Wilde in prison

Peter Stoneley writes:

The art production company, Artangel, has set up an exhibition in Reading Prison, to run from 4 September to 30 October.  It features well-known artists such as Steve McQueen (director of “Twelve Years a Slave,” Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Nan Goldin, and Turner Prize winner Wolfgang Tillmans.  Artangel asked me to give a lecture on Oscar Wilde’s time in Reading Prison, and to help them with organising a short series of lectures to run during the exhibition.  All the lectures to be held in the former prison chapel.  See the flyer below for details.

oscar in prison

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September in the Rain

Peter Robinson’s September in the Rain: A Novel is published today, the first of September 2016.

September in the Rain

For the two young people found out in the rain one September night nothing can ever be the same again… Together through university, Mary and Richard have long planned their journey to Italy. But in the months leading up to it, Richard begins what she will call ‘a brief affair’ with Alice. Then a series of small decisions leads to disaster. In delicately evocative prose, Peter Robinson carefully, painfully, and beautifully depicts these relationships before and after the traumatic events at the heart of his first novel.

September in the Rain is vivid narrative of young love in difficulties, its choices and dilemmas, responsibilities and distances, the consequences of guilty feelings and violent transformations.

‘A beautiful novel: profoundly upsetting, as its subject matter requires, but one which also offers a kind of redemption, thanks to the tone of rueful, quizzical honesty in which Peter Robinson narrates. The patient beauties of his poetry are carried over seamlessly into this, his first work of fiction’—Jonathan Coe

September in the Rain is a novel of extraordinary beauty and courage. It takes on a difficult and complex subject and explores it with sensitivity, wit and humanity. Peter Robinson is a writer of great panache and wisdom. I defy anyone not to be moved by his story’—Paula Byrne

‘To call this story a trauma narrative is to do it a disservice. It is a dark and tender tale of violation, but also more than that. As much as anything it’s a triumph of style, its sentences being assayed with a poet’s feeling for the weight of each word’—Giles Foden 

Read about what Ian Brinton calls ‘this stunningly moving novel’ on the Tears in the Fence blog for 29 August: https://tearsinthefence.com/blog/

September in the Rain is available through all good bookshops and online here:


Four launch events for it have been planned:

1 September 6:30 pm Lutyens & Rubenstein Bookshop, 21 Kensington Park Road, London W11 2EU

8 September 7:30 pm  Albion Beatnik Bookstone, 34 Walton Street, Oxford OX2 6AA

10 September 5:00 pm Waterstones 89 Broad Street, Reading RG1 2AP

25 October 6:30 pm Heffers Bookshop 20 Trinity Street, Cambridge CB2 1TY

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Reading Literature Festival 2016

Tickets for Reading Literature Festival 2016 go on sale today. Thursday 1 September

Book Here: http://store.rdg.ac/ReadingLiteratureFestivalTickets

Growing out of Reading Poetry Festival’s three successful years from 2013-15, the first Reading Literature Festival, from 4 to 13 November 2016, brings together many of the most exciting talents in contemporary writing from across the UK and abroad. Those appearing include Fleur Adcock, Kate Behrens, Justyna Bargielska, Jonathan Coe, Claire Dyer, Gill Learner, Theresa Lola, Mairi MacInnes, Jamie McKendrick, Hollie McNish, Wendy Meddour, Alice Oswald, Sudeep Sen, Dan Simpson, and Penelope Skinner. The events, taking place across the town, include discussions and readings, interviews with authors, creative writing workshops, film screenings, and a writing competition.

Directed by Sam Morrish, currently at work on her doctorate at the University of Reading, the first Reading Literature Festival is planned as a contribution to Reading’s Year of Culture, and a town and university collaboration supported by the University of Reading and its Committee for the Arts, the newly founded Heritage and Creativity Institute, the School of Literature and Languages, and the Department of English Literature.

Reading Literature Festival’s roots in the previous Poetry Festivals continue to flourish. It opens with the annual Gerald Finzi Lecture, on Friday 4 November, showcasing the celebrated poet Alice Oswald, who has links to the town, and will speak about her art and read from her work. She will also present the prizes for a local schools’ writing competition whose theme is ‘My Reading’.

Highlights include discussions of their work with the stage and screenwriter Penelope Skinner, on Wednesday 9th, and with the internationally best-selling novelist Jonathan Coe on Saturday 12th. The children’s fiction-writer Wendy Meddour, who recently took up a lectureship at the University, will lead an event for local schools, offer a creative writing workshop, and, with award-winning poet and translator Peter Robinson, judge the writing competition.

