Accepted paper:

Screening the surface: theories, texts, texture


Rebecca Coleman (Goldsmiths, University of London)
Liz Oakley-Brown (Lancaster University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper maps out an emerging field of ‘surface studies’ in relation to our respective interests in early modern embodiment, contemporary images and screens. We make connections across these seemingly diverse areas, and consider what a focus on surfaces does to textual analyses and approaches.

Paper long abstract:

In the Arts and Social Sciences, theoretical consideration of the surface is widespread and diverse. For example, in Film and Animation Studies, Art and Anthropology, critics such as Vivian Sobchack (2008) and Tim Ingold (2007) have analysed subjectivity, line and surface; in English, History and Cultural Studies, Claudia Benthien (2004), Steven Connor (2004), Elspeth Probyn (2005), Patricia Cahill (2009) and Tanya Pollard (2010) have scrutinised the historical significance of skin as a surface; in Sociology, there is increased concern with flatness, association and networks (Bruno Latour 2005, Lisa Adkins and Celia Lury 2009). In this paper we begin to map out this field in relation to our own research on bodies and skin in Shakespeare, and particularly in As You Like It (Oakley-Brown, forthcoming) and bodies, contemporary images and screens (Coleman 2012). Our aim is to make connections across these seemingly diverse disciplinary areas and case studies, and in particular, via ideas about texture, to consider what a focus on surfaces does to textual analyses and approaches. For example, Oakley-Brown argues that an interest in Shakespearian surfaces highlights a complex relationship between skin and spectator, embodiment and the senses, so that ultimately, the Shakespearian text rests on the performers' skin. Coleman concentrates on screens as surfaces that bring specific kinds of bodies to life, and argues that this indicates that images function not so much texts to be read, as materialities that are felt and lived out. The paper thus critically examines the relations between cultural processes, materiality and surfaces.

panel WMW12
Surfaces: contesting boundaries between materials, mind and body