Media History Seminar with Sean Cubitt

Please join us at the next Media History seminar for Sean Cubitt’s talk ‘Implications of Colour: Commodity, Biopolitics and Environment’. The meeting will take place at 6pm on Thursday March 3 in Senate House Room G37.

Here’s a brief overview of the talk:

In the late mediaeval and early modern period, colour was anchored to minerals, animals and plants and semantically organised. Its status was contested between the Enlightenment and Romanticism in an argument over its physical or psychological nature that would meet an almost accidental resolution in 1931. That resolution was itself spurred by the commodification enabled by synthetic dyes derived from coal and later from oil. The history of practices associated with and affordances of inks, dyes and pigments, the substance of the visual, allows us access to histories of standardisation and commodification that reveal contemporary relations between human, technological and natural worlds.

And a bio:

Sean Cubitt is Professor of Film and Television at Goldsmiths, University of London. His books include Finite Media: Environmental Implications of Digital Technologies (forthcoming 2016); The Practice of Light: A Genealogy of Visual Technologies from Prints to Pixels (2014); Digital Aesthetics (2009); The Cinema Effect (2005); Simulation and Social Theory (2001); Videography: Video Media as Art and Culture (1993); and Timeshift: On Video Culture (1991). He has also edited or co-edited Ecomedia: Key Issues (2015); Digital Light (2015); Relive: Media Art Histories (2013); Rewind: Artists’ Video in Britain 1970s and 1980s (2012); The Ecocinema Reader: Theory and Practice (2012); Studying the Event Film: Lord of the Rings (2008); The Third Text Reader on Art, Culture and Theory (2002); and Aliens R Us: The Other in Science Fiction Cinema (2002). You can read more about his research interests here:

All are welcome. Further information about the seminar is available through the Institute of Historical Research ( and the Institute of English Studies (

Media History Seminar with Laura Marcus

Please join us at the next Media History seminar for Laura Marcus’ presentation on ‘The Mediated Rhythms of the Modern’. We’ll be meeting at 6pm on Thursday February 18 in Senate House Room 104.

Laura Marcus is Goldsmiths’ Professor of English Literature and Fellow of New College at Oxford. Her book publications include Auto/biographical Discourses: Theory, Criticism, Practice (1994), Virginia Woolf: Writers and their Work (1997/2004), The Tenth Muse: Writing about Cinema in the Modernist Period (2007; awarded the 2008 James Russell Lowell Prize of the Modern Language Association), Dreams of Modernity: Psychoanalysis, Literature, Cinema (2014), and, as co-editor, The Cambridge History of Twentieth-Century English Literature (2004). You can read more about her research interests here:

All are welcome. Further information about the seminar is available through the Media History blog (, the Institute of Historical Research (, and the Institute of English Studies (

Media History Seminar on the ‘Editor-Function’

All are welcome at the next Media History seminar to hear Matthew Philpotts’ talk titled ‘So, what DO editors do? The Editor-Function and the German Literary World in 1930’. The seminar will take place on Thursday January 21 at 6pm in Senate House Room G37.

Here’s a brief overview of the presentation:

Taking as my starting-point Patten and Finkelstein’s wide-ranging discussion of the role of the Victorian periodical editor, in this seminar I shall explore the diverse realisations of the ‘editor-function’ in a synchronic corpus of ten German-speaking literary and intellectual journals from the year 1930. From the extreme ‘editorial singularity’ (Timms) of the performer-editor Karl Kraus in Die Fackel to the ideologically conditioned collective-editors of the Marxist revolutionary Die Linkskurve, from the established collector-editor Martin Bodmer in Corona to the young opportunist-editor Martin Raschke in Die Kolonne, I shall examine the relationship between the discursive attribution of editorship and the reality of editorial practice. Throughout, the emphasis will be not so much on the historically specific German case as on the typological and generic conclusions that can be drawn from it.

And a bio:

Matthew Philpotts is Senior Lecturer in German Studies at the University of Manchester. He co-authored the history of the East German literary magazine Sinn und Form (2009) and recently guest edited a special issue of Victorian Periodicals Review (Return to Theory, Fall 2015). He is currently completing a monograph on the role of the periodical editor in twentieth-century Europe. You can read more about him here:

Further information is available through the Institute of Historical Research ( and the Institute of English Studies (

Media History Seminar on the BBC and Pre-War Television

Please join us at the next Media History seminar for Dr Jamie Medhurst’s talk ‘“A Very Tiresome Invention”: The BBC and Pre-War Television’. We’ll be meeting on Thursday December 3 at 6pm in Senate House Room 104. Full details can be found at:

You can find out more about Dr Medhurst’s background and research interests at:

All are welcome. Further details about the seminar are available from the Institute of Historical Research and Institute of English Studies.

