First World War

Visiting speaker, 18 Oct 2011: Jean Moorcroft Wilson on Edward Thomas

Jean Moorcroft Wilson will be presenting her paper, ‘Edward Thomas: From Adlestrop to Arras’, at 5.15pm on Tuesday, 18 October 2011. The talk will take place in the Cardiff Humanities Building, Room 2.48.

How did Edward Thomas, whose best-known poem ‘Adlestrop’ is about an unaccustomed halt at a deserted country station, come to join the ranks of the greatest First World War poets? Had he, for example, sailed with Robert Frost to America in February 1915 (as he seriously contemplated doing) his story and his work would have been very different. Instead, in July 1915, after months of indecision, he enlisted and by late January 1917 was in France. Just over two months later he was dead, killed on the first day of the Battle of Arras, 9 April 1917. The story of his vacillations and of his eventual enlistment is of particular interest, highlighting, as it does, the myriad different reasons why men like Thomas—‘doubting Thomas’—finally decided to fight.

The talk will be followed by a wine reception.



Beyond Collections: Crowdsourcing for Public Engagement conference

On 26 May 2011, a one-day conference was held at the University of Oxford, titled ‘Beyond Collections: Crowdsourcing for Public Engagement’ (details of the conference and video recordings of the speakers are available here). The event was hosted by Oxford’s RunCoCo community collections facilitation project and sponsored by JISC. The aim was to explore the ways in which online communities can participate in and add value to digital resources—to the mutual benefit of both projects and participants.

Speakers from inside and outside academia with experience of the advantages and pitfalls of a crowdsourcing approach told their stories, and the intention was also to locate the potential for harnessing the power of online communities within wider discourses of grass-roots civic leadership, entrepreneurship, and the politics of the ‘Big Society’—not to mention the all-pervasive HE context of the REF’s ‘impact’ and ‘engagement’ agendas.

As part of the Enhancing DMVI project, the team are looking at the possibilities for developing tools which will allow communities of users to describe (tag) digital images in various ways. We are also interested in the potential for people to come together and share their readings and discussions of Victorian illustrations. It was from this perspective that we attended the ‘Beyond Collections’ day—hoping to benefit from the experience of previous projects. (more…)

Visiting speaker, 23 Nov 2010: Paul Stevens on Bunyan and WW1

Paul Stevens will be presenting his paper, ‘Heartwork: John Bunyan, the First World War and the Politics of Grace’ at 5.15pm on Tuesday, 23 November 2010. The talk will take place in the Cardiff Humanities Building, Room 2.48.

The pervasive influence of Pilgrim’s Progress on so much literature of the Great War is well known, but Bunyan’s text is usually treated as a repository for somewhat predictable images of the war’s irredeemable hopelessness—‘waste and horror and loss and fear’, in Paul Fussell’s words. Many of Bunyan’s soldier–readers were, however, much more assiduous and deeply engaged in the dissenter’s complex text than this view allows. What they seem to have discovered in Pilgrim’s Progress was an understanding of the religious concept of grace unusually well-suited to their political and psychological needs. In this talk, Paul Stevens will first try to show how distinctive Bunyan’s model of grace was in its original 17th-century context by comparing it with that of another contemporary dissenter, John Milton, and then how Bunyan’s model as ‘heartwork’ enabled soldiers as diverse as R. H. Tawney and Siegfried Sassoon to come to a radically new understanding of their experience, an understanding that eventually helped encourage a transformation in Britain’s national imaginary or understanding of itself. (more…)