Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Postcolonial Crime Fiction - new article

I am really pleased to have published my article on Irish crime fiction, called '"The Third Ireland': Inheritance and Postcolonialism in Irish Crime Writing" in the new special issue of The Journal of Commonwealth and Postcolonial Studies.  The topic of the JCPS special issue is Postcolonial Crime Fiction, and the issue is edited by South African crime fiction specialist Dr Sam Naidu.  You can view the contents page here

This image above is of the cover for the JCPS special issue - really interesting image, I think!  Perfect for this special issue, with its multifaceted examination of postcolonialism as a prism for crime fiction.  

I am happy to be a great company in this special issue, and particularly to have had the opportunity to write about Irish postcolonial identities and crime writing.  My article focuses on selected texts from the 2011 anthology edited by declan Burke entitled Down These Green Streets : Irish Crime Writing In The 21st Century. 

I examine selected texts from the 2011 anthology edited by declan Burke entitled Down These Green Streets : Irish Crime Writing In The 21st Century.  In the article I explore questions of inheritance and postcolonial identity in relation to John Connolly’s essay “No Blacks, No Dogs, No Crime Writers: Ireland and the Mystery Genre,” and Jane Casey’s crime short story “Inheritance.”

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Summer research

Summer research is like summer itself.  You think there is all the time in the world. The long light summer days seem to last forever. The air is warm and mellow and filled with the scent of blossom mixed with car fumes.  In the distance, the rumble of a bus and squawking of seagulls. Unhurried days drift past.

This summer has been slightly unusual and strange for me. Usually I attend conferences, give papers.  This year, because of my illness and sick leave, I have stayed away from conferences and concentrated on recovery.  Now that I am feeling stronger, I have been working on the books I am editing, and writing a piece on crime fiction for an edited volume.  I have cherished the space and time for creativity that summer brings.  Inevitably, there have also been frustrating times when I felt stuck and struggled to construct the conceptual framework for the piece I was writing.  The finishing line an elusive blur in the distance. 
Summer seems neverending, until suddenly  - it is over.  Summer slipped away while you were busy looking elsewhere. A chill has set in at night, the dew falls more heavily. The clock is ticking as September approaches. A new academic year beckons.  Time for a reality check.  What have I created, achieved?

Now is the time to finish that piece of writing, to complete the research for forthcoming projects. Several deadlines are coming up this month and next.  Every last bit of summer and research time must be stretched to maximum.  But somehow there is never quite enough time.  Come back, summer.

Friday, 5 August 2016

Social Media Thoughts

My blog celebrated its first birthday a couple of months ago.   But like a neglectful blog-mother, I passed over this momentous event without even a mention.  It might have had something to do with the fact that I was on sick leave at the time following intensive care treatment in hospital with horrible Influenza A and pneumonia.  But now seems a good time to reflect on the past year or so of blogging, and on my experience of social media more generally.  I don't as a rule engage in heated social media debates, and I try to be reasonable and polite wherever possible.  As the German poet and literary critic Friedrich Schlegel said in his 1799 work Lucinde and the Fragments:

But I was provoked to reflect on social media use for academics by an article I read in The Guardian newspaper, I am a serious academic, not a professional Instagrammer. It stated, among other things, that academics: "should not have to parade ourselves on social media to please our employers or be considered enthusiastic."  And I agree with the point that social media use should not be something which one purely does in order to 'please'.  Whether individual academic want to engage with social media or not should be up to them, as should be the extent to which they choose to engage.  

However, I also found myself disagreeing with a number of points in the article. For example, I found the claim that academic social media use is part of a 'selfie epidemic' too simplistic, and the suggestion that scholars should not use social media to comment on important questions such as the recent EU Referendum, a troubling sign of repression.  

As a European academic working in Britain, social media to me presents a vital space for reaching out to like-minded individuals and groups. Social media is not simply a narcissist pastime. It can be about about support and resisting marginalisation.

Importantly, many academics use social media such as Twitter and blogs for teaching purposes, thereby engaging students and the wider world in module content and current debates in the field - which to my mind is commendable, not to do with narcissism. For example, Dr Emilie Whitaker uses an example of "When [she] got students to curate a Pinterest board to think about visual representations of 'welfare problems'" - clearly a useful conceptual activity. Or Dr Helen Rogers' fascinating blog on 19th-century prisons, Conviction - a great resource and absorbing read. 

More than anything, though, the Guardian article made  me appreciate again about important and constructive social media is to me, as an academic and a person.  It also reminded me how enjoyable I find blogging, as a form of writing.  Social media - Facebook, Twitter, and my blog - is not a not flippant distraction.  Social media provides me with ways of communicating with colleagues, friends and acquaintances, and staying connected with people and causes that interest me and are necessary to me in my work.  

Just as the oft-perceived dichotomy between 'serious' literary fiction and genre writing is much too reductive - so too the distinction between the non social media-using real-deal 'serious' scholar and the flippant social media-using 'hashtagging' academic is a simplistic distortion of a much more complex reality.  

(cartoon from https://lenleatherwood.wordpress.com/2012/09/04/literary-vs-genre-fiction-what-are-the-differences/)

Having said that, I appreciate the Guardian author's attempt to raise questions around the articulation of an individual position on social media use for academics.  These discussions are both necessary and important.

Another recent article, in the Times Higher, called "Cats and Academia - a Short History", serves as a reminder of the fun side of social media, some light relief and a glimpse of the human (and animal) faces of scholars #AcademicsWithCats.  

As Dr Nadine M├╝ller said, brilliantly, about academics and social media:  "I like to think that by the time I apply for professorships, I'll get one based on the quality and quantity of my pet photos. #academia".  Love it!

Here's one of mine:  

Little Cleo