Keynote and Plenary Speaker Abstracts 2014

Professor Sarah Churchwell – Title TBC

Abstract forthcoming.

Andrew Lycett – Title TBC

Abstract forthcoming.

Professor Luke Gibbons – ‘The Hysterical Celt’: Ireland, Masculinity and the National Body

The body in Irish culture has been framed historically in terms of religious repression and colonial passivity but little attention has been devoted to its transformative energies. In this talk, I will examine how negative depictions of the feminized ‘hysterical Celt’ were countered during the Revival by the performative force of this stereotype.  As if convulsed into revolt,  the body in Irish physical culture looked to theatre and sport to throw off generations  of colonial paralysis, thus bearing out Yeats’ conviction that rebellion was indeed the ‘delirium of the brave.’

Professor Simon Bainbridge – The Rise of the Romantic Mountaineer

The Romantic period witnessed a major shift in the meaning of the word ‘mountaineer’, which developed from being used to define ‘a person who is native to or lives in a mountainous region’ to also connote ‘a person who engages in or is skilled at mountain climbing’ (OED). This paper will explore why many of the period’s major writers including Wordsworth, Coleridge, Keats and Byron were so keen to be seen as mountaineers and how that identity related to their authorial personas and creative output. In doing so, it will investigate the politics of the mountaineering identity, especially in relation to issues of class and politics. Reading canonical works of British Romantic literature in the context of the wider body of mountain writing, the paper will examine the representation of the shepherd, the chamois hunter and the mountain guide as figures who could be used to represent and challenge the Poet’s vocational identity.  The paper will examine the gendered dimensions of this emergent identity, exploring the challenge that women’s participation in climbing posed to the link between manliness and mountaineering. It will argue that an investigation of the mountaineering literature of the time reveals a contemporary awareness of these issues of gender and power, and that some texts (including works by Wordsworth) specifically reject mountain climbing as a means of asserting masculine power and identity.

Professor Tony Collins – ‘And we have come into our heritage’: Rugby, the First World War and the Cult of the Fallen

This paper examines the relationship between English rugby union and prose and poetry in the period before and immediately after World War One. Ever since Tom Brown’s Schooldays (1857), rugby had seen itself as the embodiment of Muscular Christianity. During the Edwardian period, this became closely allied with the prevailing spirit of militaristic patriotism. In fiction written for schoolboys, for example Hugh Walpole’s Prelude to Adventure (1912), the brutal physicality of the sport is equated explicitly with battle and death.

These concerns were magnified following the outbreak of World War One. Poetry became a popular means for commemorating and celebrating the deaths of players. Poems such as Rupert Brooke’s ‘The Dead’ (1914) and Wordsworth’s ‘Character of the Happy Warrior’ (1806) were commonly used as motifs in commemorations of the dead. At the end of the war, justification for participation in the war was underpinned by the use of these and similar poems.

The paper will end by suggesting that the use of literature to promote a cult of the fallen was the means by which rugby union paid homage to itself as the embodiment of middle-class tradition and stability in a post-war world in which these certainties were under threat.

Professor John Whale – Writing Fighting/Fighting Writing 1800-1825

Abstract forthcoming.

Dr Vybarr Cregan-Reid – The Hardy Runner: thinking landscape with the body

What can Victorian literature tell us about the modern body? Rather than addressing instances of sport manifest in literature, this paper will look at the ways that literature can articulate and reinterpret the experiences of the moving body. In the Prison Notebooks, Gramsci highlighted his own ‘anxious’ moment of modernity: ‘the crisis consists in the fact that the old is dying and the new cannot be born; in this interregnum a great variety of morbid symptoms appears.’ Gramsci’s ‘crisis’ is not merely a twentieth-century phenomenon, but was explored by figures like Paine, Carlyle, Gaskell, Dickens, and Eliot; but there is no other nineteenth-century writer so engaged with the phenomenology of the body, and its disconnection from the world, than Thomas Hardy. In his fiction and poetry, the crisis that Hardy sees (before figures such as Husserl and Heidegger) consists of a kind of disembodied living that modernity necessitates. For me, running is a means of reclaiming knowledges and experiences too willingly surrendered in the ‘anaesthetic’ of an online life (where I have outsourced my memory to my phone, my diet to Ocado, and my friends to Facebook). Running is an intensely aesthetic, corporeal, and psychological experience that fully engages the senses. It forces us to ask questions like: what can I know through this movement? What does it know of me? What can I know of the world that I can only know by moving through it in this way? All themes explored in different ways by Hardy, who suggests that ways of knowing the world diminish through increasing mechanisation and social/geographical mobility. The Hardy runner knows instead that thinking is done with the body. From his novels of the 1860s, through to his poetry of the 1920s, Hardy’s work chimes a pedal-note for embodied living.

