Keynote Speakers:

I. Unity, Disunity and the Question of Plurality: From Aesthetics to Politics.

Dr Tim Beasley-Murray, UCL

Dr Tim Beasley-Murray is Senior Lecturer in European Thought and Culture at the School of Slavonic and East European Studies.  He studied at Cambridge and Paris before doing his PhD, her at London, on conceptions of experience and form in Mikhail Bakhtin and Walter Benjamin.  In addition to a book version of his PhD (Palgrave 2007), he has published articles on, inter alia, Czech and Slovak literature, the political theory of 1989, psychoanalytic and post-colonial approaches to Habsburg culture, motifs of seed in Walter Benjamin, and children’s literature. He is currently working on a project on the relationship between speech and silence in aesthetics and politics with reference to Arendt, Heidegger, Bakhtin, Hobbes, Schmitt, and others. Related to this project, he has an article forthcoming in the Fall issue of Common Knowledge: ‘Reticence and the Fuzziness of Thresholds: A Bakhtinian Apology for Quietism’.

II. Minding the Gap: Plato’s Parmenides and the Seductions of Unity

Prof Charles Lock, University of Copenhagen

Prof Charles Lock received his D.Phil from Oxford for a dissertation on John Cowper Powys and is now the editor of the Powys Journal. Since 1996 he has held the Chair of English Literature at the University of Copenhagen; before that he had been Professor of English at the University of Toronto. Apart from his work on John Cowper Powys he has published extensively on Thomas Hardy, on contemporary poetry – Geoffrey Hill, Roy Fisher, Les Murray, Derek Walcott, Anne Blonstein – and on literary theory, notably on Bakhtin and Roman Jakobson. There are also essays on the visual semiotics of rock-carvings and on questions of perspective in Byzantine and Russian iconography, and in the work of Michel de Certeau;  on migration literature, on literature and ecology, on detective fiction and, among twentieth-century novelists, on Vladimir Nabokov, Helen Waddell, Rose Macaulay, Patrick White, Iris Murdoch, Ken Saro-Wiwa and Maureen Duffy; he contributed the afterword to the Persephone Books reprint (2011) of Dorothy Whipple’s Greenbanks.



The Chaotic North: Lapland’s Destructive Forces in Three Dutch Novels

Jesse van Amelsvoort

University College London

One of the most-studied novels in Dutch literature, W.F. Hermans’ Nooit meer slapen (Beyond Sleep), has been given two literary children in the last five years. In 2008, Pia de Jong published her début novel Lange dagen (Long Days) and three years later, Stephan Enter published his third novel Grip. All three novels are centred around a stay in the north of either Norway or Finland, in a region called Finmarken. In all three novels, catastrophic events occur: in Hermans’ novel, protagonist Alfred Issendorf miserably fails at finding the meteor craters he set out to find, while his friend and fellow exhibition member Arne dies; in De Jong’s novel, a family on holiday is torn apart and a friend of the daughter dies, too; and, lastly, in Grip four friends reminisce of a holiday twenty years ago in the Norwegian mountains when one of them almost fell to death.

In this paper, I look into the ways this destructive northern landscape is portrayed in these novels: is there a similar cause to the encountered despair and chaos? Which mechanisms are put into play by the characters to escape the situations they are in and get back to an orderly way of living? Thirdly, can we point out similarities and differences in the novels’ narratives? Is narrative perhaps a way of countering disunity, by turning it into an ordered and unified story?

Jesse van Amelsvoort is a Dutch student studying comparative literature at UCL, where he is currently writing his dissertation on (post)memories of the Dutch East Indies in Dutch and Indonesian literature. In 2012, he received his B.A. in Liberal Arts and Sciences from University College Utrecht, the Netherlands.


Unity in Diversity: An Inclusive Nationalism

Udit Bhatia

University College London

The dominant (European) understanding of nationalism is one which sees it with scepticism, linking it with ethnic, linguistic or religious chauvinism, and associating it with violence and/or exclusion. I examine a postcolonial interpretation of nationalism as providing the basis for solidarity that ensures peaceful co-existence, and non-exclusion of ethnic, linguistic and religious minorities. In so doing, I draw upon Habermas’s idea of constitutional patriotism, and situate it in the context of the postcolonial state in India.

