23 October 2010


Join us for the second of our "The Uses of Literature" series for a talk that explores how climate change is employed to expose age old poetic concerns, and calls for a new account of the cultural significances of this massive anti-glacial effort on the part of humanity.

15 October 2010


Join us for the first in our "The Uses of Literature" series:

Against the background of the ubiquity of ‘interdisciplinarity’ and now endemic concerns about ‘the profession’, this paper seeks, first, to retrace the history of the professionalization of Literary Studies in the twentieth century, proceeding from the rise of so-called Russian Formalism in the Soviet 1920s. The broad purpose of this brief retrospective is to isolate ...certain particular ways in which institutional factors have influenced the evolution of discipline and to highlight the sense in which, for the humanities at least, the cloak of interdisciplinarity has concealed a state of ‘war’. The second part of the paper involves a return to the selected point of origin – ‘Russian Formalism’ – in order to suggest a corrective reconceptualisation of the ways in which humanities disciplines in general might be viewed. This will entail a revisionist view not only of Formalism itself, but also of the ways in which genre has been conceived in Literary Studies. In an echo of the ways in which a Bakhtinian (Barthesian) conception of the ‘war of languages’ implies a re-conceptualisation of literary genre, the objective is to examine how genre can be deployed in order to understand – and defuse – the ‘war of disciplines’.

Alastair Renfrew taught at the universities of Strathclyde and Exeter before coming to Durham as Reader and Head of Russian in 2007. He is Director of Research in the School of Modern Languages & Cultures and has recently become Editor of the journal Slavonica. His main area of research specialization is critical and literary theory, with particular emphasis on the Soviet 1920s. He has published widely on Mikhail Bakhtin and the so-called Russian Formalists, including the monograph Towards a New Material Aesthetics (Legenda, 2006) and the recent collection Critical Theory in Russia and the West (Routledge 2010). He is currently completing an introduction to Bakhtin for Routledge Critical Thinkers. He has also taught and published on Russian and Soviet Cinema, Russian and Scottish Literature and is currently developing a project on the history of political violence in Russian literature and culture.

8 October 2010


We're delighted to announce the programme of Inventions of the Text events for the upcoming term. All sessions are held at the seminar room at Hallgarth House, Hallgarth Street, Durham. We begin at 6pm, and sessions are generally followed by drinks and discussion afterwards at the Victoria.

Wednesday 20th October 2010 (note amended date)
"Discipline and Genre"
Alastair Renfrew
(School of Modern Language and Cultures, Durham University)

Wednesday 27th October 2010
"Why We Don't Write Poems About Climate Change"
Matthew Griffiths
(Department of English Studies, Durham University)

Wednesday 10th November 2010
"Knowledge in Creative Writing"
Andrew Crumey
(School of English Literature, Language and Linguistics, Newcastle University)

Wednesday 1st December 2010
"Wither Deconstruction?... Whither Deconstruction?"
Maebh Long
(Department of English Studies, Durham University)

Speakers later in the series will include Vic Sage (University of East Anglia), Richard Walsh (University of York) and James Annesley (University of Newcastle).