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Contemporary Fiction Group


Contemporary Fiction Group

This group hereby pledges to support the Contemporary Fiction Seminars in all the interesting work they will produce and inspire. For further info please see the events page for upcoming seminars; or contact Tony Venezia or Zara Dinnen.

Members: 70
Latest Activity: Dec 22, 2016

Discussion Forum

Contemporary Fiction Research Seminar -- review of first Postgraduate Form

Contemporary Fiction Seminar – Autumn 2011Postgraduate Forum: Infinite, authentic, longing: A Survey of Postgraduate Research on Contemporary Visual CultureMonday 21st November 2011S261, Senate…Continue

Started by Zara Dinnen Nov 30, 2011.


CORRECTION - The next Contemporary Fiction Seminar will be in room 264 (second floor, Senate House), and not 261 as…Continue

Started by Tony Venezia Nov 18, 2011.

CFS Postgraduate Forum -- NOVEMBER 21st 1 Reply


Started by Zara Dinnen. Last reply by Tony Venezia Nov 18, 2011.

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Comment by Zara Dinnen on November 30, 2010 at 11:26
Digital Is...

(Reflections on literary, performance, and visual cultural practices in the digital era)

A one-off chance to hear from four esteemed practitioners of the digital arts:

Joahnnes Birringer (Director, DAP-Lab at Brunel; Artistic Director, AlienNation Co.); Kate Pullinger (Author; Reader in Creative Writing and New Media at DeMontfort); Thomson & Craighead (Artists; Lecturers at Goldsmiths, Slade School of Fine Art); and Tim Wright (Digital Writer; Cross-platform Producer).

For one night only the Contemporary Fiction Seminar (in collaboration with the Birkbeck School of Arts Graduate Lecture Series) brings these speakers together to discuss their creative digital practices and the critical issues that surround their work.

The event will be chaired by Dr Nick Lambert (Lecturer in Digital Art at Birkbeck).


Thursday 9th December 2010
7.30 - 9pm (followed by wine reception)
Rm 538, main Birkbeck Building, Malet St., WC1 (map)

All are welcome.

If you have any further questions please contact Zara Dinnen or Tony Venezia (co-ordinators of the Contemporary Fiction Seminar).

Hope to see you all there!

Comment by Zara Dinnen on September 24, 2010 at 10:12
Comment by Tony Venezia on July 29, 2010 at 10:53

Thanks to everyone who came along and contributed to our first two sessions on Tom McCarthy and Jonathan Lethem. The response was enthusiastic and we hope that this continues into the autumn. Thanks also to everyone who came along to the Lethem symposium – Zara’s interview with the man will be podcast in the new year in the next issue of the Dandelion journal.

There will be a special one-off screening at Birkbeck of the film American Splendor (2003) to celebrate the work of comics writer/jazz critic/activist Harvey Pekar who died suddenly on July 12. The film will be preceded by a short discussion on Pekar’s work by artists/scholars/fans: Tuesday August 3rd, room 152, 1st floor main building, 6-8 pm. Celebratory wake to follow, as usual, at the Institute of Education bar.

There won’t be a seminar in August; instead we invite you all to come along to a group night out for drinks and socialising. We’ll be meeting on Thursday August 19th from 7 pm to whenever at The Crown on New Oxford Street.

We have lots lined up for the autumn, and, as always, continue to welcome suggestions for future sessions. The next seminar will be in September, and will be lead by Birkbeck research student Sam MacBean, on Alison Bechdel’s remarkable queer memoir as graphic novel Fun Home. Extracts for reading will be made available, and details of times/date/room will be confirmed shortly. We have two further seminars planned for October and November, looking at Patrick Neate’s novel Twelve Bar Blues and Bobby Baker’s autobiographical Diary Drawings.

For anyone interested in comics there is a symposium taking place at Birkbeck on November 5th at which students and early career lecturers will share multi-disciplinary scholarly work on various aspects of sequential art. Dr. Roger Sabin (Reader in Popular Culture at Central Saint Martins) will introduce and respond to the papers. More details to follow.

Also, for December we are planning to put on a panel discussion on issues around contemporary digital production/reproduction with special guest speakers. Watch this space.

For further details contact the convenors, Zara Dinnen (zara.dinnen@googlemail.com) and Tony Venezia (a.venezia@english.bbk.ac.uk). You can also use the Dandelion network to keep up to date with events, post comments, and access reading materials.
Comment by Tony Venezia on July 26, 2010 at 20:11

Unearthing the truth about Watchmen genius Alan Moore

Alan Moore could write a note to the milkman and make it sound like a finely wrought work of literature. His prose is dense, vivid and hypnotic, crammed with literary, occult and historical references and psychogeographical diversions.

Comment by Tony Venezia on July 26, 2010 at 12:00

Tom McCarthy, Technology & the Novel

...the more books I write, the more convinced I become that what we encounter in a novel is not selves, but networks; that what we hear in poems is (to use the language of communications technology) not signal but noise. The German poet Rilke had a word for it: Geräusch, the crackle of the universe, angels dancing in the static.

