Utopian Spaces of British Literature and Culture, 1890-1945

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English Faculty, University of Oxford (UK)

From the fin de siècle to the Second World War, the construction of alternative social and private spaces exerted a peculiar fascination for many British writers. The cataclysmic historical events of the period stimulated Utopian thinking and feeling even as they seemed to make them problematic or impossible. At the same time radical demands for new spaces, whether political, religious or aesthetic, also generated new ways of reading and writing the familiar urban and domestic spaces of everyday life.

The focus of the conference is on the spatial manifestations, geographies and practices of Utopianism, rather than on Utopianism as a category of millenarian anticipation. Papers are invited which address the various material and imaginary spatial forms of the Utopian impulse in the literature of period. How do certain spaces become associated with particular political or aesthetic visions of modernity? Does the Utopian bear a particular affinity to some spaces, rather than to others? Is the Utopian impulse articulated as a desire for order or anarchy?

Plenary speakers: Professor Jay Winter (Yale); Dr Matthew Beaumont (UCL); Iain Sinclair (London)

Papers are invited on any aspect, historical and/or theoretical, of the conference theme. Please send an abstract of no more than 250 words in length, including your name, position and institutional affiliation to utopianspaces@ell.ox.ac.uk. Deadline for submission: 30 June 2009.

For further information, accommodation possibilities, and updates please visit our website: http://www.utopianspaces.org

Topics may include but are not limited to:

- the political, religious, aesthetic nature of Utopian spaces
- the city as a Utopian space
- imaginary, geographical and textual maps
- representations of Utopian spaces in literature and other media (e.g. painting, film, architecture)
- gendered/queer Utopian spaces (e.g. the struggle for female emancipation; representations of the New Woman)
- Utopian aspects of the everyday; strategies for defamiliarising the everyday (e.g. Mass Observation, Surrealism)
- theoretical considerations of Utopian 'places' and geographies (Walter Benjamin, de Certeau, Henri Lefebvre, Guy Debord, and others)
- the theatre as a Utopian space
- mobility and transport
- exclusiveness of certain Utopian spaces (who is locked out from these spaces and for what reasons?)
- racialized Utopian spaces