Habermas sees solidarity as necessary for the adoption of the ‘we-perspective’, through which citizens are able to formulate and obey laws which can be seen as non-dominating. In addition, the postcolonial context requires such solidarity for the co-existence of antagonistically identified communities. The continuing history of violence underscores the urgency of this factor, and further exacerbates the phenomenon of antagonistic identification.

Thus, real, as opposed to hypothetical violence (which involves problematic assumptions about human beings in the state of nature) forms the basis for pragmatic considerations in favour of solidarity. The notion of violence here differs from the idea of the clash of civilizations or its more recent manifestation, the global war on terror. The conflict in the subcontinent does not involve an ‘other’, which presupposes an original entity that must be protected from this violent other. Differing national groups, as Rajeev Bhargava points out, are not additions to be dealt with, but brute facts of the Indian subcontinent.

Thus, while solidarity is required, it would only be further ruptured, and not provided, by an appeal to the usual bases. Instead, it is supplied through (secular) democratic integration (as opposed to assimilation). I apply Habermas’s idea of constitutional patriotism to show how it manifests itself, in the Indian context, as a commitment to the ‘composite nation’. Following Habermas’s idea of ethical-political understanding, this commitment can be seen as constitutive of Indian identity. This provides us with a nationalism that is inherently inclusive, and committed to (not just tolerant of) diversity.

Udit Bhatia is studying for a Master’s degree in Legal and Political Theory at the Department of Political Science, University College London. He has previously studied Philosophy at St. Stephen’s College, University of Delhi. Udit is interested in questions of identity, politics and the state, and how these are to be viewed in the postcolonial context.


Disunity and Metaphors

Juan T. Cruz, Jr.

University of Aberdeen

This paper will use the example of metaphors to show that disunity is caused by competing ideologies. A number of the metaphors in the middle chapters of the book of Micah appear to contradict one another; verse 3.12 says that the old Zion will be ploughed up like a field and left in ruins, whereas in 4.1-5 the new Zion is elevated and its status as a nation remains inviolable. The metaphors of ploughshares and pruning hooksin 4.3 describe an act of laying down arms and seem to predict a future of peace with other nations, but the metaphors of threshing and “Daughter Zion” in 4.11-13 speak of preparing to wage war in order to annihilate other nations. Similarly, the metaphors in 5.6-8 variously describe the impact of ‘Jacob’s remnant’ upon their neighbouring nations as refreshing and benevolent like dew, or belligerent like a lion.

Previous literary critics have tended to play down the sharp tensions between these metaphors and even attempted to reconcile them. This paper, however, argues that rather than minimising the tensions between these metaphors, we should acknowledge and respect their incompatibilities because they reflect the different authors’ competing ideologies and various attitudes towards their own nation and other nations. The contradictory metaphors may be considered the “inner dynamics” of the book, which stimulate critical thinking and promote dialogue between heterogeneous perspectives, rather than reducing them to homogeneity.

Juan T. Cruz, Jr. is a third-year PhD student in Hebrew Bible at the University of Aberdeen, studying the divine metaphors in the book of Micah. He earned his master’s degree from Princeton Theological Seminary.


Unity and disunity in the science of consciousness

Claire Davison

University College London

There is a strong intuitive sense in which conscious experience appeals to us as being unified.  Perceptions, thoughts and emotions appear to be not merely possessed by the same individual simultaneously, but rather as available in conjunction as aspects of the one conscious state. The thesis of a unified consciousness is by no means without its opponents, although several leading theories of consciousness may be regarded as being founded upon processes of unification of information. Global Workspace theory, for instance, holds that information does not reach consciousness without becoming widely distributed within the brain, while Information Integration theory claims that the level of consciousness of a system is a function of the size of its information state. In contrast, the Higher Order Thought theory of consciousness, which maintains that for content to become conscious it must be reflected upon, may support the perhaps more common view in philosophy that the unity of consciousness is in fact illusory.  To begin with in my talk I aim to outline some of the arguments and evidence in favour of these theories and discuss their relation to the unity thesis. I will then go on to briefly consider what may be brought to the study of consciousness by empirical investigation into the related problem of perceptual binding. Finally, I will conclude by discussing evidence from psychology which suggests that the unity of consciousness may indeed breakdown.

