‘Benign Fiesta: Wyndham Lewis’s Texts, Contexts, and Aesthetics’, a scholarly conference devoted to the work of the modernist painter and writer Wyndham Lewis (1882-1957), ran from the 11th to the 13th of September 2017 at the University of Nottingham.
Scholars researching Lewis from a variety of backgrounds and at various career stages – including two members of the Centre for Modernist Cultures (Andrzej Gąsiorek and Nathan Waddell) – attended and spoke at this landmark event, which featured not only presentations on the full breadth and diversity of Lewis’s work, but also a postgraduate training session (on the theme of publishing in academic journals) and a series of workshops, led by the leading Lewis critic Paul Edwards, on the practicalities of editing Lewis for the Complete Edition of his writings recently commissioned by Oxford University Press.
The conference demonstrated that the field of Lewis studies is in an amicably prosperous condition, with an uplifting turnout from that field’s newest and youngest constituents. 12 of the 21 presentations scheduled at the conference – on topics ranging from mathematical modernism, to editing and obscenity, to autotomy, amid much else – were delivered by postgraduate or postdoctoral scholars. This statistic suggests that academic interest in Lewis is on a sure course to continue in distinctive and original ways for the foreseeable future.
Plenary talks were delivered by Douglas Mao (Johns Hopkins University), who spoke on ‘New Worlds from Old’; Ann-Marie Einhaus (University of Northumbria), who spoke on ‘Wyndham Lewis and Europe: Lewis’s Inter-War Politics through the Lens of Time and Tide’; and Aoife Byrne (University of Cambridge), who spoke on ‘“A terrible blow to all hopes of civilisation”: the Blitz, the British Home Front, and Second World War Writing’.
The conference was co-organised by Nathan Waddell and Tracy Stead (Nottingham), with significant contributions from James Hirst, Matthew Holliday, Sunita Tailor, Rebecca Peck, and Stephen McKibbin. Funding for the conference was provided by the Wyndham Lewis Memorial Trust, the Modern Humanities and Research Association (MHRA), and the University of Nottingham. Highlights from the conference can be found on Twitter by searching for tweets with the #benignfiesta hashtag.