Tuesday, 20 October 2009

The State of Welsh Writing in English

YouTube viewers of the discussion between Slavoj Zizek, Alain Badiou and Cornel West, would have enjoyed the session on ‘The State of Anglophone Literature’ which took place on Monday October 12th and featured M. Wynn Thomas, John Goodby and Daniel Williams. Wynn discussed the publishing scene in Wales in the years after devolution and focused on the role of the Welsh Books Council. While there is much to celebrate in relation to the publishing scene in Wales today, the economic crisis will have an effect in coming years and the absence of Welsh writing in English in our schools continues to be a major area of concern. Wynn lamented our apparent inability to develop a discourse sufficient to argue the case for liberal arts in an age dominated by the language of business and economics. Daniel Williams looked at some contemporary trends in literary criticism, and while welcoming comparative, transnational approaches, suggested that the danger is that we overlook cultural distinctiveness. He suggested that the challenge for critics of Welsh writing in English is to resist the tendency to apply theories from above, but to develop theories that allow us to explore the burden, the privilege, and specificities of biculturalism.
John Goodby argued that the process of canonising Welsh Writing in English in recent years had functioned to exclude the most valuable poetic tradition of all – that of experimental poetry with its roots in the modernism of David Jones, Lynette Roberts and Dylan Thomas, and which continues today in the works of writers such as Peter Finch, John James, Wendy Mulford and Childe Roland. Several of John’s most recent initiatives are aimed to bring this tradition from the margin to the centre of our field of study.

The session, chaired by Kirsti Bohata, was the first of ‘The State of the Nation’ series, arranged by Jonathan Bradbury for the Richard Burton Centre. The next session will be on October 26th when Professor Kevin Morgan of Cardiff University will explore ‘Devolution’s Dividends’.

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