Moveable Type is a new podcast series and an aural counterpart to the Moveable Type Journal. On this page you can read the transcript for Episode 2 which introduces the theme of Unfeeling.
Roxana: Hello and welcome back to the Movable Type podcast brought to you by University College London. Movable Type is a graduate peer reviewed journal edited every year by PhD students from the English Department at UCL. Please be sure to follow us on social media to stay up to date on our latest issue, new episode releases and much more. We are on Twitter at Movable Type UCL Instagram and movable type, underscore UCL and Facebook as movable type or add empty UCL. And if you want to browse our latest issue while you listen, head on over to UCL that ac.uk/moveable-type We're so happy to bring back the podcast for a second episode to start off 2022 coming up. We have our casual roundtable or literature PhD students discuss research work and life at UCL. And later, I sit down with movable type editor in chief Sarah Edwards to discuss the call for puzzles for this year's issue unfeeling as well as the behind the scenes of putting together an academic journal. But first our Meet the podcast team segment.
Roxana: And on the topic of introductions, I'll get the ball rolling. Hi, I'm Roxana a student in the issues in modern culture ma at UCL and the podcast host. My background is in cognitive stylistics and consciousness representation, which I definitely bring to my current research in urban gay and lesbian fiction. I am also interested in the suburban uncanny as well as sexual depictions of female neuroses, both in domestic and urban settings. I am very passionate about making literary research accessible and exciting within and beyond academia. So I'm incredibly happy to be part of steam. We have amazing things in store for you this year. So stay tuned.
Damian: Hello, I'm Damian, and I'm a first year PhD student here at UCL. I'm also Podcast Producer and reviews editor for Movable Type, and I'm really excited about the new series of podcasts we've got planned for the year, when I don't have my Movable Type hat on my research focuses on the influence of global spiritual traditions. On late Victorian writers looking most closely at Yeats and Wilde, and the often overlooked or downplayed impacts of East Asian philosophies, occult rituals and countercultural spiritual exercises on their literary practice. We've got a really exciting series planned this year. And I hope you'll enjoy listening to the podcast as much as we've enjoyed making it.
Anna: Hi, I'm Anna, and I'm currently an MA student on the issues and modern culture course at UCL, and I'm the assistant producer here at Movable Type. My research interests tend to centre around 20th and 21st century American fiction and poetry, particularly in relation to migration and depictions of work. More broadly, however, I'm interested in examining processes of precarity rotation as a global phenomenon, its spatial representations and bodily effects. I'm looking forward to sharing with you the wonderful podcast that we have lined up this upcoming year. We hope you stay tuned.
Will: Hi, there, I'm Will and I'm a first year PhD student and an editorial assistant Movable Type, which currently involves dealing with a lot of odds and ends behind the scenes as we begin to prepare the latest issue. In terms of my own research, I'm interested in the relationship between American modernist poetry and modern research university. Now poets in the 20th century attempted to articulate an alternative vocation for poetry that could apply to the whole of society, in opposition to its professionalisation within the academy. As has already been said, Our theme for the latest issue of movable type is unfeeling, focusing both for a particular idea and stance a disaffection, as well as the range of literary and political projects, which has been adopted. And I'm really excited to see what sort of responses we get in light of our own strange, rather been numbed moment, almost two years into the pandemic. It's also really exciting to be involved in launching a new podcast and I know we have some great episodes lined up for you. So please enjoy listening.
Daniel: Hi, my name is Daniel, and I'm into the second year of my PhD here at UCL. I'm working on the novels of Henry Green, who was a very mysterious and elusive English novelist of the first half of the 20th century. You'll be hearing a little bit more about my research later in this episode, so I won't tell you too much now. But for the most part, I'll be behind the scenes as the team's audio editor. I'm also on the peer review team for the journal and I'm really looking forward to reading submissions on the topic of unfeeling which speaks to some of the things I'm interested in, in my research, such as reader writer sympathy the bodily and getting hooked, which is exactly what we hope you'll be with this podcast.
Roxana: Which formalities out of the way, please enjoy the two wonderful roundtables we have prepared for you. First, Daniel Lewis, who is working on Henry Green in conversation with Joshua Locke, who works on Muriel Spark, Daniel and Joshua, thank you for coming in and discussing these important topics with us, please, could you give us an elevator pitch of your pieces of current research? What led you to pick these topics?
