Welsh playwright and script-writer discusses his motivations as an artist, and the debut performance of his new play, Quiet Hands

How did you become a writer? 

I have always loved making up stories and voices for as long as I can remember. But my desire to write for theatre came from acting and directing in University while I was supposed to be studying Psychology—and then through acting in fringe profit-share productions in London and Bristol. My first full-length play Dead Man’s Fall was written with a friend of mine, Peter Jones. We had a lot of fun writing anarchic stage comedies together, which we initially produced ourselves. This led to a radio series for Radio Wales and works like Dead Man’s Fall and The Ghost of Morgan Morris, which were well received. From there, I went on to work independently with a host of theatre companies, and with the BBC on stage and radio plays, TV drama concepts and now film. (more…)

Catherine Morley on editing a new collection of essays that explores the legacy of September 11 on modern and contemporary literature
Catherine Morley (ed.), 9/11 (Bloomsbury, 2016)
Catherine Morley (ed.), 9/11 (Bloomsbury, 2016)

We begin our conversation having marked the fifteenth anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks. What led you to put together this new essay collection?

I have been interested in way in which we have come to narrativise and conceptualise the September 11th terrorist attacks for some time now. They occurred shortly after I moved to the UK to start my doctoral studies. I remember, very vividly, standing before the window of a shop selling televisions and the image of the plane hitting the second tower. It seemed unreal, and indeed at the time many commentators noted that it seemed a moment designed for mass televisual consumption. I thought then that my watching this terrible image unfold across multiple screens seemed like something from a Don DeLillo novel. I remember writing a short diary piece about it at the time, how it reminded me of the Airborne Toxic Event in DeLillo’s White Noise. Since then, I have always been keen to see how novelists, dramatist and poets might approach representing something that seemed to defy representation by its vast scale. So, when offered the opportunity by Bloomsbury to put this volume together I jumped at the chance.

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British writer shares what motivates him to create fiction, and how he came to write and publish his debut novel, The Unauthorised Biography of Ezra Maas
Daniel James
Daniel James

When did you first decide to become a writer?

I honestly can’t recall a time when I didn’t want to be a writer. It was less of a conscious decision and more of a realisation about my own nature. I think the only real question was what kind of writer I wanted to be. When I was young, I loved books, cinema and comic books equally and I dreamed of writing stories for each of those mediums. I used to draw and paint a lot as a child and the idea of writing and illustrating my own graphic novels always appealed to me. Similarly, the visual storytelling inherent to cinema, as well as using light and sound to bring different worlds and atmospheres to life and create an end to end sensory experience for people to get lost inside, seemed to map to the way my brain worked.

When I’m writing, I’m often visualising the story unfolding and simply describing what I see in words or hearing the characters inner thoughts and dialogue and transcribing it. This was certainly the case in my debut novel. It was almost as if the story already existed somewhere, out there in the darkness, and was being transmitted into my brain. It’s more than just words and images however. It could be an atmosphere that I sense, like a feeling from a waking dream, that I want to recreate and share in a story. (more…)

John Corbett on a new pocket-sized field guide to free and spontaneous music
John Corbett, A Listener's Guide to Free Improvisation (University of Chicago Press, 2016)
John Corbett, A Listener’s Guide to Free Improvisation (University of Chicago Press, 2016)

What led you to write A Listener’s Guide to Free Improvisation?

I’ve been involved with improvised music from several different standpoints over the last 35 years, as a listener, as a critic, as a teacher, as a presenter, and as a producer.  In the process of moving around in the music’s netherworlds, I noticed that many potential listeners were curious about it but just had no way to enter, no accessible points of reference.  It’s sometimes seen as “difficult” or “complex,” and it can be both, but approaching free music is very different from listening to music composed using mathematical algorithms or with elaborate preconceived harmonic inventions.  To listen to it you basically need to be attentive.  That’s it.  But that’s also not easy.  Having some historical framework can help, and the more experience you have as a listener the better.  But it’s really open to new listeners, and I wanted to find a way, in as down to earth a way as possible, to suggest that openness.  To invite new listeners from other walks of music and to give a few tips on listening, things that might help get over the initial hump.    (more…)

Jeffrey R. Di Leo on a new essay collection that explores the legacy of critical theory since the deaths of some of its leading figures

How did you come to put together Dead Theory?

