Samuel Beckett
Photograph: UPPA/Photoshot PAP/Photoshot

A new online database allows users to track down the location of every known letter, postcard, and correspondence by Samuel Beckett listed in a public archive. You can tbeckett.library.emory.edu.

As The Story Was Told (1996), a two-part documentary featuring interviews with authorised biographer James Knowlson, publishers John Calder and Barney Rosset, actress Billie Whitelaw, nephew Edward Beckett, and others. The documentary is notable, in part, for its glimpses of Beckett’s home in Paris and his country retreat in Ussy-sur-Marne.

A conference at the University of York • 17-19 May 2018

This conference marks the publication of 30 books in the two book series Historicizing Modernism and Modernist Archives with Bloomsbury Academic.

Archival excavation and detailed contextualisation is becoming increasingly central to scholarship on literary modernism. In recent years, the increased – and often online – accessibility and dissemination of previously unpublished or little-known texts has led to paradigm-shifting scholarly interventions across a range of canonical and lesser-known authors, neglected topics, and critical methodologies including genetic criticism, intertextuality, book history, and historical documentation. This trend is only bound to increase as large-scale digitisation of archival materials gathers pace, and existing copyright restrictions gradually lapse.

These two book series have been at the forefront of this burgeoning trend, and this international conference will take stock of these developments. Above all, it will also point forwards, towards future avenues of research. The authors and editorial board members connected with the series will reflect upon the ‘state of the art’ regarding archive-based research within their particular sub-discipline, connecting this to Modernism Studies as a whole. The provisional paper titles listed below reflect their responses to this invitation. (more…)

Open Culture

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“After the ‘Ulysses’ author died, in 1941, Ireland declined to honour him as it had WB Yeats” — The Irish Times

“In his fresh account of four modernists, Bill Goldstein, a former editor of the books section of this newspaper’s website and an interviewer for NBC New York, does not tell this story. Instead The World Broke in Two chronicles Morgan (Forster), David (Lawrence), Tom (Eliot) and Virginia (Woolf) as they wage personal battle in tremendous earnest against blank sheets of paper to create important new works from the inner recesses of their genius. Goldstein offers a snapshot history of their careers in deference to the American now, embracing not only the chatty familiarity of first names but also, and more significant, the biographical details of authorship that most 21st-century interest in literature seems to depend upon.”

— Eric Bennett, The New York Times

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James Joyce

At 5pm on Tuesday 30 May 2017, Scarlett Baron will be giving a free lecture on James Joyce at the University of Reading. The lecture will connect to her broader interest in modernist and postmodernist literature in English and French:

“Her 2011 monograph ‘Strandentwining Cable’: Joyce, Flaubert, and Intertextuality reads Joyce within an Anglo-French literary tradition and argues for the importance of his work within the emergence of intertextual theory.

Everyone is most welcome to this event, which takes place 5pm at the Special Collections, University of Reading. The lecture will be accompanied by a glass of wine and is hosted by the Finnegans Wine Reading Group.”

To book a place, or for more information, take a look at the Eventbrite page.

Lorraine Sim discusses how the women of modernism allow us to reimagine the ordinary and the everyday
Lorraine Sim, Ordinary Matters: Modernist Women's Literature and Photography (Bloomsbury, 2016)
Lorraine Sim, Ordinary Matters: Modernist Women’s Literature and Photography (Bloomsbury, 2016)

What inspired you to write Ordinary Matters?

The idea developed from my first book, Virginia Woolf: the Patterns of Ordinary Experience. Towards the end of that project I realised there was much more that I wanted to explore, both in terms of the concept of the everyday and its applications to modernism and cultural histories of early twentieth-century modernity. I remember reading H.D.’s fascinating wartime memoir, The Gift, while I was working on my book on Woolf, and seeing some of Lee Miller’s photographs of London during the Blitz around the same time, and I felt I needed to extend my exploration of the ordinary to a broader range of women writers, artists and contexts. The final chapter of Virginia Woolf looked at what I termed the ‘ethics of the ordinary’ in her oeuvre. This idea, of the ways in which the ordinary functions as a site of value (be it personal, social, moral or political), really fascinated me, and I wanted to explore it in a more comprehensive way. Also, many canonical and contemporary theories on the topic view the everyday negatively, or as requiring radical transformation, and I felt that this was a critical habit or commonplace that itself required interrogation. (more…)

e72b6-virginia-woolf-1935-man-rayPeter Fifield is giving a free talk at Birkbeck College on 17 May 2017 as part of Birkbeck Arts Week. The talk will demonstrate how Virginia Woolf‘s work connects to “a very specific moment in medical history”, and explore our tendency to link mental work with the activity of eating. To book a free place, visit the Eventbrite page.