Dr Emelyne Godfrey – Parasols of Fury: Edwardian Crime and Self-Defence and the Rise of the ‘Jujutsu-suffragettes’

By the start of the First World War, Japanese martial arts were an international craze. Exotic armlocks had appeared in works by numerous popular authors, including Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and HG Wells. During the nineteenth century, interpersonal violence had become increasingly unacceptable and in the 1900s jujitsu was promoted as a weapon-free way of dealing with criminals in hand-to-hand combat.

While social commentators disagreed on the suitability of certain sports for women, jujitsu was widely considered to be an elegant form of exercise for the ‘weaker sex’ as well as an acceptably feisty form of self-defence. The Edwardian ju-jitsu girl was born.

Using artefacts and images, I will explore the reasons behind the rise in popularity of ladies’ jujitsu, the representation of the jujitsu girl in popular fiction and the stories behind the women who became involved in the Bodyguard group which protected key suffrage leaders from arrest under the ‘Cat and Mouse Act’ of 1913. Jujitsu became politicised as part of the campaign for the vote, and was employed as a method of demonstrating that women could defend themselves and, by inference, their country. The Bodyguards’ resistance to control continues to fascinate. Indeed, looking at today’s popular culture, it seems that the ‘ju-jutsuffragettes’ are making a comeback one hundred years later.

Dr Claire Westall – The Legend of W. G. Karunasena: Nationalist Googlies and Drunken Narration in Shehan Karunatilaka’s Chinaman

This paper examines postcolonial debates about nationalism and national imaginaries via Sri Lankan cricket (i.e. playing and writing back; creating/performing ‘the nation’ on the world stage and at home). It does so through the lens of unreliable narration – specifically through ‘drunken’, ‘sobering’ and ‘sober’modes of self-narration, with explorations of the narrator’s deployment of accusations of ‘unreliability’ (directed at those he encounters) despite his pursuit of the unreliable, the uncertain and the unknown (specifically Pradeep Mathew). Chinaman, the first novel by Shehan Karunatilaka, is narrated by W.G. Karunasena, a sports writer whose alcoholic existence is coming to an end and whose obsession with an unknown spin bowler –Pradeep S. Mathew – leads him into a ‘world of mystery’ and an ironic exposure of the nationalist projects and prejudices behind Sri Lanka’s cricketing establishment. The novel mobilizes diagrams, photographs and cricketing commentary/citations within an alcoholic but increasingly sobering cricket-obsessed narrative voice.

Dr Catherine Wynne – ‘I have perhaps the strongest influence over young men, especially young athletic sporting men, of anyone in England, (bar Kipling)’: Conan Doyle’s Fighting Bodies

On Christmas Day 1899 Conan Doyle’s mother Mary wrote to him urging him not to volunteer for the war in South Africa. An opponent of the war, Mary told her son: “There are hundreds of thousands who can fight for one who can make a Sherlock Holmes … But it is just a fever you have dear one – the old fighting blood … struggling to push you on to what noble as it looks, would be if stripped to the core – a real crime.” Doyle did not agree, replying that he was duty bound to volunteer and that he had “perhaps the strongest influence over young men, especially young athletic sporting men, of anyone in England, (bar Kipling).” In any event, Doyle’s application to fight was rejected; he joined a volunteer medical unit instead and went to South Africa as a doctor. Kipling, the soldier’s writer, was there too in a morale-boosting role.

While Doyle’s comment is centred on military combat in the Boer War, this paper focuses on “young athletic sporting men” and investigates the relationship between this sport and war in Doyle’s writing. Doyle’s interest in boxing emerges early in his career as a doctor and Doyle himself was an amateur pugilist. In 1895 he started to work on a boxing story andRodney Stone. A Reminiscence of the Ring was first serialized in The Strand Magazinefrom January 1896.

Set in 1805 before the Battle of Trafalgar, the novel is concerned with the boxing body and how the Ring prepares men for war. But attention to boxing as a theme in Doyle’s fiction strongly emerges in the 1890s as European tensions escalate. In 1901 on his return from South Africa Doyle set up a volunteer force training young men to shoot and in 1909, he prepared an adaptation of Rodney Stone, entitled The House of Temperley, for the stage. Doyle also developed aspects ofRodney Stone for his 1912 story, ‘The Fall of Lord Barrymore.’ This paper, then, considers the relationship between Doyle’s fighting body and war. Writing to his mother on the completion of the novel in September 1895 he describesRodney Stone as “strik[ing] a healthy, manly and patriotic note”. In South Africa, however, he treated the bodies of men ravaged by disease and injury and on his visits to the battlefields of the First World War, he encountered the decimation of this generation of “young athletic sporting men” who had grown up on his “manly” and “patriotic” fictions.


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