Report on The Interface Between British Contemporary Black and Jewish Cultures: A Symposium

David Brauner writes:

On 4th November 2016 a symposium on ‘The Interface Between British Contemporary Black and Jewish Cultures’ was held at the University of Reading. The event was sponsored by the ‘British Jewish: Contemporary Cultures’ AHRC network and the ‘Identities’ research group at Reading. It also marked the launch of a large interdisciplinary research project based at Reading, led by Professor David Brauner, entitled ‘Towards a British “Black-Jewish Imaginary”: The Interface Between British Black and Jewish Literature, Art and Culture 1945-2015’.

David Brauner

The symposium was divided into four sessions: a panel on ‘Contemporary Fiction’ in the morning; a panel on ‘Shifting Identities’ after lunch; a panel on Zadie Smith after a break from coffee; and finally a talk by the playwright, theatre director and academic, Julia Pascal. Joining four speakers from Reading – Nicola Abram, David Brauner and Nicole King from the Department of English Literature, and Rachel Garfield from the Department of Art – were speakers from all over the UK and from Germany and Poland. In addition to the presentations, there was much intensive discussion and debate and the end of the day found everyone exhausted but stimulated and inspired to continue the conversations beyond the symposium.

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CIRCL seminars – starting next week!

30th November 2016 – please note that this CIRCL seminar will run at a different time than usual! It will start at 2 pm and run to 3 pm: CIRCL Visiting Scholar Xu Dan will speak about: Discipline and Deviation: Representations of Children in Chinese Revolutionary Story Picture Books, the 1970s

7th December 2016 2016, at the usual time of 1 pm, Professor Zhu Ziqiang, Professor of the College of Literature & Journalism of Ocean University of China and Head of the Children Literature Institute, will speak about Key Issues in Contemporary Chinese Children’s Literature Theories

18th January 2017, at the usual time of 1 pm, Dr Chris Milson, former CIRCL BA, MA and PhD student, will be speaking on Reading Funny Words: Sex, Gender and Language in Silverberg and Smyth’s ‘Sex is a Funny Word’

All these seminars will be in room HUMSS 110.

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JQ Wingate Prize

The 2017 JQ Wingate Prize has generated an innovative and diverse long list of fiction and non-fiction from authors around the world, as it marks its 40th anniversary. The 14-strong list includes six novels as well as a multi-faceted mix of histories, memoirs and biographies, which throw new light on past and present events. Established in 1977, the annual prize, worth £4,000 and run in association with JW3, is awarded to the best book, fiction or non-fiction, to translate the idea of Jewishness to the general reader. Professor Bryan Cheyette is the chair of the judges this year and has written a blog for the Times Literary Supplement on how he and his fellow judges managed to choose fourteen out of 70 books for the long list.


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Tony Watkins lecture – all welcome!

A reminder that you are all warmly welcome at

The Annual Tony Watkins Lecture on Children’s Literature, Culture, Media for 2016

Assistant Professor Helle Strandgaard Jensen from the Department of History, University of Aarhus in Denmark, expert on Scandinavian and transcultural children’s media, will be speaking on:

‘Always Shiny and New? Historical Perspectives on the Politics of Children’s Media Consumption’

on Thursday, November 24th 2016 at 6 pm in HUMSS G25. All welcome!

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The Digital Life of Decorated Books

Archives and texts


Please join us for the next Archives & Texts seminar: Thursday 1st December, 1-2pm in Humss G25, where Dr Hazel Wilkinson (JRF, Cambridge and visiting fellow at the Bodleian) will be introducing the newly launched Fleuron

With wine and mince pies!


‘The Digital Life of Decorated Books”

Throughout the hand press period the pages of printed books and ephemera were far more elaborately decorated than their modern counterparts. Printers’ ornaments were a staple of the printing house until they fell out of fashion in the late eighteenth century. Hand cut and cast blocks were used alongside ornamental type to decorate title pages, headings, blank spaces, and initial letters. Printers’ ornaments ranged from small, geometric shapes to large and elaborate depictions of landscapes, dramatised scenes, objects, and mythical and exotic creatures. In both literary criticism and art history, printers’ ornaments have fallen through the gap between the categories of “illustration” and “text”. Almost never reproduced in critical editions, their important mediation of the reader’s experience of the text has been all but forgotten, and a treasure trove of miniature works of art and graphic design has been neglected.

