Professorial Inaugural Lecture: Prof. Daniela Caselli, 'The Modernist Child'
|Starts:||17:00 13 Mar 2019|
|Ends:||19:00 13 Mar 2019|
|What is it:||Lecture|
|Organiser:||School of Arts, Languages and Cultures|
|Who is it for:||University staff, General public|
The child is a familiar figure in Romantic and Victorian studies but is much less visible in early twentieth-century literature criticism. This lecture will argue that there is much to gain in revisiting the modernist fascination with the sensorial immediacy of the child, childish play as aesthetic theory, and generation, parturition, and birth control. Perhaps even more importantly, we have much to learn from the ambivalent dismissal of the figure of the child in the period: in D.H. Lawrence’s The Rainbow (1915) the engulfing proliferation of children represents a fecundity that threatens the growth of the individual; in Virginia Woolf’s The Years (1937), the noise made by the working-class children is unintelligible, repulsive and yet extraordinarily beautiful; and in Samuel Beckett’s The Expelled (1946), the narrator bitterly mumbles ‘children, babies, I would lynch them all’ to great ironic effect. The fact that children and childhood have rarely figured in studies of literary modernism can be read as a reflection of the disavowal implicit in these quotations: if modernist writers can claim to be an energetic corrective to nineteenth-century boredom, they must disassociate themselves from either the child’s sweet-smelling bourgeois domesticity or its destitute pathos. My lecture will adopt instead a sceptical stance towards modernism’s exceptionalism and put under pressure this opposition. I will argue that by looking at a figure that carries out a considerable amount of silent cultural work we can learn about the paradoxically convoluted workings of spontaneity, transparency and presence in early twentieth-century literature.
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Travel and Contact Information
Samuel Alexander Lecture Theatre
Samuel Alexander Building