And, if you are hungry for more on Woolf then do take a look at my recent interview with Kathryn SimpsonVirginia Woolf: A Guide for the Perplexed.

Kathryn Simpson discusses the life and work of one of literary modernism’s most distinguished innovators
Kathryn Simpson, Woolf: A Guide for the Perplexed (Bloomsbury, 2016)
Kathryn Simpson, Woolf: A Guide for the Perplexed (Bloomsbury, 2016)

What motivated you to write Woolf: A Guide for the Perplexed?

I feel very passionate about the work of Virginia Woolf because of the ways it engages with some of the ‘big’ questions about self and identity, experience and relationships, politics, cultural pressures and the impact of a changing world. She, like other modernist writers and artists, attempted to convey what it meant and felt like to live through a period of dramatic change (politically, socially, economically and in terms of technological developments) and to find new forms and techniques to represent a new sense of modernity.

How did you discover Virginia Woolf’s writing?

I discovered her writing as part of my undergraduate degree at the University of Birmingham and then chose to write on her work for my PhD alongside other early twentieth-century women writers (Gertrude Stein, H.D, Radclyffe Hall and Djuna Barnes). (more…)

samuelbeckett-walking“As a literary structure, the recounted walk encourages digression and association, in contrast to the stricter form of a discourse or the chronological progression of a biographical or historical narrative. A century and a half later, James Joyce and Virginia Woolf would, in trying to descrive the workings of the mind, develop the style called stream of consciousness. In their novels Ulysses and Mrs. Dalloway, the jumble of thoughts and recollections of their protagonists unfolds best during walks. This kind of unstructured, associative thinking is the kind most often connected to walking, and it suggests walking as not an analytical but an improvisational act. Rousseau’s Reveries [of the Solitary Walker] are one of the first portraits of this relationship between thinking and walking.”

— From Rebecca Solnit, Wanderlust: A History of Walking

A one-day symposium at the Institute of English Studies, London • 12 December 2016

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About the conference

Counter to the conventional perception of modernism as ahistorical, there have been recent academic and critical efforts to historicise it. The Historical Modernism Symposium seeks to contribute to this  trend by inviting readings of modern/ist literature and avant-garde art movements in the historical contexts of their production and reception, while assessing their entanglement with history and modernity transnationally.

The symposium aims to look at the history of modernism and the avant-gardes in relation to and their place in (literary and art) History, addressing questions of their relation with modern times, raised, for example, by colonialism; nationalism; globalisation; economics; politics; tradition; technology; urbanism, classicism; mythology; mysticism; religion; psychology/psychoanalysis.

Moreover, and importantly, it will examine pertinent philosophies of time, historiographical practices and representations of local and world historical events, such as the two World Wars, the Russian  Revolution and the rise of Fascism.

Finally, it will also investigate modernist concepts of the spirit of the times as well as new notions of and approaches to literary history. (more…)

bobby-hutcherson-jazz

“Bobby Hutcherson, a vibraphonist whose improvising and composition helped to define modernity for jazz as a whole, has died. He had long struggled with emphysema. He was 75.”

More at NPR.

Call for submissions to a forthcoming edited collection

About the Proposed Collection

This landmark Companion aims to define the academic field of literature and art history. It is the first volume of its kind to comprehensively survey, question, and attempt to organize, interdisciplinary research across these richly inter-related arts. The book is aimed at literature and art history students, as well as at academics and practitioners, who are interested in mapping out intersections between literature, the visual arts, and their respective academic disciplines. (more…)

Should we bother with modernism? Is it suited to our bedside table, or should it be exiled to obscurity on some distant library shelf?
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Virginia Woolf

While looking for something interesting to read online recently I stumbled across something boring. Namely, Robert McCrum’s Guardian piece on ‘The best boring books’: it listed big, grey bricks of supposedly anaesthetic prose. McCrum selected novels based on their ability to relieve anxiety and dull the senses, singling out two modernist novels among his favourites: James Joyce’s notorious Finnegans Wake and Virginia Woolf’s The Waves. I looked again. Is there something intrinsic to modernism that lends itself to these kinds of associations? Of dullness and tedium in the mind’s eye of the public?

Gabriel Josipovici asked What Ever Happened to Modernism? As part of an in-depth literary study, he charted the recent decline of modernist literature in opposition to other, more traditional forms of storytelling. But what is it about Modernism that turns so many readers away? Why are Joyce, Eliot and Kafka missing from our holiday reading lists? And if by some miracle they are on our bookshelves, why do we never pick them up? (more…)