Tag Archives: arnold bennett

Review: Literature of the 1900s by Jonathan Wild

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Review of Jonathan Wild, Literature of the 1900s: The Great Edwardian Emporium (Edinburgh University Press, 224 pp., £75)

Shopping, like much else, became recognisably modern in the first decade of the twentieth century. One of its principal modernisers was the American entrepreneur Harry Gordon Selfridge, the ‘Earl of Oxford Street’, whose flagship London store, opened in 1909, aimed to turn shopping from a necessity into a leisure activity. Selfridge’s offered immersive and material pleasures: its departments were arranged over many floors; its spaces were designed particularly to appeal to women; customers could see and handle the wares, assisted by 1,400 well-trained staff.

Jonathan Wild’s impressive Literature of the 1900s, volume one in The Edinburgh History of Twentieth-Century Literature in Britain, takes the department store as a metaphor for the decade’s literary field. The book’s chapters are figured as a store’s departments – departments for war and external affairs, administration, children, decadence, and internal affairs. The conceit is more than a clever way to organise his wide-ranging and potentially disparate material: it focuses the reader on the consumption of literature, which is his book’s central theme. Wild argues, convincingly, that readers and reading changed on or around January 1900, as literature, and fiction in particular, became Britain’s major leisure activity, and readers, or consumers, demanded more literature, and more kinds of literature.

Writers and writing changed too, in response to consumer demand but also reflecting the profound social changes of the last decades of the nineteenth century. Continue reading

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Edwardian Encounters: ‘The Glimpse’ by Arnold Bennett

'Self-Portrait' by Charles Conder (Tullie House) [Charles Conder is one of several artists mentioned in 'The Glimpse']

‘Self-Portrait’ by Charles Conder (Tullie House) [Charles Conder is one of several artists mentioned in ‘The Glimpse’]

Arnold Bennett, The Glimpse, (London: Chapman and Hall, 1909)

Arnold Bennett has been described as a materialist, a realist, a writer whose novels have ‘a narrative emphasis on the drab, the squalid and the mundane’. [1] He was, however, also capable of dreaming. In one such dream, he writes that he ‘stood by my own dead body and saw the pennies upon my eyes. I cannot remember at this distance of time what the rest of the dream was, but it had to do with the adventures of a soul after death’.[2]

Never one to waste good material, Bennett immediately saw the potential for a story, and in May 1908 he wrote the short story ‘The Glimpse’ about the proprietor of a Staffordshire earthenware factory who has an out-of-body experience whilst lying in bed close to death. Bennett quickly came to the view that the material of the story was capable of being much more fully developed into a full-length novel with sound commercial prospects. Belief in Spiritualism was widespread, so the story of a soul’s adventures at the point of death would not lack a potential audience. Bennett wrote and published his approximately 70,000 word novel The Glimpse in 1909, between his two longer and better-known acknowledged masterpieces The Old Wives’ Tale (1908) and Clayhanger (1910). Continue reading

Essay: Bennett Amongst the Modernists

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On October 17th-18th, the Edwardian Culture Network will host a symposium entitled ‘Arnold Bennett and his Circle’ (see our ‘events’ pages for more details). In the following short essay, Dr. Andrew Glazzard, one of the co-organizers, anticipates some of the issues we intend to cover in our discussions.

I’d like to try a thought experiment – a game of matching the novel with the writer. Take two novels, both written in 1922 – ‘the year of Modernism’. One is set in a city, but very little happens. This novel is narrated with ironic detachment, and dwells on the drab lives of ordinary people who fail to understand each other. The other is an adventure story, set on the French coast during the Napoleonic Wars. It is about a pirate, features buried treasure, includes a love story between a dashing soldier and a beautiful woman, and ends with an exciting chase featuring Horatio Nelson.

One of these novels was written by an early modernist – an innovator who remains a fixture on university syllabuses, and has been widely acknowledged for his technical achievements and for bringing a sceptical, disillusioned world-view to British fiction. The other writer became immensely popular in his lifetime, was regarded by his younger contemporaries as an exemplar of everything that was wrong about the Edwardian novel, and today in the world of academic Eng.Lit is almost completely disregarded. Which author do you think wrote which novel? Continue reading

Arnold Bennett and His Circle: Registration Open

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REGISTRATION NOW OPEN: ‘ARNOLD BENNETT AND HIS CIRCLE’

The Old Library, Keele Hall, KEELE UNIVERSITY 17TH-18TH OCTOBER 2014

The Edwardian Culture Network, in association with the Arnold Bennett Society, is delighted to announce that registration is now open for ‘Arnold Bennett and His Circle’.

At once both a commercially-successful and an experimental writer, Bennett’s range encompassed commercial fiction and naturalism, self-help books and short stories, journalism and science-fiction. Though he was held in high esteem by many of his contemporaries, Bennett’s critical reputation has suffered over the course of the twentieth century. ‘Arnold Bennett and His Circle’ will present Bennett as an icon of the Edwardian age, fundamental to our understanding of the period, and a writer whose work needs to be considered specifically in an Edwardian context. It will also explore Bennett’s relevance and legacy to twenty-first century readerships.

Confirmed speakers include Professor David Amigoni (Keele University), Professor Ruth Robbins (Leeds Beckett), and Professor Deborah Wynne (University of Chester).

