Fragments of Time

I’m giving one of the keynote presentations at Lancaster University’s Fragments of Time Conference (abstract at the bottom)…

9.00am – 9.15am Registration

9.15 – 11.00

1: Roundtable: FASS MR1, Chair: Andrea Rossi
-Arthur Bradley, Michael Dillon, Charlie Gere, Diana Stypinska, Lancaster University, “Gino De Dominicis and the Time to Come”

2: Modernism & Technology: FASS MR2, Chair: Sarah Post
– Brian Baker, Lancaster University, “L’homme machine: re/tour/kraft/werk”
– Margaret Olson, University College London, “The Giving of Nothing Coated in Advertisements for Money”: H. G. Wells’ Tono-Bungay and Creating Value from Waste.
– Lynne Pearce, Lancaster University, “Redefining the ‘Driving-Event’ as a Unit of Consciousness”
Tzu-Ching Yeh, Lancaster University, “Late Modernism in Samuel Beckett’s Radio Plays: Reassessing Joyce-Beckett Relationship”

11.00 – 11.15 Coffee Break

11.15 – 12.30

1: Visionary States : FASS MR1, Chair: Alan Gregory
– Maria Cichosz, University of Toronto, “‘My Watch is Running Backward’: Tripping, Intoxicated Experience, and Potentiality in Representations of Altered Time”
– Chris Witter, Lancaster University, “Tillie Olsen’s ‘Tell Me A Riddle’: Eva Transmitting”
– Andrew Dawson, Lancaster University, “Temporal Dislocution as an Apolitics of Self”

2: Fragments of Early Modern Times: FASS MR2, Chair: Hilary Hinds
– Rachel White, Lancaster University, “‘One instant is your time to alter all’: Fulke Greville’s Politics of Temporality”
– Stephen Curtis, Lancaster University, “Temporal Performance: Time on the Early Modern Stage”
– Martin Spies, Justus-Liebig-Universität, “‘Lo heer’s the Pattern of Prince Henries parts, Of Henries foure the faire Epitomie.’ James Maxwell’s Fragmented Genealogies of the Early Stuarts

12.30 – 13.30 Lunch

13.30 – 14.45

1: Remembering the Radical Past – from the Radical Studies Network: FASS MR1, Chair: Chris Witter
– Jen Morgan, University of Salford, “Remembering the ‘Never to Be Forgotten’ Peterloo: Change and Difference in Mancunian Chartists’ Aesthetic and Political Practices”
– Elinor Taylor, University of Salford, “‘Many a Devious Twist Ahead’: 1848 in the Communist Historical Novel”
– Phil O’Brien, University of Salford, “Ross Raisin’s Waterline: Reclaiming the Past through the Trauma of the Neoliberal Present”

2: Fragments of History and Fantasy: FASS MR 2, Chair: Chloé Alexandra Germaine Buckley
– Charul (Chuckie) Patel, Lancaster University, “At the Crossroads between Tensed and Tenseless Time: Exploring the Hero’s Journey in Bujold’s The Curse of Chalion”
– Abigail Edmunds, Lancaster University, “Victorian Goblin Encounters: Trolling the Proletariat in the work of George MacDonald, Christina Rossetti and Charles Dickens”
– Glyn Morgan, University of Liverpool, “Fantasies of the Third Reich: Sarban’s The Sound of His Horn and Norman Spinrad’s The Iron Dream”

14.45- 16.00

1: Mappings: FASS MR1, Chair: Charul (Chuckie) Patel
– Simon Ferdinand, University of Amsterdam, “The Arrow Shattered: The Polychronous Urban Cartography of Gert Jan Kocken”
– Freyja Peters, Lancaster University, “‘Découpage and montage’: the Production of Urban Space and Urban Time in American Graphic Novels”
– Joel Evans, Lancaster University, “The Time-Image and Patrick Keiller’s Situationist Roots”

2: Narrative and Time: FASS MR2, Chair: Muhammad Hamdan
– Sutapa Dutta, University of Delhi, “Subverting History, Narrativizing the Past, Reinventing Identity”
– Sarah Post, Lancaster University, “Comic Timing: Britain’s Multicultural Comedies and the Comedy of Multiculturalism”
– Veronica Frigeni, University of Kent, “The ‘humoristic caesura’, or: Towards a Reading of Walter Benjamin’s Modernity sub specie aesteticae”

16.00 – 16.30 Coffee Break

16.30- 17.15

– Keynote: Victoria Browne, University of London, “Formulating Feminist Time: Progress Narratives, Futural Displacements, and Temporalities of Struggle”

17.15 – 18.00

– Keynote: Matthew Charles, University of Westminster, “Not Even the Dead Will Be Safe: The Catastrophic Function in Contemporary Culture”

‘The dead are “multiform” and exist in many places on the earth at the same time. For this reason, people must very seriously concern themselves, during their lifetime, with the betterment of the earth’ (L. J. B. Toureil, quoted in Walter Benjamin, The Arcades Project, p5a, 2)

‘Everything begins in mysticism and ends in politics.’ (Charles Péguy, Notre Jeunesse)

The retrieval of the utopian imagination within contemporary theory and culture responds to the political impasse of a “capitalist realism”. Yet this attentiveness to what Ernst Bloch called the Utopian function in art and literature, now stripped of any Utopia, can only manifest itself as a liberal inversion of the conservative valorization of the past. Against the proliferation of Utopian visions of workless play and sentimental communality, this paper instead seeks to draw on Walter Benjamin’s concept of history to construct and utilise a pragmatic understanding of what I term the Catastrophic function as a way of interrogating the ideological dimensions of historicity within contemporary culture.

