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 c.carville@reading.ac.uk

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Confessional comics daunt and inspire one of our colleagues

David Brauner writes:

Over the years I have given many conference papers on many different subjects in many different locations to many different audiences. However, the paper I gave on 12th November at the ‘Graphic Details: Communities of Experience’ symposium held at JW3, the new Jewish cultural centre in London, was a first in a number of respects. Although I published an essay on a number of Jewish women graphic novelists in a collection published earlier this year, entitled Graphic Details: Essays on Confessional Comics by Jewish Women, edited by Sarah Lightman, one of the co-organisers of this conference, and I gave a brief, informal talk at the opening of the exhibition that inspired the symposium and the essay collection, ‘Graphic Details: Confessional Comics by Jewish Women’ (currently showing until 13th December at the Space Station Sixty Five gallery in Kennington), I had never given a formal paper before on what is still a relatively new interest of mine. 

Graphic Details

What made this prospect particularly intimidating was that two of the artists and writers whose work I discuss in the paper were present at the conference, sitting in the front row of the audience when I delivered my paper. Furthermore, the material I discuss is rather sensitive and potentially controversial, as the title of the paper – ‘The Turd That Won’t Flush: The Comedy of Jewish Self-Hatred in the Work of Corinne Pearlman, Aline Kominsky-Crumb, Miss Lasko-Gross and Ariel Schrag’ – indicates. My nerves were not helped by the fact that by the time I finally got up to speak it was nearly 6pm and we had heard from more than twenty speakers – including many of the artists whose work is featured in the ‘Graphic Details’ exhibition – since the start of the symposium at 9.30am.

In the event, the audience – made up of academics, members of the general public and a number of graphic novelists and cartoonists – demonstrated admirable powers of concentration and undiminished enthusiasm, giving my paper and the panel of which I was a part their full attention and warm applause. Overall, the symposium was an extraordinary experience: it was a privilege to be able to hear some of the artists who had inspired me to write about this growing field talk about their work with such insight, wit and humility. I left JW3 exhausted but exhilarated and with the strong feeling that my first comics conference won’t be my last.


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Early Modern Women’s Writing – a new publication

November sees the publication of a collection of essays, Material Cultures of Early Modern Women’s Writing, edited by Patricia Pender and Ros Smith and  sponsored by the Early Modern Women’s Research Network. Many of these essays arise out of papers delivered at the Reading Early Modern Studies Conference in 2013, including Prof. Michelle O’Callaghan’s essay in this volume: “The ‘great Queen of Lightninge flashes': the Transmission of Female-voiced Burlesque Poetry in the Early Seventeenth Century”.

Material Cultures of Early Modern Women's Writing

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EMRC seminar this week – all welcome!

Wednesday 26th November: Dr Chloe Houston (University of Reading): ‘Too Good to be True: Reforming Utopia in Thomas Nicholls’ A pleasant Dialogue… (1579) and Thomas Lupton’s Sivqila (1580)’.  1.15 pm  HUMSS 127, Whiteknights Campus

Chloe Houston book cover

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Even more good news…

After all the undergraduate newsletter items on this blog recently, it is nice to hear that the good news does not finish when our students graduate. A recent graduate wrote to us with her news…

Siobhan Connelly (President of AIESEC in Tanzania) writes:

After finishing University exams I moved to Tanzania – I worked managing National Events and Corporate partnerships for a Global NGO called AIESEC – it’s a youth leadership development organisation. We run international internships and volunteering opportunities across 124 countries/territories with the vision of creating peace by developing the leaders the world needs. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IDJQOJCFPng (There is a local branch in Reading; I started volunteering when I was at University).

As of June this year I chair the East Africa division of the organisation and manage the National Branch in Tanzania. We just recruited our newest members in Tanzania so I’m now managing 500 young people in 7 local branches across the country, and teaching them to run an international organisation!

Been a crazy couple of years, but I am doing well!

If you are one of the many graduates of our department who keep up to date with what we are doing by subscribing to this blog or to our Facebook site, we would love to hear your good news story! Just email Cindy Becker on l.m.becker@reading.ac.uk with your post.

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Newsletter item: the UROP scheme

Sophie Mckenna writes:

Undergraduate Research Opportunities Programme (UROP)

Part Two students are eligible to apply for the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Programme, in which you work with university staff on a research project over the summer break. I worked with the English Literature department at the University’s Special Collections to digitise the records of the Hogarth Press, the publishing press of Virginia and Leonard Woolf. I learnt about the process of digitisation by preparing the archive to be hosted online: I transcribed files and analysed the sources, which helps explain what is available within vast archives. Also, I attended a London conference on digital humanities, and created an academic poster with my co-workers: this was displayed during an event at the Oxford Museum of Natural History.
UROP participants are required to create a poster about their placement, which are then displayed at a showcase event. The posters are judged, and students who create winning posters are supported by the university to attend the British Conference of Undergraduate Research.

Additionally, as a joint-honours student, I have taken part in two academic placements with the History department: in second year, for a compulsory module, I worked with a group to host a ‘World War One Roadshow’; and currently, through a placement-based module, I am working for a term at the Berkshire Records Office on an archival project. These experiences provided by the university enable students to explore different career options, so take all opportunities throughout your degree!

Newsletter UROP




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