Jess Brisley’s UROP in Special Collections: Publishing Class

Jess Brisley, English Lit and Theatre, 2nd year, UoR

This summer, I spent six weeks undertaking a research project based in the archives of Special Collections at the Museum of English Rural life as part of the UROP scheme with my supervisors, Dr Nicola Wilson and Danni Corfield. My project, ‘Publishing Class’, was part of a longer-term project headed by Nicola Wilson which aims to re-examine the relationship between publishers and the working class over the 20th Century, and it used the extensive archives of the publishing house Chatto and Windus as a focal point.Arch

Special Collections has a near-complete set of Manuscript Entry books for Chatto and Windus which contain details of submitted manuscripts, including titles, authors, dates, addresses and comments from publisher’s readers. I paid close attention to these comments in particular, finding evidence of manuscripts which appeared to have been rejected on the basis of a class prejudice. These instances I compiled into a database which over time grew to reveal certain recurring strains of bias against the working class, the presence of which I determined by examining the use of specific language and reasons – such as “overladen with dialect and detail” – by the readers.

I also consulted reader’s reports, letter books and correspondence files in order to widen the scope of materials from which to uncover bias. Not all of these turned out to be useful to me, but I was pleased that the project allowed me the freedom to consult whichever materials I felt could be beneficial and steer the research in the best direction. The manuscript entry books remained the most useful over the six-week project, but the other resources gave me additional insight into the business side of the publishing industry.

Alongside my research, I took part in some cataloguing of reader’s reports within the Chatto and Windus archives. There are an immense number of them and each one needs a reference number specific to its place within the collection, alongside a date, archive level, writer, summary and physical description. For example, every item within the Chatto and Windus archives is under the code ‘CW’. Reader’s reports are under the series ‘CW RR’ and each year is allocated a number: the first year of reader’s reports in the archives is 1913, making it the subseries ‘CW RR/1’. The first document of 1913 receives the reference ‘CW RR/1/1’, and so on and so forth. These references are very important to the archives, not only for records and organisational purposes, but also to ensure that students and other users of the archives can find useful documents for their research using the library website or the University of Reading Archive and Museum Database search engine (Adlib) and be able to request specific items for their research.

I found this UROP project fascinating and enjoyable, and it was amazing to be able to access such a vast wealth of beautiful and unique materials at Special Collections. I would highly recommend everybody to consider consulting Special Collections during their research, as I intend to do going into my third year. The UROP scheme enabled me to participate in an area of research that I’m very passionate about alongside leading academics, and I would not hesitate to push second-year students to apply. Furthermore, the larger project that my six weeks with the UROP scheme formed a part of is an important one which I am grateful and proud to have been a part of and that I intend to keep updated with in the future.

If you’d like to find out more about the results of the project, you’re in luck – I wrote an article about it! You can read it here:

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Rosalind Laker Prize for Creative Writing

The Department is pleased to announce the winner of this year’s Rosalind Laker prize for Creative Writing is Hannah Murphy, who graduated recently.

The Rosalind Laker Prize for Creative Writing is an annual award established by Mrs Sue Keane and Mr Paul Ovstedal in 2013 in memory of their mother, Barbara Ovstedal, who wrote under the pen name ‘Rosalind Laker’. The prize is to recognise the best piece of creative writing produced by a final year undergraduate student in the School of Literature & Languages.  Hannah was given her award at our prize-giving event just after graduation. Unfortunately this year, neither Sue or Paul are able to join us, but they have been sent Hannah’s dissertation ‘Forty Minutes Outside of Paris’ to read.

 Professor Grace Ioppolo writes: I’m absolutely delighted to congratulate Hannah on her tremendous and well-earned double achievement. She has always combined intellectual curiosity and rigour with dedication and with thoughtful and infectious enthusiasm and energy. My colleagues have repeatedly told me how highly they think of her academic work and what a wonderful student she has been to teach. I have no doubt that she will become a major name in creative writing and wish her every success.

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English Literature students lead cast, in Shakespeare’s return to Reading Abbey Ruins. Much Ado About Nothing, 11th-21st July

Reading Abbey Ruins have re-opened to the public, after a three year, £3.15m restoration project, meaning that the popular Open Air Shakespeare by Progress Theatre (which moved to the beautiful Caversham Court Gardens in 2012) has now returned to the Abbey Ruins with this year’s production of Much Ado About Nothing, featuring two current English Literature students: Kate Shaw (PhD candidate) as Beatrice and Taylor Rupp (MA English Literature) as Hero.

