DEL Newsletter

Things to do in week six

Week 6 / enhancement week / reading week, whatever you want to call it, a break from classes in the middle of term is a blessing and a really useful time to catch up AND breathe for a moment before the chaotic second half of term kicks in! Here are some suggestions of things to get up to:

Take a break

Pop your feet up and relax for a moment. This is a chance to chill and have some time to yourself. Stick on a movie or some Netflix, treat yourself to some self-care, snack on your favourite treat. Whatever it is that makes you feel a little more relaxed and calmer, now’s the chance to do it!

Catch up on any work

Look back at the first five weeks of term and make sure you’re all up to date with notes, assignments, revision and so on. You’ll thank yourself for making sure the first five weeks of term are all sorted and organised when deadline season comes around at the end of term.

Look ahead

Look ahead to the next five weeks of term. Is there anything you can be doing to get prepared? Is there any reading you can do? Any research to help you get started? Anything you can do during this time will help you stay on top of things for the second half of term.

Explore Reading

If you haven’t had a chance already maybe take some time to head into Reading and explore. Shopping in the town centre, a nice meal out with mates, explore the Abbey ruins and so much more!

– Millie Smith Millie Smith, Part 3 English Lit

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Student Support at The University of Reading

The first person you can contact about general advice will be your Academic Tutor. They can help you themselves or contact someone else who can best give you support. Another person you can contact is the DEL Student Support Coordinator Lucy Bending: l.v.bending@reading.ac.uk. She will be able to answer queries about your studies and anything else academic related.

  • Even if you think a concern is small, you shouldn’t hesitate to seek support from the university. Things you might feel are minor issues, like homesickness, can turn into major struggles over time if left unaddressed. It’s vital to always make sure you take anything that might be troubling you seriously at the start. Student Services is where you can get advice in dealing with everything from financial concerns to counselling and wellbeing.

The reception desk is open for face-to-face enquiries and one of the Student Support Coordinators will help you there:

Monday -Thursday 10:00-17:00, and Friday 10:00-16:30. Closed daily for 1 hour from 13:00-14:00.

You can reach them by telephone 0118 378 5555 or email: studenthelp@reading.ac.uk.

Using the RISIS portal ‘Ask a question’ function is another way to access Student Services. This will send your query to our Student Support Coordinator (Jemima Stevens), who will forward it to the relevant team or member of staff. Jemima can help with any query about your modules or your programme, suspensions of extension requests.

Taking care of your mental wellbeing is just as important as anything else during your time at university. The Student Welfare Team will support you with things such as:

  • Settling in and adjusting to university life
  • Crisis support
  • Difficulties with flat/housemates
  • Family or relationship issues
  • Harassment and bullying
  • Drug or alcohol issues
  • If you are victim of violence (crime/sexual/domestic)
  • Struggling to manage carer responsibilities
  • Concerns about a friend
  • If you don’t know where to go for help

You can schedule an appointment with Heather Price (or another member of the Student Welfare Team) by emailing studentwelfare@reading.ac.uk. The team also offers a drop-in service, where you can visit the Student Services Reception in the Carrington Building in person and speak to someone (Monday – Thursday – 13:00 -16:00; Friday – 10:00 -16:00). You can also call 0118 378 4777, Monday – Friday between 10:00 and 16:00 to speak a member of the team. The university website has a page dedicated to student support and you can access it by clicking the link: Student support | University of Reading

– Michelle Parr, Part 1 Creative Writing and Film)

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Cindy Becker, What I am reading…

The Private Life of William Shakespeare by Lena Cowen Orlin (Oxford University Press, 2021)

I have always tended to avoid reading non-fiction before I go to sleep at night, but that has changed in recent months, partly because books like this one are such page-turners. In my experience, scholars who attempt to produce biographies of Shakespeare take a few isolated scraps of evidence and the hypothesise about what those scraps might mean. The trouble is, their desperation to imagine the man can lead to theories and suppositions with very little basis in fact, which really puts me off. This book is different, because the author takes a more convincing, and far more intriguing approach.

Take Shakespeare’s wife Anne, for example. We have some records about her, but if we take Lena Cowen Orlin’s approach, we can get a fully rounded idea of her life. By searching for ‘clusters’ of evidence, she puts every small fact we have back in its proper place. By exploring the life of a woman living in Stratford alongside Anne, whose husband was also often in London, who ran business enterprises from her home, but who had masses of documentary evidence for her life, we can piece together Anne’s life in a far more secure way. We also learn that women in that time worked amazingly hard!

I am learning some fascinating facts from this book about the lives of Shakespeare’s whole family and, just as importantly, it is a really good read.

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Bonfire Night

One of the annual reminders that I have about being Irish in England is the fact that Halloween is not bonfire night. But there is an interesting history there.

Bonfires were used for all sorts of celebrations in the past. They were associated with the feast of All Saints (1 November) and All Souls (2 November): that’s partly where the tradition of a bonfire on Halloween (the ‘eve’ or night before ‘All Hallows’, that is, All Saints’ day) comes from. But bonfires were just as popular on Midsummer’s Eve, and that tradition lingered in some parts of Britain and Ireland into the modern period. In Bonfires and Bells: National Memory and the Protestant Calendar in Elizabethan and Stuart England (1990) the social historian David Cressy explained how people in the sixteenth century used bonfires and the ringing of church bells to signal celebration for lots of events, one-offs (like the Spanish Armada being defeated) as well for annual celebrations, like the date when Elizabeth I came to the throne. ‘Bonfire night’ as we know it began in 1605, with the defeat of the Gunpowder Plot, a scheme by some disaffected Catholic aristocrats to blow up the Houses of Parliament. There was a concerted campaign, including annual sermons and popular ballads, to remind people of the threat that Roman Catholicism posed to England’s Protestant government, and this became an important means of linking English national identity with Protestantism. ‘Remember, remember, the fifth of November / Gunpowder, treason, and plot’ the folksong runs. And so, the celebration of All Saints’ Day became less marked in English popular culture and the bonfires were moved to 5 November. But whether the fireworks are on 31 October or 5 November, on those days when the clocks go back and the evenings grow dark it feels right to light up the night; whether we re-discover Halloween through cinema and TV from the USA, or stick to 5 November as our night for bonfires, I think we are honouring that instinct.

Mary Morrissey, DEL

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If you have an item for the newsletter, please speak to one of the student editors (Millie Smith, Part 3 English Lit) or Michelle Parr, Part 1 Creative Writing and Film), or email m.e.morrissey@reading.ac.uk

About English Literature at Reading

The Department of English Literature at Reading has been an internationally recognised centre for research and teaching in English Studies for over a hundred years. Our teaching system, with its emphasis on seminars and tutorial work, encourages our students to discuss ideas with tutors and other students in a relaxed and supportive atmosphere. All of our students have access to dedicated study advisors; our academic placement scheme and 'professional track' programme provide invaluable preparation for subsequent careers.
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