Absent Voices #1 (Feature Piece): Adversity, Spontaneity, and the Forgotten Song of the Nightingale in our Urban Experience

An Uber has been sent to your location. But has anyone actually sent it? Is it not acting rather on its own instructions? Sure, certain transport purists claim that Uber drivers do not know where they are going, that they blindly follow route guidance. Others, Uber’s faithful customers, say they don’t mind being taken down dead ends or across the odd playing field on their way home. Some, sent home by friends having disgraced themselves on a night out, are too drunk to notice. 

In any case, the Uber journey invariably begins with the U-turn. For when you press ‘Request Uber’ on your smartphone application, somewhere, minutes away—urban distance is now measured in minutes, not miles—an Uber is obliged to halt in the street, perform a U-turn, and head your way.

What is so unusual about that? The U-turning Uber is fast becoming an urban commonplace in London, rivalling the black cab cruising down an empty bus lane while you sit motionless in traffic, or the ranks of chip shops along the high street promising a final refuge for your Saturday night. Take a walk through Shoreditch this weekend and you will see streets thick with U-turning Ubers, cavorting and convulsing in the thoroughfare like ecstatic devotees.

Still, there is something rather odd about all this. Dangerous, ungainly, and impromptu, the U-turn is everything that the Uber website promises the service is not. In the moment of the U-turn, all that slickness goes out the window. How could this seamless system of ‘Tap and Ride’ ever permit such an aberration? We expect a sublime service: to be surprised by the driver—his engine almost silent—rolling up from nowhere (or rather, falling off a virtual map and appearing in the real) like on the forecourt of a posh hotel.

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New Beginnings #5: Eimear McBride and Literary Revolution at the LSE Literary Festival

Author Eimear McBride, 2016. Attribution: Larry D. Moore, via Wikimedia Commons, 2016

This year’s LSE literary festival, held around the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution, takes ‘Revolutions’ as its theme, examining various forms of upheaval and regeneration in literature, politics, religion, and science. I was fortunate enough to attend ‘Revolutions in Literature’, a talk which brought together author Eimear McBride and Toby Lichtig, editor of the Times Literary Supplement.  McBride and Lichtig discussed literary revolution, considering the innovations of modernism at the turn of the 20th century alongside the methods being used in today’s contemporary fiction. Given my PhD research in contemporary Irish poetry, the event was hugely beneficial in furthering my understanding of the new beginnings currently underway in recent Irish novel writing. Continue reading

New Beginnings # 4: Politicising the Past: A Review of King’s Greek Play Prometheus Bound

prometheus-boundClassics, perhaps more than any other academic discipline, is frequently subject to accusations of being irrelevant to modern society. This is an aspect of the discipline perpetuated by traditional, reductive perspectives that criticise acts, such as translation or reception, which would challenge the canonical status of a classical text. Increasingly, however, classicists have challenged such essentialist arguments through acts of reception that note the capacity of both ancient texts and iconic ancient figures to resonate with modern ideological struggles.

I recently had the opportunity to attend Greek Play, an annual production staged by King’s Classics department that provides audiences with the unique opportunity to experience Greek drama in the original ancient language. For 2017, this was a student production of Prometheus Bound at the Greenwood Theatre. This production was, in a sense, a New Beginning for the Greek Play itself, since it was the first time the play has been performed in its history of sixty-four years. Moreover, through the figure of Prometheus, it sought to challenge assumptions about the relevance of Classical literature to provide an enlightening analogue to current issues raised by world politics. Continue reading

New Beginnings #3: Looking Backwards to Start Anew: Migration and Contemporary Cinema in Italy

fire-at-sea
‘Fuocoammare’ (Fire at Sea) by Gianfranco Rosi, 2016. Attribution: Film Poster, non-free image posted under fair dealings rationale for research purposes only, IMDb, 2016.

