All posts by mtaunton2014

Nicholas Hall on British Travellers to the Soviet Union

NHWe are delighted that our summer reading group will be led by Nick Hall, PhD student at the University of Exeter. It will be held at 5pm on Friday 17th May at Pushkin House, bloomsbury (www.pushkinhouse.org).

This reading group focuses on three British travellers to the Soviet Union: Gareth Jones, E.M. Delafield and Herbert Marchant. We will be asking how their experiences and writing highlight – in the words of Angela Kershaw – the ‘generic variety’ of much reportage about the Soviet Union from the period, and also exploring the subtle and interesting complexities of the discourse of travel and of interactions between foreigners and Soviet people.

Nick Hall’s work looks at British travel accounts of journeying to and around the Soviet Union in the 1930s. The period is infamous for intense foreign fascination with Soviet affairs, and particularly for the phenomenon of ‘fellow travellers’ – intellectuals who praised Soviet conditions and policies whilst news of famine, slavery and violence persistently surfaced.

Nick is currently focused on two key areas relating to these travel accounts. The first is a discourse of travel. As the period was so coloured by heated ideological debate and continually contradictory news from and about the Soviet world, travellers were acutely conscious of the potential for ‘eyewitnessing’, and also the pitfalls and problems faced by travellers when trying to determine what the Soviet Union was ‘really like’ on the basis of only a short time there. Furthermore, they were also aware of Soviet tours, translators and guides – an apparatus known in the historiography as ‘cultural diplomacy’, that many contemporaries thought was intended to deceive foreigners. Thus he explores how travellers justified their travel, how they presented themselves as investigators of Soviet affairs, and how they variously sought the ‘truth’ of Soviet life, and who they thought might embody that truth, and where they might be found. This leads into the second area: as travellers sought to find the ‘truth’, they often ventured away from tours and guides and translators, spending time with Soviet people in many different locales and contexts. Nick’s work considers interactions between Soviet people and British travellers via the perspective of these travel accounts.

The Anglo-Russian Research Network organises termly reading groups for those interested in the interactions between British and Russian culture and politics in the period 1880-1950. These are informal events with plenty of discussion and wine, and are open to all. If you plan to attend, it would be helpful if you could let Rebecca Beasley (rebecca.beasley@ell.ox.ac.uk) and/ or Matthew Taunton (M.Taunton@uea.ac.uk) know. The discussion will finish at 6.30pm, and anyone available is very welcome to join us for dinner nearby.

The reading for this session can be downloaded here. Please email Rebecca Beasley (rebecca.beasley@ell.ox.ac.uk) and/ or Matthew Taunton (M.Taunton@uea.ac.uk) and we will provide you with a password to access these documents.

Reading Group: Henry Stead on the Union of Soviet Writers and 1950s Britain

The Anglo-Russian Research Network will be holding its autumn reading group at the slightly earlier time of 5pm on Friday 5th October 2018 at Pushkin House, Bloomsbury. We will be exploring the Union of Soviet Writers and 1950s Britain.

henry_ouWe are delighted to welcome Dr. Henry Stead, who will be leading the session and sharing some unique archival materials with us.

“Dear Comrade Apletin…” The British Left and the Foreign Commission of the Union of Soviet Writers

This session is based on recent archival findings in Moscow’s Archive of the Muses (RGALI). There was much correspondence between the Foreign Commission of the Union of Soviet Writers and Western writers. Selected written exchanges between the Foreign Commission (particularly Mikhail Apletin and Oksana Krugerskaya) and three British writers (Naomi Mitchison, Doris Lessing and Jack Lindsay) reveal an overwhelmingly warm Anglo-Russian relationship across the Iron Curtain. It is now well documented how delegations of foreign writers were charmed by highly controlled tours of the early Soviet Union, but the genuine and open long lasting friendships that developed between international writers with shared interests and common social and literary ambitions, e.g. world peace and the poetry of Robert Burns…, have been less thoroughly explored. The reading consists of one forthcoming chapter on Anglo-Soviet relations by John Connor and a handful of letter exchanges between the three selected British writers and 52 Vorovsky Street, Moscow.

Henry Stead  is a Leverhulme Early Career Research Fellow in English and Classical Studies at the Open University, UK. He is author of A Cockney Catullus (2015) and co-editor of Greek and Roman Classics in the British Struggle for Social Reform (Bloomsbury, 2015). His current research project is called: “Brave New Classics (1917-1956)”, and it explores the impact of the Russian Revolution on British Culture through the lens of contemporary engagement with the Greek and Roman classics. The first book to come out of this project will be Cecil Day Lewis and Virgil: The Making of a Laureate — forthcoming with Bloomsbury.

The Anglo-Russian Research Network organises termly reading groups for those interested in the interactions between British and Russian culture and politics in the period 1880-1950. These are informal events with plenty of discussion and wine, and are open to all. If you plan to attend, it would be helpful if you could let Rebecca Beasley (rebecca.beasley@ell.ox.ac.uk) and/ or Matthew Taunton (M.Taunton@uea.ac.uk) know. The discussion will finish at 6.30pm, and anyone available is very welcome to join us for dinner nearby.

