Centre for Studies in Literature

John Burnside symposium 2014

15th November 2014, University of Portsmouth

The trick and the beauty of language is that it seems to order the whole universe, misleading us into believing that we live in sight of a rational space, a possible harmony

(John Burnside, The Dumb House).


Invited speakers included:

  • John Burnside 
  • Sebastian Groes (University of Roehampton) 
  • Julian Wolfreys (University of Portsmouth) 
John Burnside

About the Symposium

Celebrated as both a poet and a novelist, John Burnside is one of Britain’s leading contemporary writers. He is the winner of numerous awards, including the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize, the Whitbread Poetry Prize, the Petrarca Preis, the T.S. Eliot Prize, the Forward Poetry Prize, and the James Tait Memorial Prize. This one-day event was the first symposium dedicated to his work, offering the chance for researchers to discuss and reflect upon Burnside’s writing and its place within contemporary literature more widely. The day concluded with John giving a public reading and participating in a Q&A.

Papers and panels covered aspects of Burnside’s work including:

  • Being, language, space and place; 
  • The environment and eco-critical perspectives and approaches; 
  • Human/non-human relations, life forms and animals; 
  • Burnside’s use of, and relationship to, the other arts; 
  • Loss, longing, love, sex and violence; 
  • Contemporary Scottish and/or British writing; 
  • Nonfiction writing, memoirs; father-son relations, childhood and adulthood; 
  • The relationship between Burnside’s poetry, fiction and/or nonfiction writing. 

Selected papers from the symposium will be put forward for consideration for a volume on the work of John Burnside as part of Bloomsbury Academic’s Contemporary Critical Perspectives series.

Download the Burnside 2014 ProgrammeBurnside 2014 Programme‌. 


Ben Davies, Centre for Studies in Literature, University of Portsmouth.
Email: Ben.Davies@port.ac.uk