Ms Hayley Toth

Ms Hayley Toth

PhD Candidate

Summary: I am broadly interested in the writing and reading of postcolonial literatures in English. I am especially concerned with migrant fiction and have secondary research interests in spatial theory.

Location: School of English

Overview

My thesis effectively attempts to develop a theory of postcolonial reader-response. I engage with Wolfgang Iser’s reader-response theory (1978; 2000), specifically his understanding of meaning as an exchange that takes place in the liminal space between reader and text. For the text to be capable of entering into an exchange with the reader, I argue for a reconsideration of the text-as-actor, drawing on object-oriented ontologies (Latour; Bennett; Johnson). The advantage of considering the text-as-actor and meaning as an exchange between actors, is that we are afforded an alternative to the objectification of the text and, as such, the consolidation of the reader as self, as subject, and as covert meaning-producer. This conceptualisation of meaning as an exchange makes explicit the reader’s role in the production of textual meaning, and thus the political responsibilities of ‘reading’ the other, but my articulation of the text-as-actor also makes plain the text’s capacity to resist conclusive analysis by self-archived epistemologies.

My rearticulation of Iser’s reader-response theory also sees his ‘reader’ split into the reading self and the self-in-the-world. The formulation of the reader allows the act of reading to be both material and textual at the same time: the reading self engages with the text’s literariness whilst the self-in-the-world strives to translate the text into the world and thereby increase the material stakes of the text. I account for the discrepancy between the self-in-the-world and reading self’s ‘contact’ with the text through affect theory (Gregg and Seigworth; Deleuze and Guattari; Massumi; Braidotti). Affect theory resolves the problems of objectification, appropriation and commodification as it undermines the subject/object relationship of reader and text. Reader and text no longer hold stable positions as subject and object; rather, as I rearticulate each as actorly, affective ‘bodies,’ the reader is opened up to being affected by text, and the text is capable of affecting on its own terms.

I argue that this new model of reading harnesses the relational potential of ethics and politics at one in the same time. The participation of the reading self is described as political, according to theories of political friendship (Aristotle, 1239; Arendt, 1958, 1968; Derrida, 1993; Spivak, 2003; 2012). The participation of the self-in-the-world is described as ethical, in recognition that it is the self-in-the-world that calls up the material differences, and possible unevenness, of the world and of the readerly encounter. My preservation of the liminal space of meaning is key to this conclusion; in as much as it occupies a hinterland between self-in-the-world, reading self and text, the liminal space provides access to the advantages of both ethics and politics.

Other Research Interests:

  • Critical and cultural theory
  • Quantum fiction, speculative fiction
  • London fiction, representations of London
  • Cartography
  • Digital humanities: specifically, geographic information systems (GIS)

Publications:

  • Toth, Hayley G. (2017) 'No Longer Young and Not Yet Old' London: Spatio-Temporal Ambivalence in Hanif Kureishi's Something to Tell You, Identity Papers: A journal of British and Irish Studies, 3(1). ISSN 2058-6205. Available from: http://eprints.hud.ac.uk/id/eprint/32595/

Conference Papers:

  • Urban Embodiment in Xiaolu Guo's A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers at EACLALS Triennial Conference: 'Performing the Urban: Embodiments, Inventories, Rhythms,' University of Oviedo, April 2017
  • Re-articulating 'the journey' in Salman Rushdie's The Satanic Verses: "make it something we can use" at 'Global Literature and Culture Postgraduate Forum, University of York, November 2016
  • “Delectable Transgressions” and the Neither/Nor in Hanif Kureishi’s Something to Tell You at 'Self and Society,’ University of Huddersfield, June 2016
  • “Delectable Transgressions” and the Neither/Nor in Hanif Kureishi’s Something to Tell You at ‘Masculinity and the Metropolis,’ University of Kent, April 2016

Conference Organisation:

  • I co-organised, alongside Nicholas Gardiner, the University of Huddersfield’s annual English Literature and Creative Writing Postgraduate Conference, entitled ‘Self and Society’.

Teaching Responsibilities:

  • Writing Critically (Level 1), 2017/18

 

Awards:

  • Inga-Stina Ewbank Scholarship, University of Leeds, 2016-20
  • EACLALS Triennial Grant, 2017
  • Vice Chancellor’s Scholarship, University of Huddersfield, 2015-16
  • Outstanding Contribution to the Academic Community, 2015
  • Highest Overall Mark (English Language & English Literature, BA), 2015

Other Activities:

  • Co-Leader of Harehills Bibliotherapy Reading Group, as part of the Reading with Refugees and Asylum Seekers initiative. See https://bibliotherapyhubleeds.wordpress.com/ for further information.