The Inaugural Conference of Postgraduate Contemporary Women’s Writing Network

The Inaugural Conference of Postgraduate Contemporary Women’s Writing
Wanted ‘Dead or Alive’: Positioning Contemporary Women’s Writing
15/16 June 2007
Katsura Sako
Department of English and Comparative Literary Studies
The idea of this conference was conceived in the Inaugural conference of the CWWN,
its parental body, in April 2006. Seven PhD students, who attended this conference,
took initiative to organise the first conference for the Postgraduate Network with the
aim to establish a network of young researchers working in the field of contemporary
women’s writing and to promote supportive research environment. The conference
was generously supported by the Warwick Humanities Research Centre, Feminist and
Women’s Studies Association, Swansea University GENCAS, University of Dundee
The reading by the Booker-Prize nominated writer, Ali Smith, with which the
conference was to commence on Friday evening, was cancelled due to train service
disruptions caused by the flooding. Nonetheless, the conference delegates who
travelled from within and outside the UK gathered for dinner and enjoyed the social
occasion to meet other research students and young academics.
The Saturday proceedings opened with the keynote speech by Dr Mary Eagleton,
chair of the CWWN and senior lecturer at Leeds Metropolitan University. Her talk
addressed the theme of the conference, namely, the position of contemporary
women’s writing. She discussed the paradoxical way in which women’s writing has
been marginalised and re-cognised in the current literary market and the academy,
with illuminating historical contexts of intellectual and literary thoughts.
This was followed by four double panels, which carried various themes:
1) Representations of Contemporary Women’s Writing 2) Identity, Space, Ethnicity
3) Canonical Contenders 4) Location
5) Popular Fiction 6) Border Crossings
7) Marginalised Voices 8) Bodies
The panels featured topics of the body, space and genre. In particular, the
participations of scholars from abroad including Turkey and Lebanon added a
postcolonial perspective and enriched the panel discussions. The panel 7 welcomed
two published poets and academics from Liverpool and the US respectively. Eleanor
Rees and Lauren Rusk read their works of poetry and talked about how they worked.
The panel discussed the common idea that poetry is unapproachable high art but that
poetry needs to be read aloud, for sounds and rhythm of language gives simple and
physical pleasure that the novel is not able to give. Relating to this, there was also an
interesting discussion about the teaching of poetry in degree courses and how its rigid
focus on style and form sometimes puts students off from poetry. Every panel enjoyed
lively and engaged discussions among the audience and presenters which often ran
beyond the scheduled thirty minutes. The delegates had an opportunity to continue
their discussions, however, during refreshment breaks and lunch.
The conference was a great success. It has proved the existing active interest in the
field of contemporary women’s writing and the increasing demand to link researchers
working in the field. It has been agreed that the CWWN and PGCWWN will hold a
conference every other year, and the conference organisers called for volunteers to
organise the second PG conference in 2009. Meanwhile, the CWWN conference is
being planned to be held at the University of Leicester next year. Dr Eagleton has
informed us that they have agreed with the University of Oxford Press on the
publication of the academic journal, Contemporary Women’s Writing. The first issue
is expected to be out by the end of this year. It is hoped that this conference has
contributed to such growing area of research in contemporary women’s writing.