My passion in maths and science was gone. Until that evening while I was watching the play, it unexpectedly came back again. It was the most enjoyablescience class I have been so far.

More importantly, the play did not aim to educate the audiences scientific theory. Instead, it connected the theory with our daily lives. When he compared the uncertainty in the momentum of an electron to the uncertainty of a human’s life, I was amazingly impressed. The play began with such a serious topic but smoothly ended up with a very simply touching feeling talking about love and loss. It also showed us that the similarity of science and the humanities was that we were not trying to understand everything but to understand that it was impossible to understand everything. In our lives, there has always been a certain kind of uncertainty, uncertainty is certain.

Having further chances to participate a public talk given by Dr Brunello discussing his project and to join the screening of his previous performance called Pale Blue Dot, as an audience, I think that what Dr Brunello is doing is precious. He employs his insightful scientific knowledge combining it with his skilful theatrical techniques to talk to audiences questioning about the world where we are all living in. His plays provoke me to think as a human who needs to be responsible for the world where I am living in and going to pass it forward to later generations.

Dr Brunello emphasises that his works are not educational plays that aim to teach audiences scientific theories and I strongly agree. Although his works significantly convey scientistic knowledge, it is not as important as how he relates it with our lives. His plays talk science, environment, politics, economics, cultures, future, past, loss and also love. Dr Brunello’s works shows a fine balance between science and theatre which is truly beneficial when different disciplines meet; when there is no boundary between theatre and numbers, when there is no line between feeling and thinking, when we perceive the world in wider lens and when science and humanities are genuinely bounded.

It may be questioned that whether Dr Brunello’s theatrical works will be able to improve education systems, mobilise societies or change the world. Speaking for myself, his plays may not suddenly persuade audiences to stage protest and change the world but I do believe that his works definitely grow something. As a theatrical work, it is impossible to evaluate its value and outcome by conducting questionnaires or surveys. On the other hand, it is like growing a very small flower on earth. One may see the flower’s beauty while others may think it is ugly. One may completely ignore it while others may truly adore it. It is impossible to control audiences’ thoughts. However, there is a scientific fact that the small flower provides more oxygen to the world. As well as Dr Brunello’s works, I believe that his plays have produced more oxygen to this world and I wish they could further persuade people to grow more flowers as he does.

Rubkwan Thammaboosadee

PhD Student

Theatre and Performance Studies

University of Warwick

January 13, 2016

University of Warwick Venice Transnational Summer School

This report has been contributed by Amaryllis Gacioppo, doctoral researcher in creative writing at Monash University. Amaryllis reports:

"Warwick University's Transnational Summer School brought together academics from the UK, Italy, and North America in order to provide the 12 PhD candidates involved a unique multidisciplinary learning opportunity. The four day course featured a series of master classes, creative workshops, readings, and lectures.

The Summer School promised to provide an interdisciplinary learning experience that would open our minds up to new research methodologies and current research being undertaken in the field of transnational Italian studies. Our first day in Venice consisted of a workshop on mobility and human subjectivities. While all of the seminars were illuminating, I was particularly taken with Shaul Bassi's presentation, which posed the question of how one makes their minority culture speak. This presentation was effectively structured around a collection of quotes, which acted as markers of thought throughout the talk, and offered an alternative way of structuring a conference paper.

The Summer School officially began the following day, with a welcome by organisers Loredana Polezzi and Jennifer Burns from Warwick University. This day featured a master class by Donna Gabaccia who spoke on her findings within disaporic studies, showing how attention to politics within migrant communities can result in the proliferation of deterritorialised transnationalism and awaken the question of where home is. We students were given an opportunity to present on our own research, giving us a prime opportunity to not only learn about other's projects, but to also consider how our research relates to issues of transnationality. We were also treated to a creativity workshop in which Italian writer Paola Pastacaldi gave a reading of her fiction, which involved itself with Italy's colonial past.

