During my research leave I worked on my article ‘The Child in Wolf’s Clothing: the Meanings of the “Wolf” and questions of identity in Jack London’s White Fang’ which will come out in the European Journal of American Culture early in 2013. I also did some further work on an article entitled ‘Nature Faking and the problem of the “Real”’, and wrote an article called ‘The Animal, the “Real” and the Question of Affect’. All these articles are about the kinds of ideas and meanings that are invested in animals by people, and the first two are about the kind of arguments animals inspired in the literature written at the time when ideas of conservation and wilderness preservation were first coming to the fore in the United States. I spent most of my time, however, developing my new research project – ‘The Hieroglyphic Animal’ – which grows out of work I’ve already done on a group of North American writers of the turn of the last century who were involved in wilderness writing and the development of the realistic wild animal story. The project was sparked off by the work I did for the ‘Nature Faking and the problem of the “Real”’ article, and involves exploring the implications of what seems an odd and apparently out of place set of references and allusions to hieroglyphs and other ancient Egyptian cultural artifacts (bound up with notions about human-animal kinship, ideas about primitiveness and race, and the origins of language) in American nature essays and realistic wild animal stories of the 1880s-1910s. I’m going to be giving a seminar at the Museum of English Rural Life on some of this material on 19th February 2013. (See the details of the MERL Seminar series for this academic year on Children and the Countryside: http://www.reading.ac.uk/merl/whatson/merl-seminars.aspx ) All of this work is closely related to my current Part 3 module on ‘Writing the North American Wilderness’ and is developed out of my thinking with students about the material studied on that course.
I also spent some time during my research leave working on the material for one of the posters for the ‘What to look for? Ladybird, Tunnicliffe, and the hunt for meaning’ exhibition curated by Dr Neil Cocks in collaboration with Ollie Douglas at MERL and hosted by MERL. The exhibition, which was opened on 6th October 2012, will run until 14th April 2013 and is well worth going to see. Check out the information on the exhibition here http://www.reading.ac.uk/merl/whatson/exhibitions/merl-ladybird.aspx and see the exhibition blog as well: http://blogs.reading.ac.uk/what-to-look-for/
I also spent quite a lot of time reading and researching on Nigerian Literature in English so as to be able to develop a new Part 3 module on this area, with the aim of it being made available to students in 2013-14.