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  • BCLA President’s Letter
  • Dame Gillian Beer (bio)

It is a pleasure to report that our triennial conference held at Goldsmiths College London in July 2007 was a great success. The topic of ‘Folly’ proved to be as resilient, capacious, and challenging as we had hoped. A great range of national literatures were brought into discussion and the historical reach extended from ancient Greece to the present day. The temper of the papers presented veered from exhilarating comedy to investigation of obsessional entrapment. Folly proved to be sometimes a safety valve, sometimes prophetic, sometimes a rollicking in the moment, and sometimes a depressive circle, demanding endless acquisition. A broad range of the outstanding papers will be published later this year in a double issue of Comparative Critical Studies edited by Lucia Boldrini and Florian Mussgnug. We had very enthusiastic feedback from the participants and we are all grateful to Lucia and her colleagues for their excellent organization. We are already looking forward to our next major international conference, to be held in 2010. So far, we can tell you that it will be held in early July at the University of Kent, at Canterbury. We expect to announce the topic later in 2008 and further details will be appearing on our website. We hope that many of you will offer papers.

Meanwhile we have a very active programme of workshops and one-day conferences. This past year saw successful interdisciplinary meetings on ‘Cinematicity’, and ‘Confrontations’, the latter organized by our student representatives. We are looking forward to workshops on the ‘digital word’, on ‘transcultural narratives’ and on the 1790s. Our student representatives, Mi Zhou and Ben Etherington, are planning an event in Manchester as well as one later in Cambridge, probably in the area of intermedia studies. We are collaborating with other comparative literature organizations, too: for example, with our Spanish colleagues for a conference on literary representations of how individuals see themselves as foreigners when they travel abroad (‘How Foreigners See Themselves’). The European Network too, led by Lucia Boldrini, is proving a valuable resource. [End Page vii]

As I write, we are about to have our first Malcolm Bowie Memorial Lecture, followed by a reception for all attending, in honour of our past President, whose untimely and much-mourned death I reported in my last letter. The lecture will be given by Professor Susan Bassnett, Pro-Vice-Chancellor of Warwick University, who has written widely on comparative literature and who was involved in the initial setting up of the British Comparative Literature Association. Given at the Institute of Germanic and Romance Studies, Senate House, London on 12 January 2008, her talk is entitled ‘Travelling as Translation’. We hope that the Malcolm Bowie Lecture on Comparative Literature will become an annual event.

The Comparative Literature series under the Legenda imprint continues to thrive, and it benefits from the guidance of our publication committee, Elinor Shaffer, Stephen Bann and, until recently, Peter France, now Duncan Large. Three volumes will appear in 2008: James Vigus, Platonizing Coleridge; Angus Wrenn, Henry James in the Second Empire; and Alison Martin, German Travellers in England in the Late Eighteenth Century. Equally, our Dryden Translation Prize again reached a very high standard from a striking range of languages; of the three prizewinning translations two are contained in this issue. We continue to be indebted to Jean Boase-Beier for her work in making the prize widely known and professionally outstanding.

The BCLA now has a new Treasurer, Robin MacKenzie, who has taken over the job so ably undertaken by Karen Seago over the past years. Our thanks to both Karen and Robin for their assiduity and clear heads. We look forward to another period of much intellectual activity under Robin’s guidance of our accounts. And, finally, I would like to welcome Richard Hibbitt as new Assistant Editor to Comparative Critical Studies; his help will be greatly appreciated by the journal’s editor and current and future guest editors. [End Page viii]

Dame Gillian Beer

Dame Gillian Beer was until recently the King Edward VII Professor of English Literature and President of Clare Hall College, Cambridge. Her books include Arguing with the Past: Essays in...


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pp. vii-viii
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Archived 2009
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