Comparing the Contemporary – Student Discussion Group Spring Term 2018

Comparing the Contemporary – Student Discussion Group

Spring Term 2018

Wonderful universes lie unexplored at the very doorstep of our libraries, stories and people and histories often given for granted and never fully investigated. Voices from beyond the Channel and beyond the Ocean and beyond the West that have remained unheard. Voices that the sessions of ‘Comparing the Contemporary’ wish to discuss through a series of meetings aimed at travelling the literary world, bringing together the experience of the diverse Birkbeck student body.

You’re invited; come join an informal student discussion group that will widen your horizons and provide fresh perspectives on key issues of contemporary criticism and theory. This discussion group is organised by postgraduate students based in Birkbeck’ Department of English and Humanities, and is open to enrolled students within the English & Humanities Department and beyond with an interest in expanding the scope of their studies to consider non-Anglophone literature and theory. We are MA students but welcome students at all levels, from BA to PhD.

What can comparative analysis say about the literary renditions of World War I across national boundaries? Can we bring postmodern critical concepts such as Baudrillard’s ‘simulacrum’ to bear on The Invention of Morel, an Argentine SF novel published in 1940? These are the sort of topics and texts that this group will seek to explore. The focus is placed on 20th and 21st century primary texts, and critical sources that enable a comparative perspective rather than being limited to one national or linguistic literary tradition. We aim to bring together a group of like-minded Birkbeck students, and the current organisers are MA students. We are not teachers, and we do not purport to be experts in the texts or topics discussed–the goal is that through joint analysis and debate, all the group’s participants can gain a richer understanding of the texts and appreciate the usefulness of comparative analysis to locate literary texts in a global context.

Get in touch with Valentina Salvatierra (MA Contemporary Literature & Culture, in order to sign up for our emails and get access to the shared folder where meeting schedule and texts will be uploaded.

No knowledge of languages other than English is required to participate, as we will be working with texts in translation–although you are welcome to read the original if you know the language.

Meeting structure

We will meet every 2 weeks throughout the Spring term. Each meeting will have a designated chair in charge of starting and guiding the group discussion. The chair will contextualise the text, provide a short extract or clip (if relevant), and a brief critical discussion of the text(s). This should take between 10-20 minutes, and the rest of the session will be dedicated to seminar-style discussion around the topic and text(s). The first two sessions’ topics and texts will be:

Friday 2nd February, 18:00 – 19:00

Room: MAL 630 (Malet Street Building)

The Carnival of War

Primary texts:

  1. Erich Maria Remarque (1929) All Quiet on the Western Front (chapter 11)       Full text:
  2. Dalton Trumbo (1939) Johnny Got His Gun (introduction, chapter 20)

Full text:

  1. Filippo Tommaso Marinetti (1909)“The Futurist Manifesto”

Full text:

Secondary texts:

  • Kissinger, Henry, Diplomacy, (Simon and Schuster 2011).
  • Lenin, Vladimir, “War and Revolution”, (1917).

Full text:

  • Dauterich, Ed. “”Johnny Got His Gun” and Working Class Students: Using Rhetorical Analysis to Intellectualize Pacifism.” Peace Research, 42 (2010 1/2) pp. 127-41.

Friday 16 February, 18:00 – 19:00

Room: MAL 629 (Malet Street Building)

Speculative fictions: North and South

  • Baudrillard, Jean, and Arthur B. Evans, ‘Two Essays (“Simulacra and Science Fiction” and “Ballard’s Crash”)’, Science Fiction Studies, 18 (1991) <>
  • Bioy Casares, Adolfo, The Invention of Morel (1940) [extracts to be supplied]
  • Heinlein, Robert, ‘—And He Built a Crooked House—’, Astounding Science Fiction, February 1941, pp. 68–83 <>

If you wish to moderate or get involved in the organisation of the group, we would love to hear from you. Please get in touch with the organisers Carmela Morgillo ( or Valentina Salvatierra ( to discuss the details. We also welcome suggestions for texts or topics for discussion, and the schedule is flexible and open to modification depending on participants’ interests.