Media History Seminar Programme 2015-16

Here’s the 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 on designated Thursdays starting at 6pm. All are welcome.

“Media History” Programme 2015-16:

Meeting 1 (3 December 2015):

Dr Jamie Medhurst (Aberystwyth)

Senate House Room 104

Meeting 2 (21 January 2016):

Dr Matthew Philpotts (Manchester)

Senate House Room G37

Meeting 3 (18 February 2016):

Prof. Laura Marcus (Oxford)

Senate House Room 104

Meeting 4 (3 March 2016):

Prof. Sean Cubitt (Goldsmiths, University of London)

Senate House Room G37

Meeting 5 (12 May 2016):

Prof. Clare Pettitt (KCL) & associates

Senate House Court Room

Additional information about the talks will be provided later on. 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.

May Seminar II: The Digital Victorianist

This year’s final Media History seminar will feature Bob Nicholson (aka “The Digital Victorianist”) discussing his search for a Victorian sense of humour. Please join us at 6pm on Thursday May 21 in room G34 on Senate House’s ground floor.

We Are Not Amused: In Search of the Victorian Sense of Humour”

What would it take to make a Victorian joke funny again?

Nothing short of a miracle, you might think. While the great works of 19th-century art and literature have been preserved and celebrated by successive generations, the period’s most popular jokes have now been forgotten. Indeed, we have become accustomed to imagining our Victorian ancestors as terminally humourless; a straitlaced society whose attitude to comedy is neatly captured by Queen Victoria’s immortal and largely misquoted observation that “we are not amused”. And yet, millions of jokes were written during the nineteenth-century. They were printed in books and newspapers, performed in theatres and music halls, and re-told in pubs, offices, taxicabs, and kitchens.

Unfortunately, like most forms of oral popular culture, the majority of these jokes have been lost. However, a few thousand of them have been preserved within recently digitised newspaper collections. In 2014, Dr Bob Nicholson (Edge Hill University) teamed up with the British Library Labs on a new project that aims to find these forgotten jests and recover their history. This talk examines the workings of Victorian newspaper humour. In the process, it explores the world of professional Victorian joke writers, tracks a particularly successful gag as it ‘went viral’ around the world’s media networks, and reveals what happens when we tried to release nineteenth-century jokes on modern-day social media.

Bob Nicholson’s Edge Hill University profile can be found here:

All welcome! Further details about the seminar are available from the Institute of Historical Research and Institute of English Studies.

May Seminar I: Sabina Mihelj on Socialist TV

All are welcome at the next Media History seminar for Sabina Mihelj’s presentation “Screening Socialism: Television and Everyday Life in Socialist Eastern Europe.” This will be the seminar’s first session organised by the Institute of Historical Research. We’ll be meeting on Thursday May 7 at 6pm in G34 on the ground floor of Senate House.

“Screening Socialism: Television and Everyday Life in Socialist Eastern Europe”

The post-1989 wave of research into Cold War history threw into sharper relief aspects of the Cold War contest that had previously received little attention. One of these was the role of cultural forms and practices, ranging from religion, literature and the fine arts to film and the media.  Despite this surge of interest, our knowledge of the cultural Cold War and, in particular, our understanding of the role of popular culture and media in socialist societies remains patchy. At least initially, much of the literature was focused on elite, ‘respectable’ cultural forms such as literature and theatre, while the study of media and popular culture has gathered momentum only in recent years.

This paper seeks to redress this balance by focusing on socialist television, a medium that functioned as a key source of popular entertainment and information especially in the period of late socialism. Building on preliminary results of ongoing research funded by the Leverhulme Trust, this paper seeks to identify some of the key traits of state socialist television, focusing on the involvement of television in shaping the perceptions and practices of private and public life, as well as the engagement with the passage of time. The materials presented span five countries – East Germany, Poland, Romania, Soviet Union and Yugoslavia – and draw on a variety of sources ranging from archival documents, programme and schedule analysis to oral history interviews.

The talk will be followed by brief screenings of selected television programmes across Eastern Europe, introduced by the three  Research Associates working on the Screening Socialism project: Alice Bardan, Simon Huxtable and Sylwia Szostak.

For more information on the project and publications, please see the project website:

Dr Mihelj’s profile can be found here:

Further information about the seminar is available through the Institute of Historical Research ( and the Institute of English Studies (

Garrett Stewart on the Cinematic Reframe

Please join us at the next Media History seminar for Garrett Stewart’s talk on “Transmediation and the Cinematic Reframe.” The seminar will take place on Thursday March 12 at 18.00 in Senate House, Room G35 (ground floor).


