International D.H. Lawrence Conference St Ives Cornwall
12-14 September 2016
“Outside England…Far off from the world”: D.H. Lawrence, Cornwall
and Regional Modernism
Organised by Dr Jane Costin in association with the University of Exeter Penryn Campus, this conference will be held at the Tregenna Castle Hotel
St Ives to commemorate the centenary of D.H. Lawrence’s move to the nearby village of Zennor.
“When we came over the shoulder of the wild hill, above the sea, to Zennor, I felt we were coming into the Promised Land. I know there will be a new heaven and a new earth take place now: we have triumphed…this isn’t merely territory, it is a new continent of the soul”
As can be seen in the photograph, the tiny village of Zennor clings to a narrow slip of land protected on one side by the sea and on the other by the high, granite strewn moors. This isolated place is situated in West Penwith, a remote peninsula in the far west of Cornwall where the granite meets the sea, one of the few places in the United Kingdom where the sun can be seen both rising and dying into the sea. The difficulty of accessing Zennor by land meant that this area developed a distinctive culture that looked to influences other than those that came from England; there are numerous churches in the locality dedicated to female saints and the ancient carving of a mermaid on one of the pews in the church at Zennor prompted stories that turned this particular place into a cultural icon long before Lawrence moved there.
From March 1916 to October 1917 Lawrence and Frieda made their home in a small cottage near the village of Zennor and it was here that Lawrence produced some remarkable work. Perhaps the greatest achievement of this period occurred between April and October 1916 when Lawrence wrote and revised his extraordinary novel Women in Love, which draws on material from The Sisters. However, he also produced other work during his time in Zennor; the first version of the majority of the essays that eventually became Studies in Classical American Literature; a new version of his philosophy “The Reality of Peace”; some poems and his Cornish short story “Sampson and Delilah”, which is set in the local pub and uses a trope familiar in Cornish writing. Whilst in Porthcothan he had begun revising poems focussing on his relationship with Frieda that he went on to publish in 1917 as Look! We Have Come Through!
But Lawrence did not just find Zennor a productive place to work; living there had a remarkable impact on him. Lawrence’s response to this place disrupted his habit of incessant travel—he spoke of living there as an old man of seventy—and it acted to shift his philosophical thinking about blood-consciousness. Yet his time in Zennor was beset with problems and mistrust that culminated in his expulsion in October 1917 under the Defence of the Realm Act on the suspicion that he was a German spy. Being forced to leave a place that, for a while, had become a kind of homeland traumatised Lawrence. It cast a shadow over his subsequent life and work by inflicting a hurt so deep that, initially, Lawrence supressed his emotions about it and was only able to address them many years later in the writing of Kangaroo. Outside of the Midlands, it is now accepted that Zennor is the most important location in the United Kingdom in terms of the effect the place had on Lawrence’s imagination. Therefore, it is fitting that the importance of Zennor to Lawrence is to be recognised by this conference which marks the centenary of his move there.
Close to Zennor is the picturesque village of St Ives, which has long attracted artists and is a place that Lawrence knew well, he visited it on more than one occasion to buy furniture for his cottage in Zennor. The conference proceedings and lunches will take place in the Godrevy room of the Tregenna Castle Hotel in St Ives, which has panoramic views across St Ives Bay. The hotel has offered discounted accommodation for delegates (please mention the conference when booking), but if you wish to stay elsewhere in the area and travel to the conference by car there is plenty of parking available at the hotel which is also within (uphill!) walking distance of the centre of St Ives.
We are delighted to announce that the keynote lecture will be given by Professor Neil Roberts, Emeritus Professor of English Literature at the University of Sheffield and Honorary Professor of D.H. Lawrence studies at the University of Nottingham.
Further details about the conference will be added to this site as they become available so please look out for new information and please share this conference link with all interested colleagues and friends.
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