Monday, 10 December 2007

William Morris Research Seminar

The William Morris Research Seminar held at Northampton University on 17th November 2007 was an experiment in providing a forum for academic work on and around Morris in the UK, and the band of enthusiasts who gathered on that day enjoyed discussions as every bit as lively as those which take place at the Socialist League at the opening of News from Nowhere (even if we did not quite finish by roaring out very loud and damning all the rest for fools).

Professor Ruth Levitas framed the day politically with a paper on 'Freedom and Equality in Marx and Morris' and provoked a lively discussion on work and equality in utopia. Dr Will Hoon meditated on 'Morris and the Contemporary Design Curriculum', analysing the fate of Arts and Crafts 'hands on' aesthetic ideals in an age of desktop digital design techniques. The artist David Mabb showed and discussed his latest Morris-related work, Rhythm 69, which continues his bold project of montaging Morris's designs with aspects of the twentieth-century avantgarde (Kasimir Malevich and Hans Richter in this case). Tony Pinkney gave a paper on 'News from Nowhere as Seance Fiction', which situated itself as part of the 'spectral turn' of contemporary cultural studies, and Phillippa Bennett continued her project of rehabilitating Morris's late romances by seeing in them possible models of revolutionary violence which may have their bearing on Morris's general political thought.

All the participants felt they had enjoyed an intense and illuminating day's debate, and we are grateful to Phillippa Bennett's organisational energy in making the event happen so smoothly. Offers of papers for future seminars have already been received in significant numbers, and we trust that this event will establish itself as a regular part of the left-wing Victorian studies scene.

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