A memorable scene of 1917 Charlie Chaplin’s silent comedy short The Immigrant denounces the brutal mistreatment of newly arrived immigrants – many of which were Italian nationals – in New York by local public officials. Unsurprisingly, the sharp antithesis between the temporarily captive status of migrants and the caption ‘The arrival in the country of freedom’ did not please the state film censorship, which accused the comic actor of outrageously disseminating anti-Americanist sentiments. More than 80 years later, in 1998, The Immigrant was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry as being ‘culturally, historically, and aesthetically significant’.

Numerically speaking Italians count as one the most significant migrant communities of the twentieth century; nevertheless, the artistic portrayal of such mass phenomenon within the national borders has blossomed only recently. With the beginning of the new millennium, a fascination with past Italian migration captivated filmmakers, journalists and novelists. In Emmanuele Crialese’s 2006 drama film Nuovomondo (New World), the arrival of a poverty-stricken Sicilian family at Ellis Island on a foggy winter morning impeding the view of the Statue of Liberty is a subtle, photographically exquisite reference to Chaplin’s groundbreaking production. The parallelism between the two works is self-evident in the sequences following the disembarkation, in which the camera focuses upon the humiliating physical and psychological examinations undergone by migrants. Continue reading

New Beginnings #2: A New Project and A New Experience: The East End Women’s Museum

sylvia-pankhurst-1909-by-unknown-photographer-public-domain-via-wikimedia-commons
Sylvia Pankhurst, 1909. Instrumental figure in the East End women’s suffrage movement. Attribution: Unknown photographer, public domain via Wikimedia commons, 1909

Have you heard about the East End Women’s Museum? Perhaps you remember instead the opening of the tacky Jack the Ripper Museum in 2015, in place of the promised first Women Museum in the UK. Not only does the new museum disregard women’s lives, but it also displays gratuitous details of Jack the Ripper’s murders, including one victim’s bedroom and pictures of the bodies. However, this dreadful opening led to some good things: a collective opposition to the museum (from neighbours, East End women, feminists, and historians), as well as Sara Huws and Sarah Jackson’s wish to create the promised museum. Their idea is to offer the East End and London the museum that was originally proposed, with historical and social information about women’s lives in the East End. The project not only aims to be historical, but also links historical jobs or situations to the present, with contemporary testimonies. The form of the museum is not yet defined; it may be a physical building in the East End, or a virtual museum, such as the Women’s Museum of Ireland – or even both. Continue reading

New Beginnings #1: Reconciling Creative Differences: Warlikowski’s Vision of Iphigénie en Tauride

programmeA fascinating phenomenon within the performing arts is its natural tendency for constant reinvention. While history illuminates our propensity to immortalize art and artists in marble effigies unchanged by time, these monuments are more clay than stone, newly shaped by the fresh hands that touch them. As a music historian, this act of ‘New Beginnings’ in art is something I have come to value quite highly, perhaps because it is a reminder that humanity still finds relevance in looking to the past in forging ahead to the future. Continue reading

New Beginnings

new-beginningsThe start of a new year inevitably heralds new beginnings, and the same is true this year for the Still Point Journal: the founding editorial team have handed the publication over to a brand-new team. (If you’re interested in finding out more about us, head over to our bios under the ‘About’ section.) We are excited to continue the great work that has been done so far with the blog, whilst also adding our own slant to it. As a new addition to the blog, we will be expanding its current scope beyond reflective pieces concerning research by incorporating monthly ‘Calls for Submissions’ around various themes. These themes will be announced at the beginning of every month, both on the blog itself as well as on social media to generate a more eclectic series of contributions.

Our assemblage as a new editorial team inspired the theme for this month: ‘New Beginnings’. For us, the theme encompasses a broad scope of considerations: personal reflections of new beginnings experienced as research students, the role of reception in creating something novel from an older art form, reactions to current affairs pointing to the shift in world politics, and many more. As before, in addition to these monthly themes, we will still accept blog submissions reflecting the experience of London-based researchers on a rolling basis.

Please send submissions to blog@thestillpointjournal.com