Owen & France

Monday 5 November – Tuesday 6 November 2018
University of Valenciennes.

In partnership with the Oxford Centre for Life-Writing conference Wilfred Owen and Beyond, the University of Valenciennes will host an interdisciplinary two-day conference near the Sambre and Oise canal, in the North of France.

When the war broke out, Owen was in France: he was teaching English in a Berlitz school in Bordeaux and had spent time in the Pyrenees in his youth. At the outbreak of the war he observed the development of the events with interest, but from a distance. He enlisted in October 1915 and arrived in the Somme in January 1917. Although his first letter to his mother betrays his idealism (“There is a fine heroic feeling about being in France”), his views on the war soon changed in the trenches. After a sojourn at Craiglockhart, a military hospital for shell-shocked soldiers where he met Sassoon, he went back to the Front in 1918. There he was tragically killed in the north of France, on November 4th 1918, one week before the armistice.


The combination of literature, biographical approaches, history, local history, translation, and the visual arts is designed to foster interdisciplinary collaboration and cross-cultural approaches. This conference will explore and privilege the link between Owen and France, and thus look at his oeuvre not only beyond his life but also beyond England.


(This is the thing they know and never speak,
That England one by one had fled to France,
Not many elsewhere now, save under France)

“Smile, Smile, Smile”, ll. 21-3