Rebecca Lindsay attends the IRSCL Congress 2017, University of York, Toronto

Rebecca Lindsay, part-time PhD student, writes:

My paper at the IRSCL Congress 2017 was a success; the Postgraduate Research Fund helped me get there.

My trip to Canada to present at the International Research Society of Children’s Literature Congress 2017 was a great success: not only did the presentation of my paper go well, with one member of the audience saying it was an inspiration to her and how she thought of childhood, but I have learnt so much, and met such wonderful people. It was a fantastic opportunity for me to engage with the foremost research in the field – for both an intellectual and cultural exchange.
One of the cultural issues that was discussed throughout the conference, which was not only of such significance in Canada (and in their ‘150th birthday’ of being a nation) but also one that I had never heard of before was that of the ‘Residential Schools’ that ran from the late 19th century up until 1996. These schools took indigenous children from their families, denied them their language, and exposed them to widespread, systematic abuse, that the Truth and Reconciliation Report of 2015 described as a ‘cultural genocide’. As a central concept of my paper was an exploration of constructions of ‘normality’, it drove home the dangers of marginalisation and their ongoing impact, as well as the importance of work that challenges social and institutional assumptions.

This has been such an enriching experience for me; from everything I have learnt and shared, to the new friends I have made. This would not have been possible without the funding the School provided. I am incredibly grateful, and would like to take this opportunity to say thank you so much to the Department!



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We are pleased to announce that Dr Rebecca Bullard has been awarded the Oxford Centre for Life-Writing Tony Gray Visiting Scholarship, 2017-18. Rebecca will join the community of OCLW Visiting Scholars at Wolfson College, Oxford, to work on her project: “Obituaries and New Media, 1700-1780.” Her project explores the emergence of the obituary as a popular genre in the 18th century and addresses the impact of gender, socio-economic and class status, geographical region and new media, such as periodicals and newspapers, on the structure and style of these texts. The research carried out during her time at OCLW will form part of Rebecca’s monograph, The Oxford History of Life-Writing, volume 3: The Eighteenth Century.

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Fan studies – a new article

Evan Hayles Gledhill writes:

Fan studies is an exciting and developing field that is highly inter-disciplinary; drawing together social science, history, literature, musicology and media scholars. My own research, into Gothic fiction, led me to become interested in audiences and fandoms. Gothic is a very meta-textual genre, drawing on the readers awareness of the constructed nature of the fiction – from the first-wave gothic tradition of pretending to have ‘found’ a manuscript you translated to produce the tale, to the ‘found footage’ monster movie like Cloverfield (2008). A hyper-awareness of form, context and audience response in the genre led to Gothic fans being one of the first fandoms depicted within their own genre – in Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey (1817).

Fan studies, as a recognised discipline, has been developing in the academy since the 1970s and scholars have addressed modern fandoms from those focused on football, to Star Trek, to the Backstreet Boys. The Fan Studies Network formed five years ago, and holds annual inter-disciplinary conferences. My interest is in tracing the roots of the individual and group behaviours we ascribe to fans back before the twentieth century. Scrapbooking, collecting items that had been used or touch by the object of devotion, and the writing of fanfiction are all practices with a long history. As a PhD student based in the literature department, I focus on the textual aspects of fandom – fans of authors, fans as authors, and authors as fans!

The fan is often positioned, culturally, in opposition to the author for control of the meaning and content of the literary text. This binary dynamic between reader and author is a discourse of power relations, as are other pairings such as masculine and feminine, or public and private. This article explores how these inter-linked pairs describe a matrix of gendered space, both physically and textually. The title of this article draws a parallel between debates over authorship and control of the text, and the enclosure debates about ownership and land usage in the nineteenth century. Debates about fan practices and audiences often seem to be purely about the content of the text itself. However, they are as much about the spaces involved – the space of the text on the page, and the space in which fan practice occurs – and thus, are about the value structures regarding the gendered bodies that inhabit these spaces.

If you would like to read more, this last paragraph comes from my article ‘Poaching in the Textual Enclosure: Nineteenth-Century Literary Fandoms, at the Intersection of Gender and Space’ appears in the Goldsmiths postgraduate journal GLITS-e for 2015-16, which has just been published online:


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Emerson and the Archives

Dr Krissie West writes:

Some months ago, I was fortunate to receive funding from the Ralph Waldo Emerson Society to further my research for my monograph on Emerson and childhood.

Emerson, the spearhead of the nineteenth-century American Transcendentalist movement and the writer of the 1836 work, Nature, is perhaps best known for his creed of self-reliance and his friendship with Henry David Thoreau of Walden and Civil Disobedience fame; however, in his musings on what it was to be a man, Emerson often considered what it meant to be a child. My research on this subject took me back to the Houghton Library at Harvard, where the bulk of his papers are kept, but also to the Boston Athenaeum (a private library), and the archives at the Concord Free Public Library – where I was fortunate to be present when a donor arrived with a letter written by Louisa May Alcott, and was permitted to be only the second person to read it!

I also took the time to research papers on fellow Transcendentalist, A. Bronson Alcott, and on New England witchcraft (including a fascinating trip to Salem); to attend a conference on Henry David Thoreau’s bicentennial; and to give a paper on ‘Growing Tomorrow: A Transcendental Education’ at a conference in Concord, Mass., on ‘The Alcotts, the Thoreaus and the Quest for Social Justice’. Much of the content of both conferences focused not only on the issues of the nineteenth-century but on those of our own – and it was interesting to see how little wider concerns differed between academics in the US and in the UK, and how relevant the lessons of Thoreau’s ‘Civil Disobedience’ are still felt to be.

I was recently elected to the Board of the Ralph Waldo Emerson Society, and look forward to supporting the work of other academics in this field. For more information on the work of the Ralph Waldo Emerson Society, visit:

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Jane Austen and money

In memory of the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s death, and the launch of the new £10 note, featuring Austen, at Winchester Cathedral, Rebecca Bullard has written a piece on Austen and money for the Reading research blog:

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Diversifying Assessment

Thank you for contributing to the ‘Diversifying Assessment’ Survey Monkey

Dr Maddi Davies writes:

Dr Chloe Houston and I would like to thank the 95 students who completed our ‘Diversifying Assessments’ Survey Monkey poll. We appreciate very much the time you took to answer the questions and the detail you provided. This is going to help us a great deal in reflecting on our assessment and feedback practices.

The results of the Survey are presented below (with many thanks to Michael Lyons for producing these charts):

DEL Assessment & Feedback Survey Results (Summer 2017)

A total 95 DEL students took part in the survey. 85% said they valued the opportunity to be assessed with diverse methods.

The Assessed Essay was by far the most popular method of assessment, followed by the learning journal. However, only a small proportion of students have been assessed with a learning journal so it is likely that a very high percentage have stated it to be their preferred method of assessment.

Students gave an average score of 5.1 for the level of assessment on their programmes, with 5 being both the mode and the median scores.

34% found the level of detail covered most useful in feedback, 24% the feedback on writing style, 16% the clarity of the feedback, and 12% its promptness. 7% valued alternative characteristics (eg. ‘sensitivity’) and 7% did not respond to this question.

66% said they always submit formative essays, 18% regularly, 8% half of the time, 4% sometimes, and 4% never do.

40% said they always attend essay supervisions for their formative essays, 14% regularly, 10% half of the time, 22% sometimes, and 14% never do.

The constructive responses to the ‘feedback’ questions were particularly useful and we will be taking comments forward to the next academic session. At our recent Exams Board, our external examiners praised the detail and the quality of our feedback and noted that it is an example of sector good practice. They added that they hope our students read the detailed feedback we provide! While there are always improvements that can be made to any system, the externals’ comments usefully remind us that DEL surpasses many other UK HE Literature Departments in its feedback quality. We will continue to reflect on our feedback practices and continue to enhance its usefulness to our students so that it works effectively to augment attainment.

We will be holding a second student focus group meeting next term (this is a year long project), again in my room, and again with up to 12 students drawn from each year group responding to our questions and assessment ideas. We have funding for this project and we are able to offer a £10 Amazon voucher (and plenty of doughnuts) for every group contributor to say thank you for taking part. Six students have already indicated that they would like to be a member of the next focus group – please look out for emails and posters early next term asking for another 5 or 6 volunteers (or just email me or Chloe). We want to include you as we review our assessment and feedback systems so that we can respond to your input. Thank you once again for all your help so far.

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A Special Collections exhibition: Leonard and Virginia Woolf’s Hogarth Press

You might be interested to hear Nicola Wilson talking about the Hogarth Press centenary and Virginia Woolf as a printer with Mariella Frostrup and Mark Haddon on BBC Radio 4 Open Book.


