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.

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