Lunchtime Seminars, June 2015

We are pleased to announce two summer lunchtime seminars.

On 12th June, Una McIlvenna will explore the emotion of shame and its place in early modern public executions then, a week later on 19th June, Yukiko Kinoshita will talk about the far-eastern emotional sensibilities discernible in the writings of Virginia Woolf. See below for titles and abstracts.

Seminars begin at 1pm and a sandwich lunch is provided. 

Please email Emma Sutton on to reserve a place.

Friday 12th June 2015, 1pm

Mile End campus, Arts One building, room 136

Shame in Early Modern Public Execution
Una McIlvenna (Queen Mary University of London)

Do you know what the world will do to you? It will make you understand that these things bring you great shame and wrong you: the tolling of the bell, the reading of the condemnation, your being tied and led before the people…

Bologna Comforters’ Manual in The Art of Executing Well, ed. Nicholas Terpstra (Kirksville, MO: Truman State University Press, 2008)

This paper looks at how the emotion of shame was conceived around early modern public execution, and further, how shame was then portrayed in the broadside ballads that broadcast information about executions. It seems paradoxical that in the moments before their death condemned criminals were deeply concerned about the shame their punishment would create. Why would a person about to die care about feeling shame? I explore how, in contrast to our current understanding of it as a private, personal emotion, shame was conceived as a communal emotion in the early modern period, one that people shared, and which had tangible consequences for one’s family and friends. In that sense, can shame even be considered an emotion in early modern thought? I discuss these issues from the perspective of the ballads that were sung about these executions. How did balladry perpetuate – or subvert – the message of shame that was central to the purpose of execution?

Friday 19th June 2015, 1pm

Mile End campus, Arts One building, room 136

Exploring A(h)ware and (W)okashi, or the Exquisite in the Trivial: An Attempt to Identify Far-Eastern Sensibilities and Aesthetics in Virginia Woolf’s Writings
Yukiko Kinoshita

In 1925, Virginia Woolf reviewed Arthur Waley’s translation of Lady Murasaki’s The Tale of Genji, a Japanese classic supposedly written around 1000. The second chapter of Murasaki’s novel reveals to the reader her aesthetics and aesthetic of novel-writing, which, I would like to suggest, appealed to Woolf’s pacifism, feminism and aesthetics and encouraged her to explore her own themes and Modernist method of writing. Lady Murasaki’s aesthetic sensibilities were shared by her contemporary and rival, Sei Shonagon, well known for her masterpiece, The Pillow-Book, part of which Waley translated in 1927. Theirs could be summarized as heightened sensibilities which perceive the exquisite in the trivial or the ordinary. The attitude to discover things that matter in the seemingly trivial and common, poetic prose style, keen sensibilities and pictorial descriptions conscious of colour scheme—these characteristics are something in common between the two female Japanese authors, although Lady Murasaki’s characteristics lie in her sense of “a(h)ware” —an impassioned response to beauty—whereas Sei Shonagon’s in her sense of “(w)okashi”—an intellectual response to beauty.

The two authoresses’ aesthetics or approach to beauty is subjective, and I would like to suggest that it is, in nature, close to what Walter Pater termed as “strangeness in beauty” and “sweet strangeness,” and, therefore, something that Woolf as well as other Western readers can identify. My presentation is an attempt to introduce to the audience the aesthetics and sensibilities which the two terms—aw(h)re and (w)okashi—represent, to clarify the connection between Woolf’s and the two Japanese authoresses’ sensibilities, aesthetic and aesthetics, and to throw light on the development of Woolf’s Modernist aesthetics and method.