John Banville and His Precursors, 9-10 Nov. 2013

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Michael Springer, University of York

Keynote speakers: Dr Elke D'hoker (Katholieke Universiteit Leuven), author of Visions of Alterity: Representation in the Works of John Banville (Rodopi, 2004)

Dr Derek Hand, author of John Banville (Liffey Press, 2002) and A History of the Irish Novel (CUP, 2011)

John Banville's work, with its extensive and searching engagement with literary, aesthetic, philosophical and scientific traditions, is exemplary of Borges' understanding of the writer's relation to his or her precursors.

'In critical vocabulary, the word precursor is indispensable, but one should attempt to purify it of all connotation of polemic or rivalry. The fact is that each writer creates his precursors. His labour modifies our conception of the past, as it has to modify the future.'

In much of Banville's writing, engagement with the thought and legacy of a given precursor is accorded central importance. The close scrutiny the science tetralogy brings to bear on the epistemological foundations of Modernity as embodied in figures such as Copernicus is an especially apt example of this, as, in a closely related vein, is the author's persistent interest in and use of Wallace Stevens and the legacy of Romantic thinking on the aesthetic and the imagination more generally. A recurrent characteristic of Banville's work is the delineation of connections between preceding intellectual and artistic models and contemporary cultural forms and norms, well evidenced by the thematic prominence of epistemological and ethical concerns and the relation of these to the realms of the aesthetic and the literary. No less compelling is the question of the author's relation to specifically Irish traditions and precursors, and the light this may cast on important debates in the field.

With an already substantial and still growing oeuvre, and a burgeoning field of scholarship much of which explores such relations and interactions, 'Banville and His Precursors' aims to prompt discussion of the author's work through an exploration of his engagement with his precursors, literary and otherwise. This strikes us as being a good way of furthering and enhancing current debates in the scholarship, as well as for promoting a development into as yet uncharted areas. Papers are invited on any topic relating to Banville's relation to or interaction with intellectual, aesthetic, cultural or literary traditions, or exemplary figures within these. Please send proposals for papers or round tables to Further information is available at