Congratulations to a newly published writer in our department!

Olivia Lowden writes:

We are extremely lucky to have such great creative writing modules at our university, and I have found them both inspiring and helpful to my own writing. The second year module Writing and Revising particularly helped me to hone the skills that I began to gain in the Introduction to Creative Writing module, and probably saw some of the writing that I am most proud of. I think having open and frank discussions in an environment you are comfortable in really allows your writing to mature.

One of the products of Writing and Revising was a short story I wrote called ‘The Method of Existence’. The story began as a small idea I had – I wanted to write something that focused on themes of guilt. I began with this one particular image of someone regretting something so deeply, but not being able to express it out of fear of condemnation or reprimand. And so, over the duration of spring term the idea formed into a story with the help and guidance of my seminar leader and classmates. After receiving a grade I was proud of, I decided I wanted to take the story further. Literary magazines are a great place for budding writers to showcase their work, and many cater to unpublished authors. I found a list of all the UK literary magazines online and decided to work my way down the list, submitting my story to the ones that suited the content of ‘The Method of Existence’. For example, some magazines are genre based, some are very prestigious and some only accept poetry. Submitting writing is a fairly long process as most magazines required a short third person bio and other information, so it’s best to have these at hand. I got rejected by a fair amount of magazines as I expected – it’s a very competitive field. However, eventually the toil paid off and I received an email from STORGY accepting my submission. STORGY is an online magazine that really suited the themes in my story and is incredibly open to submissions from new writers, so I was thrilled to be accepted by them.

This was a really rewarding experience and I would encourage other students of creative writing to do the same, as you never know which publication might accept your work. And importantly, don’t be disheartened if your work is rejected at first, but keep submitting until you hear back!

List of UK literary magazines:

Where you can read ‘The Method of Existence’:

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Health Humanities Group film festival

In the run-up to Halloween, and beginning next Wednesday, the Health Humanities Group will be running a film festival on the theme Monsters.

Date: Wednesday 11, 18 and 25 October 2017

Time: 7pm


11 & 18 October: Minghella Building;

25 October: Palmer Building G10


In the weeks leading up to Halloween, the Heath Humanities research network invites you to (re)discover classic monsters films. Victims or fiends, the protagonists in these interwar films challenge us to question our perceptions of monstrosity but also of normality. The three screenings will be introduced by film experts.

THE GOLEM (1920)

An immediate success upon its release in 1920, The Golem is a seldom-screened Gothic horror gem from Germany’s Weimar era. Set in the 16th-century, it is based on the legend of a rabbi who creates the Golem – a giant creature made of clay – in order to protect the Jews of Prague from persecution. The film showing will be preceded by a talk on ‘Visualising Monstrosity in Early Gothic Cinema’ by Xavier Aldana Reyes, author of Horror Film and Affect and the forthcoming Gothic Cinema.



Based on gothic classic Dracula, Nosferatu is an early horror masterpiece. The film will be introduced by Evan Hayles Gledhill, researcher of monstrosities and masculinities at the University of Reading.


FREAKS (1932)

Tod Browning’s controversial classic features real actors from carnival shows and asks vital questions about cultural perceptions of ‘normality’ and ‘monstrosity’. The film will be introduced by Evan Hayles Gledhill, researcher of monstrosities and masculinities at the University of Reading.


Ticket prices £5


No booking required


For more information contact Dr Marjorie Gehrhardt at



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Editing Modernist Letters workshop – alert for students

Editing Modernist Letters Workshop – For more information and details of registration please see or send an email to

Thursday 2nd November 2017

University of Reading, Special Collections

From the recently completed Letters of Samuel Beckett to forthcoming editions of Dorothy Richardson’s correspondence, the publication of letters continues to bring new insight into the relationships, creative networks and compositional practices of literary modernists. This one day workshop brings together students and scholars interested in literary modernism, archival research and textual editing. It focuses on editing modernist letters, exploring the practical and interpretative task of editing letters for publication in both print and digital form.

