Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Public Lecture- 'Looking at Lady Rhondda- a biographical challenge'

The last of the Richard Burton Centre events of this semester will take place Monday 9th December at Swansea University. Renowned historian Professor Angela V. John will give a public lecture inspired by her latest book, Turning the Tide: The Life of Lady Rhondda. Margaret Haig Thomas, the second Viscountess Rhondda (1883-1958) was a woman of many parts.  A Welsh suffragette who also played a key role in extending the vote to younger women in the 1920s, she held important posts in Wales and England during the First World War and was later instrumental in securing a seat for female peers in the House of Lords. She became a leading industrialist and founded and edited the highly influential weekly paper Time and Tide. It dazzled British society with its cutting-edge perspectives and literary contributors.

This talk looks at how Lady Rhondda chose to present herself, considers how contemporaries and others have viewed her and suggests how her remarkable story might be re-presented.

Book launch and wine reception from 5.15pm
Lecture at 6pm in James Callaghan Lecture Theatre
Croeso i bawb/All welcome.

Monday, 11 November 2013

CREW Reviews

We are hoping to kick-start our CREW reviews section of the CREW website this year, as there are many exciting new books of Welsh interest coming out. We have published reviews of English-language Welsh fiction and works of literary criticism on our site, and we are keen to continue to keep Wales's literary culture vibrant and relevant. If you are a postgraduate student, academic or creative writer and you would be interested in being a reviewer, please get in touch with Clare Davies at 632589@swansea.ac.uk to express your interest (and if you have a preference for what you would like to review, let us know). We would also like to know if you have any suggestions, or would like your own work reviewed.

Check out some of the previous CREW reviews here http://www.swansea.ac.uk/crew/crewreviews/

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

'Dylan Unchained': The Dylan Thomas Centenary Conference 2014

A major conference to mark the centenary of Wales's famous (or infamous) literary son will take place 3-5 September 2014. 'Dylan Unchained' will hope to attract new and exciting readings of Thomas's work, and might involve looking at his work from psychoanalytic, postcolonial, feminist and deconstructionist perspectives; it might involve reclaiming the regional specificity of his work from those who locate him as an international modernist; it could, alternatively, involve seeking to tear him away from nationalist attempts at Welsh or British canon formation in order to underline the transnational and hybrid character of his work; it might seek to place him amongst his contemporaries, or his literal or metaphorical ancestors; it might look at his influences across literary traditions and languages; it might involve seeing his review of Djuna Barnes’s Nightwood as key moment in the re-gendering of modernism, or his review of Amos Tutuola’s Palm-Wine Drinkard as a key moment in the global impact of Anglophone African literatures; it might involve close and detailed readings of his work and analyses of his poetic practice; or it might draw on more distanced forms of reading which address locations of publication, sales, readership and dissemination; it might think of Thomas as late Romantic, or as early Beat; it might consider Thomas’s voice in the age of mechanical reproduction, or his texts in the age of digital humanities. Thomas is a figure who transcends the ‘now’ to which he incessantly returned in his work.

Possible topics for paper or panel proposals might include, but are no means limited to:
·        Poetics and language
·        Theories of the body / gender studies
·        Radio, film and the mass media
·        Popular culture
·        Modernism in the 1930s
·        Visual art
·        Translation
·        Impact in the USA/ Europe / internationally
·        WWII, elegy and the ‘Blitz sublime’
·        The journal, Wales, and other friends (Glyn Jones, Lynette Roberts, Vernon Watkins, Keidrych Rhys)
·        Representing childhood and nostalgia
·        The gothic-grotesque and surrealism
·        The ‘First Flowering’ and Anglo-Welsh poetry
·        The short story
·        Regionalism and nationalism
·        Thomas and music (jazz, classical etc)
·        Trauma
·        Legacy and present influence (Plath, Hughes, W. S. Graham, etc.)

