Raymond Williams has been described as working in the interstices of inter-disciplinarity, the “intellectual ‘border country’”, grappling with the complexities of modernity and the place of language, culture and education within it. The challenge for him was of bringing together his own formative experience in the South Wales coalfields, and his subsequent period as a student and as a lecturer, at Cambridge University, which he found both exhilarating and frustratingly narrow in its concept of culture. Both experiences were a spur to his work in developing Cultural Studies, which saw a coming together of a range of disciplines – including history, sociology and literature – to explore human experience, for all people, and not only an elite.
Sharon Clancy and Derek Tatton will argue that Williams acted as a public intellectual for a mid-to-late twentieth century audience and that re-examining his approach to culture is vital at this juncture in British history as a means of reclaiming participatory democracy and shared cultural understanding.
Dr Sharon Clancy is a Senior Research Fellow at the University of Nottingham in Adult Education and Chair of the Raymond Williams Foundation. She was Head of Community Engagement at the University of Nottingham between 2007 and 2013 and was head of Mansfield Council for Voluntary Services for seven years prior to that.
Dr Derek Tatton is the former Raymond Williams Foundation Administrator and is former Chair of the Raymond Williams Society. He was Principal of Wedgwood Memorial College, one of the pioneering post-war residential colleges up to his retirement in 2003. Derek’s PhD, supervised by Williams himself, explored the tension between political commitment and academic neutrality within the WEA.
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