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: http://blogs.reading.ac.uk/the-forum/

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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: www.woolf2017.com


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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‘I am / At war ‘twixt will and will not’ (Measure for Measure) Or Why I’ve been advising the writing team of the new TV series Will

Grace Ioppolo writes:

As some of you may know, I’m the founder and Director of a theatre history digitisation project that offers free access to 2000 pages of original records from Shakespeare’s time (www.henlsowe-alleyn.org.uk). The records belong to Philip Henslowe, a theatrical entrepreneur who built the Rose and Fortune playhouses and financed several acting companies, and his son-in-law Edward Alleyn, who with Richard Burbage was the most famous actor of the age. Alleyn was shrewd enough to ensure that this huge archive would survive in perpetuity at the school he founded, Dulwich College. Shakespeare and his colleagues did not manage to keep their records intact, and their papers were scattered and largely destroyed.

Since I published the Henslowe-Alleyn website and archive in 2009, it has received a lot of attention, both from scholars and from the much wider community. According to Google Analytics, we receive up to 28,000 hits per month on Google (which I still find hard to believe), with about 2000 visitors to the site each month. I’ve been contacted by a surprisingly large range of people, including actors, directors, journalists, dramaturgs, comedians, archaeologists, London community activists (!), and even government officials, as well as a man who claims Henslowe as his ancestor, who want further information. I also tweet about the project @ProfShakespeare.

But in August 2016, I had a very exciting email from Sarah Byrd, who introduced herself as part of the London-based writing team of ‘Will,’ a new TV series commissioned by the TNT network in the US, offering a look at the ‘dark’ subculture of Shakespeare’s world in the late 1580s and early 1590s. Sarah told me that she’d found the Henslowe-Alleyn website through Google and thought that I might be able to help her devise ideas for the show. When I rang her, she and I were each very surprised to discover that the other was from Los Angeles and that we’d both been to University there. I went to UCLA and she went to USC; of course, UCLA is much higher-ranked than its cross-town rival USC, but I didn’t hold that against Sarah! She has degrees in English literature and knew quite a lot about the early modern age (and has proven to be an excellent and energetic researcher), and she invited me to meet the creative team. So, off I went to their offices in Soho.

I can honestly say that it was the most enjoyable afternoon of my life in terms of creative thinking and exchanging ideas and information. The writers’ room was papered with photos of all the actors cast in the show (many of them had been in ‘Game of Thrones’ and other popular shows), and Sarah’s colleague David Rambo, a playwright and screenwriter also from Los Angeles, explained how the team worked. I learned that ‘Will’ was created by Craig Pearce and is the culmination of his ten-year effort to get the series on the air.

What they and I anticipated would be a short meeting turned into quite a long one as I answered their questions about the famous historical figures Shakespeare might have encountered, as well as the factual events captured in theatre history, such as the construction of playhouses, interventions and censorship by the government and what daily life was like in London (a subject about which I know a lot, as I’ve studied Henslowe’s famous ‘Diary’ and Alleyn’s lesser-known daily diary). I also gave them a list of historical figures with quite juicy backstories, including Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex, and his infamous sister Penelope Rich, on both of whom I do research. I offered some gossip of the age, including Ben Jonson’s claim that there was something anatomically wrong with Queen Elizabeth I (you can Google that one). But above all I told them that they should make Henslowe and Alleyn recurring characters in the show (they appear in Shakespeare in Love, after all), and they agreed! Sarah, David and the others on the team took copious notes of my comments (and especially enjoyed all the Tudor gossip), and I left their offices feeling ecstatic. The show will take a lot of liberties with the truth and seems to be a kind of Shakespeare meets Game of Thrones (a show that borrows repeatedly from Shakespeare’s plays and from medieval epics), but as Shakespeare took a lot of liberties with the truth, that seems fitting.

Since last year, I’ve had further conversations and emails with Sarah and David and was quite proud to accompany them and David’s husband Ted to Dulwich College, where Calista Lucy, the Keeper of Archives, and I showed them the originals of Henslowe’s and Alleyn’s papers, as well as the P. G. Wodehouse Library and the James Caird, the boat used by Ernest Shackleton in his Antarctic expedition. If a second series of ‘Will’ is commissioned, Sarah and David hope to return to London and their reconstructed and imaginative world of Shakespeare.

‘Will’ premieres in the US in July, so here’s hoping that it turns up on a UK television channel soon afterward. You can watch a trailer for the show here:

You can read about the show here:



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The Professional Track ceremony

Lucy Stone writes:

The Professional Track has grown into a scheme which is embedded across the School of Literature and Language, with students from all Departments getting involved.

In 2016-7 we ran 10 different professional courses, welcomed 10 external speakers and supported 80 academic placements, which resulted in over 40% of the student population in the School involved.