Having introduced and defended the present usefulness of the Catastrophic function, this idea will be put to work, first to delineate “the dead” as a political category within 19th and 20th century literature, and then to contrast this with a shift in the most recent representations of the “undead” within contemporary film and television, a shift symptomatic of broader changes with contemporary social and political life. What is catastrophic about contemporary representations of catastrophe, it will conclude, is that they are too utopian: that is, not catastrophic enough.

Walter Benjamin, Pedagogy and the Politics of Youth


Friday 31st May – Saturday 1st June 2013
University of Westminster, London
Fyvie Hall, 309 Regent Street, London W1B 2UW

Co-hosted by the Institute for Modern & Contemporary Culture (IMCC)
and the Centre for Research in Modern European Philosophy (CRMEP)

Provisional Schedule:

Friday 31st May: Fyvie Hall, University of Westminster, 309 Regent Street, London

13:15 – 14:00 Registration (Entrance Hall)
14:00 – 14:30 Welcome
Introductory Remarks
David Cunningham
Matthew Charles
IMCC, Westminster
IMCC, Westminster
14:30 – 15:30 The Life of Students is a Great Transformer Antonia Birnbaum
Chair: Andrew McGettigan
Paris 8
15:30 – 16:00 Break
16:00 – 17:00 Attunement and Interference:
Benjamin’s Hölderlin Reading
Howard Caygill
Chair: Peter Osborne
CRMEP, Kingston

Saturday 1st June: Fyvie Hall, University of Westminster, 309 Regent Street, London

09:45 – 10:30 Registration (Entrance Hall)
10:30 – 11:30 Quo Vadis? Knowing and being in the digital age Milan Jaros
Chair: Steven Cranfield
11:30 – 12:00 Break
12:00 – 13:00 Chockerlebnis and Education: Learning from Modern Experience Élise Derroitte
Chair: Howard Caygill
13:00 – 14:15 Lunch
14:15 – 15:15 Student as Producer: a pedagogy of the avant-garde; or, how do revolutionary teachers teach? Mike Neary
Chair: David Cunningham
15:15 – 15:30 Break
15:30 – 17:00 Education as Awakening
Howard Eiland
Peter Osborne
Chair: Matthew Charles
CRMEP, Kingston


Antonia Birnbaum (Paris 8)
Bonheur Justice Walter Benjamin; ‘Between sharing and antagonism: the invention of communism in the early Marx
Howard Caygill (CRMEP)
Walter Benjamin: the colour of experience; Also Sprach Zapata: Philosophy and resistance
Matthew Charles (Westminster)
Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: ‘Walter Benjamin’, ‘Lines in class: the ongoing attack on mass education in England’
Élise Derroitte (Université catholique de Louvain)
La critique de la critique. : De la philosophie de l’histoire de Walter Benjamin; ‘“Die Schulereform, eine Kulturbewegung”, on Benjamin’s theory of learning
Howard Eiland (MIT)
Walter Benjamin: Early Writings; ‘The Pedagogy of Shadow: Heidegger and Plato
Milan Jaros (Newcastle)
Pedagogy for Knowledge Recognition and Acquisition: Knowing and Being at the Close of the Mechanical Age‘; ‘To thing or not to thing: Pedagogy of knowledge acquisition in the networked society‘.
Mike Neary (Lincoln)
Student as producer: how do revolutionary teachers teach?; Towards Teaching in Public: Reshaping the Modern University.
Peter Osborne (CRMEP)
Walter Benjamin’s Philosophy: Destruction and Experience; ‘Privatization as Anti-Politics: Interview with Peter Osborne


The conference is free, open to all and there is no need to pre-register. Attendance on each day will be allocated on a “first come, first served” basis: the registration desk will be open on Friday 31st May from 13:15 – 14:00 and on Saturday 1st June from 9:45 – 10:30 and will be located in the main entrance hall to the University of Westminster, 309 Regent Street, London W1b 2UW.

The conference proceedings will begin at 14:00 on Friday and at 10:30 on Saturday and will end at 17:00 on both days. All talks will be held in Fyvie Hall (off the main entrance hall to the University of Westminster building on Regent Street).

Help publicise the conference:

Further Information:

For further information and to be added to the conference mailing list for updates, please contact:
Matthew Charles