Cultural Memory

03/06/2013

I had the opportunity to participate in a poster series for Royal Holloway’s recent Society, Representation and Cultural Memory symposium, running in parallel with an all-day session on Identity, Place and Mobility. Concentrating within the Arts, Humanities and social sciences, touches on the problematic of ‘cultural memory’, the overall theme was the (in)security of cultural memory’s representation from all relevant departments. The poster session was presented as a chance to make links with other researchers and practitioners whose work might overlap or sit at an interesting tangent to one’s own.

I chose to wheel out my favourite mountweazel and throw the spotlight onto it in terms of my PhD work. My final abstract emerged as:

Confabulation
: False Evidence and the Violated Dictionary

jungftak (n.): A Persian bird, the male of which had only one wing, on the right side, and the female only one wing, on the left side; instead of the missing wings, the male had a hook of bone, and the female an eyelet of bone, and it was by uniting hook and eye that they were enable[d] to fly – each, when alone, had to remain on the ground.

Inspired by this entry in Webster’s New Twentieth Century Dictionary (1943), my presentation is a mock museum exhibit based on the details provided by the jungftak’s definition. By representing this non-existent bird’s false history as a curated artefact, I hope to illustrate my research into fake dictionary entries’ existence as burlesque hoaxes enacted within ‘reliable’ texts, and the ways in which false, creatively written portraits of this nature problematise concepts of lexicographical probity, identity, iconography and media dissemination.

jungftak

My allotted table featured preserved eggs, taxidermied feathers, commissioned artwork by Catherine Williams and an amount of PVA and questionable origami not seen since my headiest primary-school days. It was a fun day and great to see fellow presenters’ work (including exhibits by Amy Cutler, Eve Smith and Avi Tynan); thanks to Prof. David Wiles, Nik Wakefield and the faculty members for providing such a stimulting and engaging forum.

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