Wednesday, October 10, 2012

George Bernard Shaw and the USSR

The Anglo-Russian Research Network (ARRN), which I organise with Rebecca Beasley, is hosting another reading group at Pushkin House on 28th November. The topic this time is George Bernard Shaw and the Soviet Union, and the group will be led by Dr Olga Sobolev and Dr Angus Wrenn (both of the LSE), authors of The Only Hope of the World: George Bernard Shaw and Russia (Peter Lang, 2012). Please visit the ARRN blog for more details, or email me if you wish to attend.

"To-morrow, perhaps the future."

I'm pleased to be delivering a paper in the research seminar at my new home in the School of Literature, Drama and Creative Writing at UEA on 1st November. I'm going to be talking about the idea of the future in literature and the effects of the Bolshevik Revolution on this idea. Writers to be discussed include H.G. Wells, Koestler, W.H. Auden and Dorothy Richardson.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Feminism, Modernism and the Russian Revolution: Dorothy Richardson and Rebecca West

I'm going to be giving a paper at the Feminism: Activism: Modernism conference at University College Cork on 14th-15th September - it looks set to be a very interesting conference. My paper is called 'Feminism, Modernism and the Russian Revolution: Dorothy Richardson and Rebecca West'.

Here's a summary of what I'm planning to talk about:


Reflecting on her visit to the Soviet Union in 1933, Ella Winter wrote that ‘for the first time in the history of the world, a country is abolishing all discrimination on the ground of sex between women and men.’ Like Winter, many British feminists saw revolutionary Russia – where the laws governing marriage, divorce and abortion had been radically relaxed – as a guiding light in women’s struggle for emancipation and equality. Suffragettes including Sylvia Pankhurst and Joan Beauchamp played prominent roles in the CPGB and other pro-Soviet organisations.
            With this context in mind, this paper focuses on two feminist writers who were conflicted about the Russian Revolution (Dorothy Richardson) or passionately anticommunist (Rebecca West), situating their work within a debate about the relationship between feminism and Bolshevism. Both developed distinctively modernist, literary responses to communism that mark them apart from activists such as Winter, Beauchamp and Pankhurst.
            In Richardson’s Revolving Lights (1923), the protagonist Miriam encounters a group of Russian revolutionaries and recoils from their ‘scornful revolutionary eyes’. The Russians ‘lived for an idea’, where Miriam feels happier with her ‘hoard of contradictory ideas’. Richardson’s style – with its prioritisation of sensory immediacy over narrative or conceptual framing – developed in tandem with her political preference for an English socialism that seemed less ideologically monolithic than the Russian version.
            West’s anticommunism was more strident, and she isolated herself from feminists and socialists by immediately condemning the Bolshevik revolution in 1917, then offering friendship and support to the anarchist and anti-Bolshevik activist Emma Goldman during her visit to Britain in 1924. West’s later fiction and journalism involved a complex but deeply felt anticommunism that again had an aesthetic dimension.
            This paper asks what drew feminists to bolshevism and what led them to reject it. It also explores how the work of these two innovative writers was shaped by the complex relationship between feminism, modernism and anticommunism.  

Hope to see you there! 

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Modernism and Nihilism

My review of Shane Weller's Modernism and Nihilism is published in Textual Practice 26:3. It's up here.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Fictions of the City Reviewed in Textual Practice

Fictions of the City has been reviewed in Textual Practice by Richard Hornsey, who seems to have enjoyed the book while also raising some very interesting criticisms.
Taunton provides a refreshing engagement with issues of housing policy, in particular, and while some of his chosen novels and films might seem a little familiar, he synthesizes his component analyses well. The result is a useful cartography of the wider social tensions both within and between the various housing forms he looks at.
You can read the whole review here. As I promised a while ago, I will post a response to all the reviews once they are in - I'm going to continue to defer this, though, as they still seem to be trickling in.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Free Trade Nation

My review of Frank Trentmann's Free Trade Nation: Commerce, Consumption and Civil Society in Modern Britain (OUP) is published in the new issue of Critical Quarterly (55.1). You can read the review here.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Anglo-Russian Research Network - Reading Group on Soviet Cinema and British Modernism led by Laura Marcus, 24th Febraru




The second meeting of the Anglo-Russian Research Network will be a reading group on Soviet cinema and British modernism led by Laura Marcus (Goldsmith's Professor of English Literature, New College, Oxford). The reading group - an informal, termly event that aims to bring together scholars and postgraduates with an interest in the cultural relationships between Russia and Britain in the period 1880-1950 - will be held in the Library at Pushkin House on Friday 24th February 2012 from 5.30-7.30pm. We will be looking at a selection from Bryher's Film Problems of Soviet Russia, which will be will be circulated by email in advance. Please contact Matthew Taunton and/or Rebecca Beasley if you would like to attend. All are welcome.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Socialism, Literature and the Radiant Future: Before and After 1917


I am giving a paper in the research seminar series in the Department of English, Linguistics and Cultural Studies at the University of Westminster in March. You will need to contact the organisers (details here) in advance if you want to attend.

Wednesday 7th March, 1.15pm – 2.30pm
Regent Street building, room 257
Matthew Taunton (Queen Mary, University of London)
‘Socialism, Literature and the Radiant Future: Before and After 1917’

Abstract: The idea that a “radiant future” (in Zinoviev’s phrase) was just around the corner was central to the Soviet myth. But how were Western ideas about the future affected by the advent of the Bolshevik revolution? This paper will suggest that the bright eyed visions of the future prevalent in the fin de si├Ęcle and the Edwardian period were increasingly replaced, after 1917, by sectarian debates about Russia. The future had become a spatial, rather than a purely temporal entity – whether it was to be welcomed as the true democracy (Shaw, the Webbs) or feared as a totalitarian nightmare (Orwell, Koestler, Nabokov). Speculative fictions like those of Morris, Bellamy, and Wells gave way to anti-Communist texts like Darkness at Noon, Nineteen Eighty-Four and Bend Sinister, and endorsements of Stalinism by Day Lewis, Shaw and others. This paper explores a range of ways in which ‘the future’ had to be rethought in light of the events of 1917.

Details of this and the other seminars in this semester's series are available here.