|Professor Jim English|
On Wednesday March 5, 2014, the English Department’s British and Postcolonial Cluster hosted Professor Jim English (University of Pennsylvania) for an exciting lecture entitled, “Translated from the English: British Reality on the Global Screen.” This fantastic event was co-hosted by the University Honors Program and was made possible by a generous gift from English alum Sharyn Rosenblum (BA '86).
English, who is a distinguished scholar of modern and contemporary British writing and has published numerous acclaimed books, including The Global Future of English Studies (Blackwell, 2012) and The Economy ofPrestige: Prizes, Awards, and the Circulation of Cultural Value (Harvard,2005), spoke to a packed house of nearly 100 undergraduates, graduate students, and faculty members.
The lecture itself, which was derived from a longer project Prof. English has been working on concerning the cultural meaning of Britishness in the present, traced the ways that the British culture industry has, over the course of the past few decades, circulated numerous localizable and tremendously popular cultural formats, the ubiquity of which testifies to the enduring and even neo-imperial reach of Britain in the world. For example, Professor English was interested in pointing out the British origins of competition show formats like American Idol and Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, which, although known by these names in the USA, are formats that have been circulated and become popular in many different geographical and linguistic spaces. Moreover, English proposed various ways in which we can understand these formats as a product of a much longer history of British documentary filmmaking. The documentary tradition’s longstanding interest in naturalistic depictions of social reality was convincingly positioned as part of the cultural heritage of reality TV as exported in customizable formats: American Idol, Arab Idol, Bangladeshi Idol, Chinese Idol, Deutschland sucht den Superstar, to name just a few.
This was a great event that students really enjoyed and the British and Postcolonial Cluster is looking forward to many more such events!
Many thanks to Professor English for taking the time to visit and Sharyn Rosenblum for her generous contribution.
Commentary on the event was written by
GW Professor Daniel DeWispelare.