Claire Davison is a 1st year PhD student at UCL CoMPLEX (Centre for Mathematics and Physics in the Life Sciences and Experimental Biology) where she is studying the relation of the preterm neonatal EEG to brain maturation.  Prior to this she studied Molecular Genetics at the University of Sussex.


Same Space, Different Stories: German and Jewish memories of Bukovina after the Second World War

Gaëlle Fisher

University College London

The great majority of the German-speaking population of Bukovina, a region situated between contemporary Romania and Ukraine, was displaced as a result of the Second World War. This resulted in the formation of two relatively significant Bukovina ‘diaspora’ communities, one living in post-war West Germany and the other in Israel. Some aspects of the experiences of these two groups were undoubtedly shared: the loss of the homeland, the impossibility of return and the idealisation of the period before the war; the experience of war, political upheaval and unprecedented violence; but also the effort to start anew, integrate and frame displacement as ‘return’ to an ancestral home. Yet the two experiences of displacement and their later interpretation, was at the same time radically different. Indeed, as Jews who survived the Holocaust and Germans who had listened to Hitler, the two cases are in many respects radically opposed. In fact, they are often described as incomparable. Nonetheless, this paper suggests to contrast the memories of Bukovina among these two groups because they after all share a focus on the same space and in particular because both groups were instrumental in shaping the image of the region Bukovina as a site of tolerance, peaceful coexistence and even a model for Europe. I therefore will consider the role of different discourses and their interaction in this memorial process. The research for this paper is specifically based on a comparative analysis of two newspapers published by either group from the late forties until the present.

Gaëlle Fisher obtained a BA in German and History from UCL in 2007 and an MA in Eastern European Studies from SSEES in 2009. She is currently completing her thesis on the history of displaced German-speakers from Bukovina. Her research focuses on narratives about the past, place and identity.



Of unity and disunity in-between – post/colonial responses to the works and lives of Jean Rhys and Hella S. Haasse

Stefanie van Gemert

University College London

Jean Rhys (1890-1979) and Hella S. Haasse (1918-2011) can be described as having lived lives on the verge of post- and colonial. These two authors were born to colonial parents in respectively the Dutch East Indies (now: Indonesia) and the British West Indies (Dominica). In their late teens/early twenties, they moved to European colonial centres (Amsterdam and London) where they started publishing and were read after the decolonization of Indonesia and the Caribbean. Both their lives and works prompt questions about colonial empires as disunited and fractioned communities.

This paper will explore the concept of being in-between unity and disunity as central to postcolonial criticism. More specifically, it will look into the reception of Haasse’s and Rhys’s novels in relation to the decolonization, assessing the works and lives of these authors in in-between positions in the Netherlands and the UK, and whether they were seen as representing a disunited image of the contemporary post/colonial settings at the time of publication. I argue that Rhys and Haasse, exactly because of their inside/outside position on the cusp of post/colonial, were able to critique the colonial societies from within. Both authors exploit literary techniques that mirror their real-life cusp position, and often hold up an uncomfortable mirror to the post/colonial reader and reviewer. The questions their works voice about de-colonizing colonial unity in a post/colonial setting, often go often unnoticed in contemporary debates in the British and Dutch cultural fields.

Stefanie van Gemert is writing up her PhD in Comparative Literature (UCL). Her research focuses on nostalgia in literature on the threshold of colonial and postcolonial, and in reviews and adaptations of these works in the British and Dutch cultural fields. Her thesis discusses ways of relating to colonial pasts in a global cultural context.


Social hierarchies across cultures – uniting or dividing?

Matthias S. Gobel

University College London

Social hierarchies determine how society is structured, and they coordinate social interactions amongst society’s members. Recently, psychological sciences have started to look at how social hierarchy impacts the way people think, feel and behave. Results suggest, for example, that social class influences how people look at the world, what emotions they experience, and how they interact with others.

