Graduate Centre for Medieval Studies Seminars Autumn 2019

Seminars will be held on Thursdays at 4.30 pm in Edith Morley 124 unless otherwise stated.

11 October FRIDAY, 4.30pm Edith Morley 124

Helen Nicholson (University of Cardiff), ‘Queen Sybil of Jerusalem and the Third Crusade’

14 November

Stenton Lecture: 6.30pm in the Van Emden lecture theatre.

Ronald Hutton (University of Bristol), ‘Reconsidering the Question of Pagan Survivals in the Christian Middle Ages’.

The lecture will be proceeded by a colloquium in the afternoon – more details to follow

28  November

Jonathan Harris (Royal Holloway, University of London), ‘The late Byzantine aristocracy and the mystery of the Perivleptos’

12 December

Carole Hillenbrand (University of Edinburgh)  ‘Odd men out?  The Turks in twelfth-century Syria’


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“From Switzerland” by Peter Robinson published by LONGITŪDINĒS

On 1 October, “From Switzerland”, Peter Robinson’s new sequence of poems, appeared on the LONGITŪDINĒS website, the first publication of this new founded magazine.

LONGITŪDINĒS is an arts and literature magazine, with annual print editions and online content. It is conceived as an arts and literary platform that gathers in one place the work of the most interesting writers and artists based in Europe. Its aim is the promotion and the dissemination of a European Art and Literature, at a time in which local politics seems to push towards the construction of walls and closure of borders. Its name LONGITŪDINĒS reflects this intention to cross boundaries.

The print edition includes the original texts alongside their English translation. Translations into other languages are published on the website when they become available.

LONGITŪDINĒS recognises the fundamental role covered by translation in the dissemination of culture and aims to make it an integral part of its project and to give translators a too often unrecognised credit. Translators who would like to collaborate are invited to get in touch with the editors at


LONGITŪDINĒS is now inviting submissions for its First Issue, due to be published in Autumn 2020. They are looking for artworks, and short prose, poetry and drama written in any European language.

Submitted artworks and texts must be previously unpublished. Multiple submissions are acceptable as long as we are notified immediately if they are accepted for publication elsewhere. Print quality artworks and texts in PDF must be submitted by 1 January 2020 to All submissions must be accompanied by a short bio of the author. Texts should not exceed the following specifications:

Prose: 6,000 words

Poetry: 150 lines

Drama: 3,000 words

Submissions will be acknowledged. Authors will be notified of editorial decisions.

For queries contact us at or visit

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Immy Mason-Evans on ‘Mastering your Masters (based on experience)’

You will expect your masters to feel like the natural step up from your undergraduate degree. You will expect to feel confident and comfortable discussing theories, criticism and your own literary analysis. After the longest summer, fuelled by the success of your undergraduate achievement you will feel prepared and excited for this new journey. This is short lasting. I’m sorry. In your first seminar you will feel like your brain has replaced all literary intellect with each episode of that summer’s Love Island. Your peers will each seem like literature student deities; omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent both in and out the classroom. This is intimidating, you will sit in the least noticeable spot, feeling inherently incapable and refusing eye contact. You are incessantly aware that at any moment MI5 will storm the room with warrants and evidence of your wrongful acceptance onto the course, revealing you as the fraud you are and whisking you away in the back of a van never to be seen again (this will make it difficult to focus on Margaret Cavendish’s The Blazing World and make it unlikely you investigate the utopia in your end of term essay).

After a few weeks of perpetual self-torture and agonising over manuscripts and Mary Shelley you will organise a meeting with the director of your course. You reveal your fraudulence in the programme, confess your complete inadequacy and admit your inability to understand even the likes of Biff and Chip let alone Materiality and Textuality. You will plead guilty to your failure and announce you are dropping out of the course. They suggest you wait out the term, hint at brighter skies ahead and wryly muse on Imposter Syndrome. You will self-diagnose yourself with Imposter Syndrome after reading the Wiki-page on the walk home, console yourself and remind yourself of the evidence of your competence. You will then start to wonder if you might be faking the whole imposter thing and that at any moment MI5 will storm the room, reveal you as a fraudulent fraudster and whisk you away in the back of a van never to be seen again.

Regardless, I am happy to announce that the reversion to first year seminar silence only lasts the first half of first term. You will succeed in your first assignments and put the MI5 investigation into jeopardy. By second term you will have found your voice again, your deity-peers will appear more human and you will voluntarily participate in seminars. The crippling self-doubt remains – I am afraid it comes part and parcel with the pursuit of knowledge – though you will find ways to drown it out (Lo-Fi Hip-Hop Beats to Study/Relax To). You will spend all your time reading and researching, at some mundane moment at approximately 3.08pm on a Thursday you will realise this is enjoyable not terrifying. The transformation concludes with a preference for Park House over Park Bar, shocking.

