University of Lisbon Centre for English Studies (ULICES)
Department of English Studies of the School of Arts and Humanities
Scientific and Organising Committee: Luísa Flora, Alcinda Pinheiro de Sousa, Maria José Pires, Mário Vítor Bastos, Michaela Henriques
Venue: School of Arts and Humanities of the University of Lisbon
“Grave stones tell the truth scarce forty years, Generations pass while families last not three oakes.”
(Sir Thomas Browne)
A century later, our view of the First World War, relabelled “First” after its sequel number Two, is the product not only of eyewitness accounts, historical documents and memorabilia, but of the multiple discourses which have continued over the years to assess and re-assess an event that determined the course of the twentieth century. To the people who lived through that war, it was “the Great War” – by its dimension (involving nations worldwide for the first time in history), by its initial idealistic definition (“the war to end all wars”), and by the enduring nightmares it engendered, and for which no one had been prepared. To make sense of these traumatic experiences, no single narrative would suffice, for such a war “is simply too frightful, too chaotic, too arbitrary, too bizarre, too uncanny a set of events and images to grasp directly. We need blinkers, spectacles, shades to glimpse war even indirectly. Without filters, we are blinded by its searing light. Language is such a filter” (Jay Winter). There have been many and varied narratives. From the early ones, the collective sought to distil the myths that conveyed acceptable meanings, and to re-establish a sense of order and stability where disruptive changes and new insights had become too unsettling.
Meanwhile, the generation that provided the original representations of lived experience has gradually died out, other sources have come to light, and different perspectives have been explored, revealing a more complex relationship between wartime experience and its expression in English literature and culture.
This Conference aims at re-working some of the myths of the Great War and re-considering the roles they have played in British culture.
Authors who have long been a part of the literary canon (such as Owen, Brooke, Sassoon, Rosenberg or Ford Madox Ford, Robert Graves, and Vera Brittain), and some others, more or less neglected (T. E. Hulme, Charles Sorley, Julian Grenfell, Ivor Gurney, David Jones), may be revisited. The re-examination of verse is still paramount in this approach, but fiction, memoirs, letters and other forms of art by both combatants and civilians are also re-considered. Some aspects and uses of propaganda and censorship may likewise be addressed.
We welcome proposals of 300-word abstracts, for 20-minute-long papers, on related topics and themes such as the following:
art and war
fragmentation, disruption and continuity
frontiers, old and new
trauma and crisis
- Prof Randall Stevenson of the University of Edinburgh.
Deadlines for submitting proposals, confirming participation, and for registering can be found under News.
The Scientific and Organising Committee