Saturday, 16 May 2020

Morris Online under Covid-19

This week I taught my last-ever undergraduate seminars, as the conclusion of a mini-course on Thomas Hardy’s poetry, so, like Coleridge’s snake with its tail in its mouth (his image for the organicist nature of the work of art), my academic career at its close has circled back to its origins, for Hardy’s poetry and novels were a big part of our A-level training at Southend High School for Boys under the adept tutelage of Mr A.J. Webster some decades back.  The surprising feature of these seminars was, then, not their literary content, but the fact that they took place online, as part of the remote teaching that British universities are currently practising under coronavirus lockdown (and may well still be practising this coming autumn term).

Many other intellectual and political projects have moved their own operations online in a wholesale fashion during the Covid-19 crisis.  My wife’s Lacanian psychoanalysis seminar, which had required her to take crack-of-dawn trains from Lancaster to London once a month, now holds its meetings via Zoom; and in fact is having more meetings rather than less in its enthusiasm for the new online medium.  Moreover, the geographical range of participants has increased, allowing people in other countries who could never have made it to London for a Saturday morning start to participate.  

Meantime, in the field of Morris studies, Ingrid Hansen has done an excellent job of organising ‘Morris Out Loud’, a reading-out of the entirety of News from Nowhere via Zoom on Monday evenings from 6.30pm.  But I’m not aware of anything much other than this by way of new Morrisian online offerings.  Yet it should surely have been possible for the William Morris Society, like my wife’s London Lacan group, to have broadcast the speaker meetings it has cancelled over the last couple of months through online forums instead – Microsoft Teams if not Zoom, or no doubt any of a good number of others I don’t know about.  And it too might have increased its audience by so doing.  

There was talk at last year’s Society AGM about the need ‘to increase our digital output’, though at that point it was Twitter, Facebook and Instagram that were mostly on the agenda.  But the coronavirus situation, which could now go on for a very long time indeed, makes it all the more urgent that that digital push is taken into new directions and the Society’s speaker programme got going again by online means.

1 comment:

Tony Pinkney said...

A welcome step in the right direction: