Booking now open: Conference on Literature and Physical Culture, De Montfort University, Leicester, 10–11 April, 2014

Booking now open: £80 (full) or £40 (postgraduate) FOR BOTH DAYS UNTIL FEBRUARY 14th.

Keynote Speakers:

  • Professor Sarah Churchwell (University of East Anglia)
  • Professor Luke Gibbons (National University of Ireland, Maynooth)
  • Andrew Lycett (Author & Biographer)

Plenary Speakers:

  • Professor Simon Bainbridge (University of Lancaster)
  • Professor Tony Collins (De Montfort University)
  • Professor John Whale (University of Leeds)
  • Dr Vybarr Cregan-Reid (University of Kent)
  • Dr Emelyne Godfrey (Author & Broadcaster)
  • Dr Claire Westall (University of York)
  • Dr Catherine Wynne (University of Hull)

Plus 36 papers over 12 panels.


“I am a professor of science,” said Cashel, in a low voice, looking down at his left fist, which he was balancing in the air before him, and stealthily hitting his bent knee as if it were another person’s face.

“Physical or moral science?” persisted Lydia.

“Physical science,” said Cashel. “But there’s more moral science in it than people think.”

Cashel Byron’s Profession (1883)


physical-cultureFor George Bernard Shaw’s gentleman prizefighter Cashel Byron, sport was the perfect hybrid of physical and moral science and art, yet despite Shaw’s constant assertion through the novel that boxing is an art form, the common perception is that sport and art are ultimately antagonistic, as aesthetes and athletes are pitted against each other in a battle of brains versus brawn. So whilst sport and physical culture is an integral part of social and cultural history, of all cultural pursuits sport is often considered incompatible with the more artistic of those such as literature and theatre.

This interdisciplinary two-day conference re-examines the idea of sport in textual culture and seeks to reappraise the significance of physical culture beyond the traditional historical frameworks. The conference is interested in the inclusion of sport and physical culture within textual culture, and seeks to reassess sport’s place within the wider cultural landscape. It asks how sport and sporting lexis is transformed in subsequent cultural outputs from novels, poetry, theatre, films and television, and how its importance to the wider population is reflected and developed in these outputs. It is also interested in exploring the broader context of the changing nature of sport’s inclusion within literature from the late eighteenth century to the present.

Topics might include, but are not restricted to:

  • The social, political and cultural context of sport in textual formats
  • Class and sport
  • Representations of physical bodies
  • Sporting sexualities
  • Sporting psychologies
  • Sports narratives
  • Sporting intertextualities
  • Sporting identities
  • Criminality and Sport
  • Sport as business
  • Sport and postcolonialism
  • Sport and gender
  • Sporting monstrosities
  • Physical activity and children’s literature
  • Anti-Sports Sentiment in literature and film
  • Depictions of sport in theatre and drama
  • Literary personalities and their involvement in sporting organisations

Abstracts focusing on the pre-1800 period are also invited.

The conference committee (Chair: Victoria Dawson, Professor Tony Collins, Dr Claire Westall, Nicola Stead) welcomes abstracts of  250-300 words for 20 minute papers. Please send your abstract, plus a short biography to Victoria Dawson at literatureandsport@hotmail.co.uk by 31 October 2013.

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