Anglo-Finnish academic and specialist in modern Gibraltarian literature Professor John Stotesbury of the University of Eastern Finland
Gibraltarian writers discussed at major conference in Italy
On the first day of the conference, AngloFinnish academic and specialist in modern Gibraltarian literature Professor John Stotesbury of the University of Eastern Finland, delivered a paper on contemporary Gibraltarian writers. The paper entitled Locating a Post-Saidean Literary Identity through Contemporary Gibraltarian Anglophone Literary Discourse explored the recent surge in Anglophone Gibraltarian literary discourse, and focused mainly on the work of Gibraltarian expatriate writer M. G. Sanchez, and the writings of Paco Oliva, Mary Chiappe and Sam Benady. “I’ve long worked in the field of postcolonial literatures in English — in fact, I think I must have been one of the first university lecturers in any English Department at a Finnish university to consider the possibility of researching and teaching in the field, rather than the traditional UK-Irish and American texts that had become so familiar over the years. That was in 1978-79, and of course the field has become mainstream since then,” he explains. Professor Stotesbury first visited Gibraltar in October 2011 with his wife Hilkka. They were especially struck by the superficial ‘Englishness’ of what might be called Gibraltar’s ‘street-furniture’ — but the sight of a large and handsome ape sitting atop the post-box near the Trafalgar Cemetery soon put paid to that initial impression! “It was not until I visited Gibraltar in October 2011 that I realised that, as in Malta and Cyprus and other Mediterranean territories with a longstanding British connection, there must also be Gibraltarian writers working in English. Even then, however, the only properly Gibraltarian texts that I was shown in the bookstore were one or two of Mary Chiappe and Sam Benady’s admirable, co-written historical detective stories — it took a little searching on the internet to discover further titles by Mark Sanchez and by Francisco Silva,” Professor Stotesbury explains. “For creative writing to be valued, it probably has to cross borders, to speak not only to its immediate, local audience but also to have something to say that can be understood and be of value to outsiders, readers whose experience of people and places may be very different. Personally speaking, my own location is indeed very different — although born and bred on the Isle of Wight and having studied for my first degree at Edinburgh, since 1970 I’ve lived and worked in Finland. But when I first read Mark Sanchez’s narratives they certainly crossed that imaginative border; and so, too, in their different ways do the stories by the other contemporary Gibraltarian writers. They give a special kind of access to the past as well as the continuous present,” he says.
The Roma Tre University held a major conference in January entitled Cultures and Imperialisms, featuring academics from different European universities, which discussed the continuing relevance of Edward Said’s Culture and Imperialism, on the 20th anniversary of its publication. 22
GIBRALTAR MAGAZINE • FEBRUARY 2013
Published on Jan 31, 2013
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