Filibusters in Birmingham: a Conference on Wyndham Lewis

University of Birmingham
Thursday 22 June (00:00) - Friday 23 June 2023 (00:00)
Wyndham Lewis smoking a cigarette, black and white photograph from 1913
Wyndham Lewis, 1913

In his travelogue Filibusters in Barbary (1932), the modernist painter and writer Wyndham Lewis evoked the fantasy of being ‘thoroughly unanchored’ from London, from controversy, from recognizability: from his life as he lived it at the time, in effect. The fantasy compels not only because it is a typical contrarian move made by an unapologetic contrarian, but also because it invites reflection on the very Lewisian problem of autonomy itself.

This conference, a hybrid event featuring in-person and remote presentations, seeks to open up these issues for discussion, focusing on the doubled and doubling identity announced in the title of Lewis’s 1932 work: the filibuster. An obstructive, loquacious speaker as well as a kind of aggressor, the filibuster is as much a symbol of Lewis himself as of the age in which he lived—a time of proliferating orators and antagonists, of voices and violence. 

Our goal in organizing this event is to create a welcoming space for thinking critically about these questions, focusing on how Lewis’s filibustering—as a painter, literary writer, socio-political critic, polemicist, and philosopher—was anchored in a variety of material and intellectual contexts. We also hope to prompt discussion of the figure of the contemporary scholar of Lewis: who such scholars are, what motivates them, and why they are important in and beyond modernist studies. 

We are very pleased to announce Professor Rebecca Beasley  (University of Oxford) and Dr Alexandra Bickley Trott (Oxford Brookes University) as the conference keynote speakers. The conference will feature the usual run of panel sessions with Q&A, a postgraduate training workshop, and opportunities to hear about the progress of the Wyndham Lewis Complete Critical Edition (Oxford University Press). 


Registration is now open and accessible via the 'Register for this event' button about the image of Wyndham Lewis at the top of this page. Fees are as detailed below, with the additional option of the three course conference dinner at our on campus Edgbaston Park Hotel on June 22. 

In person: Standard  - full £70, day rate £40; Wyndham Lewis Society members – full £60, day rate £35; PGR's  - full £40, day rate £25; Online: £30 flat rate for all. 

All speakers and attendees at the conference will have to pay a fee to participate. We are not in a position to run a free-to-attend event. If you have any questions, please contact Dr Nathan Waddell via email.

The deadline for registration is Sunday 28 May.

Programme (provisional)

Thursday 22 June 


  • Postgraduate Training Workshop: ‘Wyndham Lewis and the Modern Academic Career’ 


Registration / Tea & Coffee 


Panel Session 1

  • Samuel Atkinson, ‘Wyndham Lewis’s “Dark Satanic Mills”: Industrial Englishness and Vorticism’
  • Izabela Curyłło-Klag, ‘Lewis and Poles’
  • David Cruickshank, ‘Lewis’s “Apolitical” Anti-Capitalist Polemics’ 




Panel Session 2

  • Andrew Frayn, ‘“An epoch where violence is everywhere”: wartime, fascism and otherness in Wyndham Lewis’s The Vulgar Streak (1941)’
  • Zach Gibson, ‘“The Filibuster’s Design: Poets! Where is your Vortex?”: Wyndham Lewis and Ezra Pound’s Vorticist Aesthetics in Charles Olson’s Maximus Poems’
  • Luke Gilfedder, ‘The Outsider and the Enemy: Colin Wilson on Wyndham Lewis’                  


Tea & Coffee


Panel Session 3

  • Alexander Alfred Scott, ‘Time and the Small Man: Lewis’s Early Interest in Democracy’
  • Henry Mead, ‘“A Fabulous Hybrid”: Lewis and the British Reception of Sorel’




Keynote 1

  • Professor Rebecca Beasley, ‘The Story of Men without Art’ 

Friday 23 June           


Panel Session 4

  • Ieuan Perkins, ‘“I am not Mister Ivory Tower”: Wyndham Lewis and Filibustering in the Public Sphere’
  • Kevin Rulo, ‘Bugs, Joints, “Bestre”: Re-Examining Lewisian Satire in the Early 1920s’
  • Julyan Oldham, ‘Blushing Virgin Colossus: The Filibustering Body in The Apes of God 


Tea & Coffee 


Special Session: The Collected Works of Wyndham Lewis (Oxford University Press)

  • Professor Paul Edwards, 'Wyndham Lewis’s “Revisions” of his Visual Works’                       




Panel Session 5

  • Kunio Shin, ‘Wyndham Lewis and the Imagination of Anthropocene Extinction’
  • David A. Wragg, ‘Modernism’s travels: Wyndham Lewis and “progress” in the visual arts’ 




Keynote 2

  • Dr Alexandra Bickley Trott, ‘While Art Lies Bleeding: Wyndham Lewis as Artist Mentor in Post-War Britain’ 

Travel to the conference

The conference will be based in our University House (Business School) Building, O3 on our university campus map - bottom right hand side.

Directions to Birmingham and to our Edgbaston campus are available on the Getting here page.  


Please see here for options at our Edgbaston Park Hotel on campus. Please note we do not have rooms reserved for the conference at the hotel, bookings are made by delegates on an individual basis.

Please visit our Accommodation page for advice on how to research other accommodation options. 

Food and Drink

Lunches and refreshments will be provided for conference delegates. As part of your registration process, please let us know of any specific dietary requirements we need to be aware of. For more information on food and drink options on and off campus visit our Food and Drink page.  

The conference organisers are Dr Nathan Waddell, Associate Professor in Twentieth-Century Literature, and Matt Clulee, College of Arts and Law Events Manager.