Narrating the Contemporary: Workshop

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12 Sep 2019 01.00 PM - 03.00 PM Alumni, Current Students, Industry Partners, Prospective Students, Public
Organised by:
Graham Matthews

An Irish Counter-Tradition: Contemporary Irish Fiction and the Counter-Realist Mode

He sets out for the place as an animal might, as though on some fated migration. There is nothing rational about it nor even entirely sane and this is the great attraction. (Kevin Barry, Beatlebone, 2015)

This paper posits the persistence of a specific tradition in Irish fiction that registers a persistent scepticism and antagonism towards coherent, ordered fictional projections of reality. Such a tradition is apparent both as an interrogation of the epistemological conditions of the realist mode in authors like Joyce, Beckett, and Flann O’Brien, and as a mocking parodic impulse in the work of writers like Sterne, Swift, Neil Jordan, John Banville. This tradition extends, as I will illustrate to several contemporary writers like Mike McCormack, Eimear McBride, and Kevin Barry.

Speaker: Neil Murphy


Aesthetic Frames and Ethical Nuance in Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go

Theodor Adorno observes that since the onset of the twentieth century, “less and less does the beautiful actualize itself in a particular purified shape; more and more does it manifest itself in the dynamic totality of the work of art” (“On the Concept of the Beautiful” 80). One of the key issues in contemporary fiction is the question of how literature might reconcile the brokenness of human experience with beauty, especially given the radical skepticism that characterizes the postmodern period and the loss of faith in grand narratives—including those associated with the quality or experience of beauty. By attending to formal structures and narratorial voice in Never Let Me Go, I explain how character and authorial reticence function as part of the novel’s indictment of its own storyworld, where such invitations to ethical engagements are implicit in Kazuo Ishiguro’s aesthetic design.

Speaker: Michelle Wang


“A State of Mathematical Grace”: Risk, Expertise and Ontological Insecurity in Ian McEwan’s Enduring Love

The sociologists Ulrich Beck and Anthony Giddens theorise that we are living in a risk society, characterised by the increasing prevalence of low probability—high consequence threats to human health. Communities are characterised by a constant state of apprehension and the rise of ontological insecurity. Rather than reading science as the discourse of objectivity, the risk society approach reveals that the uncertainty and contingency that assails modern society is an unanticipated side effect of modernity itself. In this paper, I argue that Ian McEwan’s Enduring Love dramatises the subjective experience of anxiety generated by risk society dynamics and charts its effects on the reception of expert knowledge, scientific discourse, and the abstract systems of modernity.

Speaker: Graham Matthews