Monday, 18 February 2019

The Transcultural Fantastic at Leeds

The Transcultural Fantastic seminar series – hosted at the University of Leeds – aims to opens up the rich traditions of the Fantastic from a transcultural and interdisciplinary perspective, investigating utopian and dystopian thought in art, fiction and film, as well as science fiction, folktales and fantasy literature.

The series seeks to conceptualise and problematise the Transcultural Fantastic and discuss the following questions:

  • What are the local and global contexts for the Transcultural Fantastic? 
  • What is the critical and political potential of the Transcultural Fantastic? 
  • What drives multi-media and artistic expressions of the Transcultural Fantastic? 
  • What is the role of translation and publishing in the creation and consumption of the Transcultural Fantastic? 

This inquiry into the transcultural is grounded in the local, highlighting the regional and the provincial as part of the wider transcultural imagination. Leeds and the University’s Special Collections strengths in the Fantastic are important in this space, as is the city’s own history of the Fantastic, being JRR Tolkien’s inspiration for Middle Earth and the site of the first World Science Fiction Convention in 1937. The series also explores the importance of ‘the North’ in recent publishing ventures such as the Northern Fiction Alliance, which has a strong focus on translation and the intercultural, as well as being firmly rooted in the local.

Questions around place and origin feed into the broader international dimensions of the Fantastic, informed by the research specialisms of the organisers. The Transcultural Fantastic depends on, and benefits from, a global and multilingual exchange of ideas, cultures, traditions and media. Events in the series are listed below.

Semester 1 – Local Contexts for the Transcultural Fantastic 

‘Fantastic Leeds’ – seminar exploring the history of the Fantastic in Leeds, coupled with an exploration of selected items from Special Collections.

‘The Old Gods Return’ - Professor Tom Shippey discusses Norse Mythology in contemporary novels.

‘Realms both Real and Unreal’ – Simon Armitage reads from and discusses his revised translation of the medieval epic poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.

Semester 2 – Global Contexts for the Transcultural Fantastic 

‘Beyond Tomorrow. German Science Fiction and Utopian Thought in the 20th and 21st Century’ – Ingo Cornils examines humanity and technological progress in German film and literature.

‘Works in Progress‘ – research presentations from the series organisers and other colleagues working on the Transcultural Fantastic.

‘Publishing and Translating the Transcultural Fantastic’ – workshop to explore publishing opportunities and potential anthologies.

‘From Cyberpunk to Biopunk: On Posthuman Technologies’ – Lars Schmeink traces the shift from cybernetic and prosthetic transhumanist fantasies of 1980s cyberpunk to critical posthumanist interventions in contemporary SF, or biopunk dystopias.

The series organisers are Ingo Cornils (School of Languages, Cultures and Societies), Sarah Dodd (School of Languages, Cultures and Societies) and Liz Stainforth (School of Fine Art, History of Art and Cultural Studies).

The series is funded as part of the Sadler seminar series at Leeds Arts and Humanities Research Institute.

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