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.




Posted in Department of English Literature news and events | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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

Posted in Department of English Literature news and events | Leave a comment

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

Posted in Department of English Literature news and events | Leave a comment

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

Posted in Department of English Literature news and events | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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!

Posted in Department of English Literature news and events | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ancients and Moderns dispute

Paddy Bullard has recently published an article about Voltaire, Jonathan Swift and the querelle des anciens et des modernes on the blog of the Voltaire Foundation, Oxford. The piece is here. The posting marks the publication of a new collection of essays co-edited by Paddy and Alexis Tadié, Ancients and Moderns in Europe: Comparative Perspectives.

Ancients and Moderns

The collection presents a new intellectual history of the ‘Ancients and Moderns’ dispute, in which fourteen contributors explore its manifestations across Europe in the arts and sciences, from the sixteenth to the eighteenth centuries.



Posted in Department of English Literature news and events | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Chloe Houston writes for the Sheffield Centre for Early Modern Studies

Dr Chloe Houston recently posted to the blog for the Sheffield Centre for Early Modern Studies, hosted by the University of Sheffield.

The post can be found here.


                                                     Map of Utopia (anonymous; undated), from http://theopenutopia.org
Posted in Department of English Literature news and events | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

David Brauner gives a keynote address at the American Literature Symposium at the University of Cambridge

David writes:

This weekend I found myself in surroundings that were both familiar and strange: familiar, because as an undergraduate at Pembroke College in the late 1980s I’d spent many hours on the Sidgwick site in Cambridge, attending lectures and seminars and working in the English Faculty Library; strange, because the Faculty is housed in a new building (one of several) that have given the place a very different feel. I was there to deliver a keynote address on Saul Bellow’s short fiction at the American Literature Symposium, an annual event that particularly showcases the work of postgraduates at Cambridge conducting research in American literature but that also features speakers from elsewhere.

The theme of this year’s symposium, ‘American Stuff’, elicited papers on subjects as various as the poetry of Anne Bradstreet, Walt Whitman, Charles Olson and James Merrill; the fiction of Henry James, Ralph Ellison, Thomas Pynchon and Jonathan Franzen; and the treatment of ‘hoarding’ in contemporary US fiction. I was a little concerned about how my own detailed reconsideration of some of Bellow’s short stories might fit in with the other papers – my argument was that Bellow is not much concerned with ‘stuff’ in the material sense, preferring to focus on tracing the minute fluctuations of consciousness – but as it turned out it spoke to many of the other presentations, a number of which were also concerned with what one speaker called ‘thinking about thinking’, and others of which were also about the short story form, as practised by Lorrie Moore, Lydia Davis and George Saunders. It was a pleasure and privilege to exchange ideas and to get a sense of the exciting work being done by the current generation of postgraduate students at my alma mater.

Posted in Department of English Literature news and events | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra coincidence

Dr Mark Hutchings writes:

The events held in the UK and across the globe to commemorate the four hundredth anniversary of Shakespeare’s death are being mirrored in Spain and the Hispanic world: Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, author of Don Quixote, also died in 1616, and this coincidence has afforded scholars and practitioners an opportunity to explore ways in which the two writers’ achievements might be brought together in a fruitful dialogue. Last week in Valladolid, the city where Cervantes was living when his great novel was published, the University of Valladolid in cooperation with Spain’s national and regional governments hosted ‘Cervantes + Shakespeare’, a five-day international conference under the aegis of SEDERI (Spanish and Portuguese Society for English Renaissance Studies www.sederi.org). The proceedings were formerly inaugurated at the Archivo General, Simancas by the Secretary of State for Culture, José María Lassalle, and academic papers were given over three days in the university’s Renaissance buildings; a classical music concert by La Spagna  was held in St Alban’s College (founded in 1589 and the earliest English Catholic seminary established in Spain); and the conference closed with a performance of Cervantine and Shakespearean pieces in Cervantes’ house, which is now a museum.