Comment by Tony Venezia on July 20, 2010 at 22:22
A Birkbeck Contemporary Fiction Seminar/International London Comics Grid Bootleg Joint From Off the Streets of Cleveland...

“Ordinary life is pretty complex stuff”

In celebration of Harvey Pekar (1939-2010)
Birkbeck, room 152,1st floor main building,
Torrington Square,
Tuesday August 3rd 2010, 6-8 pm

A short discussion of Pekar’s life & work followed by a screening of the film American Splendor (2003)

This is an invitation to a celebration of the work of Harvey Pekar, comics writer/jazz critic/activist, who died suddenly on July 12. Pekar first published his autobiographical comic American Splendor in 1976 in collaboration with Robert Crumb. Subsequently working with a variety of artists, Pekar mined the drama and comedy of everyday life. His dedication to a poetics of commonplace realism was tempered with neurotic introspection, jazzy rhythms, and the immediacy of stand-up comedy. A good introduction, general overview, and prelude to the evening can be found at the online obituary by UCL’s Ernesto Priego.

For more information contact Tony Venezia (a.venezia@english.bbk.ac.uk) or Ernesto Priego (ernestopriegor@yahoo.com).

Or just turn up...
Comment by Tony Venezia on June 17, 2010 at 10:38

Special seminar on Jonathan Lethem
July 8th 2010
Birkbeck, Room 103, 30 Russell Square, 6 – 730 PM

Acclaimed contemporary American writer Jonathan
Lethem is renowned for his splicing of diverse genres such as science fiction, crime, and the western into new combinations. His novels include Gun, with Occasional Music (1994), Motherless Brooklyn (1999), and The Fortress of Solitude (2003), a Brooklyn set coming-of-age story that drew heavily on superhero comics. More recently Chronic City (2009) presents a surreal portrait of post 9/11 Manhattan. His short stories have been collected in The Wall of the Sky, The Wall of the Eye (1997), and Men and Cartoons (2004), while The Disappointment Artist brings together his non-fiction essays on various aspects of contemporary culture (2005).

For this seminar we will be looking at the essay ‘The Ecstasy of Influence’ (2007) (available online http://harpers.org/archive/2007/02/0081387) along with chapters 4 and 5 from The Fortress of Solitude (2003). The session will be introduced by Zara Dinnen and Tony Venezia.

As supplementary reading, if people have the time and inclination they might want to have a look at the short pieces ‘The Collector’ and ‘Top 5 Depressed Superheroes’ (available on Lethem’s own website http://www.jonathanlethem.com/the_collector.html).

The seminar is a taster of a one day symposium on Lethem organised by Dr. Joe Brooker, taking place at Birkbeck on Saturday July 10th which Lethem will attend as well as taking part in a concluding Q&A session. For more details see http://www.bbk.ac.uk/eh/news/lethem_symposium.

For further information and copies of the reading materials contact the convenors, Zara Dinnen (zara.dinnen@googlemail.com) and Tony Venezia (a.venezia@english.bbk.ac.uk), or just turn up on the night. You can also access the reading via the events page on the Dandelion network. We look forward to seeing you there.

Following the seminar we will relocate to the convivial atmosphere of a local public house to continue discussion
Comment by Tony Venezia on June 9, 2010 at 20:55
Thanks to everyone who came last night - the turn out was quite impressive for our first session with about 16 people showing up and around half hanging about for drinks at the Institute of Education bar where discussion continued in a congenial and convivial environment. Special thanks to Zara for leading the session and raising some interesting points. Some people have continued debate via email, so hopefully they'll post comments on here on McCarthy, Kaufman, and trauma (& beyond). The next seminar will be on Jonathan Lethem, July 8th, again in room 103 in 30 Russell Square, 6-730pm. The event will be an appetiser for a symposium at Birkbeck on Lethem on July 10 put together by Dr. Joe Brooker. More details to come.
Comment by Tony Venezia on May 25, 2010 at 12:03
Daniel Clowes, Chris Ware, Audrey Niffenegger in conversation 24th May, Cochrane Theatre, Southampton Row, London

Possibly the most laid back panel in the history of Comica, this event brought together David Clowes and Chris Ware in conversation with prose/graphic novelist Audrey Niffeneger. The evening at the Cochrane theatre in Holborn was packed out with an enthusiastic if noticeably slackerdemic audience. Although the conversation manage to cover a lot of ground (including some at times almost surreal riffing on the importance of the city of Chicago), the night was basically pegged on Clowes recent 'Wilson', his first 'graphic novel' (i.e. it wasn't serialised in 'Eightball' first). 'Wilson' is a hilarious and thoroughly Beckettian piece, both in terms of its utterly unsympathetic, bitter, and anti-social eponymous character and in the narrative's austere and repetitive structure. Clowes pointed out that whereas most of his characters are motivated by ego or superego, Wilson was pure id. Replying to a question by Niffenegger on ambiguity in stories, Clowes spoke about how he'd ended up with too much material which he kept cutting back leaving a pleasingly frustrating narrative full of omissions and ellipses (is Wilson a first name or surname? Why does he end up in prison? etc.). For a great review see Paul Gravett's website:


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