Allan Hepburn, the James McGill Professor of Twentieth-Century Literature at McGill University, will be giving a talk entitled “The Novel and the Parish: Barbara Pym’s Parochialism.” He is the author of Intrigue: Espionage and Culture and Enchanted Objects: Visual Art in Contemporary Literature. In addition to two essay collections—one about inheritance and narrative fiction, the other about citizenship and rights in twentieth-century novels—he has edited four volumes of archival and little-known works by Elizabeth Bowen. He co-edits the “Oxford Mid-Century Series” at Oxford University Press.
"More often than not, British novels take their shape from activities within Anglican parishes. The parish sets limits on who belongs to a community and who does not, who abides by Christian precepts and who spurns them. In the novels that she published between 1950 and 1961, Barbara Pym offers an anthropology of religion in England, particularly with reference to the modernization of the church and the sudden boom in church-building that happened in the postwar years. Notwithstanding the ecumenical impulse that animated mid-century discussions about the future of the Church of England, the church hierarchy excluded women and queer men on principle. While taking into account the spiritual dimensions of her characters, especially in Excellent Women (1952), Jane and Prudence (1953), and A Glass of Blessings (1958), Pym wonders whether the church at mid-century is actively or actually an inclusive community”
Prof. Hepburn’s talk is sponsored by the Department of English, the Program of Liberal Studies, and the Nanovic Institute for European Studies.