The Centre for Critical Studies was incorporated in the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities in August 2015.

The information in this website is therefore out of date but retained for archival and staff purposes.

Below is an archive of CCCS Public Seminars delivered in 2001, along with their original abstracts. For further information on any of these seminars, please contact CCCS Admin.


Professor Nicholas Rogers: 'Reel History and Jane Austen Fever', 27 April 2001

In 1995-96 there were six TV and video productions of Jane Austen's novels, one of which won two Oscars as well as best film in Britain and Berlin. In Britain Jane Austen sites and film locations were jammed with visitors. In North America Jane Austen websites proliferated. Why have these drawing-room dramas had such fin-de-siecle appeal? This paper offers some speculations in terms of the marketing of heritage and "good taste", the modernization of Austen narratives, and website chat-ins.


Professor Linda Hutcheon & Professor Michael Hutcheon: 'Opera Moriendi: Staging Death and Dying', 7 June 2001

This illustrated (multi-media) lecture will introduce and provide an overview of the Hutcheons' new research project on the beliefs and attitudes that Western cultures hold about death and dying--as they are played out in opera, an art form that has proved to be inordinately obsessed with this theme. Across a wide range of fields there has been an upsurge of interest recently in the historical, social and cultural meanings given to death, and this has led to the creation of the new interdisciplinary field of "Death Studies". This particular project hopes to bring together two discourses on questions of mortality that have remained stubbornly separate in academic terms: the biological and social sciences (which have traditionally dealt with "real world" pragmatics) and the humanities (which have usually worked on historical and cultural manifestations).

Thanks to the intellectual and affective power of the European Romantic obsession with death, nineteenth-century German opera figures prominently in this study, but so too do both modern Czech and French operas, as well as seventeenth-century Italian works. What all the operas we examine share is what may seem a strangely positive view of death--as the site of redemption, reunion, transcendence, or the restoration of peace, honour or justice. The specific focus of the project is less on the operas themselves, however, than on how a twenty-first-century audience might respond to their various but always positive representations of death. Death may well be a human universal, but it is also given different cultural meanings in different times and places. Its universality gives it a certain inevitable power when used in art, but its different cultural meanings complicate its reception and interpretation. In the course of outlining the project and its theoretical frame of reference, the lecture will discuss and offer illustrations from operas such as: Francis Poulenc's Les Dialogues des Carmélites, Richard Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen and Tristan und Isolde, Leo? Janácek's The Makropoulos Affair, among others.

Professor Lesley Stern: 'Paths that Wind through the Thicket of Things: A Meditation on Some Cinematic Things', 9 August 2001

"Things" are worming their way into view. In various disciplines - anthropology, literary and postcolonial studies, sociology and history - things are again soliciting attention, inviting a reorientation of critical thought and, possibly, critical method. This paper focuses on things in the cinema. Critics have always been fascinated by the cinema's peculiar capacity to render the world of things, but this fascination has been largely suppressed by the dominant theoretical mode of the last thirty years. This paper theorises thinginess in the cinema by exploring its instantiation as a function of two intersecting modalities (the quotidian and the histrionic) and two intersecting operations (inflation and deflation). Cigarettes, kettles, teardrops emerge as objects charmed by the cinema into thinginess.