Monthly Archives: June 2012

Call for Postgraduate Papers: Contemporary Aesthetic Education in the UK

University of York 10th December 2012

The purpose of this inter-disciplinary workshop is to explore the role of aesthetic education in the UK today. The presence of the concept of aesthetic education in the thinking of British cultural critics can be traced to the profound influence of Matthew Arnold, who inherits the notion from its German Enlightenment proponents – Schiller, Herder, and Winckelmann. The tradition holds that instruction in art and literature can bring about real changes in society. In the UK today, however, education in literature and the arts is being increasingly threatened by social change rather than facilitating those changes. In Culture and Anarchy, Arnold prescribed culture as the antidote to a looming threat of ‘anarchy’ which lay chiefly, he suggested, in vulgar monetary concerns. Continue reading

Turn Back Time: The Family

Tomorrow night the BBC will air Turn Back Time: The Family, a five-part documentary following modern families as they ‘live’ in the style of those from different periods of the twentieth century. First up are the Edwardians: if the preview on the Telegraph website is anything to go by, the ‘Edwardian era’ recreated here should go some way towards dispelling the ‘sepia-toned … splendid facade’ of the likes of Downton Abbey. No word yet, however, on the number of floppy hats that will feature…
Turn Back Time: The Family will air on BBC 1 on Tuesday 26th June at 9pm.

“Hope to see you this evening – Love, Nessie”

The Edwardian Postcard Project is an inter-disciplinary venture into the world of the Edwardian postcard. According to the Project website, the postcard enjoyed its ‘heydey’ during the Edwardian era. Investigating these postcards not only ‘sheds light on writing practices of the Edwardians’ but also ‘reveals much about the travel patterns, social networks and concerns of the age’. The Project is overseen by academics at the University of Lancaster, and has already yielded several publications. In tandem with the Project, a digital exhibition of Edwardian postcards is currently on display at Buxton Museum. For more information visit the Project website.

An Age of Transition?

William Strang, ‘The Temptation’, c.1899

‘The habit of dividing history into epochs, each with its own label, is convenient but misleading. The business of the historian is to carve the past at the joints. But what if there are no joints? “The timid man,” says Anatole France, “dreads as a future cataclysm a change which began before his birth, which is going on under his eyes, though he does not see it, and which will become apparent a century hence.” This is eminently true of English history. “We live in an age of transition.” This sapient remark, I believe, was first made by Adam to Eve as they walked out of Paradise. “How wise you always are, Adam,” said his wife, who did not wish to talk about apples and serpents’ (W.R.Inge, The Post Victorians, 1933)

No Surrender

This week saw the publication of Park Lane, a new novel by Frances Osbourne (wife of the current chancellor) about the shifting social hierachy in Edwardian England. The latest in a long line of historical novels about the suffrage movement, Osbourne’s book has disturbed some readers, on both stylistic and political grounds. As Julie Burchill put it in The Observer: “There is something repulsive about a book that celebrates a pivotal moment of social progress – votes for women – by the wife of a man who serves in a government that contains more well-born nobodies than any since the second world war, men who would probably not have attained such status had they had to get there on their own merit rather than been given a leg-up by their expensive educations and extensive crony network.”

Meanwhile, No Surrender (1911), Constance Maud’s crusading realist novel written at the zenith of the suffrage campaign in England, has recently been republished by Persephone Books.

According to the Persephone Books website: ‘When Emily Davison, who was to die in 1913 under the King’s horse at the Epsom Derby, reviewed No Surrender, she wrote: “There is scarcely a notable incident of the militant campaign which is left untouched. As we devour its pages, we once more review such unforgettable as the Pantechnicon incident, the protest of the Grille, the Suffragette Fire-Engine, the sending of women by Express Post to the Prime Minister, and the final word-picture of [the procession of 1910]. But for vivid realism, the pictures of prison life, of the Hunger Strike and Forcible Feeding, are difficult to beat. It is a book which breathes the very spirit of our Women’s Movement’”.’

For an insightful exegesis of Edwardian women’s suffrage fiction, see the chapter on ‘Suffragette Stories’ in Jane Eldridge Miller’s Rebel Women: Feminism, Modernism, and the Edwardian Novel (1994).

Edwardian Weekend Spectacular

For those with an interest in twenty-first-century recreations of the Edwardian age, the following ‘Edwardian Weekend Spectacular’ may be for you! The two-day event, held in the grounds of Thornton Manor Estate and Gardens on the 9th and 10th of June, promises a ‘vintage funfair’, gasp-worthy ‘sideshow’, and requisite ‘garden party’. Further details can be found here.

Pageantry on Film

As recent TV scheduling has foregrounded with typical subtlety, Queen Elizabeth II has now been on the throne for 60 years. In three years or so she will surpass Queen Victoria’s reign of 63 years and 216 days. The Prince of Wales, however, has already had to wait longer than Victoria’s eldest son Edward to wear the crown. A less-than-popular Edward VII reached the throne at the age of 59; Charles is now 63.

Charles’s coronation – should it ever come – will be broadcast across the world in startlingly high definition, as was the Queen’s Jubilee. For Edward’s 1902 coronation, however, the French film-maker George Melies was forced to rely on a re-enactment. You can watch it here.

For further discussion of the filming of Edward VII’s coronation see essays by Tom Gunning, Bronwen Edwards and Angus Trumble in The Edwardian Sense, ed Michael Hatt and Morna O’Neill (Yale 2010), p.15-40.

Meanwhile, footage of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee can be found here, on the BFI’s excellent Youtube channel (which includes plenty of late-Victorian/Edwardian films, for royalists and non-royalists alike).