14-15 mars 2019 English Journeys past and present, Explorations of the condition of England Université Paris Nanterre

English Journeys past and present, Explorations of the condition of England

 Organizers : Observatoire de l’aire britannique, CREA EA 370, Université Paris Nanterre


 Dates of the Conference: 14-15 mars 2019

 Deadline for the submission of proposals :   12 novembre 2018

 Notification of acceptance of proposals:    19 novembre 2018

 A 200 word abstract is to be sent to:  

Cornelius Crowley: Cornelius.crowley@parisnanterre.fr, Cornelius.crowley@wanadoo.fr

 Committee in charge of the examination of proposals:

 Mathilde Bertrand, Université de Bordeaux, Bernard Cros, Université Paris Nanterre, Thierry Labica, Université Paris Nanterre,  Adrian Parks, Université de Reims, Champagne-Ardennes, Cornelius Crowley, Université Paris Nanterre

Keynote Speaker: Daniel Gray

Hatters, Railwaymen and Knitters, Travels through England’s Football Provinces, Bloomsbury, 2013

English Journeys past and present, Explorations of the condition of England

The conference will address the following hypothesis : the illustration of a certain way of being English,  of a specific English way of inhabiting and making sense of the world, were given definition and cultural force through a series of writings which record  the impressions of  things seen in the course of a journey  dedicated to the exploration of a territory, whether the land of England in its national extension or the more local territory of a particular community.

The seminal work is Daniel Defoe’s Tour Through the Whole Island of Great Britain  (1724), a journey embarked on shortly after the incorporation of Scotland into a Great British union. If The Marches by Rory Stewart (2016), is an exploration of the liminal territory between England and Scotland, the focus of the conference  will primarily be on the journeys through England undertaken by the English or British inhabitants of England. For Defoe, the venture into Scotland was largely supportive of his celebration of the realities explored south of the divide.

The organizers are calling for papers that will examine a corpus of writing proposing first-person observations of a  condition of England at various moments in the history of a territory. Other forms or media can also be examined :  photography, documentary cinema, popular music, or contemporary video blogs. Participants should be attentive to the mirror-effect  that may be at work, as the  writer or artist or witness, whether deliberately or not, produces an account receivable by an  English public either as  confirmation of their sense of England and Englishness (of what they presume they know England to be) or as an  intimation that between an England  to be explored and recorded  on  the ground   and a certain  idea of England in the mind there is a  gap to be charted.

Contributions are welcomed that will focus on certain less familiar or alternative English journeys. The vein of writing of the English journey has, since Defoe, largely been the prerogative of men, free in their writing and in their travels through the land.  Some recent counter-examples can be examined: explorations by women writers, explorations by first or second generation immigrants in the 20th century or today.  The intention is to enlarge the corpus, to arrive at a more diverse apprehension of the possible approaches to the  the condition of England.

Comparison between journeys going over the same ground, at different moments, can be a way to explore the changes in the sense of place, coupled with the transformations in the perception of the landscape :  from 19th century industry to 1930s depression; from there to the post-industrial landscape of  certain territories of England of the 1980s or later; and to  the sense, also, of ecological doom colouring certain present-day journeys. The conference will inevitably leave room for an inquiry into the conditions of England past and of England now, after Brexit.

One hypothesis to be addressed is that certain specific features of the social and cultural history of England, coupled with the resolutely empirical thrust of the accepted procedures for the exploration of social  realities, by way of  methods which do not lay claim to the high ground of general theory would seem to suggest  that it is through the corpus of English journeys past and present that we can address the  political and cultural implications of the condition of England  question, as a pointer both to the way that observers have sought to crystallize the lived experience of England and Englishness, both as a lived   condition and  in terms of the traces inscribed in the landscape. The condition of England leads inwards, to the exploration of a structure of feeling (Raymond Williams),  and it also leads outwards, to the observation of the signs written into the landscape.

The signs written into the landscape point to the omens of climate change,  here and now and to come. They also point to the post-industrial mutation that are evident here and now,  which draw us backwards to  the landscapes of a different England. This sense of a past, written into the landscape, along with the forebodings of things to come, can inform our reading of the various “conditions of England” to be explored.


Stephen Armstrong, The Road to Wigan Pier Revisited, Constable Paperback, 2012.

Stephen Armstrong, The New Poverty (2017, Verso),

Beryl Bainbridge, English Journey, or The Road to Milton Keynes (1984), Da Capo Press, 1997.

Beatrix Campbell, Wigan Pier Revisited: Poverty and politics in the Eighties,  (1984), Virago Press.

Daniel Defoe, A Tour Through the Whole Island of Great Britain (1724), edited P.N Furbank, W.R. Owens, A.J Coulson,  Yale UP, 1991.

William Cobbett, Rural Rides, 1830. Penguin Classics; new edition (27 Sep 2001). Introduction and notes by Ian Dyck.

J.B. Priestley,  English Journey (1933), Great Northern Books, 2009.

Orwell, G. (1937). The Road to Wigan Pier.

Richard Hoggart, The Uses of Literacy, 1957.

Daniel Gray, Hatters, Railwaymen and Knitters, Travels through England’s Football Provinces, Bloomsbury, 2013.

Stuart Macronie, Long Road from Jarrow: A Journey Through Britain Then and Now,  Ebury Publications,  2017.

Iain  Sinclair, Lights out for the territory: 9 Excursions in the secret history of London. GrantaBooks. 1997

Iain Sinclair, Hackney, That Rose-Red Empire: A Confidential Report, non-fiction, 2009.

Rory Stewart, The Marches: A Borderland Journey Between England and Scotland, 2016

Raymond Williams, The Country and the City, Oxford University Press, 1975.

Raphael Samuel,  Theatres of Memory: Volume 2: Island Stories: Unravelling Britain, Verso, 1997.

 Cinéma :

Terence Davis, Of Time and the City, 2012.

Ken Loach, Kes (1969), The  Spirit of ’45 (2013).

Lindsay Anderson, Britannia  Hospital. 1982.

Danny Boyle, 2012, London Olympics opening ceremony:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4As0e4de-rI

Johnny Rotten, Tour of London, 2009.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_SkUPM_T7FE

Photographie :

Bill Brandt, http://www.billbrandt.com/

Martin Parr, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_SkUPM_T7FE

Tony Ray-Jones, 1941-1972, http://www.billbrandt.com/

 Musique :

The Kinks, « The Kinks are the Village Green Village Green Preservation Society », Pye Records,   1968.




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