Sunday, 3 May 2015

Inaugural Lecture and Launch of Wales Unchained

Last Thursday saw the launch of Wales Unchained, the latest book by Professor Daniel Williams. This work, a collection of essays reflecting Daniel’s multiple research interests (Raymond Williams rubs shoulders with Dylan Thomas, Charlie Parker and D H Lawrence, among others), draws together lines of comparison and connection that only a critic of Daniel’s calibre could achieve so brilliantly. Elegantly written, intellectually vigorous and yet accessible, Daniel’s book is a must-read (and a must-buy- please support UWP!!) for anyone interested in the concept of Welshness, Britishness and  the relationship between culture and politics. The book launch was accompanied by a lecture, 'Un Genedl! Pa Genedl?: Cymathu Cymru o Shakespeare i Miliband' (One Nation! Which Nation? Assimilating Wales from Shakespeare to Miliband),  which explored the fraught relationship between Welshness and Britishness, moving seamlessly from Henry V to  Matthew Arnold and onto Slavoj Zizek. Daniel’s work has always explored  he idea of Welshness, but not in any insular way; his work is committed to situating Wales within broader national and international contexts, especially through a comparative approach between Wales and African America. Both the book and the lecture are timely, given that the forthcoming UK general election has had the idea of Britain and the union at the heart of many debates. We could see the beginnings of a re-structuring of the union and how we perceive 'Welshness'; the book closes with a call to pluralize our definitions of Welshness through both Welsh and English.  

Daniel’s lecture was followed by some closing remarks from M Wynn Thomas, who highlighted Daniel’s role as a public intellectual in his deep commitment to his both his work and to Wales. I’m sure I wasn't the only person in the lecture theatre that night who felt privileged to be able to work with such an inspirational figure; the audience included staff, students, friends and family. In his introduction to Slanderous Tongues a few years back, Daniel celebrated the work of the late Ian Bell and Victor Golightly. In his tribute to these two men, Daniel praised both their commitment to their scholarship and their dedication to their families. At the lecture last Thursday, where many members of Daniel’s family were present, it was clear Daniel has the same commitment to both his work and his family. The pride they felt for Daniel’s considerable achievement was evident, as I hope was the pride his students at CREW felt for a lecturer who is tirelessly committed to the future generation of scholarship.

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