Yet, while hierarchy is of universal importance, the way rank is construed changes from one culture to another. Using examples from my own research, which compares distinct yet historically connected cultures such as France, the U.S. or the UK, this paper illustrates how societies are hierarchically structured in different ways. For example, while in the French culture social class is considered to be the primary basis of status, in the American culture individual merit is considered to be the primary basis of status. As a result, systematic differences in whether or not French, British or Americans signaled social class background were observed. Moreover, French, British and American participants differed in the amount of attention allocated to upper versus lower class targets.

Based on these astonishing cultural differences in signaling and perceiving social class, I discuss implications for society and politics. Does signaling class background divide society or does it provide stability and security? Does refraining from signaling class background create equality of chances or advocate a merciless race that sees the most ruthless individuals reaching the top? These questions shall be addressed in an open discussion with the audience.

Matt Gobel received his B.A. and M.Sc. in psychology from the University of Paris. He was a visiting scholar at UCSB and is currently pursuing his doctoral studies at UCL’s department of Cognitive, Perceptual and Brain sciences. His research focuses on how culture shapes the human mind and social interactions.



Let It Simmer Over Summer: Journey, Displacement, and Decomposition

Yva Jung

Slade School of Fine Art, UCL

My art work is based on ephemeral practice in foreign countries. Moving from Seoul, New York, Montreal, lastly to the Arctic Circle, I’ve been making ephemeral performances and interventions. Due to the transient medium, the question of documenting and translating ephemeral art works into tangible relic is crucial part in my practice. As I’ve been exploring photography and video as a form of container in translating transient experience and memory, I become interested in left-over fragments and in-between spaces. Rather than creating a record of my action (performance or intervention) or interaction with audience, I explore in capturing what is left unsaid and what is in-between.

In my talk, I would like to discuss my art practice of decomposing and recomposing left-over fragments of performance and interventions a way to explore the relationship between displacement, intersection and identity.

Additionally, I will show a couple of my video works and discuss the idea of collage of displaced/discarded fragments and finding new meaning in intersection. Also, I will present how the video editing process -cut, fade, dissolve-could reflect the process of exploring fragmentary memories, and furthermore understanding displaced identity.

Yva Jung is a MPhil/PhD Fine Art student at the Slade School of Fine Art, UCL. She received her MFA from the School of Visual Arts in New York, 2008, and her BFA from Ewha Womans University in Seoul, 2006. She was awarded residency fellowship at the Arctic Circle Residency, 2011, Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in NY, 2009, and Darling Fonderie in Montreal, 2010. She is a recipient of several International Fellowship and Grant programs including Kwanjeong Educational Foundation ( South Korea, 2012), Jerome Foundation ( USA, 2011), Arts Council Korea (2011, 2008), and Canada Council for the Arts (2010).


Choices and decision-making in conservation: The implications of conserving religious icons

Davina Kuh Jakobi

University College London

The goal of conservation is to preserve cultural heritage for future generations. However, there are a wide variety of perspectives regarding the conservation of material cultural heritage. Often, differences of opinion stem from the biography, or the various functions and understandings of the object. But even technically, there has never been one right way to treat an object. From the degree of interventive treatment to the choice of materials that will be used during treatment, conservators often differ in opinion regarding the treatment of cultural heritage. But what do these different methods imply for the object? Is there actually a “right” way? Using religious icons as the lens for this discussion, various conservation approaches will be explored. This presentation will allow a glimpse of the variety of issues which must be considered during the conservation process, and will demonstrate above all, that there are no easy answers and no shortage of conflicting opinions in the field of conservation.

Davina Kuh Jakobi holds an MA in Principles of Conservation from UCL and a BA in Art Conservation and Art History from University of Delaware. She is interested in the implications of the conservation of material cultural heritage and is currently working towards the MSc Conservation for Archaeology and Museums at UCL.

Broken Bond: Skyfall and the British Identity Crisis

Christopher McMillan

University of Glasgow

This paper argues that Skyfall (2012) and its preoccupation with Britain and identity has been influenced by and is partly a response to the current debate over the future of the British Union.

