Sport and Physical Culture in European Literature
Semmelweis University, Budapest
8-10 March, 2007
susan j. bandy, host
julian d'arcy, program chair
Susan J. Bandy (Semmelweis University)
"A 'Taste of Sunshine' and a Taste of Hungarian Sport History"
A Taste of Sunshine (A napfčny íze) is a widely-acclaimed and provocative film, epic in scope and global in nature. An English-language film with a multinational cast, the movie was filmed in Hungary, produced in Canada, and the screenplay was co-written by Israel Horowitz, an American playwright, and István Szabó, a Hungarian director. The subject of the film, however, is specifically and profoundly Hungarian: the role and fate of Jews in 20th century Hungarian history and politics and the increasingly difficult problem of Jewish assimilation in the twentieth century. The film is a sweeping story of five generations of a Jewish family, the Sonnenschein family, and is loosely divided into three periods. According to Szabó, the overarching theme of the film is identity, and sport is thus shown as a vehicle for Jewish assimilation and Hungarian identity after World War I. The film offers a window into Hungarian sport history and the development of sport in the western world in the 20th century. More over, it points to several issues concerning modern sport: sport's relationship to nation states; matters concerning ethnicity, religion, and social class; and the search for identity in and through sport. The paper will focus on these issues as they are woven into Szabó's filmic treatment of the complexities of identity in twentieth century life."]
Julian Meldon D'Arcy (University of Iceland)
"European Soccer Novel: Hans-Jřrgen Nielsen's Fotboldenglen and David Peace's The Damned United."
Association Football (soccer) is indisputably the most popular and lucrative sport in Europe, although it does not seem to have provided much inspiration for mainstream European literature (cf. baseball and football in the US). This paper attempts to show, however, that soccer can indeed provide aesthetic, psychological, social, and political subject matter for serious fiction in Europe. Nielsen's novel explores socialist and sporting ideals in the context of Danish trade union athletics, the West German Bundesliga, and the Baader-Meinhoff terrorist crisis in the fall of 1977, while Peace's very recent novel presents a fictionalised autobiography of one of the most controversial and very un-PC managers of British soccer in recent times, Brian Clough.
Jeff Hill (De Montfort University) "Sport, Ideology and Class: the Enigma of 'Tupperism.'"
This paper results from my previous work (see forthcoming Sport in History, Dec. 2006) on the fictional sport hero Alf Tupper - the 'Tough of the Track'. A series of stories about him was published in the British comics Rover and Victor from the late 1940s until the early 1990s. Earlier research focused upon the relationship between the stories and traditions of amateurism in Britain. It is felt that further exploration into 'Tupperism' is warranted, especially into the ideological significance of the stories for class relations. The present paper will offer thoughts about possible directions. The theoretical core of the paper concerns the immensely problematical issue of reception and how historians in particular might approach this through literary evidence/texts. This concern also raises the question of 'literary' and 'historical' methodology, and of where the differences (if differences there are) might reside. The Tupper stories, published by the Scottish firm of DC Thomson, were aimed at a mixed social readership but it is clear from the literary conventions, interpellations and framing devices employed that young (teenage) working-class readers were seen as the principal audience. The stories may be read as both exciting sport dramas based in athletic contest and also as moral tales about the nature of contemporary society. Whether they are 'subversive' is a matter of opinion, but unlike some fictions aimed at young adults they certainly do not assume a complacent or uncritical position on the social order. Quite how the stories were received, however, is open to conjecture and the paper will present its own comments on this matter as well as offering the issue as a subject for debate by conference participants.
Mike Huggins (St.Martin's, Lancaster)
"The Lakeland Dialect Poet, Robert Anderson, and his Images of Late 18th-century Sport"
Anderson's ballads have lots of sporting references - horse racing, wrestling, quoits, foot-ball, running, jumping, throwing and hunting ( mostly otter, badger and hare) - come up with both praise and criticism and links to hero worship and gambling and debauchery - c1802/1825. Much of his poetry was later set to music. Comparisons can be made to other contemporary poets, e.g. Burns and Clare. Plaques and memorials to Anderson can be found in and around Carlisle cathedral and his work has been celebrated in his native county at various times since his death. The question still raised is as to whether his work should be celebrated more widely and at a higher level. Melvyn (now Lord) Bragg examined this question when he wrote the foreword for a programme sold at celebrations to mark the 150th anniversary of the poet's death in 1983. Lord Bragg hit the nail on the head in noting that Anderson's 'cleaving to local dialect, local incident and local colour, means that his reputation has largely stayed put in his own area' while considering the poet's efforts still worthy of 'reclamation and rediscovery.'
