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On Going: figuring journey, position and place 
Saturday 6 November 2021
As from Corpus Christi College, Oxford

This list of papers is followed by information about each paper. PDFs of the papers themselves were sent to registered participants two weeks before the conference..

On the Road
Professor Valentine Cunningham
University of Oxford

Walking with Wild and Weeping Women: Exploring Resistance in the Pilgrimage Narratives of Margery Kempe and Cheryl Strayed
Samantha Lehman
Memorial University of Newfoundland

Traversing Frontiers as a Pícaro: Somatic, Societal and Spiritual Journeys in Lazarillo de Tormes and Guzmán de Alfrarache
Sarah Louise Ellis
University of Leeds

Melville and the Dilemma of Modernity
Andrew Carlyle Urban
University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

Out of the […] Planet
Anna Frieda Kuhn
University of Würzburg, Germany
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On the Road
Professor Valentine Cunningham

Oxford University

A forking paths investigation of the religiosity of literature’s way/ways with the difficulties of wayfaring. Inevitably shadowed by the sweeping deconstructionist faith that all writing, and thus reading, interpretation, meaning, are matters of aporiathe blocked, no-way way. A perplexed journeying that’s accepted here as a main literary business, it is taken as in effect a redoing (on that road again) of the grand mythicity of The Pilgrim’s Progress. That axiomatic redoing of traditional Christian and Biblical being, living, knowing, faith – praxis, episteme, hermeneutic – as tricky, difficult, troubled. Momentously, Jesus’ disciples fail to understand his metaphors of going and the way on that occasion when he calls himself the Way. Textual ellipsis. Illustration, deconstructionists would say, of the innate slipperiness of metaphor. Intrinsic perhaps to the Bible’s metaphorical way-talk – where the not uncommon NT word for way is – lo and behold – topos, which also means figure, metaphor. Aporia, or something close, all over the Judaeo-Christian text. Biblicised aporetic talk reminding us that the foundational sponsor of aporia, Jacques Derrida got his most emphatic textual support from the Bible and Biblicist writing.

Valentine Cunningham is Emeritus Professor of English Language and Literature, Oxford University, and Emeritus Fellow of English Literature, Corpus Christi College, Oxford. Author of many books including Everywhere Spoken Against: Dissent in the Victorian Novel (1975), British Writers of the Thirties (1988), In the Reading Gaol: Postmodernity, Texts , and History (1994), and Victorian Poetry Now: Poets, Poems, Poetics (2011); editor of several anthologies, including The Victorians: An Anthology of Poetry and Poetics (2000); author too of several Introductions to reprint novels, and of many critical articles – not least about theory, Biblical reception, and religious-minded authors. Is currently writing a large A to Z guide to Robinson Crusoe – itself, its history, its reception and influence, in particular on its direct imitators, the so-called Robinsaden, and at large on the practice of the novel as such, the Robinson-effect.

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Walking with Wild and Weeping Women: Exploring Resistance in the Pilgrimage Narratives of Margery Kempe and Cheryl Strayed
Samantha Lehman
Memorial University of Newfoundland

Modern pilgrims exist and operate for reasons similar to their medieval counterparts, namely the pursuit of religious or spiritual fulfillment. Spiritual fulfillment encompasses the pursuit of personal and emotional growth, which can be sought out in a secular or religious manner depending upon the whims of the individual pilgrim. I discuss two female pilgrims (one medieval, Margery Kempe, and one modern, Cheryl Strayed) and demonstrate how their individual voices, narratives, and purposes highlight a continued resistance to women undertaking pilgrimages. I address both The Book of Margery Kempe and Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, respectively, and explore how the resistance in each woman’s text takes different forms – Kempe’s text highlights a distinct and overt resistance to female pilgrims while the resistance in Strayed’s memoir lies in the nuance of its surprisingly glowing reception by the public.

Sam Lehman is a PhD candidate at Memorial University of Newfoundland studying Arthurian literature and popular culture. Her thesis project focuses on trauma in The Mists of Avalon and Sir Thomas Malory's Le Morte Darthur. Her other research interests include medievalism, modern Arthurian adaptations, women in medieval literature, the role of magic as a tool of trauma, and fan studies.

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Traversing Frontiers as a Pícaro: Somatic, Societal and Spiritual Journeys in Lazarillo de Tormes and Guzmán de Alfrarache
Sarah Louise Ellis
University of Leeds

This paper sets out to explore the somatic, societal and spiritual journeys that are embarked upon by the eponymous characters in the two most prominent texts of the picaresque corpus, Lazarillo de Tormes and Mateo Alemán’s Guzmán de Alfrarache; delivering a robust evaluation into the undertaking of the aforementioned journeys, and the ways in which these journeys ultimately mould the identity of the pícaro.

Sarah Louise Ellis published an essay on exemplarity in Cervantes’ Novelas Ejemplares in the Exeter Undergraduate Academic Journal in 2015, and is a Postgraduate Researcher in Spanish Picaresque Literature at the University of Leeds.

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Out of the […] Planet
Anna Frieda Kuhn
University of Würzburg, Germany

My paper will centre on the first volume of C.S. Lewis’s mythopoetic space trilogy Out of the Silent Planet (1938). In reading the involuntary voyage of the novel’s protagonist, Ransom, to Malacandra as an apologetic phenomenological journey in the Christian faith, I will argue that the articulation of phenomenological sound in Lewis’s thriller can be equated with the Lacanian Real. In a close reading of Out of the Silent Planet, I will show that phenomenologies of faith not only differ vastly from subject to subject but that the Christian faith is often understood visually, rather than acoustically – despite its embeddedness in oral tradition. In its critique of the Symbolic, Lewis’s Out of the Silent Planet thus becomes an example of a speculative journey that attempts to challenge the reader’s relationship with sound. Stuck in a double bind within the nucleus of the text, Ransom at once deconstructs the Symbolic and solidifies its primacy.

Anna Frieda Kuhn is a PhD candidate and research affiliate at the University of Würzburg's department of English Literature and British Cultural Studies, where she convenes undergraduate modules on postcolonial and world literature. Apart from the studies she undertook at the University of Würzburg (BA and MA), she also attended Cambridge University (2016/17) and completed a short-term research stay at Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi in 2019. Her research interests range from globalisation studies, philosophy of tragedy, and sound studies in the phenomenology of time.

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Melville and the Dilemma of Modernity
Andrew Carlyle Urban

University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

For Herman Melville, modernity is characterized by the breakdown of inherited frameworks of meaning – in particular, of that provided by Melville’s youthful Calvinism. This breakdown confronts the modern self with the task of undertaking a search – allegorized in Moby-Dick’s whaling voyage – for a way of ordering and making sense of reality. This search leads in one of two ways. The first way, the way of Ahab, is to enthrone the sovereign self as the ultimate source of value, to commit oneself as it were to charting one’s own course. The second way, the way of Ishmael, is that of intellectual detachment, of entertaining ideas in turn but making no decisive commitment to any one vision of truth or framework of meaning. This, for Melville, is the dilemma of modernity: in its search for meaning, the modern self must either project meaning out of itself or accept a world without meaning.

Andrew Carlyle Urban is a doctoral candidate in English at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. His dissertation project examines antebellum American writers’ ambivalent responses to the rise of liberal democracy in American society

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The Christian Literary Studies Group in association with the Universities and Colleges Christian Fellowship