Why I’m happy to be called a ‘Fellow’

Professor Grace Ioppolo writes:

A few years ago, I was notified that I’d been elected an ‘Ordinary Fellow’ of the Society of Antiquaries of London (https://www.sal.org.uk/). Although my husband Peter Beal had been a ‘Fellow’ there for some time, I knew very little about the Society, and only that it was located in the impressive building on the left of the Royal Academy of Art in Piccadilly (my husband hates attending lectures, so he ignored my repeated pleas to be taken to lectures there). I was evidently nominated for membership due to my work on the Henslowe-Alleyn Digitistation Project (http://www.henslowe-alleyn.org.uk/index.html), which demonstrated that I had spent numerous years working to conserve in digital form an important part of English heritage—the single best archive on theatre history in the time of Shakespeare.

Enough of the Fellows of SAL voted for me that I proudly attended the Fellows’ Induction Ceremony at which I was officially tapped on the shoulder with an antique mace to confirm my election. I learned later that those voting can literally ‘blackball’ a nominee by putting a black, rather than a white, ball in the voting box with his or her name on it (I never asked if any black balls were actually put into my box). Since becoming a Fellow I’ve tried to become active in the Society’s events, not just by attending some excellent lectures—the public lecture on the search for Richard III’s body was a real highlight—but by agreeing to serve on the Library Committee, which makes major decisions about the Society’s collections.

When I attended an orientation meeting about the collections I was astounded to discover that the Society has one of the finest and largest collections of antiquities in the world. In fact, at that meeting, I nearly tripped over an ancient Greek statue propped against the basement floor. I found out that the collections of sculptures, paintings, books, manuscripts, wax seals and other items acquired over the last three centuries through those working in antiquities—archaeologists, historians, art historians, archivists, literature scholars, etc., were so large that the Society has difficulty storing them all. I’ve been thrilled and delighted to participate in the Society’s activities, including trying to convince government and private organisations and officials to protect British heritage, including the acquisition, conservation and exhibition of antiquities.

So in August when I was notified that I had been fast-tracked for Fellowship of another organisation, “The Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce,” I was intrigued. I’d been nominated by a professor who had been impressed with my contributions to social media on Twitter @ProfShakespeare and to digital media. I’d never heard of ‘The RSA’ as they call themselves, but after I accepted the nomination I was duly elected. This Society seems impressive in its aims ‘to enrich society through ideas and action’: https://www.thersa.org. I’m hoping to start networking with other Fellows there, especially to develop my interests in using social and digital media to bring communities together.

I’ll conclude this blog with a more interesting story about tripping over antiquities. My husband Peter spent 25 years as the English manuscripts expert at Sotheby’s auction house in London. He often had to attend cocktail parties for upcoming auctions so that he could convince clients to buy the wonderful items on offer. I used to turn up just before the parties started and if Peter was still busy upstairs in his office, I would wander around the galleries until he was free. One evening while waiting, I walked into the Book Room to see the rare books and manuscripts on display, and I nearly tripped over a large painting on the floor that was casually leaning against the wall. I stepped back and took a long look at the painting and said to myself, ‘If I didn’t know better I would think that’s by Gauguin’. Later at the party I saw the painting after it had been put on display on the gallery wall and realised that it was indeed by Gauguin and that it was worth millions of pounds and that I had nearly put my clumsy foot through it a few hours earlier.  Suffice it to say that I never again walked anywhere near a painting at Sotheby’s. . . .

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Sharon Millar event

Conor Carville writes:

You are invited to a free reading by Sharon Millar on Wed. Oct. 12th at 6.00 pm, in HUMSS G27.

Sharon Millar is a Trinidadian writer. She is the winner of the 2013 Commonwealth Short Story Prize, the 2012 Small Axe Short Fiction Award and her debut collection The Whale House and other stories (Peepal Tree 2015) was shortlisted for the 2016 fiction category of The OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature. Her work has appeared in publications such as Granta, The Manchester Review, and Small Axe. She is currently at work on her first novel.


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Welcome to the Medical Humanities Reading Group

Did you enjoy Frankenstein?  Wondering how accurate all those fainting fits are in the old novels you read? Or maybe you’re interested in history, but studying health sciences? If you’d like to know more about interdisciplinary projects, and what that word actually means in practice, come and meet us on 4th October, in HumSS G07, Whiteknights Campus, at 5pm. There will be cake!