Day 2 involved presentation by Viviana Gravano on curating an exhibition, which provided a transnational framework with which to analyse exhibitions and encouraged the students to consider the challenges associated with in-site data collection. This presentation emphasised the importance of asking who is positioning data and how power comes into play when analysing it. We were also enlightened as to projects happening in Italy right now that are concerned with postcolonialism and art. This, coupled with Jane Da Mosto's talk on her organisation's work with the preservation of Venice, emphasised the necessity of a contemporary understanding of modern Italy in Italian Studies research projects. This day also featured a lecture and a master class, by Charles Burdett and Anthony Tamburri respectively. Burdett looked at how structures shape notions of selfhood within representations of Islam in Italy, while Tamburri discussed the narration and consumption of Italian identities in the US. For our second creativity workshop, we were treated to an interactive performance by the Cantieri Meticci.

Day 3 involved our group activities which found us exploring the sites of the Venice Biennale through self-directed data collection. Drawing from this data, we then gave presentations on our findings. This activity provided an opportunity to gain experience in group data collection and analysis. The day also included a lecture by Derek Duncan, who discussed the discourse of migrant subjectivities within Italian cinema. We were also given the opportunity to participate in private consultations with TML project investigators. This consultations were incredibly useful, as we were given individual time to discuss our own research projects, gaining invaluable insight into our research from experts in our fields.

The Summer School resulted in an enlightening multi-disciplinary learning experience, and I came away from it with new insight into my own research and methodologies. Not only this, but it was a fascinating learning experience that allowed me to survey and reflect upon current research being undertaken in my field. The insight gained has already influenced my approach to my project, providing me with new points of departure and allowing me to evolve my own analytical methodologies."

November 19, 2015

MITN Postgrad/ECR Workshop: Felix Nobis and Interdisciplinarity

MITN Postgraduates and Early Career Researchers

Event #2: Workshop with Dr Felix Nobis on Interdisciplinary and Collaborative Projects

Monash-Warwick International Portal, 28 October 2015

Our latest MITN event for postgraduates and early career researchers was introduced by Gavin Schwartz-Leeper, MITN project coordinator. He outlined the objectives for the group, including the long-term aim of producing collaborative projects funded by the Monash-Warwick Alliance. He then passed us over to Dr Felix Nobis (Monash Lecturer in Theatre and Performance Studies) who took us through an engaging and energetic workshop that established a strong standard to aim for in our future events.

Felix outlined some principles for interdisciplinary collaboration, emphasising that when two constituent bodies of knowledge come together they should aspire to meet on neutral terms, thereby establishing a ‘third space’ in which the collaboration takes place. The priority of each researcher in these collaborations should be to identify what their discipline may uniquely contribute to the collaboration. He gave us the example of his own collaborative project with Dr Chris Thompson from the Monash Faculty of Science, called ‘Open Space Learning: Chemistry Project’, which uniquely uses theatre techniques as a means of teaching elements of scientific knowledge, as well as seeking to equip science students to use performance techniques in the dissemination of their work.

Felix took us through a number of illustrative exercises from his project to teach some basic skills in understanding chemistry, utilising the Monash-Warwick International Portal’s renowned capacity for ‘embodied’ knowledge. Many thanks to Christian Griffiths on the Monash side for controlling the portal cameras so that we could engage more actively across the virtual classroom. The exercises certainly served to keep us alert and engaged, and it was clear that interdisciplinary engagement can lead to some startling and exciting results. Our hope is that Felix’s example will offer the postgraduates and early career researchers of MITN a standard to which they can aspire when forming research clusters and initiating collaborative projects.


Unfortunately, at the end of the workshop, the Warwick contingent had to vacate their portal room, and they consequently missed out on the discussion with Felix that followed. However, those that remained on the Monash end were able to draw some valuable lessons from the event.