Valladolid was in many ways the perfect venue for such an event. Not only is the city associated with Cervantes, but the Spanish writer was present in 1605 when an English embassy, led by the lord Admiral, the earl of Nottingham, arrived in May, staying for a month as the guest of King Philip III. Valladolid was for a brief period (1601-6) the seat of the Habsburg court, before it returned to Madrid permanently the following year. The purpose of the embassy was to ratify the peace treaty signed the previous year in London, when a Spanish embassy was received in England by the new king, James I. Together with the conference organiser, Berta Cano Echevarría, Head of the Department of English Philology at the University of Valladolid, I have been carrying out research into the Anglo-Spanish peacemaking, and specifically the ways in which the ceremonial aspects of early modern diplomacy may be considered to be theatrical and performative. We are interested in how diplomacy was performed – in elite, private entertainments, such as court masques, and in public, in the form of civic displays. One such was the embassy’s formal entry into Valladolid, an event scripted by Philip III as both a gesture of respect towards James’s representative and a performance of Spanish prestige. Surviving eyewitness accounts in English, Spanish, and Portuguese, together with diplomatic documents in the archives, have enabled us to identify (and to some extent, though with the usual caveats, ‘re-imagine’) how the entry was choreographed, and the kinds of entertainment the lord admiral and his embassy received. On this basis Berta Cano and I have reconstructed the route, based on the earliest-known map of Valladolid dating from 1738, showing the point of entry when the English entourage arrived outside the city, the route of the procession, and the principal entertainments and ceremonial events that took place during the month the English remained in the city. Funded by the University of Valladolid and in association with the city hall, Berta Cano and I have reproduced the route and site of entertainments as a fold-out map on one side, with excerpts from the English, Spanish, and Portuguese texts on the other, each of which provides a descriptive commentary of events, such as the entry itself, the tournament and bullfighting held in the plaza mayor (still today much as it was then), and the baptismal procession to the Church of San Pablo: Philip III’s male heir was born while the embassy was en route to Spain, and the ceremonial baptism was incorporated into the festivities surrounding the official ratification of the peace.

Although many of the buildings in which theatre took place in England and Spain have long since vanished, to leave at best only tantalising traces, one of the advantages of exploring early modern civic entertainment is that while many of the structures have long since gone (though by no means all, especially the religious edifices, in Spain at least), the topography of cities often remains substantially as it was. That is, streets and layout change rather little. Berta Cano and I were thus able to retrace the route taken by the embassy upon its entry into Valladolid in May 1605, and identify the places of the principal entertainments, through using a later, eighteenth-century map that corresponds in most respects to the centre of the city today, which was medieval in origin. Once we had established the route and devised the map it was produced to professional standards by the University of Valladolid. A month ago we took a group of bilingual schoolteachers from Castilla y Leon (from schools in Burgos and Salamanca, as well as Valladolid) along the route: like most people in Valladolid they knew nothing of this aspect of the city’s history, of the important part it played in international relations four hundred years ago. Last week we each took a group of conference delegates on the route, starting at the Campo Grande that led into the city (Phillip III having instructed the lord admiral to enter the city from this direction, because this perspective showed Valladolid at its best), and proceeding to the plaza mayor and on to the church of San Pablo, opposite which stood (and stands) the royal palace. Using the excerpts from the earliest accounts built into the map we aimed to convey something of the flavour of the event, as seen through Spanish, English, and Portuguese eyes. It was a great success, despite the fact that academics make for at best amateur tour guides. What most impressed me, however, was how the University of Valladolid, the city hall, and the regional and national government combined to make the wider conference possible, and through this promoted our ‘theatre of diplomacy’ project. The city’s tourist office was particularly interested in our venture, and we are in the process of developing an app for visitors to the city. In the longer term we hope to extend this project to other European cities – so if any students are interested in this kind of project do get in touch.




Posted in Department of English Literature news and events | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


Many congratulations to CIRCL PhD student Krissie West!

Krissie passed her PhD viva on 10-05-2016 with her thesis”To be boy eternal”: Locating the Child in the Literature and Criticism of Ralph Waldo Emerson. External Examiner: Professor Peter Buse (Kingston University), Internal Examiner: Professor Peter Stoneley!

Posted in Department of English Literature news and events | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment