Professorial Inaugural Lectures 2014-15
Thursday 13 November, 6pm: Professor Karla Pollmann (SECL), Grimond Lecture Theatre 1
Method and Madness in the Reception of Saint Augustine of Hippo (354-2014)
Augustine of Hippo (354-430), saint, bishop, intellectual and incredibly prolific writer in late Roman North Africa, can arguably be called the most influential early Christian writer in Latin. The impact of his rich and diverse thoughts is immense up to this very day. Last year a large interdisciplinary and international, collaborative project came to its conclusion that had as its aim the mapping of facts, patterns, and characteristics of Augustine's enduring presence from his death until the present. Noteworthy findings of this project include Augustine’s enduring legacy far beyond the narrower confinements of theology, such as philosophy, political theory, education, psychology and art, and his surprising presence in popular culture. The lecture, delivered on Augustine’s 1660th biological birthday, will give an overview of the project, present its most important original insights, and attempt to reflect on implications of the continuing presence of a ‘saint’ in a secularised society.
Friday 30 January, 6pm: Professor Gerry Adler (KSA), Grimond LectureTheatre 2
Flat White: incipient Modernist architecture in late Wilhelmine Germany
The early years of the twentieth century witnessed remarkable advances in architecture emanating from Germany in matters technical, aesthetic and functional. The hiatus of the First World War interrupted this flowering of the art of building, which nonetheless resumed during the years of ferment of the Weimar Republic. On the northern outskirts of Dresden a settlement was founded, taking inspiration from English Arts and Crafts endeavours in Reform design and living culture, but with a pronounced Nietzschean ‘will to form’ all-encompassing in its reach. Here was a garden city with real industry at its heart (the progressive furniture factory of the Deutsche Werkstätten) and a magnificent performance space at its periphery, to which the great and the good of European society would come on pilgrimage.
The spare, unadorned houses designed by the quiet Mecklenburg architect Heinrich Tessenow (1876-1950) gave way to the spiritual and artistic centre of the settlement, his great festival theatre and School of Eurhythmy. A building which at first glance seems a correct and prim exercise in understated Neoclassicism turns out to be nothing short of revolutionary in its concision of internal planning, purity and simplicity of surface, and manipulation of light. It is an inspiring example of a building as product of a variety of artistic and social impulses, orchestrated by the tactful skill of its young architect, one which presages the collaborative work of the Bauhaus in Dessau some 15 years later. Its main performance space has qualities that would not make it unusual to find in the twenty-first century: its surfaces are smooth and pale, and emit light, shimmering like a reversed lampshade.
Between the economy of sachlich, functional terraced and paired houses and the stately Festspielhaus, designed to accommodate and give shape to emerging Reform ideas of pedagogy, dance and music (such as the eurhythmy dabbled in by D. H. Lawrence’s heroines), key traits of Modernist aesthetics were born, uniting the various arts and paving the way for the prevailing look of the twentieth century, one that is arguably still with us in the twenty-first: flat white.
Wednesday 4 February, 6pm: Professor Gordon Lynch (SECL), Keynes LectureTheatre 1
Remembering the UK child migrants: faith, nation-building and the shadow-side of charity
Between 1869 and the early 1970s around 100,000 children were sent from the UK, unaccompanied by their parents, to live in Canada, Australia, Rhodesia and New Zealand. Originating as a form of welfare response to social deprivation, the child migration schemes later became more formalised strategies of empire settlement and the building up of 'white dominions' overseas. Represented as redemptive interventions into children's lives, the schemes persisted in spite of the suffering they caused to children, evidence of their failures and later shifts in public policy that challenged many of their working methods. This lecture will examine the moral motivations underpinning these schemes and the relationship between these motivations and their harmful effects on children's lives. In doing so, it raises wider questions both about how we remember child migration today and how the expression of charitable impulse can have damaging social effects.
Friday 13 February, 6pm: Amalia Arvaniti (SECL), Grimond Lecture Theatre 1
Language, gender and the power of stereotypes
Many stereotypes about gendered language have become part of common lore and linguistic thinking alike, thanks to early work which defined the linguistic devices (said to be) used by women as powerless. The research to be presented focuses on two instances of such perceived linguistic powerlessness: (i) the use of uptalk (rising pitch at the end of statements) and its implications for the expression of uncertainty and self-effacement; (ii) the seeming ability of women to read hidden meanings in what men say. The two studies show that stereotypes have a base in gendered linguistic behaviour, but they also indicate that the link between gender and language is often indirect and sometimes non-existent. Thus, interpreting linguistic behaviour as directly reflecting gender while taking the existence of gender differences for granted can lead to erroneous conclusions which serve only to reinforce existing stereotypes, thereby compounding gender inequality.
