Swansea academic invited to deliver prestigious lecture at Hay Festival
A research professor at Swansea University has been asked to present this year's Raymond Williams Memorial Lecture at the Guardian Hay Festival in Hay-on-Wye, on May 26.
Professor Dai Smith (pictured), who holds the Raymond Williams Chair in Cultural History in the School of Arts, has recently published a biography of Raymond Williams, widely held to be one of the one of the most influential socialist writers and thinkers in post-war Britain.
Raymond Williams introduced radical new approaches to the theory and practice of culture as a social dynamic and is regarded as one of the last, great male intellectual figures of the 20th Century.
Professor Smith said: "Williams is unquestionably Wales' major intellectual figure of the 20th Century. By end of the 1950s he had broken down the academic barriers between different forms of study, such as literary criticism and sociology.
"He looked at how films, television, the press and even advertisements contribute to the notion of a "whole culture", and he was the first person to remove the distinction between high and low culture.
"In doing so, he established new ways of critiquing the centuries old perception of culture in relation to industrialisation and effectively introduced a new academic field.
"That we have degrees in cultural studies, cultural history and even media studies nowadays owes a great deal to Raymond Williams."
Williams (pictured) always felt he was a writer first and foremost. He wrote plays, short stories and televisions scripts and published six novels in his lifetime. His 1960 novel, Border Country is widely held to be one of the masterpieces of 20th Century British fiction.
The publication of Professor Smith's book, Raymond Williams, a warrior's tale, coincides with the 20th anniversary of Williams' death and the 50th anniversary since the publication of Culture and society, the work that brought Williams to wide public attention.
"There are plenty of reasons to be celebrating Raymond Williams this year," said Professor Smith, "and not least because of his continued influence and the international acclaim he still receives."
He added: "I am delighted to have had the opportunity to complete the biography at Swansea, and to feel the enormous support that I have had from the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Richard B Davies, and the University's Centre for Research into the English Literature and Language of Wales (CREW).
"Over the last decade, the Raymond Williams Society has organised Memorial Lectures delivered by such influential thinkers as Umberto Eco, Terry Eagleton, Gwyn Williams and Noam Chomsky, and I am honoured to be giving this year’s lecture at Hay."