Archives and Texts Seminar

Dr Daniel Starza Smith (Oxford) ‘The Curious History of the Conway papers’

by slheywood<>

The Conway Papers were amassed between 1550 and 1700 by a family of statesman, soldiers, authors and collectors, including two secretaries of state – but when the family line expired, the archive was lost to history, apparently destined to suffer the vagaries of damage and dissolution. Thankfully they were rescued from obscurity by Horace Walpole, before passing through the hands of a great many people who weren’t quite sure what they were, or what to do with them. Only in the last twenty years have we been able to examine them and understand them properly. What do the Conway Papers contain? How can we piece them back together? And what research questions still lie among them?

Monday 26th January (week 3), 1.10-2.30pm, Henley Business School, G03

A joint seminar with the Early Modern Research Centre

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Emerson in 140 characters?

Professor Karín Lesnik-Oberstein, Director of the Graduate Centre for International Research in Childhood: Literature, Culture, Media (CIRCL) and the MA (Res.) in Children’s Literature, writes:

CIRCL are delighted to announce that CIRCL PhD student Krissie West, working on American Transcendentalism and Childhood in her research, has been awarded the USA Emerson Society Annual Graduate Award. As part of the award, Krissie has been given funding to give a lecture at the Annual Emerson Society conference in the USA on her paper proposal, for which the prize was awarded, on ‘#Emerson in 140 characters or less’.

In her paper, Krissie considers what kind of ideas of reading are implied by the Twitter limit of 140 characters and specifically how this might be thought of in relation to reading Emerson’s works.

Krissie and Dr Jess Sage, also of CIRCL, together founded and run the Twitter rotation-curation account, @wethehumanities.

Many congratulations, Krissie!


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The BBC celebrates Ladybird books

Dr Neil Cocks writes:

The BBC has recently joined in the centenary celebration of Ladybird books.

Here at Reading we are fortunate to hold a unique archive of Ladybird material, including the largest collection of its original art work.  In 2012, I curated an exhibition celebrating this work at the Museum of English Rural Life. At its centre was an exploration of a painting by Charles Tunnicliffe depicting an autumnal scene with a huntsman on horseback, which was published by Ladybird books in 1960. Different academic specialists from the University were invited to show how their discipline helped them engage with this work.  Collectively these responses from typography, education, biology, literature, cultural history, art history and rural history revealed the diverse stories that a single illustration can tell. To accompany the exhibition, around 100 additional illustrations were displayed to the public. This is a fraction of the entire collection. Seated in this display room for most of the opening night, I noticed that just about everyone who came in found themselves saying “wow!”


The Ladybird archive has tremendous potential for academic research. The emergence of the Ladybird Key Words reading scheme in the 1970s would make a fascinating subject for linguistic analysis, students of design could find inspiration in the explicit connections made between pedagogy and typography within that series, whilst the often problematic constructions of gender, class and race might help literary scholars think through the politics of representation within mid-century British children’s literature.  Academic expertise exits in all of these fields and we would be delighted to develop both undergraduate and postgraduate projects with interested researchers.

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Postgrad Solutions Study Bursary Winner 2014

We are delighted to announce that one of our postgraduate researchers, Samantha Morrish, has won a highly prestigious study bursary.

Well done Samantha!

Samantha Morrish

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Buried Music

Our Head of Department Peter Robinson’s new collection of poems, Buried Music, is officially published in January 2015. Click the image to buy online:


Peter Robinson Buried Music

He’ll be reading from it at the Swedenborg Hall, 20/21 Bloomsbury Way, London WC1A 2TH at 7:30 on Tuesday 20th January. Also on the bill are Timothy Adès, reading his translations of Alberto Arvelo Terrealba, and Sandeep Parmar.


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A warm welcome to this year’s Reading Scholars: Shakespeare Masterclass, Tuesday 16th December

On Tuesday 16th December, the Department of English Literature held the first event in this year’s Reading Scholars programme. Reading Scholars is part of the University’s commitment to help Year 12 students from low participation areas gain the confidence to apply for a university place. It is a year-long scheme in which students on the programme are invited onto campus several times for subject-specific learning events and for study-skills training and mentoring in applying to university. Each Scholar has a mentor (a current student in the department), who remains in touch with them throughout the year to provide support and advice.

Studying English Literature with a Language

We welcomed our Scholars onto campus for the first time on Tuesday to participate in a Shakespeare Masterclass with lectures, seminars and activities themed around The Taming of the Shrew.  As well as thinking about the play in its historical context, students had the opportunity to discuss the challenges of adapting the play for a modern audience. Our student mentors (Chloe, Francesca, Gary, Helen, Jess, Kiera, Leah and Michael) were fantastic in making the students feel at home on campus whilst helping them adjust to university-style learning. We look forward to working with and supporting our Scholars throughout this year as they begin to think about their choices for higher education and beyond.

Debbie Bark

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Getting creative for Christmas

If you have ever wondered what our admin team do to prepare for Christmas, wonder no longer! Jean Call has been spending her evenings creating, from scratch, this amazing set of nativity figures. That is not all, she has also built a HUGE nativity stable in which to house them – who would have known that knitting and carpentry would go together?

If you need help getting into the festive spirit, the figures are on display in the photocopying room today…

Jena's nativity scene

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Victorian Persistence: Text, Image, Theory

To see how Verity Burke and Andrew Mangham have been contributing to the debate in this area, click on their image below:


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We the Humanities

Jessica Sage (Sessional Lecturer) and Kristina West (PhD researcher and Sessional Lecturer) write:

Having reached the nine month mark with We the Humanities, the rotation-curation Twitter project we founded, we’ve been spending time developing our plans for its future.  We’ve recruited two new administrators (Emily Bowles and Emma Butcher, who are PhD students at York and Hull respectively) and are slowly putting into place our ideas for extending the initiative out from social media to a website of its own, with news and events sections and analysis and commentary blog posts.
The project was also name-checked on the Guardian’s Higher Education Network last month as a good place for PhD students to to start their online networking, which just happens to be the topic of the next discussion we’re hosting.  We’ll be giving a talk as part of the Social Scholar series at the University of London’s School of Advanced Studies on Wednesday, 3rd December, details of which can be found here.

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Department of English Literature Public Reading

Our newly-appointed Professor of Creative Writing Patrick Flanery will read on campus next week. The event will take place in HUMSS G27 at 6.00 pm on Tuesday 2nd December and will be followed by a drinks reception.

Patrick Flanery is the author of two critically acclaimed novels, Absolution (2012) and Fallen Land (2013), which have been translated into eleven languages and shortlisted for a number of prizes in America, Britain, and France. Absolution was most recently shortlisted for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Prize and the Royal Society of Literature’s Ondaatje Prize; it won the Spear’s/Laurent Perrier Best First Book Award in 2012.

Patrick Flanery publication Absolution

Flanery holds a BFA in Film and Television Production from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts and a Doctorate in Twentieth-Century English Literature from the University of Oxford. He has been a residential fellow at the Rockefeller Foundation’s Bellagio Center and the Santa Maddalena Foundation in Italy.

Before moving to Britain in 2001 Flanery worked for three years in the film industry in New York, first as a script analyst for Columbia Tri-Star Pictures and later as a book scout for a film production company. He has written for the Guardian, the Daily Telegraph, the Times Literary Supplement, the Washington Post, and the Los Angeles Times.

For further information contact Conor Carville on

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