Please send abstracts for 20 minute papers (max 300 words), and a short biography, to dylanthomascentenary@swansea.ac.uk . Proposals for panels of three are also welcome.  The deadline for abstracts is 14 February 2014.  Please contact the conference organiser, Kirsti Bohata, at the above address if you have any queries.

In/dependent Wales Conference 2014

2014The Association for Welsh Writing in English annual conference in 2014 will take the theme of In/dependent Wales. The forthcoming referendum on Scottish independence has re-ignited discussion over the contentious issues of national identity, independence and union (or lack of) across the UK.

Lacking political independence, Welsh identity has long articulated itself through literature and culture. AWWE 2014 seeks to explore the numerous ways in which the Welsh writers, in both languages and across a broad historical period, have positioned themselves in relation to larger structures of power: colonialism; the British state; the British state; Europe; industrial capitalism; patriarchy; cultural institutions and/or literary traditions.

The conference invites contributions on any topic relating to Welsh writing and in/dependence. Contributions are encouraged from across disciplines, historical periods, and methodological approaches. Topics might include, but are by no means limited to:

  • In/dependent bodies
  • Wales and Britishness, Wales and Empire]
  • Wales in comparative contexts
  • Imperial, colonial and postcolonial Wales
  • Union, devolution, independence
  • Minority culture, stateless nations
  • Nationalism and postnationalism
  • Exiled voices, expatriate communities
  • Margins, borders and spaces in-between
  • Cultural nationalism
  • Journalism and political writing
  • Institutional independence, public arts funding
  • Gender and nationhood      
Abstracts of 250 words for twenty-minute papers should be submitted to independentwales@bangor.ac.uk by Friday 10 January 2014. Proposals for panels of three twenty-minute papers are also welcomed. Applicants will be informed by 24 January.

Organised by Dr Tomos Owen, Dr Andy Webb and Professor Tony Brown (Bangor University).
Follow 'In/dependent Wales' on Twitter! @AWWEIndieWales

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Thomas on Thomas!



Wednesday, October 23, 4-5.30 p.m., KH 216

’”Yr Hen Fam”: R. S. Thomas and the Church in Wales.’


By Professor M. Wynn Thomas (Swansea University)



Saturday, 19 October 2013

R S Thomas- 'Laboratories of the Spirit'

One of the most exciting events marking R S Thomas's centenary will be taking place in Swansea this November. Professor M Wynn Thomas will chair an evening of discussion on R S Thomas's religious poetry will the Archbishop of Wales, Barry Morgan, and the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams. The event will take place on 1st November at 6.30pm, Taliesin Arts Centre, Swansea University. More information can be found here:


Monday, 14 October 2013

Launch of the International Journal of Welsh Writing in English

This Wednesday (16th) Swansea University will be hosting the launch of the new International Journal of Welsh Writing in English (formerly Almanac). The programme of events is as follows:

6pm- Wine Reception
6.30pm- Opening remarks (Dr Alyce von Rothkirch and Helgard Krause)
6.45pm- 'R S Thomas at 100' (Dr Daniel Westover)
7.45pm- break
8.00pm- M. Wynn Thomas Prize (Chair: Prof Damien Walford Davies)
8.20pm- Panel Discussion: Welsh Writing in English- New Horizons

The evening will take place in the Callaghan Lecture Theatre, with Prof M Wynn Thomas as Chair. It will be an important night for Welsh Writing in English- so try and make it!

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

CREW Postgraduate Discussion Group

Welcome back to another year! We hope to keep CREW as vibrant as ever, with the CREW Postgraduate Discussion Group kicking off again this October. The first seminar will be led by PhD student Kieron Smith, who will treat us to a screening of one of John Ormond's films, followed by a short talk and general discussion. This will be held in the CREW room at 2pm on the 9th October. We hope to make these fairly regular throughout the academic year. All welcome/Croeso i bawb!

