Modern and contemporary literature

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Panel Coordinator: Juan Carlos Hidalgo Ciudad (Universidad de Sevilla). Departamento Filología Inglesa (Literatura Inglesa y Norteamericana), Facultad de Filología, Universidad de Sevilla, C/ Palos de la Frontera, s/n, 41004 Sevilla.


  1. Jennifer Anne Johnson. Eros and Thanatos in A.S. Byatt’s The Children’s Book

The British novelist A.S. Byatt has commented that she cannot understand why in her work, writing is dangerous, a destructive force and that “people who write are destroyers”. In her novel The Children’s Book (2009), the lethal side of the creative drive is linked, not only with writing, but also with other forms of art. The novel is set against the backdrop of the world of Socialists, suffragettes and Fabians striving to improve the world while writers for children weave magical tales. However, we soon realize that the creative impulse can unleash dreadful harm on the families of single-minded artists as well as on the artists themselves. The narrative revolves around creators “ writers, potters and puppeteers- whose work informs the novel, but the creative urge is shown to be as often a source of destruction as of delight. The underlying tension in the novel derives from the conflict between sex and death, the creative urge and the drive to destroy things: Eros and Thanatos. The novel ends just after the First World War, an event which led Sigmund Freud to suggest the existence of a destructive drive in human beings. In this paper, the danger inherent in the need to create is explored in The Children’s Book and related to earlier works of A. S. Byatt’s in an attempt to unearth the reasons for its ubiquity in her fiction. The author has, like many women, had to struggle with the competing demands of her roles as writer and mother, and this may be the key to her repeated preoccupation with this theme.

KEY WORDS: contemporary British literature, A.S. Byatt, creativity, women writers, Eros and Thanatos.

  1. Carmen Andrés Oliver. The End or the Defence of the British Empire in Olivia Manning’s School for Love

In her Colonial Strangers: Women Writing the End of the British Empire (2004), Phyllis Lassner depicts Olivia Manning's School for Love as an anti-imperialist text representing both the problems of colonised Palestinian people and the troubles of British citizens in finding their place in colonial and postcolonial worlds. The aim of this paper is to show how Manning's representation of Jerusalem in School for Love does not question the righteousness of British imperialism but rather offers an uncritical description of the events taking place in the city as the writer herself observed them. My conclusion is that School for Love does not present a range of colonised subjects with a voice of their own but rather focuses on how British subjects live in colonised Jerusalem.

KEY WORDS: Olivia Manning, School For Love, Phyllis Lassner, British Empire, displacement, Jerusalem.

  1. Esther Sánchez-Pardo González. War and its Zeitgeist: Spender, the Elegy and Poetry in Transition

British poetry of the 1930s and 1940s exhibits a very different relationship to history than the poetry of its predecessors, making its way through a course that has been ravaged by war, devastation and trauma. This paper discusses a selection of poems from Stephen Spender’s Ruins and Visions (1942), as products of the Zeitgeist of their times in order to reflect upon crucial transformations in poetic forms “especially the elegy“ and concerns in the interwar period, a time open to the violent and chaotic experiences that a turbulent history was producing.


  1. Clara Escoda Agustí. Violence, Testimony and Ethics in Martin Crimp’s The Country

Martin Crimp’s greatly acclaimed play The Country, which opened at the Royal Court Theatre Downstairs on 11 April 2000, three years after the groundbreaking Attempts on her Life, has generally been seen as offering a critique of language as a means to evasion which is traditional in form (Sierz 2006: 60), and which “returns into the calmer, even if … more shallow waters of mainstream theatre” (Middeke 2011: 92). This paper, in contrast, reads The Country as a play that sets out, in Elisabeth Angel-Perez’s potent formulation, to “rethink the question of realism in the theatre”, as Crimp seeks to find a language and a type of dramaturgy that may enable him to “emerge out of the ethical and, therefore, aesthetic impasse” brought about by the Holocaust, which has “plunged [contemporary art] into the so-called crisis of representation” (2006: 24). For the most part English playwrights, and Martin Crimp in particular, do not dramatize the Holocaust directly (Angel-Perez 2006: 213); rather, through a poetics of female testimony, The Country articulates a dramaturgy of resistance that is arguably aimed at engaging spectators ethically in a reflection on the continuing presence within the current late capitalist world order of the seeds of totalitarianism and barbarism. Ultimately, it will be argued, the dramatization of testimony is part and parcel of a search for a new ethics grounded on subjectivity and the body. Through testimony, spectators are impelled to move towards an ethical framework based on proximity and on what Emmanuel Levinas, in response to the post-Holocaust ethical impasse, metaphorically terms the space of the “meeting” (1989: 69) or the ˜face-to-face” encounter with the Other.

