The Gothic Research Community

Evan Hayles Gledhill writes:

Stirling Logo (1)

As a student of the Gothic, I have found there is a thriving research community both online and off. This year, I have joined in to share my ideas and research with the community, through blogging. This post was inspired by research for a chapter in my PhD on posthuman gothic. It’s an idea that’s too big to include in my thesis, which is focused on embodiment, but I wanted to record it come back to later. Blogging is a great platform for students to get feedback on ideas they aren’t ready to formally publish yet.

Here’s the link


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New publication is well received

Nicola Wilson writes:

There is an exciting review of our recently co-edited book, New Directions in the History of the Novel (Palgrave Macmillan, 2014) in Literature and History (24.1, spring 2015). This book came out of a conference co-organised by myself, Dr Andrew Nash, and Professor Patrick Parrinder, at the Institute for English Studies in London in 2009. We viewed New Directions as a compliment to the multi-volume Oxford History of the Novel in English series of which Patrick is General Editor, something that would reflect on the historiography of writing on the novel – a book about ‘the history of the history of the novel’ in many ways, which of course also looks to its future. We hoped it would be of interest to academics and students studying the novel, its history and development, and grounded our ‘new directions’ in four vibrant areas of literary study: the material text (the ‘bookness of books’ as Thomas Keymer writes in his chapter); the questioning of definitions and critical movements that have long-dominated readings of the novel and its form, like realism; new work in global cultural histories; and contemporary fiction. Claire Wood of the University of York writes a very positive review, calling attention to ‘the balanced consideration that is characteristic of the volume as a whole’ (109) and summarising: ‘what these engaging and accessible essays do brilliantly, however, is to offer a range of provocative starting points that challenge us to see the conventional story of the novel’s development as just one curated strand of many intertwining histories’ (110).

Nicola Wilson post


Dr Nicola Wilson is newly appointed Lecturer in Book and Publishing Studies at the University of Reading. She is working on a British Academy-funded project on popular reading patterns and the Book Society Ltd (1929-60). Her first book, recently published, is Home in British Working-Class Fiction (Ashgate, 2015).

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Re-shaping universities

Professor Karín Lesnik-Oberstein writes:

Universities at the moment are subject to a constant stream of changes in policy, strategy, management and organisation, as anyone who has been hearing about the recent government budget in relation to Higher Education knows. There is an increasing concern amongst many University managers, academic staff, support staff and students that the direction of these changes towards re-shaping Universities increasingly along the lines of certain models of commercialisation and marketisation is leading to damaging pressures on the quality of University teaching and research.

I recently wrote an open letter about such concerns in the Guardian, and with a group of colleagues from ‘The Critical Institute’ coordinated the gathering of the signatures of 120 UK University professors for the letter. This letter was published in the Guardian: and within 48 hours had been ‘shared’ almost 3500 times (and up until now almost 4500 times).

I was then invited to write a blog on responses to the open letter for the Times Higher Education website:

and this blog was the most read item on the THES website over that weekend.

My colleagues at The Critical Institute and I will be continuing our actions on behalf of teaching and research at Universities and have recently been co-signatories to a letter presented to the Chair of UNESCO on related concerns about academic teaching and research world-wide, which can be read and signed at:

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Peter Robinson’s latest publication: The Draft Will

Much of it composed during Peter’s eighteen years living in Japan, The Draft Will brings together a selection of his experiments with the prose poem and an extended sequence exploring a mystery in the poet’s family background. To these has been added a gathering of memoirs written for various occasions over thirty years. Among these is ‘Lost and Found’, an account of the events surrounding the discovery he was suffering from a brain tumour, and how after its removal he was able to return to Sendai, working there for a further twelve years. Robinson’s unusual attention to the timbre and cadence of English has singled him out as among the distinctive poets of his time. The Draft Will is an essential element in this evolving body of work.





Click here to read an excerpt from The Draft Will. 

Click here to order from

Click here to order from

Click here to order from

Contact Peter:

See his webpages:

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Cole Library article

Verity Burke writes:

I recently wrote a post for the History Vault on Professor Francis J. Cole’s collections (the Cole Library of Early Medicine and Zoology, and the Cole Museum of Zoology) on anatomy and reading and thought it might be of wider interest.

Verity Burke

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Department of English Literature Undergraduate Award Ceremony

 Professor Peter Robinson writes:

It was a great pleasure, one of my final duties as outgoing Head of Department for English Literature in the School of Literature and Languages, to present The Margaret Seymour and Percy Sharman Prize for Literature, awarded to Lorenzo Pagano, the student with the best overall mark in finals, who had a GPA of over 74 and a run of marks at Part 3 all in the first class band. I also presented our Best Dissertation Prize to Benjamin Beach, for a thesis on T. S. Eliot’s earlier poetry and the problems — poetic, philosophical and critical — of emotion in his work. This was awarded an agreed 85 by the two anonymous examiners.

Bridgeman; (c) University of Reading Art Collection; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
Bridgeman; (c) University of Reading Art Collection; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

It was also a great pleasure to welcome again Paul Ovstedal, son of the novelist, to present The Rosalind Laker Award for Creative Writing to Unah Cader for the best dissertation on our Pathway this year, which consisted of two short stories rewriting fairy tales and an accompanying commentary. All three of the winners were able to be present in person, along with members of their families, and it was a delight to welcome them into the Department for our celebrations.