You might also want to know about an exhibition in this area…

Dr Nicola writes:




As part of this year’s centenary celebrations to mark the founding of Leonard and Virginia Woolf’s Hogarth Press, we have curated a temporary exhibition in Special Collections at the Museum of English Rural Life. This is free and open to the public until the end of August.


The exhibition includes contemporary artwork submitted by artists and letterpress printers responding to the centenary. We issued an open call at the start of this year and were delighted to receive artwork from printers located in Reading and Stroud, London, Norway, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland. The new artwork is juxtaposed with original artwork from the Hogarth Press archive in Special Collections, as well as original woodblocks (produced by Vanessa Bell, Roger Fry, Dora Carrington) and other archival items. This includes readers’ reports, early Hogarth Press publications, letters, advertisements and order books showing the changing fortunes of the Press. We also have Leonard and Virginia Woolf’s crumbling travelling bags on show – recently unearthed – and on loan from Penguin Random House Archive and Library.


It has been great fun curating this exhibition, which aims to capture the global diversity and lesser-known, non-Bloomsbury aspects of the Hogarth Press, and a joy to see so much public interest in the legacy and achievements of the Woolfs’ as editors, printers, and publishers. Thanks to student Maryam Ahmed for contributing and helping the UoR Special Collections team with item-level cataloguing a recent acquisition of Bloomsbury photographs.


The exhibition runs in association with the 27th annual international conference on Virginia Woolf, this year held at the UoR specifically to celebrate the centenary of the Press. Talks run over 4 days and we have nearly 150 speakers coming from all over the world. Check out the conference programme on:


There is a free multimedia musical performance on the evening of Friday 30th June: the UK premiere of ‘Circling the Waves’ by Michiko Theurer of the University of Colorado Boulder, supported by the University Arts Committee.


Please do come along if you can. If you are a student and would be interested in helping out or being involved please get in contact with me or Lucy Stone.



You might also be interested to hear Nicola talking about the Hogarth Press centenary and Virginia Woolf as a printer with Mariella Frostrup and Mark Haddon on BBC Radio 4 Open Book.


All best,


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University Teaching Fellows in our department – congratulations!

We are delighted to announce that Dr Chloë Houston and Dr Madeleine Davies (Department of English Literature) have been awarded The University of Reading Teaching Fellowship. This is a prestigious award conferred on members of staff who have demonstrated individual excellence and contributed to the development of teaching and learning within the University. The Fellowship is designed to support staff to further develop in this area and to recognise and reward excellence in teaching and the support of student learning.

Dr Madeleine Davies writes: ‘Receiving this award is a great honour and I’m looking forward to my work as a member of the UTFS Community of Practice. Teaching and learning has always been at the top of my list of priorities and this award allows me to engage in new projects designed to further enhance our provision. It will also give me fresh opportunities for dissemination of good practice as well as connecting SLL with teaching and learning initiatives being generated across the University. I would like to thank DEL colleagues and students for their support – winning the RUSU Teaching Award in April, and now receiving the UFTS Award, has been possible because of their encouragement and goodwill.’

Dr Chloë Houston writes: ‘I am delighted to have been awarded the University Teaching Fellowship and to join the UTFS Community of Practice. I look forward to learning more from my colleagues about good practice across the University and developing our teaching and learning in the Department of English Literature.’

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Dr Madeleine Davies and Dr Bethany Layne visit Vanessa Bell’s home for the Charleston Festival 2017

Dr Madeleine Davies and Dr Bethany Layne write:


On Friday 26th May we travelled to Charleston, Vanessa Bell’s home in Sussex and now a museum of Bloomsbury aesthetics, to hear a series of talks, lectures and debates led by John Mullan, Maggie Gee and Colm Toibin.

The Charleston Festival spreads over ten days and it includes writers, artists, politicians, and cultural commentators.  It was Colm Toibin who drew us to the event but Maggie Gee was an attraction too because she had spoken at the ‘Postmodernist Biofictions Conference’ in SLL at the end of the Spring Term. We were also there to promote the Virginia Woolf International Conference to be held at the University at the end of June.

