30 November 2010


Please join us for the final "The Uses of Literature" seminar of this term. The English Department's own Maebh Long will be speaking about the futures of literary theory in a paper entitled "Whither deconstruction…? Wither deconstruction…?". The paper will be followed by open forum discussion and a trip to the Victoria, in the usual way.

“The future of literary criticism will be Derridean, or it will not be. And if it is... not, it will have been Derridean, since it was he who first envisioned critically the possibility of a future from which literature—and, a fortiori, literary criticism—might be absent”. Richard Klein, “The Future of Literary Criticism” PMLA 125.4 (2010).

In the brave new world in which we live futures and fates are very much under scrutiny. The tragedy/farce of the Browne Report has precipitated – exacerbated – the prevailing sense of being haunted by the future, of being under siege by an inevitable and inescapable fate. Futures are closed off within a dystopian use of the future perfect that attempts to repress the openness of what Derrida termed the “to come”. This paper looks at the “to come” of the humanities, and specifically literary theory, and works to find some openness and possibility within the withering gaze of a potentially bleak future.

Maebh Long has submitted her doctoral thesis on Jacques Derrida and irony, which she wrote under the supervision of Prof. Timothy Clark, and is currently awaiting her viva. Her work attempts to position Derrida within a lineage of thinkers working on the borders of literature and philosophy who exploit irony, a non-propositional element of language, as a cognitive resource. Long was Chief Editor of the postgraduate journal Kaleidoscope (2008-2010), was co-convenor of Inventions of the Text (2008-2009) and co-convenor the English department’s theory reading group (2007-2010). "A Step Askew: Ironic Parabasis in Blanchot" in Blanchot Romantique, ed. by John McKeane and Hannes Opelz (Bern: Peter Lang, 2010) has just been published, and "Radical Digressivity and At Swim-Two-Birds" is forthcoming in Textual Wanderings: The Theory and Practice of Narrative Digressions, ed. by Rhian Atkin (Oxford: Legenda, 2011).

2 November 2010


For the third seminar in our "The Uses of Literature" series, we're delighted to welcome Dr Andrew Crumey, award-winning novelist and lecturer in Creative Writing at Newcastle University. He originally trained as a theoretical physicist and is a former literary editor of Scotland on Sunday. His most recent novel Sputnik Caledonia (Picador) was shortlisted for the James Tait Black Prize and Scottish Book of the Year Award.

What is the knowledge-content of fiction? We could consider this as an institutional question, asking what makes the creative component of a Creative Writing PhD a “contribution to knowledge”. More generally, we could seek a conceptualisation of knowledge applicable to literature or art in general.

By taking the institutional model first, we address the problem in a practical way, raising fundamental questions of creative writing pedagogy (e.g. can writing be taught?). This will motivate an approach to the more general theoretical question, raising a contrast between the (relative) stability of empirical scientific knowledge and the evident instability of artistic taste. Given that the object of taste is often considered to be “form” rather than “content”, an issue is to ask how “knowledge-content” can be distinguished from “informational content”.

The emphasis is thus on a practice-led approach: this paper will draw on the author’s practical experience as novelist and creative writing teacher, rather than on any formal theoretical apparatus, with the aim of extracting insights applicable beyond personal artistic practice.

For more information about Andrew, please visit his website here:

An interview with Andrew in The Independent:

And his page from the Newcastle Centre for Literary Arts: