Seeking Contributions for a new volume on Wessex

Call for Papers: Wessex - Landscapes, Histories and Identities

Seeking Contributions for a new volume on Wessex

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During the early Middle Ages, Wessex was the name of one of the most important Anglo-Saxon kingdoms, which was situated in the southwest of the island. Apart from its link with the Anglo-Saxon past, the historical Wessex also stands in relation to the Arthurian legends. As Hugh A. MacDougall has shown, narratives of the Anglo-Saxon past as well as Arthurian stories have served as a means to define the British or English national identity (MacDougall 1982). This became of special relevance in the nineteenth century. In historical novels such as those written by Charles Whistler (e.g. A Thane of Wessex, 1896, and A Prince of Cornwall: A Story of Glastonbury and the West in the Days of Ina of Wessex, 1904), the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of the early Middle Ages figures prominently and represents some ideal place which can be remembered and revived. Furthermore, it is at this time, that Wessex became a cultural category in its own right. In fact, it was Thomas Hardy’s decision to set his writings in an area called ‘Wessex’, which gave birth to what can be called the history of ‘modern Wessex’. Thus, most of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries’ references to Wessex were rather concerned with Hardy’s Wessex than with the ‘historical Wessex’. Soon, the term Wessex was regularly used as a denomination for southern and south-west England. At the same time, the region was advertised as a touristic attraction. Thus, in the first two decades of the twentieth century, a huge amount of travel guides for Wessex was published. Some of the publications tried to capture the complexity of the region by combining descriptions of tourist hotspots with essays on the history of Wessex. One example is Clive Holland’s travelogue which was published in 1906. In it, Wessex is presented as a peaceful, rural idyll, which may serve as an antidote to the challenges of modern life. Walter Tyndall’s illustrations, which accompany the text, highlight this neo-romantic transfiguration of Wessex. Indirectly, Wessex thus became connected to ideas of “Little Englandism”. In today’s tourist advertising, this image of Wessex as a rural paradise has been retained.

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The volume Wessex: Landscapes, Histories and Identities wants to discuss the different semantic levels of “Wessex”, the historical as well as the modern. Contributors may focus on, but need not be limited to, the following questions:

How are different imaginations of Wessex linked to formations of collective identity?
How is “Wessex” constructed? Which meanings are associated with the constructions of this region?
How are historical references used in different imaginations of Wessex? Which changes in meaning can be observed?
How can constructions of Wessex be linked to spatial theories (e.g. those of Henri Lefebvre, Edward Soja, Doreen Massey)?

This volume takes its origin from a workshop held within the European Master’s Programme at the Catholic University of Eichstaett-Ingolstadt in June 2021. The majority of the papers were given by students and will also be included in the volume. The following presentations were held during the workshop:

A Comparison of Arminius the Cheruscian and Alfred the Great as National Founding Fathers
The King Alfred Millennial – Celebrating the “Founding Father of All Things English”
Physical Reality vs. Utopian Longing: Wessex in E.M. Forster’s “The Machine Stops” (1909)
Between Region and Empire: Rolf Gardiner’s Visions of Wessex
John Steinbeck, King Arthur and Wessex

If you are willing to contribute to this volume, please send a short abstract of ca. 300 words to both editors no later than 01 March 2022. The final versions of articles (6000-7000 words) must be submitted by 01 June 2022.

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Julia Wiedemann (KU Eichstaett-Ingolstadt)

Andrew Pickering (University of Plymouth)


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