As with my previous posts on International Pynchon Week 2010, I thought I would try to take a little time on each day of this conference to write a few words with some thoughts.
Symbiosis is a conference designed to study Anglo-American relations, be that trans-atlantic, post-national, in literature and in history. Having held previous events in London, Boston and (I believe) Edinburgh, this year's conference takes place in Glasgow.
The day kicked off with a walking tour of Glasgow, led by postgraduate researcher at Glasgow University, Stephen Mullen. The tour focused on the "hidden" history of slavery upon which much of the city is founded. This is particularly evident when the role of tobacco is considered. Indeed, the connection to Virginia plantations provides much food for thought while also accounting for the unusually high proportion of Scottish surnames found in that part of the world.
With this complete, the day consisted of a single talk, Professor Caroline Rody's (University of Virginia) opening plenary, which was entitled "The Transatlantic Great House". The premise here, considered across a wide-ranging survey of "great house" literature was that, despite America's consumerism, in literature it is predominantly an American trope that great houses, embodying injustice/crime scenes (in the sense of an inherited guilt) are better burned down and rebuilt by each generation, a political notion that Rody identified most strongly in Hawthorne's The House of Seven Gables. While the most famous British literary example of this happening, Jane Eyre, was examined, the trans-Atlantic connections of even this cannot be underestimated, particularly since Jean Rhys' 1966 revisionist piece Wide Sargasso Sea rewrote the experience as one of readerly outrage at the colonial subtext, making the burning both distinctly literary and emphatically not rooted in one particular, British culture.
The final event of the evening was a reception at the extremely grand Civic Chambers in Glasgow (pictured above). While I'm not a particular fan of these sorts of events, the people were extremely welcoming and the architecture impressive.
I'll try and report back on papers I get to see today, my own taking place at 11am, which I hope to record, but in the meantime, I will leave you with this rather entertaining photograph I took of one of Glasgow's many old-style police boxes. Doctor Who fans, you're in for a treat: