Call for Papers | “Telling the Story of Sport: Narrating Sport in a Global Context” Conference | University of Bristol, UK, April 2–3, 2020. Call ends September 30, 2019

Keynote speakers

    • Professor Philip Dine, National University of Ireland, Galway
    • Professor David Wood, the University of Sheffield.

Context and Rationale

The rise of the nation state and of national identity in the nineteenth century has long been associated with the development of the national press. Since the 1970s and 1980s, historians have also mapped this rise onto the growing interest in organised sport, particularly towards the end of that century. Here too the press is credited with ‘spreading the word’ and, with it, a sense of national belonging; thus, for example, the history of competitive road cycling in France is tied to the history of those newspapers that sponsored the first races. In the course of the twentieth century, and with ever greater rates of literacy, sports journalism guaranteed many dailies a welcome source of income through a mass readership. The impact of radio, television and subsequent new media upon sports journalism, but more especially upon individual sports themselves, has been the subject of much recent attention amongst sport and media historians. The new broadcast media are thus seen to have played a key role in the globalisation of certain sports and their concomitant commercialisation. The story of sport is therefore inextricably bound to the media through which it is constructed and recounted.

Sport has been celebrated and served as the narrative focus in film, literature, song, and theatre, among other genres. Sports themselves and the men and women who play them have inspired eulogies, offered cautionary tales, or served to draw the reader’s attention to a range of social ills from racism to doping. Individual works, authors and artists have been the subject of academic scrutiny particularly in recent years and as sport history has undergone its cultural turn. The latter has seen a new generation of scholars adapting and deploying critical theory to their object of study. Yet, there has to date been little considered and comparative analysis of the many ways in which these stories are told across different cultures and the many purposes they serve. ‘Telling the Story of Sport’ aims to redress this by creating a forum in which individual scholars are invited to contextualise their research and begin to develop a fuller understanding of the phenomenon of sporting narrative practices across a range of national cultures.

Themes and Proposals

The organisers invite scholars at all career stages, and particularly postgraduates, from the Arts and Humanities and the Social Sciences to submit proposals for individual papers or panel sessions. Potential contributors will be invited to consider the following themes:

    • The devices and techniques utilised by individual artists and writers in order to capture sporting activity;
    • The ways in which sports writing constructs, conditions and mediates the experience of a particular sport;
    • The political and social agendas that sports writing has served or, conversely, contested;
    • The contribution it has made to different forms of, and debates surrounding, gender, race, national or regional identity, or social class;
    • The relationship between textual practice, space, and identity;
    • Translating sports;
    • Representations of the sporting body.

Proposals for papers addressing other relevant themes will also be considered. All proposals must be e-mailed to the conference organisers at no later than September 30.

Individual proposals for 20-minute papers should contain the name, affiliation, and contact details of the author and must be no longer than 350 words long. Themed panel proposals for three inter- papers are also welcome. These must include a 350-word rationale for the panel by the proposer, the proposer’s name, affiliation, and contact details, and a proposal for each individual paper as detailed above. Informal inquiries can be directed to Professor Martin Hurcombe via

Decisions will be announced no later than 31 October 2019 when details of registration fees, accommodation, and travel bursaries for postgraduate speakers will be will also be sent out.

Professor Martin Hurcombe, School of Modern Languages, University of Bristol, 19 Woodland Road, Bristol, BS8 1TE,  telephone: 0117 9288447.

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