Monday, 29 December 2008

An Afternoon CREW Tea

To mark the end of a busy term, CREW hosted an afternoon of cakes and wine for its current cohort of students; a CREW tea rather than cream tea if you will (though we did overlook Welsh cakes and Bara Brith in favour of carrot cake, chocolate mascarpone muffins and chocolate, banana and peanut butter cupcake, and of course, mince pies).

The afternoon gave old hands and new a chance to meet one another, talk about their interests in Welsh Writing in English, and how perhaps we should try to persuade Only Men Aloud to stage a benefit concert for CREW PhD students as surely our cake-baking skills (second only to our writing and research skills of course) could surely fulfill any rider requests.

Monday, 8 December 2008

Winifred Coombe Tennant - A Life Through Art

An exhibition of works from the collection of Winifred Coombe Tennant, one of Wales' most significant art patrons of the twentieth century comes to Swansea.
The exhibition is curated by Peter Lord, renowned art historian and Research Fellow at CREW. It includes works by Evan Walters, Kyffin Williams, Gwen John and John Elwyn from both private and public collections.

This touring exhibition by the National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth is at the Glyn Vivian Art Gallery 13 December 2008 - 15 February 2009.

There is an interesting article with some pictures on the BBC website written to mark the arrival of the exhibition at the National Gallery of Wales in the summer.

The picture here is by Evan Walters, Mother and Babe, 1919, oil on canvass, private collection.

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

The Art of Conversation

On the December 1st edition of Radio 3’s flagship arts programme ‘Night Waves’, Daniel Williams discussed Dylan Thomas's radio play The Art of Conversation, with radio drama and documentary maker Piers Plowright and presenter Matthew Sweet.  Found by Thomas's biographer Andrew Lycett among a sheaf of papers, the play is a short piece of wartime propaganda, taking as its theme the decline of conversation. It also features 'contributions' from the likes of Oscar Wilde, Aubrey Beardsley and Dr Johnson, frequently reminding listeners that 'careless talk costs lives'. You can listen again this week at:

The play itself will be broadcast on Radio 4 at 11.30 am, December 3rd.

Monday, 1 December 2008

Raymond Williams study is Archbishop of Canterbury's "biography of the year"

Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, has selected a Swansea researcher's study of Raymond Williams as his biography of the year.

Professor Dai Smith holds the Raymond Williams Chair in Cultural History at Swansea University's Centre for Research into the English Literature and Language of Wales (CREW), which is based in the School of Arts. He published Raymond Williams: A Warrior's Tale in May 2008.

Following excellent reviews, he now joins authors Barack Obama, Martin Amis and Stefan Zweig on the 2008 Times Literary Supplement (TLS) Books of the Year list.

Writing in the TLS on Wednesday 26 November, The Archbishop of Canterbury describes Professor Smith's biography as "a completely engaged, imaginatively dense study of someone who was with good reason a sort of moral touchstone for one important strand in the British Left".

Raymond Williams is widely held to be one of the one of the most influential socialist writers and thinkers in post-war Britain. He introduced radical new approaches to the theory and practice of culture as a social dynamic and is regarded as one of the last, great male intellectual figures of the 20th Century.

He is also seen as Wales' major intellectual figure of the 20th Century. By the end of the 1950s he had broken down the academic barriers between different forms of study, such as literary criticism and sociology.

For more see,29509,en.php

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Raymond Williams Conference Report

The CREW conference on Raymond Williams's Culture and Society@50 took place on November 7th at the Dylan Thomas Centre, Swansea, and was a resounding success.

