twentieth century

CEIR Speaker, 21 Feb 2017: Carrie Smith on Ted Hughes’s Birthday Letters

Carrie Smith (Cardiff University) will be presenting her paper, ‘Ted Hughes’s Birthday Letters: An Archive of Writing’, at 5.30pm on Tuesday, 21 February 2017. The talk will take place in the Cardiff University’s John Percival Building, Room 2.48, and will be followed by a wine reception.

2016-05-smithThis paper will consider the manuscript drafts of British poet Ted Hughes’s final full-length collection Birthday Letters (1998). It will suggest that the proliferation of reported documents, photographs, journal entries and letters in the published collection is a result of Hughes’s re-encounter with these items when sorting through his late wife Sylvia Plath’s, and later his own, papers for sale. As a result Birthday Letters itself becomes a poetic archive curated by Hughes. From the opening poem, we are presented with accounts of documents that root the collection in the texture of real life. The collection works to preserve what will be lost when the papers are archived after his death; the memory-context of these photographs, drafts and objects. Hughes also provides incorrect biographical details throughout the collection. The substitution of an easily-checkable detail suggests that Hughes is creating a poetic archive of items that cannot be trusted; implying that poetry must always be questioned when mined for biography. The process of shaping his archive and literary legacy informs the collection’s focus on the fallibility of memory and the potential for documents and objects to deceive. The archive of papers tries to preserve the past, even as the arranging and destroying of the papers alters it; similarly in Birthday Letters, Hughes represents the past in poetry by using concrete items. He performs a synthesising of these items, akin to a researcher, by finding patterns in the papers. As this paper will show, the drafts of Birthday Letters form an archive of writing, placing the indeterminacy of the many variants of the manuscript page alongside the doubt over how to record a shared life in poetry.

2016/17 Speakers Programme now available

The 2016/17 programme of speakers at the Centre for Editorial and Intertextual Research is now available to view on our Events: Speakers Programme page. Talks this session from a range of national and international scholars will explore a variety of subjects, including digital literature, Romantic poetry and eighteenth-century drama, book history and modernism, and postmodern fiction. The talks will be followed by wine reception, and all are welcome!


Magic, Meaning and Manuscripts

Six Notebooks in Search of an Editor: Samuel Beckett’s Murphy

Andrew Nash, 26 Apr 2016, CEIR Seminar Series

Claiming that he has no critical authority in the field of Samuel Beckett, Dr Andrew Nash (University of Reading) confessed that his paper would shed no new light on Beckett’s writings. The paper was, instead, a thought-provoking account of the changes taking place in manuscript research, the increasing emphasis on the materiality of the manuscript, and the technological conditions (writing instruments and papers) that influence literary production. Nash’s research also provided the centre with an invaluable insight into the status of the modern literary manuscript as an artefact of considerable commercial value, and, in the case of Beckett’s Murphy notebooks, the ways in which the commercial and the scholarly are indelibly intertwined.


Professor Carl Phelpstead introduces Dr Andrew Nash

In July 2013, the University of Reading successfully purchased at auction six manuscript notebooks, detailing the composition of Beckett’s first novel Murphy (1938). Justifying their bid of £950,000, the University maintained that the acquisition of the manuscript would solidify its reputation as a central archival resource for Beckett’s work, and attract more scholars and researchers to Reading. (more…)

Visiting Speaker, 26 Apr 2016: Andrew Nash on Samuel Beckett’s Murphy Notebooks

Andrew Nash (University of Reading) will be presenting his paper, ‘Six Notebooks in Search of an Editor: Samuel Beckett’s Murphy’, at 5.30pm on Tuesday, 26 April 2016. The talk will take place in the Cardiff University’s John Percival Building, Room 4.43, and will be followed by a wine reception.

2015.08.nashIn 2013 the University of Reading was unexpectedly successful in acquiring at auction six manuscript notebooks which had for almost eighty years remained in private hands. The notebooks were those in which Samuel Beckett had written, over some ten months between August 1935 and June 1936, the first draft of what was finally to emerge in 1938 as his first published novel, Murphy. This talk will outline the unusual provenance history of this literary manuscript and discuss the status of the notebooks as commercialised, heritage and research objects. It will reflect on the experience of helping to transcribe and edit the notebooks, examining their distinctive material features which shed important new light on Beckett’s composition process and on the ‘archaeology’ of modern literary manuscripts more generally. (more…)

The Covert Canon

The CIA and the Literary Canon: The Case of Encounter Magazine

Jason Harding, Tuesday 17 Nov 2015, CEIR Seminar Series

Roughly half an hour before Jason Harding (Durham University) arrived to give his paper on ‘The CIA and the Literary Canon: The Case of Encounter Magazine’, Anthony, Mikey and I were trying to think of a good hashtag for the talk’s live-feed on Twitter. HardingSeveral suggestions were made, including #HardingCIA, or simply #CIA. Anthony, however, cautiously suggested that these could attract unwarranted attention from the organisation, who are, in fact, now users of the social network.

With over one million followers, at first it seems strange that America’s Central Intelligence Agency would make use of a platform that has, in the past, had significant cyber-security issues. The organisation’s Tweets, however, draw very little attention to their work, which leaves their posts quite uninteresting. (They frequently circulate facts about former US Presidents, and post photographs of combat aircraft and military uniforms.) Yet behind this unadventurous façade, their presence on Twitter does suggest covert observance or undercover surveillance, and there is, of course, no way of tracking which pages they frequently monitor. (more…)