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Smock Races, Ageing Players and Lovely Libraries

January 10, 2014

Highlights of Day 2 of BSECS 2014….

I missed a lot of course – missed any number of alternative sessions and alternative panels – but I don’t know if I’d want to exchange what I did get yesterday.

The day began with Victoria Joule reminding us all to re-read The New Atalantis and to reimagine the relationship between politics and pleasure, and to reconsider the nature of women’s political engagement in terms other than some derogatory notion of “scandal”.  Peter Radford reminded us of wonderful things that we won’t soon forget – the elite women athletes of the eighteenth century.  Most professional runners were women.  In 1768,  in long anticipation of the Billie Jean King versus Bobbie Riggs tennis battle of the sexes, Mme Bunel beat Mr Tomkins.  Twice.  And Carolyn Williams then spoke eloquently about cards, and those “diversions” that sexist discourse has always sought to stygmatise.

Other highlights included a wonderful discussion of eighteenth-century theatre and Shakespeare adaptation and a consideration of the struggles of ageing female players and whether or not there were viable roles for older women.  And later on there was a nice little snug panel of private libraries, discussing the pleasures and processes of careful book collection.  Walter Benjamin wrote about this of course, and it’s thought that it was the weight of his own book collection that lead in part to the slowness of his flight to Spain in 1940 and thus his own suicide.

And of course, it’s not just the sessions but the places between the sessions, the sudden conversations, the introductions, and the reintroductions that make this event so very very special.  I’d gladly go into far more detail about the events of yesterday, but were I to do so now I’d be missing a portion of today.  

By late afternoon, BSECS will be over for another year and we’ll start to float away, each in our own state of bitter sweet semi-slumber and in my head, Noel Coward’s “The Party’s Over Now” will be playing…

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One Comment
  1. shgregg permalink

    Reblogged this on The Daniel Defoe Blog and commented:
    More fine comment on BSECS 2014 from Conrad Brunstrom.

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