Felix Holt Conference in Nuneaton
Praise from members for successful day
The annual George Eliot Day this year took the form of a conference on Felix Holt, our book for the year in its 150th anniversary. The conference include a buffet lunch and unlimited tea or coffee, good conversation, a preview of the Edinburgh Fringe Felix Holt, and superb papers from three experts in their field.
Chilvers Coton Heritage Centre is proving to be an ideal home for Fellowship meetings, since most of the building was contructed and paid for by the Newdigate family. On a more mundane level the car parking is free.
The first paper was presented by Dr Melissa Raines (University of Liverpool). Melissa won the GE Essay prize some years ago and has been a well received speaker at earlier conferences. Her paper was "Parentage and Principle in George Eliot's Felix Holt. She spoke very personally of her relationship with the novel, and with the extent to which Felix was a Radical. It was a fascinating insight into her own thinking about the novel and got the conference off to a great start. The picture below shows Melissa in conversation with John Rignall, joint editor of the GE Review.
Coffee break. On the right are Marie and David Paterson, who produced a paper in the afternoon. The picture above shows some of the 43 who attended the conference.
The second paper was given by Sheila Woolf and was called "A Fine Sight of Lawsuits". Sheila produced convincing evidence to suggest that Stoneleigh Abbey was a model for Transome Court, and more interesting still, that a long standing legal battle over ownership of Stoneleigh would have informed Eliot's thinking about the protracted and complicated legal wrangles in the novel. The pictures below show Sheila Woolf and David Paterson giving their papers.
David Paterson's paper was called "One Phase of English Life to Another" and he provided well researched evidence to show the changes that were taking place in England, and especially the Midlands, during the lead up to the Great Reform Act. Marie Paterson read a carefully selected sequence of apposite quotations to support all David's points, which concluded with a close examination of how the hustings and voting worked, concluding that other academics had got some details wrong!
The final session was introduced by Vivienne Wood, who spoke of the long tradition of the Fellowship working with King Edward College in Nuneaton and with Simon Winterman, diretor of Sudden Impulse Theatre Company. Viv has written a one hour adaptation of Felix Holt for the stage, to be performed at Edinburgh in the summer.
Simon explained that the actors had only just been given the script for two scenes and they then worked on an interpretation of those scenes, with comments and contributions from the audience. It was a fascinating insight into how actors work, how directors interpret the scenes and help their actors to find the human motivations behind the words.
It will be a new venture for the Fellowship to be involved in giving financial support for such an important Festival and we are looking forward to seeing how it goes. There was considerable interest in arranging a local performance of the play, perhaps before it goes to Edinburgh.
The conference ended on a high note, with tea and remains of the buffet lunch, and the news that the conference covered its costs, largely because of the extra half dozen or so delegates who came along at the last minute. We are grateful to all who supported the day. They were certainly well rewarded by the quality of our speakers and performers.
Published on 21 January 2019