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Countervoices January Research Seminar

Thursday 28 January 2021, 4.00PM to 5pm

Join our PG forum’s first research seminar of the spring term, part of a series of events that 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 Samuel Love (York) and Haleemah Alayadi followed by a Q&A.

‘The Struggle Against the Saxophone’: Classicism and its Discontents in John Bulloch Souter’s The Breakdown

By Samuel Love 

In 1926, John Bulloch Souter stood at the centre of the year’s biggest art world controversy. His painting The Breakdown, depicting a black saxophonist atop a ruined classical sculpture and a naked white woman dancing, was removed from the Royal Academy’s Summer Exhibition mere days after the show opened. The painting, it was stated, posed a threat to British nationals living in colonial territories.

Yet this was only the official reason for the painting’s removal. The Breakdown, widely understood to reflect the toppling of ‘civilised’ European art by the popularity among the young, fashionable, and privileged members of High Society of African-American entertainment, interacted provocatively with the ideologically charged language of classicism. In the wake of the First World War, government departments and public intellectuals proposed reconstructing society along the lines of the ancient past, rejuvenating classical rhetoric and aesthetics as symbols of democracy, order, and intellectualism. This paper will explore how and why Souter depicted the battles lines between this mission and the hedonistic, countercultural world of High Society. I will examine contemporary responses to the painting, unutilised interviews with Souter himself, and writing on post-war reconstruction to elucidate the unexplored aesthetic and ideological conflicts that Souter’s painting represents.


Samuel Love is a first-year PhD student in Art History at the University of York. His research focuses on the relationship between visual art and popular conceptions of 'High Society' in interwar Britain, examining the ways in which artists perpetuated its intoxicating sense of glamour. He is broadly interested in modern British art and has previously spoken and written on the work of figures such as Cecil Beaton, Edward Bawden, Eric Ravilious, and Kate Bush.


Palestinian Diaspora Fiction Revisited
By Haleemah Alaydi

Much of the recent revival of scholarly interest in the literature of migration, diaspora and exile, has touched upon, or treated in some depth, the refugee experience. In response to the global refugee crisis that began in 2015, a number of fiction books; such as Sea Prayer by Hosseini (2018), Refugee Tales: Volume II by Kay et al. (2017) and Shatila Stories by Gowanlock (2018), have been published to establish empathy with the refugee experience and help literary fiction readers understand the experiences of people displaced from their home countries across the world.

Although the history of the Palestinian problem began many decades ago with the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948, there is a scarcity in the literary works; including novels, short stories and poetry, that shed light on this issue in the English language (Al- Ma’amari et al., 2014). Research on the Palestinian problem has been mostly restricted to academic articles, books and studies in English. This paper examines how previous works of literature have portrayed the refugee and migrant experience of uprootedness over the past years, particularly those of Palestinian or Arab background. Ultimately, this paper contributes to research on refugees within literary studies, offering a balanced, comprehensive and inclusive portrayal of refugees. The aim of this paper is, therefore, to cast further light on a topic that has generally evaded scholarly and literary attention and offer a richly nuanced account of Palestinian diaspora within the Western world, ultimately contributing to the body of Palestinian immigrant fiction.


Haleemah Alaydi is a PhD Researcher in the Department of English and Related Literature at the University of York. Her doctoral research, funded by the Acton-Goodman Scholarship and the Department of English and Related Literature investigates the history of the Palestinian refugee experience of forced displacement and statelessness between 1940s and present-day through a short story collection and a critical commentary that focus on exploring the role of fiction on constructing the refugee experience and identity. She takes a multidisciplinary approach that encompasses the fields of media, history, literature, human right studies, critical race and postcolonial theories.

Haleemah holds a master’s degree in Writing for Performance and Publication from the University of Leeds, which she completed on a Chevening Award. Her short story “A Very Private Confession” is forthcoming in the Northern Short Story Anthology in March 2021. Her poems “Home” and “Three Truths about Life” were published by the Scribe Art Magazine. Her novel “When Olive Trees Died” was shortlisted for the 2019 Borough Press BAME Open Submission competition. Haleemah has certifications in Spoken Word Poetry Slam and International Peace Studies.


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