‘We Speak a Different Tongue’: Maverick Voices and Modernity
International Conference, St. John’s College, Durham University, UK, 5-6 July 2013
Plenary speakers: Professor Chris Baldick (Goldsmiths College, University of London) and Professor Michael O’Neill (Durham University)
With a focus on the fiction, poetry, and drama of the period 1890-1939, “Maverick Voices” registers the diversity of innovation beyond the traditionally defined boundaries of literary Modernism. Famously in “Mr. Bennett and Mrs. Brown” (1924), Virginia Woolf distinguishes between two literary camps: the Edwardians and the Georgians. By praising the Georgians and vilifying the Edwardians, Woolf privileges an aesthetic of what later became identified as Modernism against a continuing tradition of realism. This is indicative of both continuities and discontinuities – between Modernism and, in Yeats’s phrase, those different tongues of nineteenth-century sensibilities – which have prevailed as a persistent presence in much recent literary criticism.
“Maverick Voices” contributes to current debates about where the boundaries of literary Modernism should be drawn. In so doing, our conference explores the alternative visions of those individuals who hover at the fringes of cosmopolitan artistic milieus. Relevant questions that could be explored in relation to these marginal voices are: Does a privileging of Modernism undervalue texts that are perceived to operate outside either the parameters of its understood aesthetic and/or periodization? Are there marginalised or obscure texts whose avant-garde experiments renew a sense of the plurality of types of modernisms? Can the ascription of a proto-Modernist tag expand understandings of how texts respond in distinct ways to the pressures of modernity? Indeed, do some literary texts in their own inventive ways produce an alternative poetics to the widely recognized canon of such authors as Woolf and Pound? To what extent do these texts disrupt or engage in dialogue with critical narratives of Modernism?
By addressing these questions in relation to those responses and counter-responses to literary Modernism our conference aims at highlighting those alternative visions of contemporaneous maverick individuals. It further hopes to challenge strict periodization and suggest new points of inception. Authors of relevance to these vital questions might include, but are not limited to: Ford Madox Ford, D. H. Lawrence, George Egerton, W. B. Yeats, Katharine Burdekin, Arthur Machen, Rebecca West, Evelyn Waugh, Noël Coward, Charlotte Mew, George Bernard Shaw, John Galsworthy, Ella Hepworth Dixon, George Moore, Aldous Huxley, Walter de la Mare, James Elroy Flecker, A. E. Housman, G. K. Chesterton, Oscar Wilde, Henry James, Thomas Hardy, H. G. Wells, and Arnold Bennett.
Topics may include but are not limited to:
Responses to labels and manifestoes
Canonicity and marginality
Individuals, groups, and cosmopolitanism
Late Victorianism and modernity
Poetics of the fin-de-siècle and beyond
Continental interludes in Anglo-American modernity
Avant-garde and Decadence
Innovations in popular fiction
New Woman discourse
Experimentalism in Fantasy/Romance
Mysticism/esoteric forms of modernity
Writers on the periphery of Modernism
Proposals for twenty-minute papers on any aspect of maverick voices and modernity should be submitted as email attachments by Friday, 1st March 2013 to firstname.lastname@example.org. Abstracts should be between 200-250 words. Please attach a one-page CV and state name, affiliation, and contact details in the body of the email. For queries please contact co-organisers by email.