Filibusters in Birmingham: a Conference on Wyndham Lewis

Location
University of Birmingham
Dates
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 typically 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). 

Call for Papers

Traditional 20-minute presentations are invited on any aspect of Lewis’s life and work that address the issues outlined above. To propose a paper, please send the following in a single document to Dr Nathan Waddell at n.j.waddell@bham.ac.uk by 19 January 2023:

  • the title of your proposed talk
  • a 250-word paper outline
  • a short scholarly biography
  • confirmation of whether you would like to present in-person or remotely 

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 ahead of the CFP deadline, please contact Dr Nathan Waddell via email.

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

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