The Medical Humanities Reading Group is an interdisciplinary forum to meet postgraduate students, early career researchers, and colleagues. Linked to the new Health Humanities interdisciplinary research centre, we are just starting our second year as a group. We have some great invited speakers lined up, and have addressed some really interesting concepts in our past discussions.
Find out more on Facebook, or on our webpage

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Wilde in prison

Peter Stoneley writes:

The art production company, Artangel, has set up an exhibition in Reading Prison, to run from 4 September to 30 October.  It features well-known artists such as Steve McQueen (director of “Twelve Years a Slave,” Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Nan Goldin, and Turner Prize winner Wolfgang Tillmans.  Artangel asked me to give a lecture on Oscar Wilde’s time in Reading Prison, and to help them with organising a short series of lectures to run during the exhibition.  All the lectures to be held in the former prison chapel.  See the flyer below for details.

oscar in prison

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September in the Rain

Peter Robinson’s September in the Rain: A Novel is published today, the first of September 2016.

September in the Rain

For the two young people found out in the rain one September night nothing can ever be the same again… Together through university, Mary and Richard have long planned their journey to Italy. But in the months leading up to it, Richard begins what she will call ‘a brief affair’ with Alice. Then a series of small decisions leads to disaster. In delicately evocative prose, Peter Robinson carefully, painfully, and beautifully depicts these relationships before and after the traumatic events at the heart of his first novel.

September in the Rain is vivid narrative of young love in difficulties, its choices and dilemmas, responsibilities and distances, the consequences of guilty feelings and violent transformations.

‘A beautiful novel: profoundly upsetting, as its subject matter requires, but one which also offers a kind of redemption, thanks to the tone of rueful, quizzical honesty in which Peter Robinson narrates. The patient beauties of his poetry are carried over seamlessly into this, his first work of fiction’—Jonathan Coe

September in the Rain is a novel of extraordinary beauty and courage. It takes on a difficult and complex subject and explores it with sensitivity, wit and humanity. Peter Robinson is a writer of great panache and wisdom. I defy anyone not to be moved by his story’—Paula Byrne

‘To call this story a trauma narrative is to do it a disservice. It is a dark and tender tale of violation, but also more than that. As much as anything it’s a triumph of style, its sentences being assayed with a poet’s feeling for the weight of each word’—Giles Foden 

Read about what Ian Brinton calls ‘this stunningly moving novel’ on the Tears in the Fence blog for 29 August: https://tearsinthefence.com/blog/

September in the Rain is available through all good bookshops and online here:


Four launch events for it have been planned:

1 September 6:30 pm Lutyens & Rubenstein Bookshop, 21 Kensington Park Road, London W11 2EU

8 September 7:30 pm  Albion Beatnik Bookstone, 34 Walton Street, Oxford OX2 6AA

10 September 5:00 pm Waterstones 89 Broad Street, Reading RG1 2AP

25 October 6:30 pm Heffers Bookshop 20 Trinity Street, Cambridge CB2 1TY

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Reading Literature Festival 2016

Tickets for Reading Literature Festival 2016 go on sale today. Thursday 1 September

Book Here: http://store.rdg.ac/ReadingLiteratureFestivalTickets

Growing out of Reading Poetry Festival’s three successful years from 2013-15, the first Reading Literature Festival, from 4 to 13 November 2016, brings together many of the most exciting talents in contemporary writing from across the UK and abroad. Those appearing include Fleur Adcock, Kate Behrens, Justyna Bargielska, Jonathan Coe, Claire Dyer, Gill Learner, Theresa Lola, Mairi MacInnes, Jamie McKendrick, Hollie McNish, Wendy Meddour, Alice Oswald, Sudeep Sen, Dan Simpson, and Penelope Skinner. The events, taking place across the town, include discussions and readings, interviews with authors, creative writing workshops, film screenings, and a writing competition.

Directed by Sam Morrish, currently at work on her doctorate at the University of Reading, the first Reading Literature Festival is planned as a contribution to Reading’s Year of Culture, and a town and university collaboration supported by the University of Reading and its Committee for the Arts, the newly founded Heritage and Creativity Institute, the School of Literature and Languages, and the Department of English Literature.

