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Durham University

Department of English Studies

Inventions of the Text Seminar Series

Inventions of the Text complements our Research Seminar series. Inventions is organised by a team of postgraduate researchers, and combines papers by academics from Durham and beyond with presentations by PhD students. Seminars run roughly every couple of weeks during term time, with around eight or nine events a year. After each seminar, attendees are welcome to socialise with the speaker(s) over dinner. They are generally for University staff and students, although sometimes open to the public.

Forthcoming Inventions of the Text Seminars

Inventions of the Text Early Career Seminar

28th February 2018, 17:30 to 18:30, Seminar Room, Hallgarth House, Marcus Meer and Laura McKenzie

Join Inventions of the Text for two papers from early-career researchers. Featuring Marcus Meer on 'Reinventing London's (Heraldic) History from the Fifteenth to the Twenty-First Century' and Dr. Laura McKenzie 'Trauma and Translation: Ted Hughes’s Oedipus and the Disordered Mind'

Marcus Meer, 'Reinventing London's (Heraldic) History from the Fifteenth to the Twenty-First Century'

Although coats of arms remain a ubiquitous sight in the urban space of modern London, they are hardly noticed as anything more than a 'logo' of municipal government. In the medieval and early-modern era, on the other hand, elaborate reflections on their 'true' meaning are indicative of the importance attached to this form of visual communication. When the London arms originally emerged in the thirteenth century, they simply sought to combine religious and royal symbolism. In the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, however, their appearance was reinterpreted to be incorporated into elaborate (oral) narratives of the urban past. Although antiquarians of the sixteenth century became more aware of the arms' actual historical origins, in the seventeenth century, still, the Worshipful Company of Fishmongers combined textual narratives and material reminders of London's history and heraldry for the purpose of their collective identity. While heraldists and historians since the nineteenth century have simply shunned such 'myths' as wrong, I argue that these acts of heraldic reinterpretation and appropriation are indicative of medieval and early modern 'practices of looking' at heraldry. Strikingly, modern opinions on the London arms reveal that heraldry has lost nothing of its medieval and early modern appeal, which already perceived coats of arms as closely connected to the past.

Dr. Laura McKenzie, 'Trauma and Translation: Ted Hughes’s Oedipus and the Disordered Mind'

Ted Hughes’s translation of Seneca’s Oedipus (1969) is an exercise in the negotiation of limits. A profoundly Hughesian text, it strips back Seneca’s rhetoric to expose the ‘raw dream’ of the Oedipus myth, a process, as Hughes puts it, of ‘limiting the language’. Hughes also, however, interpolates several sections of dialogue that exceed the limits of Seneca’s tragedy and modulate the space between the source text and the poet’s own concerns, concerns which can be situated within the context of the First World War and an exploration of the experience of combat trauma. This approach plunges Seneca’s tragedy into a state of textual chaos that, when we consider the forces at play, powerfully evokes the disordered nature of the traumatised mind.

The First World War exerted a profound influence on Hughes. His father William fought at Gallipoli and, returning to England acutely shell-shocked, ensured that the war and its after-effects became the dominant narrative of his son’s formative years. This paper will argue that the key to understanding the disordering efforts at the heart of Hughes’s translation can be found in his preoccupation with these phenomena. Hughes’s translation will be analysed both within the larger discourse of his poems about war and the context of his father’s combat trauma, an exposure to which effected a transgenerational, secondary traumatisation that Hughes consistently attempted to forge meaning from. Hughes’s translation thus emerges as an evocation and investigation of the traumatised state, and an attempt to discern the ‘raw dream’ of his psychological inheritance through the tragic framework of Seneca’s Oedipus.

Contact for more information about this event.

Past Inventions of the Text Seminars