Guest Speakers

Recent Guest Speakers:

Professor Kate McLoughlin (Oxford University)

Veteran Detectives: Experience and Problem-Solving in Fiction by

Sir Arthur Conan-Doyle, Dorothy L. Sayers and J. K. Rowling



February 1st 2017

How are problems solved in fiction?  What kind of evidence is admissible, what kind of proof is acceptable?  This paper looked at a certain kind of problem-solving—finding the perpetrators of murders—by a certain kind of problem-solver: the detective (or the detective’s assistant) who is also a war veteran.  It examined the varying successes achieved by forensic scientific methods and by less quantifiable means such as the hunch.  And it also considered whether these diverse methods can be taught to others.

Kate McLoughlin is a Professor of English Literature in the University of Oxford and Fellow and Tutor in English at Harris Manchester College.  Her publications include Authoring War: The Literary Representation of War from the Iliad to Iraq (2011) and, as editor, The Cambridge Companion to War Writing (2009), The Modernist Party (2013) and Writing War, Writing Lives (2016).  She is currently completing a monograph provisionally entitled Veteran Poetics: Self, Experience and Storytelling in English Literature in the Age of Mass Warfare.

Professor Nicholas Gaskill (Centre for Cultural Analysis, Rutgers University)

Modernist Color: A Brief History in Three Blues, One Red, and a Hurt Color

 tender buttons

April 7th 2016


Nicholas Gaskill studies nineteenth and early-twentieth century American literature, culture, and philosophy.  He is currently at work on two projects. Vibrant Environments: The Feel of Color from the White Whale to the Red Wheelbarrow, situates the color terms and images of modern U.S. writers within the sweeping changes to the visual landscape wrought by synthetic dyes and vivid color media.  Professor Gaskill is also co-editing, along with Adam Nocek, an interdisciplinary collection of essays on the philosophy of Alfred North Whitehead.  The volume, titled The Lure of Whitehead, is under contract with the University of Minnesota Press.  Each of these projects extends his abiding interest in the ideas and historical contexts of American pragmatism.

Dr. Sarah Wilson (University of Toronto)

A Great Soldier Might Be a Baby Politician: Ulysses Grant, Henry Adams, Gertrude Stein

 The Only Baby James A Wales -Puck cartoon

April 25th 2016

Sarah Wilson teaches and researches in the areas of nineteenth- and twentieth-century American literature, with a focus on how questions of identity, political participation, and literary form intersect. Her book Melting-Pot Modernism, published by Cornell University Press in 2010, connects the idea of the melting pot, a turn-of-the-century trope for social change and exchange, with the formal experimentalism of early American modernism. Current projects include a study of representations of political corruption in American writings of Reconstruction and the Gilded Age (“Uncouth Democracy: Corruption and Quantification in the Gilded Age”); an investigation of public science and literary experimentalism (“American Literary Experiment in the Age of Pasteur”); a collection of essays about modernist communities (co-edited with Caroline Pollentier of Université Sorbonne Nouvelle-Paris 3 and Vincent Bucher of Université Stendhal-Grenoble); essays on epistolarity and the origins of “identity politics” and on nineteenth-century political caricature and international notoriety.

Professor Alison Light 

Writing Common People: Between History and Fiction


15th October 2015

Respondent: Professor Ben Highmore

Alison Light spoke about her recent book, Common People: the History of an English Family which used her own family history to follow the lives of the migrant, working poor. A mix of memoir, social history and reflection, the book raises questions about the limits and possibilities of family history as a form of multiple biography; how we write the lives of the unknown, especially in these days of ‘poverty porn’; and the boundaries between history, fiction and personal memory. Professor Ben Highmore (Sussex) acted as respondent at the event.

This event was sponsored by the Centre for Modernist Studies and the Sussex Centre for Life History and Life Writing Research.

Professor Jonathan Eburne (Penn State University)

Outsider Art / Outsider Theory

Eburne Poster

Jonathan P. Eburne is the author of Surrealism and the Art of Crime  and the co-editor, with Jeremy Braddock, of Paris, Modern Fiction, and the Black Atlantic, and, with Judith Roof, of The Year’s Work in the Oddball Archive. He has also edited or co-edited special issues of Modern Fiction Studies, New Literary HistoryAfrican American Review, Comparative Literature Studies, and Criticism. Eburne is President of the Association for the Study of Dada and Surrealism, and is the President of the Association for the Arts of the Present in 2015. He is editor of the book series “Refiguring Modernism” at the Pennsylvania University Press, and the co-editor, with Amy Elias, of ASAP/Journal, to begin publication in 2016 with the Johns Hopkins University Press. He is currently working on a book called Outsider Theory.

Professor Anne-Lise François (University of California, Berkeley)

Profaning Nature: Enclosures, Occupations, Open Fields


Anne-Lise François teaches in the Departments of English and Comparative Literature at the University of California at Berkeley.  Her teaching and research focus on (mostly) 19th-century British, American and European (French and German) fiction, poetry and thought, with some excursions into the 17th, 18th, and early 20th centuries. In areas as diverse as contemporary food and farming politics and debates on climate change and the temporality of environmental violence, she continues to seek alternatives to Enlightenment models of heroic action, productive activity, and accumulation, and to identify examples of the ethos of recessive fulfillment and non-actualization theorized in her book Open Secrets: The Literature of Uncounted Experience.

Professor Ian Balfour (York University, Toronto)

Nothing Exceeds Like Excess: Politics and Poetics of the Sublime (And Why It Matters)

Ian Balfour

Co-sponsored with the 18th and 19th Century Research Seminar, Sussex

Ian Balfour teaches English at York University. He is the author of several books including The Rhetoric of Romantic Prophecy, and editor of collections on human rights, the “foreignness of film,” Walter Benjamin, and Jacques Derrida. He taught recently at Cornell as the M. H. Abrams Distinguished Visiting Professor of English. This year he is a member of the Rice Seminar in Houston on Exchange and Temporality in British Culture. He is finishing an interminable book on the sublime and has a couple of side projects: on cover songs and on titles.

Past Speakers:

  • Ali Smith
  • Elizabeth Freeman
  • Jennifer Egan
  • Leigh Wilson (Westminster)
  • Kristin Ewins (Oxford)
  • Michael Levenson (Virginia)
  • Peter Gizzi (Massachusetts)
  • Jean-Michele Rabaté (Penn University)
  • Steven Connor (Birkbeck University)
  • Peter Coviello (Bourdoin)
  • Kasia Boddy (UCL)
  • Gabriel Josipovici
  • James English (Penn Univeristy)
  • Sascha Bru (Gwent)