The leaves are falling, the nights are drawing in, but to cheer us all up it’s Cambridge Festival of Ideas time again. In the How To Read events, researchers from the Faculty of English share their approach to a text of their choice. I’m speaking on Monday 19th October on Lisa Cholodenko’s film High Art (1998), and there are events also on 22nd and 26th October.
My next event on the Cambridge Festival of Ideas calendar is ‘Reading the Anthropocene‘ which takes place on Thursday 30th November in the Faculty of English. Again thanks to the wide-ranging interests of my PhD students, I was alerted to this term a few years back and have been following debates around it ever since. I’m delighted that joining me to talk about whether we are indeed now in a new geological era, and whether or not that actually matters, will be Philip Gibbard, Professor of Quaternary Palaeoenvironments in the Department of Geography here at Cambridge, and writer and environmental campaigner Tony Juniper. It promises to be a lively discussion that could not be better timed as the International Commission on Stratigraphy’s Working Group on the ‘Anthropocene’ meet for the first time this week to assess the evidence of man’s impact on the planet.
The Cambridge Festival of Ideas began this week and runs until Sunday 2nd November. It’s a great event that each year prompts academics to think of interesting and engaging ways to share their ideas with the public. I had the pleasure yesterday evening of taking part in one of the Faculty of English’s How to Read sessions. Two of our graduate students gave fantastic talks, one on Hilary Mantel’s French Revolution epic A Place of Greater Safety (1992) and the other on Masuji Ibuse’s 1965 novel about the devastation caused by the Hiroshima atomic bombing, Black Rain. Having triumphantly just submitted the manuscript of my edited collection (along with co-editor Dr Caroline Edwards at Birkbeck) on Maggie Gee, I was delighted to have the opportunity to talk about her work in public, focusing on the short story collection The Blue (2006). The audience were fantastic and post-presentation discussion ranged from the benefits or not of ereaders to the universality of themes across literature. I even got to talk a little about one of my favourite words and things, something a wonderful PhD student taught me about many years ago – skeuomorphism. Check out the full guide to the festival here.
So the big news this month is that I’ve just been appointed to a University Lectureship in Literature and Film at the University of Cambridge. I’ll be heading down South to take up the post on 1st April 2014. I’m looking forward to embracing all things film and literature in the South East, as well as being within easy striking distance of the Big Smoke. One of my main responsibilities will be a special topic paper on Classical Hollywood – my favourite recent discovery is the startlingly postmodern 1941 musical Hellzapoppin’, loved by Lindy Hoppers the world over for its fantastic dance scene, but also laugh out loud funny and smartly self-reflexive about the Hollywood cinema of its time, in particular, and film in general. Well worth a watch over the festive period!