CHK provides a focus for research as well as providing a forum for the development of new research collaborations and exchange, identifying shared research interests across staff within the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences and promoting the diverse but related activities pertaining to cultural enquiry represented within the Faculty. It is committed to innovative disciplinary and interdisciplinary research, and its members are engaged in a wide range of research activities, which include collaborative projects, the production of the internationally recognised Cinema Journal, and a number of current and future publications. The group regularly meets to provide a forum for the development of these research activities, including the organisation of conferences, research seminars, and the invitation of visiting speakers.
Although we often envision post-Reformation churches as whitewashed and austere, most were busy with commemorative objects in all media. Monuments of stone, wood, glass, and brass stood alongside memorials painted on walls and pillars of churches. Manuscript poems were posted on monuments or mounted on wood and hung. This research excavates and transcribes a repertoire of religious beliefs embedded in memorial artefacts, revealing how theology and doctrine are 'incarnated' in objects. The children 'Anonymus & Richard', locked in an eternal embrace on their parents' monument, embody the theological dispute as to whether infants dying before baptism could be saved: one child was baptised and christened before his death, the other not – but both are assumed to have attained salvation.
In 2010, I began a long-term partnership with Surrey County Council and Guildford Borough Council around Lewis Carroll (Charles Dodgson) and his association with Guildford and the surrounding area. Dodgson rented a house, The Chestnuts, in the centre of Guildford, from 1868, and visited regularly until his death in 1898. His sisters and other family members were part of the community until well into the 20th century. My collaboration with the two councils has led to a co-curated exhibition at Guildford Museum, a website designed by a former KU PhD student and field-tested in local sheltered accommodation and schools, and extensive research of archival documents in Surrey History Centre, Woking. My research has significantly shaped Guildford Council policy, leading to a major ELF bid of approximately £6m to redevelop the museum with a focus on Carroll, and a city-wide plan to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Alice in Wonderland, in 2015. From my position inside the process, I plan to research and publish articles about 'Anniversaries of Alice', from 1932 to the present day.
The project Goth Music: From Sound to Subculture by Isabella van Elferen and Jeffrey Weinstock (Central Michigan University) analyses the ways in which music structures imaginaries, fantasies, and identifications in the goth subculture. While existing sociological studies of the goth subculture have tended to neglect the role of music in this scene, Goth Music argues that music is fundamentally constitutive of the goth experience. Charting the characteristics of goth music, we investigate it as characterised by specific thematic and musical qualities that produce affective responses in fans and listeners. We argue that these responses give rise to goth musical chronotopes, spectro-acoustic timespaces that are driven by the desires of "musicking" (Small) subject. These chronotopes play out thematically in a continuum ranging between fantasy, Gothic, horror, steampunk and science fiction. Their strong performativity leads to a musical disruption of the present and of a "unified subject with finite ego boundaries" (McClary). This disruptive musical experience is a crucial factor in the identification patterns in the goth scene. The book resulting from this project will be published in the Routledge series Studies in Popular Music in 2015.
Early modern theology and devotional practices maintain that if communication with a divine reality would be possible, it would most likely be found in silence. Interestingly, some of the most poignant evocations of the metaphysical reach of silence can be found in music, the most sonic of expressive forms. J.S. Bach's cantata "Mann lobet Gott in der Stille" (BWV 120), for instance, emphasises in elaborate vocal and instrumental textures that silence is preferable over sound. Silence itself, moreover, is problematic, too. John Cage has painstakingly pointed out that no real silence exists as long as one is alive: silence represents the infinite, like in Christian conceptions of divine temporality. Absolute silence is only possible in the infinite realm beyond life, in the metaphysical Nothing described by Martin Heidegger. The silence in which religious experience seeks God, thus, is sublime and desirable as well as unattainable and frightening. Conceptualising the silence in early modern theology through a combination of Heideggerian metaphysics and musical phenomenolgy, this project aims to shed new light on Baroque musical silence. I sing silence in Bach's aria "Stumme Seufzer, stille Klage" from cantata BWV 199. Can music convey sacred silence?