Thank you to everybody who took part in Beyond Speech! We were so happy to host you all in Manchester and we hope you enjoyed the conference as much as we did. We were really pleased with the range of topics, ideas, and discussions.

Here are some photos of the day and its lead-up.


Choosing from the brilliant range of abstracts…



Awaiting the keynote speech



Mary Farrelly (University of Manchester) introduced keynote speaker Dr Tom Whittaker (University of Liverpool)



Keynote speaker Tom Whittaker delivers his talk, entitled ‘Listening to Silence in Contemporary Spanish Cinema’



Keynote audience



Óscar Salgado-Suárez (Birkbeck College) on ‘Julian Rios’s Larva (1983): Liberature against Oppression’



Emily Baker (University of Cambridge) gives her talk ‘”Shaking Hands Can Be Like Disarming a Bomb”: Division by Language, Reconciliation through Touch in The Informers by Juan Gabriel Vásquez’



The Anatomies of Silence panel, L-R: Maria Tomlinson (University of Reading/University of Bristol), Kostas Stansinopoulos (University of York), Kaya Davies Hayon (University of Manchester), and chair Dr Joe McGonagle (University of Manchester)



Maria Tomlinson delivers her paper ‘The Silence Child of Sexual Abuse in Shenaz Patel’s Sensitive



Kostas Stansinopoulos speaks on ‘The Negotiating Table: Silent Wars and Speaking Subjects in the Performance Work of Mona Hatoum’



Kaya Davies Hayon gives her talk ‘Beyond Speech: The Corporeal Expression of Desire in Abdellah Taïa’s Salvation Army



Anneliese Hatton (R, University of Nottingham) kicks off the Unspeakable Subalternities panel, chaired by Prof. Hilary Owen (L, University of Manchester) with her paper ‘Overcoming the Insuperable: Strategies of Representing the Subaltern’


Lucia Llano Puertas (Goldsmiths) gives her talk ‘”The Rest is Silence”: Writing the Unspeakable in Slave Novels’



David Bailey (University of Cambridge) wraps up the Unspeakable Subalternities panel with his paper on ‘Uttering the Unutterable: Sexual Deviance in Naturalist and Pathological Novels from fin-de-siècle Portugal’



The Unspeakable Subalternities panel, L-R: David Bailey, Anneliese Hatton, Lucia Llano Puertas, and chair Hilary Owen



Anxiously awaiting our thirsty delegates in the University of Manchester School of Arts, Languages and Cultures Graduate School



Beyond Speech wraps up with a wine reception







Registration is now open!

You can order your tickets here.

Registration is free and includes lunch, and tea and coffee. As a delegate, you also have the option to join us for the conference dinner, which will be held at Red Chilli Restaurant. The cost will be around £24, payable on the day. If you would like to attend the dinner, please email us after registering at


The new frame created by the act of suicide, I suggest, resembles what Aleksandr Rodchenko, in a 1930 lecture, called “foto-kadry”: an image that deliberately fragments, reduces, and reorients a scene, rather than trying to capture it “in its entirety.” Just as Rodchenko’s photographer employs fragmentation to achieve a sharper, contestatory perception of content, to disrupt the dismal and catastrophic continuity of everyday life, so the suicidal cut creates an oblique point of view directed toward an understanding that resides beyond the social maxim, and perhaps beyond narrative itself. The fragment becomes an index, which turns the spectator into an active participant in the production of meaning.
     ’The gap thus opened up invites us to bridge it with new, or alternate, texts. Suicide provokes narrative, both a narrative inscribed by the actor as subject, and those stories devised around the suicide as enigmatic object of interpretation. For the gesture of self-destruction makes a person into both subject and object of the action. […] I want to argue that this kind of death does not close the sentence as a signifying totality. Instead, it generates multiple textual readings: legal investigations, explanatory suicide notes, allusions to other suicides.
Margaret Higonnet, ‘Frames of Female Suicide’, Studies in the Novel, 32:2 (2000), 229-42, pp. 229-30.


For Scarry, the obscene and pathetic drama of torture and power is relegated to the prisoner’s cell. For Mozambicans, by virtue of its public enactment, this drama comes to define the world at large. Scarry worked with political prisoners and Amnesty International Reports — all of whom are cast in state-sponsored institutional settings. Isolation from family and society defines their plight. Had Scarry worked in places where torture is conducted as public ritual, had she followed torture victims back into the community and seen their impact on all those who have knowledge of them, she might not have concluded so readily that pain is incommunicable. I do agree with her that pain can destroy formal language, but there are many “truths” and many ways of communicating them. […] Pain both undermines communication and communicates through a society at large. Because the infliction of pain creates an enemy, one rooted in a fraudulent claim to power, torture creates resistance to the regime by its very enactment.

Carolyn Nordstrom, A Different Kind of War Story (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1997), pp. 170-71.


Where did language come from? It’s often been described as the fundamental barrier between humans and animals. However, many scientists now believe speech evolved gradually from animal communication. Will Abberley from the University of Oxford argues that some of the most compelling efforts to picture this evolution have been in science fiction, and that these stories still impact on debates about language today.

Link to the BBC Radio 3 podcast:


In the case of massacres in particular, lifeless bodies are quickly reduced to the status of simple skeletons. Their morphology henceforth inscribes them in the register of undifferentiated generality: simple relics of an unburied pain, empty, meaningless corporealities, strange deposits plunged into cruel stupor. In the case of the Rwandan genocide—in which a number of skeletons were at least preserved in a visible state, if not exhumed—what is striking is the tension between the petrification of the bones and their strange coolness on one hand, and on the other, their stubborn will to mean, to signify something.

In these impassive bits of bone, there seems to be no ataraxia: nothing but the illusory rejection of a death that has already occurred. In other cases, in which physical amputation replaces immediate death, cutting off limbs opens the way to the deployment of techniques of incision, ablation, and excision that also have bones as their target. The traces of this demiurgic surgery persist for a long time, in the form of human shapes that are alive, to be sure, but whose bodily integrity has been replaced by pieces, fragments, folds, even immense wounds that are difficult to close. Their function is to keep before the eyes of the victim—and of the people around him or her—the morbid spectacle of severing.

Achille Mbembe, ‘Necropolitics’, trans. by Libby Meintjes, Public Culture, 15:1 (2003), 11-40, p. 35.


In the Western view, the success of Muhammad’s prophetic mission may be ascribed to social, ideological, or even military, factors. Yet Muslim sources paint a different picture. They emphasize the literary quality of the Qur’an as a decisive factor in the spread of Islam among seventh-century Arabs. They refer to the numerous stories in Muslim literature that recount the overwhelming effect of Qur’an recitation on Muhammad’s contemporaries, tales about people spontaneously converting, crying, screaming, falling into ecstasy, fainting, or even dying, while hearing verses from the Qur’an.


For Muslims, […] the aesthetic fascination with the Qur’an is an integral part of their religious tradition. It is this collective reflection on the aesthetics of the text which specifically defines the religious world of Islam. It is not the aesthetic experience as such -this seems to occur during the reception of any sacred texts. Rather it is the rationalization of aesthetic experience, culminating in a distinct theological doctrine of poetics, the i´jaz, based on the inimitability of the Qur’an. This line of reasoning -highly peculiar from a Christian perspective -involves believing in the Qur’an because the language is too perfect to have been composed by man.

Navid Kermani, ‘Silent Sirens: The language of Islam and how Osama bin Laden betrays it’, The Times Literary Supplement, October 01 2004.