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Countervoices November Research Seminar

Thursday 26 November 2020, 4.00PM to 5 pm

Join our PG forum’s final research seminar of the autumn term, the last in a series of events which offer postgraduate students in the Centre for Modern Studies and beyond the opportunity to present a short piece of work to an interdisciplinary audience. 

The event consists of two invited presentations from David Stapley (York) and Inga Piotrowska (York) followed by a Q&A.

Victorian Medievalism at Bamburgh Castle

David Stapley
Bamburgh Castle in Northumbria is better known in archaeological circles as the seat of an Anglo-Saxon kingdom and for the monastery of Lindisfarne nearby. It’s more recent heritage, however, is often overlooked. During the 1890s the dilapidated castle was transformed into a grand stately home by wealthy industrialist Lord Armstrong, who spent more than £1,000,000 on the endeavor. This medieval setting, both real and imagined, cemented his place in the aristocracy, converting economic capital into social capital. This is not the only story visible at Bamburgh however, as there is a tension between this attachment to the medieval fabric of the building, and the attachment to contemporary global networks seen through the furnishings and objects. Some items fuse both attachments, the roof of the grand hall, for instance, made of teak from Thailand, and yet carved in a gothic style. The mass purchase of land surrounding the castle also speaks to a desire to re-enact a feudal land order. When taken in the context of the rest of Armstrong’s buildings we see very specific applications of heritage and object history that create an architecture of power fusing capital, global connection, and specific national heritage.
My name is David Stapley and I am doing an MA in Historical Archaeology. I am interested particularly in how people used and applied their understanding of the past in the past, as well as the ramifications these perceptions have on current conceptions of heritage as seen through media and art.

Gestalt Psychology and subjectivity of perception in the modernist Künstlerroman

Inga Piotrowska
This paper examines synaesthesia in James Joyce’s Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse using gestalt theory. While many scholars have already examined the significance of senses in both Joyce and Woolf’s work, there has been a paucity of research that uses this theory of perception to analyze the ways in which modernist novelists approach characterization and establish a dynamic relationship between the text and the reader (Peters 2001; Schrimper 2018). Gestalt psychologists, such as Kurt Koffka and Max Wertheimer, contend that humans are active seekers of meaningful patterns who perceive objects as components of a greater whole. The core idea of gestalt can be connected to the modernist idea of fragmentation: the breaking up of narrative and characters. The driving force of modernism is, however, the eventual unification of these fragments (Kern 2017). This unification is achieved through various means, one of them being synaesthesia. In literature, synaesthesia is a technique used to construct images by referring to multiple senses at once: smell, touch, sight, hearing and taste. When taken together, these sensual impressions comprise a complete image of the world. As a fictional motif, synaesthesia, glues together disparate visions of the world, as perceived by different senses, and leads to a final phenomenological – and fictional – wholeness. Looking at the characters of Stephen Dedalus and Lily Briscoe, I argue that sensual exploration contributes to the emergence of unity at the level of individual subjectivity: it supports the development of a unified artistic identity by stitching together the artist’s fragmented perception of the world. I also contend that the ubiquitous synesthetic descriptions influence the reader’s response to the text. As active perceivers, readers group fragments of the text into a whole, and thus create their own gestalt of the characters and fictional world.
Inga Piotrowska is currently a Master by Research in English Literature student at the University of York, UK. Her research focuses on modernist writing and intersections of psychology and literature. As a BA student at Wellesley College, USA, she received the Seven College Conference (7CC) grant for a week-long research project in Dublin which examined the influence of Catholicism on artistic development as represented in James Joyce’s Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. She also received a scholarship from University College Dublin to participate in the Dublin James Joyce Summer School in 2019. In October 2018, she published her first poetry book “Questions of Sleepless Nights.” 
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