Henry King: The Soho School and the Aesthetics of Sociality

Welcome to a seminar with Henry King, Senior Lecturer in English Studies, K3. The name of the talk is:

The Soho School and the Aesthetics of Sociality

The talk will take place on Wednesday, March 28 at 10.15-12.00 in  room NIC 0541 (K3 Open Studio), Niagara.

Here is an abstract for the talk:

The Soho School is a ‘lost continent’ of 20th century British poetry. Although some members of the group are individually well-known (e.g. W.S. Graham, George Barker, David Gascoyne), the contours of the group and their aesthetic specificity has rarely been acknowledged and little researched. My research aims to excavate this group and insert them into the history of British poetry in the mid- to late-20th century.

Mid-century British poetry has often been discussed in terms of stylistic and social groups: Blake Morrison’s classic work on The Movement, and more recent studies such as William Wooten’s The Alvarez Generation, have aimed to define these groups, plotting their personal interrelationships and aesthetic affinities. Taking a similar approach, I argue that the Soho School demonstrates equal—if not greater—coherence over a longer period of time, and furthermore, that their sense of forming a coherent social as well as stylistic group is foregrounded in their work. The Soho School is also notable for its inclusion of painters, and their collaboration in various publishing projects. I will discuss the group’s constitution and the shared aspects of their creative work. I also argue that the group has had an under-acknowledged impact upon the wider poetic culture of the UK, through the creation of durable institutions which continue its legacy.

At the same time as working to rehabilitate this group, I also take a critical attitude to it, especially with regard to gender politics: although women played important roles as writers and collaborators (as well as the more traditional role of the muse), they occupied an ambivalent, liminal place within the group, which I aim to explore.

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