Sunday, 21 July 2013

IWA: The Second City of Wales? Swansea and its Identity

On Tuesday 30th July, the Dylan Thomas Centre will be hosting an event organised by the Institute of Welsh Affairs to celebrate and explore our wonderful city of Swansea. With the recent news that announced the creation of Wales’s first ‘city region’, comprised of the Swansea Bay area, and the fact that Swansea is a strong contender for the 2017 City of Culture, it is fitting that the IWA are dedicating an evening to discussing Swansea’s exciting future. One of Swansea’s most celebrated sons, the poet Nigel Jenkins, will be leading the conversation, along with IWA’s director, Lee Waters. The evening will also be the official launch of the photograph exhibition that features in the recent IWA publication, 25/25 Vision: Welsh Horizons Across 50 Years. This book contains essays and accompanying black and white photographs of 25 of Wales’s leading writers in both the political and cultural spheres (including some familiar faces from CREW). The essays in the collection are well worth a read; the writers were invited to reflect on their own experience of Wales, and to look ahead to a Wales they want to see in the near future.

To top it all, the evening also includes Welsh folk music, thanks to a Swansea-based mother and daughter folk-duo, DnA, who will be performing songs from their latest album.

Further details can be found at the IWA website http://www.iwa.org.uk/en/events/view/220

Saturday, 13 July 2013

R. S. Thomas @100

We are already more than half way through the centenary year of the great Welsh poet R. S. Thomas, so just a quick post to mark the events dedicated to celebrating the man and his work. One of the most significant events was the publication of RS Thomas: Serial Obsessive, by CREW’s indefatigable founder, M. Wynn Thomas. This new collection of essays looks at previously unseen poems by Thomas, exploring his various obsessions. It has received wonderful reviews:


As well as Wynn Thomas’s new book, there have also been many events to mark RST’s centenary. A major event at the Dylan Thomas Centre took place in April, marking not only Wynn Thomas’s new book, but also the Uncollected Poems, edited by Tony Brown and Jason Walford Davies. Five commemorative poems were also composed in memory of R S Thomas, by some of Wales’s leading contemporary poets (in both Welsh and English). There are still many exciting events coming up to look forward to, including the RST Literary Festival in September, and an evening of conversation on RS’s religious poetry between Wynn Thomas, Dr Rowan Williams and Dr Barry Morgan at the Taliesin Arts Centre on 1st November. For further information on all the events, see the links below:


Here is a link to an interview with M Wynn Thomas, on his experiences with RS, and his own ‘obsession’ with this fascinating man and his powerful poetry:

(I’ll post reminders of the Swansea-based events closer to the time)

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Literature Wales Literary Tourism Programme: Canoeing in Dylan Thomas's Taf Estuary

With next year promising to be a Dylan-fest, why not start celebrating Swansea’s infamous son this July with a day of canoeing, poetry and jazz? Organised by Literature Wales and CREW, the day begins in gorgeous Laugharne with Dylan Thomas experts, Jeff Towns and John Goodby. Enjoy some gentle paddling in the Taf Estuary, before an evening at Wright’s Independent Food Emporium, with New York-themed food and jazz, courtesy of Daniel Williams and his band Burum. For further details, check out the Literature Wales website:


 Welcome to Literature Wales’ 2013 Literary Tourism Events Programme. Join us on eighteen new literary adventures running from April through to October located across Wales and beyond!  Whether you want to explore the Wild West, the legends of Arthurian and Medieval Wales, Submarine Swansea, Neolithic Anglesey or the ghosts of Ceredigion, there is something for everyone. We will take you to the heart of Welsh worlds and words for totally one-off, unforgettable experiences by bicycle, canoe on horseback and on foot. You don’t have to be experienced at all. If you are interested, visit www.literaturewales.org to view the brochure online...and get ready for a tour to remember or to a request a brochure or book a place, contact Literature Wales on: post@literaturewales.org / 029 2047 2266.


Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Recent releases from CREW staff
Writing Wales in English: Black Skin, Blue Books - African Americans and Wales 1845-1945Staff at CREW just can’t stop publishing great research. Daniel Williams’s pioneering monograph Black Skin, Blue Books: African Americans and Wales 1845-1945 was published by UWP in September 2012, and has rightly received great acclaim. During my undergraduate studies, I often had to read rather dull scholarly works, but Williams’s book was a delight- highly readable, elegantly written and so thoroughly researched just reading the bibliography made me tired. But don’t just take my word for it, check out these glowing reviews:

Gender Studies in Wales: Rediscovering Margiad Evans - Marginality, Gender and Illness

CREW’s director, Kirsti Bohata, has also been busy, co-editing (with Katie Gramich) a new collection of wonderful essays on Margiad Evans, one of my favourite writers. Rediscovering Margiad Evans: Marginality, Gender and Illness is a valuable new collection, and features essays by both established and newer critical voices, who explore Evans’s work from a variety of themes and approaches. It has been recently reviewed in the TLS, so if you are a subscriber, take a look. Information on the book can be found here:




Friday, 7 June 2013

Heather Dohollau (1925-2013)

The Welsh poet Heather Dohollau died on April 30th, 2013 in Saint-Brieuc, Brittany, where she had lived since 1959. Arguably a missing chapter in the history of recent Welsh literature, Heather Dohollau remains little-known in the UK because she lived all her adult life in Brittany, and is only published in French at present.

Heather Dohollau was born in 1925 in the Rhondda Valley and raised in Penarth. She left for France after losing her mother as a young woman after the war, and after some years in Paris and London, settled on the small Breton island of Bréhat. There she led an insular, then semi-insular life for almost twenty years, raising seven children in precarious circumstances and running an artshop. For the following twenty years, she worked as a librarian in Saint-Brieuc and became increasingly involved in a literary environment. A close friend of Pierre-Jean Jouve in the mid-1960s until his death in 1976, she developed other literary friendships from the 1980s, when her annual attendance at the colloquiums of Cerisy-la-Salle began. Yves Bonnefoy, Jacques Derrida, Salah Stétié and Lorand Gaspar, who handed her the Légion d’honneur in 2000, have been among her friends and correspondents. An international colloquium held in Cerisy in 2005 and its proceedings have further established the significance of her work, as have other publications.

Most of Dohollau’s published writing takes the form of poems (including prose-poems). These are printed in the following collections, published by Éditions Folle Avoine  (my translations):

 Seule enfance / Childhood Alone (1978)

 La Venelle des portes / The Lane of Doors (1981)

 Matière de lumière / Matter of Light (1985)

 L’Adret du jour / The Day’s Declivity (1989)

 Pages aquarellées / Watercoloured Pages (1989)

 Les Portes d’en bas / The Doors Beneath (1992)

 La Terre âgée / Aged Earth (1996)

 Le Point de rosée / Dew Stitch (1999)

 Le Dit des couleurs / The Colours’ Tale (2003)

 Une suite de matins / A Suite for Mornings (2005)

 Un regard d’ambre / An Amber Gaze (2008)

She has also published one novel, La Réponse / The Answer (1982), which is inspired by the philosopher Jules Lequier, and one volume of literary essays, Les Cinq jardins et autres textes / The Five Gardens and Other Texts (1996). The latter focuses chiefly on Rilke’s novel The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge. Several of the volumes are illustrated by frontispieces by Heather Dohollau’s son Tanguy Dohollau. 

Heather Dohollau’s poems are powerfully evocative of the significant places in her life, always making allowances for the essentially temporal nature of our encounters with place. An exile who only rarely returned to her lost origins (Wales, Bréhat which was a new origin to her), she perceived that the real talisman, what enfolds us back 'home', is transience itself: changing light and colours, what was only ever seen with the corner of one's eye, the awareness that each return is also a chance of leaving the place 'intact' - only then are its gifts truly received. This is also how she looked at paintings (never trying to describe or map out, but all the more vivid in its translation of visuality) and at the space of the poem itself: a slow, open form, returning, like a wave. Her way of remembering, like her way of returning, was intensely visual, intensely seeking the gifts of transience - with all the complex layering of a consciousness in constant dialogue with literature, philosophy, the visual arts, and of course with another language.