Friday 13 March, 6pm: Professor Núria Triana-Toribio, Grimond Lecture Theatre 2
Spanish Film Cultures
No film comes about without a film culture to sustain it. Film cultures are the institutions, legislation, working practices and cultural actors that encourage some kinds of film and prove fallow ground for others. In Spain during the long Transition to democracy from Franco’s dictatorship (1968-1978) a new film culture was built that distanced itself from the old. However, the transition in film, like the transition in politics, was more easily imagined than achieved. Elements of the old film culture persisted, even among the progressives, while film historians, signed up to the project of the new film culture, have been reluctant to acknowledge these vestigial traces, which have become the ‘bad objects’ of Spanish film studies. But as Ezra Pound once said, ‘you can’t know an era merely by knowing its best’. This lecture will consider the development of Spain’s dominant film culture since 1968 by examining one such bad object, the popular film magazine Nuevo Fotogramas, long considered too frivolous to have played any serious part in the Transition, in spite of the cosmopolitan outlook of its writers and editors.
Wednesday 20 May, 6pm: Professor Gaynor Johnson (History), Grimond Lecture Theatre 1
Never Complain, Never Explain: British Foreign Policy in the Twentieth Century
The aim of this lecture is to offer an overview of the principal trends in the evolution of international history as a sub-discipline of history. To examine its relation to other areas of history and to place it within the wider context of other subject areas that also examine how states relate to one another, for example, international relations and law. The lecture will then explore some of the main historiographical debates on twentieth century British foreign policy and what they reveal about how much we know or otherwise about those subjects. Finally, some thoughts will be offered about the direction in which the study of recent British foreign policy is likely to develop.
Professorial Inaugural Lectures 2013-14
Thursday 19 December, 6pm: Professor Nicola Shaughnessy (Arts), Aphra Theatre
Valuing Performance: Art or Science?
This lecture considers the role and function of performance as an art form and as a research method. Higher Education funders require academics to measure impact but how can this be assessed in performance? What are its benefits to society?
Drawing upon interdisciplinary collaborations between artists and scientists, I will show how performance can respond to one of the key problems expressed by neuro scientists: 'the need for a means of accessing human experience'. Performance practice, as I will demonstrate, offers ways of engaging and understanding concepts such as imagination, emotion, empathy, perception and cognition.
Friday 21 February, 6pm: Professor Ben Hutchinson (SECL), Grimond Lecture Theatre 1
'Creatures facing backwards': Modernity, Literature and Lateness
Abstract to follow
Friday 28 March, 6pm: Professor Martin Hammer (Arts), Grimond LectureTheatre 1
Stepping Westward: David Hockney in Colorado in 1965
I intend to focus on a specific work, painted by Hockney in America in 1965. Rocky Mountains and Tired Indians (like Hockney’s early art in general) is typically discussed in relation to autobiographical anecdote provided by the artist, and tends not to be taken very seriously by art historians. I hope to identify and explore what kinds of thing the painting is made of, beyond paint on canvas – memories of places and of a wide range of works of art, attitudes to life in modern America from the perspective of an English outsider, and Hockney’s immersion in the contemporary novel as well as theoretical reflections on art. Painting and painter will emerge perhaps as more ‘learned’ and complex than is often recognised.
Wednesday 9 April, 5.15pm: Professor James Carley (History), Grimond LectureTheatre 1
'Lost or Stolen or Strayed': The foundation collection of Lambeth Palace Library and its vicissitudes
Abstract to follow
Friday 16 May, 6pm: Professor Marialena Nikolopoulou (Architecture), Marlowe Lecture Theatre 1
Experiencing the urban realm: when did architects abandon our thermal sense?
Abstract to follow
Professorial Inaugural Lectures 2012-13
Thursday 8 November, Woolf Lecture Theatre, 6pm: Professor Ray Laurence (SECL)
'Pompeii, Roads and the Spatial Turn - was the Roman Empire an Early Form of Globalisation?'
The study of the Roman Empire has become a global phenomenon with radical research agendas in Brazil, new 3d TV programmes being made in Korea for a world market, and it continues to thrive in its European heartland. These are signs that the Roman Empire is becoming more relevant today. This lecture will set out a means to capture the nature of the Roman Empire seeking to relate the local, Pompeii, to the global, the Empire. The content will be drawn from Ray Laurence's own experience of working on space with a focus on understanding how the spatial turn can allow Roman historians and archaeologists to create new explanations for a subject that has a longevity of scholarship back to at least the 18th century. In so doing, a question is posed to provide a focus for the lecture: Was the Roman Empire a form of globalisation?
Friday 22 February, Grimond Lecture Theatre 1, 6pm: Professor Kenneth Fincham (History)
'The English Church c1600-c1700: an Age of Revolution or Reform?'
The seventeenth century was a period of intense religious and political conflict, as the historic Church of England underwent significant change in the Puritan Revolution of the 1640s-50s, and the Glorious Revolution of 1688-9. So much is well known. Much less understood is the persistent attempts to reform the Church in the same period, most significantly the revolutionary attempt to re-orientate the doctrine, resources, worship and international standing of the English Church by Archbishop Laud in the 1630s, a turning-point which nearly turned, and which (contrary to received opinion) had a profound impact until 1688-9. This lecture will examine the character and influence of the Laudian project, the opposition it faced and its importance in the wider history of the church and society.
Friday 22 March, Grimond Lecture Theatre 2, 6pm: Professor Tim Howle (Arts)
'Seeing Sounds and Hearing Images - Composing with Audiovisual Materials'
This lecture will examine the nature of new compositional ideas that are formed when sonic art is combined with video art.
