Summer 2015 Conferences

If you missed our July 2014 conference, you can apply for either or both of the following conferences which will be held at the University of Liverpool early to mid July 2015.

  • Silence: A Semiotics of (in)Significance, 1-3 July 2015.
  • Impassioned Britain: Familial and Divine Depictions of Feeling (1707 – 1907), 15-17 July 2015.

For more information, abstract submission, and deadlines, refer to the CFP link on our events website. http://melancholyandpain.liv.ac.uk/?page_id=394

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Pre-Easter Notes @Embodiments

Abstract submission @Embodiments researchers’ summer conference, Grief. Language. Art. (Liverpool, 8-10 July 2014), is now closed. Please be advised that we will not consider any further abstract submissions for this event. However, if you wish to attend as a non-presenting delegate, please get in touch with Embodiments Research Group, and our colleagues will be happy to help you with registration.

Thanks to everyone who participated, sending us excellent abstracts. Many thanks also to our attending speakers. We will be announcing the programme mid to late May 2014. In the meantime and if you have any queries on the programme and registration, please contact our organising board, email: painpara@liv.ac.uk. We will now be off for Easter holiday until Wednesday, 23 April 2014. Please be patient with email queries in the meantime.

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Last summer we hosted some outstanding panels, taking us through studies of pain and melancholy in different fields. This year, we are focused on intersections of grief, language, and art. Although we are now seeking focused contributions on the subject of grief, we encourage everyone – who will be attending this event - to consider and discuss how these themes are relevant. We will select the best works for publication in our forthcoming volumes in Texts and Embodiments in Perspective Book Series. Therefore, attending the conference during all sessions is obligatory for those who register. We have a policy of limiting the number of parallel sessions in the interest of collective engagement and in-depth focus on almost all presentations.  Conference organisation and experience of parallel sessions during previous  years has taught us that limited number of sessions in each day boosts the richness of our discussions and helps us to get a better picture of coherent themes.

Delegates, summer 2013 conference @Embodiments.

Some delegates in summer 2013 conference @Embodiments, fingers crossed for a sunny conference again this year…

Thank you and looking forward to meeting you in July 2014!
Happy Easter and wishing you all a lovely holiday.

Embodiments Research Group, University of Liverpool

Looking for a Holiday Read? Quiet.

Wrapping up our 2013 tasks this morning, we discussed teaching and learning in higher education, considering ‘Work-Place Oriented Learning’. This HE theme is flooded with theories of the engaged/engaging self. Universities are expected to produce graduates equipped with knowledge and experience, prepared to engage with others and ready to socialise and work. We are also aware that significant knowledge is produced in much longer periods of time, beyond students’ university experience and within workplace settings outside lecture theatres. Currently, learning is shaped by education discourses within schools and colleges, and formed in social and intellectual settings in higher education, requiring the learner to develop certain dispositions in order to adapt, change, self-control (self-efficacy), actively engage with others (become fully skilled extroverts)!

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In our time, this thirst for extroversion leading to success is encouraged in online settings for learning, social media (esp. twitter), in addition to face-to-face interaction in the classroom, in meetings, conferences, and even in family gatherings. We are continuously expected to be in the debate zone, to transfer knowledge, encouraging our students to do the same. Therefore how we lecture and develop practical ideas for lecturing is one of those areas that remains to be challenging. Lecturers and teachers are expected to be skilled communicators, confidents talkers, and knowledgeable extroverts; to successfully hold students’ attention, actively monitor learning, link the material they teach in each session, always debate, use the learners by rhetorical questioning and verbal interaction, and ultimately manifest an overall model of gregariousness and extroversion. But what is the point in expecting everyone to go out there and do amazing things? Where  and what is ‘out there’? What is ‘amazing’?

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Perhaps this method of teaching has its lineage in our historical/social constructs in the West, assuming that to be successful, overtly engaged behaviour in the public domain is necessary. This attitude is a dangerous one; it gives prominence to success by emphasising what we communicate rather than what we know, preventing any potential disruption (e.g. solitude, reflection, quiet time) to one’s social interaction. Unfortunately the indication is that in order to flourish, one learns to constantly discuss different subjects with diverse groups of people in order to win, which in turn creates a noisy world. This type of knowledge transfer has some negative consequences, one of the major drawbacks being the hierarchy of extrovert- ambivert-introvert. Those who achieve a great level of noise are perceived and accepted as embodiments of victory. The reality may be far from it.