There are two events highlighting spoken word poetry, currently thriving in Reading, featuring Hollie McNish, Theresa Lola, and Dan Simpson on Friday 11 November, and a presentation of local performance poets mentored by McNish on Sunday 13th. Also on Sunday, Reading’s own poetry publisher, Two Rivers Press, whose national profile has risen recently thanks to prominent reviews in the THES and the TLS, will present new books by four of its poets published this year. The Festival also hosts a reading of new fiction writers showcased by the Newbury-based publisher Holland House Books.

The emphasis on internationalism in previous festivals continues in Saturday’s programme with a centenary celebration of the Italian writer Giorgio Bassani, the film of whose most famous novel The Garden of the Finzi-Contini is discussed and shown the previous Monday. This celebration includes accounts of his poetry and fiction, as well as his work as an editorial advisor for Feltrinelli – which included the discovery and promotion of Lampedusa’s classic, The Leopard. Jamie McKendrick, currently retranslating all Bassani’s fiction for Penguin Books, will be among the contributors.

Timely, in the light of the recent referendum result, is Saturday afternoon’s symposium on English language poetry and its relations with Europe and the world, featuring Fleur Adcock (New Zealand/UK), Justyna Bargielska (Poland) and her translator Maria Jastrzębska (Poland/UK), Jamie McKendrick (UK), and Sudeep Sen (India), in which they will discuss this urgent issue with Steven Matthews and give readings from their own work.

The Reading Literature Festival 2016 promises a great range of encounters covering writing of many kinds, and events for all ages, featuring writers from across the globe and close to home.

For updates and ticket information find us on Facebook: /Reading Literature Festival, follow us on Twitter @RdgLitFest and visit our Website:


Booking: http://store.rdg.ac/ReadingLiteratureFestivalTickets

Contact: litfest@reading.ac.uk


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Reading Year of Culture and our department

The Department of English Literature at the University of Reading is delighted to announce its first public creative writing competition, for 11 to 14 year olds from the Reading area. This is part of the 2016 Reading Literature Festival (4-13 November) and Reading Year of Culture.

The theme for entries is “My Reading”, and submissions can take the form of poetry (up to 14 lines), a short story (up to 500 words), or creative non-fiction (up to 500 words).

Send your submission by email or post to:

Dr Nicola Abram
Department of English Literature
University of Reading
PO Box 218


Please include your name, your date of birth, a contact number or email address, and the name of your school on your entry.

The deadline for entries is 7 October 2016.

Ship Leadership Concept on Chalkboard

Entries will be judged by prize-winning poet and novelist Peter Robinson and children’s author Wendy Meddour.

Prizes include book tokens and books by Two Rivers Press, and prize-winning entries will be published in the 2017 University of Reading Creative Arts Anthology.

Winners will be presented with their prizes by T.S. Eliot Prize-winning poet Alice Oswald on Friday 4 November (preceding the 2016 Finzi Lecture).

The organisers of this event, Nicola Abram and Rebecca Bullard, comment: “During our outreach activities with local schools we’ve consistently been impressed by the imagination and attention to detail that pupils put into their creative writing. Through this competition we’d like to give young people a chance to shine – and to tell the world what this town means to them.”

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The Professional Track: student experiences

Lucy Stone writes:

On the 7th July, Heather Evans, Rosa Mitchell and Rebecca Plummer were presented with awards in recognition of their outstanding achievement, having completed The Professional Track in less than a year after its official launch.

Catching up with them after the presentation at the Clock Tower Memorial on London Road Campus, I asked them each three short questions about their experience of The Professional Track.

Watch the video below to find out what they said!

Students in the School of Literature and Languages can now pre-register their interest for September 2016 Professional Track activities and events at: http://rdg.ac/1Y2wJ6w

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Karín Lesnik-Oberstein reviews The Metamorphoses of the Brain

Karín has just had a review published of a book critiquing neuroscience in the leading Theory journal in the USA, Critical InquiryThe review relates to her own critical work on neuroscience.




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The Professional Track celebrates first three graduates

Lucy Stone writes:

Congratulations to the three students who yesterday received certificates in recognition of their outstanding achievement, having completed The Professional Track in less than a year after its official launch.

Heather Evans, Rosa Mitchell and Rebecca Plummer were presented with their awards at the Clock Tower Memorial on London Road Campus.pt photo

Rosa Mitchell, Rebecca Plummer and Heather Evans, pictured above with Dr Cindy Becker, holding up their Professional Track certificates.

Catching up with them after the presentation, I asked why they would recommend The Professional Track to other students.

Heather commented: “It teaches you how to be more professional… and just be a bit more than your average student.”

Rosa stated: “I think it gives everyone an opportunity to do something beyond just a degree and I think it sets you up really well for jobs in the future.”

Rebecca noted: “I think it really encourages you and pushes you to do the placements  because it can be quite difficult to fit them into your degree.”

We are absolutely delighted that these three students have progressed through the award so quickly, and that we have had the opportunity to reward their hard work at the culmination of what has been a fantastic first year for the scheme.

