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English PGR Seminar Series: Catherine Robson – Thursday 19 October
19th October 2017 @ 5:15 pm - 7:00 pmFree
You are warmly invited to the English Postgraduate Research Seminar with Professor Catherine Robson. The event takes place Thursday 19th October at 5.15 in the Lock Keeper’s Cottage, Mile End campus. All are welcome.
‘Professors, Pigs and Pygmalion: Textual Traces of Lost Phonographic Practices and the Academic Study of Modern Languages’
The great research project that once galvanized language departments arguably began in 1786, when Sir William Jones registered the similarities between Sanskrit, Greek, and Latin, and hypothesized the existence of an earlier language from which they had all descended. The work of mapping the Indo-European language tree, as it came to be known, grew into a central enterprise both inside and outside the academy over the course of the nineteenth century. Landmark moments in the explication of major morphological shifts over time such as Grimm’s Law (1822) and Verner’s Law (1875) were achieved through scrutiny of historical documents. From the late 1870s onwards, numerous scholars became convinced of the necessity of combining this approach with close attention to spoken language. Belief that the speech of rural peoples preserved older linguistic features that had disappeared from the modern languages of urban centres and printed texts was a spur to phonetics and dialectology, analyses that were eventually conducted with the help of the new recording technologies. John Williams’ novel of American academic life Stoner (published 1965), George Bernard Shaw’s play Pygmalion (first performed 1913; published 1916) and Flann O’Brien’s Irish faux-memoir An Béal Bocht (1941; translated as The Poor Mouth, 1973) function as my routes into this intriguing, if forgotten, territory.
Catherine Robson is Professor of English at New York University. She specialises in nineteenth-century British cultural and literary studies. To date her publications have focused most prominently upon childhood, memory, and death; she enjoys thinking about the bonds between individual literary works and shifts within widespread cultural understandings of these topics. She is also interested in the roles played in this process by the pedagogical practices of a broad range of educational institutions. Her next book project, a study of the little-known phenomenon of Germany’s capture of British regional voices during World War I, draws extensively on previous work on oral performance (especially poetry recitation) and mass elementary education in nineteenth-century Britain.