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Birkbeck Centre for Contemporary Theatre – Autumn 2017

Welcome to a new academic year. As the term begins, we are delighted to welcome a number of new Fellows to the Centre, including Lily Hunter Green (as Artist in Residence), Kris NelsonAmy Lamé and Scottee. For more on their work, and our other Fellows and Centre members, please click here.

Join us for a number of public events this term, which speak to the theme of night-life (no booking required):

Theatre Conversation: David Eldridge
Friday 3 November 2017, 5.30pm, G10

Writer and Birkbeck lecturer David Eldridge’s new play Beginning opens at the National Theatre in October 2017. In this Theatre Conversation, David will discuss the process by which he developed this new work, which is set over the course of a night at a party.

Performance: Nights at the Circus
Friday 17 November 2017, 6pm, G10

In a post-apocalyptic world the circus is forced to perform. As the night plays out the performers slip between their stage personas and the person they dream to be; trapped by their own desires and lusting after new sensations. A collaboration between learning-disabled and non-disabled artists exploring sex, desire and violence.

Film screening: Two-Lane Black Top (dir. Monte Hellman, 102 mins)
Monday 27 November, 2pm, Birkbeck Cinema

Join us for a screening of Monte Hellman’s iconic road movie, with an introduction and discussion led by Centre Fellow Andrew Dickson.

Other events this term include:

Theatre Conversation: Hannah Khalil
Monday 11 December 2017, 7.30pm, G10

Join us for a dialogue between playwright Hannah Khalil and screenwriter and Birkbeck lecturer Daragh Carville.

Irish-Palestinian playwright Hannah Khalil is one of the most exciting new voices in British theatre. Her play Scenes from 68* Years ran at the Arcola Theatre in 2016 and has been nominated for the James Tate Black Award. Her new play The Scar Test opened at the Soho Theatre in July 2017.

GRiT seminar series: Jaswinder Blackwell-Pal (PhD candidate), ‘The Value of Authenticity’
Thursday 2 November, 4pm, G04

This research will explore the notion of ‘the authentic’ in service and hospitality work, comparing it with the search for ‘truthful’ or ‘authentic’ performance in theatre. Using workplace training documents which provide instructions for employee’s behaviour and emotional labour, it will consider what role these social performances play in generating value, and why ‘authentic’ experience has become so prized by businesses and consumers in today’s economy.

Researching (with) Difficult Feelings
Thursday 14-Friday 15 December 2017

A two-day training workshop aimed at PhD students at CHASE institutions, featuring presentations by theatre academics and makers, and a keynote by Prof. Jennifer Doyle. Click here for more information.

For regular news and events, keep an eye on our new website or follow us on Twitter @BirkbeckCCT

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Contemporary German Fiction Reading Group Summer Term 2017

Dear All,

I’d like to invite you to join me for this year’s contemporary German fiction reading group. This is an optional event, open to all. You are very welcome to come along to any one or more of the sessions. All you need to do is to read the novel in advance, either in German or English translation and come prepared to discuss it.

These are the novels we will be reading and discussing this year.


Wednesday 24 May Daniel Kehlmann, F (2013) GOR 321
Thursday 1 June Judith Schalansky, Der Hals der Giraffe / The Giraffe’s Neck (2011) GOR 106
Wednesday 14 June Olga Grjasnova, Der Russe ist einer, der Birken liebt / All Russians Love Birch Trees (2012) tbc
Thursday 28 June Lutz Seiler, Kruso (2014) GOR 106
Wednesday 12 July Wolfgang Herrndorf, Sand (2011) GOR 321

All sessions will take place from 6.00-7.20.

If you’d like any further information about the reading group, please contact Joanne Leal:

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