Daniel: Well, my pitch is a lot of work. And I think it's something you kind of have to refine throughout your whole time doing a PhD. But mainly, I got interested in Henry Green, who's an early 20th century English novelist, he was publishing for about 1920 to 1950. And the thing that got me hooked and I think gets a lot of other readers hooked on him is his style, which is sort of a contradiction in itself. It's he has these brilliantly sort of Baroque florid passages of prose. But these sit alongside very closely listen to dialogue and speech and looking very closely at the way that people behave and their mannerisms and their movements. But he also in himself has a bit of a contradiction within the kind of the modernist landscape. So he is considered to be sort of unlike any other writer of the period, but also has all these echoes that are the different writers and if of his era and earlier, so in some ways, I'm trying to look not really at how his novels differ from each other, or trying to say, you know, there's a big spectrum underneath the sort of similarities and trying to look at why we might be, we might be drawn to the similarities, why we're drawn to this idea of a star, like a single signature, a single voice, instead of looking at all the internal variations or the ways that those internal variations get overlooked, in favour of, sort of the more maybe seductive and attractive and, you know, aspects of someone's voice or their presentation. So yeah, I'm kind of looking at that.
Roxana: That's fascinating. Thank you very much. What about you, Joshua?
Joshua: Yes, um, I think that, like, Daniel, I was very much drawn to Muriel Spark's style, and in all sort of way because of her style, which I think is difficult to put into words, her style achieves a simplicity of understanding. So for instance, I read the primal mystery nebrodi, her most famous book, when I was nine, or 10. And it's fascinating to remember that as a nine or 10 year old, I thought, and I understood the book, in its entirety, which you can because it's just about, you know, a few goes in school and you know, the famous teacher, who was quite cool, and a bit of a maverick, and all of that. But as you grow older, and you reread the text, you realise that because of the way that she's manipulating, say, the fictional voices, the flash forwards and all of that the quite twisted dynamics that she is employing there becomes, you know, it takes on a different complexion, which is not something that as a nine or 10 year old I got, because it's just, you know, a conventional story. And that interest in Muriel Spark, I think just was an abiding one. And my image, we focus a lot on rethinking betrayal in the primate mystery, Brody. And I was looking at it from a post-modern-“ish” sort of angle. And it has seen growing into my PhD project, which, you know, has branched out into looking at all her work, or creative work, including collected poetry, and collected poetry, and all of that. So I think that's the general arc of my research is, all of Muriel Spark as much as I can possibly cram into the PhD? I guess…
Roxana: I love that. That's so great. You're both focusing them on a single author. And you both brought up this idea of style. So could you please expand on just how style interacts with the cultural moment that these authors were writing in, but also looking back to them and focusing so much, you said, All of Myrtles bark? So focusing so much on a single author and all of these ideas of style?
Daniel: Well, yeah, I think it's really interesting what Josh was saying about, I guess it's called deceptive. But there is there is a sort of simplicity on the surface, which sort of draws you in to these novels. These definitely I get that sense of green that there's something strangely conventional about the way that he goes about me writing his books, you know, there are there are sections and chapters and in some cases very narrow there's very obvious narrative arc and he uses traits some like fairy tale, you know, once upon a once upon a time. But in fact, you know, in in the novel which is the one that most people know, actually starts with the phrase once upon a day. And there's the slight kind of tics and deviations from the norm. Which kind of hint to, you know, like Joshua saying, There's something underneath the surface, which is a little bit disturbing. There's some there's, there's an unconventional thinking going on, but there's conventional behaviour on the on the surface. So that's No, partly, you know, what I'm what I'm trying to think through what I'm trying to think about style and kind of, is it a sort of signatures sort of expression of a personal identity? Or is it some ways trying to? Yeah, trying to appeal to collective identity as well as it trying to perform? Is it trying to, it's trying to be good, is it trying to behave? Well, in some ways? There's almost like an ethical bent to, you know, when we're talking about style, if you have a single voice you saw, you're still speaking to people. So yeah, that's I think that's definitely a draw, but the single author thing is, yeah, it's it's slightly unfashionable nowadays. From what I can tell from what's happening in well within this department in UCL, but also kind of across the board. I think it does, it does, you do have to sort of income gain some distance from your, from your kind of chosen author, because it can be can become very easy to sort of like think, as they think or trying to sort of track what they read and try to stand in the places that they stood. And, yeah, I think you have to step away from the sort of obsessional aspect a little bit that I need on my part, and I'm not sure how much because I have Muriel Spark left behind, or how much kind of fiscal material there is yet to discover. But Henry Green, didn't need much of a trace, they're not many letters, or the letters are sort of left with in still in private collections. And he didn't write much criticism at all. And so there's not even much into the magazines and sort of extra literary stuff that I can sort of draw on very easily. So I'm finding, and this might just be true of all single author projects, but I'm finding I'm having to venture quite far and wide and going into places that I didn't quite expect that I would go to, and, you know, dip into different disciplines such as history and philosophy and art, even just to, you know, somehow situate this single person within the, within that sort of setting. I'm not sure how Joshua fields will be having a similar experience.
