Monday, 21 February 2011

R. S. Thomas Conference and In the Shadow of the Pulpit Launch

The R. S. Thomas anniversary conference, held at the Dylan Thomas Centre in Swansea on Saturday, November 6th, proved a great success. As the programme indicated, the morning was dedicated to new critical readings of Thomas’s writings, while the afternoon explored Thomas’s influence on the art and culture of Wales more broadly. The day ended with a fascinating discussion between Tony Brown and Gwydion Thomas.

CREW was also delighted to launch the latest volume by Professor M. Wynn Thomas at the conference. A very large number of friends and admirers gathered at 6pm for the launch at which Professor Jane Aaron of Glamorgan University and Daniel Williams spoke. The following is taken from Daniel’s speech.

Like some of Wynn’s other writings In the Shadow of the Pulpit draws on familial and autobiographical resources, but these are brought more to the foreground here and give the study as a whole a kind of intense personal charge which is very difficult to communicate in the language of criticism. That charge has something to do with the book’s subject matter of course, for the close connections between language, identity and religion are so closely meshed for those brought up in a Welsh chapel culture. This book brings that culture vividly to life, while also tracing its demise. It also establishes its remarkable continuing influence even in its absence. It a book about absent presences.

As in many of his books, Wynn offers new beginnings. Not J O Francis as in Internal Difference this time, but a body of English language texts written in the nineteenth century about Nonconformity. He creates a whole new background against which we should now understand the works of Caradoc Evans and J. O. Francis anew. It proves a particularly fruitful context to think about Dylan Thomas too, in one of the more challenging chapters in this study. Wynn also characteristically ends by suggesting further areas of study. Having read a book of this length, erudition and depth on Nonconformism and Literature in Wales you’d think that the subject would have been covered. But Wynn is always laying foundation stones, always looking ahead at where these ideas might take him, his students, us – which is of course what has made him such an inspiring teacher for so many. I can only encourage you all to buy and read this latest, magnificent and moving sermon.

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