About Professor Peter Robinson…

Peter’s latest publication is The Draft Will. Much of it composed during Peter Robinson’s eighteen years living in Japan, The Draft Will brings together a selection of his experiments with the prose poem and an extended sequence exploring a mystery in the poet’s family background.      ‘A major English poet’ (Poetry Review)

Contact Peter:

See his webpages:


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Well done Claire!

Congratulations to Claire Battershill, whose book of short stories, Circus, published last year, was a finalist for the Danuta Gleed Award for best first Canadian short story collection.

It has also won an award for best literary fiction by a new writer in Canada.

Claire Battershill


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Letter from America

Nicola Wilson writes:

I was very fortunate to spend some time earlier this month doing research at the Harry Ransom Center (HRC) in Austin, Texas. “Do you still need to travel to see particular items?” friends have asked. Well yes, while many major research libraries now have substantial digitisation programmes – the Harry Ransom Center is one of these, as you can see from their huge online collections – there is still so much material held in large libraries and archives like this that digitisation can only start to offer a taster of what they contain. In fact, I was working from card catalogues in the reading rooms while I was there – sometimes even archivists and online catalogues cannot keep up with everything that a major archive contains.

The Harry Ransom Center is a key place for research in twentieth-century literature. Since its origins in the late 1950s, when it was founded by Harry Huntt Ransom, a professor of English, the HRC has sought to collect literary manuscripts and “entire working archives” – an unusual collections-policy at mid-century, when rare books were valued more highly than the archives of living writers – reflecting Ransom’s belief that the archival trail an author leaves behind (notes, diaries, drafts, correspondence) should be at the centre of literary research. We still have debates about the validity of this idea or otherwise in our seminar rooms today.

The politics of acquisition should not be ignored of course, and the well-endowed HRC regularly appears in archival controversies as with their recent purchase of the archive of Columbian writer Gabriel García Márquez.

The ‘Diasporic Archives’ network has explored some of the complex, geo-political and international issues involved in major institutions’ collections policies:

Austin however was a wonderful place to work in and I had a fabulous time buried in the archives there. I was looking at Hugh Walpole’s diaries – poignant and entertaining – and a variety of correspondence written between him and other members of the Book Society Selection Committee – a mail-order book club set up in 1929, which in many ways had an influence upon popular literature and literary fiction comparable to that of Oprah’s Book Club or Richard & Judy today. All of which will be great material for the next book, and I came away just in time before I got the boots!



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The latest publication from Professor Karín Lesnik-Oberstein

Professor Karín Lesnik-Oberstein has just published a new, edited, volume, for which she has also written the introduction and first chapter, and which includes contributions from a wide range of colleagues from CIRCL (The Graduate Centre for International Research in Childhood: Literature, Culture, Media (CIRCL)), including here at Reading Dr Sue Walsh and Dr Neil Cocks. The book, as with all CIRCL edited volumes, research and teaching, follows through the implications of considering the reading of perspectives and textuality for issues of identity, including questioning underpinning assumptions such as ‘voice’, ‘agency’, ‘affect’ and ‘the body’.

Rethinking Disability Theory and Practice: Challenging Essentialism, edited by Karín Lesnik-Oberstein (Houndmills: Palgrave, 2015).

Rethinking disability theory and practice


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Paddy Bullard looks forward to joining us

We are delighted to welcome to the department Paddy Bullard, who is one of several new colleagues joining us this Autumn.


Paddy writes:

Enlightenment-period literature and the history of the book are the two great enthusiasms of my professional life, and the University of Reading is a very special place to be pursuing them. For me the Whiteknights campus is haunted by the satirist Alexander Pope, who knew it well as the estate of his friend Anthony Englefield during the first decade of the eighteenth century. Two of my heroes from the end of the century, the inventor and memoirist Richard Lovell Edgeworth and the novelist Thomas Day, met and became firm friends a few miles down the road at Hare Hatch. And, as a book historian, Reading’s unique holdings of publisher’s archives and typographic collections promise many seasons of happy research and teaching at Redlands Road. I can’t wait to get started.

I come to the University of Reading with some baggage – two on-going book projects, and several other long-term plans for research. The main focus of my writing is a monograph, On Knowing More Than You Can Say: An Enlightenment Problem, 1600-1800. It describes how writers in an age of open inquiry dealt with knowledge that cannot be disseminated freely in print (the conventional technology of enlightenment) because it is tacit and unspecifiable, reproducible only by example or personal habituation. It will be my second book – my first, Edmund Burke and the Art of Rhetoric (Cambridge University Press, 2011), traced the origins of Burke’s thinking about political deliberation in seventeenth-century theories of moral psychology, and in the ‘commonwealthsman’ political culture of eighteenth-century Ireland. A second on-going project is The Oxford Handbook of Eighteenth-Century Satire, of which I am editor. My own research in this area is focused on Pope’s friend Jonathan Swift – in 2013 I published a co-edited collection of essays called Jonathan Swift and the Eighteenth-Century Book.

Outside the world of books my enthusiasms coalesce (very loosely) around things rural, folky and earthy. Gardening is my passion, British traditional song is my soundtrack, and an active life in the local community (wherever that may be) is what makes sense of it all. I expect to be hanging out at the Museum of English Rural Life on Redlands Road rather a lot.

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