I appreciate this sounds like hard work and survival. It is. Not forgetting the money worries, working part-time job(s) and maintaining a social life, it will be the hardest year of your life. Also the best. In twelve months you will make the same level of self-discovery and self-improvement that took three years during your undergraduate. Friendships will deepen, new ones will come, you will continually improve your close reading and writing. You will spend a summer writing a 15,000 word dissertation so central to your life, your dreams and your ego that upon completion you consider going to the council and registering a birth. You will surpass yourself in all ways. MI5 are no longer at the door. (This being said, I won’t feel safe until I graduate.)                    – Imogen Mason-Evans


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Professor Karin Lesnik-Oberstein on BBC4

BBC Radio 4 recently aired a documentary on Hairy Art that featured Professor Karin Lesnik-Oberstein.

If you missed it when it first aired (Tuesday, 13th August at 11.30am), you can still listen to it on BBC Sounds

For more information on Professor Lesnik-Oberstein’s research, please visit her webpage.

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Dr Sue Walsh on The Jungle Book

We recently posted about Dr Sue Walsh in conversation with Anindya Raychaudhuri  and Frances Hardinge in the ‘Proms Plus’ series discussing Kipling’s The Jungle Book.

You can now here that conversation on BBC Sounds:

You can also access it on BBC iplayer and download it as a podcast.

And Sue’s article on The Jungle Book is now available at The

If you would like more information on Sue’s work, you can contact her through the Department of English Literature’s website.


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Dr Sue Walsh on Kipling at Proms Plus

On 20th August, Dr Sue Walsh will be taking part in a Proms Plus Event that will be broadcast on Radio 3 during the interval that evening. That evening’s Prom features Charles Koechlin’s Les Bandar-log, a work seen as part of the composers ‘nearly life long effort to set The Jungle Book to music’. Dr Walsh will be discussing Kipling and The Jungle Book with the author Frances Harding, and the discussion will be chaired by Anindya Raychaudhuri (University of St. Andrews).

Sue writes:

The Jungle Books themselves were first published in 1894 and 1895, and they feature stories about Mowgli, a boy raised by wolves in the Indian Jungle.  Since their initial publication these stories have remained popular, inspiring numerous adaptations, but their attitudes have been questioned by some parents and critics, who see them as a relic of Britain’s colonial past.  In my research into Kipling’s children’s literature I note that a classic way of reading the tales is as an allegory for the position of the white colonialist born and raised in India, with Mowgli, the Indian boy who becomes ‘Master’ of the jungle being understood to be ‘behaving towards the beasts as the British do to the Indians’ (John McLure, Kipling and Conrad: the colonial fiction, 1981).

This account, while persuasive in many ways, seems to me to be a bit reductive, and it misses some of the interesting ways the stories potentially raise questions about notions of belonging and identity.  To start with, the standard account relies on the idea that the human and animal identities within the stories are clearly distinguished from each other and fixed, and that this fixity of distinction extends via allegory to ‘white’ and Indian identities.  But what happens to our understanding of the stories if we don’t treat the human and animal identities therein as predeterminedly distinct?   In my research I argue that a species name doesn’t necessarily fix identity.  For example, Bagheera the black panther is described in terms of a series of other animals, he is ‘as cunning as Tabaqui [the jackal], as bold as the wild buffalo, and as reckless as the wounded elephant’.  Here then, attributes that are supposedly intrinsic to one animal can be found in another and this  thus undermines any claim that those attributes are in fact the preserve of a particular species and it also implicitly undermines narratives of essential difference between species.

Also doesn’t a closer look at the relationship of the child Mowgli to the inhabitants of the jungle complicate accounts of the Jungle Books as straightforwardly imperialist in character?  The clearest marker of Mowgli’s apparent difference from the jungle animals is his look which becomes his way of controlling the animals and could then be said to assert and fix a distinction between him and them.  Mowgli’s stare subdues the animal’s instinctual response but Mowgli’s difference from Bagheera is written precisely not as an absolute difference from the animal, but as the difference between the expressed and repressed animal.  Bagheera the panther’s eyes convey exactly how he feels, they ‘blaze’ when he is angry, but Mowgli’s eyes, even when he is angry are ‘like a stone in wet or dry weather’ according to Bagheera, ‘they say nothing’.  Thus Mowgli is constructed as having a hidden aspect to him (beneath what his eyes reveal), he has the same emotions as the panther but these feelings are repressed and it is this that marks him as human, but it also means that at the heart of Mowgli – at his core – there is the animal.

Finally, as I’ve already indicated, the Jungle Book stories return to the issue of belonging over and over again, raising questions about the grounds on which one may claim to belong to a particular group or community.  They ask whether belonging is a matter of essence or of convention and social agreement.

