Research seminars are integral to academic life at CHSTM. We maintain two regular, wide-ranging seminar series. These seminars are open to anyone who is interested: students, fellow academics and the wider public - all welcome.
CHSTM Research Seminars
Our principal seminar runs once per fortnight during each teaching semester. We aim to produce a varied programme featuring invited speakers from institutions across Britain and the world, ranging from well-known senior figures to promising younger members of the profession.
We are particularly keen to foster an interdisciplinary atmosphere; alongside all aspects of the history of science, technology and medicine, our speakers' institutional backgrounds have included science studies, cultural history, social anthropology, museums work and many other fields.
Unless otherwise indicated, meetings will take place in the CHSTM Seminar Room, 2.57 Simon Building (see the University's maps and travel page for directions).
Wednesday 28 October, 4pm
Our speaker is CHSTM’s own Ian Burney. Ian will be giving an update on the project that he was working on last year at the National Humanities Center in the US. The title of his talk is ‘Staging Innocence: Erle Stanley Gardner’s “Court of Last Resort”and the Imaginative Landscapes of Frontier Justice in post-war America,’ and you can find the abstract below.
Abstract: We live in an age of innocence consciousness. Since the first US case of post-conviction DNA exoneration in 1989, national advocacy organizations have championed the cause of potentially innocent prisoners, raised public awareness, and promoted policy reform. These developments have been hailed as the dawn of a new moral, legal and scientific order – an ‘innocence revolution’ – driven by a unique set of contemporary forces: principled critique criminal justice bias, media advocacy, and the declarative power of forensic genomics. But, of course, the pursuit of innocence has a history, and in my talk I will consider one of its more colorful chapters – a post-war experiment in the public pursuit of justice driven by Erle Stanley Gardner’s ‘Court of Last Resort.’
Best known today as the creator of Perry Mason, the intrepid attorney who successfully cleared underdogs caught up in false criminal charges, in 1948 Gardner established his ‘Court’ as a group of handpicked freelance ‘experts’ in law and criminal investigation charged with investigating possible cases of wrongful conviction. Its work was publicized in feature articles in one of America’s leading popular men’s magazines – the Argosy.
In my presentation I’ll first give you a progress report on the project, including a chapter outline for the book as I now see it. I’ll then present a ‘taster’ of the type of material, and the type of analysis, I’m working with. The cornerstone of the book is the relationship between Gardner’s conceptualization of his project and the representational space in which it was articulated – that is, Argosy magazine . To succeed, the Court required an ‘engaged’ public following, and in turn the means of achieving this depended on the nature of the ‘public’ being solicited. The generic features of the post-war men’s magazine industry presented Gardner with a well-specified set of textual and visual themes from which he might forge links between individual readers and his projected collective cause.
In the ‘taster’ I’ll focus on one such trope, one that was a staple of this publishing genre, but one that also resonated well beyond it: the lure of the Western frontier. Through an analysis of the Court’s first published case – featuring a shoot-out set in the Southern Californian desert – I’ll show how the frontier figured at once as a physical space and as a site for conceiving and acting out a set of highly stylized values that Gardner sought to associate with his quest for an authentic version of American liberty and justice.
Lunchtime (Work in Progress) Seminars
This is a less formal weekly series of half-hour papers and work-in-progress reports. The lunchtime seminar provides valuable experience for graduate students from CHSTM and elsewhere who may be presenting for the first time, and also helps members of the CHSTM community to keep up to date with each other's research.
The lunchtime seminar series runs throughout the academic year every alternate Tuesday, 1-2pm. Currently all seminars are held remotely, via Zoom. Each semester's lunchtime seminar series is organised by postgraduates within the Centre. The current organiser is Michaela Clark.
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