This paper argues that while Skyfall’s overt patriotism is, in part, an attempt to prop up the fractured unity between Scotland and England; its representations of Britain/England and Scotland actually reveal disunity. Murray Pittock has remarked that ‘British symbols of monarchy, state and nation . . . though in a weakened condition . . . now appear to be increasingly bolsters for a certain kind of Englishness’. Moreover, the Glencoe section of Skyfall far from unifying the film structurally and ideologically, highlights a colonial relationship between the two in which ‘Britain’ compared with ‘Celticism’ is the dominant partner. Additionally, Bond’s Scottish origins, both literary and cinematically, have rendered his nationality a contested site, problematising elements of the films which concern Britain and Britishness. This conflict is conspicuous in Skyfall.

At this significant period in British history when issues of unity and identity are part of the political and national dialogue, the release of the latest film – and perhaps the last film – starring ‘Britain’s’ favourite spy, merits critical attention. Indeed Bonds complex national identity and his loyalty to Britain/Union is all the more fascinating in the current political context.

Christopher McMillan is currently in the first year of his PhD. His thesis is entitled: ‘The Scots in Ulster: Culture, Community and Conflict, 1551-1650’. He is exploring the socio-political and cultural context using contemporary writing influenced by and representing the period. Areas of research include the Scoto-Irish relationship following the Union of Crowns and the development of the British project. Additional academic interests include identity and post-colonialism.




The good, the bad and the evil in the socialist novel: Case study of two post war Bulgarian novels

Metodi Metodiev

University of Glasgow

After consolidating its authority in 1948, the Bulgarian communist party unified the prewar cultural elite, including the writers. However the process was much more complex and ambiguous in terms with the literary works. Under the dominion of the socialist realism, there were two novels which managed to escape the uniformity and outlasted the communist regime – The peach thief written by Emilian Stanev in 1949 and Tobacco written by Dimitar Dimov in 1951. The first is a love story set in end of World War 1, while the second is politically orientated satire about the capitalism in Bulgaria during the 1930.

With the use of the discourse analysis I will illustrate the internal confrontation of the individual as the basic foundation of the characters in the novel. On the one hand, they had to be capable of belonging to the community and to endure and exploit the current reality. On the other hand, their conformism was confronted by craving for self-distinction, outside of the present and the social stratum. Although, in these two novels the dilemma was solved in the realms of the socialist concept of historical determinism, I claim this duality reflected the authors. It unveiled the struggle between the social unification of the individual and his personal escapism from the political reality. In conclusion, I maintain that the success of the novels was due to fact that the authors skillfully smeared the differences between virtue and vileness.

Metodi Metodiev has B.A Degree in History from the Sofia University and Master of Arts Degree in Comparative History in the Central European University. He is currently doing his second year as PhD student in the Czech Department of the University of Glasgow where he conducts comparative research of Bulgarian and Czechoslovakian literature in the 1950s and the 1960s. Metodiev also works as professional translator and historical consultant for documentary movies and is currently involved in the making of the documentary ‘Sofia Wake Up’, which focuses on the events of 1968 and its reflections in Bulgaria.


Dwell the Threshold: encountering Otherness

Azzurra Muzzonigro

Universita’ degli Studi Roma Tre

This paper offers a short reflection on the role of space in the act of the encounter with Otherness, which the authors view as a catalyst for a radical social and cultural transformation of society. The main argument lies in the fact that in between the Self and the Other there is a space, a gap – the Lacanian ‘field of non meaning’- where different entities enter into relation producing a new hybrid one that transcends the initial. This encounter produces a space of confrontation, a space in-between things, a threshold: a ‘place where different worlds meet’, a space that consents the reciprocal knowledge and recognition.  To ‘dwell the threshold’ means to dwell that distance that separates such different entities. To ‘dwell the threshold’ becomes a practice allowing the perforation of the boundary between the Self and the Other. By looking at the act of ‘dwelling the threshold’ as inherent architectural capacities, the paper illustrates its essence with three spatial metaphors: the Border or ‘the zone of interaction among differences’, the Circle or ‘the space of play as catalyst of encounter’ and the Interstices or ‘fragments of different spatial orders’.

This framework, far from being normative and over-comprehensive, attempts to open possible paths of interpretation about exceptionality, and shed light over the spatial possibilities of encounters.

