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Scabrous Hacks, the Meaning of Satire, Jacobitism, Mercantilism, Jewish Boxing and the Persistence of Medea. ISECS Rotterdam, Day 4

July 31, 2015

ISECS 2015

Oh the places I’ve been!    On Day 4, my own customised map through this lovely conference took me first to a discussion of the world of hack journalism and the world of elaborate spoofing.  I love Ned Ward.  We spend about half an hour or more loving Ned Ward.  Meanwhile, how does typography and rhetoric serve to make a kind of spurious proof claim for John Arbuthnot ?  Who enjoys “seeing through” a parody?

From this first panel we scooted upstairs to the round table on “satire” where the discussion involved the extent to which someone like Swift believes in a single determinate if difficult meaning? What are the implications of “getting the satire wrong”?  Yet what are the limits of satire, its capacity for positive engagement?  Can satire only critique the internal logic of an existing paradigm – is it incapable of ever offering an alternative?

Charlie Hebdo came up.  As did the proposition that the assertion of unproblematic solidarity and complete identity with Hebdo (“Je Suis Charlie”) was actually in defiance of the trangsressive libertarian spirit “he” was meant to embody.  One ought to be able to deplore the murder of someone with whom one does not identify.

After our packed lunch which is, as it ever has been, healthy and balanced, I’m off to a panel on Jacobitism and Mercantilism in the work of Jane Barker alongside a discussion of Daniel Mendoza – the celebrated Jewish boxer.  These two papers had more in common with one another than you might immediately thing – both engaging questions of governance and inclusion, the extent to which success implies the ability to make distinctions that are variously inclusive and exclusive.  How does a particular style or “fancy” contribute to a subculture that achieves a kind of centrality in national discourse?

And finally I drifted along to a pleasant little panel about Behn, Centlivre and the depiction of Medea on the eighteenth-century European stage.  What were the the available and conflicting Senecan and Euripidean models of emotional engagement available at the time?  What was the political agenda of Richard Glover?  To what extent were (or are) the actions of a Medea justified?  And how?  And when?

Some of us are getting tired now, four days in.  Maybe everyone is.  Just another day to go – but that last day is always tinged with melancholy of a peculiar and beautiful kind.  The conference may start to thin.  We may start to see suitcases in sessions.

I think that a suitcase in conference session is the saddest sight in the whole wide world.


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