Writing the Divide: Literary Culture and Political Engagement in the 1930s (CFP 30th March, Conference 16th June)


A 1930s cartoon titled Onward They March to Darkness predicting the risk of war in Europe

Onward They March to Darkness (1930), by Winsor McCay [public domain]. Reproduced via Alan Light under CC BY 2.0 licence.

A one-day conference will look at literature, polemics, and politics in the inter-war years. Writing the Divide will take place on 16th June; proposals for 20 minute papers are due by 30th March. The keynote speaker for this conference will be Professor Valentine Cunningham (Oxford).

In his 1940 essay, ‘Inside the Whale’, George Orwell characterized the literature of the 1930s as inextricably intertwined with politics:

During the past ten years literature has involved itself more and more deeply in politics…[A]lmost all [texts written during 1930s], right-wing or left-wing, are written from a political angle, by cocksure partisans telling you what to think, whereas the books about the Great War were written by common soldiers or junior officers who did not even pretend to understand what the whole thing was about.

Taking this claim as starting point, this interdisciplinary conference provides a platform for discussion on the relationship between literature, polemics, and politics. The aim is to examine how literature and literary figures attempt to make sense of politics in a period too often read simply as a preamble to the Second World War.

We invite proposals for papers of 20 minutes in length. Topics may include, but are not limited to, literary engagement with

  • communism, fascism, and ideas of democracy
  • capitalism vs collectivism
  • mass culture vs. elite culture
  • artistic form as political gesture
  • nationalism vs. internationalism
  • identity politics (race, gender, class, etc.)
  • intervention vs. appeasement

Submissions from postgraduates and early-career researchers are welcome. Please submit abstracts of no more than 300 words to writingthedivide@gmail.com by the 31st of March 2017. Please also include a brief speaker biography, and indicate your willingness to chair a panel.

This event is supported by the Department of English Studies and the Centre for Modern Conflicts and Cultures.

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