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English and Comparative Literature

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Voluptuousness and Nature

David Rose

From the perfumed verse of Baudelaire to the ‘fleshly’ poetry of Swinburne, from the extravagant and perverse sensory experiences of Des Esseintes in A rebours to the refined visual aesthetics of Dorian Gray, we encounter corresponding senses (synaesthesia) and extreme sensations, intensified by nervous or pathological psychological states. Reading Decadence, from ancient times to the present day, is to indulge in voluptuous pleasures (and pain), to sample exotic tastes and sounds, and to envisage states of mind in highly visual terms. ‘For each emotion’, as Oscar Wilde imagined for his drama, Salomé (1894), ‘a new perfume’. This interdisciplinary conference explores the relationship of Decadence and the senses, and the ways in which Decadent writers attempt to capture fleeting sensations. It is an opportunity to trace common visual, aural and ‘perfumed’ motifs in Decadent works, and to reflect on the extent to which the senses are important to our understanding of the tradition.

Sun, 13 Apr 14 2

Decadent Taste

David Weir

From the perfumed verse of Baudelaire to the ‘fleshly’ poetry of Swinburne, from the extravagant and perverse sensory experiences of Des Esseintes in A rebours to the refined visual aesthetics of Dorian Gray, we encounter corresponding senses (synaesthesia) and extreme sensations, intensified by nervous or pathological psychological states. Reading Decadence, from ancient times to the present day, is to indulge in voluptuous pleasures (and pain), to sample exotic tastes and sounds, and to envisage states of mind in highly visual terms. ‘For each emotion’, as Oscar Wilde imagined for his drama, Salomé (1894), ‘a new perfume’. This interdisciplinary conference explores the relationship of Decadence and the senses, and the ways in which Decadent writers attempt to capture fleeting sensations. It is an opportunity to trace common visual, aural and ‘perfumed’ motifs in Decadent works, and to reflect on the extent to which the senses are important to our understanding of the tradition.

Sun, 13 Apr 14 2

Life Writing and the Writing Life

Blake Morrison

Professor Blake Morrison reads from his latest poetry pamphlet, This Poem, reflecting on his career as a writer in different forms (memoir, fiction, drama and poetry), and discussing his interest in bibliotheraphy.

Thu, 20 Mar 14 0

'A Girl is a Half-formed Thing' - Reading and Discussion

Eimear McBride

Eimear McBride's debut tells, with astonishing insight and in brutal detail, the story of a young woman's relationship with her brother, and the long shadow cast by his childhood brain tumour. Not so much a stream of consciousness, as an unconscious railing against a life that makes little sense, and a shocking and intimate insight into the thoughts, feelings and chaotic sexuality of a vulnerable and isolated protagonist, to read A Girl Is A Half-Formed Thing is to plunge inside its narrator's head, experiencing her world first-hand. This isn't always comfortable - but it is always a revelation.

Mon, 17 Mar 14 0

'The Big Music' - Reading and Discussion

Kirsty Gunn

Kirsty Gunn is the author of seven works of fiction including a collection of short stories and a compendium of poetry, essays and fragments, and is published in the UK by Faber and in over twelve countries and languages throughout the world. Her most recent book is The Big Music, published in 2012 to great critical acclaim and out in paperback in 2013. It was listed for the James Tait Black and Impac awards and was the winner of The New Zealand Book of the Year 2013. The boy and the sea was winner of the 2007 Sundial Scottish Book of the Year and her previous work Featherstone was a New York Times Notable Book and a recipient of a Scottish Arts Council Bursary for Literature. She has a Chair in Creative Writing at the University of Dundee where she created and directs the programme of Writing Study and Practice. Her new collection of short stories Infidelities is to be published by Faber later this year.

Mon, 17 Mar 14 0