The day opened with Professor Stefan Collini’s probing and questioning analysis of the assumptions informing Raymond Williams’s view that the term culture emerged as a result of industrialisation. While recognising the widespread influence of the tradition of thinkers mapped out by Williams in Culture and Society, Collini suggested that the historical argument informing the book was inaccurate and has left a misleading legacy. Professor Catherine Belsey, followed by exploring the uses made in contemporary criticism of Williams’s redefinition of ‘culture’ as a process of creating meanings, and as the site of contested meanings. Developing some of the ideas explored in his celebrated biography of Williams, A Warrior’s Tale, and drawing on Williams’s literary analyses of Welsh novels, Professor Dai Smith argued for the particular exceptionalism of the south Wales context of Williams’s upbringing. Anthony Barnett described the 1970s context of his celebrated defence of Williams against Terry Eagleton’s attack on Raymond's ‘gradualism’ and ‘humanism’ in the pages of the New Left Review. The remarkable volume of interviews Politics and Letters resulted from this debate, and Barnett discussed the making of that book and the legacy of Williams’s commitment to pluralism for contemporary politics in Britain. The day ended with the film director Colin Thomas discussing his award winning documentary on Raymond Williams, Border Crossing , followed by a showing of the film. The conference as a whole resulted in an illuminating, multi dimensional, appreciative but at times critical, engagement with Williams’s seminal volume and its legacy. Among those present were representatives of the Raymond Williams Society, The Raymond Williams Foundation, Director of the Institute for Welsh Affairs, John Osmond, theatre and opera director Ceri Sherlock, Ross Leadbeater of Only Men Aloud, poet Letitia Rees, and most importantly many recent and current CREW postgraduate students. Several delegates drew appreciative attention to the ample time given for discussion (a change from the rushed nature of many conferences) and while culture may be ordinary, the food at the Dylan Thomas Centre was exceptional.

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Tony Conran@ Swansea

Tony Conran reads from his new autobiographical long poem What Brings You Here So Late at 4.00pm Wednesday 29th October in Room 216, Keir Hardie Building, Swansea Univeristy. Nigel Jenkins of the English Department's Centre for Creative Writing writes:

"It is difficult to image how English-language poetry in Wales would have developed from the 1960s onwards, without the hugely influential presence of Tony Conran – as poet, translator, critic, dramatist and general one-man cultural turbine! In 1967 he gave Wales and the world The Penguin Book of Welsh Verse. A book whose extended introduction represents both a concise cultural history of Wales and a challenging bardic manifesto. Conscious of the Welsh poet’s traditional socio-political stance, whilst at the same time invoking the powerful engines of modernism, Conran is one of only two or three Anglophone poets with the authority to deliver a major national statement, as in the controlled fury of his ‘Elegy of the Welsh dead in the Falkland Islands, 1982’. A nationalist with an internationalist’s deep interest in poetries way beyond his own country, he is capable also of ‘the ‘loneliness, tenderness and slenderness’ that he identifies as the defining qualities of the haiku, of which – as of so much else – he has been a pioneer in Wales".

Monday, 27 October 2008

5 Cwmdonkin Drive

On what would have been Dylan Thomas's ninety-fourth birthday, 5 Cwmdonkin Drive, his family home and birthplace has been restored to it's October 1914 condition.

For more details, follow the links for a virtual 'tour' of the house, and listen to Colette Hume interviewing Dr John Goodby on Radio 4’s Today Programme.

Monday, 20 October 2008

Paul Robeson Seminar Series

A new CREW initiative, in collaboration with the American Studies department, kicks off this week. The first Paul Robeson Seminar will take place at 1pm on Wednesday 22nd October, 2008 at the School of Humanities Conference Room, Basement, James Callaghan Building. Profesor Jon Roper will present a paper entitled 'Obama Who? Race and the race for the 'White(s) House'

The 'Robeson series' of lunchtime seminars on African American topics will consist of formal discussion papers and an informal reading group. It is our hope that these seminars will provide a fruitful forum for debate, creating a dynamic environment for research among staff, postgraduate and undergraduate students interested in the field of African American studies.

