Centre for Studies in Literature

Cultures of Commemoration

Faculty-funded Strategic Project

Taking as a starting point the range of events which will mark the commemoration of WWI in 2014, this project interrogates how contemporary culture ‘remembers’ the past, and considers the place occupied by contemporary literature and culture in a variety of commemorative processes, including, though not exclusive to, those of past military conflicts. It examines – and re-examines – how contemporary cultural production (especially, but not exclusively, British) animates, fetishises and revises the past, focusing in particular on memory, memorialisation, museum culture, past scientific discourses, national identity, heritage and landscape. Its aim is to explores how different ‘pasts’ (scientific, military, literary) and key historical moments (such as the Victorian period, or the two World Wars) are ‘memorialised’ – and at times commercialised – in contemporary writing and culture.

Recent events

Trauma & Memory: the Holocaust in Contemporary Culture

On July 12th and 13th 2013 a group of international scholars from the UK, the US, Europe and Israel gathered in Dennis Sciama Building for a two-day conference to discuss representations of the Holocaust ranging from literature to film to computer games. Conference events had already started in the evening of July 10th with a performance by the renowned theatre company ‘Voices of the Holocaust’ and a play reading by the American drama specialist Bob Skloot in the theatre of Portsmouth Grammar School. A large audience took part in this special event which was organized jointly by the CSL and Portsmouth Grammar School. Conference delegates and members of the public were also in for a treat on the evening of July 11th: a performance by drut’syla Shonaleigh who told ‘Stories from the Warsaw Ghetto’. The conference, which included keynotes by leading Holocaust scholars Professors Sue Vice (Sheffield) and Phyllis Lassner (Northwestern University) concluded on Saturday evening.

Cultures of Commemoration Conference, July 11th & 12th 2014.

2014 has been a year of many big commemorations: the 100th Anniversary of the beginning of the First World War; the 70th Anniversary of D-Day. This two-day conference took those big commemorative events as its starting point but was dedicated to discussing the uses (and potential abuses) of the past in the present. A group of international scholars (from the UK, Greece, Spain, France and Germany) gathered to discuss cultural representations of past events such as the First World War, the Holocaust and the Nigerian Civil War but also to dissect literary genres such as the Neo-Historical Novel. As part of the conference programme we offered an evening of storytelling, open to the general public, with renowed storytellers / singer-songwriters Simon Heywood and Shonaleigh who gave a voice to those men who had been silenced for so long: the Conscientious Objectors of the First World War.

Public Engagement

Drs Christine Berberich and Elodie Rousselot have collaborated with Portsmouth City Council and Portsmouth Football Club to produce a new edition of local author James Riordan’s novel When the Guns Fall Silent which was the selected 2014 Portsmouth City Read book. As part of Portmouth Book Fest 2014, Dr Christine Berberich gave a talk on When the Guns Fall Silent in Portmouth Central Library on October 25th. In further collaboration with Book Fest and Portsmouth Film Society, Dr Christine Berberich introduced a screening of the 1930 classic All Quiet on the Western Front on 30th October which was followed, on 6th November, with a screening of the 2004 French film A Very Long Engagement, introduced by Dr Elodie Rousselot.