Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Dame Penelope Lively at the University Museum

Last Friday, Penelope Lively gave Somerville College's James Bryce Memorial Lecture at the University Museum. The setting for the talk, evocative as it is at any given time, couldn't help but strike the fan of Lively's children's books especially: The House in Norham Gardens has scenes set just down the stairs in the Pitt Rivers Museum. (As does His Dark Materials, making the Pitt Rivers itself an artefact of children's literature, though Lively positioned it more irreverently via James Fenton's description: 'shut / 22 hours a day and all day Sunday'.) Lively's lecture, which took shape around themes of memory, remembering, and history, also gave a substantial record of her reading in childhood and youth. 

Reading that shaded into writing: early encounters with classical mythology via Andrew Lang, which were followed by her own retellings (although Penelope was front and centre and full of virtue in the Odyssey, Lively ascribed other attributes to her namesake). Forbidden reading, reading as 'cherishing a subversive practice' amid the 'stern philistinism' of her boarding school. The Oxford use of reading to describe undergraduate study ('reading History', 'reading English'), with the phrase glossing such study as 'long-term inclination rather than mandatory application'. The distinction between 'undirected, unstructured reading' and 'deliberate reading', or research, as it pertains to her career as a writer. 

Lively's readings ranged over an hour, and it wasn't nearly long enough.

Above: A house in Norham Gardens, circa 1875.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Centre for the History of Childhood in Michaelmas

The Centre for the History of Childhood at Magdalen College will hold four Michaelmas sessions dedicated to new work on the history of childhood and young people in Britain and its empire since 1700. The details are as follows:

17 October: Laurence Brockliss & George Rousseau: ‘Orphans and the History of Childhood’: a discussion based around Cheryl L. Nixon, The Orphan in Eighteenth-Century Law and Literature. Estate, Blood and Body (Ashgate, 2011).

31 October: Hugh Morrison (Otago), ‘Competing Kingdoms? British Settler Children, Religion and Imperial Identity c.1890-1930’.

14 November: Hilary Marland (Warwick), ‘“Bounding Saucy Girls”: Visions and Practices of Health and Girlhood in Britain 1874-1920s’.

28 November: Heather Ellis (Liverpool Hope), ‘Juvenile Delinquency and the West, 1800-2000’.

All meetings take place in the Old Practice Room, Magdalen, at 5 pm.

The CfP for the 2013 Child and the book conference, to be held at the University of Padua, has also been released: see here for details.