Literary Visuality

Exploring the Visual Qualities of Literature

Hybrid Form: Elizabeth Bowen’s Verbal Painting

In late March of this year, and with the kind assistance of the IRCHSS and School of English UCC, I was fortunate enough to attend and present at the Hybrid Irelands: At Culture’s Edge conference at the University of Notre Dame (IN). Hosted by the Keough-Naughton Institute for Irish Studies and organised by John Dillon and Nathaniel Myers, this three-day event (29-31 March) had plenary lectures from Terry Eagleton, David Lloyd and Clair Wills. It also showcased some wonderful emerging scholarship in the field of Irish Studies while also serving to rekindle old friendships and forge new ones.

On the final day of the conference I presented my paper which was entitled ”’Verbal Painting’: Elizabeth’s Bowen’s Hybrid Aesthetic”. This paper addressed the inherent hybridity of the Anglo-Irish Bowen’s literary technique and argued for the artistic potential she capitalised upon by combining forms. Moreover, through her transposition of visual art techniques into literary form I contend that Bowen forged her own unique aesthetic which enabled her to unite the visual and verbal arts in a manner that moves her work beyond mere ekphrasis.

At the Elizabeth Bowen panel with Dana Miller. Picture courtesy of Flicka Small.

The panel, which was generously chaired by Geraldine Rossiter, also featured a stimulating paper from Dana Miller (Georgia State University) entitled ”Irish Blood, English Heart: Elizabeth Bowen on the Architecture of the Anglo-Irish Stance”.

Apart from the impromptu musical stylings of Terry Eagleton, other highlights from the conference were papers from, among others, Michelle Lyons (University of Connecticut), Flicka Small (University College Cork), Brenna Everson (Luther College), Leigh Elion (University of Wisconson – Madison), Geraldine Rossiter (Union Institute and University), Julie McCormick (University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign), Caitlin McAteer (Independent Scholar), Sonia Howell (National University of Ireland, Maynooth), Katarzyna Bartoszynska (Bilkent University), Seán Mac Risteard (National University of Ireland, Maynooth) and Adrian Goodwin (University College Cork).

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