Symbolic Symposium 2: Seems Familiar

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Symbolic Symposium 2: Seems Familiar

Symbolic Symposium is a series of free online talks by experts for a general audience. This second cluster of talks focuses on disguise.

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Once you register, you can attend all four talks, or just the ones that interest you most!

Join us on Friday to hear a talk from Run Gu on shapeshifters in Japanese culture. Shapeshifters are a constant popular theme in Japanese culture. Shapeshifters in early Japanese folklore transform from objects or animals to humans, and most of them are female characters pursuing marriage with human males, such as Snow Women and Crane Wife. Unlike shapeshifters in Western Literature, which are derived from punishment and curses with tragic stories, shapeshifters in Japanese culture are seen more as a pure transformation of human life into another life form. Later, virtual technology in Japanese anime granted a chance to broaden the expressions of shapeshifter themes, including cyborgs, parasitic beasts, and anthropomorphic drawings of non-human objects. With their diverse perspectives of shifting positions, shapeshifters critically examine current human and technological society, and express complex emotions like fear, confusion, aesthetic values, and expectations of heroism.

Cancelled due to illness: On Saturday Dr. Reginald Wiebe will give a talk on secret identities in superhero comics. This will be a brief survey of the secret identity in superhero stories, from its roots in fable, to its evolution in pulp fiction, to its apotheosis and disintegration in the era of the superhero movie.

Also on Saturday Dr. Paul Moffett will talk about recognition in Sir Thomas Malory's Le Morte Darthur. Knights in Le Morte Darthur seem frequently to be unable to recognize one another. In one especially memorable instance, Isolde’s lady-in-waiting recognizes Sir Tristram only by his horse, although the two humans have known each other for what we might estimate to be about twenty years. So why are Malory’s characters so very bad at recognizing faces?

Finally, on Sunday join Dr. Mikayla Hunter for a talk on disguise and recognition in Middle English romance. Motifs are the building blocks of a plot. In literary studies, narratives are often categorized by the motifs they use. But where do motifs come from? In this talk, Dr. Mikayla Hunter will look at one popular subset of motifs in medieval literature: the moment when a character recognizes the hero in disguise. How did these disguise-recognition motifs come about? Dr. Hunter explores the question from multiple angles, including medieval medical understandings of how memory and emotions work; gender roles in medieval societies; and medieval legal practices in mistaken or questioned identity cases. She then examines how authors employed and manipulated these recognition motifs in their narratives, and how a simple addition of — or twist upon — a trope can affect the way an audience experiences and understands a story.


Friday, Dec 2

14:00 GMT—"Shapeshifters in Japanese culture: From Early Folklore to Present Anime" with Run Gu

14:45 GMT—Live Q&A with Run Gu

19:00 GMT—"Shapeshifters in Japanese culture: From Early Folklore to Present Anime" with Run Gu (recorded from  14:00)

19:45 GMT—Live Q&A with Run Gu

Saturday, Dec 3

Reginald Wiebe's scheduled talk on Saturday is cancelled due to illness.

18:30 GMT—"I’m Sorry, Do I Know You?: Failures of Recognition in Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Morte Dathur" with Paul Moffett

19:15 GMT—Live Q&A with Paul Moffett

22:30 GMT—"I’m Sorry, Do I Know You?: Failures of Recognition in Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Morte Dathur" with Paul Moffett (recorded from 17:30 pm)

23:15 GMT—Live Q&A with Paul Moffett

Sunday, Dec 4

15:00 GMT—"Forget Me Not: Recognizing and Remembering in Medieval Romance" with Mikayla Hunter

15:45 GMT—Live Q&A with Mikayla Hunter

21:00 GMT—"Forget Me Not: Recognizing and Remembering in Medieval Romance" with Mikayla Hunter (recorded from 15:00)

21:45 GMT—Live Q&A with Mikayla Hunter

Symbolic Symposium 2: Seems Familiar image

Speaker Bios

Run Gu studied Physics, English literature, and Sinology in Sydney, Copenhagen, and Leuven. She currently focuses on Sinology at the University of Tübingen. Her academic interest focuses on Six Dynasties, medieval Chinese religions and philosophy, classic medicine and drugs, and pre-modern Chinese novels. She also develops a research interest in the religions' interaction with medicine, such as what role Metaphysics and Cold Food Powder plays in Six Dynasties' medical history. Run Gu is also a big football fan and a level 1 license-holder of football coach, big fan of Manchester City, and volunteered as core game organizer in UEFA EURO 2020 and will also volunteer in Qatar World Cup.

Reginald Wiebe specializes in Canadian, postcolonial, and graphic literature. His research mostly deals with comics, particularly with Marvel superheroes. A forthcoming research project explores the use of cancer in the construction of moral narratives in Marvel’s comics. He is also working on collections that examine the role of adaptation in the relationship between comics and television and the cultural capital of comicbook movies.

Paul Moffett owns and operates Clockworks Academy. He holds a Phd in medieval literature from Memorial University of Newfoundland, and an MA in English literature from the University of Manitoba. His primary research area is late medieval Arthurian romance, and especially Sir Thomas Malory. He has published academic work on the utopian vision of Alan Moore’s V for Vendetta, race in The Handmaid’s Tale, and language in Black Panther. He is also an award-winning poet and a published author of fiction.

Mikayla Hunter earned her doctorate in English from the University of Oxford and holds a Master’s degree in Medieval Studies from the University of Bristol. She has published in academic books and journals on various aspects of medieval English and French literature as well as on works of medievalism, such as Game of Thrones. Dr. Hunter prefers a socio-historical approach to her academic work, exploring the cultural and historical contexts in which narratives were (and are) created. Her research largely focuses on themes of deception, perception, and ethics in medieval and medieval-inspired literature.