Virginia Richter is Full Professor of Modern English Literature at the University of Bern. She holds a doctoral degree in English Literature from the University of Munich, where she also completed her habilitation on literary representations of Darwinism. She was a Visiting Fellow at the University of Kent at Canterbury and at the University of Leeds, a Visiting Professor at the University of Göttingen, and a Visiting Research Fellow at the IASH, University of Edinburgh. Her most recent publications include The Beach in Anglophone Literatures and Cultures: Reading Littoral Space, ed. with Ursula Kluwick (Ashgate 2015), a special issue of the European Journal of English Studies (EJES) on ‘Modern Creatures’, co-edited with Pieter Vermeulen (2015), and Post-Empire Imaginaries? Anglophone Literature, History, and the Demise of Empires, co-edited with Barbara Buchenau and Marijke Denger (Brill Rodopi, 2015). Currently, she is the Principal Investigator of the SNSF-funded research project The Beach in the Long Twentieth Century.
In the interwar period, seaside holidays had become accessible to more people in the United Kingdom than ever before. It was not least the unapologetic hedonism of the working classes that gave places like Blackpool and Scarborough their vibrant energy. However, a notable number of English travelogues in the 1930s depict seaside resorts as overcrowded, vulgar, debilitating, and in fact un-English. During the years in which the UK faced the rising threat of fascism, the seaside became a site where ideas of Englishness, popular culture, and masculinity came under scrutiny. In my paper, I explore these ambivalent constructions of the English seaside resort, from J. B. Priestley’s English Journey to the collection Beside the Seaside, in which women authors, including Yvonne Cloud and Kate O’Brian, celebrate the seaside as a catalyst of female agency. (VR)