Writers and their Work: A Snapshot of a Book Series
Christabel ScaifeSeminar Room 2
This panel is organized around the book series Writers and their Work, published by Liverpool University Press in association with Northcote House. Writers and their Work presents brief but rigorous critical examinations of key literary figures from early English to the present day. It has been much loved by generations of students and scholars and has a fascinating seventy-year history, from its early years published by Longmans, Green on behalf of the British Council to its latest incarnation under the stewardship of Professor Dinah Birch and Professor Dame Janet Beer of the University of Liverpool. This panel showcases the work of three current authors in the series.
Chair: Dinah Birch, University of Liverpool
Anne Rowe, Kingston University
Iris Murdoch was both a popular and intellectually serious novelist, whose writing life spanned the latter half of the twentieth century. A proudly Anglo-Irish writer who produced twenty-six best-selling novels, she was also a respected philosopher, a theological thinker and an outspoken public intellectual. Anne Rowe’s paper, based on her 2019 Writers and their Work volume, presents Murdoch as an author who vividly evokes the zeitgeist of the late twentieth century, as well as a figure whose unconventional life and complex presentation of gender and psychology has immense resonance for twenty-first-century readers.
Margaret Kean, St Hilda’s College, Oxford
Philip Pullman is one of the most widely read contemporary English authors, and a well-regarded social commentator. His success has occurred at a time of significant change for the book trade and the established literary milieu, with children’s authors enjoying increasing status, multi-media adaptations providing new economic opportunities for the children’s sector, and both ‘cross-over’ fiction and the fantasy genre reaching new audiences. Margaret Kean’s paper provides a taster of her forthcoming Writers and their Work volume on Pullman’s prose fiction (children’s books, fairytales, cross-over fiction, adult fiction) and non-fiction (literary essays, criticism and lectures, journalism, Daemon Voices).
Rory Waterman, Nottingham Trent University
It is surprising that, after five major collections and over thirty years into an extremely successful career as a poet, Wendy Cope has not received more critical attention: there is no monograph on her work, and only a small amount of serious criticism, most of which is confined to book reviews. Certainly, it cannot be said that she lacks a readership or influence (and indeed her admirers have included Ted Hughes, Rowan Williams, Craig Raine, Seamus Heaney, and many other significant poets), but she is often dismissed as a writer of light verse. Rory Waterman’s paper, based on his forthcoming Writers and their Work volume, puts Cope and her work in its proper critical context.