Purity programme

Purity abstract booklet

As well as a full two-day programme of critical research, the event also comprises an evening of creative and artistic work, ranging from fiction and poetry through film, fashion and comedy.


Sue Currell (Sussex)

Opening keynote: Dirty History and America’s White Trash: American Eugenics and the problem of Purity.

This paper examines the idea of purity on several levels of discourse: firstly, as a historical trope by which “welfare” and progress was enacted — with reference in particular to the discourse of eugenics in America as it exerted pressure on metaphorical ideas of “social house cleaning” and the efficient body during the 1930s. Secondly, it will explore how “factual” documentary photographs of the rural poor were “infected” with the “fictions” of eugenic discourse: that, in order to explain their science of purity, eugenicists had to construct a narrative of the unseen, the unportrayable (that is the perception of purity or impurity beyond the eye); in other words a narrative that had to be a plausible fiction of the real, one stored in the after-image of the photographic negative with no “positive” presence. Finally, I shall discuss how researching the history of eugenics raises further trouble by hanging out the “dirty laundry” of the process of both history-making and scientific evidence, raising the problematic of historical knowledge and pure truths : producing instead an “impure”, tainted, or incomplete historical record for historians and researchers.

Robbie Duschinsky (Northumbria)
Closing keynote

Panel papers:

Matthew Atkinson (Goldsmiths) ‘(Im)pure Noise’
Francesco Di Bernardo (Sussex) ‘”We want what you have”: Faustian finance in Jonathan Coe’s The Terrible Privacy of Maxwell Sim and John Lanchester’s Capital
Seda Canpolat (Kingston) ‘Narratives of purity in contemporary British Muslim women’s writing’
Rebecca Downes (Galway, Ireland) ‘Putrefaction and purity: Death and denial in Andrew Miller’s Pure
Jane Clare Jones (SUNY Stony Brook) ‘On the possibility of penetrable being: national/sexual purity and the ideal of sovereign integrity’
Hang Lin (Würzburg) ‘On being Confucian: Confucian traditions and modern Chinese cultural identity’
Máire MacNeill (Royal Holloway) ‘Dying by the sword: Manliness, honour, and duelling on and off the stage, 1695-1745’
Susana Sanchéz Renieblas (Universidad Complutense de Madrid) ‘Collapsing the 1960s female purity through Janis Joplin’s music’
Björn Sonnenberg-Schrank (Cologne) ‘My most prized possession, an American obsession: Virginity and the sexual politics of the American teen film’
Tara Ward (Boston Architectural College) ‘Pure painting and Mottled colour’
Daniel H. Weiss (Cambridge) ‘Impurity without repression: Julia Kristeva and the biblical possibilities of a non-eliminationist construction of religious purity’
Annaliese Piraino and Jennifer Helman ‘The satisfaction and necessity of rape through possession in Renaissance drama and law’
Creative contributions
Matthew Atkinson sound
Alanna Green speech, drama
Janice Pariat fiction
Charlie Duncan Saffrey comedy
Iris Zaki My Kosher Shifts (film)

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