Saturday, 21 February 2009

News from Nowhere, Oxford, 1986-91

News from Nowhere (ISSN 0957-1868) was the journal of Oxford English Limited (OEL), a group of socialist and feminist students battling for progressive reforms within the Oxford University English Faculty between 1982 and 1992. Nine issues were published between 1986 and 1991 under the editorship of Tony Pinkney, and full details of its contents issue by issue are now available in the Wikipedia entry on the journal. It invoked William Morris’s Marxism and utopianism as an inspiration in its own struggles to get literary theory and cultural studies taken seriously within an intellectually conservative Oxford English Faculty. Readers of this blog might be interested in such pieces as ‘Nineteenth-Century Studies: As They Are and As They Might Be’ (no 2, October 1986, 38-55) and ‘Postmodern Space and Morris’s Utopia’ (no 9, Autumn 1991, 28-49). No 9, the final issue, is devoted to ‘Utopias and Utopianism’, so the journal went out on an appropriately upbeat and future-orientated note; it contains an interview with Fredric Jameson on Postmodernism and Utopia, and articles by Ruth Levitas, Terry Eagleton, John Goode and Diana Knight, among others. A one-volume selection from the OEL News from Nowhere will be published in the near future.


Anonymous said...

I note that you 'created' the journal. In what sense is this a materialist analysis of 1986?

Peter B said...

I am a little conflicted. I think Tony Pinkney is much underrated, in as under-read. as a thinker. But my animus is against the arc of his forms.

The re-appearance of NfN reminds me of Roy Bland in Tinker Tailor: I have given my conscience to socialism and my practice to capitalism, until I no longer know the difference and what I am upholding. As news from Oxford, News from Nowhere is a misnomer that sits on the nowhere Oxford produces. Ditto William Morris. Each constitute the missed encounter with the liminal of the binary of its own production.

Peter B said...

My only direct contact with OEL was attendance at the State of Criticism Conference in 86. Celtic, Catholic working-class, I arrived with a sense of anticipation, ref Williams-Eagleton axis, but was generally bored by the nowhere-ness and departed dis-appointed. The more petit-bourgeois caucus of OEL proceeded to take the career ride on the silver big-bang dream machine that Thatcher launched that very same year. NfN has now washed up on the far-shore of that traverse, passe as memory, and passe in its lack of contemporaneity, much too compromised by its own line of flight.