Legacy: Mythology and Authenticity in the Humanities

This conference focuses on the influence of cultural ‘legacies’ within current humanities research.  By highlighting the work of postgraduates and early career researchers, this conference will examine the various ways in which ‘legacies’ are created, restructured, perpetuated and even rejected.  It will also question whether newer disciplines respond to cultural mythologies by establishing their own ‘legacy’ as a means of achieving academic authentication.

With the recent announcement of the confirmed identity of Richard III by Leicester University and the forthcoming display of his remains, the concept of legacy is incredibly timely. The last king of the Plantagenet line embodies the fact that, even having died some 527 years ago, an individual’s legacy can continue developing and being contended within the public forum.  There are numerous other examples of evolving legacies, ranging from the controversy over Faber’s choice of cover illustration for its anniversary issue of Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar to the recent film adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit

On the level of institution, moreover, there are establishments dedicated to judicious (and often political) continuation of specific cultural or national legacies. The National Trust, for example, aim to ‘to preserve and protect historic places and spaces - for ever, for everyone’ and in doing so have transformed historical landmarks into national legacies.  Their name and logo now assure historical and cultural authenticity.  The Nobel Prize, though recognizing the continual evolution and accumulation of greatness within the fields of physics, chemistry, literature, peace, medicine and economics, is an institution forged out of the physical legacy of its founder. Alfred Nobel left 94% of his fortune to the creation of a foundation and through it has enabled the perpetuation of new legacies, as the Prize has historically recognized such luminaries as Mother Teresa and the Curie family.  Figures such as Nobel or Thomas Guy also demonstrate the slow forgetting of legacy over time and its remembrance only in physical or nominative form. Guy, the founder of the famous London hospital, represents the connection between name and place. His legacy is a distinctive mark on contemporary London’s skyline but divorced, perhaps, from the realities of his historical existence.

These inherited cultural legacies are continually being redefined, rebranded and reevaluated, a cyclical pattern that challenges the ways in which we approach and define the legacies.  This brings into question the social and political significance of ‘legacy’ and its relevance within the humanities, on the level of research theme and as a lens by which to view the progression of our respective disciplines.   

Although not limited to, papers will be of interest in the following areas:

  • Does the idea of ‘legacy’ academically legitimise the more folkloric image of ‘legend’? 
  • The creation of a legend
  • The relationship between national identity and legends
  • The development of specific cultural legacies over time from the individual to the theoretical or collective. For example, Shakespeare, Dickens, King Arthur, auteur theory, postmodernism.
  • Is the underlying presence of ‘legacy’ within traditional studies necessary or restrictive? 
  • For newer disciplines can ‘legacy’ create a path to institutional validation? 
  • Or is ‘legacy’ a form of cultural baggage?
  • Should contemporary research follow these traditions with obedience or take a more iconoclastic approach? 
  • And as ‘legacy’ has the potential to influence academic research, could this also influence the ways in which library collections and exhibitions are curated? 
  • If so, does this form of cultural editing, accentuate the position of ‘legacy’ within the Arts and Humanities?


We invite papers from early career academics, post-doctoral researchers and doctoral students.  Please send a 300 word abstract for a 20 minute paper and a short biographical statement to Anna Blackwell <p11040507@myemail.dmu.ac.uk> and Elizabeth Penner <P1104042X@email.dmu.ac.uk>

Possible areas of research:

Adaptations Studies
Architectural History
Art History
Museum Studies
Textual Studies
Victorian Studies (Neo-Victorianism)
Visual and Performing Arts.