My research over the last few years has taken me to some unlikely places. You wouldn’t expect to find the papers of the very British novelist Rebecca West in Tulsa, Oklahoma, or the wartime diaries and letters of Elizabeth Bowen and Graham Greene in Austin, Texas. It’s odd spending a day in London in the Blitz and then emerging out of the air-conditioned archive into the Texan heat. One evening I even found myself being taught to two-step by a cowboy alongside a couple of other British academics.
But the most adventurous research trip I’ve been on was to Zimbabwe, where I went in August on the trail of Doris Lessing. Lessing grew up in Southern Rhodesia, as it then was, on a farm in the bush. She then moved at the age of eighteen (in 1937) to the capital city of Salisbury (now Harare) where in the space of the next decade she married twice, had three children, devoted herself to communism and wrote the novel that would make her name.
My books seem to be becoming increasingly personal. I still tell students that it’s the text that counts and that it’s important not to use the biography as a kind of code-breaker, enabling us to work out the intention or ‘true’ meaning of the text. But I’ve abandoned my early conviction that the life is irrelevant to the work, and have started to think that often it’s the intersection between the two (the way that the work is shaped by the life and, perhaps more interestingly, the way that the life is shaped by the work) that I have most to say about. With Lessing, though, I’ve decided to take the risky step of making it autobiographical as well as biographical, bringing myself into the narrative. Continue reading On the trail of Doris Lessing→
by Sejal Sutaria, Marie Skłodowska Curie Fellow, English Department, King’s College London, and Pragya Dhital, PhD (2016), Religions and Philosophies Department, SOAS
My journey into radio research began when a series of happy accidents led me to discover the ‘British in India Oral Archive’ at the British Library, SOAS, and Imperial War Museums. The interviews here were conducted by history writer Charles Allen, best known for his books on Indian colonial history, Rudyard Kipling, and Tibet. As someone working on a project about how the global circulation of migrants, capital and ideas shaped Indian resistance to colonialism and fascism, my access to these first-hand accounts of life in India during the forties led me to link ideas of literary life-writing with oral history. When the World Service Project at King’s invited proposals from researchers working on radio, Elaine Morley and I decided to organise the ‘BBC and the World Service: Debts and Legacies’ conference.
In 2013, the King’s Centre for Modern Literature and Culture (CMLC) was founded and launched its annual prize for Creative Responses to Modernism. Since then, postgraduate students working in modernist studies have been invited to submit their responses to modernism and its artistic explosions in whatever art form seems most appropriate. For some entrants, these have been homages, pastiches or parodies; submissions have both continued and challenged the modernist project. The centre and prize are run by Dr Lara Feigel and Professor Erica Carter.
By Alan Read, Professor of Theatre, Director Performance Foundation, KCL
22 Kingsway: This is Your Life tells the remarkable story of the site for which the English and Comparative Literature Department is the current sitting tenant. Conceived by the theatre makers Forster & Heighes in collaboration with the Performance Foundation and 20th Century Magazine, and generously supported by the KCL Principal’s Fund, our intention was to trace the hidden history of a building that to the outside eye would appear to have little to say. As we discovered, nothing could be further from the truth. Some buildings are silent, some speak, this one, despite its mute modernism, sings. Continue reading 22 Kingsway: This is Your Life→
By Catriona Livingstone, PhD student in English Literature.
One of KCL’s most famous alumni has returned to the college, taking up ‘a room of her own’ in the lobby of the building named in her honour.
‘Wax Virginia’, a work by sculptor Eleanor Crook, was unveiled – or ‘unleashed’ – on Wednesday evening, at an exciting event organised by Professor Clare Brant, co-director of the Centre for Life-Writing Research at King’s, and well-attended by staff, students, and other Woolfish enthusiasts. The sculpture is the result of over 120 hours of work and careful research – Crook studied photographs of Woolf in order to trace the changes in her face over time and to select the particular moment – and emotion – which she wanted her sculpture of Woolf to occupy. Continue reading Wax Virginia→
From the Department of English at King's College London