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OCCT Discussion Group - Michaelmas 2017
In Michaelmas 2017 the OCCT Discussion Group followed a format that had proven highly popular last year: our sessions were structured as an experiment in comparative reading out of context. This format sought to pull readers out of their comfort zone by asking them to compare passages from literary texts without the usual background (biographical information, historical context, etc.) that covertly informs our reading. In doing so, we shed light on our own biases as scholars, and sharpened our critical practice.
No advance reading was required. Each session began by exposing participants to two short excerpts from literary texts that we thought invited a productive comparison; however, all details surrounding the texts were undisclosed (authors, titles, time periods, original languages, etc.). We began with a conversation with an invited guest, a faculty member involved with OCCT, before opening the floor for discussion. Halfway through each session, the conveners revealed the identity of the authors and provided further background about the abstracts in question. For the remainder of each session, we continued the discussion by gradually moving to broader theoretical issues raised by the juxtaposition of the two texts and our reactions to them.
Our guests were: Matthew Reynolds, Professor of English and Comparative Criticism and Chair of OCCT, in week 2; Laura Lonsdale, Associate Professor of Spanish, in week 4; and Marilyn Booth, Khalid bin Abdullah Al Saud Professor in the Study of the Contemporary Arab World, in week 6. We met on Mondays of even weeks (week 2: 16 October, week 4: 30 October, week 6: 13 November, week 8: 27 November) at 12:45pm-2pm, in Seminar Room 3 at St Anne's, over sandwiches, fruit and coffee.