25 November 2012

Literature and the Secret State

Please join us for the fourth seminar of the academic year:

Literature and the Secret State:
On the Secret State, Government and Propaganda in Literature
Dr. James Smith 

Durham University

Wednesday, 5th December 2012
5:30 – 7:00 pm
Department of English Studies, Hallgarth House Seminar Room


Speaker: Dr. James Smith, Durham University
Writers have had a long and complicated relationship with the covert arms of the British government: some major authors have been the subjects of state surveillance, others have been employed to undertake secret work, and a few managed to combine both roles at the same time. This is an issue that has come into particular focus over the past decade, with the declassification of a range of previously restricted files from Britain's intelligence and propaganda agencies (mainly covering the period from the early twentieth century through to the early stages of the Cold War). These files have revealed not only the extent of the dossiers compiled on key individuals and organisations, but also other aspects of how the secret state interacted with British culture during the twentieth century, ranging from the censorship of films to the recruitment of authors as covert propagandists.

In this paper, I shall talk about the resources that have recently become available in the National Archives, discuss some of the more interesting documents and issues that have emerged from these files, and speculate on the potential for future research.

 James Smith is a lecturer in English Studies at Durham, and his book British Writers and MI5 Surveillance, 1930-1960, will be appearing soon.

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