Why Paul Robeson?
Paul Robeson was one of the foremost African-Americans of the twentieth century. He was a world renowned singer and actor and a leading civil rights activist. Robeson’s connections with Wales are said to have begun in 1928, when he impulsively joined a group of marching Welsh miners singing in London’s West End. The next ten years saw him donating money to, and visiting, Talygarn Miners’ Rest Home, appearing in many concerts across Wales including an appearance at the Caernarvon Pavilion the night after an explosion had claimed 266 lives at the Gresford Pit near Wrecsam, and, most famously, a visit to Mountain Ash in 1938 for the ‘Welsh National Memorial Meeting to the Men of the International Brigade from Wales who gave their lives in defence of Democracy in Spain’. The 1930s also saw Robeson establishing connections with the multi-ethnic community in Cardiff’s Butetown, which was also home to the political activist and Pan-Africanist native of Philadelphia, and uncle by marriage to Robeson, Aaron Mosell. 1939 saw Robeson playing the role of David Goliath, an African American seaman who settles in a mining village, in one of the few movies which he did not later disown, Proud Valley. Hounded during the McCarthy era for his Communist sympathies, Robeson had his passport confiscated from 1950 to 1958. The persistent invitations made throughout the 1950s for Robeson to appear at the Miners’ Eisteddfod in Porthcawl, lead to the ‘Transatlantic Exchange’ of 1957 which allowed the Eisteddfod audience to hear Robeson’s voice via a telephonic link from New York. Following the return of his passport in 1958, he was introduced by Aneurin Bevan, and presented a Welsh Hymn Book by the leading Welsh modernist poet, T. H. Parry-Williams, at the National Eisteddfod in Ebbw Vale. In the October of that year he finally appeared in person at the Miners’ Eisteddfod in Porthcawl. His last significant contact with Wales occurred in 1960 when he appeared with the Cwmbach Choir at a Movement for Colonial Freedom concert in the Royal Festival Hall, London. In 2007 the Let Robeson Sing Exhibition was presented to Swansea University’s south Wales Miners’ Library.,18538,en.php,11474,en.php

Dr Rachel Farebrother, American Studies, Swansea University
Dr Daniel Williams, CREW, English Department, Swansea University

The Programme for 2008
Wednesdays 1-2pm in the James Callaghan Conference Room

Wednesday 22 October
Professor Jon Roper, American Studies, Swansea University
Obama who? Race and the race for the White(s) House

Wednesday 5 November
Dr. Daniel Williams, English, Swansea University
Paul Robeson, Jazz, and the Cold War

Wednesday 19 November
Reading Group: Poetry by Sterling A. Brown
Organiser: Dr Rachel Farebrother, American Studies, Swansea University

Wednesday 3 December
Wendy Hayes-Jones, Swansea Metropolitan University and PhD student in English at Swansea University. Race and Identity in the Essays of Ishmael Reed

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

CREW Literary Road Trip: South Wales Coalfield

During the CREW lunchtime meetings last semester, many of the students - and staff - suggested that we should visit 'literary sights of significance' in south Wales. Some of us wanted to see the physical landscapes of industry, de-industrialisation and post-industry we read of in the literature of the coalfield, others wanted to be able to locate the towns and villages where authors lived, and Daniel was rather determined that we should try and make it to 'Raymond Williams country', if only so that we could have a pint in the haunted Skirrid Inn. Unfortunately, despite our best efforts, Pandy proved to be a little too far but we did succeed to literally - and indeed literary - map the south Wales coalfield.

In early (and rather appropriately drizzly) May, armed with a road atlas (which proved our downfall as we are certainly not geographers) autobiographies, novels, poetry anthologies, Meic Stevens's Literary Pilgrim, waterproofs, and a rather impressive people carrier, we set off to the coalfield.

The road-trip was punctuated by various literary landmarks and points of interest, marked on the interactive map below. At each stop we bemused and no doubt enlightened those who saw us as we piled out of the people carrier (complete with Gangster-rap-black-out-windows), gathered in a group, tried to identify landmarks or more often than not libraries, and read from a relevant text e.g. an Alun Lewis outside Aberdare library, Idris Davies outside his birthplace (opposite Rhymney library), a Dylan Thomas reading, interupted by a coal delivery, next to the Dr William Price monument in Llantrisant.

Cemeteries also proved to be a theme of the day, as the group had identified the Aberfan cemetery, the cholera cemetery above Rhymney, and the Jewish cemetrey outside Merthyr Tydfil as other places we would like to visit, despite us not being morbid souls. Aberfan in particular, proved a moving and poignant stop, even more so than we expected.

Highlights of the day included: -

:: Discovering that Gwyn Thomas' birthplace is opposite a chip shop (Perhaps the inspiration for 'Chekhov and Chips' )

:: The landscape surrounding Blaen(y)cwm, birthplace of, and insipration to, Ron Berry

:: Attempting to find the Welsh/ Yiddish headstone in the Jewish Cemetery near Cefn Coed y Cymmer (someone had been told by John Davies of its existence, but we failed to find it), while also rescuing some errant sheep.

