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Yorkshire Modernisms

A Northern Modernism Seminar at the University of Leeds 20th May, 2023

This one is slightly different to the usual NMS format in that we’re issuing a CFP:

Yorkshire might not be widely acclaimed as the cradle of modernism. Yet, in 1903 when Alfred Richard Orage and Holbrook Jackson founded the Leeds Arts Club, it led the British avantgarde, becoming home to one of the most advanced centres of modernist thinking and creativity before the Great War. Since then, the county has influenced some of the most representative modernist writers, artists and critics, including W. H. Auden, Henry Moore, Herbert Read, and William Empson, as well as some less represented but equally significant voices such as Storm Jameson and Winfred Holtby. Auden remembers and transforms the Yorkshire landscape from afar, fusing its scenery with the Mediterranean in ‘In Praise of Limestone’ (1948). Holtby’s educated and cosmopolitan protagonist Sarah Burton in South Riding (1936) reconstructs a rural community after WWI by setting up a school to foster girls’ independence. Other modernists have informed Yorkshire’s intellectual circuits, including T. S. Eliot, who taught a series of lectures on modern French literature in Ilkley and later transformed the experience into a poetic identity in the 1920 French poem ‘Mélange adultère de tout’:‘En Yorkshire, conferencier | A Londres, un peu banquier’ (‘A lecturer in Yorkshire | A sort of banker in London’). Noting how the grounding of international ideas in local contexts has informed critical approaches within new modernist studies – especially with reference to Neal Alexander and James Moran’s collection Regional Modernisms (2013) – in this one-day seminar we aim to explore modernisms in the region of Yorkshire and expand on their rich histories, enduring legacies and broad implications. In doing so, we wish to contribute to a decentring of the metropolitan affiliations of modernism across disciplines in arts and humanities and to open a conversation with scholarship that reassigns cultural agency to marginalised places, including Kristin Bluemel and Michael McCluskey’s Rural Modernity in Britain (2018).
The seminar will bring together papers on writers and artists from the modernist period who have taken Yorkshire as a nodal point in their work and fostered creative connections through and within its boundaries. With a special focus on the meetings, collaborations, conversations, and knowledge sharing that took place here, this seminar aims to explore how Yorkshire’s place, time, landscape, and community played a part in the production of modernisms and build a broader picture of how style, form, and mode of output have worked in tandem with place. We will also consider how modernisms have shaped the development of the cultural industries in Yorkshire, and vice versa, asking how these legacies continue to put the region on the map today. After individual papers, the seminar will end with an open discussion in which we will address some of these larger concerns and to draw conclusions that will pave the way for future work.
The seminar will be held at the University of Leeds, in the Clothworkers Building South.
We warmly invite 20-minute papers on the following topics, which are not limited to but include:

  • The representation of Yorkshire landscapes in modernist art and literature
  • The influence of local lived experience on and within artists’ and writers’ work
  • Modernist networking based in Yorkshire
  • Little magazines and small presses established in Yorkshire
  • The Brontës and Yorkshire modernisms
  • Art and literary archives in Yorkshire
  • Yorkshire in international modernisms
  • Modernist legacy in the later writings and art associated with Yorkshire
  • Modernisms and the development of the creative and cultural industries in Yorkshire

Please submit abstracts (no more than 250 words) and bios (approx.50 words) to by 8th March. Please let us know of any accessibility and dietary requirements. We will aim to notify participants by 31 March 2023. The seminar will be free of charge. Some refreshments will be provided.

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