(HOBAR) Open University History of Books and Reading Seminar

(HOBAR) Open University History of Books and Reading Seminar
20 April 2020, 5.30pm - 7.00pm
Room 243, Second Floor, Senate House, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HU
This seminar has been postponed in response to the evolving public health challenge caused by COVID-19

Sara Haslam (The Open University)
Literary Caregiving in the First World War: Networks, Professions and Precursors

With close reference to the diaries and papers of Elizabeth Robins, suffrage campaigner, Ibsen actress, friend of Henry James and war-time ‘literary caregiver’, this paper will extend and re-contexualise work to date on the mainly female voluntary workers who took books to wounded and sick soldier-readers during the First World War. It will examine pre-war networks and professions and associated practices that helped generate and inform their work, including, for example, the Women’s Social and Political Union, the Women Writers’ Suffrage League, and, in the professional sphere, health visiting and social work. Where did British literary caregivers find their inspiration and in what early twentieth-century contexts were their practices rooted? This paper will seek to address these questions as it examines the women’s understanding of, and response to, the relationship between reading and wellbeing.

Sara Haslam is Professor of Twentieth-Century Literature at The Open University, where she is Director of Research Degrees in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. She has published extensively on the writer Ford Madox Ford (1873-1939), on modernism, and on the literature of the First World War. Since 2013 her work on the war has focused on literary interventions and trauma, most recently on ‘literary caregiving’ (2018). Her edition of Evelyn Waugh’s Helena (1950) is forthcoming from Oxford University Press.

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