  • Regan Maiquez asked a pertinent question about the interdisciplinary structure of Felix and Chris’s project. He noted that while it interpreted chemistry through theatre techniques, it did not seem to offer the opposite approach of examining theatre through chemistry methodologies. He suggested that certain theatre works from the early-modern, medieval and ancient periods could be potentially subject to analysis from scientific points of view. Felix acknowledged that this would be an interesting area to pursue in future collaborations.
  • Jessica Trevitt observed that Felix and Chris’s project combined two very disparate disciplines and therefore posed a challenge in terms of how they may be brought together. The collaborations that MITN is hoping to foster, however, take place between more closely-related disciplines, for example History and Literature, and so the specific benefits and challenges of interdisciplinary engagement may not be as apparent to participants. She suggested that by actively articulating and sharing our research methodologies, we might find ourselves in a better position to understand and embrace our potential as a network.
  • Daniela Scarcella told us about her PhD project, which represents an interdisciplinary engagement between translation studies and radio studies. She observed that Felix’s claim that interdisciplinarity produces a ‘third space’, was pertinent as she often felt that her work does not fit neatly into either of her constituent disciplines. However, rather than seeing this as a drawback, she positively embraces the idea that one’s own form of knowledge is unique and not structured by institutional categories. The group discussed the possibility of designing exercises that engage the two areas of her study, similar to those Felix has used in his project.
  • Angela Tarantini echoed Daniela’s thought and mentioned some educational initiatives in primary and secondary education where the idea of the ‘discipline’ has been eliminated from the syllabus, and is replaced by an interlinked domain of ‘knowledge’. Angela suggested that this radical departure from disciplinary thinking could represent a way forward in higher education also.

Coming up

We are looking forward to our next MITN postgraduate and early career researcher event (date TBC), which will take the form of participant presentations and group discussion. Its aim will be to build on our newly-formed research clusters, introducing their designated facilitators, and it will offer the opportunity to discuss possible directions for future projects. We encourage all who are interested to attend, and if you would like to propose ideas for research clusters or projects, please contact Jessica ( or Gioia (

August 19, 2015

Launch of the Migration, Identity, and Translation Network

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MITN Post-Launch Report

On August 10, Prof. Andrew Coats, the Academic Vice-President of the Monash-Warwick Alliance officially launched the Migration, Identity, and Translation Network (MITN):

MITN Launch 1

MITN’s launch was held at Translating Pain: An International Forum on Language, Text, and Suffering, hosted by the Australian Centre for Jewish Civilisation (ACJC). Translating Pain brought together a range of researchers working in genocide studies, literary studies, history, translation studies, the medical humanities, and law, to look at how pain is ‘translated’; or, how we conceptualize, transmit, and receive notions of pain. On Aug. 10, the Forum was opened by Prof. Seàn Hand, head of the School of Modern Languages and Linguistics (Warwick) with an opening keynote on ‘Translating pain: from expression to ethics in genocide testimony’. Prof. Hand considered Elaine Scarry’s critical notion of the ‘inexpressibility’ of pain through the lenses of literature about three of the major genocides of the twentieth century: the Holocaust (Elie Wiesel, La Nuit, 1958), the Cambodian genocide, (Rithy Panh, L’Elimination, 2012), and the Rwandan genocide (Jean Hatzfield, La stratégie des antilopes, 2007). Hand’s lecture dealt with how his three texts approached the ‘translation’ of the incomprehensible: how does the act of translation (either specifically in a process of linguistic articulation; or in a more broad sense of the communication of the observed and the inner self to the outside world) attempt to re/mediate between victims and perpetrators, observers and participants? Hand also discussed the role of French as a post-colonial and occasionally guiltily collaborative linguistic heritage in all three texts. Prof. Hand’s opening keynote touched on a number of themes that came to typify the Forum: the re/mediation of pain; the role of the observer in trauma-translation; the geopolitics of pain and its expressions.

Click here to watch Prof. Hand's opening keynote

Following Prof. Hand’s keynote lecture, Prof. Coats and the ACJC hosted the MITN launch. Academic Co-Directors Prof. Rita Wilson (Monash) and Loredana Polezzi (Warwick) laid out the role of MITN in facilitating international research exchange on issues relating to migration, identity, and translation. They introduced the Network team (Gavin Schwartz-Leeper, project officer; Kerryn Morey, project administrator; Jessica Trevitt, Monash PhD representative; Gioia Panzarella, Warwick PhD representative) and invited expressions of interest for collaborations.

