Literature at War: H. G. Wells, Ford Madox Ford and their Contemporaries in and around the First World War
Saturday 19 September 2015, at King’s College London, Waterloo Campus, London SE1
The H. G. Wells Society
Ford Madox Ford Society
Centre for Modern Literature and Culture, King’s College London
Centre for Life-Writing Research, King’s College London
This year sees the centenary of two major literary events, the publication of Ford’s The Good Soldier (‘the saddest story I have ever heard’), and of Wells’s Boon, the cantankerous literary satire that terminated his friendship with Henry James. Both works can be read as offering, though in very different ways, a kind of final verdict on British Edwardian culture; and both can also be seen to reflect their authors’ growing sense of the apparent impotence and irrelevance of the literary and artistic worlds in time of war. Yet 1914-18 and its immediate aftermath was also a time of extraordinary cultural vibrancy, in which the war novels of Wells and Ford – Mr Britling Sees It Through (1916) and Parade’s End (1924-8) – would play their part. Henry James, in his famous defence of his art in reply to Boon, wrote of ‘the extension of life, which is the novel’s best gift’, a credo that could have been echoed by Wells, Ford and many of their contemporaries despite their sharply conflicting understandings of ‘life’ and its relation to literature.
This one-day conference invites papers reflecting the contrasting views of literature and the First World War in the writing of Wells, Ford and their contemporaries. A variety of approaches will be welcomed, including perspectives on life-writing, propaganda, satire, utopia and the writing of history.
Proposals for 20-minute papers (250-word abstracts) should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org by 11 June 2015.