Alongside Heather Dohollau’s writings, we are lucky to have recordings of three poems self-translated into English to remember her by. Additionally, the filmed self-portrait La Promesse des mots / The Promise of Words, by Rolland Savidan and Florence Mahé (Plérin: RS Productions, 2005) gives us a chance to encounter the poet as she retraces her steps to her lost origins (South Wales and Bréhat) and reflects on her past, on returning, loss, ageing, reading and writing, looking at paintings.

Heather Dohollau never spoke Welsh, though it was spoken in her family. Yet Welsh names and places have had an enduring hold over her imagination: they are present in all but one of her twelve collections. Her take on the notions of identity, place, origin, memory, belonging and mother tongue brings fresh and sometimes radical light on problematics that are central to twentieth-century Welsh literary history. She felt close to David Jones’work, partly because his was a Welsh, but outward-looking vision. Her Welsh past may well have played another significant role: it is likely that growing up in the broader context of Welsh-English bilingualism (and perhaps also, to a lesser extent, being aware of Breton-French bilingualism later in life) fed into the double consciousness she writes about compellingly as a writer in English and French. As with Beckett or André du Bouchet, this double consciousness made writing the site of a densely philosophical quest for the Other of language, or as she names it in a poem from her last published collection (p. 101, my translation),

L’autre poésie celle qui n’est pas écrite mais que l’écriture projette. L’herbe transparente d’un semis d’encre

The other poetry that which is not written but which writing projects. The transparent grass sown in ink

Dr Clémence O'Connor,
University of Aberdeen

Picture acknowledgements:
HD and reflection in Alexandra Park, Penarth: *Tanguy Dohollau*
HD on the river Cam: *Geneviève Guétemme*

Friday, 5 April 2013

John Goodby on Dylan Thomas

Details of Dr John Goodby's AHRC-funded work on Dylan Thomas, including project updates, can be found here:


Under the Spelling Wall (pictured) is due to appear soon from Liverpool University Press.

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Long Revolutions in Wales and Japan: Report

Long Revolutions in Wales and Japan: Raymond Williams in Transit 3

November 2nd 2012 saw the third CREW collaboration with the Raymond Williams Kenkyu-kai (Society for Raymond Williams Studies), Japan. The event was funded by JSPS/MEXT Grant-in Aid for Scientific Research, with organisational support from CREW and the Richard Burton Centre, Swansea University. 

Daniel Williams’s opening remarks offered an overview of the reception of Williams’s volume The Long Revolution (1961). He argued that while much in the book prefigures future developments in Williams’s thinking and that it contains some of Williams’s best writing, the central notion of a ‘common culture’ is one that Williams began to overtly question in his later writings, and was already been problematising in his fiction.

Williams’s direct engagements with psychoanalysis are somewhat rare, but the opening sections of The Long Revolution do indeed attempt to engage with some of the developments in the the field at the time. Fuhito Endo developed this thread in Williams’s work to explore the possibility of much stronger connections between Williams’s cultural materialism and Freudian psychoanalysis. Williams’s concept of the ‘residual’ which ‘has been effectively formed in the past, but is still active in the cultural process’, shares some similarities with Freud’s notion of ‘affect’, which Endo suggested has ‘also been formed in the past, but is still active in the psychic process’. The homologous relationships between patterns in Williams thought and psychoanalytic theory were explored in some detail, and while Endo focused on Williams’s criticism, his approach seemed to suggest some particularly fruitful ways of thinking about Williams’s fiction.

