Art & Action: Literary-Political Networks and Organisations

The papers and discussions in this webinar will shed light on the ways in which authors make use of, and rely on, institutions, organisations, and networks as platforms and frameworks for their activist interventions. Ellen Wiles reveals the impact and resonance of live literature events as forms of literary activism. Drawing on her experiential literary ethnography of the Polari Salon, she outlines the ways in which the Polari Salon deploys literary performance as a fruitful means of strengthening LGBTQ+ community bonds and as a form of activism. Benedict Schofield takes a comparative perspective on the transnational literary-political networks that frame and sustain the engaged authorship of Scottish authors A. L. Kennedy and Ali Smith as well as Austrian authors Katrin Röggla and Robert Menasse. He argues that for these writers the fracture of Europe not only prompts a literary reflection of the European crisis, but triggers active interventions into political discourse.


Ellen Wiles is a Lecturer in Creative Writing at Exeter University, and is a novelist, anthropologist, and former human rights lawyer. She read Music at Oxford, then gained Masters degrees in Human Rights Law and Creative Writing. She practised as a barrister for seven years at a London chambers and in several international legal consultancy roles. She is the author of Saffron Shadows and Salvaged Scripts: Literary Life in Myanmar Under Censorship and in Transition (Columbia University Press, 2015) and The Invisible Crowd (HarperCollins, 2017): a polyphonic novel exploring asylum and immigration in the UK. Her next book, Live Literature: The Experience and Cultural Value of Literary Performance Events from Salons to Festivals, will be published in paperback by Palgrave in 2020. She is currently working on her second novel. Her website is

Benedict Schofield is Reader in German and Director of the Centre for Modern Literature and Culture at King’s College London. His research focuses on German Studies, Transnational Studies, and Comparative Cultural Studies, with central concerns including the representation of the German-speaking countries and “Germanness” in cultural texts across world-literary systems; 19th Century Cultural Studies, with a specific focus on authorship; German theatre and performance, especially German engagement with Shakespeare; and contemporary German-US and German-Japanese cultural relations. Publications include Private Lives and Collective Destinies: Class, Nation and the Folk in the Works of Gustav Freytag, and the edited volumes The German Bestseller in the Late Nineteenth Century (co-edited with Charlotte Woodford), German in the World (co-edited with James Hodkinson) and Transnational German Studies (co-edited with Rebecca Braun).


This series of webinars is convened by Sandra Mayer (University of Vienna / Oxford Centre for Life-Writing, and Ruth Scobie (Mansfield College, Oxford,, and is supported by the Austrian Science Fund (FWF) and The Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities (TORCH) in collaboration with The Oxford Centre for Life-Writing (OCLW), Postcolonial Writers Make Worlds, and The Stephen Spender Trust.

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