About Matthew Rubery

I'm a Professor of Modern Literature at Queen Mary University of London.

Canceled

closed

The remaining Media History seminars for 2020 have been canceled because of Covid-19. We’ll do our best to reschedule the talks by Rebecca Roach and Joseph Howley for the 2020-21 series. Stay healthy, everyone!

 

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Rebecca Roach on Media Lives and the Archive

Rockefeller image

Please join us at the next Media History seminar for Rebecca Roach’s talk ‘Media Lives in the Rockefeller Archive: or, How the Humanities Invented Modern Computing’. We’ll be meeting on Wednesday March 18 at 6pm. The meeting will be held at Birkbeck (43 Gordon Square WC1H 0PD). Everyone’s welcome!

‘Media Lives in the Rockefeller Archive: or, How the Humanities Invented Modern Computing’

In these days of dwindling funding for the arts and humanities, I look back to the start of the digital age to argue for the significance of their contribution to the invention of modern computing. I examine the role of mid-century institutions such as the Rockefeller Foundation and specifically its Humanities Division, in supporting early research into theories of communication—theories which would prove vital to the post-World War Two development of computational technologies. Looking to the institutional, biographical and media lives that my research has revealed, I argue for the value of humanities-based models of technological innovation.

Rebecca Roach is Lecturer in Contemporary Literature in the Department of English at the University of Birmingham. Her first book, Literature and the Rise of the Interview, was published by Oxford University Press in 2018. She is currently working on a second book examining the intersection between literature and computing since the Second World War. You can find out more about her here: https://www.birmingham.ac.uk/staff/profiles/english/roach-rebecca.aspx

This seminar is generously supported by the Media History journal, Queen Mary University of London’s English Department, the Institute of English Studies, and the Institute of Historical Research.

Bernard Geoghegan on AI and Orientalism

Windisch_Turk-

Please join us at the next Media History seminar for Bernard Geoghegan’s talk ‘AI and Orientalism: From Amazon’s Mechanical Turk to von Kempelen’s Chess-Playing Turk’. We’ll be meeting on Thursday Nov 21 at 6pm. Because of the ongoing strike at Senate House, the meeting will be held at KCL (Virginia Woolf Bldg 3.01, 22 Kingsway, London WC2B 6LE). All are welcome!

‘AI and Orientalism: From Amazon’s Mechanical Turk to von Kempelen’s Chess-Playing Turk’

Through an analysis of the Chess-Playing Turk built in Vienna in the 1770s, and its subsequent reimagining into the present, this talk looks at how difference and alterity, be it racialized, gendered, or bodily, have shaped efforts at figuring, imagining, and building thinking machines.

Bernard Dionysius Geoghegan is a Senior Lecturer in the History and Theory of Digital Media in the Department of Digital Humanities at King’s College London. He previously taught in Berlin, Paris, New Haven, Coventry, and Evanston. You can find out more about him here: https://www.kcl.ac.uk/people/dr-bernard-geoghegan

This seminar is generously supported by the Media History journal, Queen Mary University of London’s English Department, the Institute of English Studies, and the Institute of Historical Research.

Maurice Lee on Mass Print + Numbers

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Please join us at this year’s first Media History seminar for a talk by Maurice Lee. This event, a joint session with the Nineteenth-Century Studies seminar, will start at 6pm on Tuesday October 15 in Birkbeck Room 106 (the entrance is at 43-46 Gordon Square, London WC1H 0PD). All are welcome!

‘Mass Print + Numbers = Information (Enchantment ÷ Anxiety)’

As mass print culture developed in the nineteenth century, observers conceptualized the proliferation of texts using statistical methods. The entanglement of literary and numerical discourses, what I call “the accounting of literature,” is evident in a range of domains—from sociological studies of reading practices, to data gathered in the publishing industry, to the application of statistical thinking to literary judgment and interpretation. The accounting of literature is typically set in anxious opposition to aesthetics: the subjectivity and enchantments of literature remain, we are told, incompatible with the objectivity and logic of numbers. There are, however, nineteenth-century counter-narratives that have gone largely overlooked, and adventure fiction is one example of how the accounting of literature inspired not only worry but wonder. Taking Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island as a case study, and projecting counter-narratives forward using Steven Spielberg’s Raiders of the Lost Ark, we can see how aesthetics in an age of information and mass media need not always fear the ascendency of numbers.