At a recent competition for composers of sonic art, two thirds of the submissions were audiovisual. The jury ranked the purely musical pieces whereas the AV works were problematic in terms of criteria and were left on one side. The language of electroacoustic music is understood; the language of audiovisual music is another matter.
Given that the number of audiovisual outputs is increasing it is interesting that the underpinning theoretical and historical aspects lag behind. There are some obvious connections: graphic scores are pictorial; there is a hybridization of technologies (superficially the software used for audio editing looks the same as that used for video - suggesting a similar paradigm.) The materials can be manipulated in parallel; they can be treated as if they are part of the same phrase.
What is clear is that there is a form of counterpoint taking place between the modalities, pointing towards relationships that go much further than those offered by more traditional ‘film sound’ approaches. Counterpoint is more equitable. It suggests the possibility of audiovisual objects that function like chords pointing towards the potential for consonance and dissonance.
Friday 10 May, Keynes Lecture Theatre 1, 6pm: Professor Peter Brown (English)
Chaucer's Troilus and Criseyde is well known but little read. Yet – unlike the Canterbury Tales, which was left unfinished at the time of Chaucer's death in 1400 – it represent the pinnacle of his poetic achievement. This lecture will look in detail at a key episode as a means of discussing some of the larger issues with which the poem is concerned: piety, love, and the processes involved in 'reading'.
Friday 24 May, Marlowe Lecture Theatre 1, 6pm: Professor Gordana Fontana-Giusti (Architecture)
'Foucault for Architects'
From the mid-1960s onwards Michel Foucault has had a significant impact on diverse aspects of culture, knowledge and arts including architecture and its critical discourse. The implications for architecture have been wide-ranging. Foucault's archaeological and genealogical approaches to knowledge have transformed architectural history and theory, while his attitude to arts and aesthetics have led to a renewed focus on the avant-garde. Foucault’s juxtaposition of space, knowledge and power has unlocked new spatial possibilities for thinking about design in architecture and urbanism. The philosopher's ultimate attention on issues of body and sexuality has defined our understanding of the possibilities and limits of the human condition and consequently its implications for architecture.
The lecture coincides with the publication of Gordana's book Foucault for Architects (Routledge, 2013).
Professorial Inaugural Lectures 2011-12
Friday 9 December, Jarman Studio 3 (The Gallery), 4.30pm: Professor Robert Shaughnessy (Arts)
'Speechless: Shakespeare, the Players and the Arts of Silence'
Shakespeare’s plays are known for their verbal intricacy and aural richness, and for their capacity to create soundscapes in which relentlessly articulate speaking parts talk themselves into theatrical life. In the modern theatre, however, performers and audiences have become as accustomed to the signifying power of the spaces between the words as to the vitality and musicality of the words themselves.
Listening to the ways in which actors have shaped the gaps, breaks, pauses and silences that punctuate Shakespeare’s texts, this lecture- performance, devised in collaboration with Accidental Collective, explores how the orchestration of the said, the unsaid, and sometimes even the unspeakable, enables the making and the unmaking of ‘character’ on the contemporary stage.
Friday 27 January, Grimond Lecture Theatre 3, 4.30pm: Professor Jeremy Carrette (SECL)
'Is Life Worth Living?'
In the month of "Blue Monday" - the so-called "most depressing day of the year" - Professor Carrette uses his inaugural professorial lecture to consider what makes life worth living. The lecture will examine in detail an 1895 essay by the American, New York born, philosopher-psychologist William James (1842-1910), entitled "Is Life Worth Living?" It will address both religious and non-religious meanings of life and seek to reveal James's appreciation of the vital element that keeps us alive and free from depression. As James argues, it is fear of life rather than death that is the problem of existence. The lecture will show how "not-knowing" is as important as knowing and that the poetic imagination is as important as scientific fact in the making of a philosophy of life. The lecture will lighten its subject matter by framing its four sections with film clips from Woody Allen's angst filled reflections on the meaning of life, showing there is some similarity between these two very different New Yorkers.
Friday 8 June, Keynes Lecture Theatre 1, 4.30pm: Professor David Ormrod (History)
'From Economic History to Digital Humanities'
In this illustrated lecture, Professor David Ormrod follows the vicissitudes of Economic History during the second half of the twentieth century, emphasising the entanglement of three generations of his own family, since 1880, with the subject’s central concern – how to make a living. It was during the depression of 1929-33 that his Welsh grandfather, in a counter-cyclical twist of fate, became a Lancashire factory-master. The clothing and tailoring business eventually succumbed to those market pressures which underlay the deindustrialisation of the North-West.
The lecture moves on to examine broader issues of regional growth and decline in the context of Britain’s ‘long industrial revolution’. By the 1990s, that context had expanded to encompass global history. The lecture concludes with a review of the History School’s City and Region research project, which is developing a new GIS-based method for mapping the regional contours of economic growth and decline from 1400 onwards, which is expected to make a major contribution to the emerging field of global history (www.cityandregion.org)