Earlier this year, one of my papers was published in the inaugral issue of the Goldsmiths ECL departmental e-journal, which is very exciting. Although I have largely moved away from James Bond, this article I think quite nicely encapsulates some of my early work. It’s called ‘The Fate of the World Rests in Your Hands, 007: Where Crisis and the Symbolic Order Come In (in the Spy Genre)’.

By the end of Casino Royale (1953), James Bond is confronted with a crisis of identity. Increasingly his perception of the symbolic order, society’s unwritten constitution represented by the government he serves, is failing. It is no longer something he can subscribe to, yet he is unable to articulate or properly make sense of why, nor can he imagine another order to which a sense of reality can be attributed. Bond’s experience as the anxious subject struggling against the higher power of authority is compounded by his position as an agent for the British Secret Service. Throughout Ian Fleming’s fourteen-book series, the dominating plotline is not that of an all-conquering superspy set to save Western civilisation, but that of a subject seeking reconciliation with a lost identity, a repressed self attempting to redefine his body and his subjective identity in terms of his role as assassin. In this paper, I turn to Lacan’s conception of the symbolic order, to examine the crisis of identity that erupts in James Bond at the imago [1] of Bond-as-machine. Faith in the symbolic order is traditionally what holds the spy-hero together; though intangible, it is what spurs the spy to action and what allows his actions to be justified. Yet, in the James Bond series, this order is a source of conflict and appears to be the very thing that causes Bond’s breakdown. Induced by Rene Mathis, this imago is a violent disruption to Bond’s experience of himself as a living, thinking subject, causing Bond to disconnect from the symbolic order he serves. Yet the spy genre is full of anxious subjects struggling to protect a symbolic order and convince themselves that the symbolic order is worth protecting. Fleming’s portrayal of James Bond is just one in a long history of anxious subjects in the spy genre. Here I first offer an examination of the symbolic order and look at two examples of how the relationship between it and the spy-hero and symbolic order developed.

There are a lot of other articles in the issue that are well worth reading, so definitely check it out. I have an article to be released in the second issue, entitled , hopefully in the next month or so, entitled ‘Cause for Alarm: How in becoming spy holes develop in the hero’s Symbolic order’.

Other exciting news is that I will be off to Mexico to speak at the HUC conference in November. Now to buy my tickets…


The 2010 York English Graduate Students’ Association Colloquium will be Undressing the Bawdy, 14-15 May 2010. This is entirely off topic for me, but I reckon it will be a good deal of fun.

‘When I’m good I’m very good, but when I’m bad I’m better.’
– Mae West

Derived from ‘bawd’, a word of uncertain etymology associated with practices of female prostitution, ‘bawdy’ describes something that is boisterously or humorously indecent. Considering that one of the earliest known works of literature, The Epic of Gilgamesh, with its many descriptions of the randy exploits of a Sumerian prince, can be considered bawdy, one might suggest that bawdiness is an intrinsic quality of literary discourse. From Rabelais’s laughing pregnant hags, to Rochester’s copious odes to genitalia, and Joyce’s ‘obscenities’ in Ulysses, the bawdy has titillated centuries of readers. Shakespeare’s statement, ‘it is a bawdy planet’, further suggests that bawdiness is in fact a condition of earthly existence, rather than a specifically literary phenomenon. One might wonder, however, if our hypersexual society, with its tendency to overexpose the body, is limiting our ability to engage in a form of expression that seems to be at least partially enabled by sexual restrictions. Or has this contemporary tendency to ‘bare all’ created a unique environment in which bawdy forms like the burlesque can be all the more attractive, because we yearn for the mystery, the comedy, the provocation, and the tease—because for once, we want NOT to see it all, or at least NOT to see it all at once?

We invite participants from across disciplinary borders to present on any aspect of what is undoubtedly an exciting and daring field of inquiry. Be forewarned, however, that the ‘bawdy is a Pandora’s box,’ as critic Joan Hutton Landis writes, ‘once opened, it is hard, if not impossible, to close the lid.’

Possible topics could be inspired by, but should not be limited to, the following thematic concerns:

– gender and the body: Body/Bawdy
–  the connection with the dirty and abject
– bawdy genres and mediums (the dirty joke, folksongs, limericks, erotic cartoons, graffiti, the burlesque, etc)
– performing bawdiness: bawdy as commodity
– the bawdy in the Eastern and Western canon
– the intersections of bawdy and grotesque, camp, and kitsch
– changing standards of censorship
– bawdy and satire
– eating, drinking, screwing: the bawdy and other appetites
– the interaction between the erotic, the pornographic, and the bawdy
– famous bawds (real and fictional)

Submission deadline: 31 March, a 400-500 word abstract and a 200-word autobiography

Questions and submissions should be sent to: egsa-colloquium-committee-2010@googlegroups.com

Professor Naomi Morgenstern will be reading ‘The University in Crisis: Teaching, Transference and Tenure in David Mamet’s Oleanna’ in her address as keynote speaker at the University of Toronto Department of English’s Literature and Psychoanalysis Graduate Student Symposium, 21 May 2010.

