Friday, October 19, 2007

Pullman debate

Philip Pullman, author of the 'His Dark Materials' trilogy, will be in conversation with Brian Mountford on Monday 22 October 2007 at 7.30pm, preceeded by drinks at 7pm. The discussion will explore his views on faith and Christianity as well as his writing and forthcoming film, the Golden Compass, part of which was filmed at St Mary's.

Thursday, October 18, 2007


Thanks to everyone who came to the meeting yesterday--it looks like this year is going to be really productive! We've decided to meet every three weeks, beginning with a brief (~20 min) presentation by one of our members on her/his work, followed by a discussion of a related book that we'll have read in advance.

Our first meeting will be on Wednesday, 31 October in the English Faculty (St. Cross) Building, Room 5 at 2:00pm, and the following will be on Wednesday, 21 November in the same room at the same time. We hope to have a third meeting before the Christmas vacation, but will schedule that closer to the time. Below are brief outlines of what we'll be doing at each meeting:

31 October 2007
Creole Childhoods: memory, autobiography, postcolonialism
Louise Hardwick, Trinity College, 3rd yr. DPhil in French

This presentation will examine two different approaches to childhood by two prolific authors from the Caribbean, Maryse Conde (from Guadeloupe) and Patrick Chamoiseau (from Martinique). Texts considered are Conde's Le coeur a rire et a pleurer (trans. Tales from the heart) and Chamoiseau's trilogy of novels, 'Une enfance creole' (trans. in English 'Childhood').

How do these authors appropriate the motif of childhood to portray the postcolonial condition? What is the relationship between autobiography and fiction in this literature? The French terms 'recit d'enfance' and Lejeune's 'pacte autobiographique' will be discussed. Moreover, does the quest to reconstruct memory assume metaphorical, politicised urgency in the Francophone Caribbean context? Both authors have also produced children's literature, and I will conclude with brief discussion of these works (and bring two texts to pass round the group).

Discussion reading: 'School Days' by Maryse Conde. The whole story is available in English translation on Jstor.

21 November 2007
A Very Powerful and Convincing Mistake:
Pullman's Althusser, via Blake
Anna Sproul, Corpus Christi College, MSt English 1900-Present

Philip Pullman updates William Blake's critique of institutional Christianity to attack the institutions (what Althusser would call the ideological state apparatuses) typical of a capitalist society and these institutions' role in shaping children's identities. Judith Butler notes that Althusser's concept of ideological interpellation resembles "a highly religious scenario of a nominating call that comes from God," and Sproul believes that Pullman's main target, like Blake's, is not so much Christianity as the capitalist greed that acts with the tyranny of a god. Pullman attempts to offer children an alternative model for development - he encourages them to embrace, rather than deny, their unstable identities and view their consciousness as part of a collective sea of Dust rather than something particular. But Sproul doesn't find his alternative model too compelling; the Dust idea is just too logically inconsistent.

Discussion reading: You guessed it--Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials.

Other dates to keep in mind:

27 November 2007
The Christmas Challenge and the National Home in the Oxford School of Children’s Literature
Maria Cecire, Keble College, 2nd year DPhil in English
8:15pm in Pusey House, St. Giles
(Talk for the Lewis Society)

Be sure to let us know if you have anything coming up!