John Glyn Scholars’ Society Lecture: Anthony McGowan

We were delighted to welcome celebrated author Anthony McGowan to give the latest John Glyn Society Lecture, exploring the boundaries between truth, fiction and lies. Anthony McGowan is a highly successful and critically acclaimed author of fiction for children, young adults and adults. He won the 2020 Carnegie Medal for his book for young adults, Lark, as well as the 2006 BookTrust Teenage Prize and the 2007 Catalyst Award.

Edith, Year 13, reviewed the talk:

“Truth, Fiction, Lies” by Carnegie Medal winning author, Anthony McGowan 

The John Glyn Society was lucky enough to welcome award-winning writer, Anthony McGowan, to Colfe’s School. In his lecture, “Truth, Fiction, Lies”, he explored the question, “Is truth an aesthetic quality?”

McGowan began to unravel this question by referencing Roland Barthes’ critique of Honoré de Balzac’s work. Balzac’s work is often compared to that of Charles Dickens, with many readers saying they feel able to draw a detailed map of Paris and London, respectively, after reading their works.  Barthes studied Balzac’s work extensively, recognising that Balzac did not reference contemporary society’s context, but built his work from the accumulated work of others. In contrast, Dickens, an avid traveller, wrote novels inspired by his own experiences. This highlighted a very interesting dilemma; how can an artist tell the truth if they are just referencing other forms of art? Indeed, as McGowan posited in his talk; how important is truth to a story?

Bringing this question to life for the audience, McGowan told us two stories; one true and one false, but asked the audience to judge which was the true one. This proved to be a very interesting exercise as most of the audience believed the false story to be the true one. How enlightening – the false story was the more shocking and more emotive one, but was ultimately also the false one. Truth, therefore, did not affect that story’s aesthetic quality.

Ultimately, through illustration and participation, McGowan brought to life this interesting dilemma, making it relevant for each member of the audience. And I know that I, for one, will be contemplating it for a long time to come.

Edith Y13

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