Jeffrey R. Di Leo (ed.), Dead Theory: Derrida, Death, and the Afterlife of Theory (Bloomsbury, 2016)
Jeffrey R. Di Leo (ed.), Dead Theory: Derrida, Death, and the Afterlife of Theory (Bloomsbury, 2016)

I was writing a review of Vincent Leitch’s Living with Theory (2008) several years ago and could not help thinking that the opposite might also be the case, namely, that we are “dying with theory.”  At the time, it was nothing more than a passing thought, but one that stuck in my head.  A few years later, when I was reading about “critical climate change” and the proposal that the time scale and size of climate change calls for an entirely new critical language the thought came back.

It was a volume edited by Tom Cohen on the topic of critical climate change published by Open Humanities Press (Telemorphosis: Theory in the Area of Climate Change, Vol. 1, 2012).  I wrote an essay for symplokē on the subject entitled “Can Theory Save the Planet” (2013).  The subject of whether the work of philosophers like Derrida, who were now deceased, could have any bearing on current discussions in critical climate change intrigued me.  As I started to discuss this issue with some of my colleagues as well as the topic of “dying with theory,” the idea of a collection of essays on dead theory began to take shape. (more…)

Angela Moorjani on co-editing a new collection which recounts Samuel Beckett’s meetings with scholars, translators, and theatre practitioners
Beckett in Conversation, "yet again" / Recontres avec Beckett, "encore" • Samuel Beckett Today / Aujourd 'Hui, 28:1 (2016)
Beckett in Conversation, “yet again” / Recontres avec Beckett, “encore” • Samuel Beckett Today / Aujourd ‘Hui, 28:1 (2016)

To begin, could you say a little bit about Samuel Beckett Today/Aujourd’hui?

SBT/A is a refereed academic journal that publishes essays in English and French on Samuel Beckett’s oeuvre.

When first launched in 1992 by the late Marius Buning and the present coeditor in chief Sjef Houppermans, it took the form of a bilingual annual review publishing selections from international meetings or solicited essays on special topics, but also featuring a section of submitted articles. By 2016, the year SBT/A morphed into a semiannual journal under a different academic publisher (Brill), twenty-seven handsome hardcover volumes had appeared under the Rodopi imprint. My association with SBT/A goes back twenty years with an essay in the “Crossroads and Borderlines” volume of 1997, further intensifying with my coediting the volume based on the “Beckett in Berlin 2000” symposium, after which I was invited to join the editorial board. I served as coeditor in chief from 2008 to 2016. (more…)

Séan Richardson on a free new broadcast that sheds light on the cultural legacy of modernism

modernistpodcast-logo.jpgWhat is the Modernist Podcast?

The Modernist Podcast is a platform for ‘green’ academics to share their research with the wider community. We aim to bring critical discussion beyond the bindings of the journal and out from within the walls of the conference, into the airwaves and across digital media. We believe that this is a great way for researchers to have their voices heard early into their career, as well as disseminate their work to a broader audience, making scholarship more accessible to a diverse array of listeners. The podcast itself comes out monthly, and researchers are linked together by theme: from Queer Modernism to Modernism and Form, James Joyce to Modernism and Race. (more…)

Anthony Uhlmann on co-editing a new essay collection exploring Coetzee’s recent novel, The Childhood of Jesus
Jennifer Rutherford and Anthony Uhlmann (eds.), J.M. Coetzee's The Childhood of Jesus (Bloomsbury, 2017)
Jennifer Rutherford and Anthony Uhlmann (eds.), J.M. Coetzee’s The Childhood of Jesus (Bloomsbury, 2017)

How did you first encounter J.M. Coetzee’s writing?

In 2002 I was working on the preparation for a major conference on Samuel Beckett that was to take place in Sydney in 2003 and I was looking for keynotes. There was a major public lecture at the Sydney Town Hall which is a reasonably grand space. We invited a number of people including Herbert Blau and Luce Irigaray (via videolink). Someone suggested I ask J. M. Coetzee who was on the board of one of the research groups related to Samuel Beckett. I then went and read a few of his novels, including Disgrace, Waiting for the Barbarians, and The Master of Petersburg and was blown away by the quality of the works. I told him when I finally met him that he had renewed my faith in contemporary fiction. He agreed to act as a keynote and read the ‘At The Gate’ Lesson from Elizabeth Costello which had not yet been published when he read it January 2003. He spoke briefly of having mostly gained an understanding of rhythm, and the structure of sentences, from reading and studying Beckett. After that I read all of his novels and have been working towards writing about him. (more…)