English Seminar: Cheryl O’Byrne and Paul Scully
A Meditation on the Ethics of Kate Grenville’s One Life (Cheryl O’Byrne)
In the prologue of One Life: My Mother’s Story (2015), Kate Grenville describes herself looking through the “fragments” of memoir her deceased mother had written. Following this prologue is a seamless, third-person chronicle of the first forty years of her mother’s life. In interviews and other epitexts Grenville has revealed the extent to which she supplemented her mother’s fragments with guesswork in order to construct this cohesive story and, accordingly, I begin this paper by considering One Life in relation to what Donna Lee Brien (2017) calls “speculative biography.” I discuss the speculation as a tool that allows Grenville to give voice to a life that would otherwise remain silent and to offer it to a readership as an accessible, representative story. I then complicate this claim by asking to what extent this achievement is undermined both by Grenville’s choice to efface herself in the mother’s story and by the way in which her speculation might precipitate an appropriative “identification aesthetics” theorists such as Janet Beizer (2009) decry. After weighing these two perspectives, I conclude by drawing on the work of Lucia Boldrini (2012) to suggest that some of Grenville’s narratological choices might mitigate concerns about the book’s ethics.
The Original Doubter (Paul Scully)
St. Thomas the Apostle is the “original doubter” who has spawned a sobriquet connoting an elemental propensity to doubt that has entered common parlance. This attribution derives, for the most part, from only very brief mentions in the Gospel of John, though there is a copious apocryphal literature in his name unfamiliar to many, if not most, Christians. Thomas’ name means “twin”, yet his twinship is undefined. To some Thomas is an emblematic figure, to others a figure of scorn for his insistence on proof of the risen Christ. He is worshipped/revered in Catholic, Orthodox, Christian and Gnostic traditions. This talk will examine aspects of the life of St. Thomas and will presents poems inspired by this analysis
MECO Seminar Room S226
John Woolley Building (A20)
The University of Sydney