The Spirit of Speed: Culture on the Move in Edwardian Britain
University of Lancaster, 8th-9th September, 2017
‘Before us stretched the deserted road; we could trace it for miles and miles, a long line of grey in a vastness of green space that faded into blue, rising and falling with the rise and fall of the hills. Then the spirit of speed took possession of us, the fascination and the frenzy of speed for speed’s sake […] We had escaped from the fetters that bind man to earth; we were intoxicated with a new-born sense of splendid freedom; without exertion or effort we lightly skimmed the ground […] We were rushing into infinity.’ (James Hissey, An English Holiday with Car and Camera, 1909)
The fourth annual conference of the Edwardian Culture Network will be held at the University of Lancaster this coming September, in association with the Edwardian Postcard Project. Taking our lead from James Hissey’s 1909 evocation of travelling in a motor car, or H.G. Wells’s equally-breathless sea-bound finale to Tono-Bungay – we will be exploring the ‘spirit of speed’, as represented, reflected, challenged or wilfully ignored by British culture c.1895-1914. We invite 300-word proposals for papers on any aspect of this theme. Topics might include, but are not limited to:
- Culture on the move: the significance of postcards, advertisements, newspapers, travelling exhibitions, etc.
- Reactions to new technologies: motor cars, steam turbines, radio, film, etc.
- Speed and freedom: travel, independence and access.
- Rushing into infinity: Speed and the representation of time in art.
- Placing the brakes on speed: antidotes to the quickening pace of life: stillness, slowness and spirituality.
- Speed and exchange: The impact of Atlantic crossings on Anglo-American culture.
We will accept proposals for 15 minute presentations and panels; we are also happy to consider experimental approaches and poster ideas. Please e-mail proposals (not exceeding 500 words) to email@example.com. The closing date for applications is June 4th, 2017. Participants from inside and outside academia are equally welcome!
James A. Ganz, ed, Jewel City: Art from San Francisco’s Panama-Pacific International Exhibition, Berkeley, CA: University of California, 2015, ISBN 978-0-520-28718-1, 400pp.
In 1915, San Francisco held a world’s fair to celebrate the completion of the Panama Canal. The Panama-Pacific International Exposition declared the joining of Atlantic and Pacific and pointed to a new American civilization that looked both East and West and played a central role in an increasingly global culture. The apotheosis of the ‘White City’ type of American world’s fair, it was more colorful than its 1892 Chicago inspiration and soaked in the warm sunlight and mysterious mists of San Francisco’s Mediterranean climate. The fair’s campus was a series of large classical courtyards designed by America’s most prominent architects including McKim, Mead, and White, architects of Columbia University; Henry Bacon, architect of the Lincoln Memorial; Carrere & Hastings, architect of the New York Public Library; Bernard Maybeck, patriarch of the Bay Area’s Arts and Crafts designers; and Arthur Brown, Jr, architect of San Francisco’s shining new Beaux-Arts Civic Center. The Fair’s central tower was set with thousands of glass jewels so that it shimmered in the sun; fountains splashed in courtyards filled with lush planting; the color palette that unified the buildings was designed by leading color theorist, Jules Guérin and illuminated by colored spotlights at night. This was American utopian design at its best Continue reading
D. J. Sheppard, Theodore Wratislaw: Fragments of a Life (The Rivendale Press, 2017)
Was there ever a more 1890s-sounding character than Theodore Wratislaw? His surname sounds like a Beardsley drawing: the craggy ‘wrati’ leading into the sinuous ‘slaw’. If that isn’t enough, his middle name ‘Graf’ hints at possible connections to the Bohemian nobility: a useful foil for a poet whose birthplace was the town of Rugby in Warwickshire. To those who haven’t read their copies of The Yellow Book or The Savoy too closely, Theodore Wratislaw seems invented – qualities that clearly endeared him to Max Beerbohm, whose famous fictional 1890s hero ‘Enoch Soames’ contained at least a ‘dash’ of Wratislaw.
Theodore Wratislaw (1871-1933) was, however, not only very real, but – as D. J. Sheppard’s excellent new biography reveals – shared Beerbohm’s fate of living the vast majority of his life outside of the decade in which he achieved passing notoriety. The question of what happened to the main players of the 1890s in the 1900s and beyond has always been a fascinating one. Beardsley, Wilde, Dowson and Johnson were all dead by 1902, leaving the survivors of the decade to either trade in nostalgia for the rest of their lives (as Beerbohm did, to some extent), or try to forge a new identity for the coming century Continue reading