Prof Coats

Prof. Coats marks the launch of MITN

Polezzi MITN Launch

Prof. Polezzi introduces MITN and invites contributions

On Aug. 11, Translating Pain hosted an academic colloquium designed to explore the ‘translation of pain’. With Noah Shenker (Monash) as chair, speakers discussed pre-circulated papers and define a shared sense of this theme. Papers dealt with a range of cultural, literary, linguistic, and sociological issues on Ebola in Sierra Leone, pyschoprophylaxis in the Soviet Union, the role of the archive in the Holocaust, portrayals of the Rwandan genocide, and memoirs from World War II.

Speakers: Rosanne Kennedy (ANU), David Simon (Yale), Beatrice Trefalt (Monash), Ernst van Alphen (Leiden), Paula Michaels (Monash), and Seán Hand (Warwick).

Simon MITN Launch

David Simon (Yale) discusses his paper, ‘Bounded Translations of Pain in Rwanda’

On Aug. 12, a wider group convened to hear papers presented in a traditional lecture format. The conference consisted of four sessions: ‘Narrating Pain’, ‘Interpreting Pain—medical and legal scenarios’, ‘Remembering Pain’, and ‘Representing the Pain of the “Other”’. The papers engaged most closely with representations of the memory of pain—the attempt to communicate the nature of prior suffering, either in interpersonal, intergenerational, or intercultural contexts.

Barbara SpadaroBarbara Spadaro (Bristol/Transnationalizing Modern Languages) delivers her paper on transcultural memories of the Libyan-Jewish diaspora.

These themes were brought together neatly by Prof. Ernst van Alphen’s closing keynote, ‘Second generation testimony: the transmission of trauma and postmemory’. Van Alphen looked at Carl Friedman’s novel Nightfather (1994) and the complex traumas of the generation of Jews born after the Holocaust. Doubly burdened with traumatised parents and the terrible weight of events they themselves never experienced, how do post-Holocaust Jews deal with the traumatic past? Engaging closely with Marianne Hirsch’s critical framework of ‘postmemory’, the lecture was also well-attended by members of Melbourne’s Jewish diaspora—themselves members of this ‘second generation’. The discussion about the nature of Holocaust ‘postmemories’, whether transmitted or constructed, made for an apt close to the proceedings.

Van Alphen Lecture MITN Launch

Click here to watch Ernst van Alphen's closing keynote

While Translating Pain officially concluded on Aug. 12, MITN and the ACJC hosted several more events related to the Forum and the launch of the Network. On Aug. 13,MITN hosted its first postgraduate virtual exchange and masterclass. Using the International Portal (a Monash-Warwick Alliance joint project), two cohorts of doctoral researchers at Monash and Warwick met to present their research and discuss possible areas for Monash-Warwick postgraduate and postdoctoral collaboration. Our MITN doctoral fellows (Jessica Trevitt and Gioia Panzarella) have written a post-exchange report that will be posted shortly. On Aug. 14, the final event of the week was a special screening of Peter Forgac’s 1997 film, The Maelstrom: A Family Chronicle. Like many of Forgacs’ works, The MaelstromForgacs used home films shot by two families: the Peerebooms, a Dutch Jewish family, and the Seyss-Inquarts, a German family tied to the Nazis.

Following on from Translating Pain, MITN is developing a number of projects and events that further explore our thematic strands in interdisciplinary contexts, ranging from work on the ‘global’ Renaissance to issues of multiculturalism in modern cities. MITN is also supporting developing projects on intercultural communication, blended learning environments, and cultural literacy. We are very eager to hear from potential collaborators from within Monash and Warwick as well as from external organizations. If you are interested in learning more, please visit our website at

August 06, 2015

Translating Pain


In my childhood home, Italy was locked up in glass cabinets, a universe of petrified leaf pendants and miniatures in gold: a shaving basin complete with brush and shearers, an ornate hand mirror the size of my pinkie nail, a parade of plumed horses pulling a Sicilian carriage, a Murano glass zoo of animal figurines, an abundant cornucopia given as a favour at a cousin's wedding from which burst a bouquet of grapes, apples, and mandarins. I knew where the key was kept and every bout of childhood boredom led me sneaking into this portal, which was not the past to the rural suburbia that curved and sloped out from our home, but one that I sensed was ever-present behind the veil of my waking world. The back of that imposing cabinet was mirrored, and as I played inspector my doubling mimicked me.


