Rupert Thomson: a critical symposium
14th June 2013
International Anthony Burgess Foundation, Manchester
Keynote Speakers: John McAuliffe (Manchester) and Rupert Thomson
An academic conference supported by the University of Manchester @artsmethods and Gylphi’s Contemporary Writers: Critical Essays series
Proposals are invited for papers for the first academic symposium focusing on contemporary writer Rupert Thomson, whose work includes eight novels (with Secrecy, his ninth, due in March 2013) and a celebrated memoir (This Party’s Got to Stop, 2010). Despite widespread critical acclaim, there has as yet been no sustained academic engagement with Thomson’s writing.
Thomson’s extraordinarily varied oeuvre offers a compelling case study in late twentieth and early twenty-first century literature: an experimental and innovative corpus without a dominant that engages with the legacies of – yet seeks to move beyond – postmodernism. Each text represents an innovative engagement with form and subject matter, ranging from a dystopian alternative future (Divided Kingdom, 2005), to a meditation on crime and cultural memory (Death of a Murderer, 2007) and an unsettling exploration of gender violence (The Book of Revelation, 1999). Their settings vary from the distinctly British to the international (Air and Fire, 1993) and the mysteriously displaced (The Insult, 1996).
The organisers welcome papers ranging in discipline and on any topic related to Rupert Thomson’s work. Suggested topics include but are not limited to:
• Genre: Considering Thomson’s texts as engagements with or challenges to specific genres or theories of genre. Could include comparison with authors like David Peace, China Miéville and David Mitchell who receive scholarly attention for their own blurring of the literary/genre divide.
• Britishness: How far do the texts’ transnational spaces – and Thomson’s own status as an expat for most of his writing career – challenge the very category of ‘British’ writers and writing?
• Reception: What perspectives does the reception of Thomson’s work raise when considering the crafting of the contemporary canon through literary review culture and/or academia.
• Gender: Considering the complex representations of gender in Thomson’s work, including the relationships between masculinity, sexuality and masochism.
• Violence: How is violence figured in Thomson’s work, especially sexual violence committed by female perpetrators and accomplices, and apparently random violent acts?
• Memory texts: How does Thomson figure the frailty and power of memory – both individual and collective? How does this presentation of memory shape his historical fictions?
• Dystopias: What are the politics of futurity and how does literary dystopia function in Thomson’s work?
• The contemporary memoir: Does the memoir represent a break in Thomson’s oeuvre (coinciding with his move to Granta)? How does it speak to other recent memoirs penned by contemporary writers (e.g. Maggie Gee, Jeanette Winterson)?
• Style: How does literary style operate as a distinctive element of Thomson’s work?
• Author function: In what ways does Thomson’s corpus challenge the notion of ‘the author’ as both a conceptual and a critical category, as well as a staple of the marketing and consumption of contemporary fiction?
An edited collection based on the proceedings of the conference is planned as part of Gylphi’s Contemporary Writers: Critical Essays series.
Abstracts of no more than 300 words and a short bio should be sent to Rebecca Pohl and Chris Vardy at firstname.lastname@example.org by 15th February 2013.
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