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Intercultural Exchanges: UCL English Research Conference held on Friday 18th December 2015
A one-day conference which brought together staff and postgraduates from the English
Department working on intercultural exchange. Papers addressed the ways that
English authors mediate works from classical antiquity; how translation is
conducted across and between linguistic cultures; the role played by critics in
tracing intercultural contact; and the political and social implications of
exchange between intranational or international cultures. The conference reflected
on the critical practices and disciplinary methods that underpin this kind
of study, and an end-of-day roundtable discussion highlighted new work and
new angles on intercultural research. Work-in-progress papers were given by
Dr Scarlett Baron, Dr Paul Davis, and Prof. Philip Horne, roundtable
reflections by Dr Julia Jordan and Dr Rob Turner, and keynote talks by
Prof. Colin Burrow (All Souls, Oxford) and Dr Ruth Scurr (Gonville and Caius,
Literary criticism has taken an increasingly interdisciplinary turn in recent decades. No text is an island and the writing of any period draws on the literary and intellectual culture of other times and places. While readers in earlier decades often opted to study literature in isolation, much of the most exciting research produced today considers dimension of writing as a process of exchange – the fruit of discoveries made in and through translation, translation local and foreign travels, epistolary conversations.
The Department’s Intercultural Exchanges theme reflects the interests and activities of many members of staff. It encompasses a range of historical and theoretical approaches, bridging periods and disciplines, and addressing every period of English literature, across a range of genres and media. It was the designated research theme for our Graduate Research Seminar Series in 2014–15, and encapsulates much of the work carried out under the auspices of the Centre for Early Modern Exchanges.
Several members in UCL English are engaged in work on translation.
Susan Irvine has edited The Old English Boethius (Oxford, 2009), a two-volume edition addressing many important historical and theoretical questions about translation and its roles in culture.
Mark Ford is the author of Raymond Roussel and the Republic of Dreams (Faber, 2000; Cornell, 2001), the first English-language biography of Roussel, as well as of a seminal parallel-text verse translation of his Nouvelles Impressions d’Afrique (Princeton UP, 2011).
Paul Davis’s Translation and the Poet’s Life: The Ethics of Translating in English Culture, 1646–1726 (OUP, 2008) discusses the theory and cultural history of translation.
Scarlett Baron is author of several articles about the translation of Joyce’s works into French and about Joyce’s own interest in the practice of translation.
A number of recent and current departmental projects situate literature written in English within the global contexts by which they were shaped.
Juliette Atkinson’s second monograph, Immortal Improprieties: French Novels and the Victorians (OUP and the British Academy, forthcoming) challenges ideas about the Victorians’ prudish rejection of French literature by exploring the cultural impact of French novels on their English readers.
Scarlett Baron’s Strandentwining Cable’: Joyce, Flaubert, and Intertextuality (OUP, 2011) offers an in-depth analysis of Joyce’s intertextual engagement with Flaubert. Continuing in the same comparative vein, her next book, A Genealogy of Intertextuality, will trace intertextual theory’s core ideas and emblematic images to their antecedents in the works of Darwin, Nietzsche, and Freud.
Linda Freedman has written about Anglo-American literary interactions, focusing on convergences between the prophetic styles and democratic thinking of William Blake and Walt Whitman.
Helen Hackett is editing a collection of interdisciplinary essays, Early Modern Exchanges: Intercultural Encounters and Dialogues, 1550–1800 (Ashgate, forthcoming), which discusses the global reach of early modern literature, from seventeenth-century Mexico at one end to travel in the Ottoman Empire at the other.
Philip Horne's main focus of research is Henry James - a figure who in himself could be seen as a site of intense intercultural exchange. He has written on James's vexed relationship with Flaubert and in particular with L'Education Sentimentale; and has an ongoing project on the strains in Anglo-American relations as they shape the relations between James and Theodore Roosevelt.
Richard North’s recent publications include a comparative study of Beowulf and Gilgamesh; a discussion of Chaucer’s adaptation of Boccaccio’s Il Filostrato; and a paper on cultural exchanges between the Anglo-Saxons and Romans, Greeks, Persians, Arabs, and Berbers.
Neil Rennie is researching English episodes in the lives of some French poets (Mallarmé, Rimbaud, Laforgue, Apollinaire, and Larbaud), having already published on the history of travel and travel literature (English, French, and American).
Chris Stamatakis has published on Gabriel Harvey’s study of Italian literature, and is completing a book on the reception of Italian poetry and poetic theory in sixteenth-century England.
Hugh Stevens’s publications reflect his ongoing research on the international constructions of sexual identity. He has written on Henry James, on D.H. Lawrence’s interest in homoerotic Mexican primitivism, and on synergies between Wagner’s The Ring of the Nibelung and Lawrence’s Rainbow.
René Weis has written on Verdi’s fascination with Shakespeare, most notably in Macbeth and in his two swansong operas, Otello and Falstaff.