SOU’s Distinguished Lecture Series Continues Nov. 9 with Professor Diana Maltz

Southern Oregon University English and Writing Professor Diana Maltz will continue SOU's Insights: Distinguished Lecture Series with a talk on Nov. 9.Photo courtesy of Southern Oregon University

(Ashland, Ore.) — As part of Southern Oregon University’s Insights: Distinguished Lecture Series, English and Writing professor Diana Maltz, will give a talk Nov. 9 about a cultural group in England—known as the Fellowship of New Life—that pursued peace, environmentalism and equality in the 1890s.

President Mary Cullinan initiated the lecture series last year to highlight the work of SOU faculty.

“Our faculty are doing outstanding scholarship and creative activity in every field,” she said. “I very much want our community and our campus to gain insight into the work being done at SOU.”

Maltz will review writings by novelists who participated in the rural colonies, as well as satires by writers who simply found New Life initiatives impractical and their practitioners self-important and deluded.Their ideals may be recognizable in today’s society, but they’ve been in existence for much longer. Many members of the Fellowship of New Life went back to the land, embraced pacifism, vegetarianism, socialism, outdoor co-education for their children, human rights, votes for women and the renunciation of hired servants.

“They insisted that living ethically must begin with our daily practices,” said Maltz. “They anticipated that the compassion and brotherliness they modeled would spread beyond their circle and revolutionize all of society.”

The Fellowship of New Life’s adherents comprised some of the most influential thinkers of the end of the century, including the gay rights activist Edward Carpenter, the feminist novelist Olive Schreiner and the animal rights advocate Henry Salt.

They emphasized that any widespread economic or social change must begin with an ethical reawakening at the level of the individual, Maltz explained.

“These men and women were as self-reflective as they were idealistic. In their writings, they confessed their efforts and errors, expressing their earnest desires for a better society,” Maltz said.

Along the way, Maltz will also highlight unexpected commonalities between this movement for “simplification” and the English Aesthetic Movement, whose apostle, Oscar Wilde, had prescribed ways of living, dressing and furnishing one’s home.

A professor of English and writing at Southern Oregon University since 1999,

Maltz, PhD, is a specialist in late-Victorian literature and culture. She has received postdoctoral research fellowships from the Ahmanson-Getty Foundation and the Paul Mellon Centre in London. In 2008, she was selected to attend a five-week NEH Summer Seminar at UCLA’s rare books archive, the William Andrews Clark Memorial Library.

In addition to her book, “British Aestheticism and the Urban Working Classes: Beauty for the People, 1870-1914,” Maltz has published work in a variety of professional journals and essay collections. Her articles on Victorian counterculture have appeared in Victorian Literature and Culture and Journal of Victorian Culture.

Her talk begins at 7 p.m., Nov. 9, in Meese Auditorium. It is free and open to the public. A reception will immediately follow in the Visual Arts Center lobby.

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