Cultures of Madness Seminar – Haunting, alienation & uncertain selves: White is For Witching (24 January 2023)

Haunting, alienation & uncertain selves: White is For Witching

Tuesday, 24th January, 4-5pm, Zoom

Register here to receive Zoom link:  

Join Kelechi Anucha, Veronica Heney, and Arya Thampuran for a discussion of Helen Oyeyemi’s captivating 2009 novel White is for Witching. The novel follows Miranda Silver, a young woman who has lost her mother, and whose experiences of grief and mental distress are intertwined with the malevolent presence and even actions of the family home, The Silver House. Refusing conventions of genre and form the novel draws variously on gothic, magical realist, and Afro-Caribbean folklore to create a dazzling prism of both urgency and instability. Through this multiplicity of uncertain hauntings the reader is encouraged to engage with themes of (un)reality, hostile spaces, and what it means to both consume and be consumed. Following initial prompts and provocations, the event will prioritise wide-ranging discussion between all attendees, as we explore the complexities and nuances of this extraordinary text.

“The first madness was that we were born”: Cultures of Madness in 21st Century Writing

Hosted by the University of Durham Institute for Medical Humanities, the ‘Cultures of Madness’ seminar series attempts to consider the representation of madness and mental distress in innovative and important literary texts published across the previous two decades. In particular the series draws on a wide range of fiction and memoir to explore the different frames and conceptual structures through which madness, mental distress, and non-normative mental states are understood, experienced, and represented. Drawing on Decolonial, Neuroqueer, and Mad approaches the series draws into relation gender, race, class, and sexuality to consider genre, form, voice, and structure in 21st century literatures of madness. 

Rather than academic presentations, each event will begin with brief reflections from the co-convenors, introducing the text(s) and offering conceptual frameworks, pressing questions, or areas of potential exploration. For the following 40 minutes all attendees will be welcomed to participate in wide-ranging discussion, exploring what it means to ‘read madness’ through and with the text, or alternatively what it means to read the text through and with our experiences of madness. The series explicitly does not focus on the presentation of existing work; rather we hope to centre and enable the broad exploration of cultural texts, the sharing of ideas and conceptual frameworks, and the opportunity to generate innovative critical vocabularies for the discussion of mental distress and madness in cultural texts. 

Full Seminar Series – dates for your diary, Eventbrite pages to follow.

The Vegetarian, Han Kang – Tuesday 8th November 2022

White is for Witching, Helen Oyeyemi – Tuesday 24th January 2023

Freshwater, Akwaeke Emezi – Tuesday 21st March 2023

The Terrible, Yrsa Daley-Ward & I want to die but I want to eat Tteokbokki, Baek Sehee – Tuesday 23rd May 2023


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