This temporal and cultural rupture resided within these objects, within the monochromatic prints of long-gone ancestors propped before stucco palazzi on the walls, within solid silver tea sets, one each for my brother and I once we came of age. Each relic was both beacon and tombstone, portal and artefact, inheritance and heritage of an origin that I seemed closest to when flung far from it. How to locate this absent presence, to grasp this shadow-land? Even as a child couching herself sensorially within the undefinable nostalgia of these relics, the anthropological evidence of this fleeting life only enhanced the suspicion that rather than carrying the ache of a phantom limb, my unmapped body was haunted, that a palintropic identity is only reachable at a remove.


These days that cabinet is unlocked yearly, when my mother polishes the silver to keep it from bluing. And I wonder whether our language isn't like that, cordoned off in museum-display stasis. Apart from picture books and an animated film adaptation of The Ugly Duckling, all our Italian-language literature and tapes were translations of English originals. Bookshelves boasted Hemingway, Joyce, Kerouac. My mother hated Neorealism, but we had in our collection the Julia Roberts catalogue. With the discovery of Fellini came the realisation that I was missing something, like context perhaps, or cultural currency. I realised that the life of language lay in nuances, idioms, references, which meant nil translated literally. Suddenly my Italian seemed skeletal, mere sketch. There are times when I feel dual fluency to be a grandiose claim, when a request to translate a phrase I have used my whole life leaves me stumped, when I want to say that translation is impossible, that the only way to understand is to flip one's brain to its underside, when I suspect my lingual legacy to be a 1970s-era souvenir incubated within my childhood home, and that there are turns of phrase I will never understand, not even with a dictionary. What is fluency? How does one translate the hidden fissures of both selves? We need a vocabulary for the intermediary slope between two points, for permanent residence in the halfway home, for the frictive path of lifelong transit where home becomes both plural and verb.

-Amaryllis Maria Pia Gacioppo
MITN PhD Researcher (Monash)

July 09, 2015

Global Shakespeare: Lost or Found in Translation?

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Back in June I had the opportunity to attend a fantastic and unusual event at the Warwick Arts Centre, run by the Global Shakespeare project (a collaboration between the University of Warwick and Queen Mary, University of London). Over the past week, the arts company Dash Arts (co-directed by Josephine Burton and Tim Supple) has been working with a range of actors from all over the world to present localized Shakespearean traditions and modes, and to work towards what a 'global Shakespeare' might look like.

As part of these workshops, Tim Supple and the participating actors invited the public to a special event where multilingual extracts from King Learwere performed in a series of improvised and startlingly fresh vignettes. Joined by Global Shakespeare director David Schalkwyk, internationally renowned scholar and translator Alfredo Modenessi and longtime Guardian drama critic Michael Billington, Supple led a discussion about what the term 'global Shakespeare' might mean, to actors, directors, and theatre audiences as well as to academics and critics.

I'd class myself as something of a skeptic about 'global Shakespeare'--while I believe deeply in the value and utility of performing Shakespeare's texts in as many cultural, temporal, and linguistic contexts as possible, I'm concerned about the value of many performances: what do they achieve? More specifically, is the effect of these performances always positive? Is performing Shakespeare in non-English contexts a productive way to explore the effects of colonialism, or is it a tool of colonialism? How does a Shakespearean identity (if we can use that term) interact with the rich variety of cultural and individual identities of readers and performers?

I was really pleased to hear the discussion move to address exactly these issues; while I'm not sure we arrived at a definitive and wholly satisfactory answer, the discussion itself demonstrated not just the multiplicity of Shakespeares and their ongoing value, but the importance of exploring the foundational issues raised by 'global Shakespeare' as a concept. It was the process that was the purpose of the workshop, and it was energizing and exciting to see that enacted not just through academic discussion, but also through the practical exploration of staging these Shakespeares. Beyond the loftier questions, it was just wonderful as an aesthetic experience: when it comes down to it, that's what I love and appreciate most about Shakespeare.

