Twentieth Century and Contemporary Literature

The Twentieth Century and Contemporary Research Seminar is a forum for scholars to present research on aspects of literature and culture in this century and last. While the seminar serves as a testing ground for new ideas that push against the expectations of period and discipline, it is also home to our lively community of postgraduate and postdoctoral researchers, providing a valuable resource within the Faculty.

*30th April at 17:00 in GR05, Faculty of English*

‘Moore, Pound, and ‘generous Bolzano’’—Dr Fiona Green (University of Cambridge)


This paper is part of a larger project about the literary relationship between Marianne Moore and Ezra Pound. Pound’s high profile as maker and promoter of transatlantic literary modernisms is undisputed; his fascist sympathies, and his indictment for treason against the United States in 1945, remain part of his complex legacy to Anglo-American poetry into the twenty-first century. Marianne Moore’s reputation as an experimental poet, mid-century moralist, and her own pivotal role in the circulation of early-twentieth-century avant-gardes, have become increasingly evident. Between 1918 and 1967 Moore and Pound exchanged over four hundred letters in which they harangued, advised, and negotiated with one another about the alliances, enmities, and institutions whereby literary modernism was making itself up; they discussed metrics, prose rhythms, and the tasks of the translator; and they wrangled over the responsibilities of poets to their times. Meanwhile, they got each other into print, read and reviewed each other’s work, and developed parallel and intersecting experiments with the formal shapes and sounds of modern verse. Reading between Moore and Pound means also reading between verse and its circumstances of composition and publication. The focus of this paper is a set of exchanges between the two poets in the early 1930s, when Pound’s editorial projects, Moore’s verse drafts, and the epistolary traffic between them were caught up with queries about region and nation, and about cultivation and domestication that reveal unsettling congruities between poets of widely divergent political persuasion.

Speaker Bio:

Fiona Green is a University Associate Professor in American Literature and a Director of Studies in English Literature at Jesus College. Her main research interest is American poetry and history. Recent projects have attended to relationships between poetry and material culture, whether in the contingencies of publication, especially magazine publication, in representations of the built environment, or in the acoustic textures of verse itself. Her central concern is with the close study of literary texts as complex historical objects.

*14 May at 17:00 in GR 05, English Faculty*

"Beyond the Noise: D. H. Lawrence and T. S. Eliot" - Professor Kate McLoughlin (University of Oxford)​

Beyond the Noise: D. H. Lawrence and T. S. Eliot Aldous Huxley called the Twentieth Century ‘the Age of Noise’. The novelist D. H. Lawrence and the poet T. S. Eliot both listened beyond the noise, to the silence. Lawrence heard the silences of the body, of power teetering on the brink of fascism. Eliot heard the silences of spiritual emptiness and of union with the divine. Both writers turned to non-western religions—Buddhism, Hinduism, the religion of the Aztecs—for illumination. This talk explores the mystical, thunderous and serene silences that permeate their prose and verse.

Professor Kate McLoughlin is a Professor of English Literature at the University of Oxford. She is completing a literary history of silence, to be published by Oxford University Press and funded by a Leverhulme Trust Major Research Fellowship.

*Tuesday, 11 June at 17:00 in GR 05, English Faculty*

"The Rhythmic and the Metronomic: Time, Labour and Charlie Chaplin’s Gait" - Professor Matthew Beaumont (University College London)​

This paper explores the politic of walking, and its political economy, in the early twentieth century, situating Charlie Chaplin’s modus ambulandi in relation to the rhythms of Taylorised factory production. Invoking Marcel Mauss’s claim that ‘the positions of the arms and hands while walking’ – also, of course, the legs and feet – ‘form a social idiosyncrasy’, it identifies Chaplin’s gait as a protest against modes of walking associated with productivity and virility, especially the stride. The paper, leaning on Henri Lefebvre, argues that the point of Chaplin’s distinctive gait is to affirm rhythmicity in the face of the metronomic cadences of the assembly line. It discusses Modern Times (1936), naturally, but also a short story written by Chaplin, ‘Rhythm: A Story of Men in Macabre Movement’ (1938).

Matthew Beaumont is a Professor of English at UCL and Co-Director of UCL’s Urban Lab. He is the author of several books, including The Walker: On Finding and Losing Yourself in the Modern city (2020), Lev Shestov: Philosopher of the Sleepless Night (2021), and How We Walk: Frantz Fanon and the Politics of the Body (2024). He is currently writing London: A Writer’s City for CUP.

You are all warmly invited to attend the seminar and to join us afterwards for drinks and/or dinner at The Mill pub. Please find the attached poster of our upcoming seminars in Easter Term, and feel free to email Gwenda Koo (gkhk2) or Claire Watt (cmw95) with any questions.