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July 10, 2008

FWSA Seminar: Welsh Women's Writing: Jane Aaron's Keynote Speech

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On Monday 7th July 08, I attended the FWSA symposium on ‘Welsh Women’s Writing: Voice, Space, Identity’. The day began with a keynote speech by Jane Aaron on ‘Women Writing Welsh Gothic.’ Aaron began by pointing out the nineteenth century enthusiasm for all things Celtic. This meant that the Celtic setting and characters appeared in Welsh Gothic texts and often they were written by women. Some examples were in the tourist literature genre featuring visitors to Wales and their experience of horrid thrills. For example, The Tower, or the Romance of Ruthyne by Sarah Landes, Anzoletta Zadowski by Ann Howells, in which women are trapped in Gothic locations in Wales. Welsh women writers on the other hand often set their Gothic plots in English locations, such as Anna Maria Bennett’s Ellen, Countess of Castle Howel. Aaron suggests that this might be a way for these writers to critique English class. In Mary Robinson’s Angelina: a novel, the heroine voluntarily lives in a Welsh ruin after being ruined by an English husband. English society is a destructive force here. I don’t want to say too much about Jane Aaron’s paper as I believe that she is writing it up for publication, but she discussed the aforementioned issues in relation to a range of nineteenth-century texts including Ann of Swansea’s Cambrian Pictures and Sophia Lee’s short story, ‘The Clergyman’s Tale,’ but she also includes more modern texts such as Mary Jones’ Resistance, Bertha Thomas’ short stories, Menna Gallie’s The Small Mine, and Rachel Tresize’s In and Out of the Fish Bowl.

April 03, 2007

Women Writing Rape (28th April 2007)

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This is just a note to remind you about a symposium that is being organised at the University of Warwick entitled ‘Women Writing Rape: Literary and Theoretical Narratives of Sexual Violence’ (Saturday 28th April 2007). The symposium emerges from the failure of feminism in theorising rape. It seems to have been left to women writers to interrogate the representation of women and rape and this event aims to analyse how these writers have subverted terms such as ‘victim’, ‘experience’, ‘survivor’, ‘active’ and ‘passive’.

The keynote speaker, Dr. Ananya Jahanara Kabir of University of Leeds, will be speaking on the politics and polemics of how rape is represented in contemporary South Asia. Her talk is titled: ‘Double Violation? (Not)Talking about Rape in Contemporary South Asia’. There will be two panels of speakers on the topic of women writing rape. In addition, there will be a reading of cutting-edge creative work by the novelist Patricia Duncker and a creative writing workshop. The event is supported by the Feminist and Women Studies Association and by departments at the University of Warwick including the Centre for Caribbean Studies, English and Comparative Literary Studies and the Centre for Women and Gender.

If you could pass on this information to colleagues, I would be extremely grateful. I include the programme in the body of this post. For more information see our website:


Women Writing Rape: Literary and Theoretical Narratives of Sexual Violence

Saturday 28th April 2007

All papers, readings and workshops will take place in the Social Studies Building, Ground Floor, Room S0.20.

09.30 Registration and Coffee (Social Studies Café, Ground Floor)

10.00 Welcome and introduction

10.10 Keynote Speaker: Dr. Ananya Jahanara Kabir, University of Leeds: ‘Double Violation? (Not)Talking about Rape in Contemporary South Asia’

11.00 Panel 1: Women Writing Rape Chaired by Dr. Rashmi Varma (3×15 minute papers plus fifteen minutes for discussion)

*Dr Zoë Waxman, Royal Holloway, University of London – ‘Testimony and Silence: Sexual Violence and the Holocaust’
*Fiona McCann, Université Paris III – ‘Writing Rape and Torture: Dissolution, Dismemberment and Resistance in Yvonne Vera’s The Stone Virgins and Zoe Wicomb’s David’s Story’
*Catherine Marks, University of Southampton – ‘The Power of Dreams: Sexual Violence in Frantz Fanon’s ‘Algeria Unveiled’ and Buchi Emecheta’s The Joys of Motherhood’