This production of Much Ado moves the action from Italy to Leonato’s English country house, at the end of the World War II. Both Kate and Taylor have studied Much Ado over the course of their academic careers and jumped at the chance to bring these two iconic characters to life. “It is a truly exciting prospect to play Beatrice and doing so in the Abbey Ruins is absolutely the icing on the cake” says Shaw. “Beatrice is such a beloved character, and one of Shakespeare’s “strong women” that there is definitely a feeling of responsibility when playing her. But I thought about who she would be in 1945, and having previously studied her strengths and weaknesses, I hope to have found a blend between her great wit and her vulnerabilities. One of her soft spots is of course Hero, and it’s been a real treat to work with Taylor to create a meaningful and believable relationship between the two cousins.”

Rupp says, “I am ecstatic to be able to bring Hero to life. She doesn’t speak much throughout the play, so it has been very interesting to use other aspects to give her the character she deserves. The relationships she has with her family is one of my favourite parts of the show. That and being able to perform in the Abbey Ruins. It’s so exciting to be able to perform at such a beautiful and historical site.”

More information about Much Ado About Nothing and Progress’ Open Air Productions can be found here:

The production runs from Wednesday 11th – Saturday 21st July (no performance Sunday 15th), at 7:45pm each night. Tickets can be bought directly from Ticketsource here:

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Second Sight: The Margaret Atwood Learning Journals

Second Sight: The Margaret Atwood Learning Journals is published by the UoR this week and it celebrates the quality of our students’ work on the final year ‘Margaret Atwood’ module. Co-edited with a Part 3 DEL student, the book presents a collection of learning journal entries and artworks and showcases our students’ critical skill and writing agility.

The book contains several different forms of reflection on Atwood’s novels and includes parodies, mock interviews, letters, responses to critical readings, and exercises in creative writing where students have, for example, presented a perspective not given within the text. Also presented are poems and artworks which students have included within their weekly journal entries. This use of a wide array of different forms has allowed students to combine their creative and critical skills and to submit often witty, critically astute, and highly imaginative work. From my point of view, as a critic of Atwood, the journal entries opened up new spaces for analysis and they also enabled me to appreciate fully the first-rate engagement of our students in the work they undertake for their modules.

I decided to publish the students’ writing because I wanted to retain a material record of the students’ hard work and skill. I sought funding from our Teaching and Learning Deans, who supported the project from the beginning, and I connected with the ‘Real Jobs’ scheme in the Department of Typography where students gain professional experience by managing funded publishing commissions for University staff and external clients. This led me to June Lin, a gifted student typographer, and I asked Bethany Barnett-Sanders, a member of the ‘Margaret Atwood’ groups, to help me edit the book. Throughout the Summer Term, June, Bethany and I met and planned, designed and edited, and the result is a book of which we are proud. With the sole exception of the Introduction, every element of it, from the cover image to the design to the contents, is the work of our students.

A book launch is being held on 5th July and all students contributing to the book have been invited to the party along with their families: Professor Emerita Coral Ann Howells, the patron saint of Atwood studies and the originator of the ‘Margaret Atwood’ module at Reading, will also be at the party, and the book is being sent to several leading Atwood scholars as well as to Margaret Atwood herself. The book will also demonstrate ‘good practice’ journal-writing to next year’s students on the ‘Margaret Atwood’ module and there should be a few spare copies available if other students (or colleagues) would like to buy a copy.

Producing this book with such talented students has been a great pleasure and to have the book available to our students on the day of their graduation provides a fitting conclusion to a busy but extremely rewarding academic year.

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Congratulations to our new lecturer in creative writing, Kate Clanchy, who has received an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours

Kate Clanchy received the honour for services to literature in schools, in recognition of her work as a Writer in Residence at Oxford Spires Academy.

Over the last nine years, she has nurtured creative talent at the school, whose pupils come from all over the world and where more than 30 languages are spoken. As a result, the school has been hugely successful in poetry competitions, with pupils winning multiple national prizes.

The pupils in Kate’s ‘Very Quiet Foreign Girls’ poetry group, many of whom arrived in the UK as refugees, have also created a radio programme, which was nominated for the Poetry Society’s Ted Hughes Award. Kate has shared their poetry with thousands on Twitter.

The best of the pupils’ poetry is due to be published in a new anthology, England: Poems from a School, on 14 June. The poems create a portrayal of England as it is experienced by young migrants, and features moving personal stories from the pupils.

Kate told the University of Reading: “I was very surprised to be awarded an MBE, but also very pleased. MBEs are for service, and I like to think this one honours my work in schools and so the importance of literature in schools.”

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Neil Cocks is running barefoot.

This would make an excellent title for an academic novel, but in this case we mean it literally.

Neil Cocks is running the Oxfordshire Three Spires Challenge half-marathon in his bare feet to raise money for the Ollie Young foundation, a charity that we feel a strong connection to because of  Jean Call’s work.

If you would like to support Neil in his fundraising, you can donate through his Justgiving page.

(I’m sure donations of blister cream and plasters will be welcome too.)

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Dr. John Scholar, our new colleague, introduces himself.

