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The information in this website is therefore out of date but retained for archival and staff purposes.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 2009, along with their original abstracts. Audio files are provided for seminars that were recorded. For further information on any of these seminars, please contact CCCS Admin.


Professor Andrew Crissell: 'Food for Thought or Chewing Gum for the Eyes? The State of Modern Television', 17 March 2009

Using two examples of ‘talk TV’ which are separated by 40 years, the presentation seeks to show how television has changed its role from a discreet witness of events to an originator or orchestrator of them. The pressures of multichannel competition have forced it to focus on its core competency, the provision of spectacles that require a minimum of explanation. This impulse to find or create spectacles extends to traditionally ‘verbal’ forms of content such as talk television, educative programmes and even the news. The consequence is that TV news often lacks backgrounding and detail and can be simplistic and misleading. Since television is for many people the primary source of knowledge about the world, this is a real problem. The contemporary state of the medium is a disquieting reminder of the conflict that frequently exists between images and words, and if it is to continue to be taken seriously television needs, at least occasionally, to show us less and tell us more.


Dr Mark Andrejevic: 'Visceral Literacy: The Turn to Body Language in a Reflexively Savvy Era', 7 April 2009

This presentation explores the role played by body language in recent popular culture and news analysis as a means of highlighting the potentially deceptive character of speech and promising to bypass it altogether. It situates the promise of visceral literacy -- the alleged ability to read inner emotions and dispositions -- within emerging surveillance regimes and the landscapes of risk they chart. At the same time, it describes portrayals of body language analysis as characteristic of an emerging genre of "securitainment" that instructs viewers in monitoring techniques as it entertains and informs them.


Dr Joe Hardwick: 'The Mobile Urban Female in Contemporary French Cinema', 12 May 2009

In a recent article in Screen magazine, Brigitte Rollet redubs Paris not just the ville lumière (city of light), but the ville des Lumière, of the Lumière brothers, the inventors of cinema.  The streets of Paris, more than any other Western city, have consistently attracted the attention of filmmakers, French and international alike.  Yet, from Nouvelle Vague classics such as The 400 Blows and Breathless, to 1990s “ghetto” films such as La Haine, to the more recent international successes of Paris and Paris je t’aime, the feminised city of Paris has been seen largely through male eyes.  Rollet argues that this has resulted in two different kinds of experiences for those females who wander Parisian streets: either one where the female is subject to the predatory male gaze or one where heterosexual romance predominates.

Presenting a somewhat different perspective on the mobile urban woman is Claire Denis’s 2002 feature Vendredi soir, which recounts the story of Laure, a 30-something woman who gets caught in a traffic jam the night before she is to move in with her partner.  On a freezing Parisian night, Laure offers a lift to the mysterious Jean with whom she has a one-night stand.  While academic writing on the film has concentrated on Denis’ innovative production of a tactile, sensual cinema, this seminar—with reference to the writing of Jill Forbes, Deborah L. Parsons and Ross Chambers—will read Laure as representing both a continuation of and departure from the early modern figure of the flâneur, one who traces a significantly different path from that of her French cinematic forebears such as the female wanderers of Cleo from 5 to 7 and The Vagabond.

Introduction: Professor Graeme Turner [0.8 mb]
Seminar Part One [8.0 mb]
Seminar Part Two [7.7 mb]
Seminar Part Three [9.7 mb]
Seminar Part Four [8.0 mb]


Dr Maureen Burns: 'Science Fiction or Science Fact? The 'Frontiers of Science' Comic Strip in the Sixties', 18 August 2009

'Frontiers of Science' was a popular science comic strip that was published in the Sydney Morning Herald between 1961 and 1979, and syndicated to 200 newspapers around the world. What can it tell us about the relations between art and (popular) science in the nineteen sixties?


Dr Joost de Bruin: 'NZ Idol: Nation Building through Format Adaptation', 13 October 2009

Three seasons of NZ Idol, the New Zealand adaptation of the global Idols format, were aired on public broadcaster TVNZ’s channel TV2 in 2004, 2005 and 2006. The final episode of the first season was the most-watched television program in New Zealand in 2004, with 1.4 million people, a third of the New Zealand population, tuning in to find out who won the first NZ Idol crown. In terms of ratings NZ Idol has been one of the most successful locally made television programs of the last decade. At first glance, NZ Idol has also been successful in representing ethnic and cultural diversity. A closer look at the show suggests, however, that featuring young people from a range of cultural backgrounds serves a particular nation building agenda that New Zealand is heavily involved in as a postcolonial society. Based on interviews with the producers of the first two seasons of NZ Idol and textual analysis of ‘vignettes’ that the interviewees talked about, this seminar will explore ethnic and cultural diversity in NZ Idol as well as the broader question of how the Idols format was translated into a local television .