CALL FOR PAPERS
SPACE AND PLACE IN MIDDLEBROW: 1900-1950
Institute of English Studies, University of London, 13-14 September 2012
The parameters and interiors of British middlebrow writing and reading have increasingly received scholarly attention in recent years. Middlebrow writing, in fiction in particular, has been identified in terms of a particular kind of novel, produced by a combination of particular conditions: the writer, the market, the reader, the publisher, the critics, the period, the theme, the setting, and the message. Middlebrow is now understood as a highly complex sociological phenomenon, with boundaries that are almost too flexible. It is getting harder to be able to say: ‘this, and not this, is middlebrow’, since in a certain sense, middlebrow can be demonstrated to permeate all aspects of creative production and consumption from the early twentieth century. While accepting that definitions are useful, it is important to recognise that a precise definition of the boundaries of ‘the middlebrow’ may in reality be unhelpful for its exploration. By focusing too fixedly on the interfaces between middlebrow and that which is clearly, or not so clearly, not middlebrow, we lose sight of the fluid nature of the middlebrow state of mind, and of the social and literary contributory conditions that enabled such texts to evolve.
This conference aims to investigate the complex relationship between middlebrow writing and categories of space and place. For the exploration of this topic we seek to encourage discussion along two main trajectories: firstly, we would like to invite participants to consider the spaces and places where middlebrow writing was supported. This includes the social geographies of middlebrow as well as the topography and archaeology of middlebrow production and consumption. We are interested in hearing about research on middlebrow culture that encompasses spaces of refuge, spaces of social power, and spaces of industry and production. We want to hear about loci for writing: areas in a country, a county, a town, a village, even of a building. Where did middlebrow happen?
Secondly, we invite papers that explore the literary representation of place and space in middlebrow writing. Participants are invited to discuss contribution of middlebrow writers to the spatial discourses that harbour the collective’s sense of national, cultural and social identity. How do middlebrow writers image the places of gender, ethnicity, and class? What are their strategies for the appropriation of space and place for generating cultural meaning? We are particularly interested to learn about the experience of Empire in the first half of the twentieth century and middlebrow conceptions of home and exile, the country and city, the centre and the margins. How does middlebrow reflect and negotiate the spatial practices of society?
The conference will be organised by Professor Christoph Ehland of the University of Paderborn, Germany, and Dr Kate Macdonald, Ghent University, Belgium. Abstracts of no more than 300 words should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com by 15 February 2012. Those abstracts selected for presentation will be announced not later than 5 March 2012.