Events and Initiatives


“Canons and Values in Contemporary Literary Studies”, a one-day symposium at the University of Southampton, Saturday 15th June 2019.

Scholarship on the contemporary has a unique relationship to questions of canonicity and value. What values shape the choices made in research and teaching on the contemporary? What canons does this work produce? And how do these values and canons relate to those produced in education and the publishing and cultural industries?

This one-day symposium will debate the ideas of canonicity and cultural value that inform research and teaching in contemporary literary studies. It aims to enable researchers at all levels, and working in all areas of contemporary literary studies, to theorise, articulate, and critique the role played by canons and values in their teaching and research, and to develop strategies for engaging with debates about canonicity and value beyond academia.

This event is organized by Contemporary Studies Network in association with Dr Kevin Brazil and Dr Andrew Dean. Call for participants and for flash papers and/or posters available here.


“Contemporary Canonicity, or What Not to Read”, Workshop at BACLS, What Happens Now Conference, July 2018

This workshop and discussion group debated the idea of canonicity in the research and teaching of contemporary literary studies. Participants were asked to discuss the literary texts, authors, and/or theorists that they believe to be “essential” to students and scholars of the contemporary and, through a reading of Amy Hungerford’s now infamous ‘On Not Reading’ (2016), debated the necessity of establishing a sense of canonicity in the field of contemporary literary studies as well as the right to refuse certain dominant cultural figures.

Ending Poverty panel discussion, Tyneside Cinema, Newcastle, 4th November 2017

The panel, organised by Dr Rachel Williams (University of Hull), considered vulnerability and modern exploitation and included Professor Sugata Mitra (Newcastle University), Rosie Lewis (Deputy Director, The Angelou Centre) and Craig Barlow (The Wilberforce Institute).

Further details available here.

Defining the Contemporary”, Panel at English: Shared Futures Conference in Newcastle, 5-7 July 2017

This panel, featuring Diletta De Cristofaro, Arin Keeble, Paul Crosthwaite, Christina Brennan, and Caroline Wintersgill, consisted of flash papers interrogating one key idea around the notion of the contemporary in literary studies. In order: Douglas Coupland’s idea of denarration and how this is reflected in contemporary writings, 9/11 as a period marker, the identification of the contemporary with the ‘new’, the authority and reception of literary prizes, qualitative methods in literary studies.

Contemporary Studies Network Roundtable: Responding to Robert Macfarlane’s ‘Generation Anthropocene’

In April 2016, The Guardian published ‘Generation Anthropocene: How humans have altered the planet forever’ by the celebrated academic and nature writer Robert Macfarlane. Reflecting on the article’s importance as a critical experiment and, perhaps, a vital form of public engagement, Contemporary Studies Network (CSN) asked six of its members, working across very different areas of literary and cultural studies, to respond to and extend Macfarlane’s article, mapping the different ways in which literary scholars might approach the age of the Anthropocene. Conducted via email, this roundtable conversation asks to what extent the Anthropocene marks a new era in literary criticism, how exactly it extends preexisting strands of ecocriticism and trauma studies, and what the global scope of the term might be beyond the confines of the Western literary canon. Discussion ranges from issues of temporality to genre and form and it also addresses Macfarlane’s rhetoric, his call to arms for those working in the humanities, for a more comprehensive investigation in to the roles of literature and art in responding to and representing what may become a new epoch.

You can read the roundtable in Open Library of Humanities:

US Election Night Screening with Panel Discussion, 8th November 2016, 7.45pm, Broadway Cinema, Nottingham

You’ve Been Trumped Too (2016) explores the confrontation between the Scottish residents living close to a golf resort near Aberdeen and the  billionaire attempting to become the next US president. The screening of Anthony Baxter’s documentary was followed by a discussion hosted by CSN and chaired by Dr Arin Keeble (NTU), featuring Dr Stephanie Genz (Nottingham Trent University), a specialist in media studies, Dr Ben Offiler (Sheffield Hallam University), an expert in US history and foreign relations, Professor Sue Pryce (University of Nottingham), an expert in both US and British politics, and Dr Robin Vandome (University of Nottingham), an expert in American intellectual and cultural history. CSN also hosted a presidential quiz – created by Dr Rachel Williams (University of Nottingham) – while the initial projections came in. For further information see the leaflet.