Dr Cindy Becker, Professional Track and Placements Coordinator, made the following comment: “Congratulations to those dynamic students who have completed! We are delighted with the success of the Professional Track in its first year. With our students completing training courses, attending masterclasses and undertaking an astonishing range of academic placements, it has certainly been a busy year.

We know from data collected on recent University Visit Days that the Professional Track will be a deciding factor for the majority of potential students in making their choice of university, so we are confident that the scheme will prove even more popular next year.”

Students in the School of Literature and Languages can now pre-register their interest for September 2016 Professional Track activities and events at: http://rdg.ac/1Y2wJ6w

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Professional Track success

Lucy Stone writes:

We are delighted to announce that three students have completed The Professional Track in less than a year since its official launch.

The Professional Track is a unique professional development scheme available to all students in the School of Literature and Languages. It offers a mix of professional level courses, placements, masterclasses and university schemes on a hop-on, hop-off basis. Students do not have to complete the whole award, they can simply personalise their experience. By completing the scheme they receive an overall certificate and recognition of the scheme on the Diploma Supplement Annex.

This year has been wonderfully successful, seeing over 150 different students, from a range of departments and degree disciplines getting involved. We have offered 7 different courses, 2 masterclasses and supported over 70 students with their academic placements.

Tomorrow, when the certificates are officially presented by Dr Cindy Becker, marks a significant chapter for this scheme, and we will strive for it to grow in strength, vibrancy and provision as the new cohort of students arrive in September.

Students in the School of Literature and Languages can now pre-register their interest for September 2016 Professional Track activities and events at: http://rdg.ac/1Y2wJ6w

PT banner

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Pupils create poetry with us

On Thursday 30 June, the University of Reading welcomed more than 50 Year 9 pupils from John Madejski Academy (Reading), Reading Girls’ School, and Beechwood School (Slough) to spend a day studying English Literature and Classics.

Nicola Abram

Pupils participated in workshops spanning Greek mythology to contemporary poetry, looked at some ancient archaeological objects, and learned what was ‘True or False’ about university life. They also met some current and recent undergraduates and enjoyed a campus tour.

After seeing how Medusa was denied a voice in Ovid’s Metamorphoses, pupils worked hard to imaginatively inhabit her perspective through their own creative writing. The results were emotionally powerful and formally impressive. Here are just two examples:


Ever hunted

Whether I’m a monster

Or a human

Despised for this gift

This curse

This burden

I wished to do no harm

Blamed for a misconception

Yet now I disable any and all

Destroyer of life

My only company

My sisters

Burdened with immortality

Because of the their victim


Blamed for a deed

That was not her own

Oh I wish the hunt was over

Let them come and claim their prize

Then the predator in me

kicks in

And I ruin another innocent life

Just like mine was


– Aisha



Lost in the ocean

terrifying, empowering.

The tide comes too close

my screams are still drowning.


I wake up and all around me

familiar faces go cold

those adoring eyes go stoic

no matter what I say you won’t hear what you’ve been told.


So my cries grow sharp, venomous

no longer will I be your prey

legends confound the thought of me

and in my own reflection I lose my say


my beauty, my innocence, my radiance


a monster born and killed no more.


– Nour

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Happy Independent Bookshop Week, 18th-25th June

Dr Nicola Wilson writes:

We spent some time in EN2BB (Business of Books) visiting and thinking about the role of bookshops and the power of marketing and display in selling and distributing literature. This week I found myself reviewing two very different texts on bookshops for two very different publications: (i) a scholarly edited collection by Huw Osborne, The Rise of the Modernist Bookshop. Books and the Commerce of Culture in the Twentieth Century (Ashgate, 2015) for The Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America, and (ii) bestseller Veronica Henry’s fourteenth novel, How to find love in a bookshop (Orion, 2016) for the Press Association which gets short book reviews (150 words) out into the national and regional press.


Henry’s novel is light ‘chick lit’ fare but also a love letter to the powers of reading and to bookshops as places of community and self-fulfilment. Huw Osborne’s edited collection is deeply rooted in scholarly and archival research, with great emphasis placed upon the prominent role of women as booksellers and printer/publishers in the early twentieth century, along with the role of the bookshop – drawing on sociological work by Laura Miller, Reluctant Capitalists: Bookselling and the Culture of Consumption (2006) and the spatial theories of Henri Lefebvre – as hybrid “interstitial space” (7), “a social and lived space” (142) where communities of writers, readers and artists can meet. Poles apart as texts in so many ways, but both circulating around the idea of the bookshop as central to social and literary culture and to enabling a love of books. Independent Bookshop Week is itself of course a commercial and marketing tool, set up by the Booksellers Association, but I for one don’t mind the complex “literary-commercial paradox” (8), as Osborne describes bookselling, of this one. Happy Reading!

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