Joshua: I guess, in many ways, there are overlaps in terms of, you know, tracking her voice throughout her entire career and different, you know, types of work that she has done. But I think, and you said, it's unfashionable to co-author PhDs, in fact, I was warned off doing it, because it was still that it gives the impression that you only know one thing, which obviously it's not true. But I think it has its advantages, in that I don't have to justify why I am choosing certain texts, you know, from an author when you know, this larger body of work. I'm just doing all of Muriel Spark as much as I can. I can anyway. But in terms of Spark, I guess she has left behind a lot of material, actually, she began her career as a poet. And if you take her story seriously, she has been writing poetry, since she was like 10 or 11, when she was back in Edinburgh, and you know, she became a literary critic. She was the literary journalist, she was editor of Poetry Review at some point. And before she began her novel in her career as a novelist, when she's 39, I think, which is quite late, and should be she over the next 40 odd years, she came up with 22 books. So she was she began late and she was very prolific. Um, but I think the interesting thing that I'm trying to chase down right now is to formulate a, shall we say, coherent sort of artistic vision from sparks earlier criticise her critical work, where, you know, she looks at poetry, she looks at novels and she comes up with her own ideas as to what works and what does not. And it's quite interesting to trace how that later manifests into a creative career. You know, and she does have this violent, I think allergy is the way to put it against received wisdom. You know, those metaphors that people use all the time and they are sited on was to death. And you know, it doesn't mean anything anymore. People forgotten what it means, but we just continue saying it. And I think most strikingly in 1970, she was invited to America. And she gave a speech, defending the value of, of literature as an art. And she begins that by saying, you know, you all remember that silly little saying, the pen is mightier than the sword, like, you know, and she says that that doesn't make sense anymore. Why are we saying it because we are no longer in a situation in say, the 12th century where swords other weapons in current use, and you can trace this entire world obsession with going against received wisdom, you know, like safety first is something that comes up in the primal mystery Brody with where, you know, the stuffy headmistress is saying these things and you know, the Cool Teacher countenances. No, this is nonsense art comes first. And you know, you have that slightly contrarian sort of voice going on there. And I find that deeply fascinating the trace across the entire body of work. And as I was saying, with her, looking at her critical work in the first instance, there is a huge possibility, I think there's a lot of potential here of finding a holistic way of reading spark through Spark, as it were.
Daniel: Yeah, I don't think so. I'm very similar. And I think actually, this is partly about my supervisor suggested or saying that he if he actually recommends to many of his students, or undergrad level, but also right through to postgrad is trying to use authors as their own critics. And I'm saying that, you know, in some cases, obviously, that they're trying to make a legacy for themselves. And they might say things that, you know, an author, in essence, isn't necessarily the best authority on their own work, often. But every now and then kind of looking, looking at a piece of creative writing as actually a critical text, and kind of bouncing these texts off each other, can be extremely fruitful. And in some cases, sort of more helpful than running to a sort of formulated theory, which might be formulated out of examples, which have very little bearing or that didn't, they kind of don't account for the works that you're looking at. So I think that's really, really interesting. I think, definitely chiming there with the sort of impatience with impatience with convention and impatience with received wisdom and the way that people do things, but also understanding that, in some ways, you know, people do the same thing, but with different intentions. And, you know, working out those intentions might be the tough thing to do. But at the end of the day, what we have is the thing done, or the way that things are done. And, and so, yeah, I think often, you know, what I'm looking at is, yeah, the word that kind of the ordinariness of the how we how we deploy language every day, and we say we say the same things, but mean different things. And what exactly do we do? We mean, what we say, or what do we? What do we mean, when we say something? And those sort of everyday acts? How do they reflect on our own our own sense of identity, or what we want to look like, collectively? And? And yeah, so I think I think very similar, very similar tracks, then that might have to do something, but the, with the periods that we're working on, because we're sort of workings sort of mid-century, I suppose. I'm not really sure when sort of Spark sort of ended her writing career. But there might be, there might be something to say about that sort of this period of time when like the big heavy hitters of modernism. And kind of obviously fragmented texts, which kind of obviously look different formally, or look unfamiliar or unusual, are sort of being shuffled into something that looks a bit more like a tradition and looks maybe a bit more like the sort of thing that the modernists at the beginning was sort of kicking against, you know, sort of the, the tritone of repetitive, repetitive and the sort of, you know, routine.
Joshua: It's an interesting case, I think, but I'm just wondering, would you consider Henry Green, a neglected writer, would you characterise it as such?
