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Tuesday, 23 October 2012


First reading group this Friday!

(26 October, 4-6pm, Northumbria University, Lipman 121)


Please join us this Friday (26/10) for the inaugural session of the INDUSTRY IN THEORY reading group.
Industry in Theory will follow the same structure as its earlier, highly-successful counterparts 'Objects in Theory' and 'Spaces in Theory'. In the sessions we will engage with familiar and lesser known theorists alongside a range of literary and nonliterary primary sources, which broadly relate to the theme of industry.
We are hoping to bring people together from across the arts and social sciences in a friendly and informal setting.
Our first session will be led by Laurie McKee, a recent postdoc from Northumbria University and a founding member of the 'In Theory' groups.
It will be on the theme of Commerce and Productive Labour.
We will be discussing the chapter entitled 'Absolute and Relative Surplus-Value' from Karl Marx's Capital which can be found here:
These themes will be examined in relation to Thomas Dekker's The Shoemaker's Holiday, focusing on Act 2, Scene 3 which can be found here:
and Act 3, Scene 1, here:
Please do not hesitate to contact us at if you require any further information.
We will look forward to seeing you all then!

Summary of The Shoemaker's Holiday

A brief summary of the literary text we will be examining this week by our presenter Laurie McKee:
The Shoemaker’s Holiday (1599)
This is a strange comedy by Thomas Dekker, one of the many apprentice plays which were popular in the period. I’ve chosen this play because of its fascination with work, productivity and labour.  There’s a decent summary of the play on good old Wikipedia:'s_Holiday but I thought I’d briefly explain what’s happening in the scenes we’re looking at:

Act 2, scene 3: Simon Eyre the shoemaker calls his wife, Margery, to sweep the gutters outside his shoe shop, and calls his apprentice boys to rise for work (but not in such a polite manner). His boys appear, as does Margery, who he instructs to “call up the drabs” – the maids. These include Cicily Bumtrinket (!), who is in charge of waxing the thread for shoelaces.

Hugh Lacy, an aristocrat, has disguised himself as a Dutch shoemaker named Hans and wanders past the shoe shop singing in Dekker’s bizarre approximation of a Dutch dialect. The apprentices urge Eyre to hire Hans because he makes them laugh and they assume he’ll be cheap labour and “consume little beef”.  After confirming that Hans has all his own tools, Eyre agrees and instructs his wife and maids to make the men breakfast.

Act 3, scene 1:  Lacy / Hans comes across a ship from Crete full of valuable commodities including “sugar, civet, almonds”. The skipper of the ship urges Hans to buy it on behalf of Simon Eyre because it will ensure his master a good profit.

Firke worries that Margery will scold him for loitering around the streets and not working. But Eyre is quick to leap to the defence of his “brave shoemakers”, instructing his wife to vanish” and “melt like kitchen stuff”.

Hodge and Firke explain that they are currently making shoes for the Lord Mayor’s daughter and her maid. Eyre replies that they should not be concerned with the feet of (again) “kitchen stuff” or “basting ladles” – they should leave these jobs to the foreigner Hans and only work for “ladies of the Court”.

Hans introduces Eyre to the captain and loans Eyre enough money to buy the cargo. Eyre “takes advantage of his status as London citizen to buy cheap from an economically excluded alien [the Dutch merchant who “dares not show his head”] and then sell dear, later” (John Michael Archer, “Citizens and Aliens as Working Subjects in Dekker’s The Shoemaker’s Holiday,” in Working Subjects in Early Modern English Drama, ed. Michelle M. Dowd and Natasha Korda (Ashgate, 2011), 37-52. 44).

Friday, 19 October 2012

First Industry In Theory Session on Productive Labour in Marx's Capital

You’ve enjoyed Objects in Theory and Spaces in Theory- now join us for the inaugural session of Industry in Theory - launching on Friday 26 October, 4-6pm in Lipman 121 (followed by a trip to The Carriage).

The evening’s theme will be Commerce, and Laurie McKee will lead a discussion on Productive Labour in Marx’s Capital, with reference to Thomas Decker’s The Shoemaker’s Holiday. We hope to see you there!

Thursday, 11 October 2012

The Start of Industry In Theory!

Sarah Lill and myself, Guy Mankowski, are honoured to be taking over the great work of the Objects In Theory group with a new postgraduate reading group this year. And we've chosen the title 'Industry in Theory'.

It's an informal (possibly wine-fulled) reading group held monthly for PGR students and members of staff at Northumbria University. We'll meet once a month on a Friday afternoon and we are keen to bring together students from across the across and social sciences to take part. The group will be followed by a customary trip to the Carriage pub over the road. 

In the session we will employ a critical theory alongside a range of literary and nonliterary primary sources. In short, we hope to apply a theoretical reading to a particular "text". The word "text" is used in the loosest possible sense- previous groups have included short stories, poetry, film and other types of media, art work, pictures etc and we are keen to encourage this diversity!

For this academic year the theoretical texts all broadly relate to the theme of 'industry'.

If you would like to present, this involves choosing your theory from the list provided (or another related theory if you strongly wish!) and picking some type of text or primary source. The presenter will initiate the discussion and chair it although the majority of the thinking will be done collaborately with everyone offering their own opinions.

Below is a list of dates we have planned, as well as key themes and theories for your persual. Please do get in touch if you would like to be involved- either by commenting below or emailing us at

Dates of Sessions -

(All held 4-6pm in Lipman 121)

Friday 26 October
Friday 23 November
Friday 14 December
Friday 25 January
Friday 22 February
Friday 22 March
Friday 10 May

Key themes –
  • The City (Walter Benjamin, Charles Baudelaire)
  • Conformity and Subculture (Judith Butler, Hebdige)
  • Commerce (Marxist theories)
  • Society and culture (Rivkin and Ryan The Politics of Culture, Bourdieu)
  • The Sublime (Immanuel Kant, Edmund Burke)
  • Power (Foucault)
  • Ownership (Marx, John Locke, David Hume, Jeremy Bentham)
  • Book History/Typography (Zwicker, McKenzie, McKiterick, Cambridge History of The Book)
  • Construction / Architecture
  • Warfare (psychoanalytic causes, Klein and Fornari) or evolutionary (Pinker).
  • Labour (Marx & Engels, Adam Smith, David Ricardo)

Theories –
  • Karl Marx, Capital: Critique of Political Economy.
  • Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish.
  • Walter Benjamin, The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction.
  • Judith Butler, ‘Performative Acts and Gender Constitution’ in Gender Trouble: Feminisma dn the Subversion of Identity.
  • Immanuel Kant, Answering the Question: What is Enlightenment?
  • Edmund Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France.
  • Johannes Gutenberg, influence of the ’42-line Bible’.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Industry in Theory launches Friday 26th of October in Lipman 121, Northumbria University.  More details to follow...