Image: Winifred Holtby, ‘South Riding’, The Winifred Holtby Collection, Hull History Centre, © Winifred Holtby Estate
Representatives of five of the seven Consortium institutions gathered at Sheffield Hallam University on 15 October 2014 for a day symposium of papers focused on ‘Literature and Heritage’. There was a rich and diverse range of subjects, starting with Erica Brown from Sheffield speaking on ‘Building an archive of popular fiction 1900–1950: Sheffield Hallam University’s Readerships and Literary Cultures collection’, in which she described her work as research fellow attached to the university’s donated collection of middlebrow and popular fiction and of maintaining a blog to which interested members of the public can contribute reviews. Jessica Malay from Huddersfield then spoke on ‘Anne Clifford’s Archives: Collection and Dispersal’, drawing on her Leverhulme-funded Anne Clifford Project, which will produce editions of the so-called Great Books of Record in which the indomitable Lady Anne documented her fiercely-fought claim for what she called ‘the lands of my inheritance’, the property in Westmorland and Cumberland which had belonged to her father but which she as a girl was deemed incapable of inheriting.
After the coffee break, Catherine Wynne from Hull spoke on ‘Victorian Literary Tourists in Whitby’. Victorian writers’ interest in Whitby is most famously reflected in Bram Stoker’s Dracula, but Catherine showed that memories of holidays there were also important to several generations of the Du Maurier family, and also explored possible connections between Gerald du Maurier and Stoker. Next Jane Thomas, also from Hull, spoke about ‘Winifred Holtby’s South Riding: The Literary Presence of Hull and Holderness’, showing how Holtby’s notes formed the basis of an imaginary reconstruction of the area, for which she provided her own map, and how this imaginary construction of place can shape future interactions with the actual coastal landscape of Hull and Holderness.
In the afternoon session, Ruth Robbins from Leeds Beckett University talked on ‘Than longen folk to goon on pilgrimages’: Fictional settings, Literary tourism and the Heritage Trail of Haworth’, offering a fascinating exploration of the cultural politics of the fetishisation of Brontë relics and the construction of the tourist industry associated with the parsonage at Haworth. In the final paper, ‘The Good Humour Club’, Helen Williams from Northumbria University spoke about her work with Shandy Hall on their discovery of York-based gentleman’s club and how its intersection with Laurence Sterne and his world has led to new literary research and a Heritage Lottery Funded outreach project. The project comprised a geomapping webapp, a period drama podcast, an exhibition, a digitisation of the club’s manuscripts, and a series of educational comedy events, all to be found at goodhumour.laurencesternetrust.org.uk, but do be careful of the banana skin!
It is hoped that the interest and enthusiasm generated by the day will spill over into a further event at Northumbria University, which Helen Williams has kindly offered to host.
Text by Lisa Hopkins, Sheffield Hallam University, photos by Ruth Robbins, Leeds Beckett University.
Featured Image: Winifred Holtby, ‘South Riding’, An image from Dr Jane Thomas’ paper regarding Winifred Holtby and the Literary Presence of Hull and Holderness: in a letter to Winifred Holtby congratulating her on the publication of her 1923 novel Anderby Wold, Grace Fisher declared: ‘You have got the Wold admirably and dwell upon it, enlarge upon it & do for the wolds what Geo Eliot did for the peaceful placid Midlands, Charlotte Bronte did for the wild moorlands & Arnold Bennet for the Staffordshire 5 Towns’
The Winifred Holtby Collection, Hull History Centre, © Winifred Holtby Estate