Duncan R. Jamieson (Ashland University)
"The Englishman Bernard Newman, Bicycling's Most Prolific Writer"
Cycling represents one of Europe's most popular sports. Beyond the obvious races is the day to day use of the bicycle for recreation and travel. Bernard Newman (1897-1968) travelled tens of thousands of miles through Europe before and after World War Two, writing of his experiences, both to inform his readers in England of life on the continent as well as to encourage them to follow in his wheel tracks. This paper examines Newman and his place in the sport literature associated with bicycle journeying. Even though he came from an equestrian family, Bernard Newman never learned to sit a horse. Exasperated, his father bought him a bicycle. After serving as a spy in World War One, Newman went to work for the British government in the Office of Works, a position he held for the remainder of his working life, despite two government attempts to sack him for his outspoken views. In addition he followed his heart and began a writing career, publishing his first book, Round about Andorra in 1928. Following this venture, he proposed a bicycle travel book to an editor at Herbert Jenkins Publishers, who saw in addition to the travel market a potential an additional readership made up of the millions of bicycle riders in England. In the Trail of the Three Musketeers sold well, which encouraged the publisher to underwrite Newman's European travels over the next twenty years. Newman travelled through every country in Europe by bicycle, a series of wheels named George, undoubtedly in honor of England's King George V. He chose the bicycle because its slower speed allowed him the opportunity to savor the sights, sounds and people. Walking limited the territory, busses and trains limited the flexibility, automobiles signified privilege as well as separating the driver from the land and the people. Riding six to ten miles an hour, he effortlessly covered fifty or sixty miles a day, which left him ample time to explore. By travelling modestly, he demonstrated how people on restricted incomes could do it as well. Whenever possible, Newman stayed with local people or in youth hostels, which again offered connection to the society visited.
P. Louise Johnson (University of Sheffield)
"Presence Effects and Plenitude: Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht and Lilí Álvarez"
In the seductively entitled Production of Presence: What Meaning Cannot Convey (2004), Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht runs with the intuition that the centrality of the interpretative tradition in the Arts and Humanities has sidelined, even obscured, 'the possibility of a presence-based relationship with the world'. The human body, and in some respects the sporting body, is key to a reaffirmation and re-valuation of material presence in the face of an enduring and, in the twentieth-century, reinvigorated Cartesian worldview. (This interest receives a fuller celebration in Gumbrecht's In Praise of Athletic Beauty, 2006.) Lilí Álvarez (1905-1998) was a three times Wimbledon finalist in the 1920s and a gifted all-round sportswoman. In 1946 she published Plenitud, a Spanish translation of Jean Giraudoux's Le Sport (1924; republished 1928), preceded by a very personal meditation on the nature and place of sport. Her 'credo' seems to anticipate important sections of Gumbrecht's trajectory. Both aspire to a harmony that results momentarily from presence effects, within the context of an oscillation between presence and meaning effects (Gumbrecht) or a balance between the physical, mental and spiritual (Álvarez). Gumbrecht's starting point derives from academic unease, while Álvarez's is essentially religious: both are grounded in the body and aspire to an elusive endpoint which is little short of a paradigm shift. This paper examines the points of contact between the two writers and proposes, tentatively, that presence effects and 'plenitude' might radically alter the ways in which we approach the sporting experience through language.
Mike McGuinness (University of Teeside)
"Fish and Chips as Training Food? Evidence from British Post-War Boy's Comics"
Comic sales in Britain were at their height after the Second World War until the 1970s. Those specifically targeted at boys had the three main ingredients of war, adventure and sport with a number of sporting characters having a particular place in the minds of readers. Specifically they are Alf Tupper ('The Tough of the Track'), William Wilson ('The Great Wilson' or 'Wilson of the Wizard') and Roy Race ('Roy of the Rovers'). These had major influences on young adolescents, particularly their lifestyles. The aim of this paper/presentation is to look at the methods employed by the sporting heroes above in relation to their training and diet and to identify some of the characteristics that make them so special. Much of it would be seen as eccentric today and would not particularly fit into training regimes of the modern athlete. Existing purely on berries, nuts, spring water, etc and sleeping outside as in the case of William Wilson or surviving on a diet of fish and chips as with Alf Tupper requires some investigation. Equally their strength of character, as with Roy Race, and mental toughness is worth further consideration. To what extent is it possible to suggest that their methods have some scientific validity and are not merely fantasy?