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Maurice Lee is Professor of English at Boston University, where his work focuses on nineteenth-century American and British literature. He is the author of Slavery, Philosophy, and American Literature, 1830-1860 (Cambridge UP, 2005), Uncertain Chances: Science, Skepticism, and Belief in Nineteenth-Century America Literature (Oxford UP, 2012), and Overwhelmed: Literature, Aesthetics, and the Nineteenth-Century Information Revolution (Princeton UP, 2019). He has also edited The Cambridge Companion to Frederick Douglass (Cambridge UP, 2012). Professor Lee has received awards from the Melville Society, Poe Studies Association, and the Association of College and Research Libraries, as well as fellowships from the NEH, ACLS, and Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. You can read more about him here: https://www.bu.edu/english/profile/maurice-lee/

M.Lee--Photo

This seminar is generously supported by the Media History journal, Queen Mary University of London’s English Department, the Institute of English Studies, and the Institute of Historical Research.

 

Media History Seminar Programme 2019-20

We’re pleased to announce the provisional schedule for this year’s Media History Seminar. Because of the ongoing strike at Senate House, the seminars will take place at various locations in central London. Everyone is welcome!

“Media History” Programme 2019-20:

Session 1 (Tuesday, October 15, 2019, 6-8pm):

Prof. Maurice Lee (Boston University)

https://www.bu.edu/english/profile/maurice-lee/

Birkbeck Room 106

43-46 Gordon Square, London WC1H 0PD

This event will be a special joint session with the Nineteenth-Century Studies Seminar (https://www.ies.sas.ac.uk/events/research-seminars/nineteenth-century-studies-seminar)

Session 2 (Thursday, November 21, 2019, 6-8pm):

Dr Bernard Geoghegan

https://www.kcl.ac.uk/people/dr-bernard-geoghegan

KCL, Virginia Woolf Bldg 3.01

22 Kingsway, London WC2B 6LE

Session 3 (Wednesday, 18 March 2020, 6-8pm):

Dr Rebecca Roach (University of Birmingham)

https://www.birmingham.ac.uk/staff/profiles/english/roach-rebecca.aspx

Birkbeck, University of London, 43 Gordon Square, London

Session 4 (Thursday, 7 May 2020, 6-8pm):

Joseph Howley (Columbia University)

http://classics.columbia.edu/joseph-howley

Location TBD

This seminar is generously supported by the Media History journal, Queen Mary University of London’s English Department, the Institute of English Studies, and the Institute of Historical Research.

N. Katherine Hayles on Postprint

Lumitype 2

Please join us at the next Media History seminar for a talk by Kate Hayles. We’ll be meeting at 6pm on Friday May 4 in the Senate Room at Senate House.

“From Print to Postprint: How Printing Technologies Became Cognitive”

Beginning around 1950, printing technologies began to acquire cognitive capabilities with the invention of the Lumitype typesetter, which included elements of a digital computer. However, this trajectory has a prehistory from the late nineteenth century, when James Paige invented the Paige Compositor, the machine that famously bankrupted Mark Twain. This talk will analyze why the Paige Compositor was a commercial failure, and starting with the Lumitype typesetter, trace the history of computerized typesetting machines from the 1950’s through to the end of the 20th century. It will explain the distinction between print and postprint and offer an account of why the distinction is crucially important to understanding the nature of textuality in the computer era.

N. Katherine Hayles is the James B. Duke Professor of Literature at Duke University. She teaches and writes on the relations of literature, science and technology in the 20th and 21st centuries. Her books include Unthought: The Power Of The Cognitive Nonconscious (2017), Comparative Textual Media: Transforming the Humanities in the Postprint Era (2013), How We Think: Digital Media and Contemporary Technogenesis (2012), Electronic Literature: New Horizons for the Literary (2008), My Mother Was a Computer: Digital Subjects and Literary Texts (2005), Writing Machines (2002), and How We Became Posthuman: Virtual Bodies in Cybernetics, Literature and Informatics (1999). Her current project is entitled “Cognizing Media: Shifts, Ruptures, Transformations.”

All are welcome. This seminar is generously supported by the Media History journal, Queen Mary University of London’s English Department, the Institute of English Studies, and the Institute of Historical Research. Continue reading

Kate Flint on the Technological History of Photography

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The Media History seminar & Nineteenth Century Studies seminar are pleased to be holding a special joint session featuring Kate Flint talking about the history of photography. We’ll be meeting at 6pm on Thursday February 8 in the Senate Room at Senate House.

