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The University of Hong Kong
The University of Hong Kong
The University of Hong Kong
School of English Postgraduate Seminar Session
Queer poiesis: Reversing the other in Why Karen Carpenter Matters
Luisa Wan, MPhill Candidate, School of English, The University of Hong Kong

In Queer Experimental Literature, Tyler Bradway observes how the criticality of reading practices are often evaluated in terms of their affective charge. Accordingly, they turn to formal experiments in queer literature to recuperate the usefulness of readerly affect in generating alternative social imaginaries. In this paper, I read Karen Tongson’s Why Karen Carpenter Matters to explore how Tongson experiments with the dialogical structure of the personal essay to reconfigure the oppositionality between the postcolonial self and the Other. Foregrounding her experience of what Lauren Berlant calls “cruel optimism”—a dialectical condition that exists when something one desires is the obstacle to one’s flourishing—Tongson reckons with the source of her feelings in the form of a literary dialogue with the singer Karen Carpenter. Analysing how Tongson weaves her biographical account with Carpenter’s, I argue this dialogical exchange fosters a relationality that “queers” the dialectical double bind that “cruel optimism” sustains.


Rethinking radicalism: the utilitarians’ democratic concept of political disinterestedness
Anneliese Ng, PhD Candidate, School of English, The University of Hong Kong

In the early nineteenth century, millions in Britain joined the movement of radicalism, demanding a “radical” reform of the parliament, including universal (male) suffrage, so that Members of Parliament would be chosen by all (adult males) in Britain. Coming from the middle and working classes, these “radicals” contended that implementing democracy was the only way to protect their economic interests. Historians accordingly treated radicalism as an analysis of socio-economic problems in terms of distribution of political power, versus Marxism which analysed social problems in terms of distribution of economic power or means of production. This talk foregrounds the utilitarians’ argument for democracy as an essential condition for realizing society’s greatest happiness or “utility”. I argue that, more than providing a perspective on social problems, radicalism provided the first theorization of political disinterestedness as a democratic ability possessable by the common people – not an elite quality possessable only by the aristocracy.


Ideas of fortune-telling after the Glorious Revolution in William Congreve’s Love for Love (1695)
Rowena Kwan, PhD Candidate, School of English, The University of Hong Kong

This presentation examines the meanings of experience and wisdom in William Congreve’s Love for Love. Produced 7 years after the triumph of the Glorious Revolution, Love for Love, exploring the themes of inheritance and different forms of governments, is a representation of the reformed ideologies of its own time. Revolving around the comedy of the struggle over inheritance between a father and a son, Love for Love responds, the paper argues, to the changing concepts of wisdom and the increasing demand for facts and scientific reasoning in the late-seventeenth century. Focusing on a discussion about travel experience in the play, the paper argues that Love for Love suggests that the popularisation of empiricism challenged the lack of physical and observable proof in the practice of the traditional means of prognostication, yet at the same time, exposes the unreliability of the claims of bodily experience.


Zoom Details

Zoom Link: https://hku.zoom.us/j/93961975799?pwd=cUFLdFN5VWZBN3lXOUlOQm80SlYzQT09

Meeting ID: 969 1683 2177
Password: 021538