Christopher J. Mack (State University of New York, Oswego)
"Sport, Energy, and the Body in Theodor Heinrich Mayer's Schnelligkeit"
In his novella, Schnelligkeit (Speed), the Austrian writer Theodor Heinrich Mayer (1884-1949) offered an extremely illuminating tale of Paul Dittreich and his attempt to transform his body and transcend human limits through the use of sport. Appearing in 1920, Mayer's work is an interesting one because it draws upon and amplifies so many contemporary concerns regarding modernity, sport, the body, and the limits of human performance. Through Paul Dittreich, Mayer develops the notion that modern human beings are enmeshed in a seemingly endless cycle of development and transformation that emphasizes the constant testing of boundaries and the need for ever increasing human performance. In Dittreich's case, sport is the means of training the body and extending human performance in an effort to somehow not only transcend personal limitations, but also break the endless push for performance. Dittreich, in short, longs for not only extraordinary accomplishment and record-breaking results, he also desires satisfaction and ultimately, peace, through his athletic achievements. To secure his aims and satisfy his ambitions, Dittreich not only trained his body and honed his athletic skills, he also employed the latest innovations in medical, scientific, and psychological research. Thus, Mayer revealed in the story not only how the aims of the athlete had changed due to the press of modernity, but also how classical views of the body had been transformed by the clinical gaze of modern science and medicine. Finally, the paper will discuss how Mayer's aesthetic vision similarly rejected classical notions of the body and instead embraced one very much akin to that of the Futurists as developed in the work of Umberto Boccioni and Filippo Marinetti. Rather than merely flesh and blood, for Mayer the body is either a machine or an energy field, capable of both incredible acts of endurance and performance. Thus, an examination of Theodor Heinrich Mayer's, "Schnelligkeit", offers an enlightening perspective on how changing conceptions of the body and sport impacted not only the work of one minor Austrian author, but the broader understanding of sport and its relationship to German and European culture.
Győző Molnár (North East Wales Institute of Higher Education, Wrexham)
"Preliminary Observations on Employing Sport Autobiographies in Social Research - Ferenc Puskas: Captain of Hungary?"
Documentary evidence, which is not produced for the purpose of comparison and inference and can consist of newspaper articles, reports, official statistic, diaries and autobiographies, is a salient adjunct to social research and is used to prove, invent or reinterpret theory (Scott, 1990). Although it is widely recognised that documentary sources are central to social scientists, methodological discussion devoted to this topic is not extensive (May, 2001). While methodological concerns often target the collection and processing of solicited primary evidence, the area of documentary evidence has been suffering from neglect (Bryan, 2001 & 2004). This is due to the tendency of sociologists relying on contemporary and historical, solicited evidence that forms the empirical foundation of social inquiry. Therefore, I address the importance of discussing some of the methodological aspects of using autobiographies (i.e., secondary, public, unsolicited, or naturally occurring, life-course documents) in social research. In so doing, I borrow four fundamental concepts from Scott (1990) to outline issues that should be considered when employing and interpreting autobiographies in research. These are: authenticity, credibility, representativeness and meaning, which will be considered via the only autobiography of Ferenc Puskas, titled: 'Captain of Hungary', aiming to prove that it was not written by Puskas himself.
Tim Morris (University of Texas, Arlington)
"Transatlantic and Transgeneric: Loďc Wacquant's Body & Soul as Literary Text"
Wacquant's book is an assemblage of three different essays: the first a long sociological analysis, heavily theoretical in nature, of a boxing gym in Chicago. The second essay is a 'thick description' of a single night's card of professional boxing. The third is a personal essay about the author's own bout as a Golden Gloves contestant. Wacquant took to boxing as a way of establishing himself as a participant-observer for the purpose of doing urban fieldwork. He is white and French; his fellow boxers were all black Americans. The most interesting aspect of the text for literary analysis is its reiteration of the same themes from three different generic perspectives (while maintaining the same first-person narrator in each). It's the rare 'personal-academic' text that vies for literary status without abandoning disciplinary conventions and becoming 'mere' creative non-fiction.
Eric Solomon (San Francisco State University) "International Sport Narrative."
I will give a paper on why baseball alone of sports is an American art form, a narrative one, with a particular focus on the game as a cultural introduction for Europeans.
Mauro Valenciano (Barcelona, Spain)
"A Coach's Diary"
As a newcomer to this academic field, I have not read as much sport literature as many of you, however, I have had many experiences, and I will put myself as an expert in sports narratives. Firstly, I had a long career as a coach. Regarding sports narratives, I often tell the story of my coaching career to myself. Secondly, I am an unmerciful reader of stories about coaching. The stories include those told by the coaches themselves (especially the ones written by basketball championship coach Phil Jackson), those told by the players (for example, Steve Alford as a former player for Indiana University and USA Basketball under the strict glance of Bobby Knight), and also, with perhaps more creative talent, those stories by great sportswriters including those I most admire: John Feinstein, Harvey Araton, L. Jon Wertheim, Jack McCallum. Further one should not forget Pete Axthelm's The City Game and John McPhee's A Sense of Where You Are, which were some of the best early sports writing. Thirdly, as a free-lance sports writer - whatever the subject or style - I am fond of telling sports stories, my own or the stories of others. I will present the diary that I kept as a professional coach for approximately four years.
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