Azzurra Muzzonigro is an architect, graduated from the faculty of Architecture of the Universita ‘degli Studi Roma Tre. She is currently a PhD candidate in Urban Studies at the Universita’ degli Studi Roma Tre, and a visiting research student at the Development Planning Unit, University College London, with the research: ”Dwell the Threshold: Spaces and Practices of Encounter.”





Edgar Allan Poe’s Chaotic Drive to Unity

Jimmy Packham

University of Bristol

In his philosophical prose-poem Eureka, Edgar Allan Poe argues that physical matter exists only as a consequence of the forces of ‘Attraction and Repulsion’, and since there is neither Attraction nor Repulsion in a state of absolute unity, true unity precludes physical matter. By extension, disunity is a necessary part of existence. Additionally, Poe’s theoretical essays stress the importance of the ‘unity of impression’ in writing, by which means a single effect is elaborated and sustained throughout a poem or short fiction, and to which all aspects of that piece of writing contribute.

With these theories in mind, this paper explores the drive towards unity in Poe’s short stories (especially his sea fiction), the unified space as a place of revelation, and its effect on the act of writing. These stories demonstrate a more complex relationship between the antithetical states of unity and disunity; whirlpools in particular become a symbol for this space where unity and disunity coexist. Poe’s voyagers are forced to make a choice between achieving unity, and with it ultimate knowledge, at the expense of communicating their discovery, and abandoning their quest and returning with nothing to communicate.

The paper also acknowledges the importance of the ocean in Romantic writing generally, as a space of perpetual unity and disunity. This is seen most famously in Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner’, whose sailor is fragmented by his oceanic experience, and Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick, in which those who fall overboard glimpse the unified nature of creation but whose ability to communicate breaks down as a consequence.

Jimmy Packham is a research student at the University of Bristol. His thesis studies the problems of communication and the inadequacies of language in the work of American Romanticism, with particular focus on Poe and Melville. He has recently had two entries (‘Franz Kafka’ and ‘Voodoo’) published in the Wiley-Blackwell Encyclopedia of Gothic.


An Artificial Unity? Approaches to Post-Socialist Nostalgia

Veronika Pehe, UCL

“Post-socialist nostalgia” has been used as an umbrella term to describe a number of disparate and at times contradictory phenomena. Given the often opposing notions of what is meant by the designation, this paper will interrogate to what extent post-socialist nostalgia is still a valid term. The central question of investigation will be whether the term imposes an artificial unity on heterogeneous approaches and concepts that could more fruitfully be described by a variety of more specific terms. Drawing on examples from the Czech Republic, I will examine the ways in which the term “nostalgic” has come to be used for cultural and social phenomena and practices as diverse as the continued popularity of socialist pop-culture, retrospective literary and cinematic representations of socialism, and retro design and marketing. Such discussions have been enabled through the existence of certain widely acknowledged typologies of nostalgia, which aim to create labels for different nostalgic artefacts and practices. However, such typologies, as this paper will argue, are not necessarily a productive way of thinking about post-socialist nostalgia, as they artificially divide the phenomenon into static and implicitly hierarchical categories. I will make a case for viewing post-socialist nostalgia as a set of tools and mechanisms which can be observed in nostalgic texts, as well as, more significantly, in their reception. The paper will thus propose a mechanism-based approach, examining how nostalgia arises from and is used in specific reception contexts.

Veronika Pehe is currently working on her PhD at the School of Slavonic and East European Studies, University College London, having previously completed undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in Comparative Literature. Her research is an interdisciplinary examination of discourses of post-socialist nostalgia in the Czech Republic.


Fragment/Continuum –Disunity in Cinematic Time

Gareth Polmeer

Royal College of Art

Theodor Adorno writes that ‘The movement of artworks must be at a standstill and thereby becomes visible.’ Developing Walter Benjamin’s concept of the Dialectical Image this is an engagement with the aporia of time and history. In this paper I will discuss some of the implications of a dialectical critique of time and temporality towards an aesthetics of experimental film and video practice. Against the Aristotelian prime mover or the ‘de-temporalised time’ of some philosophies, Adorno’s work towards the ‘divergence of concept and thing, subject and object, and their unreconciled state’ will reflect the dialectic of universal and particular as history sedimented in the film object. The dissonant practice of experimentation within the intervals of moving images –the paradox of unity and disunity for the flow of frames –is opened up in its contradictions by some practitioners. This conceives of change and flux in the dialectic of stillness and movement –fragment and continuum.

