Past Conferences: 2006

After Our Fashion: Powys Philosophies

The Conference was held at the University of Chichester, Bishop Otter Campus, Friday 25 August to Sunday 27 August 2006.

Conference Prospectus

Chichester Cathedral
Chichester Cathedral

This Conference marks a long-awaited return to Sussex. West Sussex played an important part in the early life of John Cowper Powys and was the setting for parts of his novel After My Fashion. A highlight of the weekend will be an optional guided tour of Powys sites in Burpham near Arundel. John Cowper and his wife Margaret moved to Bank House, Burpham (pronounced Burfam), in 1902. Their son Littleton Alfred was born there, and it was JCP’s base for his annual returns from lecturing in America. Margaret and Littleton Alfred lived there till 1927.

Chichester (despite formidable modern roads) is a place of interest. A Roman town: the nearby palace of Fishbourne is the largest Roman site in northern Europe. A medieval market cross and walls remain.The Norman—originally Saxon—cathedral contains notable modern works (Chagall and Sutherland). The Pallant House art collection is newly re-opened. The modern theatre is one of the country’s foremost. It is a sailing area, on a long sea inlet, with picturesque coastline and harbour-villages within reach (Bosham has a Saxon church and King Cnut associations). Goodwood racecourse is nearby, and many stately homes and castles (notably Arundel). Burpham, near Arundel, home of JCP and his family from 1902, is about 12 miles away. Other literary associations with Chichester include William Collins (1721-59) the archetypal eighteenth-century lyricist (his anthology piece is ‘How Sleep the Brave’); John Keats, who stayed there in 1818, writing ‘The Eve of St Agnes’; and William Blake who was acquitted of high treason in the Guildhall in 1803, after being accuased by a drunken soldier. (Blake lived for three years at Felpham on the Sussex coast, near his then patron William Hayley, and wrote his Milton there).


Friday 25 August

16:00 Arrival
17:30 Reception
18:30 Dinner
20:00 Henning Ahrens: ‘John Cowper Powys’s Philosophy Revisited’

Saturday 26 August

08:00 Breakfast
09:30 John Gray: ‘Three Powys Philosophies’
11:15 Elaine Mencher: ‘Editing T.F. Powys’
13:00 Lunch
Afternoon: Visit to Burpham and suroundings with guided walk and readings led by Kieran McCann (optional)
18:30 Dinner
20:00 A reading of The Sin Eater by T.F. Powys and Stephen Tomlin, produced by Barrie Mencher

Sunday 27 August

09:30 W.J. Keith: ‘Coming to Terms with John Cowper Powys’s Autobiography
11:00 AGM, followed by a panel discussion ‘Autobiography, Memory and Myth’
13:00 Lunch
15:00 Departure

The Speakers

Our speakers this year were as follows: 

1) John Gray, Professor of European Thought at the LSE, and a long-standing member of The Powys Society. In his talk, entitled Three Powys philosophies, on Saturday morning, his aim was ‘to look at the three main Powys brothers as exponents of quite different views of the worlds, each a response to the decline of traditional religion’. 

2) Henning Ahrens, the translator, poet and novelist who lives near Hanover, spoke on Friday evening about John Cowper Powys's philiosophical works. It was in 1995 that Ahrense wrote his doctoral dissertation on the subject of John Cowper Powys's Elementalism. He also translated into German Petrushka and the Dancer (a volume of JCP's diaries edited by Morine Krissdóttir), and he has spoken at Powys Society Conferences in 1996 and in 2000. 

3) Elaine Mencher of the Brynmill Press spoke on Saturday morning on Editing Theodore Powys, a subject on which she is an expert, having edited four of his titles. 

4) Professor W.J. Keith, Emeritus Professor of English at Toronto University is a well-known contributor both to Powys Society conferences and to Powys Society publications. His chosen subject this year on Sunday morning was John Cowper Powys's Autobiography.

We were also fortunate to have Kieran McCann, a freelance translator who lives near Brighton and who on Saturday afternoon led a guided walk and gave readings at Burpham.