University of Oxford to Host PEN Archive Conference

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Margaret Atwood at the Frankfurt Book Fair, 2017.

As readers of FB&C will know from our current issue, PEN celebrated its centennial in 2021. As part of the ongoing look at the history of this prominent literary organization, the Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities at the University of Oxford is hosting a two-day workshop in February called Opening the PEN Archive: 1921-2021:

Bringing together researchers and writers, archival evidence and lived experience, it aims to address a range of questions about PEN’s past, present, and future. How has it worked to define legal, political, and cultural understandings of rights, particularly the right to free expression? What were, and are, the tensions between national centres and the universalist aspirations informing its international charters? What kind of literary activism did and does PEN practise and how has it intervened in debates about censorship, free expression, and linguistic rights within and beyond state structures? And, not least, what significance has it had for writers facing terror, repression, and worse?

Featured speakers include Canadian author Margaret Atwood, winner of the PEN Center USA Lifetime Achievement Award; Nigerian author Noo Saro-Wiwa, daughter of the executed activist Ken Saro-Wiwa; and Indian author Perumal Murugan, one of the vice-presidents of PEN International.