Modern Literature, Culture, and the Archives of the Secret State


During the twentieth century, secret state agencies affected literary culture across the world. State agencies banned books, censored theatre and film, maintained dossiers on authors, and blacklisted performers. A conference on Modern Literature, Culture, and the Archives of the Secret State, held on 28th-29th March 2014 and organised by James Smith, brought together an international array of scholars to discuss the ways in which modern literature and culture interacted with the secret state.

Culture Against McCarthy: Robert Hutchins, James Laughlin, and the Fund for the Republic, by Greg Barnhisel (Duquesne University)

In this paper, Greg Barnhisel looks at the collaborations between the publisher James Laughlin and the prominent public intellectual Robert Maynard Hutchins, arguing that they helped shape a current of the Cold War cultural freedom movement quite distinct from others run by the US government or the Congress for Cultural Freedom. Greg Barnhisel is Associate Professor in English at Duquesne University, with his book, Cold War Modernists, forthcoming from Columbia University Press.

Censorship as Risk Management: Theatre and Performance in the GDR, by Laura Bradley (University of Edinburgh)

Laura Bradley talks about the ecology of theatre censorship in the GDR and how the process evolved from the early post-war period through to 1989, suggesting that risk-adverse theatre practitioners came to avoid forms of experimentation that theatre censors might actually have accepted. Laura Bradley in a Senior Lecturer in German at the University of Edinburgh. Her previous books include Cooperation and Conflict: GDR Theatre Censorship, 1961-1989 (Oxford University Press, 2013).

The Use and Abuse of Archives in Reading Encounter Magazine, by Jason Harding (Durham University)

This talk looks at the opportunities and dangers that archives present to scholars of modern literature, and the implications they hold for how we should approach the famously controversial case of Encounter magazine and its links to the CIA. Jason Harding is a Reader in the Department of English Studies at Durham University, currently writing a monograph on Encounter magazine for Princeton University Press.

“A recognised trouble-maker wherever he goes”: Redacted Affect and the Cultural Cold War in the ASIO files of Australian writers, by Nicole Moore (University of New South Wales)

Nicole Moore draws on declassified files from the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation to talk about the censorship and surveillance of Australian writers, arguing that such activity shaped and determined the lives and work of key Australian cultural figures and their engagement with the world at large. Nicole Moore is Associate Professor in English at the University of New South Wales at ADFA. She is the author of The Censor’s Library: Uncovering the Lost History of Australia’s Banned Books (University of Queensland Press, 2012), and editor of the forthcoming Censorship and the Limits of the Literary: A Global View (Bloomsbury).

Officially Autonomous: the Congress for Cultural Freedom and the Republic of African letters, by Asha Rogers (University of Oxford)

In this paper, Asha Rogers examines the role played by the Congress for Cultural Freedom and its sponsorship of African literary culture, which formed an important part of the CCF’s attempts to globalise its anti-communist programs during the 1960s. Asha Rogers is a DPhil student at the University of Oxford, currently completing an AHRC-funded thesis on the role of the democratic state in sponsoring post-war anglophone literary cultures.

Propaganda or Philosophy? Interdoc, Western Identity, and Transnational Anti-Communism, by Giles Scott-Smith (University of Leiden)

In this talk, Giles Scott-Smith speaks about his recent research on Interdoc, the transnational anti-communist network, and its important role in developing and coordinating European cold war anti-communist activity. Giles Scott-Smith is Professor in the Diplomatic History of Atlantic Cooperation at the University of Leiden, and a Senior Researcher at the Roosevelt Studies Centre. His publications include Western Anti-Communism and the Interdoc Network: Cold War Internationale (Palgrave Macmillan, 2012).

“I Too Could Be a Spy”: Literature and the Secret State in Cold War Britain and America, by Hugh Wilford (California State University)

In this paper, Hugh Wilford uses Ian McEwan’s 2012 novel, Sweet Tooth, as a starting point for an examination of the interplay between literature and the secret state in Cold War Britain and America. Hugh Wilford is Professor of History at California State University, Long Beach, with his previous books including America’s Great Game: The CIA’s Secret Arabists and the Shaping of the Modern Middle East (Basic Books, 2013) and The Mighty Wurlitzer: How the CIA Played America (Harvard University Press, 2008).

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