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English Department Lecture by Nell Zink, Author of The Wallcreeper (2014), Mislaid (2015), Nicotine (2016). ~ Wednesday December 6 at 17:00, P.C. Hoofthuis 1.04, Spuistraat 134, Amsterdam.


The forging and breaking of taboos is prominent in Nell Zink’s writing – Mislaid raises questions about the malleability of race, class and sexuality, while Nicotine plays with topics including life, death and radical politics. In apparent contrast, one of the most prominent recent anxieties of contemporary life is a concern that students are no longer willing or able to confront taboos and controversies. This concern is evident in media coverage in the US, UK and elsewhere around the ‘no-platforming’ of certain speakers, attempts to ‘de-colonise’ the university curriculum and campuses, and the rise of the term ‘snowflake’ (a term levelled almost exclusively at the young). During her talk and discussion, Nell Zink will consider whether these anxieties about young people’s fragility might in fact be evidence of a growing ‘fear of students’, and if so, what this fear might tell us. Why, for instance, has such a fear arisen at the current moment, and why has it taken the form it has? And what can it tell us about the shifting terrain of contemporary taboo?

All UvA students, staff and members of the public are welcome to attend.


Nell Zink grew up in Virginia, USA. Currently she lives in Bad Belzig, near Berlin, where she worked as a translator until she was discovered by the author Jonathan Franzen. She has previously worked in a variety of jobs, including construction labourer, waitress, secretary, technical writer and editor. She also holds a PhD in Media Studies from the University of Tübingen. Nell broke through in the United States and England with her first novel The Wallcreeper (2014), which was following in 2015 by the National Book Award nominee Mislaid. Her most recent novel, Nicotine, and a collection of earlier writing, Private Fiction, were both published in 2016. She has published essays with various publications, including n+1. Her writing has been translated into a number of languages, including Dutch, and she is visiting Amsterdam as a Writer in Residence with the Nederlands Letterenfonds (Dutch Foundation for Literature).