Audio recordings are now available for five of the lectures held in association with University of Bristol and the Festival of Ideas.
Sarah LeFanu: Rose Macaulay - Non-combatants and Others
Tue 28 October 2014
Rose Macaulay was both a poet and novelist during the First World War, her work reflecting the dramatic change in the popular perception of the war that took place as news of mounting horrors filtered home. Sarah LeFanu, author of the biography of Rose Macaulay and the book Dreaming of Rose: A Biographer’s Journal, traces the trajectory that took Macaulay from her early romantic idealisation of the war through to being one of its fiercest critics. This talk then explores the contradictions Macaulay wrestled with a quarter of a century later, during the Blitz, as she drove an ambulance through the ruined streets of London.
Dorothy Price: The Graphic Experience of War: George Grosz in Context
Tue 4 November 2014
Amongst British audiences George Grosz is largely known as a biting satirist who used his art as a form of political protest against the weaknesses, corruption and injustices he witnessed in Weimar Germany in the immediate aftermath of the First World War. A self-styled ‘German Hogarth’, during the 1920s Grosz’s scathing visual critique of Weimar politics quickly attracted the attention of the authorities and he was tried three times for defamation, obscenity and blasphemy. A constant thorn in the side of the Weimar authorities, by the early 1930s he left Germany for a new life in the USA.
This lecture explores Grosz’s artwork within the contexts of both Europe and America in the aftermath of the First World War and the outbreak of the second. How did Grosz’s work compare with that of his contemporaries? Why was his politics increasingly ambivalent and how did America change his attitudes towards war-torn Europe? This lecture considers these and other questions relating to the theme of war and conflict within the visual arts in Germany across the two world wars.
Paul Gough: Paul Nash and Stanley Spencer
Tue 11 November 2014
“I am no longer an artist interested and curious, I am a messenger who will bring back word from the men who are fighting to those who want the war to go on for ever. Feeble, inarticulate, will be my message, but it will have a bitter truth, and may it burn their lousy souls.” Paul Nash’s embittered memories of the Western Front produced some of the most searing paintings of the First World War; his taut renditions introduced a new language of devastation to the genre of landscape. His canvases have become the leitmotifs of the battlefield, rendering visual the indescribable tragedy of war.
This lecture explores the ‘barren, sightless, godless’ visual language of conflict by contrasting Nash’s work with that of Stanley Spencer, who served first in Bristol as a medical orderly, then on the forgotten front in Salonika. After the war Spencer recreated his memory of war, literally re-membering the dis-membered fragments of the fighting on the walls of the Sandham Chapel in Burghclere, a place ranked alongside the poetry of Owen and Sassoon, and Britten’s War Requiem, as amongst the ‘most moving monuments to 20th-century war.’
Christopher Frayling: H G Wells: Mr Britling sees it Through, The Shape of Things to Come, Mind at the End of its Tether
Tue 18 November 2014
Maxim Gorky described H G Wells’ novel Mr Britling Sees it Through (1916) ‘as the finest, most courageous, truthful, and humane book written in Europe in the course of this accursed war’. It tells the story of an ordinary, easy-going man whose response to the war changes as he comes to realise that those he loves are in danger. Wells’ The Shape of Things to Come (1933) has come to be seen as a prophecy of the horrors of Second World War and its aftermath, while Mind at the End of Its Tether (1945) was written in the wake of that conflict and is imbued with a spirit of despair. Christopher Frayling examines these works – with special reference to the film version of Things to Come (1936) made between the two conflicts – which explore the devastating impact of war upon humanity, and Wells’ vision for the future.
Andrew Kelly: Lewis Milestone: from All Quiet on the Western Front to A Walk in the Sun
Tue 25 November 2014
Lewis Milestone made the greatest film about the First World War, All Quiet on the Western Front, and the greatest film about World War Two, A Walk in the Sun. One is a pacifist classic; the other a celebration of the American infantry in the Salerno landings. Milestone is one of Hollywood’s finest if perhaps least known directors (he also made many other films about the Second World War including Edge of Darkness, The North Star, Our Russian Front and The Purple Heart). Andrew Kelly, author of books on Milestone’s work as well as books on how cinema has covered the First World War, looks at how Lewis Milestone – and the wider Hollywood community – approached both world wars.