Black eyes and small data: the 1st Bentobox Lecture of 2018-2019

30 Aug 2018


On the 29th August, FAH held the first Bentobox session of the 2018/2019 academic year. Nearly 40 participants were present, including internal and external faculty members and graduate students. Both talks were followed by very interesting questions from the audience, which produced lively discussions.

Prof. Damian Shaw’s talk on the signification of “black eyes” in English literature explored how the meaning of this fictional appearance has changed over the years. Prof. Shaw started from Bram Stoker’s novels, discussing how black-eyed characters were depicted as having heroic and powerful features. Then more examples followed passing through artistic works by Shakespeare, Hawthorne, and Petrarch; up to recent cultural productions, such as Stephen Spielberg’s movies and popular urban legends. The lecture was concluded suggesting that black-eyed characters have become a controversial artistic concept in current society, being regarded sometimes as creepy and at other times as docile creatures. Prof. Shaw’s presentation brought very interesting reflections not only to the area of literary research, but to the field of visual studies more broadly.

Prof. Andrew Carlin’s talk on the re-use of data focused on the accounts provided by members of the local community affected by the Manchester bombing in 1996 one year after the attack. Prof Carlin was asked to revisit this material for the twentieth anniversary commemorations in 2016. Many parts of it have been unused or under-exploited. Adopting an ethnomethodological orientation to data, some extracts of talk collected from interviews were presented and an interesting analysis of these accounts were provided. The discussion focused on the categorial characteristic of the participants’ comments. This methodic practice revealed how traumatic the experience of the bombing event was for the local population despite the fact that there were no fatalities. Prof. Carlin suggested that retrievable data are powerful tools for the surfacing of overlooked phenomena, and to re-explore members’ methods as observable and inspectable for linguistic environments.

The next Bentobox will be held on 27 September with Prof. Matthew Gibson and Prof. Sun Yuqi as speakers. Prof. Gibson’s talk is titled: “The impression of the visual and scenic arts on the fiction of Bram Stoker”; and the title of Prof. Sun’s talk is: “Hedging in Chinese (L1) and Portuguese (L2) bachelor degree theses”.

Looking forward to seeing you there!