May 26, 2015

The Dark Would

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Last week I had the pleasure of attending a really special two-day event hosted by the Institute for Advanced Teaching and Learning (IATL) at Warwick: The Dark Would. Established by an IATL project team (Rebecca Fisher, Amy Clarke, and Naomi de la Tour) in conjunction with some of the work Naomi did with Phil Gaydon on the IATL module 'Applied Imagination', the Dark Would is both a physical space and an approach to creative reflection and communication. The event allowed participants to experience both: we were able to explore the Dark Would in the morning of the first day, and spent the afternoon in workshops. Overnight, the Dark Would was transformed by a team of artists; while I wasn't able to attend on the second day, I've been informed reliably that it's just fantastic.

So, what is the Dark Would? It's a space filled with activities designed to take you out of the everyday and allow you to connect with your research, your teaching, your learning, and yourself in a way that you'll have to experience to understand. The darkened, dream-like setting engages all your senses and encourages you to embrace a child-like state of learning. But don't be misled into thinking it's an adult playspace; the activities presented in the Dark Would have solid pedagogical research behind them, and they are meant to shape your research and teaching/learning in fundamentally practical ways. I won't reveal too much--that'd ruin the mystery--but I highly recommend checking it out whenever you have an opportunity to do so.

Following the Dark Would experience, I was able to visit some of the drop-in sessions that had been set up. One of the spaces was open for creative expressions in a curated space and asked to create artistic responses to prompts like, 'how would you draw your learning and teaching?' I enjoyed it, but I was absolutely astonished by the second drop-in session, 'I stole this from the internet', developed by Cat Powers-Freeling from her 'Applied Imagination' module assessment last term. Cat presented a wide-ranging collection of items that she described succinctly as herself. She sat in the middle of her things and told stories about the objects. The objects were themselves an eloquent monument to the complexity of the average student (though Cat is far from 'average' in a perjorative sense!); items included medication, poetry Cat wrote when she was a teen, toys with emotional meaning from childhood. These were emotional objects, and Cat's ruminations on the objects were profound and profoundly moving. But it wasn't just an artistic exposure of the inner self--though as that, the session was magnificent--it was also a well-considered exploration of the student experience (or, at least, one student's experience). This was an excellent example of a holistic approach to education, to developing a complex and multi-tiered teacher-student-classroom relationship that was energizing and inspiring.

The workshops were more traditional, in some respects, but that's a relative measure. I attended 'Becoming a Beginner: Science Busking' with Sarah Cosgriff from the University of Birmingham's STEMnet. Sarah led us through her range of accessible science-based activities, showing us how to think more creatively about how we bring our research to the public (and what the public brings back to our research!). At the same time, Rachel King (Warwick) led a workshop on ecopedagogies, and Robbie Foulston ran a workshop on his work bringing clowning to professionals. I was disappointed to miss those--I heard nothing but good things about all the workshops.

In the second timeslot, I attended 'All grown up-ish: primary school pedagogy in a university setting' with Pav Ghuman (a primary school teacher at Earlsdon Primary) and Phil Gaydon (a PhD student at IATL/Philosophy). Pav and Phil discussed their work on how they bring university-level philosophy to young children, and how these philosophical issues can be connected to the students' experience through their physical environment. We discussed approaches to these learning processes in the HE sector, and had a really exciting conversation about student ownership of teaching space. Also held during this timeslot was Paul Taylor's (Leeds) presentation on 'Day/Night Science', about the role of creativity and interdisciplinarity in the sciences; we also had Ali Pidsley from IATL Student Ensemble leading a workshop on imagination.

Finally, I attended Alison James' (University of the Arts London) session on 'reflection for teachers and learners'. Alison led us through a cyclical process of reflection and discussion that helped anchor some of the thoughts and emotions the day had produced. I missed out on Jonathan Heron (IATL)'s session on how to 'Fail Better' and George Ttoouli's (Warwick Writing Programme) seminar on 'Using Constraints Creatively' as a result, but both these themes came out in Alison' session as well. Though participants had a wide range of experiences and reactions (naturally!), it was fascinating to see how similar our reflections were, in a broad sense; though the workshops were varied, we all felt that they'd brought problems (or opportunities, if I can make that comparison straight-faced) very clearly into focus. How can we teach students in an honest, accessible, egalitarian way that doesn't sacrifice rigor and the abstract with an over-focus on practical training? And yet, paradoxically, shouldn't practicality lie at the heart of education?

