Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Mapping the Territory

In recent years the Library of Wales has been reprinting forgotten or overlooked Welsh literary works. Previously, on this blog, I have stated that this forms part of a wider process of cultural reclamation - a phenomenon that occurred (and continues to do so) in the aftermath of Devolution. A kind of Welsh cultural stock take. In addition, I suggested that the next stage of the process would inevitably focus on what has been unearthed - ie the 'critical phase'.

With this in mind, Mapping the Territory (edited by Katie Gramich), may well be a milestone publication in the re-evaluation of our literary heritage. It is a collection of essays that specifically dissects works taken from Wales's new literary canon (in English). This broadening of the canon is, I think, a great leap forward for Welsh literary criticism. Too often in the past the critical focus in Wales has been overly narrow, concentrating on too few writers - Dylan and RS Thomas, in particular.

Writers covered in Mapping the Territory include Rhys Davies, Bernice Rubens, Dorothy Edwards, Alun Lewis and Ron Berry, amongst others. Landscapes range from Porthcawl to perennially overlooked north east Wales. Approaches vary from postcolonial viewpoints to body-centred analyses. In Laura Wainwright's essay, A Hell of a Howl, the distorted Rhondda milieu evident in Gwyn Thomas's The Dark Philosophers is imaginatively compared to German Expressionist art.

I would like to see much more of this kind of cross-medium cultural criticism in Wales. Song lyrics, television programmes, YouTube clips etc should all be up for critical grabs as part of an even wider, invigorated Welsh cultural discourse. This, I believe, is the future. Mapping the Territory, however, is an exciting and significant development in the world of Welsh literary criticism, and worth investigating if you have a broader interest in Welsh culture