Daniel: Oh, certainly, I certainly would. But I would say What's strange about him is this is sort of in constancy of that interest that he generates. So I'm really intrigued by this and it's one of those things he kind of he kind of seems to be subject to like cycles of re discovery and, and then sort of drops off the map and then comes back again. And, you know, it's taken quite a long time for those for those critical monographs to sort of edge into double digits. I mean, he the first critical study of him was happening was released when he was still alive. And, and, and writing or publishing. And then it's only taken till about, you know, I think a few years ago for us to actually get sort of a sizable amount of sort of critical monographs on him. I think I come about she who, who said it now, but someone who really sort of it reminds me said that he's the sort of writer who, who constantly needs reintroducing like a, like a stranger at the party. He's kind of like he's there. But people seem to forget who he is. But I mean, that might have something you know, he's had he's his reputation. His reputation is very strange. I mean, he's been pegged as a writers writer. And so there's, there's almost a suggestion there that there's something that doesn't speak to, to a casual readership, or there's something about his craft, which always fills your well, there's something about his craft, which kind of points to craft rather than sort of things that people might be, other people might be interested in, or people might be used to be interested in, such as character and plot hands, conversations actually going somewhere. But yeah, that's this is something I'm coming, coming up against a lot is trying to think about how to interpret and that might be sort of might differ from the sort of things that were taught like close reading and, you know, searching for meaning, or trying to make meaning from disparate parts of the text, rather than trying to think about what it's like to experience the text. We're in the moment of reading, as you're reading as you're going along. Yeah, I'm not sure if you'll come across similar things…
Joshua: Yeah, which is why I think an aesthetic approach, you know, holistically, is very important, because similarly, she suffers from cycles of interest and cycles of, you know, fanaticism, even when people decide to look at her as a Roman Catholic convert, when people look at her Jewishness, you know, from her biographical background, and all of that. And there is also something strange about, I think, writers of that period, who you know, were writing in the 60s and 70s. And a lot of them are not not forgotten or neglected as such, but there is that touch of almost patronising, I don't know if that's the right word, it's almost patronising. So critical attention like oh, we are talking about this and you know, she's written this and let's talk about her within this very particular context, which is actually out of step with what she might be doing and you know, other writers like ivy Compton Burnett and you know, Sylvia Townsend Warner and Penelope Fitzgerald, even I think authors will suffer similarly, from such a strange mix of attention and yet in attention, and there is I think, a lot to be rediscovered about them.
Roxana: What a treat! Up next, Emma Cavell and Jake Wiseman whose fascinating projects focus on earlier periods.
Roxana: Hi, Emma. Hi, Jake. Thank you for coming in today to speak to me. And to the mobile type listeners. Could you please start us off with some details about your research? Basically, the elevator pitch for us. Mr. Why don't you start?
Emma: Hi, thanks for having me. Um, I'm a medievalist, first of all. And I work on the French language texts written in England and the 12th and 13th centuries. So what's called Anglo-Norman literature. And I'm basically interested in how French has been used to translate Latin texts, and in particular, religious and adaptive works. And, you know, the kind of question I'm asking is, how are these translators thinking about their own work are translating Latin into French in England, and it's really kind of like strange, multilingual and multicultural time in the history and then mediaeval history of Britain. And my thesis is basically trying to argue that these translators were really conscious of the work they were doing, and actually how novel and important it was in the history of text transmission.
Roxana: That's great. That sounds amazing. How about you Jake?
Jake: Yeah, well, thanks for having me as well, my project, looks at the book of Daniel in early modern English literary culture, and I'm just actually in the third year of the project now. So I suppose there's a little bit to unpack in that sort of just initial statement. The first thing is that I'm looking at a single book of the Bible, looking at the book of Daniel and I found that sort of approach way of looking at a single book to be quite helpful way to getting into some of the sort of big questions because When thinking about the Bible, in early modern writing, and in early modern literary culture, it's quite easy to feel like there's a huge amount of material partly because the Bible was just a massive cultural force. And so by looking at the book of Daniel allows me to sort of level it down. And to think a little bit more specifically about the role of this particular book, which has an incredible sort of generic range, it moves on the one hand from exciting narratives about Mad kings and lions. And on the other hand, two, sort of apocalyptic and quite specific chronological prophecies. And both of those things are important in the period, but in quite different ways. And so looking at that single biblical book really gives me an end to some of the big questions about the role of the Bible, in literary culture during the period.
Roxana: That's fascinating. Thank you so much for sharing that. Now. It's quite interesting that you are both part of the English department here, but are both working with religious texts in particular in translation. So could you please expand more? Especially Emma, you working with text in French? It? How is that mirrored in the English Department? And Jake, also, just how you both manage this idea of translation, which is so contested in literary criticism, and there's a bit of distrust of translation? How do you negotiate that?
Emma: Yeah, yeah, thanks for that question. It's, I had to justify my presence in the English department when I applied, which was actually really useful process. Because I was hesitating between the French department, the English department, and actually, I kind of made a point to be part of an English Department. Because the whole kind of idea behind what the text I study, the whole idea behind this, you know, post conquests kind of multilingual world that I'm studying is that the concept of Englishness is kind of a lot bigger and more multi valence than kind of, you know, the kind of monolingual and, and that was a, that's a point I'm theoretically trying to make in my thesis. And it's something that I really believe in, in the study of English literature, that you know, French lit can be English Lit. That's the point that I'm making. And I think it's really important to remember that English, it encapsulates all the different cultures, all the different languages, and that they are as much part of the regulatory landscape, as you know, the kind of big canonical kind of English language texts. And I think in terms of translation, I think you're rightly pointing out that translation is a bit of a contested thing. But I do think it's an advantage in terms of writing a PhD, because it means you acquire a skill, learning to translate texts, often in learning to navigate different cultures, different languages, and one of the aims behind my PhD is to translate these French texts into modern French and modern English. So that's actually something I'm really looking forward to. And it's something that is a kind of a nice result, you know, at the end of the work you're doing is to be able to can handle these texts and understand them and translate them.
Jake: Yeah, that's really, that's really fascinating to me, I mean, I envy in a way your ability to do your own translation work, I think that sounds really rewarding and enriching for the study as well. I mean, I don't actually get to do that, I don't get to do really, any sort I get do very small amounts of translation work myself, because I'm interested in the way that text came to be in English. So the Bible is translated in full in English in the period that I'm looking at. So I do end up looking at a much broader and European literary culture. And so I do get to do bits of translation here and there. But I don't tend to translate a whole word that's not my main focus. So I'll be looking at, for instance, the full length English Bible translations. And that's just in in one of my chapters at the moment. And when thinking about those full length translations, there's a tendency to sort of focus on those as the sort of end product whether that the Geneva Bible in 1560, or the King James Bible, and 1611, or even the Catholic Bible translations and diaries from the same period. And so what I'm truly trying to do what you were saying Roxanne about translated translation, is this contested space. Well, in some ways, I'm sort of thinking along those terms. And as much as I'm trying to get away from the idea of English as a sort of end product of this translation work and thinking more in terms of Well, I suppose across languages across countries and across confessions, there can be a bit of a tendency to see English Bible translation as very English and very Protestant, and one of the things which is at play in my work is trying to show where the vast range of sort of linguistic skills that they're acquiring comes from. But also the, the Bible translations are just much more alive to a vast network of European writing and writers about these about these texts. So yeah, message moving away from the idea of this sort of one big English stable thing. And towards the idea of this deeply contested, in some ways, deeply, something which kind of gives the translators a lot of anxiety and a lot of worry, not just not particularly early on in the period where they might well pay for their translation work with their life. And so the fees are quite troublesome. And so I'm sort of trying to re-inject some of that trouble into the translation.
Roxana: That's very interesting, because Emma, you mentioned that part of your research is to see how translators see their own work. Do you find also this sort of anxiety aspect? Or is it much more straightforward? Can you just briefly interject there?
Emma: Yeah, completely. There's, there's definitely I mean, I think we often forget what's at stake in translating texts of the Bible, and translating… I deal with mostly religious texts and the stakes are so high when translating, especially translating into the vernacular from Latin. And the translation in my period is, is often thought to be quite straightforward. But I'm kind of trying to show that mediaeval translation is, at least in kind of Anglo-Norman contexts, is a really kind of like self-conscious act. And it's, it's obviously difficult, and the translators are writing about how difficult it is, and trying to justify their own act of writing the vernacular because obviously vernacular, something really illegitimate basically, in the 12th century, which is really early on, to write in, in French. So basically, I was working on, on a French translation of Gregory the Great's dialogues, which is, you know, a very critical text, the Middle Ages. And the translator, basically created these huge digressions in the middle of it. And this is, you know, this is an important text, but translator is just including this big paragraphs are being like off, I'm translating Latin prose into French verse, and please forgive me, because I know it's not a very good thing to do. But I can't help it because they need to understand these Latin texts. And it's really difficult. So please forgive me. And it's all kind of it's all oddly personal and kind of you don't really expect that and this is a monk at Oxford, translating St. Gregory the Great. And obviously, in doing that, he's completely changing the Latin word, completely changing what the what the work originally is, and reform it and transforming it to something different. So it's a kind of it's … it's both a really creative and destructive at the same time. That is very anxiety inducing, I think, for the mediaeval translator, to be, you know, to dare to touch these, these, what we call in Malaysia is kind of, you know, obturator is the Latinate authoritative word of these Latin works.
Roxana: Amazing. That's so interesting, because you were talking both of you so much about like, these process, and I process of works and how the, the work gets done. And I guess two questions that arise, that are a bit different. But if you could say something about both would be great. As part of the English department, how do you balance sort of not getting sucked into the culture? Because you can, like, work so much on the culture itself? How do you sort of balance I don't know, literary analysis or like textual analysis with the culture in general, but also just much more pragmatically, how do you work with these ancient texts? Do you ever visit archives? Do you have everything digitised by this point? I don't know what's exciting about that, in your personal experiences?
