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CFP: Reading Walter de la Mare, 1873-1956: ‘a voice which has no fellow’

Reading Walter de la Mare, 1873-1956: ‘a voice which has no fellow’

20th –21st September 2018, University of Cambridge


By whom, and by what means, was this designed?
The whispered incantation which allows
Free passage to the phantoms of the mind?
. . .
By the delicate, invisible web you wove —
The inexplicable mystery of sound.

               — From T. S. Eliot, ‘To Walter de la Mare’

We invite proposals for a two-day conference in Cambridge, U.K., which aims to re-evaluate Walter de la Mare’s place in literary history; to read his work on its own terms; to consider what it meant for him to write as he did from the end of the nineteenth century, through the turbulent decade between 1911-1922, and on into the mid-twentieth century; and to explore the ways in which the legacy of de la Mare’s writing might challenge current conceptions of literary ‘modernism(s)’.

Discussions of all aspects of his work are invited: poetry, prose fiction, plays, essays, anthologies, and archives. Fresh consideration by scholars in diverse fields will be encouraged, including, but by no means not limited to, literary studies, sound studies and musicology, theology, philosophy, and cognitive science.

Participants might consider the following in relation to Walter de la Mare:

Genres and art forms

  • Nonsense poetry, nursery rhymes, and the anonymous poet
  • Children’s literature at the turn of the century and beyond
  • Short stories in periodicals
  • Ghost stories
  • Gothic stories
  • Allegorical stories
  • Fairy tales and the changeling
  • Tales told again: the art of re-telling stories
  • Combining the anthology, memoir, and essay
  • Musical, visual, or theatrical adaptations and interpretations
  • Illustrations for de la Mare’s works; de la Mare’s words and images
  • Translations of de la Mare’s works


  • De la Mare’s style
  • Style and rhythm in poetry and prose
  • Sound-sense in literary language; the ‘inward ear’ and the ‘inward voice’
  • The experience of reading and writing
  • The work of books; the book as material object
  • Hospitality and company
  • The self and selves
  • Mind and body
  • The eye and the face
  • Time and memory
  • Echoes, allusions, and quotations
  • ‘Nothing’, ‘something’; ‘some one’, ‘no one’
  • Dream and imagination; the ‘imagination of the heart’
  • Enchantment and lullaby
  • The Stranger and the Traveller
  • Birdsong and other motifs of sound
  • Sensory perception within and of texts; the physiology of reading
  • The uncanny and the unknown; the supernatural and the præternatural
  • Physics and other sciences
  • Poetry and religion

Literary affinities and connections

  • Contemporary writers: writers whose lives overlap with de la Mare’s lifetime, 1873-1956 (including, by order of birth, Christina Rossetti, Lewis Carroll, Thomas Hardy, Henry James, A. E. Housman, Charlotte Mew, W. H. Davies, Ralph Hodgson, Dorothy Richardson, G. K. Chesterton, Robert Frost, Edward Thomas, Rupert Brooke, Katherine Mansfield, Virginia Woolf, Ezra Pound, T. S. Eliot, Elizabeth Bowen, Vladimir Nabokov, Stevie Smith, Graham Greene, W. H. Auden, Dylan Thomas, W. S. Graham, Angela Carter, J. H. Prynne, and many others)
  • Past writers before 1873 (including William Shakespeare, Robert Burton, Thomas Browne, Jonathan Swift, William Blake, William Wordsworth, Edgar Allan Poe, Emily Brontë)
  • Writers after 1956 (including Lucy Boston)

These prompts are certainly not meant to be comprehensive, and other topics are welcome. To propose a paper, please send an abstract of 300 words and a brief biographical note of 50 words to readingwalterdelamare@gmail.com by 31st March 2018. Papers should be 20 minutes in length. Decisions will be made by late April 2018.

Visit our website (https://readingwalterdelamare.wordpress.com) for more details. If you have any questions, please get in touch with the conference organisers (Yui Kajita and Anna Nickerson) at the above address.