7th February, 2014 / 11.00am - 4.00pm
19th September, 2015
This year sees the centenary of two major literary events, the publication of Ford’s The Good Soldier (‘the saddest story I have ever heard’), and of Wells’s Boon, the cantankerous literary satire that terminated his friendship with Henry James. Both works can be read as offering, though in very different ways, a kind of final verdict on British Edwardian culture; and both can also be seen to reflect their authors’ growing sense of the apparent impotence and irrelevance of the literary and artistic worlds in time of war.
Yet 1914-18 and its immediate aftermath was also a time of extraordinary cultural vibrancy, in which the war novels of Wells and Ford – Mr Britling Sees It Through (1916) and Parade’s End (1924-8) – would play their part. Henry James, in his famous defence of his art in reply to Boon, wrote of ‘the extension of life, which is the novel’s best gift’, a credo that could have been echoed by Wells, Ford and many of their contemporaries despite their sharply conflicting understandings of ‘life’ and its relation to literature.
This one-day conference reflects the contrasting views of literature and the First World War in the writing of Wells, Ford and their contemporaries.