12.00 Lunch (Social Studies Café)

13.00 Panel 2: Women Writing Rape (Chair tba) (3×15 minute papers plus fifteen minutes for discussion)

*Dr Lisa Fitzpatrick, University of Ulster – ‘The Representation of Rape in the Work of Sarah Kane and Marina Carr’
*Deborah Finding, London School of Economics – ‘“Thanks for making me a fighter”: Sexual Violence Narratives in Popular Music’
*Christine Holly, University of York – ‘“To Have and to Hold, but not to Violate”: Deconstructing Newspaper Representations of Marital Rape’

14.00 Fiction Reading By Prof. Patricia Duncker

14.45 Coffee Break

15:15 Creative Writing Workshop Run by Zoë Brigley

16.15 Summing Up and Close

February 08, 2007


Writing about web page

Women Writing Rape:
Literary and Theoretical Narratives of Sexual Violence

A Half-Day Symposium at the University of Warwick ~ Saturday 28th April 2007

Funded and Organised by the Feminist &Women’s Studies Association (FWSA)
Featuring: Dr. Ananya Jahanara Kabir, University of Leeds

This symposium proposes to bring together academics with an interest in feminism and gender studies across a variety of discourses, including Literary Studies, History, Sociology, Legal Studies, and Creative Writing. The central aim is to consider how rape is theorised in contemporary feminism. The symposium will encourage dialogue between literary narratives of rape and theoretical aspects of feminist debates about sexual violence.

In her 2002 article, ‘Toward a New Feminist Theory of Rape’, Corinne M. Mardorossian argues that for British and American feminisms, ‘[r]ape has become academia’s undertheorized and apparently untheorizable issue’. Mardorossian asks why there is such ‘stagnation in the theorizing of sexual violence precisely at a time when the body is so high on the feminist scholars’ list of priorities’ and she seeks to understand this phenomenon. Mardorossian demands an alternative feminist theory that addresses these problems i.e. that ‘does not accept existing premises and established “truths” but problematizes them by asking alternative questions and offering different conceptions’. However, some feminists have criticised Mardorossian’s suggestions for a solution at the end of her article, because they are rooted in challenging representations rather than in detailed sociological research. Mardorossian demands that feminists ‘resist the facile opposition between passivity and agency’. She concludes that ultimately feminists must ‘theorize and reconceptualize the meanings of categories such as “victim” and “experience” rather than merely criticize their use’.

Despite the claim that feminism has failed to re-theorise rape, this symposium aims to show that the kind of subversive representational deconstruction demanded by Mardorossian is already being performed in contemporary literary texts that deal with sexual violence. We are particularly interested in papers that deal with subversive literary texts that perform one of the following strategies:
• rethinking categories such as “victim” and “experience” in relation to rape narratives;
• subverting the notion of a “gender script”;
• undermining active/passive binaries;
• questioning the separation of rape from an experiential perspective;
• reasserting the importance of women’s experience;
• recognising relations of power and panopticism in representations of rape;
• undermining media representations of ‘real’ and ‘fake’ victims.
Some writers that might make interesting case studies are novelists like Yvonne Vera, J.M. Coetzee and Toni Morrison, or poets like Selima Hill, Pascale Petit and Sharon Olds.

The symposium will include a keynote speech by Dr. Ananya Jahanara Kabir on the topic of how rape is represented in contemporary South Asia. There will also be a creative writing workshop for delegates that provides ways into rethinking categories such as ‘active’, ‘passive’ and ‘victim’. Negotiations are being made for the proceedings to be published.

Deadline for Abstracts: 21st of March 2007
Please send abstracts of no more than 300 words for 15 – 20 minute papers. Please send by e-mail (in the e-mail body or by attached Word document) to Sorcha Gunne (

January 08, 2007

A BAVS Postgraduate Interdisciplinary Conference

This conference looks really interesting…

From House to Home

The University of Warwick, Saturday 3rd March 2007

Keynote Speaker: Dr. Catherine Spooner, the University of Lancaster (author of Fashioning Gothic Bodies,Manchester University Press, 2004)

The aim of this postgraduate conference is to tackle issues concerning representations of houses and homes in Victorian literature and art. Through the panels and discussions we hope to bring to light many of the roots of our twenty-first century cultural assumptions. We envisage that the conference will be of relevance to MA and PhD students working in the field of Victorian studies.