Yasuhiro Kondo did turn his attention to the fiction, and discussed the ways in which Williams developed the realist tradition in his second novel Second Generation. Drawing on the argument in the Long Revolution that ‘changes in primary relationships ... will have observable social effects’, Kondo explored the connection between individual and social change in Second Generation. ‘The growth of love and the capacity for loving are fundamental in the development of society’ argued Williams, and Kondo read the novel as a fictional exploration of those ‘fundamental’ relationships. 

The 3/11 of Takashi Onuki’s ‘Culture and Society after 3/11’ referred to the date of the Fukushima Nuclear disaster. The development of the nuclear industry in Japan happened according to the requirements of a rapidly expanding late capitalist system which paid little attention to the real needs of the country’s citizens, The struggle between human needs and capitalist accumulation lies at the heart of Williams’s life-long project, and Onuki drew on the tradition of resistance mapped out in Culture and Society as a resource in the contemporary re-making of social and environmental policies.

Kieron Smith drew on his research on Welsh poet and film-maker John Ormond to explore the values informing the BBC in the 1960s, and the way in which Ormond represented Wales and the idea of an ‘educated democracy’ in his work. The dialogue between Williams’s commitment to an ‘educated democracy informing a common culture’ and Ormond’s more Arnoldian concept of culture as the best that had been thought and said offered an illuminating insight onto Welsh cultural debates and values in the 1960s. 

Onuki, Kono and Williams, all involved in the firs Raymond Williams in transit session, joined each other on stage to consider the relevance of The Long Revolution today. The discussion was chaired by Dai Smith who emphasized the educational imperative informing Williams’s work. The principle of a comprehensive education available to all was established by the time Williams was writing, but the question of what kind of education was, and still is, a hotly contested topic. Williams placed the arts at the centre of his vision. Education should not merely be offering the tools for wealth accumulation and econimic success, it should also offer insights into the reasons for why that life is worth living. Kono expanded on these insights to suggest that the concept of revolution could not be understood in the same ways in different contexts, and as capitalism had proved adept at sublimating and assimilating radical tendencies the idea of revolution had to be continually re-visited and re-invented. 

Each of our Wales-Japan events has featured the application of Williams’s criticism to the reading of Japanese texts. This is what Ryota Nishi achieved in his paper on Kazue Morisaki. Morisaki’s representation of the ‘underground labourer’ opened the possibility of comparative research into the fictions produced by coalfield societies.

It perhaps time now to think back over the three events held so far (in Swansea (twice) and Japan (once)) and to consider which comparative threads are worth developing in the future as this wonderfully rewarding dialogue with colleagues in Japan continues. 

Friday, 18 January 2013

Tony Conran (1931 - 2013)

Tony Conran was different.  He was singular. He was special. And long before the end, his lifetime’s work seemed to me, in the uncompromising monumentality of its inner consistency and completeness, like some kind of towering ancient dolmen on our level post-modern landscape. 

His career spanned more than half a century, during which he was a major contributor to the transformation of the cultural life of anglophone Wales. Translator, cultural interpreter, dramatist, but, supremely, poet, he was blessed with originality in all he did. Underpinning his work was his strong vision of the distinctive social character of Welsh culture, traditionally embodied in the very form of classic Welsh-language poetry. This same distinctiveness was, for him, differently exemplified in what he regarded as the best English-language poetry of modern Wales, of which he was himself one of the most distinguished advocates and practitioners.  

Devoted to his radical cultural vision, he was never clubbable, but was s a cherished collaborator with other poets, musicians and artists, and adored mentor of many young creative and critical talents. 

He was prevented by cerebral palsy from communicating easily with others in talk, and so he invested the written word with a unique intensity. And just as his demanding, densely layered poems mesmerised many readers, his lengthy, fiercely intellectual, letters became legendary to his many correspondents. 

His was a lasting, heroic achievement. 
Requiescat in pace. 

M. Wynn Thomas

First appeared on Literature Wales website:  http://www.literaturewales.org/news/i/142467/