FORUM: University of Edinburgh Postgraduate Journal of Culture & the Arts

Welcome to the website of FORUM, a peer-reviewed journal for postgraduate students working in culture and the arts. Our objective is to create and foster a network for the exchange and circulation of ideas; we hope that you will find plenty of interest and inspiration among the articles we have published to date.

FORUM Issue 23, Readers and Writers

From the earliest traces of etchings on stone tablets to the emergence of Kindles and e-readers in contemporary society, humans have invented platforms for the creation and dissemination of text. Implicit in each textual object are the figures of the reader and writer and their differing engagement with the work. But what does it mean to be a reader or a writer, and how does each role play a part in the shaping of a text?

In 1967, Roland Barthes famously proclaimed the death of the author, arguing that it was for the reader to instil meaning in a text. Barthes’ essay questioned the existing hierarchy of writer above reader, and initiated new discussion on their roles. Reader response critics such as Hans Robert Jauss have also considered the impact of an individual’s experiences on textual interpretation. What effects have such theories had on previous understandings of the reader/writer relationship? How can we conceptualise these roles in an increasingly complex literary and textual environment?

It is not only the experiences of the individual reader and writer that are interrogated. We can now ask what role the market plays in redefining these two figures. Robert Darnton’s Communication Circuit draws attention to socio-political and commercial forces that impact the creation, production and distribution of a book. How do such models complicate the dialogical relationship between reader and writer?

How do literary devices alter our perception of the reader/writer figure? Those such as frame narratives and epistolary forms place readers and writers at the centre of the text, while the found manuscript and false document conceit in fiction work to remove the presence of the author in order to foster verisimilitude. What do these metafictions say about the changing social, cultural and intellectual nature of reading and writing?

Issue 23 of FORUM engages with a range of disciplines that consider the topic of readers and writers. 

Click here to read the issue.


Editors: Matthew Tibble and Anahit Behrooz

Review Team Winter 2016: America Archer*, Emily Bartran, Suzanne Black, Brad Copper, Mila Daskalova*, Mary Dodd, Cristina Dodson, Paulina Drégvaité, James Gilbert, Katie Goh, Charlotte Kessler*, Harry Leonard, Kate Lewis Hood*, Harriet MacMillan, Emanuela Militeuo, Bridget Moynihan, Carolina Palacios, Robyn Pritzker, Sian Roberts, Toby Sharpe*, Dylan Taylor*, Marianne Tyvand.

Article editors are marked with a star (*) 


Please feel free to browse our archive of past issues or search for articles and register with FORUM to receive future updates. You can also take a look at our author guidelines if you would like to submit an article for publication. If you are interested in reviewing for FORUM please see the information on getting involved.



CFP Issue 24: Taboo (2017)


“Saturn Devouring His Son,” Francisco Goya, c. 1819-1823


Taboo permeates all aspects of everyday life, acting as the boundary against which society polices human experience and experimentation. Frequently characterised as social or religious customs that proscribe particular ideas, practices, words or persons, taboos not only help define a set of shared rules for society, but also clarify the limitations of the accepted.

Kelly Hurley highlights the positive facets of taboo, suggesting that it is only through the enforcement of certain boundaries that humans might “continue to experience the world as an epistemologically stable site” (The Gothic Body 25). Mary Douglas, meanwhile, argues that although taboos act as a safeguard against social disorder, they often become repressive for members of society. In light of these contrasting views, are specific taboos indeed necessary for social stability, or do they simply hinder progress?

Taboos differ across cultures, religions, and time; yet certain forbidden practices like incest, cannibalism, and murder seem more universally regarded. Why might this be? Changing social standards also create new taboos that reflect a particular historical moment. Tracing the ways in which taboos arise and are challenged therefore not only reveals these standards, but also society’s anxieties, fears, and nightmares.

Issue 24 of FORUM seeks contributions from a range of disciplines that engage with the concept of taboo. To what extents are civilisations structured around taboos? How might taboos reveal the darker, or even the suppressed side of society? In what ways do art and literature provide avenues for the exploration of taboo? Do taboos inevitably drive the homogenisation of both landscapes and people? In what ways might breaking taboos offer opportunities for liberation? Are there some taboos that should never be broken? Suggested topics include, but are not limited to:

  • Social
    • Conformity and/or censorship (social, political, familial, sexual, linguistic, etc.)
    • Shifting social norms and lifting taboo in public/private spheres
    • Social etiquette and behaviour modification
    • Prohibition and transgression
    • Political correctness
    • Universal taboos
    • Culture-bound taboos
    • Functions of taboo
    • Euphemism
  • Body
    • Contagion and contamination
    • Abjection
    • Bodies and boundaries
    • Conceptions of dis/ability
    • The evolution of sexual and/or gender taboos
  • Monstrosity
    • Constructions of monstrosity (Medieval, Gothic, etc.)
    • Monsters in society (serial killers, sexual offenders, cannibals)
    • Aliens and interlopers
  • Resistance
    • Breaking taboo as a means of rebellion
    • Forbidden words and ideas (the unthinkable/unspeakable)
    • Deviance and social stigma


Papers must be between 3,000 – 5,000 words in length, formatted according to MLA guidelines. FORUM is also considering academic book reviews (1,000 words) and multimedia and alternative presentations for publication. Please e-mail your article, a short abstract and your academic CV in separate, clearly labelled DOC(X). files to by 27 February 2017. All eligible articles will be peer reviewed prior to publication. Only one submission per author per issue is permitted.

Posted: 2016-12-12
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