It’s fair to say it’s been a brilliantly busy year.

This year, the event to celebrate the fantastic achievement of all students who have completed the Professional Track is split into two parts; the first of which is happening on Friday 12th May.

This week I’ve been preparing for ceremony, and thinking about what workplace skills are important.

If you’d like to take a peek into my day, read on…

 A day in the life of a Professional Track Facilitator:

7.30am: I leave home. I lift share with a colleague from my old office, which is great as it helps me save money on petrol, and I get someone to talk to.

8.15am: Arrive at the office, say good morning to the cleaner as I wrestle with huge bags through the door to the office. I’ve been getting supplies for the ceremony.

8.30am: I cannot function until I’ve had my breakfast. It’s far too early for me to eat when I wake up, so I’m always ready for breakfast, whilst I check my emails, by the time I arrive at work. Sarah, my colleague arrives at this time too, so we all always have a quick debrief in the morning. Collaboration is really important, and I know I’m lucky that Sarah is always keen to help with any ideas and queries.

9.00am: This week I’m preparing for the first Professional Track ceremony, which is on Friday, and there’s plenty to be done. This year we’ve got about 30 students who have completed the scheme, and so we’re having two ceremonies rather than one! I start by printing off the award certificates.

11.00am: Meeting with my manager, Cindy. We talk through strategy, and the plan of action for Friday night. I give her a copy of the ceremonial booklet for her to proof read.

1.00pm: I’ve got a student dropping by my office soon to chat about final preparations for Friday. I put the kettle on in readiness.

3.00pm: This afternoon I’m making a note of everything I need to have ready for Friday night. I’ve updated the booklet now, and the catering has been confirmed – just need students and the night to arrive!

4.00pm: Check emails, and find that another student has confirmed they can attend. I fire off a thankful reply and mentally plan what I’m going to focus on tomorrow.

4.30pm: The day is over…only four more days until the ceremony.


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Visual culture and ‘points of view’

Dr Neil Cocks writes:

Studying English Literature can lead to work with many different kinds of texts, from the latest scientific papers, to material texts such as gravestones or coins. For example, Dr Neil Cocks’s research on ideas of ‘point of view’ in written texts has resulted in an interest in visual culture. He has now published on photography and feminist art, teaches modules in Film Theory, and has worked with artists and art charities. Here he writes about a recent project:

“I have recently been helping set up Activate Learning’s Przytułku Społeczność Projekt in Banbury. This is a Polish community art and photography project, focused on responses to the history and legacy of the English workhouse. I was invited to contribute because of my research interest in questions of identity and ‘point of view’. I am to speak about the completed art works at the project’s opening.

The approach to photography taken up by Wig Sayell, the central artist involved in this project, puts me in mind of John Cage’s prepared pianos. It is an art that turns upon tensions between chance and design. Cameras are loaded with old, rusty and leaking film, and the developing process does not seek to avoid certain technical hitches. The images were taken by interested members of the Polish community in Banbury, all from very different walks of life, but none of them experienced artists. Results can be seen in the images attached.

Take the first of these. It depicts a building in Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire,  originally designed as a workhouse. During the developing process, the roll of film stuck to itself, resulting, unexpectedly, in the strange, curtain like frame to the image. It is a suggestive accident. The workhouse was originally a place of observation and control, where movements were always open to scrutiny, yet also a building whose interior was not seen by many in C19th society. It persists as a part of Chipping Norton’s architecture, but few of the thousands who pass it every day know what it once was. Its history is largely invisible. It is a structure that escapes the gaze in a further sense, as it now forms desirable, private, luxury residences. Is, then, the image here one of exposure? Are we getting a peek inside the curtain? Or has it fallen? Does it obscure, rather than reveal? And if it is a curtain, what might that say about the ‘reality’ of this image, so laboriously and chaotically produced?

The second image depicts what in the present day appears to be something like a quaint bell tower. Originally, this housed the viewing platform that allowed those within the workhouse to be subject to constant surveillance. The old film in the camera that took this picture leaked, resulting in this strange distortion at what once was –  but now, for so many reasons, cannot be –  the point of clear, disciplinary vision.

The Private view for this project is to be held at Activate Learning, Banbury, on the 22nd of June. Please contact me (Dr Neil Cocks) for more details.

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Chair of the Senior Tutor Community of Practice

We are pleased to announce that Dr Madeleine Davies has been elected Chair of the Senior Tutor Community of Practice.

 Madeleine writes: ‘I’m very excited about this opportunity and I’m looking forward to working closely with this fantastic group of colleagues. The ST COP is always brimming with ideas and we’ll be working together on new initiatives throughout the next session.’


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