From Ian McEwan’s Atonement (2001) to Alan Hollinghurst’s The Stranger’s Child (2011), the country house has had a strong presence in British culture of the past decade. This is the culmination of a century’s interest in the spaces and places of the country house, an interest that burgeoned following the break-up of the great estates around the First World War. In texts ranging from P. G. Wodehouse’s Blandings Castle Saga to Elizabeth Jane Howard’s Cazlet Chronicles, and in television series such as ITV’s Brideshead Revsited (1981) and Downton Abbey (2010), British culture continues to return to the country house setting in both popular and high culture. Since the rise of the British heritage film in the 1980s and the proliferation of Austen adaptations in the 1990s the country house has played an equally important role in British cinema and continues to gain currency as a national icon. This preoccupation with the country house is fuelled by institutions such as the National Trust and English Heritage, as well as through documentary programmes such as BBC1’s The Edwardian Country House (2002), Channel 4’s Country House Rescue (2008) and Julian Fellowes’s Great Houses on ITV (2013). Often overshadowed by the country house in other centuries – such as the seventeenth-century country house poem or the nineteenth-century country house novel – studies of the twentieth and twenty-first century country house are scarce.
This three-day interdisciplinary conference will trace the representation of the country house in British literature and film between 1914 and 2014. The conference will explore how space, class and gender operate in the wealth of filmic and literary texts which have been concerned with the country house throughout the last century, as well as considering how it functions in documentaries, historical monographs and reality television. We invite 300-word abstracts (for 20-minute papers) on any topic relating to the country house; possible topics might include, but are by no means restricted to:
The Downton Effect
The Modernist Country House
The Country House Abroad
The Middlebrow and Prize Culture
Costumes and Design
Cycles of Pride and Prejudice
Murder in the Country House
Haunted Homes and the Gothic
The Wartime Country House
Servants and Servitude
Class and the National Trust
Toy Soldiers and the Dolls House
Abstracts should be submitted via email to firstname.lastname@example.org by 1 November 2013; successful applicants will be notified by 2014. Send any queries to the above email.