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Call for Papers

Conference: Doris Lessing at 100: The Writer's Quest

12th-14th September 2019

UEA Julian Study Centre and Sainsbury Centre 

The School of Literature, Drama and Creative Writing at UEA hosted an international conference to mark the centenary of Lessing's birth.

Proposals were sought for 20 minute papers, panels, roundtables, and creative contributions. The closing date was 30th April 2019.  See programme for the line up of papers.  


Original Call for Papers

Doris Lessing is one of the most widely-read and culturally important writers of the twentieth century, yet her academic reputation does not reflect this fact. On the occasion of her centenary, this conference proposed a new critical exploration of the life and work of a complex and multifaceted writer, presenting an opportunity to rethink her contribution to modern literature. It also sought to establish Lessing as a central figure in twentieth-century literature who traverses a range of forms, styles, periodising categories, genres, political orientations, and readerships.

The conference took place at the University of East Anglia, an institution that Lessing had a strong connection with, and to which she donated her extensive personal papers

The event coincided with an exhibition dedicated to Lessing's life and work in the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts at UEA, which saw letters, manuscripts and personal effects on public display for the first time. For information about the exhibition, please contact the Archivist, Justine Mann

Keynote speakers:

*Patrick French (Lessing’s official biographer) in conversation with Professor Christopher Bigsby (UEA)

Dr. Nick Hubble (Brunel University)

Professor Roberta Rubenstein (American University, Washington).

*Patrick French was unable to attend but we were delighted that the author, Margaret Drabble, a close friend and colleague of Lessing, was able to attend in his place. 

Topics included:

  • Lessing’s relationship to questions of gender, feminism and women’s liberation
  • Lessing's politics: Communism, Anti-Communism and the New Left
  • Lessing and the theory of the novel: realism and/or experimentalism in Lessing’s work
  • Lessing as short story writer / poet / playwright
  • Science fiction
  • Sufism / religion
  • Lessing and Africa: from the colonial to the postcolonial
  • Archives: Lessing's papers, her interest in archives
  • Reception and readership
  • Lessing in translation (the BCLT at UEA has an extensive archive of translations: contact the conference organisers if you would like to consult this)
  • Teaching Lessing
  • Lessing’s influence


Conference Organisers

Dr. Matthew Taunton (UEA)

Dr. Nonia Williams (UEA)