The cost of the weekend is £20, which includes a guided walk of Burslem by John Shapcott, a noted authority on Bennett. To register, please visit: http://www.eventbrite.com/e/arnold-bennett-and-his-circle-tickets-12718692953?aff=es2

Due to the terms of our room booking, we will be unable to provide delegates with lunch and refreshments. However, there are a number of food and retail outlets available on the Keele University campus. For more information about these, please see: http://www.keele.ac.uk/foodanddrink/restaurantsbars/

Download conference poster: Bennett and His Circle Poster14

In the Words of Arnold Bennett (1): The Resplendent Egg-Stand

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‘A few days later Constance was arranging the more precious of her wedding presents in the parlour; some had to be wrapped in tissue and in brown paper and then tied with string and labelled; others had special cases of their own, leather without and velvet within. Among the latter was the resplendent egg-stand holding twelve silver-gilt egg-cups and twelve chased spoons to match, presented by Aunt Harriet. In the Five Towns’ phrase, “it must have cost money.” Even if Mr. and Mrs. Povey had ten guests or ten children, and all the twelve of them were simultaneously gripped by a desire to eat eggs at breakfast or tea – even in this remote contingency Aunt Harriet would have been pained to see the egg-stand in use; such treasures are not designed for use.’ (The Old Wives Tale, 1908)

This quotation is the first part of a series dedicated to the work of the great Edwardian writer Arnold Bennett (1867-1931), on whom we will be co-hosting a symposium (‘Arnold Bennett and His Circle’) at Keele University on 17th-18th October. More details here.

CFP Reminder: Arnold Bennett and his Circle

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CALL FOR PAPERS: ‘ARNOLD BENNETT AND HIS CIRCLE’: A SYMPOSIUM CO-HOSTED BY THE EDWARDIAN CULTURE NETWORK AND THE ARNOLD BENNETT SOCIETY

KEELE UNIVERSITY 17TH – 18TH OCTOBER 2014

As I closed the book at 7 in the morning after the shortest sleepless night of my experience a thought passed through my head that I knew pretty well my “Bennett militant” and that, not to be too complimentary, he was a pretty good hand at it; but that there I had “Bennett triumphant” without any doubt whatever. A memorable night.

Joseph Conrad in a letter to Arnold Bennett, January 1924

Conrad was one of many contemporaries who recognised Arnold Bennett as one of the most assured and influential writers of his generation. At once both a commercially-successful and an experimental writer, Bennett’s range encompassed commercial fiction and naturalism, self-help books and short stories, journalism and science-fiction. ‘Arnold Bennett and His Circle’ will seek to present Bennett as an icon of the Edwardian age, fundamental to our understanding of the period, and a writer whose work needs to be considered specifically in an Edwardian context.

We invite abstracts (250-300 words) for ten-minute papers on any aspect of Bennett’s Edwardian writing, biography and wider circle. Topics might include, but are not limited to:

–  Bennett and the Edwardian literary field

–  Bennett’s literary theories

–  Bennett and his contemporaries

–  Bennett’s influences and influence

–  Bennett and genre

–  Bennett and material culture

–  Bennett’s readers

Proposals should be sent to edwardianculture@hotmail.co.uk by Monday 30th June 2014. Confirmed speakers include Professor David Amigoni (Keele University), Professor Ruth Robbins (Leeds Metropolitan University), John Shapcott (Keele University), and Professor Deborah Wynne (University of Chester). For updates about the event, please visit www.edwardianculture.com

CFP: Arnold Bennett and His Circle

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Arnold Bennett in 1913, by Alvin Langdon Coburn

CALL FOR PAPERS: ‘ARNOLD BENNETT AND HIS CIRCLE’: A SYMPOSIUM CO-HOSTED BY THE EDWARDIAN CULTURE NETWORK AND THE ARNOLD BENNETT SOCIETY

KEELE UNIVERSITY 17TH – 18TH OCTOBER 2014

As I closed the book at 7 in the morning after the shortest sleepless night of my experience a thought passed through my head that I knew pretty well my “Bennett militant” and that, not to be too complimentary, he was a pretty good hand at it; but that there I had “Bennett triumphant” without any doubt whatever. A memorable night.

Joseph Conrad in a letter to Arnold Bennett, January 1924

Conrad was one of many contemporaries who recognised Arnold Bennett as one of the most assured and influential writers of his generation. At once both a commercially-successful and an experimental writer, Bennett’s range encompassed commercial fiction and naturalism, self-help books and short stories, journalism and science-fiction. ‘Arnold Bennett and His Circle’ will seek to present Bennett as an icon of the Edwardian age, fundamental to our understanding of the period, and a writer whose work needs to be considered specifically in an Edwardian context.

We invite abstracts (250-300 words) for ten-minute papers on any aspect of Bennett’s Edwardian writing, biography and wider circle. Topics might include, but are not limited to:

–  Bennett and the Edwardian literary field

–  Bennett’s literary theories

–  Bennett and his contemporaries

–  Bennett’s influences and influence

–  Bennett and genre

–  Bennett and material culture

–  Bennett’s readers

Proposals should be sent to edwardianculture@hotmail.co.uk by Monday 30th June 2014. Confirmed speakers include Professor David Amigoni (Keele University), Professor Ruth Robbins (Leeds Metropolitan University), John Shapcott (Keele University), and Professor Deborah Wynne (University of Chester). For updates about the event, please visit www.edwardianculture.com