Issue 4 – Call for Submissions

For Issue #4 of the print publication, we welcome contributions that engage with the theme ‘traces’. The theme is open for creative interpretation, and contributions could explore – but are not limited to – the following ideas:

  • Traces as an indication of existence
  • Traces of the past and/or future
  • Traces that are visible or geographical
  • Invisible traces
  • Traces as inspiration
  • Traces as a narrative

You can submit short stories, prose fiction, poetry, images, visual art, or non-fiction writing, including reflections or short essays. Continue reading

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City as Tangent: New York

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“The entire complex of urban life can be thought of as a person rather than as a distinctive place, and the city may be endowed with a personality – or, to use common parlance – a character of its own. Like a person, the city then acquires a biography and a reputation.”

Anselm L. Strauss, Images of the American City

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A Tangential View of History

I can see that it has its problems, but I think that the metaphor of a tangent has something compellingly to do with the interpretation of history. The term “tangent” unavoidably means a straight line in space, at least when we think of it in its geometric sense. That fact by itself will probably not endear it to historians looking to reflect on their own practice. A linear history is likely an evolutionary history, a teleological one. It might imply that historical process straightforwardly means historical progress, which is unpalatable to many. Continue reading

Translation as Excavation

As a translator, my daily work revolves around excavating truth and meaning from crowded clumps of unruly words. And there’s lots of ways to go about such an activity – no trowels or shaker screens needed! When I first began my doctoral research, after having spent some time working in industry, I was a bit overwhelmed at how quickly my discipline had moved on, leaving me behind, buried under years of new findings, theories, and developments. At the same time, venturing into the wild world of theatre translation, I was about to hit a very steep learning curve. Despite all that I had learnt during my training and work experience prior to coming to Queen Mary, I quickly came to see that meaning does not exist exclusively within a word. There are other sites that need to be excavated, and urgently. Our all too mortal bodies, the mundane spaces that we traverse, cast-off trinkets, and even deadly silences have the potential to shed much needed light on meaning and truth. We simply need to roll up our sleeves, select the right tools, and start digging. Continue reading

Excavation: a lifestyle approach

Excavation, from the Latin excavare, refers to the act of digging, unveiling an object placed under several layers. We should probably pay more attention to this term. We should take it literally when we research new data for our projects. Or, simply, when we meet new peers and instinctively engage in small talk. This would prove extremely beneficial in both cases. Continue reading

Excavating the mind of the artist

“Cinema uses the language of dreams.”

Federico Fellini

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Among the plethora of mediums available to the artist, moving images have always had the privileged position of coming closest to matching the unpredictable whirring of the mind. It has perhaps become a cliché to liken the cinematic vision to the state of dreaming, yet it is one that rings true. Cinema has the unique ability to dig at once into the mind of the artist, the mind of the cinematic protagonist, and the mind of the audience, creating a separate sphere wherein all three may merge. Continue reading

APOCALYPSE (wow!)

The future is over. Through the cliché of the Post-Apocalyptic, it has been strip-mined of meaning. The ubiquity of the teleological narrative in mainstream media – the end-narratives of the ‘end times’ – has created franchises of nihilism, which advocate a political quietism that shuts down hope. In the slew of P-A (Post-Apocalyptic) movies since the 1970s onwards we have been seduced by disaster-porn: burning buildings, earthquakes, tsunamis, meteor strikes, epidemics, big freezes, zombie outbreaks ad nauseam. Yet expressing and exploiting eschatological fears is not something new. The end has been nigh for some time. Continue reading

‘The Machine Stops’: What E. M. Forster Knew About the Internet

“How can I possibly explain this? It was naked, humanity seemed naked, and all these tubes and buttons and machineries neither came into the world with us, nor will they follow us out, nor do they matter supremely while we are here.”

 This year marks one hundred and ten years since The Oxford and Cambridge Review printed ‘The Machine Stops,’ a remarkable short story by E. M. Forster which seems to predict the Internet. It is a strange, Wellsian tale set in a distant future where humans have abandoned the surface of the earth and retreated into a hive-like network of interconnected hexagonal rooms. Though they live alone, they have access to every material convenience and to everybody else in the world at the push of a button, through a global network of networks of machinery known reverentially as ‘The Machine.’ ‘The Machine Stops’ tells the story of Vashti, a ‘swaddled lump of flesh’ with a face ‘as white as fungus,’ and her son Kuno. Kuno is a ‘savage type,’ who defies the Machine to travel to the earth’s surface. After learning, contrary to what he’s been brought up believing, that one doesn’t ‘die immediately in the outer air,’ Kuno tells his mother that ‘The Machine is stopping […] I know the signs.’ To Vashti’s horror and disbelief, Kuno turns out to be right.

 The resemblance of the Machine to the Internet is so striking that it’s hard to believe that Forster could possibly have come up with it in 1909. Vashti has Facebook, inasmuch as she ‘knows’ ‘several thousand people,’ with whom she communicates by ‘button’ from the comfort of her armchair. Other ‘buttons and switches’ are her Amazon, allowing her to order food and clothing, and her Alexa, ‘producing’ music, ‘literature’ and ‘lectures’ on command and controlling her room’s lighting and temperature. Vashti talks to Kuno through a kind of Skype or Facetime, whereby a tablet-like ‘plate’ that she holds in her hands glows with blue light and permits her to ‘see the image of her son, who lived on the other side of the world.’

 Her favourite way to spend her time is ‘exchang[ing] ideas with her innumerable friends,’ who ask her if she’s ‘had any ideas lately’ before immediately interrupting to tell her their own ‘ideas.’ Her time is consumed by this constant exchange of ‘ideas’: short, shallow, ten-minute discussions of subjects, which are sent out unedited through the Machine for the whole world to hear. Vashti responds to this constant influx of ‘ideas’ with ‘irritation,’ which is ‘a growing quality in that accelerating age,’ but it never occurs to her to stop. In other words, she’s on Twitter.  Continue reading