11th September 2014

ANNA KAVAN: HISTORICAL CONTEXT, INFLUENCES AND LEGACY OF HER FICTION

A one-day symposium at the Institute of English Studies in association with Liverpool John Moores University Research Centre for Literature and Cultural History and Peter Owen Publishers.

Anna Kavan’s publication history spans from her early novels under the name Helen Ferguson in the late 1920s and early 1930s to her last work which won Brian Aldiss’ prize for ‘Sci-Fi Novel of the Year’ in 1967.  Her own life story has been widely reported in magazine articles, book reviews and popular biography, but there has been little serious scholarly attention to her writing.  The often sensationalized focus on Kavan’s biography, particularly her adoption of her own fictional character’s name, her long-term heroin addiction, and her psychological difficulties, has overshadowed serious critical attention to her work.  Yet, her writing continues to be published in English and translation, to hold fascination for new generations of readers, and to interest or influence other writers and artists.  This symposium aims to bring together scholars with an interest in Kavan to promote an increasing academic focus on her work.  The day will be a forum for knowledge sharing, with the broad aims of historicizing Kavan’s work, situating her within the literary and intellectual context of her times, and charting her legacy as a writer.  The symposium will close with a public event in the evening at which leading contemporary writers will discuss Anna Kavan’s work in relation to their own writing.

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