Who's in

January 15, 1999

Stephen Connor, professor of modern literature and theory at Birkbeck College, is working on books about skin and ventriloquism.

Using evidence from literature and many other cultural areas, he is looking at aspects of skin such as deformity, lesion and colour, the way it exists in the imagination and the way technology allows us to exist outside our skins.

He is also examining the dissociated voice, looking at ventriloquism from the Delphic oracle to medieval mystics, 19th-century entertainment and the technology of the gramophone and telephone.

Lorna Hutson, professor of English literature at Hull, is looking at links between law and literature in the Renaissance. She is reading Shakespeare's history plays in the light of writings by the Renaissance jurist Edmund Plowden, famous for introducing the principle of equitable interpretation into common law. This meant it was necessary to imagine what a legislator meant by the words of the law he drafted and to apply this meaning to a particular case. She argues that this "hypothesis of the intentions of absent people" also preoccupied dramatists.

She stresses how concerned plays of the time were with law because of the increase in the number of statutes after the Reformation.

Lawrence Rainey, chair in modernist literature at York, is studying "automatic writing". Starting with spiritualists who claim to take dictation from the dead, he examines modernist interest in writing from the unconscious and becoming a writing machine - a camera reflecting the world - rather than "an author" using literary devices such as metaphor. He is exploring links between this kind of writing and politics - the "just obeying orders" aspects of 20th century fascism - and machines, which he argues reflect the rhythms of modernity, enhancing and restricting writing possibilities.

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