“Permeability, agency, and the technological history of photography”

What happens in the permeable area between the human body and a piece of photographic apparatus? This question is crucial to our histories of nineteenth-century photography, and I approach it in two ways. First, I discuss the conceptual and theoretical challenges that I encountered when writing a cultural history of flash photography. Above all, how to weigh up the merits of narrating this history through chemical and material innovations, when the somatic experience of being photographed, and of the choices involved in using this new technology of producing light, were certainly of equal importance? The presence of certain stray hands in flash photographs – ones that hold the technology involved in igniting powder, above all – lead me to my second line of approach. I consider the usefulness of the hand – both as a physical part of an individual, and as a synecdoche – as a means of approaching the conundrum about the interwoven roles of human and mechanical in writing photographic history. The hand proves to be a rhetorical and literal instrument that not only connects eye, brain, and camera, but that helps to articulate the art vs. mechanical reproduction/commercial activity distinctions that are inseparable from this history.

Kate Flint is Provost Professor of Art History and English at the University of Southern California. She has published The Woman Reader, 1837-1914 (Oxford University Press, 1993), The Victorians and The Visual Imagination (Cambridge University Press, 2000), and The Transatlantic Indian 1776-1930 (Princeton University Press, 2008), edited The Cambridge History of Victorian Literature (2012), and written widely on Victorian and modernist fiction, Victorian and early twentieth-century painting and photography, and cultural history.

All are welcome. This seminar is generously supported by the Media History journal, Queen Mary University of London’s English Department, the Institute of English Studies, and the Institute of Historical Research.

David Trotter on Signals, Signs & Literature

Please join us at this year’s first Media History seminar for a talk by David Trotter and a response by Rebecca Roach. We’ll be meeting at 6pm on Tuesday November 28 in Senate House Room G35.

“Signal and Sign: Dickens, Hardy, Mansfield”

This paper will seek to explore a certain divergence, during the final decades of the nineteenth century, between the respective senses/connotations of the terms “signal” and “sign.” It will use ideas derived from the Shannon/Jakobson/Serres axis in order to characterize signalling as a practice, and to argue that literature has on occasion taken a rather more explicit, profound, and rewarding interest in that practice than it is generally thought to have done.

David Trotter is Edward VII Professor of English Literature at the University of Cambridge. He is co-editor of “Technographies,” an Open Humanities Press series of books concerned with the interdependences of writing and technology. His most recent book is Literature in the First Media Age: Britain between the Wars (2013).

Rebecca Roach is a postdoctoral researcher at King’s College London and part of the ERC-funded project, “Ego-Media: The Impact of New Media on Forms and Practices of Self-Presentation.” Her first book, Mouthing Off: A Literary History of Interviews, discusses the poetics of the interview form and method and is forthcoming with Oxford University Press. Her new project, Machine Talk, examines the interrelation of computing, literature and world literature via metaphors of conversation since the 1950s.

All are welcome. This seminar is generously supported by the Media History journal, Queen Mary University of London’s English Department, the Institute of English Studies, and the Institute of Historical Research.

Media History Seminar Programme 2017-18

We’re pleased to announce the provisional schedule for this year’s Media History Seminar, jointly run by the Institute of English Studies and Institute of Historical Research. The seminars will take place at Senate House starting at 6pm. Everyone is welcome.

“Media History” Programme 2017-18:

Session 1 (Tuesday, 28 November 2017):

Prof. David Trotter (Cambridge), “Media Theory before Media Theory: Lightning as Discursive Catalyst in the Human and Natural Sciences, 1880-1930”

Senate House Room G35

Session 2 (Thursday, 8 February 2018):

Prof. Kate Flint (USC)

Senate House, the Senate Room

(Note: this session will be run with the Nineteenth-Century Studies Seminar.)

Session 3 (Monday, 12 March 2018):

Prof. Aled Gruffydd Jones (EMIET)

Richard Price (British Library)

Senate House Room G35

Session 4 (Friday, 4 May 2018):

Prof. N. Katherine Hayles (Duke), “Cognizing Media:  Shifts, Ruptures, Transformations”

Senate House, the Senate Room

The arrangements for additional seminars will be published in due course. In the meantime, please save the dates.

This seminar is generously supported by the Media History journal, Queen Mary University of London’s English Department, the Institute of English Studies, and the Institute of Historical Research.