PUBLIC LECTURE: INSIGNIFICANCE

On the evening Tuesday 26 MarchProfessor Alec Charleswill give his inaugural public lecture at the University of Winchester. The lecture will take place in the Stripe lecture theatre and will start at 18.00. Complimentary refreshments will be served afterwards. Tickets are free and can be booked here.

The subject of the lecture is ‘Insignificance’. 

“Meaning isn’t in intention but in interpretation,” Alec explains. “The substance of meaning isn’t what I mean to say but how you understand it. It sometimes feels like there’s an unbridgeable gap between those two things. As such, every interpretation is a really misinterpretation.” 

Alec argues that meaning takes place through its own failures to mean. This paradox is not necessarily unproductive. We can find significance of some sort in the ostensibly insignificant. Or, as he puts it, “sometimes it’s the little things that mean the most.”

Alec supposes therefore that we might usefully apply the close critical strategies which were once developed to analyse the works of such complex artists as Pablo Picasso and James Joyce to attempt to illuminate rather less esoteric texts. 

“My own work’s awfully eclectic,” he says. “In recent years, I’ve tried to use the ideas of cultural theory to re-interpret tabloid news reports, the politics of social media and even Doctor Who.”

Alec’s two most recent books have explored the symbolic meanings of animals in the news and the irrational logic of the tweets of Donald Trump. 

“Those things will certainly feature in the talk,” he adds. “But I’m also interested in how social media empower their users to adopt the kind of deconstructive tactics which were once the closely guarded province of academia.”

The outcomes of such practices might, he suggests, be simultaneously insightful, liberating and fun.

We certainly hope so – and we hope to see you at what might, at the very least, be an entertaining evening at the University of Winchester. 

“And there’ll be a chance for a drink and a chat afterwards,” Alec reminds us. “That’s the most important part.”

Alec Charles is the Dean of the Faculty of Arts at the University of Winchester. He has worked as a newspaper, magazine and broadcast journalist, and has taught at universities in Eastern Europe, Japan, Cornwall, Chester, Luton and Hull, as well as at a Zimbabwean secondary school. He is a convenor of the Political Studies Association’s Media Group, and has done voluntary work for the Labour Party and London Zoo.

He has edited several books, including Media in the Enlarged Europe(2009), The End of Journalism(2014) and Media/Democracy: A Comparative Study(2013). He is the author of Interactivity: New Media, Politics & Society(2012), Out of Time: The Deaths & Resurrections of Doctor Who(2015), Political Animals: News of the Natural World(2016) and Underwords: Re-reading the Subtexts of Modernity(2018). He has also written for British PoliticsBritish Journalism ReviewJournalism EducationUtopian StudiesScience Fiction StudiesScience Fiction Film & Televisionand the Journal of Popular Television, and has contributed regularly to The Conversation website.

When: Tuesday 26  March 2019
Time: 6pm lecture followed by refreshments
Place: The Stripe, King Alfred Quarter, Sparkford Road, Winchester, SO22 4NR

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