We invite proposals for papers lasting no more than fifteen minutes from post-graduate students on any of the following topics:
• Ideas of the spiritual home.
• Gender and the ideological construction of home. How far is the house a feminised domesticated space? Is the home a safe space for women or an oppressive prison? Male and female domains and the negotiation of gendered space.
• Family dramas and the private self.
• The haunted house and the uncanny: Ghosts, spectres and the domestication of the Victorian Gothic.
• Explorations of interior space: How significant are the cultural representations of certain rooms? For example, the parlour, the bedroom, the staircase, and the dining room.
• Employment in the home: The Victorian governess, seamstress, cook, and servant.
• The relationship between the home and the socio-political sphere. How far is the home a microcosm of wider Victorian society? The home-front: The Victorian ideology of home in relation to the wider British Empire.

Please send abstracts of no more than 200 words to Lizzie Ludlow and Madeleine Wood at
by 10th January 2007.

For a booking form and further details please visit our website:


University of Warwick, Friday 15th and Saturday 16th June 2007

Confirmed Plenary Speakers: Mary Eagleton and Ali Smith

Call for Papers

This postgraduate conference invites proposals for papers that seek to interrogate the term ‘contemporary women’s writing’ and its usefulness to young scholars working in this field: is the classification ‘dead’ or ‘alive’? The conference follows the success of the inaugural Contemporary Women’s Writing Network (CWWN) conference held in Bangor, April 2006. We aim to provide a platform for the exchange of postgraduate research interests in this area and wish to encourage wide-ranging discussion on the reading, writing, teaching and studying of all aspects of contemporary women’s writing.

Suggested topics include (but are not limited to) the relationship between contemporary women’s writing and:
  • the contemporary canon
  • feminist poetics / theory / practice
  • genre
  • identity/ies (eg. race, class, sexuality, gender)
  • transculturalism and/or transnationalism
  • translation
  • writing the body
  • the tyranny of the novel and the devaluing of other forms
  • alternatives to the book (eg. magazines, pamphlets, hypertext fiction, blogs)
  • the celebrity writer
  • creativity / creative writing

We define ‘contemporary women’s writing’ in the broadest sense and actively encourage submissions on a range of texts and media.

Proposals for papers (250 words) of no longer than twenty minutes in length should be sent by e-mail to: by March 15th 2007

October 23, 2006

Comments on the Cambridge Poetry Festival on Secret Mint Blog

Writing about web page

See the entry ‘Leslie Scalapino & Elizabeth James report from Cambridge Poetry Festival’. The link is above on Secret Mint Blog, posted Thursday October 19th 2006.

October 05, 2006

Oxford Conference: More Thoughts

Writing about web page,,1873614,00.html

About this Oxford debacle…

OK, so some people that were not able to give a paper, but many others were, some on mainstream poets like Heaney, Muldoon, Duffy, Oswald, Boland, Larkin etc. but some non-mainstream. These non-mainstream talks may not have been flying into the outer space of experimentalism, but the conference included a talk on various absurdist prose-poem writers by Luke Kennard, Nigel McLoughlin talking about stress weight in Northern Irish dialect poetry (a topic rather neglected), Alexandra Davies on poetry and dyslexia, Abi Curtis discussing critical discourse using the machine metaphor, Jonathan Ellis on Catriona O’Reilly, Claire Crowther on Lee Harwood and others, Alex Wylie on Geoffrey Hill etc. I don’t think that these poets are really ‘mainstream’ even if they are not wildly experimental.

Here are my thoughts about Farley’s article which has been much criticised by Geraldine Monk (See letter titled ‘Streams of Consciousness ’.

Farley’s argument in his article goes like this:
1. Farley doesn’t like the label ‘mainstream’ poet – he struggles with money and recognition as much as the next poet, he says, and poetry is a backwater anyway – this is probably true. Most poets do struggle, even mainstream ones. OK so he enjoys the privileges of ‘being mainstream: academic post, national reviews, prizes’, but I am sure that it is not so easy being a mainstream poet.
2. Donaghy ‘learned to regard tradition and form in a larger sense than the academic one’.
3. Beat poets in the US drew attention away from the forms that Donaghy liked and from a kind of literary poetry. Nothing to do with British experimental poets. See summary below if you don’t believe me.