Readings for 5th October can be found here. Please email Rebecca Beasley (rebecca.beasley@ell.ox.ac.uk) and/ or Matthew Taunton (M.Taunton@uea.ac.uk) and we will send you a password so that you can access these materials.

Reading Group: Charlotte Alston on Siberia in the 19th Century British Imagination

Dr Charlotte Alston Humanities Department Northumbria UniversityThe Anglo-Russian Research Network will be holding its spring reading group at 5:30 on Friday 4th May 2018 at Pushkin House, Bloomsbury. We will be exploring British ideas about Siberia in the late nineteenth century, including George Kennan’s important work.

We are delighted to welcome Professor Charlotte Alston, who will be leading the discussion. Charlotte has published widely on Anglo-Russian themes (details below), and we will be hearing about her new research.

Beyond Kennan’s Siberia: Siberia in the 19th Century British Imagination

Siberia fascinated international observers. It was at once a bleak wilderness, and a world of untapped resources. It was of interest to geographers, ethnographers and explorers. In Russian narratives too, Siberia occupied an ambiguous position, as either a colony, or an integral part of the empire; as a savage land of exile, or a place of freedom and authenticity. In the 1890s, two developments in particular brought Siberia to the forefront of British discussions about Russia. One was the construction of the trans-Siberian railway, which situated the region in a narrative of technological and industrial progress opening up new worlds. The other was the spate of exposés of the Siberian exile system, beginning with George Kennan’s Siberia and the Exile System, which connected the region to debates on the nature and practices of the tsarist government. Discussion of the Siberian exile system took place not only in lecture tours of cities across Britain and America, but also in popular fiction and novels for children.

In this reading group session we will go beyond the high-profile debates initiated by Kennan, and look at the images of Siberia projected in fiction and non-fiction accounts, both before and after the publication of Siberia and the Exile System. We will look at a selection of texts that are set in Siberia and take exploration, or more commonly exile, as central themes. Through these, we will think about the roles of Russian and British authors, travellers and activists in shaping images of Siberia; consider how writers developed these images in reference/response to Kennan’s influential book, or independently of it; and explore the role of geography and climate in presentations of Siberia as a land of either oppression or opportunity.

KennanInSiberia

Biography: Charlotte Alston is Professor in History at Northumbria University. She works on Russia’s cultural and diplomatic relations with the west, the history of the Russian revolution and civil war, and the post-first world war peace settlements. Her publications include a biography of the New Zealand linguist and publicist Harold Williams, who reported and advised on the Russian Revolutions, and a book about the international influence of Tolstoy’s Christian anarchist thought.

The Anglo-Russian Research Network organises termly reading groups for those interested in the interactions between British and Russian culture and politics in the period 1880-1950. These are informal events with plenty of discussion and wine, and are open to all. If you plan to attend, it would be helpful if you could let Rebecca Beasley (rebecca.beasley@ell.ox.ac.uk) and/ or Matthew Taunton (M.Taunton@uea.ac.uk) know. The discussion will finish at 7, and anyone available is very welcome to join us for dinner nearby.

Readings for 4th May can be found here. Please email Rebecca Beasley (rebecca.beasley@ell.ox.ac.uk) and/ or Matthew Taunton (M.Taunton@uea.ac.uk) and we will send you a password so that you can access these materials.

Reading Group at Pushkin House, Friday 28 October, 5.30PM – Elinor Taylor on James Barke: The Novel, The Nation and the International

The Anglo-Russian Research Network will be holding its autumn reading group at 5:30 on Friday 28 October at Pushkin House, Bloomsbury. We are delighted to welcome Elinor Taylor of the University of Westminster, who will be introducing the work of James Barke and exploring his overlapping engagements with both Communism and Scottish Nationalism. The texts can be downloaded here. These are password protected: please contact Rebecca Beasley (rebecca.beasley@ell.ox.ac.uk) or Matthew Taunton (m.taunton@uea.ac.uk) if you would like to attend and we will gladly send you the password.

This session will explore the ‘national turn’ proposed by the Comintern in its Popular Front phase (1935-1940) through the work of the Scottish Communist writer James Barke, and will aim to assess the relationship between Communist revaluations of the nation and contemporaneous debates over literary form.

At its Seventh Congress in 1935, the Comintern’s General Secretary Georgi Dimitrov asserted the need for a Communist-oriented, populist cultural politics that would directly challenge fascist claims to national legitimacy. This call was attended by the increasingly unyielding endorsement of socialist realism as Soviet cultural doctrine. While English Communists met the call for a reclamation of national cultures with an outpouring of texts on historical themes in a range of genres and historiographic styles, for Communists elsewhere in Britain it was far from clear that Scottish or Welsh cultural traditions could be celebrated without any reference to questions of political constitution, nor was it clear that traditional realist forms could adequately encompass the complex class, national and regional dynamics of their communities.

major-operation

James Barke, a Glasgow shipyard engineer, produced two novels directly engaged with the national politics of the Popular Front: 1936’s experimental Major Operation and the more conventionally realist The Land of the Leal (1939), and was an active participant in public discussions of the relevance of Scottish national culture to the anti-fascist struggle. Through extracts from these two novels, from Barke’s other writings on the national question, and from the work of his friends and correspondents, this session will consider how Barke negotiated, accommodated and resisted the national turn in his work, and how we might read the transition from modernism to realism in his work.

