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Durham University

Department of English Studies

Event Archive

This is an archive of past events within the Department of English Studies. Please see our current events for forthcoming activities.

Some of our public events are recorded and are available as podcasts via our Research English At Durham blog.

'Your New Hospital for the Intellectuals': The Literary Salon as an Alternative Space for War

30th September 2015, 17:30 to 19:00, Alington House, Katherine Cooper

The seventh Late Summer Lecture takes us inside the drawing and dining rooms of Europe in the 1920s and 1930s. Salons provided a space where writers, especially those in exile, could celebrate their country's culture or criticise fascist regimes back home.

This lecture looks at how the long-standing tradition of the literary salon took on a new guise in the inter-war period as a branch of Europe’s cultural armoury. The French poet Paul Valéry wrote in 1919 that ‘thousands of young writers and artists have died; the illusion of a European culture has been lost, and knowledge has been proved impotent to save anything whatsoever’ (22), voicing for the first time the increasingly popular opinion that culture, particularly literary culture, in Europe was being destroyed by a growing wave of inhumanity or anti-intellectualism. I discuss how in the 1920s and 1930s, as this point of view grew in popularity, the living rooms and drawing rooms of London and other cities were mobilised by British writers as meeting spaces and spaces of cultural resistance and renewal. These evening drinks receptions and literary dining clubs became spaces where writers-in-exile could celebrate their country’s culture or criticise fascist regimes in ways in which they could not at home. I look at how these salons are depicted in both fiction and autobiographical writing of the time and discuss how British writers such as H.G. Wells, Graham Greene, Storm Jameson, Phyllis Bottome used these spaces to meet with and encourage other writers exiled to Britain from across Europe during the interwar years. I argue that important networks were forged in these domestic spaces which functioned to aid the escape of writers facing persecution across Europe and to give practical support with producing and publishing work in the UK.

About Late Summer Lectures

Now in its sixth year, the Late Summer Lecture Series enables doctoral and postdoctoral student from the Department of English in Durham, Newcastle, and York to broadcast their ground-breaking research to a wider audience. The full programme for the latest instalment is now available for viewing on the Late Summer Lecture Series website, and reflects the diverse and exploratory nature of research currently undertaken by scholars in the North East.

Podcasts from previous lecture series can be downloaded via Research English At Durham.

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Related Links


Research in English At Durham (READ) blog showcasing the the literary research emerging from the Department of English Studies


We host a large number of conferences, lectures and seminars each year, many of them open to the public. Find out more on our Events page.


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