19th Nov 2013 5:30pm-6:30pm
The Literature Seminar Series: A joint event with C21, Centre for Twenty-first Century Writings
Dr Martin Dines, Kingston University, 19 November, 5.30-6.30pm, D222 The Checkland Building, Falmer Campus
‘Middlesex will be all before us’: Englishness and queer histories at the periphery in Alan Hollinghurst’s fiction
Alan Hollinghurst’s writing is typically associated with the sexualised rhythms and stylised surfaces of the city. With most of its action taking place on the fringes of London, his most recent novel The Stranger's Child (2011) is, for Hollinghurst, a peculiarly decentred, even eccentric, narrative. If the novel returns to an earlier preoccupation of Hollinghurst’s – the uncovering of hidden queer histories – it makes a purposeful connection between marginalised histories and a history of the margins. Via an engagement with a number of temporally arrested invocations of Englishness from different literary sources, the novel invites a new way of viewing suburban landscapes and past intimacies, which has something in common with their veryperipherality. It is by perusing them obliquely and eccentrically, that is, to consider always what lies beyond or outside, as well as the personalities and narratives which are obscured by those which have become central and established, that the suburbs begin reveal some of their secrets, while retaining much of their mystery.
The Stranger's Child was published in 2011, the fifth novel by 2004 Man Booker Prize-winning writer Alan Hollinghurst. The book tells the story of a minor poet, Cecil Valance, who is killed in the First World War. In 1913 he visits a Cambridge friend, George Sawle, at the latter's home in Stanmore, Middlesex. While there Valance writes a poem entitled 'Two Acres', about the Sawle's house and addressed, ambiguously, either to George himself or to George's younger sister, Daphne. The poem goes on to become famous and the novel follows the changing reputation of Valance and his poetry in the following decades.
Dr Martin Dines is a Senior Lecturer in English Literature at Kingston University, London. His research focuses on the place of the suburbs in Anglo-American writing, queer domesticities, and the interconnections between national identity, space and sexuality. He is the author of Gay Suburban Narratives in American Literature and Culture: Homecoming Queens (Palgrave, 2010) and co-editor of New Suburban Stories (Bloomsbury, 2013). He organises the annual Literary London conference and is a partner of the Leverhulme funded Cultures of the Suburbs International Research Network (2011-14).