Posts from March 2015
Wednesday 1st April, 4.15 pm
Room 215, University of Westminster, Wells Street, London W1T
Professor Fred Botting, Kingston University
This paper follows a footnote in a short essay by Georges Bataille to examine the significance of his apparent interest in a notorious German serial killer of the 1920s and 1930s.
Fred Botting has written extensively on Gothic fictions, and on theory, film and cultural forms. His books include Gothic Romanced (2008), Limits of Horror (2008) and, with Scott Wilson, Bataille (2001).
Wednesday 1st April, 1-3 pm
University of Westminster, Room 106, 32-38 Wells Street, London W1T
“Technology, Desire, and Cruel Optimism: MTV’s Catfish: The TV Show”
Dr Sam McBean, Queen Mary, University of London
Taking the seminar series’ invitation to ruminate ‘On Desire’, this paper will consider the affective textures of a contemporary digital moment, focused in particular on how fantasies of desire become entangled with technology, particularly social media. The paper argues that, increasingly, narratives of technology are being mobilized to speak the narrative failings of enduring love. To explore this convergence, I will focus on MTV’s Catfish: The TV Series. Each episode of Catfish sees the co-hosts, Nev and Max, come to the rescue of someone who has been engaged in an online relationship with a partner who has been resistant to meeting in person. As online detectives, the co-hosts uncover the “truth” about this relationship – more often than not revealing that the beloved is not who they say they are. Lauren Berlant understands desire as ‘a state of attachment to something or someone’ and similarly suggests that ‘[a]ll attachment is optimistic’. Attachment becomes ‘cruelly optimistic’ when rather than enabling the self-flourishing of an individual, it becomes a barrier. The paper will explore how an attachment to a narrative of love – desire’s reciprocated ideal – and to a narrative of technology’s ability to provide this, functions in Catfish despite the repetition (in each episode and across the series as a whole) of the likely failure of both narratives.
Wednesday 25th March, 4.15 pm
Room 106, University of Westminster, Wells Street, London W1T
“Luxury and Visual Culture: On the Semiology of the Bubble Bath”
Professor John Armitage, Winchester School of Art
Luxury, abundance, and sumptuous enjoyment influence visual culture and the objects of study to which visual culture attends from art history to new media. This illustrated seminar explores various forms of indulgence and visual culture’s range of responses from images of ‘English’ luxury to images of lasciviousness and the images of ‘luxury cinema’, before going on to analyze the semiology of the bubble bath. The paper circumvents ideas relating to ideology and to the critique of consumer culture, preferring instead to concentrate on how matter dissolving becomes endowed with cultural values of cleanliness and how the foamy becomes a sign of everything from debauchery and health to happiness and even spiritual transformation. Participants are encouraged to bring their own bubbles.
John Armitage is Professor of Media Arts at Winchester School of Art-University of Southampton. John is currently co-editing Critical Luxury Studies: Art, Design, Media for Edinburgh University Press, The Luxury Reader for Bloomsbury, and writing Luxury and Visual Culture for Bloomsbury. He is the founder, and co-editor, with Ryan Bishop and Douglas Kellner, of the journal Cultural Politics.
Wednesday 11th March, 1-3 pm
Room 357, University of Westminster, Regent Street, London
“Consent, Normativity and Victim Blame”
David Gurnham, University of Southampton
The next in the Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities seminar series of Desire at the University of Westminster. All welcome!
David Gurnham uses popular and classical texts, by authors including Shakespeare, Dickens, Euripides, Kafka, the Brothers Grimm, Huxley and Margaret Atwood to shed fresh light on such controversial legal and ethical issues as passionate homicide, life sentences, pornography and genetic enhancement. Gurnham’s overarching theme is the role of memory and imagination in shaping legal and ethical attitudes. Along this line, he examines the ways in which past wrongs are “remembered” and may be forcefully responded to, both by the criminal justice system itself and also by individuals responding to what they regard as gross insults, threats or personal violations.
The Institute for Modern and Contemporary Culture
University of Westminster Department of English, Linguistics and Cultural Studies
32-38 Wells Street, London W1T 3UW. United Kingdom.