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'Let Battle Commence!': The Wesker Controversies

'Let Battle Commence!': The Wesker Controversies

Derbyshire, Henry ORCID: 0000-0002-1373-1166 (2019) 'Let Battle Commence!': The Wesker Controversies. In: Etienne, Anne and Saunders, Graham, (eds.) Arnold Wesker: Fragments and Visions. Intellect. (In Press)

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Included in Arnold Wesker’s papers as preserved at the Harry Ransom Center in Texas are three yellowing pages from editions of Challenge, a monthly periodical published by the Young Communist League, dating from 1966. The editor had asked Wesker if he would send a message of greetings to that year’s Easter March; in a short reply, and with a hint of weariness, Wesker declined to do so and added that he felt the Easter March ‘should be abandoned as a form of protest which has, for the moment, outworn its usefulness’. The first preserved page, from the issue that followed the one in which Wesker’s letter had originally appeared, is headed ‘THE WESKER CONTROVERSY’ and features three hostile responses; the second, headed ‘THE WESKER CONTROVERSY Continued’, includes three further responses, two of them hostile; and the third is a part of a page headed ‘WESKER REPLIES’, on which he responds to what he describes as ’the series of abusive, soap-box screaming letters my observations […] have provoked’. These pages give a good indication of the ease with which Wesker could find himself embroiled in acrimonious debates, and the difficulty he had extricating himself from them. ‘Wesker controversies’ were to be a recurrent feature of his career, relating both to his professional life as a playwright and to wider public affairs, so much so that by the 1990s he had become notorious in some quarters for discontent and disputation. This burgeoning reputation, bound up as it is in questions of class, cultural identity and professional etiquette, is a topic ripe for critical investigation; as I shall go on to show, Wesker’s public pronouncements and the reactions they provoked can be strongly related to his uncertain status in the cultural field, supporting Pierre Bourdieu’s observation that ‘art and cultural consumption are predisposed, consciously and deliberately or not, to fulfil a social function of legitimating social differences’.

Item Type: Book Section
Uncontrolled Keywords: Arnold Wesker, controversy
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PR English literature
Faculty / School / Research Centre / Research Group: Faculty of Liberal Arts & Sciences
Faculty of Liberal Arts & Sciences > School of Humanities & Social Sciences (HSS)
Last Modified: 27 Oct 2020 16:09

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