In this talk, Hazel Wilkinson will introduce a new online resource called Fleuron, a database of more than 15 million eighteenth-century printers’ ornaments. The talk will include a demonstration of Fleuron, and an explanation of the methodology behind its creation, followed by a discussion of the multi-disciplinary research questions we will be able to ask with Fleuron. The aim of the talk is to show that mass digitisation—often seen as the enemy of print—is creating new ways of creatively re-connecting with the material features of historical books.


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This year, the Department of English Literature ran its first public creative writing competition, as part of the Reading Literature Festival and Reading Year of Culture. With the theme of ‘My Reading’, we invited 11 to 14 year olds from the local area to tell us what this town means to them.

Creative writing prize winners

Prize-winners L-R: Millie Phillips (Gillotts School), Tamanna Steven (The Holt School), Niyati Amin (The Holt School), Edward Day (Gillotts School).


We received over 250 entries, taking the form of poetry, short stories, and creative non-fiction. Our judges – prize-winning poet and novelist Peter Robinson, and children’s author Wendy Meddour – were impressed by the range of submissions, and were in agreement about our winners.

We awarded three runners-up prizes of book vouchers and a quiz book from local publisher Two Rivers Press:

Niyati Amin (The Holt School, Wokingham) wrote a spooky short story about a ghostly progress through Reading. Judges wrote: “This chilling story is hugely atmospheric and carefully constructed. A very impressive piece of work.”

Edward Day (Gillott’s School, Henley) wrote a prose piece which imagines a raindrop’s journey through Reading. Judges wrote: “A ‘splatting’ rain drop is such an original idea for a narrator, and this young writer does it so well. This is a beautifully written piece, full of original imagery, and a structure that offers an endless potential for storytelling. Where will the rain drop go next?”

Millie Phillips (Gillott’s School, Henley) wrote a fictional diary by George Blackall Simmonds called ‘The Iron Lion’. Judges said: “This well-written piece is creative and economical in its structure. It captures the distinctive voice of its central character beautifully.”


The winner was Tamanna Steven (The Holt School, Wokingham) for a piece about Reading Gaol written in two different voices, one from the present and one from the past. Judges said:  “This was a very sophisticated entry, full of shifts in register and changes of narrative style. Some of the text was so convincingly written that it was as though the words had been lifted directly from plaques in Reading Gaol! Incredibly believable. A clever piece of work that has clearly been produced by a very talented writer.” Tamanna received an engraved trophy, as well as book vouchers and a book by Two Rivers Press.


The winners were presented with their prizes by T.S. Eliot Prize-winning poet Alice Oswald, at the newly reopened Museum of English Rural Life, on Friday 4 November. Oswald then went on to mention Edward’s poem during her poetry reading for the 2016 Finzi Lecture!


Thank you to all our entrants, and congratulations again to our worthy winners.



Rebecca Bullard

Dr Rebecca Bullard, Lecturer in English Literature. once of the hosts of the event.


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Wendy Meddour profiles the American author Jewell Parker Rhode

Wendy has posted an interesting author profile about Jewell Parker Rhodes on the ‘Books for Keeps’ website.

Jewell Parker Rhodes-180x229

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Call for papers

Twentieth-Century British Periodicals: Words and Art on the Printed Page, 1900-1999

4 July 2017

Museum of English Rural Life, University of Reading, Redlands Road, Reading, UK

Current scholarship on twentieth-century periodicals is moving beyond the study of the ‘little’ magazine and avant-garde publications. Many mainstream and specialist periodicals, including tabloids, broadsheets, illustrated newspapers, illustrated magazines, fashion magazines, ‘slick’ magazines, women’s magazines, art periodicals, trade and specialist periodicals, pulps, reviews, and political and campaigning magazines have yet to receive sustained critical attention.


This interdisciplinary one-day * conference, coordinated by Dr Kate Macdonald, University of Reading, and Emma West, University of Cardiff, will bring together scholars and collectors to discuss the magazines, newspapers, journals, dailies, weeklies, fortnightlies, monthlies and quarterlies of British cultural life in the pre-Internet twentieth century. The focus of the discussion will be on the producers and consumers of these ephemeral products, to attempt to map out their networks. By focusing on both words and images, this conference aims to bring the specialist collector and the art historian to the table, to share knowledge of commercial and artistic figures and movements with publishing and book historians.

