Mapping the Self

Place, Identity, Nationality

15 December 2012, Oxford Brookes University

This one-day postgraduate symposium seeks to explore issues surrounding the formation of identities both national and individual and how the process is related to place, language, and literature. Some of the topics we will explore are: cosmopolitanism vs. nationalism; the role of language and literature in subcultures; regional writings and identities; in-between spaces and selves; the influence of the author in generating, contesting, or re-visioning national mythologies; translation’s role in voicing identity; literature, identity and diaspora. Our aim is to encourage a diverse dialogue about these themes between postgraduate literature, culture, and modern languages speakers.

Confirmed keynotes

Eóin Flannery

Reader in Irish Literature, Oxford Brookes University

Playing the Scales: Humanity, NonHumanity and Ecocriticism

Abstract

The paper will look at how the most recent trends in Ecocriticism pressurize accepted boundaries between human and natural histories, and, in the process, demand that we reflect on how we ‘narrate’ personal, communal and national histories. It is a truism to say that the ‘self’ is no longer self-contained or coextensive with our ‘humanity’; we now need to address the ‘deep’ historical and ‘natural’ facets of our personal and communal identities. Climate change is a spur to such re-appraisals of what it means to be human and to what we understand as human history. The paper will draw on classic and new writings on historiography, climate change science, neurology, and creative writing to explore such ideas.

Biography

Dr Eóin Flannery is Reader in Irish Literature in the Department of English and Modern Languages at Oxford Brookes University. His publications include: Colum McCann and the Aesthetics of Redemption (2011); Ireland and Postcolonial Studies: Theory, Discourse, Utopia (2009); Versions of Ireland: Empire, Modernity and Resistance in Irish Culture (2006). His next book Ireland and Ecocriticism: Literature, History and Social Justice will be published by Routledge in 2014. He is also completing a study of the work of the novelist, dramatist, and short story writer, Eugene McCabe, and is currently editing a special ‘Irish’ issue of The Journal of Ecocriticism to appear in 2013.

Eric White

Senior Lecturer in American Literature, Oxford Brookes University

Localism and “the Local” in the Modernist Transatlantic

Abstract

Alongside its emphasis on globalisation, the transnational turn in literary studies has also produced a concomitant interest in ‘localism, regional cultures and place-specific writing’, as Susan Manning and Andrew Taylor have noted. Nevertheless, transnational studies of literary modernism have tended to focus on the phenomenon of expatriation and travel, especially in analyses of artists and writers who had close relationships with America. Drawing on the recent rise of geographical materialism in the field of transatlantic studies, this paper considers how an intersecting nexus of writer-editors (including canonical modernists such as William Carlos Williams and Marianne Moore and marginal figures such as Charles Henri Ford and Kathleen Tankersley Young) complicate the boundaries that have traditionally divided modernist literature into canonical categories of ‘home made’ and ‘cosmopolitan’ modernism. It also attempts to negotiate the deceptively fluid terminology that underpins the writing of place by examining the writing of the modernists who ‘stayed at home’. Delving into the specialist spheres of the modernist ‘little magazines’, and the networks that inaugurated them, the paper suggests an alternative account of (and vocabulary for) the modernist transatlantic.

Writers on both sides of the Atlantic configured their projects according to the physical loci of geographic places, the temporal flux of cultural spaces, and the textual locus of the printed page. However, the distinctive praxes of localist modernists distinguish them not only from categories of regional(ist) and national(ist) writing, but also from the locational modernisms explored by critics such as Jahan Ramazani and Susan Stanford Friedman. This paper argues that the case of the localist modernists and the problem of ‘the local’ challenge underlying assumptions about how writing is ‘placed’ and conceptualised within the broader framework of transatlantic studies.

Biography

Eric White is Senior Lecturer in American Literature in the Department of English and Modern Languages at Oxford Brookes University, and his research examines the transatlantic avant-garde as it evolved in the pages of modernist little magazines in the early 20th century. He has previously taught at the University of Cambridge, Anglia Ruskin University, and the University of Edinburgh, and recently completed a Visiting Research Fellowship in the Rothermere American Institute at the University of Oxford. His recently completed book Transatlantic Avant-Gardes: Little Magazines and Localist Modernism will be published by Edinburgh University Press in 2013.

Poetry reading by Steven Matthews

Skying is a collection of poems written by local poet (and Director of the Poetry Centre), Steven Matthews, and published by Waterloo Press. His collection emerges from the engagement with North Essex and the Suffolk border landscape and seascape where Steven was brought up. Reflecting on his childhood, being a father, grief, and loss, it combines moments of illumination with voices which bring family and local stories to life. Steven Matthews will give a reading at the drinks reception to close the symposium.

Conference organisers

There is no registration fee and lunch is included. If you have any queries, please contact the conference organisers by emailing mappingtheself@gmail.com.