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Saunders Lewis under the spotlight

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Polly March Polly March | 09:53 UK time, Thursday, 8 December 2011

The work of Plaid Cymru pioneer and leading Welsh political and literary icon Saunders Lewis will be the subject of the next Richard Burton seminar at the Richard Burton Centre in Swansea.

In 1922, after returning from fighting in World War One and graduating in English from Liverpool University, Lewis joined the University of Wales, Swansea as a lecturer in Welsh.

His core Welsh nationalistic values had been heightened by his experiences fighting away at war, where he rubbed shoulders with many Irish soldiers.

Saunders Lewis

Saunders Lewis

It is this period which was seen to succinctly shape the ideas of the importance of Welsh identity he would hold dear until his death.

In 1936 he joined two other nationalists, DJ Williams and Lewis Valentine, to protest at a bombing school being established at Penyberth on the Llŷn Peninsula.

Their protest took the form of arson and when they claimed responsibility for the crime, Lewis was dismissed from his post at Swansea University. The Penyberth Three were then jailed for nine months at Wormwood Scrubs for the act.

Now, 75 years on, the Burton Centre is hosting a seminar and discussion with some of the foremost experts on the work and ideas of Saunders Lewis.

Professor Tudur Hallam from Swansea University's Academi Hywel Teifi will discuss the plays of Saunders Lewis in the light of Penyberth, with particular focus on Buchedd Garmon.

Dr Robert Rhys, also from Academi Hywel Teifi will look at the relationship between Saunders Lewis and DJ Williams, and Dr Pyrs Gruffudd, of the Department of Geography at Swansea University, will discuss the influence of landscape and territory on ideas of place and identity in the 1930s.

Dr Simon Brooks of the School of Welsh at Cardiff University will draw on the work of the Slovenian Slavoj Žižek in discussing the political philosophy of Saunders Lewis.

Each speaker will present a paper of approximately 15 minutes, followed by a discussion chaired by the director of the Richard Burton Centre, Dr. Daniel G Williams.

Dr Williams said: "75 Years since his expulsion from the University of Wales, Swansea, this is an opportunity to return to Saunders Lewis, one of the most controversial and fascinating figures of 20th century Wales.

"The act of 'The Three' still raises questions relating to ethics, justice, nation and territory, and the discussion on these themes will bring a busy season of activities at the Richard Burton Centre to a rousing finale."

In 1962 Lewis gave a lecture on BBC radio entitled Tynged Yr Iaith (The Fate of the Language). He predicted the extinction of the Welsh language and declared that it would die unless revolutionary methods were used to defend it.

The lecture led to the foundation of Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg (the Welsh Language Society).

The event will be held on Monday 12 December from 4-6pm in Conference Room (B03), Ground Floor, Callaghan Building, Swansea University.

Admission is free and everyone is welcome. It is a Welsh language event, with simultaneous translation into English.


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