Woman and home

We invite abstracts relating to these topics:

  • publishers
  • editors
  • illustrators
  • photographers
  • graphic design, art direction, advertising and publicity
  • columnists
  • magazine fiction
  • the sporting pages
  • the children’s comic and the teen magazine
  • fashions on the page
  • monthly domestic instruction
  • freelance writing
  • the reviewer and the reviews
  • ephemerality and collectability
  • pre- and post-war periodicals
  • the bibliographers and the academy


Please send abstracts of 300 words or less, plus a brief account of your teaching, publications or research in these fields, by 31 January 2017, to

* If enough abstracts are received to warrant a second day, we will extend the conference to 5 July.

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Creative Arts Anthology 2017

Call for Submissions

The next Creative Arts Anthology is being planned for publication at the end of the Spring Term 2017. We are currently gathering the editorial team. As in previous years, we would like to present a collection of writings and images from students and staff at the university, and writers from Reading and the surrounding area, as well as from visitors to the department for festival readings or similar events. Submissions, online only, can take the form of creative writing in any genre, with the understanding that for prose works especially space is limited. We are also looking to receive j-peg images of paintings, drawings, and photography either in colour or black and white—though be aware when submitting compressed low-density image files that you will need to provide print-quality files when your work is selected. Please also provide a brief biographical note for publication with your work if selected.

Send your work with brief biographical note, name and e-mail address on the typescript to:

The deadline for submissions is midnight on Monday 9 January 2017.

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Call For Chapter Outlines

Imperial Middlebrow: Cross-colonial encounters and expressions of power in middlebrow literature and culture, 1890-1940

Editors: Professor Christoph Ehland, University of Paderborn, and Dr Kate Macdonald, University of Reading

Memsahib cookbook

Phase 1 of the Imperial Middlebrow book project has produced six commissioned book chapters. Phase 2 of the project now calls for additional chapters, to be workshopped at a study day at the University of Reading on Friday 24 March 2017. The Phase 1 authors will present their chapters for group discussion and exploration of the issues, with the editors, the Phase 2 authors able to attend (Skype presentations are possible), and other interested scholars willing to contribute to the discussion. The work of the study day will enable the final book chapters to cohere and resound together as an integrated set of arguments.

The Imperial Middlebrow book project will be a wide-ranging reappraisal of the position of middlebrow writing on empires (British, French, Spanish, German) in their literary and historical contexts. We invite abstracts for chapters that explore the literary as well as the socio-political role of middlebrow writing and its markets and audiences. We are interested in reading work about propagation, naturalisation and the critique of empire by middlebrow writing, between 1890 and 1940. We are also interested in discussion of the generic proliferation of the imperial discourse in the middlebrow from children’s literature to romance and the adventure novel.


Middlebrow studies are now well established as a literary-historical critical mode by which we can investigate the overlapping research areas of literature in the late Victorian age and the early twentieth century. There are many published indicators of the strength of the discipline, since in its maturity it is extending and testing its borders, and reassessing how the middlebrow corpus grew under different cultural influences. Middlebrow is no longer solely anglophone, and needs to be reconsidered as a product of international readerly desires and needs, as well as the project of the author.

Middlebrow writing engaged with the realities and fictions of colonial life in a multitude of ways, and middlebrow writers catered for a readership eager to learn about and imagine the Empire. In particular, feminist enquiries into the Anglo-Indian novel (Moore-Gilbert 1996, Kapila 2010, Roye and Mittapalli 2013) have helped to highlight its role for the dissemination of imperial ideology. Their research has revealed not only the large amount of often almost forgotten material available for the study of middlebrow writing on the empire but also the subtle fault-lines that this engagement often exhibits.

With regard to such aspects as interracial contact or colonial legitimisation middlebrow writing can be seen as a form of anxiety management which allows unsettling issues to be raised while maintaining at least a superficial impression of narrative stability and security. In line with this development of the discipline we invite scholars working on middlebrow in an Imperial and / or colonial context to submit new chapter outlines on Imperial Middlebrow texts, authors and readerships.



31 December 2016: deadline for Phase 2 chapter outlines of no more than 250 words, to be sent to Kate Macdonald at

15 January 2017: decisions on which Phase 2 chapter outlines will be accepted

31 January 2016: receipt of previously commissioned Phase 1 chapters

28 February 2017: book proposal to be sent to publisher, with Phase 1 chapters as sample texts

24 March 2017: study day to refine the project and chapters, with the authors of Phase 1 chapters and Phase 2 outlines working together; update on publisher negotiations.

31 June 2017: deadline for receipt of Phase 1 and Phase 2 final chapters (6,000-8,000 words)

31 July 2017: complete MS to be sent to publisher with book proposal.


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