Defending the Literary: From Cervantes to Coetzee

Defending the Literary: From Cervantes to Coetzee
On Saturday 20 September the HRC together with the Department of
English and Comparative Literary Studies held a conference, Defending
the Literary: From Cervantes to Coetzee, to honour Professor Michael Bell
on his retirement after 35 years of service to the University. The conference
was opened by Professor Claude Rawson (Yale University) one of the
founding members of the Warwick English Department, who analysed the
syntax of some passages from Emma to illustrate the delicacy and the
importance of the topic of money in relation to marriage in Jane Austen.
Professor Ritchie Robertson (Oxford University) investigated some early
examples of the German Bildungsroman and discussed their relationship
to the broader tradition of the European novel. Dr Peter Poellner
(Philosophy, Warwick) discussed questions of Ethics raised by Robert Musil's
novel, The Man Without Qualities. These two contributions reflected
Professor Bell's long-standing interests in German literature, the novel of
education and the relationship between philosophy and literature. Dr
Fiona Becket (Leeds University), representing Professor Bell's pupils, and
reflecting Bell's continuing importance as a scholar of Lawrence,
discussed the problems involved in finding an appropriate green context
in which to place Lawrence's tough-minded view of nature. Professor Ed
Larrissy (Queen's University, Belfast) explored the pitfalls of trying to
historicize Blake, arguing that close attention to the poetry provides a
better guide to understanding Blake's attitudes to questions of his time.
Taking his cue from Dangerfield's The Strange Death of Liberal England
and from Henry James's letters at the start of the 1914 war, Professor
Michael Wood (Princeton University) explored some modernist writers'
responses to events which were in one sense surprising and cataclysmic
and on the other were entirely predictable consequences of social
attitudes in which the writers had some complicity. The conference
concluded with a typically wide-ranging paper from Michael Bell, urging
readers to understand magic realism as an instance of the wider issue of
the place of imagination in understanding. At the end of the conference
Professor Bernard Bergonzi made a presentation to Professor Bell from his
friends and colleagues. The even was attended by about 60 people,
including many present and former colleagues and students. We were
very grateful to the CAPITAL Centre for hosting the conference.