Keywords: late capitalism, Emmanuel Levinas, Zygmunt Bauman, spectatorship, the Other.

  1. Nuria Fernández Quesada. “Íncubos, súcubos, larvas, proyectos…”: El estreno de Final de partida, de Samuel Beckett, ante la crítica teatral española de los años 50.

Final de partida se estrena en España en 1958, adelantándose, contra todo pronóstico, al estreno de la versión inglesa en Inglaterra. La censura y la crí­tica franquistas, que habían asistido perplejas al estreno de Esperando a Godot en 1955, reaccionan con virulencia ante esta nueva pieza dramática a la que condenan por anticristiana. Mientras tanto, la crí­tica progresista española manifiesta, asimismo, su rechazo ante lo que considera un planteamiento existencialista y castrador de la voluntad del ser humano frente a su realidad hostil. Ambos enfoques se recogen en esta ponencia con el propósito de reivindicar, por un lado, un análisis diacrónico que explique las causas de la escasa difusión de la obra teatral de Beckett en España y, por otro, el desarrollo de los exiguos estudios de recepción del teatro beckettiano en nuestro país.

Keywords: Beckett, Endgame, Final de partida, teatro, crítica franquista, censura

  1. Alberto Lázaro Lafuente. Reporter in Spain, de Claud Cockburn: entre el periodismo y la ficción.

Reporter in Spain (1936) presenta las experiencias del periodista y novelista inglés Claud Cockburn en la Guerra Civil Española como corresponsal de guerra y voluntario en las milicias del Quinto Regimiento republicano. Esta obra forma parte de un amplio legado de crónicas, reportajes, memorias y colecciones de artí­culos periodísticos sobre la guerra española escritos por muy diferentes autores, entre los que destacan John Langdon-Davies, Arthur Koestler o George Orwell. Tradicionalmente sus textos se han asociado a subgéneros periodísticos de carácter informativo e interpretativo, de tenor documental o testimonial, en el que la veracidad y el reflejo de la realidad son esenciales. Ahora bien, Albert Chillón, en su obra Literatura y periodismo: Una tradición de relaciones promiscuas (1999) plantea un nuevo rumbo en el estudio de las relaciones entre periodismo y literatura al descartar la existencia de la “verdad” o la realidad objetiva y poner el énfasis en el grado en que la ficción domina todo tipo de textos, desde la mayor referencialidad a la mayor fabulación. Esta comunicación tiene como objetivo analizar este grado de referencialidad y fabulación que ofrece Reporter in Spain, estableciendo los rasgos que, en su exploración de la realidad, la vinculan tanto al género periodístico como al literario.

Palabras clave: Claud Cockburn, Frank Pitcairn, Reporter in Spain, literatura, periodismo, Guerra Civil Española


José Francisco Fernández Sánchez (Chair)

María Jesús López Sánchez-Vizcaí­no, Antonio Andrés Ballesteros González

The Fable of One with You in the Dark. Samuel Beckett and the World Outside.

(Mesa redonda)

Samuel Beckett is famously known to be the most solipsistic of authors, a writer who went further than any other in the search for the meaning of existence by exploring silence and loneliness. After an initial period when he flirted with verbal exuberance, he certainly followed the path of austerity in order to reach the essence of words and what might lie behind them. The figure of an author locked in his own obsessions was reinforced by his public persona: a self-centred and forlorn individual who shunned publicity and withdrew from any celebratory event. However, a reading of his works that does not take into account the historical and social environment of his time may be misleading because Beckett’s writing is immersed in a variety of subtle ways in what may be termed “the world outside”. As James Knowlson stated before the boom experienced in Beckett criticism at the turn of the century, the general reader often seems to have gained the impression that Beckett’s prose works and plays exist in a strange kind of “no man’s land” with few connections with any real world and no links at all with their own human experiences. Nothing, I suggest, could be further from the truth. The aim of this round table is to highlight Beckett’s connections with three different realms (Ireland, interpersonal relationships, the literary tradition) in order to contribute to the opening-up of interpretations that have changed our understanding of one of the major figures of contemporary world literature. The attempts made by his solitary heroes to step beyond the individual psyche and reach others will also be a matter of discussion. Dr. José Francisco Fernández will examine the presence of Ireland in his prose and theatre. Until very recently echoes of Irish voices and glimpses of landscapes around Dublin were the only references that associated the author of Waiting for Godot with his native country. Recent scholarship and the publication of archive material have shown that Ireland for Beckett was not simply a matter of ˜fundamental sounds”, but a concern that never waned, despite his voluntary exile in France since the late 1930s. From bitter criticism of the policies of the Irish Free State in his early short stories to dispassionate reflections on his own social class, the affluent Protestant bourgeoisie, in his mature work, Ireland appears not as a distant background, but as a source of conflicting emotions. Dr. María J. López will focus on the possibility and impossibility of interpersonal relationships in Beckett’s work. An important current in Beckett criticism has highlighted the centrality in his work of the isolated individual and the failure and derision to which sexual, family and love relationships are subject in his texts. Then, borrowing Beckett’s words on Proust, is “love”.


