Singing sorry: The public apology and modern literature

Featured Video Play Icon

We increasingly see public apologies in public life and literary works alike: they are enacted in contexts ranging from the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission to the Australian government’s apology to the Stolen Generation, to the iconic genuflection of Willy Brandt before the Warsaw Ghetto Monument. While research surrounding public apology (particularly in the context of work on trauma, memory and reconciliation) has also become increasing prevalent, literary representations of public apology remain under-researched. Works such as J. M. Coetzee’s ‘Disgrace’, and Gail Jones’ ‘Sorry’ present something of a scholarly conundrum. In the final historical and cultural assessment of public apologies, how are imaginative representations of apologies to be understood? Do they participate in the apologising process, or do they simply describe it? What implications does a judgement either way hold for scholarship on the larger relations between art and civic life?

About Dr Bridget Vincent:
Bridget Vincent is an Assistant Professor in Modern and Contemporary Poetry at the University of Nottingham. After completing a PhD at Cambridge University, she taught at Selwyn College and Magdalene College and then was a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University of Melbourne from 2012 to 2015. Her research lies in the field of twentieth-century British and Irish literature, with particular emphases on poetics, modernism and the civic role of writing. In 2014 she founded the Australian Youth Humanities Forum, a humanities counterpart to the National Youth Science Forum, designed to further public dialogue about the civic role of the humanities and, in particular, to encourage participation by students from underrepresented backgrounds. At Nottingham she is working on a public program about poets and civic representation called Laureates Then and Now, which also aims to foster academic, creative and community dialogue. She was recently shortlisted for the AHRC/BBC New Generation Thinkers program for 2016. View more information about Bridget

Dr Bridget Vincent, 2006 John Monash Scholar
Assistant Professor in Modern and Contemporary Poetry, University of Nottingham

About The Change Agenda:
The inaugural John Monash Scholars’ Symposium, The Change Agenda: Leadership and Direction for Australia’s Future, was held in Oxford on 1 April 2016. The UK and Europe based John Monash Scholars used short bite size presentations to inform a conversation on global trends, and provoke discussion about appropriate responses to them. Each area of discussion, Drivers of Change, Our Human Response, Harnessing Technology, and Leading the Region,  included 5-6 presentations, was chaired by an eminent Australian and took questions from the floor.