Noël Coward: Past, Present and Future

University of Birmingham - Edgbaston - B15 2TT
Thursday 15 June (00:00) - Friday 16 June 2023 (00:00)

A Two Day Interdisciplinary Conference, University of Birmingham

‘There are probably greater painters than Noel, greater novelists than Noel, greater librettists, greater composers of music, greater singers, greater dancers, greater comedians, greater tragedians, greater stage producers, greater film directors, greater cabaret artists, greater TV stars. If there are, they are 14 different people. Only 1 man combined all 14 different labels: the Master.’ (Lord Mountbatten at Coward’s 70th birthday party. Coward, Noël. The Letters of Noël Coward. Edited by Barry Day. New York: Methuen Drama, 2007, p.3)

‘It is foolish for a writer constantly to decry the critics; it is also foolish, I think, for the critics to constantly decry anyone who writes as well as I do. […] The battle, of course, will never end until the grave closes over me, and then! Oh dear, the balls that will be written about me.’ (27 December 1964, after the reception of Pretty Polly Barlow. Noël Coward Diaries, edited by Graham Payn & Sheridan Morley, London: Macmillan, 1982, 584) 

In 1999, as part of the Noël Coward Centenary, and to mark the acquisition of the Noël Coward Collection, the first conference devoted to his work took place at the University of Birmingham. Selected papers from this conference were subsequently collected in a volume, Look Back in Pleasure (Methuen 2000). 2023, marks the fiftieth anniversary of his death and provides a timely opportunity to re-evaluate the significance of this major cultural figure by offering new ways of engaging with his life and achievements.

One of the principal aims of the conference is to take an interdisciplinary approach to Coward’s influence beyond the realm of the theatre to include his work as a novelist and short story writer; his work as a composer, lyricist and singer; his work in cinema as actor, screen writer and director as well as the figure of Coward himself, who carefully fashioned and sustained an instantly recognized public persona.

A Noel Coward photoWe welcome submissions from both practitioners and scholars. Topics for papers and panels might include (but are not limited to)

  • Coward on film
  • Coward & politics, class, imperialism, Empire & patriotism, both World Wars.
  • Coward & his circle / contemporaries
  • Coward, gender & sexuality
  • Coward & musical theatre
  • Coward, celebrity, stardom and self-fashioning
  • Acting & directing in Coward
  • ‘Offshoots,’ parodies & appropriations of Coward & his work
  • Coward in the West End and on Broadway
  • Coward & Modernism

To propose a paper of 20 minutes, please send a 250-word abstract together a biographical note of 150 word together with your affiliation to Professor Graham Saunders and Laura Milburn  by Tuesday 31 January 2023. Responses by the conference committee will be sent no later than Tuesday 28 February.

Images supplied courtesy of the Cadbury Research Library, University of Birmingham.

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