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Durham University

The Centre for Nineteenth Century Studies

A Great Divide or a Longer Nineteenth Century? Music, Britain and the First World War

Registration is now open and we look forward to welcoming you to St John’s College, Durham on the 21st of January 2017.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact our event organiser, Michelle Meinhart or the Administrator for the Centre for Nineteenth-Century Studies, Enya on

The full conference programme can be found here and the travel and acommodation documents here.

Keynote Address: Charles Edward McGuire (Oberlin College), ‘Disruption or Continuity? Elgar’s Cello Concerto and the Modern Romantic Ideal’

Call for Papers

Paul Fussell’s The Great War and Modern Memory (1975) casts the First World War as the birth of the Modern psyche for Britons. Through analysis of war literature and soldiers’ life writing, he argues the cataclysm of the war evinced a rupture with the clear moral standards, innocence, traditional artistic representations, and ways of constructing memory of pre-1914 Britain. In his “Modern” post-1914 Britain, disorientation, alienation, and irony become the dominant modes of representation. In contrast, Jay Winter, in Sites of Memory, Sites of Mourning: The Great War in European Cultural History (1995), argues historical inquiry into the responses to the First World War have over-emphasized the progressive, Modernist responses, and in the process have ignored the traditional motifs in the myriad of responses to the war. He writes ‘this vigorous mining of eighteenth and nineteenth-century images and metaphors to accommodate expressions of mourning is one central reason why it is unacceptable to see the Great War as the moment when "modern memory" replaced something else, something timeworn and discredited, which (following contemporaries) I have called “tradition.”’ These two influential viewpoints have structured much of the subsequent discourse on the First World War coming from the disciplines of literature and history in the last several decades; it however has received little attention within music.

This conference aims to bring to music this crucial framework for understanding artistic and cultural responses to the First World War. We seek papers that explore these themes of rupture/ disillusionment and “mining of nineteenth-century” modes of representation/ tradition within the context of musical life throughout the British Empire. Participants from a range of disciplinary and interdisciplinary perspectives that engage with music are particularly welcome.

Possible topics on these rupture/ tradition themes are (but are not limited to):

1. How did British art music composers react to the war? Do we see rupture with the past or continuation of nineteenth-century practices?

2. How can we understand British Musical Modernism within this dichotomy of rupture/ tradition? How does it compare with European Musical Modernism? In what ways can we understand the Pastoral in these contexts?

3. What bearing does this rupture/ tradition dichotomy have on the historiography of British music and the notion of the long nineteenth-century?

4. In what ways did popular music—whether repertoire, performers, or the industry—change because of the war? In what ways did it carry on Edwardian and Victorian traditions?

5. In what ways did musical life in Britain help define, blur, or shatter traditional boundaries between

  • the home and war fronts?
  • wartime public and private spaces?
  • civilians and soldiers?
  • within the army (officers and non-ranking men, wounded and healthy)?
  • social classes?
  • men and women?
  • the motherland and dominion countries?

6. How does music contribute to Britain’s commemoration of the war and those lost and wounded? Do the modes of remembrance used indicate a break with the past, or do they carry on traditional mourning practices?

Please note there are only 45 spaces available so registration is on a first come first served basis. 

Evolution and Victorian Musical Culture
Research Conversation, 5.30–7.00 pm Book Launch and wine reception, 7.00–7.30 pm

e.g. Durham University


Travelling to Durham

By rail

60 InterCity trains from most major centres in the country call at Durham daily including 14 trains from London. The National Express high speed service takes under 3 hours from London King's Cross on the main Virgin Trains East Coast Line. First Transpennine Express offers frequent links to Manchester, Sheffield and Leeds, while Cross Country links Durham directly with Scotland, the Midlands and the South West.

Durham is just over 3 hours from Birmingham, 2½ hours from Manchester, 1½ hours from Edinburgh and 45 minutes from York.

The number 40b Cathedral bus service runs Monday to Friday during morning and afternoon rush hours, to provide a service to Mountjoy (Science Site). This service runs from Durham railway station via the bus station and New Elvet onto Mountjoy (Science Site) and return. You should get off this bus at the Cathedral and then embark upon the short walk to St John’s College on the South Bailey. There will be other stops along the bus route and these are listed, along with the full timetable, on the Green Travel website.

A taxi will take you from the station to any College within 5 minutes and you can walk to the city centre in 10 minutes.

By road

Durham City centre is only two miles from the A1(M). Leave the motorway at Junction 62 on the A690 Durham - Sunderland road and follow signs to Durham City Centre.

Durham is 264 miles from London, 187 miles from Birmingham, 125 miles from Edinburgh and 67 miles from York.

There are several express coach services daily from most major cities. Durham is well served by both regional express services and the local bus network.


Although St John's College is accessible by car, there is restricted parking. We therefore advise using one of the local car parks:

The Prince Bishops Car Park is situated just off the roundabout as shown between 'Leazes Road' and 'Market Place' on the map. This is right in the centre of Durham and it's only a 5 minute walk up The Bailey to St John's College.

Palmers Garth Car Park is also indicated on the map.

By air

Durham is 30 minutes' drive from Newcastle Airport and about 40 minutes from Durham Tees Valley. Both have regular domestic and international flights. Durham is linked to Newcastle Airport by rail and metro. Travellers into Durham Tees Valley can take the Arriva 12 bus service that links the airport to Darlington railway station, with regular connections to Durham.

By sea

Scheduled ferry services link the River Tyne to The Netherlands.


As well as the Durham City Centre Premier Inn, Durham is also home to a Mariott Hotel and a Radisson Blu Hotel. Durham also has a number of excellent Bed and Breakfast type places, which can be viewed here

The closest hotel to St John’s College is the Premier Inn and the closest B&Bs are Castle View Guest House and The Victoria Inn.

The conference will take place at St John’s College, 3 South Bailey, Durham DH1 3RJ – see map. The college is very easy to get to from the city centre (market place) – walk up the hill following the town signs for the cathedral and instead of proceeding up Owengate, continue along the North Bailey past Hatfield, and St Chad’s Colleges, you will then arrive at St John’s College and one of our welcoming committee will show you where to go from there.