Hegel writes that ‘motion is existent contradiction itself.’ The instant is both immobile and dynamic, frozen but accelerating. Zoom in to the interstices of the changing million pixels of the raster display or the photogram momentarily pulled through the projector mechanism on a filmstrip to an open shutter. The dialectical image is an ‘antagonistic unity of movement and immobility’, Adorno writes, raising paradoxes to consciousness. Several films/videos will be discussed and considered.

Gareth Polmeer is a video-maker and writer. He is a researcher and lecturer at the Royal College of Art, London.



The Divided Selves of David Foster Wallace

Peter Sloane

University of Bristol

There’s a great deal that’s bad about having a body. If this is not so obviously true that no one needs examples, we can just quickly mention pain, sores, odors, nausea, aging, gravity, sepsis, clumsiness, illness, limits — every last schism between our physical wills and our actual capacities. Can anyone doubt we need help being reconciled? Crave it? It’s your body that dies, after all.[1]

All sense of division, of disunity, whether social, personal, historical or political, it might be argued, is founded on the primary distinction of ‘self’ and ‘other’, where the other is conceived of as being out ‘there’ in the world. However, David Foster Wallace seems to ask, perhaps taking Lacan’s work on ‘The Mirror Phase’ into consideration, what if the ‘other’ is the product of a foundational psychological disunity in one’s self, and what if, no matter where you go, the ‘other’ is always already there?

David Foster Wallace is a writer whose work is underscored by the primacy of divisions and disunities. In an interview with Larry McCaffery, Wallace said that ‘fiction’s about what it is to be a fucking human being’, that ‘all of us’ are sort of ‘marooned in … own skull’, and this kind of enforced, embodied isolation within one’s ‘own’ personal body is explored through Wallace’s writing, and demonstrates Wallace most profound preoccupation: the mind – body problem. I propose a short paper to examine some of the ways in which Wallace engages with this problem and how, with a great deal of mindfulness, perhaps so much so as to slip into mindlessness, Wallace thinks we might come to terms with this very human disunity, and this will be accomplished through a reading of Wallace’s final novel, The Pale King.

Peter Sloane is currently the recipient of a University of Bristol Doctoral Scholarship, writing his thesis: The Divided Selves of David Foster Wallace. This an exploration of Wallace’s writing in relation to works such as R. D. Laing’s The Divided Self, Timothy Wilson’s Strangers to Ourselves, and Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink, all of which Wallace owned and all of which, he argues, are central in his characterisation.


The Problem of Collaboration: British Policy in Iran, 1941-1947

Jack Taylor

University College London

The relationship between private enterprise and the British government has long been the subject of fascination for scholars. Ronald Robinson and John Gallagher’s seminal work ‘The Imperialism of Free Trade’ remains a potent example of how diplomatic history can draw from the private sector to develop more nuanced understandings of the past. However, despite the work undertaken by Robinson and Gallagher, and subsequently by Peter Cain and Anthony Hopkins, British corporatism remains widely misunderstood and misunderstood.

This paper will suggest a symbiosis between the policies of Westminster and the AIOC, and argue that despite having similar long term goals the Company’s pursuit of short-term profits hindered their ability to maintain partnership with the British government. Similarly, this paper will propose that British policy makers were overly reliant on corporate agents in implementing policy in Iran, and were slow to react to the increasing unpopularity of AIOC policy.

The sources this study will draw upon include diplomatic papers from both Britain and the United States and under-utilised material from the BP Archive. This will in turn will provide new, and important insights regarding the course of Anglo-Iranian relations and oil ownership more generally.

Jack Taylor is working towards a PhD at UCL, investigating the Anglo-American relationship, decolonisation and control of Iranian oil between 1941 and 1951, having previously studied at the University of Liverpool and London School of Economics. His research aims to bridge the gap between general studies of Anglo-American relations and corporatist scholarship.

[1] David Foster Wallace, ‘Federer as a Religious Experience’, The New York Times, August 20th 2006.


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