:: Debating whether J.O. Francis's Merthyr birthplace was now Woolworths, Phones 4 U or a bakery, and deciding that Glyn Jones's birthplace was just the wrong side of Aldi for us to venture to.

:: Successfully locating the cholera cemetery above Rhymney, using the directions and descriptions provided in Chris Meredith's Shifts:

'The fat clouds thronged over the horizon and he could see the old view, ridge after ridge, distantly the tip of the big open cast above Merthyr. Nearer to him was the mound of Garn y Gors, below that, the mountain road, and a few hundred yards away, on the north shore of the pond, the cemeteries. [...] He opened his eyes. There were clouds. And when he looked down again, there. across a few dozen yards of coarse grass, was the cholera cemetery he had come to see'(Shifts, 160-61)

Who needs maps when you have psycho/cultural/literary geography?

View Larger Map (for more detail please click on the map, photos to follow)

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

Raymond Williams: Culture and Society@50

A one day conference arranged by CREW

November 7th, 2008
The Dylan Thomas Centre, Swansea.
09.15 – 17.30

Speakers: Stefan Collini, Cambridge University. Dai Smith, Swansea University. Catherine Belsey, Swansea University. Anthony Barnett, Founder, OpenDemocracy. Film producer Colin Thomas will discuss and screen his award-winning documentary ‘Border Crossing’.

Online booking available via the Dylan Thomas Festival Website.

Registration: Full: £45. Students: £30 (Includes all papers, morning and afternoon tea/coffee, and lunch).

Appearing in 1958, Raymond Williams’s seminal volume Culture and Society offered a history of the ‘idea of culture’ as it developed in response to industrialism. Challenging dominant forms of elitism and paternalism, the book reinforced Williams’s claim that ‘culture is ordinary’ and sought to endorse the positive cultural values promoted by working class creativity. It was followed in 1961 by the publication of The Long Revolution written in parallel with it. In the 50 years since its publication Culture and Society has generated a great deal of criticism and debate. This one day symposium invites some of Britain’s most challenging thinkers to explore both the making and afterlife of Williams’s career-making volume and the political perspective of its companion . They have been invited to consider the broad framework he set out, in terms of culture, class, national identity, literature, politics and the nature of change.

Arranged by CREW (Centre for Research into the English Literature and Language of Wales), with support from the Raymond Williams Society, the conference is timely in that 2008 has seen the appearance of Professor Dai Smith’s celebrated biography of Williams, A Warrior’s Tale, and the handing over of the Raymond Williams Papers to the library at Swansea University.

Organiser: Dr. Daniel G. Williams, CREW (Centre for Research into the English Literature and Language of Wales), Swansea University.

Saturday, 27 September 2008

Welcome to the CREW Blog

In the year of the General Strike and Miners’ Lockout, the poet and critic W. J. Gruffudd noted that ‘1926 has been a bleak year for Wales…we had hardly become accustomed to the death of Professor Rees when we had to face the death of Professor J. H. Davies’. With global capitalism facing its greatest crisis since the 1920s, 2008 may yet be remembered as the year in which CREW (The Centre for Research into the English Literature and Language of Wales) launched its blog.

CREW is dedicated to the exploration, discussion and analysis of the English language literature of Wales. The cultural distinctiveness of Wales was, for almost 2,000 years, intrinsically bound up with the Welsh language. But with the emergence of English as a ‘majority’ Welsh language in the twentieth century, a new Anglophone literature was developed. Defining figures in this literature  have included Dylan Thomas, Margiad Evans, David Jones, R. S. Thomas, Raymond Williams, Gillian Clarke and Emyr Humphreys. At the beginning of the twenty-first century, this literature may be  seen both as complementing the other non-English literatures of the  "Anglo-Celtic Archipelago" (Ireland, Northern Ireland, Scotland) and as a local instance of  the worldwide proliferation of postcolonial literatures in English.

Our blog is intended as a means to draw attention to conferences, events, readings and so on, to link with past and present students and, hopefully, to share news and views about Welsh writing in English. We hope to develop our links sections, so if you would like to be included please contact Sarah Morse [] who will be managing the blog. Future prospective MA and PhD students are encouraged to contact us, and further details about the Centre and its work can be found on the website.