The texts we will be reading (available here) are:

  • an extract from Barke’s Major Operation
  • an extract from his The Land of the Leal 
  • some short selections from Barke’s correspondence with Lewis Grassic Gibbon and Neil Gunn, as well as from his Left Review essay ‘The Scottish National Question’
  • Lewis Grassic Gibbon’s essay ‘Glasgow’
  • extracts from a couple of unpublished letters and a Manchester Guardian article

Elinor Taylor is postdoctoral teaching and research fellow in English at the University of Westminster, London. She is the author of a forthcoming monograph, The Popular Front Novel in Britain (Brill 2017), and of articles on British Communist writers published or forthcoming in Keywords: A Journal of Cultural Materialism and Twentieth Century Communism. She has also written for Radical Philosophy, the TLS and Socialist History, and is a member of the executive committee of the Raymond Williams Society.

CROSSING THE BORDERS: ANGLO-RUSSIAN CONTACT ZONES

CROSSING THE BORDERS

ANGLO-RUSSIAN CONTACT ZONES

1880S-1940S

7 October 2016

Sapienza – University of Rome (Italy)

Keynote speaker:

Rebecca Beasley (University of Oxford)

Conference website:

https://crossinganglorussianborders.wordpress.com/

Recent years have seen a proliferation of innovative studies in international literary and cultural transactions. In the thriving area of cosmopolitan studies, the Anglo-Russian literary and cultural connections naturally loom large. Nevertheless they invite further scrutiny, particularly in relation to the issues of reception, adaptation, assimilation, and contamination. In 1919, Virginia Woolf famously declared that “the most inconclusive remarks upon modern English fiction can hardly avoid some mention of the Russian influence,” thus grafting, as it were, Russian aesthetics on modernist practices. Needless to add the diverse and combined impact of the Russian Ballets, Tolstoyan ideology, Constance Garnett’s translations, Russian drama and Soviet cinema on the English literary and cultural traditions. British modernists played a pivotal role in the dissemination of Russian literature and culture, showing a rare insight into the unprecedented opportunities Anglo-Russian cross-cultural dialogue offered to rejuvenate the British literary forms and aesthetic idioms. In the steps of the “Russia in Britain” conference, organised by Rebecca Beasley and Philip R. Bullock in 2009, this one-day international conference engages with some of the key questions, concerns and issues stemming out of the complex landscape of Anglo-Russian cross-cultural encounters from the 1880s to the 1940s. It aims at casting light on the most recent developments in Anglo-Russian studies in their multiple perspectives – historical, cultural, linguistic and literary.

Contributions may include, but are not limited to:

British reception of Russian and Soviet literature, drama, music, art and film
Cosmopolitanism and transnationalism
Hybridization among English and Russian literary traditions, genres and styles
The role of translation in the promotion of Anglo-Russian cultural and literary rapprochement
Travelogues and travel writing
The British and the Russian “intelligentsia”
Émigré and refugee culture
British/Russian periodical culture and the émigré press
English/Russian politics and ideologies
Tolstoyan, Anglo-Russian and Anglo-Soviet communities
Russophile publishing houses
Children’s literature and folklore
Journalism and travel writing in between Russia and Britain
Theoretical linguistic and sociolinguistic
Theories of reception, translation and comparative literary studies
Please submit a title, 300-word abstract, a short author bio and a list of relevant publications, if applicable, by 20 May 2016 to martina.ciceri@uniroma1.it. Papers should be 20-25 minutes’ long. Notification of acceptance by June 15th. Contributions from doctoral students and early-career researchers are encouraged.

https://crossinganglorussianborders.wordpress.com/

Truths and Fictions: Two Centuries of Scottish-Russian Encounters

This one-day symposium, the third in a series organised by the ‘Scotland and Russia: Cultural Encounters Since 1900’ Project, aims to explore the history of Scottish-Russian cultural exchange and influence.  For the first time, it will also look at the nineteenth-century roots of twentieth-century perceptions across a range of talks on literature, translation, performance and revolutionary politics.  Keynote speakers include Dr Dmitry Fedosov of the Institute of General History, Russian Academy of Sciences and Billy Kay, producer of ‘The Scots in Russia’ series for BBC Radio Scotland.

The symposium is sponsored by the Royal Society of Edinburgh and the Scottish Centre for Global History at the University of Dundee

Further details and a full programme are available here.

Registration

The event is free but places are limited, so please register here:

Book on Eventbrite