Garrett Stewart is the James O. Freedman Professor of Letters at the University of Iowa and, this term, Leverhulme Visiting Professor at Queen Mary University of London. He is the author of twelve scholarly monographs including Dickens and the Trials of Imagination (1974), Death Sentences: Styles of Dying in British Fiction (1984), Reading Voices: Literature and the Phonotext (1990), Dear Reader: The Conscripted Audience in NineteenthCentury British Fiction (1996), Between Film and Screen: Modernism’s Photo Synthesis (1999), The Look of Reading: Book, Painting, Text (2006), Framed Time: Toward a Postfilmic Cinema (2007), Novel Violence: A Narratography of Victorian Fiction (2009), and Bookwork: Medium to Object to Concept to Art (2011). In addition, he has two forthcoming monographs: Cinema and Surveillance and The Deed of Reading: Literature/Writing/Language/Philosophy. Further details about Garrett’s work can be found here:

All welcome! Future seminar dates can be found on the IES website:

Catherine Waters on Victorian Special Correspondence

Please join us at the next Media History seminar for a presentation by Catherine Waters and a response from Joanne Shattock. The seminar will take place on Thursday February 26 at 18.00 in Senate House, Room G35 (ground floor).

‘“Doing the Graphic”: Victorian Special Correspondence’:

In an 1868 article on ‘Our Own Correspondent’ devoted to explaining the identity of this ‘mysterious and apparently ubiquitous functionary that figures every morning under the above designation in the columns of the newspaper’, the Leisure Hour sought to clarify the role of the Victorian ‘Special Correspondent’:

We are not speaking now of the regular correspondent, who, residing constantly in some foreign capital, gleans from the officials of the Government such information as they choose to impart, and as much more as he can; but of him who is the special messenger of the London press, and is ready to start to any quarter of the globe at a moment’s notice.

The article attempts to distinguish between the foreign correspondent – based in one place and charged with keeping the public at home abreast of political affairs transpiring elsewhere – and the roving reporter whose exceptional duties were aptly designated by the adjective ‘Special’. But the distinction is at the same time obscured here by the use of the common by-line, from ‘Our Own Correspondent’, for both journalists.

In her seminal study of Victorian News and Newspapers in 1985, Lucy Brown distinguished the foreign correspondent from the war correspondent, and argued that ‘the phrase “special correspondent” had no very precise meaning’ in the nineteenth century, but that it nevertheless described someone who was working on a particular assignment and who typically presented his investigations ‘in a series of letters in successive issues’ of the newspaper (216-217). It is perhaps in part because of this lack of precise definition that no major study has yet been devoted to Victorian ‘special correspondence’ (as opposed to war correspondence) – a project that I am now engaged in.

War correspondence was certainly one key form of ‘special correspondence’ and Joel Wiener notes that the term ‘special correspondent’ ‘came to be used synonymously with “war reporter”’ during the Crimean campaign (The Americanization of the British Press, 98.n3). But Victorian ‘Specials’ had to turn their hands to cover all manner of events in any location as required by their newspaper. What distinguished their journalism was its mobility, versatility and descriptive power: an ability to observe and seize upon events wherever they happened, rendering them for the press in sufficiently graphic prose so as to transport readers through vivid eye-witness accounts. ‘Special correspondence’ was a new technology – like the railroad or the telegraph, both of which it was associated with – that brought the world closer, shrinking space and conveying readers to distant places. This paper will seek to define Victorian ‘special correspondence’ and to consider some of the ways in which these ‘letters’ despatched from elsewhere helped to create a geographical imagination at home.

Information about both speakers can be found here:

All welcome! (Note: Matthew Philpotts’ talk has been postponed.) Future seminar dates can be found on the IES website:

November Seminar: Lisa Gitelman

The next Media History seminar will take place at Queen Mary University of London, where Professor Lisa Gitelman is a Distinguished Visitor in the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences for November 2014. Both of her events are open to the public:

Monday November 24:

‘Searching as/and Knowing’

5.30pm, QMUL Digital Humanities seminar (ArtsTwo SCR )


Thursday November 27:

‘The Envelope, Please: Seeds, Catalogs, and Knowledge’

5.15pm, Lock Keeper’s Cottage, Queen Mary University of London


Here’s a brief bio:

Lisa Gitelman is Professor of English and of Media, Culture, and Communication at New York University. She is a media historian whose research concerns book history, techniques of inscription, and the new media of yesterday and today. Her books include Scripts, Grooves, and Writing Machines (Stanford 1999), Always Already New: Media, History, and the Data of Culture (MIT 2006), and, most recently, Paper Knowledge (Duke 2014). She has also published the edited collections New Media, 1740-1915 (MIT 2003) and “Raw Data” Is an Oxymoron (MIT 2013).

Please do join us or pass along this info to anyone who might be interested. Future dates for your calendar: