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Durham University

Department of English Studies

Event Archive

This is an archive of past events within the Department of English Studies. Please see our current events for forthcoming activities.

Some of our public events are recorded and are available as podcasts via our Research English At Durham blog.

Breathing in Science Fiction

7th September 2016, 17:30 to 18:30, Alington House, Dr Arthur Rose (Durham University)

Part of our Late Summer Lectures series, showcasing cutting edge research from new scholars. Free and open to all, especially members of the public. Join the conversation on Twitter via #LateSummerLectures.

Some of us only think of our breath when we’ve short of it, whether we are reminded of it while running, or just walking up to Palace Green. Others, those we might call aware breathers, spend much more time thinking of their breath, for reasons that include highly focused activities, like sports, yoga, or music, and movement in everyday life, as for the sufferers of chronic breath conditions. The aim of my lecture is to focus on breath in the cultural industry, with a particular focus on Science Fiction. Breath has a realist function in most artistic media. It serves to remind the reader, the viewer or the spectator of the exigencies of the body. Science Fiction literature and film is no exception. Often tied to particularly scientific discourses, it is often a plot device for human encounters with otherness, either with alien peoples, who may not breathe oxygen, or environments, where there may not be oxygen to breathe. But this technoscientific use-value also has its limits. It forgets the affective, non-scientific qualities of breath as a metonym for life and a metaphor for anticipation. Through an engagement with diverse examples from Sci Fi literature and film, Arthur Rose's lecture will consider the tension between technoscientific and affective responses to breath in order to demonstrate the co-determinacy of breath in scientific and artistic discourses. Drawing on Sci Fi favourites, that range from Fahrenheit 451 to Darth Vader, this multimedia presentation explores the various ways in which writers and directors show that most ephemeral of creaturely essentials: the breath.

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