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Recent conferences: Progress

There have been some fascinating conferences of late, and I’ve been trying to go to as many as my full-time job allows. I thought I’d write up one of the most recent, ahead of the next one tomorrow.

Attending conferences is expensive: financially, and in terms of time. For a part-time student, this is a particular challenge, but good conferences can be academically and personally nourishing, so I’m glad I’ve been able to make the time for them over the last few months.

A few weeks ago, Oxford ran a postgraduate conference with an interesting theme: Progress. The programme really ran the gamut, with presenters who work on everything from Milton (by Gabrielle Linnel, @gclinnel), ergodic print novels (by Brittany Kuhn, @nerdywriterruns), and GIFs as a creative form (by Claire Spears). The roundtable panel invited us to consider how “progress”, often seen as rather passé, might—or might not—be a useful critical term. I found Sowon Park‘s contribution really fascinating; she made a compelling case for the continuing relevance of the humanities in the face of scientific and technological progress that seems increasingly to marginalise the human in order to focus on “productive” education.

The most fascinating part for me, however, was David Trotter‘s keynote. As his work is primarily on modernism, I hadn’t read much of it before, and I was prepared to be lost for much of his speech. However, his work engages methodologically with a lot of the same issues as my own expedition into German media theory. He spoke particularly about cultural techniques, positing the application of make-up in public as such a technique that acts phatically, initiating communication. I will definitely be reading more of his work!

This weekend, I get to attend the second half of Forgotten Geographies; I’ll have to miss most of day 1, as I’ll be in work, but better some than none! The whole conference has been organised by the wonderful @leirebarrera and @sasha_weirdsley, both of whom I met at a previous conference on Aestheticism and Decadence in the Age of Modernism. And that’s really the best thing about attending conferences: relationship flourish, and ideas reproduce. It really is cross-fertilisation for research.

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