'Bloomsbury and the Art of Being Modern’
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This year’s conference will take Virginia Woolf and the cohort loosely grouped around her in Bloomsbury and beyond to explore the modernist creative explosion of the early twentieth century. Virginia Woolf, Katherine Mansfield, E.M. Forster, D.H. Lawrence, Rupert Brook; Vanessa Bell, Duncan Grant, Clive Bell, Roger Fry; Maynard Keynes, Bertrand Russell, G.E. Moore. The Woolfs were at the centre of a group of writers, artists and thinkers who between them in the decades after 1910 did indeed transform the cultural landscape. Between them they translated and published Freud in Britain; they forged new ways of living against a background of war; they risked imprisonment by living openly as homosexuals; they fought for ideals of internationalism that resulted in the League of Nations.
Looking across literature, fine art, music and philosophy, speakers will explore what was so radical about this moment of modernism. Was it irresponsible during the First World War to care so much about the rhythm of a sentence, the line of a paintbrush, or the curve of a chair, while young men’s bodies were smashed to pieces day after day in the trenches? This was a moment when the stakes of art felt high enough that it really did feel possible that the right poem, or painting, or essay, had the power to change how people thought and thus to end war. We’ll use this weekend to revisit that moment during another era when the end of the world as we know it can feel frighteningly close.