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July 10, 2008

FWSA Seminar: Welsh Women's Writing: Katie Gramich's Keynote Speech

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Katie Gramich’s keynote speech was titled ‘“When I came hither, a stranger”: Women Writers and Elective Identities.’ The starting point of her talk is a definition by Mike Savage in Globalization and Belonging of what elective belonging is. This mode is ‘belonging not to a fixed community, with the implication of closed boundaries, but is more fluid, seeing places as sites for performing identities’ (Savage 2005: 29). According to Savage, elective belonging is ‘critically dependent on people’s relational sense of place, their ability to relate their area of residence against other[s]’ (Ibid.). Responding to this idea, Gramich’s project is to foreground the notion of national identity as constructed or imagined. Her paper considers four women writers who are not originally from Wales: the nineteenth century poet, Anne Beale ; the novelist, Kate Bosse-Griffiths ; the poet and prose writer, Jan Morris ; and the poet, Christine Evans . I don’t want to say too much about Gramich’s talk as she is writing it up into a paper, but some interesting questions came up in outlining the concerns of these four writers. A sense of hospitality was a common theme with Wales or specific places within Wales (such as Bardsey Island for Christine Evans) hosting the writers’ political or artistic concerns. Gramich links this to Derrida’s description of hospitality in On Cosmopolitanism and Forgiveness as an ethics rather than a culture (Derrida 2001: 17)). To what extent do these writers construct a vision of Wales as representing an ethics of hospitality?


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