Francis O’Gorman describes how his tendency to worry led him to investigate its cultural and literary origins. We talk about Shakespeare, Sherlock Holmes stories, and the prominence of ‘worry’ in everyday life
Francis O'Gorman, Worrying: A Literary and Cultural History
Francis O’Gorman, Worrying: A Literary and Cultural History

What motivated you to write the book?

There’s a very short answer to that: I’m a worrier and I wanted to think about what that meant. Several people have asked me why a literary critic would write such a book, and whether I am merely using literature as a kind of case study, as representation. But for me being a literary critic means reading as intently and alertly as possible. And that includes, where necessary, reading the patterns of one’s own mind.

What exactly is ‘worry’, and why is it so difficult to pin down?

I don’t think that there is an ‘exactly’ in relation to worry. In the book, my topic is being fearful about the turn of ordinary things. Worry—those questions in the mind that mostly start with ‘what if …’—is a way of trying to take some control over a future that we don’t know but would like to. Worrying isn’t a ‘mental health’ book in that it doesn’t concern conditions of mind that would even vaguely interest a clinician. And I don’t write about grave worries—including worries about the grave. I’m interested, rather, in the mundane, in the meaning of low level bothers about what might happen next. (more…)

I caught up with Katie Gramich to talk about a conference she is co-organizing to celebrate the life and work of poet Edward Thomas

In April 2017, Cardiff University will be hosting a conference to celebrate the Welsh writer Edward Thomas. Can you say a little bit about the timing of the conference? Do you think it’s time for a revaluation of Thomas’ life and work?

Edward Thomas died in the Battle of Arras at Easter 1917, so the conference at Cardiff University in April 2017 is a centenary conference to commemorate a distinctive and unusual writer whose life was cut short in the First World War. Thomas wrote all of his poetry in the last two years of his life – between December 1914 and December 1916 – prompted to do so partly by his friendship with the American poet, Robert Frost, whom he met in the summer of 1913,  and partly by the new and pressing circumstances of the war. It is so sad to think that only six of his poems were published in his lifetime – a small pamphlet under the pseudonym ‘Edward Eastaway’ in 1916. (more…)

Cardiff University • 19-21 April 2017
Design: Rhys Tranter

Edward Thomas is a poet of retrospect. His poetry memorialises states of mind, people, and places. It also attempts to voice what is absolutely lost and what was never significant: ‘so many things I have forgot/ That once were much to me, or that were not’, he writes. Thomas also considers obscure futures for others and for himself. His poetry anticipates indifference as much as longevity when it asks what they will ‘do when I am gone?’: ‘they will do without me as the rain/ Can do without the flowers and the grass’.

What should we do with Thomas, whose reputation and writing is more present than ever? In 2017, we will mark the centenary of his death with a major conference at Cardiff University, where an important collection of Thomas’s manuscript materials and letters are held at SCOLAR. With the preparation of a major edition of his prose and with his acknowledged centrality to new forms of nature writing, study of Thomas is now rarely confined to any single aspect of his practice. We want to celebrate Thomas and approaches to his work in the fullest possible diversity. (more…)