These big questions were discussed in a spirited roundtable led by Christina Hughes involving Cath Lambert, Ruth Leary, Alison James, Jonathon Heron, Ollie Higgins (a Chemisty finalist), and Cat Powers-Freeling (the same student who ran the curated emotional objects session I raved about earlier). The contributors did an excellent job connecting theory, practice, and reception (as exemplified by the day's events as well as in broader contexts), and it was really thrilling to hear how the attendees were able to connect the often abstract events of the day with their own experiences, both in terms of personal practice as well as with the wider HE sector (this was only a few days after the UK general election, after all).

Disappointingly, I had to miss the second day (though for a good reason: I was leading a workshop on 'digital networking and communication' at the Warwick Doctoral Training Programme at the Warburg Institute, run by Warwick's Centre for the Study of the Renaissance--more on that later). I was particularly upset to miss the reinvention of the Dark Would, which was the centerpiece of the second day. Michelle Bailey and her team of artists physically built a new space that really captures the dream-like quality of the Dark Would; Alex Miles composed music and sounds to accompany the exploration of the space, and the whole thing was filmed and photographed by Ben Cook. I should say that the participating artists didn't simply build a new set, or take a few pictures; they were all invited to incorporate the Dark Would process into their own work, and did so with wonderful results--Ben Cook's 'influence map' and forthcoming video projects in particular are just incredible examples of the imaginative power of the Dark Would.

May 11, 2015

Warwick/UKCISA Integration Summit

While we're working busily behind the scenes here at MITN to get things up and running--and we do have some wonderful projects and collaborations in the works--I thought I'd write a little about the Warwick/UKCISA Integration Summit that I attended this past week as a wonderful example of Warwick's efforts to better develop its international outlook. This was the fourth annual summit that brings together academics, HE administrative staff, Students' Unions officers and staff, students, and UKCISA staff to address how we can better integrate home and international students.

This year's theme was 'What makes a global student?' A major strategic priority for Warwick (among many UK universities), we know that potential employers are increasingly vocal about their preference for--indeed, reliance on--graduates that can comfortably move between cultures, either physically or within international teams. Students themselves are increasingly focused on post-graduation employability and skills development, which has created tension in universities between the demands of skills-focused employers and students, and more traditional academic degree programs that provide 'softer' skills. Events like the Integration Summit are excellent ways to bring together some of the key groups that can negotiate these tensions in a productive fashion.

We were welcomed to the Summit by Warwick pro-vice chancellor Prof. Jan Palmowski and Cat Turhan, Warwick SU president, who both reflected on the three summits which preceded this one and anchored the themes of the event in personal experience and insights.

The first keynote was given by Prof. Helen Spencer-Oatey, director for the Warwick Centre for Applied Linguistics. She spoke about ongoing research conducted using the Student and International Student Barometers, where she and colleagues inserted questions regarding international/intercultural friendships and classrooms. Her findings were fascinating, demonstrating that students perceive that intercultural working groups are more important for developing intercultural skills than multicultural friendship groups--a real surprise to many of us in the audience. Having recently taught a group of students split between traditional and Further Education (FE) degree programs, Prof. Spencer-Oatey's talk made me wonder if the same might hold true not just for geographically-disparate cultural groups, but also for microcultural groups divided by class, gender, or linguistic markers: opportunities for further research!

The second keynote was given by Prof. Juliana Roth (Ludwig Maxmilians University, Munich) and provided a fascinating contrast for the UK delegates. Prof. Roth described how the German HE system--with tuition fully funded by the government for all students--has felt significantly less pressure to attract fee-paying international students than UK institutions. Prof. Roth considered some of the effects of these differing pressures; German institutions can feel less international amongst both staff and students, with support for international staff/students lacking as a result, but institutions are under less pressure to provide wide-ranging (and expensive!) support for international students. Prof. Roth raised a number of questions about how these forces might shape the German HE experience, both for home and international students.

