Posts By / bthomas

NRG talk on the Novelization of Comics in the 1970s

The next in the series of Narrative Research Group talks will take place on Wednesday 26 February at 4 p.m in CAG06. Paul Williams, Lecturer in Twentieth-Century Literature at the University of Exeter, will examine the ways in which ‘the novel’ was used in the 1970s to conceptualise ambitious comic projects. Although Will Eisner’s A Contract with God (1978) is frequently hailed as the threshold text popularising the ‘graphic novel’, it was one of several projects whereby comics were published in book form for adult readers in the 1970s. The talk will establish the different modes of production open to creators aiming for long, complete narratives. By outlining the main publication routes available at the time, we can start to explain why 1978 saw an exponential growth in book-bound comics for adult readers, before numbers dropped in 1979 and 1980.

Paul Williams is Lecturer in Twentieth-Century Literature at the University of Exeter, where he has been working since 2008. He has written on a wide range of genres, texts and media, including Cold War literature, Vietnam War films, hip-hop music and 1970s psychotherapy; his main publications are The Rise of the American Comics Artist (2010; co-edited with James Lyons), Race, Ethnicity and Nuclear War (2011) and Paul Gilroy (2012).

NRG talk on Victorian narratives of motherhood

We are delighted to announce that Professor Emma Griffin from the University of East Anglia will be presenting a paper to the Media School’s Narrative Research Group as part of this semester’s series of talks.  The title of Emma’s paper is ‘Victorian Mothers: perspectives from working-class autobiography’, and the full abstract for Emma’s talk appears below.  The event will take place at 4p.m on 5 Feb in the Casterbridge suite. All welcome.

Historians like to imagine that emotions such as maternal love are largely constant across time and space.  They argue that mothers in earlier times loved their children in much the same way as we do today, though they accept that love was often expressed in different ways.  This paper turns to working-class autobiography to consider these claims.  It asks how the emotional ties of family life were expressed and sustained in households where space and resources were scarce.  It concludes that material deprivation had the power to undermine family relationships in ways that historians have usually been reluctant to admit.

Real Lives, Celebrity Stories Book Launch 29 January






To celebrate the publication of  Real Lives, Celebrity Stories, edited by Bronwen Thomas and Julia Round, the Media School’s Narrative Research Group will host a book launch at 3 p.m on 29 January in the Casterbridge suite.  Featuring contributions by several colleagues from the Media School, including Shaun Kimber, Peri Bradley, Darren Lilleker and Sue Thomas, the book was inspired by the first symposium organised by NRG back in 2010 and explores narratives of ordinary and extraordinary people in television, film, fan cultures, comics, politics and cyberspace.  At the launch, the editors and contributors will provide a brief introduction to each of their chapters, and light refreshments and wine will be provided. All welcome.


The Quantum Fiction of Michael Moorcock and William S. Burroughs

On Wednesday 4 December at 3p.m in TAG01, Sebastien Doubinsky from the University of Aarhus in Denmark will present a paper on the fiction of Michael Moorcock and William S. Burroughs to the Media School’s Narrative Research Group. Dr Doubinsky is a science fiction author of international renown (Absinth and the Song of SynthBabylon TrilogyQuien Es?) and also a literary critic and publisher, specialising in contemporary speculative works of poetry, criticism and fiction across four languages. All are welcome to attend and the abstract of the talk follows.

THE QUANTUM FICTION OF MICHAEL MOORCOCK AND WILLIAM S. BURROUGHS – a relative reading of The Jerry Cornelius Quartet and Nova Mob

If science-fiction is the questioning of our present through our possible future, then Moorcock and Burroughs go beyond this simplistic definition, as they also question our past. Through transparencies and cut-up techniques, they present us not only with a dystopian future, but rather with a dystopian present and future fuelled with the past. Jerry Cornelius can travel through time and the Multiverses, as well as agent Lee. The identity of the text then becomes problematic for the reader, as its polymorphous form, more often than not detached from sense, forces him into a very uncomfortable position, as “understanding” in the conventional sense becomes almost impossible. What’s more, by indicating the possibility of History through period or event references, these writers also question the coherence of fiction itself – putting it in a quantum state, that is to say in different places at the same time, with different  identities. Fiction and reality are thus displaced both within and outside of the reading frame, announcing a third possibility, which is their quintessential mirrored relativity.


NRG Future Foresight Workshop with Sue Thomas

Dr Sue Thomas was recently appointed as a Visiting Fellow in The Media School. She was formerly Professor of New Media at De Montfort University, where she established a Transdisciplinary Common Room with an emphasis on Future Foresight.  Sue works closely with members of the university’s Narrative Research Group and we are delighted that she has agreed to host this event, which will take place on Wednesday 13 November at 2p.m in CG09.  Full details of the workshop appear below. All welcome.  You can find out more about Sue and her work at


How to think about the future in order to attract funding now. With examples drawn from nature and technology.

Academics are expert in the history of their discipline, but what about its future? For example, do you know how to use your expert knowledge of, say, the history of media, to predict the media landscape of 2025 or even 3025?

This session is in two parts:

1. A brief overview of my own work on nature and technology (see ‘Technobiophilia: nature and cyberspace’, Bloomsbury, 2013) and research questions arising from it. I’m interested in working with BU colleagues on developing grant applications in this area, perhaps in fields such as the future of video games, well-being, and tourism.

2. A practical workshop on the skills of Future Foresight – what it is and how to do it. The workshop is designed to stimulate ideas for ways to apply Future Foresight to your own subject area with a view to devising grant applications.



Narrative Research Group Seminar Series

In the first NRG talk for this academic year, Hywel Dix, Senior Lecturer in English and Communication, will present a paper on “Marking and Re-marking: Tracing the Tattoo in Crime and Detective Narratives”. The abstract for Hywel’s paper follows. All are welcome to come along to the talk on Wednesday 30 October at 2p.m in TAG01.



Implicit in its straddling of two different sets of social relationship, one bourgeois and the other at least potentially subversive, the portrayal of the tattoo in recent fiction points to a radical instability in the perceived status of tattooing as social practice, and implies a contemporary shift in the status of that practice in society. Drawing on Howard Becker’s classic sociological analysis of different art worlds, this paper will analyse the portrayal of tattooing as cultural practice in Sarah Hall’s The Electric Michelangelo and Alan Kent’s Voodoo Pilchard. It will explore how much the social practice of tattooing was a subversive one in the early twentieth century; and to what extent that practice has recently become incorporated into the mainstream of fashion and consumer society. It will ask to what extent tattoos could be considered legitimate serious art in the early twentieth century and today; and to what extent the recognition of tattooing as legitimate art comes at the cost of compromising the politically transgressive potential of the practice.