FAH-DENG Guest Lecture: “Journey to a War: W.H. Auden and Christopher Isherwood in China” by Prof. Andrew Biswell, Manchester Metropolitan University, United Kingdom


20 Sep 2016





Auden and Isherwood visited Hong Kong, Macau and China in 1938 to gather material for a non-fiction book, Journey to a War (1939). The published edition features a travelogue, photographs and a sonnet sequence with a long verse commentary. This paper, based on archival research, offers a new consideration of the manuscript drafts and notebooks out of which the book was written. Unpublished texts from the notebooks are discussed, along with the critical reception of the book.

Auden’s sonnets, a historically-informed response to the Sino-Japanese war, are among his most political poems. Manuscript evidence shows that the sonnets were heavily revised over an extended period of time, and Auden continued to rewrite the ‘Sonnets from China’ until the end of his life. Isherwood, by contrast, censored his travel diary but made no further changes to his text after publication. This enigmatic book represents a sustained act of self-fashioning and self-concealment on the part of both authors.



Andrew Biswell is the Professor of Modern Literature at Manchester Metropolitan University. He has taught English and creative writing at the university since 2003. His academic work is spread across a variety of media. These include book publications with academic and commercial publishers, public exhibitions, broadcasting for television and radio networks, writing articles for newspapers and literary journals, and electronic publication of research materials. Prof. Biswell is author of the critically acclaimed The Real Life of Anthony Burgess, the first comprehensive biography on the life of English novelist, critic, and composer Anthony Burgess. He is the editor and annotator of an enhanced digital edition of A Clockwork Orange: The Restored Text. Prof. Biswell’s current projects include an edition of the works of Anthony Burgess for Manchester University Press, and a book about British writers of the 1930s.


All are welcome




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