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The Abstract, Wednesday 13th November 2013

The next Abstract will take place on Wednesday 13th November, from 6pm in VWB 7.01, as usual. This time we will be hearing from Alex Belsey on the journal of Keith Vaughan and George Legg on the poetry of Derek Mahon – please see below for their abstracts. This looks to be another great session so we hope you can join us. We will be relocating to the pub at 8ish and it would be lovely to see as many of you there as possible.

Don’t forget that we are looking for ideas for papers/discussion groups/joint sessions for next term, broadly on the theme of ‘Visions.’ Proposals should be sent to Kate Osborne ( and Sally Barnden ( by Friday 6th December. The full CFP can be found here.

Stet is also accepting submissions for its fourth issue on ‘Memory,’ which aligns with our current Abstract theme, ‘After.’ Please send articles of no more than 5000 words to Stet Editor, Alex Belsey ( by Friday 20th December. Further details can be found on the CFP.

Here are Alex and George’s abstracts for Wednesday, as promised:

Alex Belsey – Self-editorship and the Afterlife of Keith Vaughan’s Journal

At the age of fifty-two, British painter Keith Vaughan (1912-77) began surveying twenty five years of his own life-writing in order to compile a volume fit for publication. In 1966, Journal and Drawings introduced the public to the ambitions, insights, and insecurities of a successful living artist – but what does Vaughan’s own self-edited selection reveal about the legacy he wished to leave behind? This paper will provide examples from the wartime years of Vaughan’s journal to illustrate the re-writing, re-sequencing, and merging of material that occurred during the editing process years later. Questions surrounding authenticity and the nature of the ‘original’ text will be addressed, as will issues of intended audience, evasion, and self-censorship. This paper will also consider the afterlife of the journal beyond Vaughan’s control; the posthumous additions from the period 1966-77 selected by his friend Alan Ross, and the changes in format that resulted in the removal of many drawings and photographs that were crucial to the first editions.

George Legg – ‘Middle-class shits’: Political Apathy and the Poetry of Derek Mahon

Apathy has become an ever pressing concern in contemporary Northern Irish political culture. From Ed Curran’s despair that ‘if you don’t vote there could be trouble on streets’ to John Garry’s ‘surprise’ that voting turnout has become exponentially low, political apathy has been repeatedly perceived as a recent phenomenon that threatens the status quo. This paper will complicate such a reading by using the poetry of Derek Mahon to chart the evolution of political apathy within the North’s protestant community. In so doing, the paper will illustrate how such apathy has created and sustained a middle-class constituency in the North, while also demonstrating how this attitude continues to shape the inertia that currently besets post-conflict Northern Ireland.

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