The two keynotes were very present in my mind as I moved on to the afternoon workshops. Unfortunately, we could only attend two of the three workshops offered--by all accounts, all three were really useful. I attended Session 2: Digital Networks: Connecting Students Worldwide, which was divided into two parts. First up was Matt Lloyd (Sheffield), who presented on the University of Sheffield's Student Union project on 'Virtual Cultural Exchange', co-hosted by the Islamic University of Gaza. Students met virtually on a weekly basis for themed discussions designed to promote cultural exchange. Interactions were synchronous (using Skype) and asynchronous (using email), and culminated in a 'virtual dinner party'. Student feedback was overwhelmingly positive, demonstrating that virtual communities can react positively to structure and overcome initial social difficulties. Part 2 was led by Teresa MacKinnon (Warwick), who provided an overview of the more developed Clavier project, which now connects over a thousand students around the world. Theresa discussed how we can use examples like the Clavier project to better integrate Online Intercultural Exchange (OIE) into more traditional classroom settings. The scope of the Clavier project and its organic growth far beyond the original parameters invisaged by the project team was inspiring, especially for those of us using virtual classroom tools.

Following lunch, I attended Session 3: 'Gone International: Enhancing Intercultural Competence through Study Abroad', which was also divided into two parts. Part 1 looked at the UK Higher Education International Unit's report on study abroad impact, and was presented by Leo Boe (formerly the Warwick SU president, now working for UKHIEU). Leo's talk was astonishing and painted a very clear picture: study abroad improves student experience, achievement, and employment in virtually every aspect. As a former study abroad participant, I can attest to its transformative effect myself, but it was wonderful to hear so many similar stories. Less encouraging was how few UK students take up these opportunities: 1.1% (as compared to about 4% of US undergraduates). More well-off students also tended to take up study abroad opportunities, and this is an area of real personal concern; it'd be really useful to think about how we can support and encourage BME and otherwise underrepresented student groups to take up study abroad programs. Part 2 was led by Emily Lim (Warwick International Office) and Sophie Reissner-Roubicek (Warwick Centre for Applied Linguistics), who discussed the CAL/IO collaborative effort to produce a supporting program for Warwick study abroad students. In addition to showing us the fantastic online preparatory/reflective module taken by study abroad students, Emily and Sophie were able to talk through how they were able to interview study abroad students and gain really valueable insights into the personal effects of study abroad. As a model for approaching intercultural communication education and study abroad support, Sophie and Emily's talk was extraordinary, and if you have the opportunity to check out their online module, I can't recommend it strongly enough.

As I mentioned above, I didn't get to check out Session 1, but here's the abstract, taken from the day's program:

"Succeeding in a Global Job Market: Articulating Intercultural Experiences for Increased Employability.

This interactive session will explore research from NUS UK and NUS Scotland on global employment and employability, looking at both international and UK students. It will draw on good practice from across the University of London Colleges and showcase how Careers services such as UCL, Kings College London, Royal Holloway and Queen Mary University of London train students to be employees in a global workplace.

Delegates attending the session will gain an understanding of global employment and employability for both international and home students. The workshop will provide a broader understanding of how we can help students recognise where they have gained an international outlook and intercultural skills from a year abroad or overseas internship, and how this can be marketed to potential international employers.

The session will also invite delegates to consider how we can equip students for an international job-search and hear about some of the ways this is being done at the University of London.

Joy Elliot Bowman, NUS and Abi Sharma,The Careers Group, University of London"

Unfortunately I had to run and miss the final wrap-up discussions of best practice, but I've been thinking for the past few days about how to bring in some of the discussions to my own teaching and research, as well as that of the wider MITN efforts. I was really struck that all this talk about the 'global student', virtual classroom tools, MOOCs, and intercultural experience really boils down to the overwhelming--even primary--importance of providing multicultural and international learning environments for allof our students. To provide these, we'll need to think much more carefully about how HE institutions operate in restricted funding landscapes to provide organic, authentic, and above all, accessiblemulticultural experiences for students--and just as importantly, provide training for support and academic staff. The Monash-Warwick Alliance is a great model for how institutions can provide these experiences in an austerity-friendly format, since both instutitions gain access to the others' resources for a fraction of the cost of investing in branch campuses or international residential programs (for example). Got any other thoughts? Get in touch!

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