From Intermodernism to Science Fiction

Wednesday 14th April, 1.15-2.30pm
Room 106, University of Westminster, 32-38 Wells Street, W1T 3UW

Nick Hubble (Brunel University)
‘Naomi Mitchison: From Intermodernism to Science Fiction (via Mass-Observation)’

From her 1920s novels, influenced by Lawrence but aimed at the audience of Wells, to her subsequent deployment of modernist techniques for political ends, Naomi Mitchison may be considered a key intermodern writer. Her literary output during the 1930s – The Corn King and the Spring Queen (1931), Beyond This Limit (1934; a feminist fantasy illustrated by Wyndham Lewis), We Have Been Warned (1935), The Moral Basis of Politics (1938) and The Blood of the Martyrs (1939) – is comparable with Orwell’s. Her relentless pursuit of the ‘just society’, free from gender-based and sexual repression, made her a controversial figure even in that controversial decade. And her close literary associates of that decade – including Auden, Aldous Huxley, Olaf Stapledon, Stevie Smith, Wyndham Lewis and Walter Greenwood – suggest different ways of thinking about literary networks and cultural history in general. She was also a friend and supporter of Tom Harrisson and Mass-Observation, for whom she kept a wartime diary. Nick Hubble’s paper analyses this intermodern work and investigates how it relates to Memoirs of a Spacewoman (1962), a forerunner of the 1970s feminist utopian science fiction of writers such as Ursula Le Guin, Marge Piercy and Joanna Russ.

Free to all.

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