English Seminar: Capitalist Realism and its Negation in Ali Alizadeh’s ‘Transactions’ – School of Literature, Art and Media English Seminar: Capitalist Realism and its Negation in Ali Alizadeh’s ‘Transactions’ – School of Literature, Art and Media

English Seminar: Capitalist Realism and its Negation in Ali Alizadeh’s ‘Transactions’

Keyvan Allahyari and Tyne Daile Sumner: The Point is to Change the World: Capitalist Realism and its Negation in Ali Alizadeh’s ‘Transactions’


Ali Alizadeh’s Transactions (UQP, 2013) is a collection of interconnected short stories about characters who languish in degrading, globalised labour conditions – a failed poet in London, an online sex-worker in Shanghai, an assassin in Dubai, and others. Throughout the collection, Alizadeh’s writing remains unsubtle and avowedly ideological; it calls for the Revolution, a decisive rupture in history arising from the deep dissatisfaction of the masses with ever-consuming and alienating work demands. This paper concerns Alizadeh’s emphasis on emblematic meaning, and the role of the artist in fomenting political action. We argue that this manifestoing quality works against the hegemonic force that the cultural critic Mark Fisher calls ‘capitalist realism’: the ‘widespread sense that not only is capitalism the only viable political and economic system, but also that it is now impossible even to imagine a coherent alternative to it.’ We examine formal tensions in Alizadeh’s short stories – inductive sentiment, declarative aesthetics, and suspicion of the rhetoric of optimisation – as its futuristic poesis. While existentially angst-ridden, these stories maintain hope for a universal and historically inevitable uprising that can only come about with gestures of negation, disruption, and antagonism.

Keyvan Allahyari is a Postdoctoral Fellow in the English Department at the University of Tübingen. He completed his PhD (2019) in contemporary Australian literature at the University of Melbourne, where he taught on sessional contracts between 2017-2021. He is currently working on a monograph about the author Peter Carey, and a book project on the militarisation of border regimes and world literature. 

Tyne Daile Sumner is a Postdoctoral Research Associate on the ARC Discovery Project Literature and the face: A critical history led by Professor Stephanie Trigg and Dr Joe Hughes (SCC) and Professor Guillemette Bollens at the University of Geneva. She is also part of an ARC LIEF project led by Professor Rachel Fensham (SCC/Digital Studio), Australian Cultural Data Engine for Research, Industry and Government designed to interconnect cultural heritage datasets from around Australia. Her research interests include C20th American poetry, surveillance, cultural theory, and Digital Humanities. She also has 10+ years’ experience in digital tools training. digital strategy and research engagement. Tyne’s monograph, Lyric Eye: The Poetics of Twentieth-Century Surveillance is forthcoming with Routledge in July 2021. On Twitter she is @tynedaile.



This event will be held online via Zoom.

Contact: Liam Semler (liam.semler@sydney.edu.au).


Upcoming English Department seminars Semester 2 2021


6 Oct


Georgia Monaghan, ‘In Search of the New York City New Woman Novel: Theodore Dreiser’s Sister Carrie and the New Woman as Actress’



13 Oct


Paul Giles, ‘Decolonizing the University’



20 Oct


Nathalie Camerlynck, ‘Raymond Federman and Samuel Beckett, or “What the fuck am I doing here in this life?”’



10 Nov


Lynda Ng, ‘Climate justice, world literature and Alexis Wright’



Sep 22 2021


3:00 pm - 4:30 pm

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