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‘A Young Girl Reading’ (1776), by Jean-Honoré Fragonard, location
National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., United States

Introverts have the ability to enjoy silence and relish time alone. One of the healthiest aspects of any person’s life is their aptitude to feel comfortable in solitude. This is a difficult task, as experiencing one’s private time away from the noisy crowd requires reflection; not everyone feels comfortable and confident in their own quiet world. Being aware of this difficulty, society is focused on extroversion and noise, presenting extroverts as models of success and introverts as “antisocial” and “abnormal”, “unfriendly” or “shy”.

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Anne, Emily, and Charlotte Brontë, by their brother Branwell (c. 1834). He painted himself among his sisters, but later removed the image so as not to clutter the picture.

 

We all know that many notable men and women in the intellectual world have been introverts. One example is a poet whose birthday we celebrate today: Emily Dickinson. Her literature of self-reflection is a magnificent and profound one. We have chosen one of her poems on grief, particularly for those who are planning to attend our summer conference Grief. Language. Art. (8-10 July 2014). Today we are advised to socialise and refrain from solitude; we are expected to try and make our lives painless and perfect. But great minds such as Emily Dickinson embraced their being with all its different dimensions. Fortunately Dickinson is one poet in a world full of great introvert minds. Think historical examples of thought-provoking literary figures and their siblings, the Brontës, the Du Maurier sisters, the Wright brothers, Wittgenstein, P. G. Wodehouse, Einstein, and all those whose work continues to inspire us. If you believe such characters do not exist today, you are mistaken. Somewhere, somehow, you can find one or a few individuals working in silence and helping others, or some thinking what to do to make the world a better place again in their own quiet environment; a type of praying for the world without any social pretension. Elsewhere, those who quietly indulge in creativity without making a public fuss about it. We are unfortunate not to meet these people, and it is pitiful if we meet them, but perceive them as abnormal, simply because they are different from the majority norm, but the next generations will find out about their works one way or another.

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Wright brothers at the Belmont Park Aviation Meet in 1910

 

As lecturers and academic practitioners, we are called to identify these varieties of great minds. Lecturing requires a great deal of socialising. You may be astonished to know that in a recent handbook for lecturers (53 Interesting Things to Do in Your Lectures, 2012) only one page is allocated to the importance of “Quiet Time“, admitting that ‘Reflection can be difficult in a bustling atmosphere’ (p.43).  Most lecturing ideas in this handbook are generated on the assumption that modern learners are all extroverts, happy to talk, communicate, engage in group-work, or perhaps even dance in order to learn! However, Susan Cain reassures us that not everyone has become manifestly extrovert. There are still those who enjoy their quiet lives. Individuals who take delight in moments alone or in small groups; those who enjoy activities that enhance learning in solitude. Here is a link to one of Susan’s talks about the subject.

www.youtube.com/watch?v=c0KYU2j0TM4

If you are interested, we certainly recommend her book:

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“Stop the Madness for Constant Group-Work”, Susan Cain

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Susan Cain speaking at the TED2012 conference, (“not my natural milieu”) with a prop suitcase which was said to be a metaphor for the treasures, memories, activities and thoughts that make you you. Cain’s own suitcase contained books.

 

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World Book Night

Come and play with me,” proposed the little prince. “I am so unhappy.”

“I cannot play with you,” the fox said. “I am not tamed.”

~Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

“When I grow up I want to be a little boy”

~Joseph Heller

Recently we have been celebrating World Creativity and Innovation Week (http://worldcreativity.wordpress.com/) and today we celebrate World Book Night. For both occasions we have had a retreat – and a withdrawal – to enjoy being away from what is popular in academic circles at the moment, especially overrated and popular books in adult literary and reading groups. We have been opting for childhood narratives instead. Why? Here it goes:

Psychologists suggest that playing is central to one’s creativity, but adults rarely re-visit their childhood; how we used to play at school and what we used to read. Often social norms, cultural expectations, and individual emotions come together to prescribe play as an impediment to productivity, and to dismiss childhood narratives for those who are considered adults. Growing up is a process that invites certain attitudes to detachment from childhood. To be an adult, one is expected to behave in a certain manner as if being removed from a planet called childhood. Dr. Stuart Brown, founder and president of The National Institute for Play (http://www.nifplay.org/) suggests that ‘humour, games, roughhousing, flirtation and fantasy are more than just fun. Plenty of play in childhood makes for happy, smart adults — and keeping it up can make us smarter at any age’. Interestingly, Brown’s research on play is rooted in his study of problematic adulthood, especially one that affects interpersonal relationships.

Think, for example, of anger and resentment. In the process of growing up, many individuals lose their sense of humour; we become serious by forgetting the power of childhood laughter. This is a problematic  process, as adults may find it difficult to accept any type of loss. Children learn losing and winning through play but once we grow up, losing becomes an awkward subject, so much so that everyone tries to win all the time. This, in turn, makes up for unhealthy and controlling behaviours, and as a result reducing productivity. We all know that a control freak finds it difficult to let go and play a creative role in personal life or in society and especially as a player in team-work. According to Bernie DeKoven ‘Our sense of humour has a lot to do with our ability to stay on a playful path. Joking with a stranger, laughing together, sharing a moment of silliness, we connect, we build bridges across the divide that keeps us strangers’. Psychology and sociology scholars suggest that playing is a must if you wish to spread love and kindness in your life and to others’ lives. ‘By making a conscious effort to incorporate more humour and play into your daily interactions, you can improve the quality of your love relationships – as well as your connections with co-workers, family members, and friends’. Same goes with reading experiences. Indulge in your childhood narratives every now and again. Make sure to re-visit the very sentences that inspired you as a child. Take delight in touching colourful pages of a book you used to enjoy at school and never forget to play and playfully read.

So here at Embodiments we have chosen One Thousand and One Nights (كتاب ألف ليلة وليلة‎ ). We are travelling to the otherness of childhood narratives and to make it complete with the joy of friendship from across the world in playful reading, here is an excerpt from Le Petit Prince. Hope you enjoy it:

“Please–tame me!” said [the Fox].

“I want to, very much,” the little prince replied. “But I have not much time. I have friends to discover, and a great many things to understand.”

“One only understands the things that one tames,” said the fox. “Men have no more time to understand anything. They buy things all ready made at the shops. But there is no shop anywhere where one can buy friendship, and so men have no friends any more. If you want a friend, tame me . . .”

“What must I do, to tame you?” asked the little prince.

“You must be very patient,” replied the fox. “First you will sit down at a little distance from me–like that–in the grass. I shall look at you out of the corner of my eye, and you will say nothing. Words are the source of misunderstandings. But you will sit a little closer to me, every day . . .”

The next day the little prince came back.

“It would have been better to come back at the same hour,” said the fox. “If, for example, you come at four o’clock in the afternoon, then at three o’clock I shall begin to be happy. I shall feel happier and happier as the hour advances. At four o’clock, I shall already be worrying and jumping about. I shall show you how happy I am! But if you come at just any time, I shall never know at what hour my heart is to be ready to greet you . . . One must observe the proper rites . . .”

“What is a rite?” asked the little prince.

“Those also are actions too often neglected,” said the fox. “They are what make one day different from other days, one hour from other hours…”

So the little prince tamed the fox. And when the hour of his departure drew near–

“Ah,” said the fox, “I shall cry.”

“It is your own fault,” said the little prince. “I never wished you any sort of harm; but you wanted me to tame you . . .”

“Yes, that is so,” said the fox.

“But now you are going to cry!” said the little prince.

“Yes, that is so,” said the fox.

“Then it has done you no good at all!”

“It has done me good,” said the fox, “because of the color of the wheat fields.” And then he added:

“Go and look again at the roses. You will understand now that yours is unique in all the world. Then come back to say goodbye to me, and I will make you a present of a secret.”

The little prince went away, to look again at the roses… And he went back to meet the fox.

“Goodbye,” he said.

“Goodbye,” said the fox. “And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”