Making a Difference: between theory and pedagogy in a suburban London post-92 institution

Helen PalmerMCRg

Demands to ‘vocationalise’ HE curricula will likely be felt most acutely by teaching staff at post-92 universities, many of which are currently narrowing English provision in their drive to become more ‘practical’ in their focus. This panel discusses survival strategies in the face of such institutional pressures, and considers responses that do not abandon, but instead reaffirm, a commitment to both research-led teaching and student experience. Representing one English Literature department in a post-92 university, the panellists focus on how their research cluster ‘Race/Gender Matters’ – which explores the political and ethical dimensions of (new) materialist theory in new configurations of gender, race, class and the environment – is of particular relevance in a socially diverse, London suburb-located institution.

The Past is a Foreign Country, They Teach Things Differently There

Matthew Birchwood will reflect on the relevance of early modern studies to an institution dedicated to the delivery of a diverse curriculum. The commitment to ensure that the student community ought to be able to see themselves in the curriculum has been a key principle underpinning pedagogical advancement in recent years. Far from being a prescriptive or narrowing injunction, this is an opportunity for research-led teaching to shape the syllabus in exciting ways. If Shakespeare might still be considered as a canonical keystone, then by whom and to what end? How is Shakespeare’s authority (mis)appropriated by those shaping our current and future predicaments? What if the Renaissance wasn’t so ‘European’ after all? This paper will draw together a number of recent developments in early modern studies and teaching practice towards addressing an urgent and contemporary problem: the defence of the Humanities.

Narrative Ecologies: Situating Suburban Stories outside of the Seminar Room

Martin Dines will discuss new ways of appraising stories about the ordinary yet diverse environments of suburban London. The paper considers such suburban stories as ‘narrative ecologies’: complex assemblages of ongoing stories about particular sites that emphasise their connectedness with other spaces, processes and histories. Dines discusses how this perspective has informed the development of ‘walking seminars’, which utilise smartphone-based apps that enable students to engage with suburban stories and environments simultaneously, in order to encourage critical reflection on the production and consumption of dominant and marginalised narratives of suburbia.

iPhone or Stein: Decomposing Matter and the Algorithmic Absurd

Helen Palmer will discuss the ways in which language, space and time figure within new materialist discussions around the agency of matter, and will demonstrate how the disruptive opacity of syntactical and lexical play in modernist writing can be synthesised algorithmically – sometimes by mistake. Through a consideration of the ‘algorithmic condition’ (Colman et al. 2018), a term coined by some new materialist thinkers in a development of both Lyotard’s ‘postmodern condition’ and Arendt’s ‘human condition’, the paper will think through the agency of linguistic digital fragments and the relationship of bodies to language, ultimately articulating a defence of the strange and the ludic as revolutionary pedagogical gestures.

Arendt, H. (1958) The Human Condition.
Colman, F. et al. (2018) Ethics of Coding: A Report on the Algorithmic Condition [EoC].
Lyotard, J-F. (1979) The Postmodern Condition

Sun 1:00 pm - 2:15 pm