  1. Jacobo Canady Salgado (U. Sevilla). The Island of Doctor Moreau and the End of History

In this paper I use the blurring of the boundary between man and animal in Wells' The Island of Doctor Moreau as a starting point to study the parallelisms between the way the Beast Folk, the humans Moreau has carved out of animals, revert into animality at the end of the story with the fate that awaits man after the End of History in Alexandre Koj's reading of Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit.

Keywords: Wells, Koj, Hegel, Moreau, Human, Animal, History

  1. Daniel Zurbano García (U. Pablo Olavide). Personajes secundarios en los finales de Almayer's Folly, Lord Jim, The Secret Agent y Under Western Eyes

Este trabajo toma como punto de partida la observación de que cuatro de las novelas más importantes de Joseph Conrad (Almayer’s Folly, Lord Jim, The Secret Agent y Under Western Eyes) tienen un final análogo, pues las obras mencionadas terminan con una alusión significativa a un destacado personaje secundario. Se pretende demostrar que esta estrategia narrativa contribuye a definir el sentido global de los problemas éticos abordados en las novelas. En concreto, los personajes secundarios que figuran en los finales de estas novelas ofrecen una alternativa vital que contrasta con la postura moral del personaje protagonista o de un conjunto de personajes. El análisis de las caracterí­sticas de los personajes en cada una de las novelas revela que el contraste entre ellos es parte esencial del sentido de las obras, y el efecto producido en los finales de las novelas permite una mejor comprensión de los problemas morales explorados.

Palabras clave: Joseph Conrad; Almayer’s Folly; Lord Jim; The Secret Agent; Under Western Eyes; personajes secundarios; crí­tica literaria

  1. María Deseada López Fernández (U. Málaga). The Essence of the Absence: (Re)Tracing Rodinsky in the Work of Iain Sinclair

David Rodinsky, an orthodox Jew who lived in an attic above a decaying synagogue in East London in the 1960s, features in some of the works by Iain Sinclair both as fictional and non-fictional character. In Rodinsky’s Room (1999), Sinclair and co-author Rachel Lichtenstein attempt to (re)construct Rodinsky’s life and movements through the random collection of bizarre possessions found in his garret: piles of newspapers, transcripts of a dozen different languages (some dead), hand-drawn maps, handwritten notebooks, faded photographs, clothes, calendars, empty bottles, and even remaining food. The fact that the room had remained intact for over a decade after Rodinsky’s mysterious disappearance stirred the curiosity of both Lichtenstein and Sinclair; the former obsessively tries to retrieve the actual man whilst the latter engages in the myth that Rodinsky’s absence creates. This paper examines how Sinclair traces Rodinsky in his production by intertwining factual accounts with the memory of the stories that Rodinsky’s revenant triggers. Sometimes Rodinsky’s presence is instigated, for instance when his London A-Z is walked over in Dark Lanthorns (1999), and sometimes it is encountered, as when Rodinsky’s grave is visited in London Orbital (2002). In either case, memories of Rodinsky emerge from and together with other people’s memories that happened in the same location. The past is recalled from books, quotations, photographs, remnants, personal and historical dates, figures and facts that coexist spatially. Once retrieved through those means, the memories of Rodinsky are in turn inscribed into narratives that will be responded to again in the future, thus perpetuating the myth that originated from a sealed room.

Keywords: Iain Sinclair, David Rodinsky, Rodinsky's Room, Whitechapel, East End synagogue, trace

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