(Here’s the crucial part about Donaghy importing ‘a sense of mid-century American formalism to a British audience who’d either forgotten about it or never encountered it’. Farley describes Donaghy noticing ‘how the Beats were blocking out the light even as the revolution slowed down – Ginsberg’s “Howl” was published in 1956, a couple of years after he was born, but by the time he sat his Graduate Record Exam, the first question related to that poem (you could fail an exam on Ginsberg!)’. In the specific context of ‘the States’, Farley writes: ‘He’d seen “underground” or “experimental” poets in the States networking their way to the centre of an academic marketplace, becoming powerful cultural arbiters in the process’. The consequence of this according to Farley was that: ‘Literary taste vanished, or was banished, from the curriculum when he was a student’.)

4. Farley explains that Donaghy preferred England precisely because it had a mainstream and Donaghy ‘saw “mainstream” differently’.

(In the US, apparently, ‘literary poetry was confined to an academic subculture’ while over here it had more coverage even if those “mainstream” poets that were covered were branded ‘as sentimental philistines’.)

5. Donaghy wanted British academia to engage more with ‘emergent and contemporary verse.’

(Farley’s argument here seems to be that “mainstream” poetry is ‘often traduced as being hopelessly in thrall to a long-discredited lyric “I”, plying its naive, post-Romantic trade in a world broken into thousands of pieces’. He thinks in contrast that “mainstream” poetry is the inheritor of a formal tradition. He also throws in a comment about how modernism broke the bond ‘between poetry and its readers’, a common view expressed by many poets, such as Eavan Boland in her essay in Strong Words. The implication is that mainstream poetry can fix this problem.)

6. Farley throws in a note here about marketing and poetry. Farley doesn’t think that poets alter their work for the market. But he does think that poetry criticism is so concerned with ‘awards and prizes, on a perceived sense of hype over here and concurrent neglect over there, that any insightful consideration of form and shape and the constructed-ness of poems seems to have fallen by the wayside’
7. The conference at Oxford is supposed to be an antidote to this bringing the mainstream poets and the academy together.

So to Geraldine’s points. Farley never said that he was anti-experimental as such. He did express a view of Donaghy’s, that experimental poets in the US pushed out literary poetry though. The context is the States not here. He does not conflate these US experimental poets with today’s British experimental in any way at all (See point 3).

Also he never says that the aim of the conference is to re-engage with the reader, but he does say that mainstream poetry and the tradition of literary poetry can mend the break between reader and writer. (See point 5).

Geraldine did have a point in her letter when she suggested that Farley saw experimental poetry as having no concern with form. She is right that form is integral to experimental poetry.

September 28, 2006

Oxford Conference: A Storm in a Teacup

Writing about web page

Someone has taken my summaries of the conference and transformed them into ‘DIRT DISHER WORLD EXCLUSIVECARNAGE @ THE OXFORD COMA-THON’ on thepoem forum. I have to say that I did have a good laugh at it, but there are a few notes that I would like to add:

1. I don’t ask for ‘poetic unity’ in the Longley entry, just tolerance. I don’t see why people have to get so heated beacuse someone is working in a different way to them.

2. Apparently I ‘smoulder a green-eyed flash, hinting at the wildcat within’, because I say, ‘I can only think that it emerges from the difficulties of being published and poet’s insecurities’. I didn’t mean to say that Longley was insecure, just that poets tend to be. That’s teh nature of teh beast. I’ll change this so that it’s clearer.

3. Maybe this is not clear, but Buxton is not attacking Muldoon in her talk when she describes how ‘a word, line or phrase is repeated to create a wearying monotony mimetic of tedium’, she thinks that this is a good thing, something that Muldoon is using for a specific effect.

4. Perhaps I was a little harsh when I stated that I was not reporting the final speaker’s paper in the Muldoon panel because of his rude behaviour, but I wanted to show my disapproval.

5. The conference was not particularly about men and women, it’s just that I am interested in gender and so those were the sessions that I attended.

Basically the post on thepoem is made of cut-up extracts from my entries chosen to provoke the most controversy and to misrepresent the conference, which was a very worthwhile event. However it warping of the entries and the conference is very funny and I did have a good laugh at it.

September 26, 2006

Oxford Poetry Conference: Edna Longley on Anthologies

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Edna Longley’s talk on ‘Anthologising Contemporary Poetry: Traditions and Cults’ was something of a disappointment to me and I will explain why in a moment. Longley began her talk by citing Marjorie Perloff who states that the anthology is dead because poems have now become free on the web. Longley argues that this is not the case because anthologies till have the job of signalling tastes and positions.