I’m delighted to be joining the Department of English Literature as a Lecturer, my first permanent academic job. I’m only coming 25 miles down the road as I’ve recently been at Oxford University, as PhD student, postdoc, and then lecturer. I’ve also studied in London University (at Birkbeck College and the LSE). My last permanent job was in my twenties when I spent three years working as an economist in The Treasury, under Gordon Brown. My first week in this job has been political in a different way: I was on strike before setting foot in my new office, which was a strange way to start, but since then I’ve really enjoyed meeting new colleagues and students, and finding my way around this green campus.  

My research bridges Victorian and modern literature, looking at how intellectual history can help us understand the changing form of the novel. I am currently finishing my first book Henry James and the Art of the Impression which places fiction and non-fiction of Henry James in dialogue with an interdisciplinary history of the ‘impression’, drawing in philosophy, psychology, the visual arts and modern critical theory. My interest in the relationship between literature and philosophy has also prompted work exploring how continental philosophy (Heidegger, Bergson) can historicize modernist form in James Joyce’s Ulysses, especially its representation of the material world and the ‘stream of consciousness’. I am a convenor of the Oxford Phenomenology Network, which promotes interdisciplinary discussions relating to phenomenological theory and practice. I am also interested more broadly in the fin-de-siècle, modernism, and narrative theory.  

I’m really looking forward to teaching a variety of modules: with Year 1, ‘Poetry in English’ and ‘Genre and Context’, with Year 2, ‘Restoration to Revolution: 1660-1789’, and, with Year 3, ‘Decadence and Degeneration: Literature of the 1880s and 1890s’. I convene a Year 3 module called ‘Modern “isms”: From Realism to Modernism’. And I am supervising Year 3 dissertations on science fiction, slavery literature in South Africa, contemporary black British female subjectivities, Orwell, and Woolf. 

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Dr Anna Maerker (KCL), Interpreting the preserved body: Making intelligible specimens in nineteenth-century anatomy


The representation of the body in three dimensions is crucial for artistic practice as well as for medical education, and anatomists and artists have long resorted to a wide range of practices and materials to represent the visual and haptic qualities of flesh. But how can we keep flesh looking (and feeling) like itself? How should we preserve flesh for the purposes of medical education? The paper will investigate the practices and publications of nineteenth-century anatomists such as Frederick and Robert Knox to highlight practical and conceptual issues of anatomical preservation. Medical researchers generally agreed on the central role of anatomical and pathological collections for teaching and research. However, preservation techniques posed significant challenges: chemicals caused discolouration, and they distorted the shapes and textures of body parts; dry specimens attracted dust and pests. How could the risk of misinterpretation of such faulty representations be minimised? The paper will highlight how anatomists responded to problems of intelligibility with a range of responses, from technological fixes to user education.

Dr Maerker’s talk will be giving at 5pm on 10th May, in Edith Morley G44.

All welcome

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Reminder: Tony Watkins Annual lecture

This annual lecture commemorating the academic work of Tony Watkins will take place on Thursday May 3rd at 6 pm in Edith Morley (formerly HUMSS Building) room  44.

The eminent critical psychologist Dr Jan De Vos will speak on ‘Digitalizing childhood: leading the child via its synapses to a psychologized virtuality’

Dr De Vos explains that the lecture will consider the following:

There is a substantial overlap between the discourses and the practices of neuro-education (attempting to ground education/parenting in neuroscience) and the digitalisation of education (schooling or parenting). An illustrative example is IBM’s “learning analytics” and its, mainly, metaphoric, recourse to neuro-terms, speaking of “neuromorphic hardware”, “brain-inspired algorithms”, “neurosynaptic chip”. One can furthermore observe that “learning platforms” most centrally address psycho-social issues such as empathy and social skills: this is at play on the discernible and visible level (of for example the virtual architecture of the platform) but also on the more hidden level of the algorithms and codes that give form to and direct the interactions. Education and schooling, seemingly, are psychologized via digitalization. Also in the field of the so-called “parenting apps” one can discern how digitalization connects to the (neuro)psychological: the app “Vroom”, for example, advertises with the claim “Vroom turns shared moments into brain building moments”. Or, digital technology turns human interactions into an issue of brain-regions and brain chemistry: the digital app neurologizes childhood and parenting.

In this lecture I will explore how the child (and its parents and educators), is led to the digital via a rationale which understands childhood from the (psycho)neurological paradigm. Digitalization, thus, as the heir of (neuro)psychologization?

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Debate and doughnuts: Why are some wages more equal than others?

No matter your political agenda, staff and students alike are
invited to a two-hour drop-in session to discuss the gender pay
gap and issues of equal pay.

Find out what your university has to say on:
Tuesday 8th May at 12-2 p.m. in Miller G05.
Doughnuts and drinks included!
Please contact Dr Maddi Davies for more information.

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