Jake: So yeah, I mean, thinking about those two elements of that question, I suppose. Firstly, thinking about the role of culture in translation. I, my answer to that tends to be in some ways, a very inclusive one, in some ways, perhaps quite frustrating, but it's to see the whole thing as part of a single literary culture. So while I do look at Bible translation, and seeing that as one particular thing, I'm also sort of broadening things out and thinking for a great sort of book the majority of the thesis about the tech that come from the actual biblical text and the text that scripture generates. And I'm trying to look at the book of Daniel as this generative text, which is giving us new narratives, new ways of retelling scripture that is particularly alive for people in the 16th and 17th centuries, that they might try and rewrite a biblical story and make it really very pertinent to their life to the political happenings of their day. And so, really trying to see, do those texts, not just as sort of static biblical things, but things which are moving around and being generated in terms of narrative and interpretation? And then yeah, when it comes to archives, it that that question of culture then sort of rippled out into the archives that I ended up looking at, because I suppose in some ways, we're just very lucky to be in London and have the British Library so close by. And the rare books room in the British Library, or the manuscripts room in the British Library can be a total Godsend for an early modernist working in London. And that's very often the sort of first port of call to go and call up a text. And the British law, if you're working in the British Library, or some time that the book itself, they'll have a copy of the original imprint of the book itself that I'm looking for. Are there any markings on it? Are there any annotations is there anything in the margins that I can use to try and trace a little bit further about how this text was read. So they ended up sort of sometimes being a bit of a three part process, the first part is to think about the biblical text. The second part will be to think about these narratives that expand on it, or that retell it or that do something interesting and imaginative with it, or tell a sermon about it, these kinds of things. And then the third step will go be call those things up, look at them. How are those things being read, sometimes it gives your give me nothing, and anyone who worked in the archives will know, it can be endlessly frustrating process, I'll find the book and it will not have a single annotation, nothing will be there. But every now and again, I'll find something which will lead me on a bit of a trail and show me a little bit more about how people in the 16th and 17th centuries we're reading, the test that I'm looking at, this can be this sort of incredibly fulfilling moment where they're sort of sitting right in front of you scribbling on the page, and you've got there, you've got their notes right there. And it can, you know, you don't want to read too much into a note. And note can be an incredibly fleeting thing and ephemeral thing, just, it's very difficult to exactly trace what a note means, because as we all know, from our own note taking, it can be just a totally random thing. “Oh, I like that line, I'm going to try and remember it” or “that line is really relevant to this big thing that's happening in my life”. It can have that full scale. So again, you don't want to read too much into it. But that archival process is very rich, and I think very rewarding.
Emma: Yeah, I'm going to echo Jake on that one, the British Library is a godsend. I mean, you can literally ask for manuscripts and my stuff is, is quite old. It's you know, it's 13th century manuscripts, and they will literally, it will literally be there on the day, which is an amazing, amazing thing. I mean, I work with manuscripts in Paris and the BNF. And my God, let me tell you, the librarians there are really stingy with the manuscripts, so, so that like they literally I have asked multiple times to see this manuscript and they I have, you know, my professor wrote me a letter and everything and they flat out refused to show it to me. So, you know, the British Library is really generous with its manuscripts, especially with young researchers, they're not they will just hand it over to you trust you with it, which is really great. And I really liked that image of us, Jacob, finding a trail I think, I think that's, that's really it. I think it's all this kind of margin organ and there's little things that people often overlook, which are often the most interesting, I think, and my particular favourite is often the mediaeval doodling in the in the margins. So this, this French translation, the Gregory the Great’s dialogues that was looking at the translator doodles two kind of monkish figures at the bottom of the page, kind of like just staring at each other and it kind of mirroring effect, which I think is a kind of visual representation of what you know, dialoguing means. And so, you know, things like that are really precious. So, archival work is one of the great pleasures of research, I think, and the advantage of our period as well is that there's so much of it, and it's such a kind of material culture, and that is a big trend at the moment of, of kind of studying texts as as material objects. Something which has, you know, bared its full meaning in the Middle Ages. And indeed, later on.
Roxana: That's so lovely. Just to finish off, I wish we had so much more time. But just to finish and round up this conversation, both of you highlighted this wonderful moment of connection with the past, mentioning like the scribbles in the margins and all of that. Can you just expand on looking at these mediaeval and early modern literary Coulter's from a 21st century perspective? And just how you feel bad impacting the now but also be appraisal of the past?