Reading Literature Festival’s roots in the previous Poetry Festivals continue to flourish. It opens with the annual Gerald Finzi Lecture, on Friday 4 November, showcasing the celebrated poet Alice Oswald, who has links to the town, and will speak about her art and read from her work. She will also present the prizes for a local schools’ writing competition whose theme is ‘My Reading’.

Highlights include discussions of their work with the stage and screenwriter Penelope Skinner, on Wednesday 9th, and with the internationally best-selling novelist Jonathan Coe on Saturday 12th. The children’s fiction-writer Wendy Meddour, who recently took up a lectureship at the University, will lead an event for local schools, offer a creative writing workshop, and, with award-winning poet and translator Peter Robinson, judge the writing competition.

There are two events highlighting spoken word poetry, currently thriving in Reading, featuring Hollie McNish, Theresa Lola, and Dan Simpson on Friday 11 November, and a presentation of local performance poets mentored by McNish on Sunday 13th. Also on Sunday, Reading’s own poetry publisher, Two Rivers Press, whose national profile has risen recently thanks to prominent reviews in the THES and the TLS, will present new books by four of its poets published this year. The Festival also hosts a reading of new fiction writers showcased by the Newbury-based publisher Holland House Books.

The emphasis on internationalism in previous festivals continues in Saturday’s programme with a centenary celebration of the Italian writer Giorgio Bassani, the film of whose most famous novel The Garden of the Finzi-Contini is discussed and shown the previous Monday. This celebration includes accounts of his poetry and fiction, as well as his work as an editorial advisor for Feltrinelli – which included the discovery and promotion of Lampedusa’s classic, The Leopard. Jamie McKendrick, currently retranslating all Bassani’s fiction for Penguin Books, will be among the contributors.

Timely, in the light of the recent referendum result, is Saturday afternoon’s symposium on English language poetry and its relations with Europe and the world, featuring Fleur Adcock (New Zealand/UK), Justyna Bargielska (Poland) and her translator Maria Jastrzębska (Poland/UK), Jamie McKendrick (UK), and Sudeep Sen (India), in which they will discuss this urgent issue with Steven Matthews and give readings from their own work.

The Reading Literature Festival 2016 promises a great range of encounters covering writing of many kinds, and events for all ages, featuring writers from across the globe and close to home.

For updates and ticket information find us on Facebook: /Reading Literature Festival, follow us on Twitter @RdgLitFest and visit our Website:


Booking: http://store.rdg.ac/ReadingLiteratureFestivalTickets

Contact: litfest@reading.ac.uk


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Reading Year of Culture and our department

The Department of English Literature at the University of Reading is delighted to announce its first public creative writing competition, for 11 to 14 year olds from the Reading area. This is part of the 2016 Reading Literature Festival (4-13 November) and Reading Year of Culture.

The theme for entries is “My Reading”, and submissions can take the form of poetry (up to 14 lines), a short story (up to 500 words), or creative non-fiction (up to 500 words).

Send your submission by email or post to:

Dr Nicola Abram
Department of English Literature
University of Reading
PO Box 218


Please include your name, your date of birth, a contact number or email address, and the name of your school on your entry.

The deadline for entries is 7 October 2016.

Ship Leadership Concept on Chalkboard

Entries will be judged by prize-winning poet and novelist Peter Robinson and children’s author Wendy Meddour.

Prizes include book tokens and books by Two Rivers Press, and prize-winning entries will be published in the 2017 University of Reading Creative Arts Anthology.

Winners will be presented with their prizes by T.S. Eliot Prize-winning poet Alice Oswald on Friday 4 November (preceding the 2016 Finzi Lecture).

The organisers of this event, Nicola Abram and Rebecca Bullard, comment: “During our outreach activities with local schools we’ve consistently been impressed by the imagination and attention to detail that pupils put into their creative writing. Through this competition we’d like to give young people a chance to shine – and to tell the world what this town means to them.”

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The Professional Track: student experiences

Lucy Stone writes:

On the 7th July, Heather Evans, Rosa Mitchell and Rebecca Plummer were presented with awards in recognition of their outstanding achievement, having completed The Professional Track in less than a year after its official launch.

Catching up with them after the presentation at the Clock Tower Memorial on London Road Campus, I asked them each three short questions about their experience of The Professional Track.

Watch the video below to find out what they said!

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

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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.




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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

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