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Creative Dissonance: Writing Now

Organisers: Alexandra Kingston-Reese and Bryan Radley (English and Related Literature)

What are the aesthetic, affective, and political commitments of writing now? How do today’s writers imagine their own artistic practices? Hardly sentimental, contemporary writers explore lived experiences (quotidian and aesthetic) that frequently negate or ironically undercut the profound, verge on the automatic, and are troubled by dissonant feelings. Nevertheless, many current writers reconcile these anxieties with a concerted critical realignment in understanding artistic sensibility, literary form, and the function of the aesthetic to disturb the way we perceive and reflect on art.

These creative interventions into critical practice in turn reflect an increasing dissonance in literary criticism: no longer satisfied with the strictures of critique, we are being encouraged to adopt deep reading, distant reading, and surface reading; to forgo reading suspiciously in favour of reading generously. Taking inspiration from the formal and affective dissonance so prominent in contemporary writing, the aims of this research strand are therefore twofold: to explore the way that dissonance drives contemporary literary experimentation and to question dissonant new forms of literary criticism.

Writing Now Reading Group

Creative Dissonance's reading group 'Writing Now', meets once a term. Here, we will discuss emergent literary and art criticism on the exigencies of writing now, in conversation with some of the the most significant auto-criticism written by contemporary novelists in recent years. If you would like to join us or would like further information please contact either Alexandra Kingston-Reese ( or Bryan Radley (

Forthcoming Events:

Thursday 9 May 2019, 6.30pm: Sam Reese: Reading and Interview

Join us at the York Medical Society for a special reading by Aotearoa/New Zealand-born writer Sam Reese. This is a sneak preview, pre-launch event for Sam's debut short story collection, which will be published by Platypus Press in June. Come the Tide has been hailed as "a masterful collection" by Lochlan Bloom, while a recent review noted that the act of reading these "sun-soaked, water-drenched" stories "becomes an unusually visceral and enlarging experience". The reading will be followed by an interview and Q&A led by Dr J.T. Welsch, and a wine reception.

Dr Reese is a Lecturer in English and Creative Writing at the University of Northampton. As Sam V. H. Reese, he has written essays on surrealism and American fiction, the gender politics of cultural criticism, and why you need to read the stories of Mary McCarthy. His first critical work, The Short Story in Midcentury America, won the 2018 Arthur Miller Centre First Book Prize. Blue Notes: Jazz, Literature, and Loneliness, his second academic monograph, is due out in September (both from LSU Press).

Friday 21st June, 6mMichael Donkor: Reading and Interview

Join us for a special reading by the British-Ghanain novelist Michael Donkor from his brilliant debut novel Hold. Inspired by Zadie Smith, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and Toni Morrison, Michael Donkor was lauded in 2018 by The Observer Review as one of the new faces of fiction and has been long listed for this year's Dylan Thomas prize.

The reading will be followed by an interview and Q&A led by Dr Alexandra Kingston-Reese, and a wine reception.

Past Events:

Thursday 28 February 2019, 12-1pm: Research seminar with Alix Beeston (Cardiff University): "The Watch-Bitch Now: Reassessing the Natural Woman in Han Kang’s The Vegetarian". The Treehouse, Berrick Saul Building. All welcome.

Thursday 28 February 2019, 3-4pm: Panel Discussion with Alexandra Kingston-Reese (University of York), Cadence Kinsey (University of York), and Alix Beeston (Cardiff University): "New Artistic Practices: Instagram as (Plat)Form". The Treehouse, Berrick Saul Building. All welcome.

Friday 25 January 2019, 5.15pm: Join us for a special reading by Belfast-based writer Sam Thompson, followed by an interview and wine reception. Sam's dazzling first novel Communion Town, which is about a kaleidoscopic city, was published in 2012 and longlisted for the Man Booker Prize. His recent second book Jott (2018) draws imaginatively on his grandfather's bond with Samuel Beckett in its exploration of friendship, madness, and modernism.  Bowland Auditorium, Berrick Saul Building.  All welcome.

Wednesday 6 June, 18:00-19:30, The Bowland Auditorium, Berrick Saul Building

Man Booker Prize Winner 2013 Eleanor Catton in Conversation.

Friday 11 May, 12:30-13:45, The Treehouse, Berrick Saul Building
New Modes of Reading
A Creative Dissonance research seminar with Alexandra Kingston-Reese (York) and Doug Battersby (University of Tokyo)This research seminar will be an occasion to think about, and disrupt, how we read contemporary novelists. There will be two papers, followed by a discussion chaired by Bryan Radley. Alexandra Kingston-Reese’s talk will explore how reading reflexively affords new spaces for understanding postmillennial artistic sensibility and form, and Doug Battersby’s talk will discuss Kazuo Ishiguro's elusive forms. All are welcome.
Thursday 1 March, 2-3pm, B/S/007, Berrick Saul Building
Spring Term meeting of 'Writing Now' Reading Group. We will consider Amy Hungerford's "On the Period Formerly Known as the Contemporary", 10 years on from its initial publication date. Available from: All welcome. Contact: and 

Wednesday 29 November, 3-4pm, BS/007, Berrick Saul Building
Autumn Term meeting of 'Writing Now' Reading Group: Giorgio Agamben’s “What is the Contemporary?”: & Theodore Martin’s “The Currency of the Contemporary” (from Postwar | Postmodern — and After eds. Jason Gladstone, Andrew Hoberek, and Daniel Worden):

CModS Postgraduate Workshop with Professor David James (University of Birmingham): 'Uses of Criticism in an Era of Postcritique', Thursday 2nd November 4-5.30pm, BS/007

Inaugural talk by Professor David James (University of Birmingham): 'Consolation's Discrepant Forms', Thursday 2nd November 6pm, The Treehouse