Emma: Yeah, I mean, my, my PhD was, in part, a response to this kind of worrying trend between England and France, especially concerning Brexit, of kind of separating the two cultures separate, you know, putting into question what, what being European means, what kind of Indo-European literature means what European culture means. So my PhD was, I guess it's kind of relevance today. And then this is how I kind of I sold it in my proposal is to kind of theorise through mediaeval literature, this coming together, of the two kind of the two cultures, both in France and England. And I'm to suggest that they are a lot more defined than we would kind of think of today. So, I also deal with some female translators in my PhD, the first female translators and French, and then 12th century. And so that kind of gendered element comes in. And it's, I guess, you know, always relevant right now, in terms of kind of what, how important the female voices and the act of kind of, you know, generating text to the women, how crucial that is, and how lost it kind of has become in criticism. You know, even you know, 50 years ago, 100 years ago,
Jake: That's fascinating. I think I certainly didn't have an equivalent sort of political or contemporary impetus behind my project. I sort of wish I did, but I think that the question of the relate, I mean, the early modern, in particular, and I imagine this applies to mediaeval work as well, though I don't know it as well, is constantly being driven by contemporary questions. And I think that increasingly, early modern scholars are less afraid to say that we are being driven by contemporary questions. And just, you know, very recently, in the past two years, there's been a much greater emphasis on thinking about race in the early modern period, which has been a sort of very welcomed adjustment, to the way in which the field and the studies have been going. But for my particular angle, on where my studies came from, sort of just came from a development from undergraduate and master's work, and which I found, surprisingly, over the course of the PhD, speaks to the contemporary moment in ways that have surprised me, I just finished a chapter on the big bad tyrant of the book of Daniel, who's called Nebuchadnezzar and thinking about questions of tyranny with particular leaders in America was a very, sort of felt very, very appropriate moment, Daniel's also full of apocalyptic prophecies. And there have been moments certainly over the pandemic and with the climate when things have felt apocalyptic.
Roxana: I have often thought that the resonances have surprised me. I don't know how much they make it into my work, but the resonance is suddenly surprised me. So yeah, thank you both so much. It's amazing to hear all these moments of surprise that you have found in your words. And it's all of this is extremely fascinating. So thank you for coming in and sharing it with us.
Roxana: Well, we hope you enjoyed those discussions as much as we did. It's now time to talk about this year’s Movable Type call for papers, which encourages researchers to explore emotion and feeling through the lens of unfeeling the journal accepts academic articles, books and film reviews, and creative writing. The current submission deadline is February 22nd 2022. For more information, please visit ucl.ac.uk slash moveable hyphen, type slash unfeeling. To share a bit of the process with us and encourage people to submit their work, movable type Editor in Chief, Sarah Edwards.
Roxana: Hi, Sarah. How are you?
Sarah: I'm well, thanks. How you doing?
Roxana: I'm good, too. Very excited to hear the answers to these questions.
Sarah: Yeah, I'm excited to share the answers with you.
Roxana: Okay, so how does this theme get chosen? And why did you settle on this year's particular theme?
Sarah: So each year the editors at Movable Type compile a list of their reading and research interests, and they each consider how those interests fit in relation to emerging or existing trends and literary criticism. And we will propose some potential ideas for a call for papers. Once we've done that all the editors meet to discuss the proposed ideas, and we sort of look for areas for overlap really, between the different ideas we bring to the table. So in those meetings, we're always looking for an umbrella theme, maybe a single word that can encapsulate as many as, as many of, even, those editorial ideas as possible, while still providing a focus point for our contributors.
So this year, the editors brought so many exciting ideas to the table. One idea we discussed at some length was the abnatural in relation to Jesse Oak Taylor's, The Sky of Our Manufacture, and another was unfeeling. And although those ideas seem quite different at first, we realised that that sort of roundtable meeting that there was a common interest in feeling or emotions, and narratives about the environment. And so we decided that our interest in the abnatural this year could be encompassed by and feeling of being which we felt would carry well and in really interesting ways, actually, across different time periods, while still inviting discussion of a wide range of authors and genres and providing affect as a as a theoretical base.
So in large part, our theme this year actually ended up responding to Dr Xine Yao’s first book Disaffected: The Cultural Politics of Unfeeling in 19th Century America, which was published last year by Duke University Press, and one of the inaugural dup scholars of colour First Book Awards. So in that book, Dr Yao explores the racial and sexual politics of unfeeling, so affects that are not recognised as feeling, as a means of survival and refusal in 19th century America. And she positions unfeeling beyond the sentimentalism paradigm of universal feeling. So we felt this call for papers could invite contributions that can think about feeling and unfeeling in relation to a range of topics and issues both past and present. And we're really interested to see how contributors might discuss it in relation to topics such as race, disability, the environment, the Anthropocene and trans feminism. So really exciting stuff this year lined up.
Roxana: Yeah, that is so fascinating. And I also love the choosing something that relates to the students and editors interests already and how it engages with what's going on in the UCL English Department. I think that's amazing, very exciting stuff. Now, could you please tell us a bit about how the submission and editing process works?
Sarah: Yeah, of course. So the submission deadline this year is February 22nd. And that deadline applies to all book reviews, articles, and Creative Writing submissions. Sometimes we give a small extension, so contributors can expect a second deadline to be advertised around the end of the month, which would likely place the final deadline for submissions at the start of March. So we usually build in just a little bit of wriggle room. And we stagger deadline announcements like this to give contributors a little more time to get their work ready to submit. And just to attract sort of a second wave of attention.