Longley tells us that she is going to focus on two anthologies:
• Vanishing Points: New Modernist Poems (VP) ed. by Rod Megham and John Kinsella
• New British Poetry (NBP) ed. by Don Paterson and Charles Simic

Longley now begins to think about terminology, ‘contemporary’ for example. She notes how some ‘contemporary’ anthologies of the past have included dead poets. She notes how Yeats became an anthology staple in England in the thirties, but not until the sixties in Ireland. In NBP, Paterson is having dialogue with the English lyric and apparently, he is of the opinion that one cannot erase tradition. Kinsella traces a trajectory through Sydney onwards but his view, apparently, is not traditional but rather sees national, regional versions of poetry.

To suggest that an anthology is ‘international’ is suspect for Longley, because to her, it suggests a virtual space lacking in time. Longley believes that the phrase ‘international’ masks regional and national views of poetry. She wonders, for example, how Irish poetry can fit into the Anglo-American domination?

She also dislikes the label, ‘poetries’, since although it appeals to pluralism, it in fact, according to Longley, masks monism. The sectional or cult poetry in fact excludes the mainstream and works from negatives, exclusive doctrines, shunning, a sense of superiority and a sense of persecution. Longley picks out here Geoffrey Hill and J.H. Prynne who exist supposedly in ‘a desert of difficulty’. She also picks out Herd and Potts who favourably reviewedThe Failure of Conservatism in Modern British Poetry. The author, Andrew Duncan, apparently studies conceptual poetry. Longley is anxious that formal play is too linked to the academy and the theoretical basis of such poetry. She notes how in VP poems are linked to a body of concepts.

Longley moves on here to discuss the aspirational blurring of poetry and politics. Poetry is described as a weapon etc. Could the political term ‘poetries’ be of value? Longley states that a critique of essentialism and multiplicity of practice militate against its value. Is ‘poetries’ simply an excuse for including bad poetry? In VP, Longley thinks that Mengham has a dilemma between not wanting to produce rivalry, but also to show the special value of the poets included. Roberts thinks that there can be singular or multiple values, where as Paterson prefers American free-wheeling.

It is at this point that Longley starts to set out her own values particularly concerning work that she considers to be anti-poetry. In these poems, the form is visual and there is no rhyme, voice etc. Longley here compares Prynne and MacNeice who both present formal clashes and subvert grammar etc. to cross boundaries. However Longley suggests that the grammatical risk taken in Prynne happens for its own sake. For Longley, ordinary words are stranger and hence more effective in MacNeice than in Prynne’s ‘theoretically informed poetry. Longley turns to Hill’s blending of the lyric and criticism drawn from the world of knowledge. Longley asks, is it a poem or a raid on a zeitgeist? Longley sees it as writing prescribed by academic readings. Poets are recruited by the academy in a Faustian bargain.

At this point she compared two poems, one by Prynne and one by MacNeice and proceeded to use MacNeice as a stick to beat Prynne with. I found this extremely ironic as she seemed to be doing something of which she accuses factional poetry groups: being negative, having exclusive doctrines, shunning, keeping a sense of superiority and a sense of persecution.

Basically, in her paper, Longley tries to show that some of the terminologies used by anthologists (poetries, international, contemporary) mask assumptions that in her mind are wrong. She is probably right here to some extent. However she ruins her own argument through her own intolerance and the presentation that ensues is sometimes a rant about poets that she dislikes. I don’t understand the lack of tolerance for other factions and group in poetry. I can only think that it emerges from the difficulties of being published and poet’s insecurities.

Oxford Poetry Conference: Leontia Flynn on Reading Medbh McGuckian

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Leontia Flynn here presents a talk that is mainly preoccupied with McGuckian’s intertextuality. She looks mainly at McGuckian’s collection, On Ballycastle Beach and she marvels at the amount of references in poems to writers such as Mandelstam and Tsvetaeva. Flynn wonders if these are simply arbitrary and notes that such references are invisible to the general reader. Flynn notes that Thomas Docherty sees such references as a sign of McGuckian’s phenomenology, but she sees such references as offering a reflection of our own misguided search for hidden meaning. In this reading, McGuckian constructs an argument against literal readings. One cannot solve the crossword puzzle, since the poem does not present clues but simply the words themselves. As Roland Barthes states, intertextuality can become a hall of mirrors.


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