These aspects of the stories lead me to feel that there is more to them than an imperialist narrative, and in my monograph, Kipling’s Children’s Literature: Language, Identity and Constructions of Childhood ( I deal with all these questions and extend my discussion to a number of Kipling’s other books for children.

if you wish to attend the concert itself, booking is not required and entry is on a first-come-first-served basis (doors open from 30 minutes before the event begins; capacity is limited). To hear the discussion, tune into Radio 3 at 17:45.

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Book launch: Ethel Carnie Holdsworth’s General Belinda (1924; 2019)

Nicola Wilson writes:

This week sees the re-publication of Ethel Carnie Holdsworth’s sixth novel, General Belinda, with a book launch at Great Harwood library in Lancashire, the town where Carnie Holdsworth grew up.

General Belinda was first published in 1924 and has been out of print – and difficult to get hold of – ever since. Students on Class Matters (EN3CM) know that I’ve been working to get Carnie Holdsworth back into print for nearly ten years now, and this will be the fourth of her books to be republished by small, independent publishers: Trent Editions  and Kennedy & Boyd.

Ffion Evans, one of our recent DEL students, copy-edited the manuscript for this new edition, which includes an introduction by Dr Roger Smalley.

General Belinda is not as well-known as Carnie Holdsworth’s other works that are now back in print: This Slavery (1925; republished by Trent, 2011); Miss Nobody (1913; republished by Kennedy & Boyd, 2013); or Helen of Four Gates (1917; republished by Kennedy & Boyd, 2016). But it is peculiarly interesting and entertaining, and valuable as a rare critique of domestic service – at the time, one of the major forms of employment for young working women – written by a working-class woman. It’s also the first and only one of Carnie Holdsworth’s novels to deal with domestic service in any detail. Belinda, the protagonist, is a ‘general’ (a maid-of-all-work, meaning the only servant to be employed in a household) and the book offers a devastating critique of the conditions many interwar servants were faced with behind closed doors.

Formally, the novel is a mixed bag. Carnie Holdsworth wanted to reach a wide audience, and she experimented with different genres across of all her works, seeing how best to square feminist socialist politics with her desire to reach a wide audience reading popular fiction. General Belinda is at times light-hearted, at other times deadly serious, in exposing the wide-ranging, systematic abuses of domestic service and the precarious, exploitative relationships that oftentimes young and unmarried girls were exposed to. Another strand of the plot outlines the tragedy and waste suffered in World War One (Carnie Holdsworth was a pacifist, and her husband, Alfred, a conscientious objector). But comedy is never far away from the surface, and the plot relies on a strong comic tradition of sending up those in authority. Belinda – much like her contemporary, Jeeves, of P. G. Wodehouse’s Jeeves and Wooster – pretty much always gets the upper hand.

For more information about this event, go to:





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David Brauner on Philip Roth

Professor David Brauner has come to the end of his time as co-editor of the journal Philip Roth Studies. He and his fellow editor Debra Shostak have taken the opportunity to reflect on their interest in Roth, their time as editors of the journal, and on the recent death of Roth himself.

You can read their interview here.

Philip Roth Studies Volume 15, Issue 1, is now in print.

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Oscar Wilde, Collections and Collecting: Michael Seeney is our guest at Special Collections

Oscar Wilde with Cane 1892We have a guest speaker next Thursday, 30th May at Special Collections at 6-30.  Michael Seeney, the scholar and collector of Oscar Wilde items, will be talking about Wilde, collections, and collecting.

Michael has all kinds of things, from Wilde letters, signed rare editions and photos, to t-shirts and mugs.  Perhaps his strangest object is one of only two plaster casts of Wilde’s hand, made at his death-bed.  Michael is also a renowned expert on the life and works, and has written the biography of Wilde’s close friend, More Adey.  Michael will be talking about his experiences as a Wilde collector, and the value of private collections to researchers and to the wider public.  He will also tell us some of the extraordinary stories of important collectors of the past and what has become of their collections.

So, if you are a researching your dissertation on Wilde and want to know how collections might help you, or if you are just a Wilde fan who wants to know how much you would have to pay for an authentic Wilde autograph, Michael can tell you.

The talk is free, but you would have to reserve a seat via eventbrite:


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Thank you to The Friends of the University


The Department of English Literature would like to extend warm thanks to ‘The Friends of the University’ for a donation of £500 for an ‘Images of Literature’ project. Maddi Davies applied for the money so that the Department could buy some framed posters from the RSC, The Globe, and The National Portrait Gallery to help produce a coherent literary identity for the Department corridors.

The new pictures will be selected and ordered over the summer; if anyone has any ideas for powerful images, please let Maddi and Cindy know.

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