Once we receive all those submissions, we anonymize them, or I do, and they go through a double blind peer review process. So before they're seen by the editors, they actually all go to peer reviewers. And those reviewers do an initial proofread. They make editorial recommendations, which ultimately get forwarded to the editors. So those peer reviewers have a really important job. They're responsible for checking that the content aligns with the theme. And they check that the style of the writing is suitable, that the research is really rigorous, and they flag areas for improvement. So all submissions, then, complete with peer reviewers are sent to the editor in chief. So they are sent to me and I allocate them to teams of editors. And those editors take the time to read them really carefully. And then they meet as as a group to discuss every single thing we have been submitted. And they choose which submissions to accept and which to revise for publication with the authors. So we have a system just like any other journal, where you either are accepted for major revisions, for minor revisions, or unfortunately, you could be rejected for that year, but you'll receive a little bit of feedback as to why that was. And often it's just because the competition in that particular year was particularly fierce, or because it just wasn't quite in line with the theme enough. I think those are the most common reasons.
But if at that point you've been successful, your article, or, your book review or your creative writing is allocated to an editor, just a single editor, who will work one on one with you to fine tune it for publication in the autumn.
Roxana: That is amazing. And a lot of work so good luck to all the editors. But also, I'm sure very rewarding when you have a finished product
Sarah: It is, it's so rewarding. And it's really nice, I think, for editors and authors to be able to work one on one. I think that's really special that makes for a really enjoyable working environment.
Roxana: Great. On the topic of fierce competition and amazing work. What type of work are you hoping to see this year?
Sarah: Yeah, that's a really good question. I guess the common thread, you know, the thing we're looking for every single year is we want articles and pieces of writing that are really on theme. And we're looking for our contributors as a whole. This year to explore all kinds of unfeeling, we'd love to see this concept of a feeling being moved across time periods and national borders, we'd love to see intersectional readings.
I think we find that close reading and close engagement with the text makes for really good articles in particular. So it is actually very important to us that contributors don't just get caught up in the theme to the extent they neglect to discuss how it relates to the style or structure of a text. So affect studies as well as had quite a strong influence on the creation of our call for papers this year. So I know our editors would really enjoy seeing some real theoretical engagement with effect, and where we're happy, you know, and we encourage that any theory that's being considered, can also be turned into something that you can close read as well. And so that would be great to see.
In terms of book reviews, I mean, there are lots of contemporary releases recommended in our book reviews call for papers, which we'd be really excited to see writing about. So among some of the books on there, which you can also find online. Cathy Park Hong's Minor Feelings, Patricia Lockwood's, nobody's talking about this, Natasha Brown’s Assembly, Ria Cheyne’s Disability, Literature, Genre: Representation and Affect in Contemporary Fiction, and of course, Yao’s Disaffected.
Now, those are just, you know, some titles from what is actually a really, really long list that we have put together as editors. So we don't want contributors to feel limited by it. But if they find it as a source of inspiration, then that's great. Note that we'd also be really happy to see any of those texts forming the basis for an article for this year's issue as well. So any contemporary scholars out there, might want to sort of pick up one of those as something if it's something they're working on. And they could write about it for us, I suppose. Finally, in terms of creative writing,
Surprise us! We had two really surprising submissions last year that we didn't see coming, which worked in really great ways with the themes. So we're happy to publish creative writing in any genre, as long as it relates in some way to that feeling and feeling.
And I would say that we do have to consider how closely creative pieces relate to that theme. So it's really worth bearing in mind and making sure that you've got a few pieces to choose from, you're picking the one that really is most relevant.
Roxana: That's great. It's great how all the pieces make for a very well rounded journal and product. It's just very cool to see that you take creative writing book reviews, and articles or essays as well.
Roxana: it's so fun!
Sarah: This year we actually opened it back up to Creative Writing last year, that was the first year we reintroduced it. And who knows, we might just introduce something else this year as well. But we don't think it'll be in the written form.
Roxana: Maybe something exciting, yes, we'll be hoping for the scoop.
Roxana: And finally, please share a message for Moodle type readers, listeners and potential contributors.
Sarah: So I think the main thing I want to say is if you're working on something that you feel relates well to our theme, and really please do consider applying to us even if you feel like you're coming at it from you know a slightly different angle, or with a topic we haven't touched on in that call for papers. We don't want you to be put off by that. The call for papers just include suggestions. It's by no means an exhaustive list of all the things we'd like to see in read. Also, if you want to submit to as in the deadline feels a little tight. I'd still recommend putting something together even if you don't feel it's quite perfect yet, as there are many months between the selection stage and the final publication, during which you could actually work with one of editors to fine tune and finalise your writing. So as long as it's finished, and it's very much in the direction you want it to go, I think it has a good chance, you know if it's on theme, and we're interested in it, and it's good research, that it could still be published at the end.
Roxana: I think that's a relief to know for many of the aspiring contributors. So thank you so much. You're welcome. Thanks for having me.
Roxana: I guess we've reached the end of this episode. We want to thank all our lovely guests theme and of course, listeners for their support, tuning to the movable type podcast next month for a very special LGBTQ+ History Month episode.