We heard a spirited (to say the least) debate between Maggie Gee and John Mullan arguing whether ‘originality’ in literature is ’over-rated’: Mullan argued that it is and Maggie defended it as a crucial marker of literary quality. Mullan’s position relied on the argument that ‘originality’ often relies on ‘quotation’; his example of T.S. Eliot’s use of John Donne in ‘The Love Song of  ‘J. Alfred Prufrock’ seemed to make his case, but it evaded important issues including the fact that ‘quotation’ (particularly in Eliot’s hands) can be ‘original’. Maggie Gee argued that the profit-driven publishing industry discourages originality to the detriment of creative freedom and literary progress.

Neither speaker tackled the tricky issue of what ‘originality’ means: to Bethany and I it seemed as though both had interpreted the word in very different ways, this signifying its slippery nature. Further, neither tackled formulations of ‘value’ to which both consistently referred. Several sharp exchanges characterised the debate in which both speakers were clearly highly invested. Mullan won the case to the clear astonishment of Gee.

In between scheduled events, Bethany and I had time to explore the house and grounds; we both teach modules connecting with (or centralising) Bloomsbury art, writing and debate, so this was fascinating for us, even though we are both veterans of previous Bloomsbury pilgrimages. We also found time to celebrate Bethany’s appointment as Senior Lecturer at De Montfort, though this was tinged with some sadness because of her imminent departure.

In the evening, Colm Toibin discussed his new novel, House of Names, with journalist and classicist, Charlotte Higgins.  Toibin is a compelling speaker, funny and charming. He spoke of his writing habits and he discussed conflict, his obsession with human relationships and motivations, his novel The Master, and his education at a now infamous Catholic boarding school in Ireland. Our subsequent conversation with Toibin was extremely entertaining and Bethany arranged an interview with him for a publication.

The Charleston Festival offers the opportunity to hear literary and political stars in a dream environment. The Charleston home of Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant is a riot of colour and shape; every chair, mantelpiece, table, window-seat, plate, and doorframe is painted with swirls and images.  Bedrooms are named after the guests who regularly inhabited them including John Maynard Keynes, Lytton Strachey and Clive Bell, and heirlooms from the Stephens family remain in the bedrooms: the guide pointed out the mirror in which Virginia Woolf recalled seeing the reflection of her mother lying dead.

This was an extraordinary day, in beautiful weather. We will both return to marking significantly refreshed and with a store of new contacts, sights and ideas.

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20th-Century British Periodicals: Words and Art on the Printed Page

Kate Macdonald writes:


20th-Century British Periodicals

Words and Art on the Printed Page

Tuesday 4 July 2017, 09.00-19.00

Museum of English Rural Life, Redlands Road, Reading

£35 / £15, includes lunch and drinks reception

This conference supports current scholarship on twentieth-century British periodicals beyond the study of the ‘little’ magazine and avant-garde publications. Twenty-six speakers on aspects of mainstream and specialist periodicals, illustrated magazines, fashion magazines, women’s magazines, art periodicals, trade journals, and political and campaigning magazines will finally get the scholarly attention they deserve.

The conference is coordinated by Dr Kate Macdonald, a Teaching Fellow at DEL, and Emma West, a postgraduate at Cardiff University. 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.

Twenty-six speakers will be presenting their papers on 4 July 2017 in the beautiful surroundings of the Museum of English Rural Life at the University of Reading, UK, in a full and delightful day of discussion.

Highlights include:

  • Knitting and lower-middle-class status in Woman’s Weekly, 1958
  • Marxism Today and the transformation of images, from slogans to selling, during the ‘Designer Decade’, 1979-90
  • ”Now Form a Band”: Aesthetics in British punk and independent popular music periodicals since the 1970s
  • Kerrang! and the representation of heavy metal’s masculinity: A content analysis of Kerrang! cover images from 1981-1995
  • Rhythm, the Blue Review, and the Adelphi: John Middleton Murry as editor and advertiser
  • SK8 and Destroy – How R.A.D. magazine spread the graphic language of revolt and subversion
  • Woman appeal: shaping modern feminine imaginaries in 1920s and 1930s British women’s magazines
  • The Architectural Review and modern architecture for the interested ‘layman’, 1927-1972
  • The eternal boy: Images of Edwardian masculinity in the Boy’s Own Paper
  • ‘Corresponding with the editor? Readers’ commentaries on abortion and unmarried motherhood in The Freewoman, 1911-1912
  • Mobilising The Red Cross Journal. A charity’s journal in wartime, 1914-1919


Register now at

Download the programme at

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