In their exploration of the intersections between literature and psychoanalysis entitled Testimony, Shoshana Felman and Dori Laub turn to the classroom experience, asking, “[i]n a post-traumatic century, a century that has survived unthinkable historical catastrophes, is there anything that we have learned or that we should learn about education, that we did not know before?” Indeed, both trauma and pedagogy confront their subjects – doctors, teachers, patients, victims – with the difficulties of communication: not just of putting history into words, but of making past events present enough to do them justice without ignoring the contingencies of memory and hindsight. Meanwhile, performance, in all its outward spectacle, seems at first to contradict the difficulties of traumatic and pedagogical processes; tragedy in particular ostensibly promises a cathartic experience, centering around those very aspects of recognition and expression that often elude the traumatized victim in the context of psychoanalysis. And yet participants in both educational and therapeutic settings often find themselves troubling the boundaries between fact and narrative, memory and story, authenticity and theatricality – distinctions whose surprising fineness can cast ethical questions harshly into the spotlight.

The Literature and Psychoanalysis Reading Group invites proposals for papers that explore the convergences and divergences of trauma theory, literature, psychoanalysis, pedagogy, and/or performance. We welcome submissions from a range of disciplines within the humanities and Social Sciences.

Possible topics include but are not limited to:

– the relationship between teaching and psychoanalysis (“impossible professions”)
– trauma theory
– ethics and psychoanalysis
– transference (Freudian and post-Freudian theories)
– literary representations of education and psychoanalysis
– gender theory and psychoanalysis
– speech acts and violence
– borders and thresholds
– identification and desire
– masculinity, sovereignty, and the symbolic order
– theatre and psychoanalysis

Submission deadline: 26 March, 300-word abstract for a 8-1o page or 20-minute paper. Submissions must include full name, contact information and institutional and departmental affiliation.

Questions and submissions should be emailed to: 2010splrg@gmail.com.

The Fifth Annual University of Ottawa English Graduate Conference is coming up, 12-13 June 2010.

“Man’s most valuable faculty is his imagination. Human life seems so little designed for happiness that we need the help of a few creations, a few images, a lucky choice of memories to muster some sparse pleasure on this earth and struggle against the pain of all our destinies – not by philosophical force, but by the more efficient force of distraction.” – Germaine Necker de Staël

Works of fiction, whether popular or “literary,” have often been described as informing – and being informed by – a spirit of escapism. Readers may take up a text seeking to be edified, but they may also hope for the “distraction” described above by Madame de Staël. Is this a necessary feature of fiction? Or is it rather a feature of the reader’s approach to fiction? How does it apply to works of non-fiction? To drama? To poetry? Can theories of escape and escapism be applied to non-literary fields? What alternatives to escape are there?

We seek papers addressing these and other questions, and we welcome submissions from students in all disciplines. Possible topics include, but are not limited to:

– Escape
– Hiding
– Pursuit
– Divine intervention
– Happiness
– “The one that got away”
– Travel
– Safety
– Out and coming out
– Rescue
– Danger
– “esc”
– Transcendence
– Exploration
– Evasion
– Romance
– Survival and revival
– Fantasy
– Liberation
– Zombies

The conference is graduate oriented, however the organisers are also calling for interested undergraduates to form a panel.

Submission deadline: 1 April 2010, 300-word proposal accompanied by a 100-word biographical sketch.

Questions and submissions should be emailed to: uottawa.conference@gmail.com

For most of the last month, if I haven’t been editing physics text books (I’m a freelance editor in my other life, have I mentioned that?), I’ve been eagerly researching my claim to theory and steadily building up a literary review. While very useful and generally a rather good thing for a research student to be up to, all this reading has meant I’ve done virtually no actual writing on my thesis. This part of things is less useful and a good deal panic-inducing.

To get myself on the road back to diligent writerly studenting, yesterday I set to work editing some of my work into a paper to submit to a graduate journal. This piece is related to my current thesis work, but is based on an old draft of a former direction. It’s a good place for me to experiment with how to express my approach to theory, but it’s also a good way of examining and reaffirming my approach to the primary texts, in this case the James Bond, 007 series.

I’ve largely decided to veer away from Bond for my thesis. He seems like the obvious choice when studying spy fiction, and he is invaluable in many ways, but for my purposes he is a far better springboard into the secret agents that follow. Unfortunately, the rest of the world is batty about the fellow and keep sending out calls for papers to discuss him rather than his legacy. Even so, I’m peeved that I’ve come across the CfP for Bond Girls: Sex and the Secret Agent so late, irked that I missed Improbable Plots: Making Sense of Contemporary Popular Fiction and decidedly miffed with myself for completely overlooking James Bond and Co: Spies, Espionage and Thrillers in a Cultural Context.

These are the first conferences I’ve come across specifically covering my area and I’ve missed the chance to go to any. The last one by a mere 5 days for registration submission at that.

Lesson learned. From now on, bugger email; the first place I’m going to each morning is UPenn.

It’s easier than you might think.

If you’ll permit me to get a bit fangirl for a second: sweet crikey, there’s a chance I could be in the same room as Julia Kristeva AND Jacqueline Rose. In the same room, breathing the same air, listening to their dulcet tones.

In conversation with Julia Kristeva

Professor Jacqueline Rose FBA and Professor Marian Hobson CBE, FBA
talk to Professor Julia Kristeva FBA about her life and work

6.30pm-8.00pm, followed by a drinks reception
Monday, 24 May 2010

British Academy, Carlton House Terrace, London SW1

This is very exciting.