Billy Clark and I will be organising a special interest group workshop at the international conference of the Poetics and Linguistics Association in Birmingham in July 2018. The workshop title is ‘Pragmatics and Literature’, and the deadline for the submission of papers is 31st January 2018. The conference website and call for papers can be found here.
I am on research leave from the University of Liverpool for the academic year 2016-17, having completed three years as Head of the Department of English. I am looking forward to developing my work on the Irish novelist George Moore (1852-1933), whose stylistically experimental and influential writing has interested me for many years. In a new book project on ‘George Moore’s Acts of Re-writing’ I am planning to apply pragmatic theory in the neo-Gricean tradition to the study of some of the ways in which Moore revised and republished a number of his major works, years or even decades after they were initially published. The major questions I hope to explore in this project are: firstly, how Moore’s specific acts of rewriting shaped and determined his creative output; secondly, how analytical paradigms developed in the discipline of linguistic pragmatics can be used to explain those processes; and thirdly what we can learn from this about the mechanisms and the significance of literary re-writing more generally.
On Thursday 25th October I will be traveling down to London to give a talk at the Irish Literary Society at 7.30p.m. at the Double Tree hotel, 2 Bridge Place, just behind Victoria mainline station.
The title of my talk is ‘”Oh, do let’s talk about something else”: Changing the subject and avoiding the issue in Elizabeth Bowen’s The Last September‘. I will be discussing how recent developments in pragmatic theory can contribute to an analysis of the novel. The Last September is set in an Irish country ‘Big House’ during the time of tension and violence that led up to the formation of the Irish Free State in 1922. The house, Danielstown, is fictional, but the novelist made no secret of the fact that it was closely based on her own family home, Bowen’s Court in County Cork. This picture of Elizabeth Bowen shows Bowen’s Court in the background.
I’ve just been to the mini-PALA conference at the University of Huddersfield, where I talked on ‘”Whereof one cannot speak”: philosophical asides on literature’. In this paper, I considered some of the things that philosophers have said about literature when they were really interested in something else, usually in some aspect of the question of the relationship between language and truth. I suggested some ways in which these philosophical asides might be of interest to present-day linguists engaged in the study of literature.
The conference, with the general theme of ‘Stylistics: Eclecticism and Interdisciplinarity’ was very successful and very enjoyable. It was particularly striking to see how, despite the many different ways in which participants approached the theme, there was real consensus about the viability and desirability of eclecticism in linguistic approaches, particularly approaches to literary study. Lesley Jeffries is planning to edit a collection of papers from the conference for publication.