British Council Literature Seminar in Berlin 2018 Writing Gender: Sexuality, Feminism and Masculinity 25 – 27 January

image of authors and author chair Bernadine Evaristo

Authors and Author Chair at British Council Seminar
With kind permission of the British Council

Same chair, same location, same organisers. Still – hot!

Jessica Fischer enjoys the readings and discussions with authors from the UK at the British Council Literature Seminar and feels fortified by the liberating energy that this event generated in all its diversity.

The British Council invited writers and readers, professionals and non-professionals to discuss ‘Writing Gender and Sexuality’ on the 33rd 3-day Literature Seminar. In many ways, this year’s event complemented last year’s. The focus shifted from national identities to issues of gender and sexuality. Nevertheless, the spirit of the previous seminar entitled ‘Diverse Voices, New Directions’ was very much present in the readings, workshops and debates this time. The Werkstatt der Kulturen (Berlin) provided a suitable setting for this theme. Morover, Professor Bernardine Evaristo MBE successfully chaired the event there and guaranteed ‘diversity’ a forum again.

With Juno Dawson, Kerry Hudson, Nick Makoha, Monique Roffey, Paul McVeigh and Sabrina Mahfouz, she gathered authors on stage who spoke from different corners of the spectrum in terms of gender, genre and geography.  The broader topic intersected with questions of class, age, categorisation, politics, language, and the politics of language. They voiced their opinions on the importance of imagination, on writing in connection to personal developments or the role of a (public) access to fiction as well as non-fiction in the formation and transformation of identities. In many of the interviews and panel discussions, the authors shared subjective stories about sex and gender, about their way into writing and publishing, about how the private affects the political and vice versa.

Some participants were disappointed that after years of activism and active teaching in the field of feminism and gender studies, they still have to clarify concepts such as ‘queer’ or ‘transgender’, fight patriarchy and claim women’s rights. It sounded as if they perceived the BritLitBerlin 2018 as a proof of their failure. To me, this year’s literature seminar showed how central it stays to challenge existing forms of discrimination. Every. Single. Day. How apt “my work is a notebook” (comment by Sabrina Mahfouz) sounds in the light of the unfinished yet urgently needed struggle. And how exciting, political, colourful, liberating, confusing, empowering and contagious challenging prose, poetry and protest can be.

Jessica Fischer, Berlin

Jessica Fischer is a lecturer and researcher at the Centre for British Studies, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin