Goldsmiths Literature Seminar: Visual Pleasure: Acts of Looking in Narrative Culture

Event title (long): 
Visual Pleasure: Acts of Looking in Narrative Culture
United Kingdom
Goldsmiths College
Closing date for submissions: 
31 August, 2016
Event dates: 


This conference seeks to explore the ways in which the political “act of looking” in Laura Mulvey’s writing and its legacies can be extended to a broader discussion of narrative and critical cultures in contemporary society. Whether we are exploring the nature of academic discourse and authorial identity, the function of autobiography and confession in contemporary literary culture, or the determinacy of canon and the anxiety of influence, the conflict between active and passive renditions of criticism relative to the force of narrative can be everywhere encountered. Mulvey’s work amplifies such collisions and, given her interest in the power of entertainment technologies, she offers an insight that is as relevant today as it was to the development of film criticism in the 1970s.

When we consider the role of culture in contemporary society, similar concerns plague the author and the academic—apprehensions about gazing backwards rather than broaching new territory, or the anxiety of influence as inveighing on original perspective proves to problematize conceptions of originality, authenticity and creativity in contemporary critical and creative practices. Often, the attempt to wring originality from existing traditions results in the inescapable realisation that critical work is contingent on second hand material. Conversely, criticism resumes to be perceived as a creative action that is unique to the personality engaging with the object of their attention. In this conference, we aim to encourage reflections upon the significance (and definition) of ‘originality’ and authorship in film, literature, and criticism. This approach ought to cast the role of the critic in renewed light, resulting in a reassessment of the standing that film and literary crit
icism dons in present-day narrative cultures.

This conflict is crucial to our self-definition in the academy—we let our interests define us, to then be defined by our interests, readily identify personality with product, and professionalize an engagement with culture. Scholarly response is either a product of its source or a procreant and provocative exercise that reclaims, reframes, and unsettles tradition. These polarised views of the critic are central to the work of Laura Mulvey in her exploration of active and passive manifestations of critical observation in cinema. In her canonical essay ‘Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema’ (1975), Mulvey explores the segregation of the director and their audience – the cinema and its spectator – to underscore the manner in which representation on and off the screen is determined by an intermingling of social and personal pressures that, in turn, mould our reading of the text.

We invite 15 minute presentations on subjects including, but by no means limited to:

•Academic culture, authorship and authorial or critical identity

•Film, and the evolution of film criticism in the twenty-first century

•Creative responses to film and literature (for example, adaptation, commentary, or novelisation)

•Realism, authenticity and originality in literature, cinema and popular culture

•Documentary as intervention versus creativity as intervention

•‘Phallocentricism’ in the representation of women in literature and film

The conference will conclude with a screening of ‘The Riddles of the Sphinx’ [1979], directed by Laura Mulvey and Peter Wollen. Presented in collaboration with Curzon Goldsmiths, this screening will be introduced by Laura Mulvey herself and followed by a Q&A.