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Jess Phillips: Using your voice to make a difference

Jess Phillips, MP, visits the University of Reading on November 16th

Dr Madeleine Davies (Department of English Literature) writes:

Jess Phillips is giving a talk at the University of Reading on Thursday 16th November, 6-8pm, in the Van Emden Lecture Theatre (Edith Morley Building) and there will be a Q & A session and a book signing (for Everywoman) following the session. Dr Mark Shanahan (Department of Politics) is co-organising the event. The talk takes place in the Van Emden Lecture Theatre and the book signing will be in the First Floor Foyer (both are in the Edith Morley Building, entrance 1a). Places at the event are free and can be reserved at

In Jess Phillips’ recently published book, Everywoman (Hutchinson, 2017), the Labour MP discusses the ways in which female voices are silenced. She declares that this problem has deep historical roots as she observes the male and female gargoyles decorating the central lobby and the committee rooms in the House of Commons: Phillips notes that the men are depicted open mouthed in speech while the women are gagged, their mouths literally covered with stone muzzles (p.56).

The silencing of women’s voices is by no means a recent phenomenon but it has assumed a disturbing new manifestation in the digital age. In a particularly compelling section of her book, Phillips discusses online trolling and abuse and she explains ‘dog-piling’ which is a technique used by online trolls to shut down someone (often a woman) who speaks out. ‘Dog-piling’ involves hundreds or even thousands of people bombarding a Twitter account with messages over a short space of time. It is designed to drown out other voices, to intimidate the tweeter, and to effectively ‘block’ the voice.

Phillips recalls a horrifying example of this being used against her when a men’s rights activist made a comment about how ‘he wouldn’t even rape me’. As a statement, this is shocking enough, but what followed is even worse. As soon as the initial comment had been made, Phillips recalls the ‘dog-piling’ attack it initiated:

‘A glance at my twitter feed that day was a bit like reading a sinister Dr Seuss:

I will not rape her on a plane

I will not rape her on a train

I will not rape her in the car

I will not rape her on a star

I will not rape her HERE or THERE

I will not rape her anywhere

I will not rape her on a tram

I will not rape her, MAN-I-AM (pp.215-6)


That sufficient numbers of people required for a ‘dog-pile’ can find this abuse either funny or acceptable in the C21st staggered me. I am not a regular user of Twitter or Facebook and reading Phillips’ book seemed to confirm my instinct that it might be a good idea to retain this policy.

But as Phillips notes, ‘dog-piling’ and other tactics (including ‘isolating’) are designed to coerce women into silence and she forges a connection between witch-hunts and the contemporary digital world when she notes that the feeling of being the victim of dog-piling is ‘akin to being stood in front of an enormous angry mob waving burning torches and pitchforks’ (p.215).


When women give in to the bullying and absent themselves from social media, the bullies win, so Phillips is firm in her argument that such tactics must not deter women from asserting their voices online, painful though the consequences can be. For this reason, Phillips was involved in the launch of Recl@im, an Internet campaign looking at laws and regulations that could be better used to stop abuse.  She is also involved in #NotTheCost, a campaign led by Madeleine Albright to combat the violence inflicted against politically active women around the world. Phillips’ engagement with this issue is clear – Jo Cox was one of her closest friends.

Phillips does not whine – she takes action and she asks all of us to do the same. She is, I think, an inspiring woman and it does not matter whether you agree with her politics or not. That she is willing to become the voice for all people who have no access to platforms from which to speak, positions her as a woman to be admired.

I have invited Jess to the University because I believe that she has a voice that deserves to be heard by us all. We all need fearless role models like her (though Phillips says she feels anything but ‘fearless’).  I hope that colleagues and students from across the University will come and hear Jess and contribute to the debate afterwards. After all, as she states:


‘By demanding to be heard, by dealing with our

imposter syndrome, by being cheerleaders,

doers not sayers, creating our own networks

and by daring to believe that we can make a

difference, we can.’







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Rebecca Lindsay attends the IRSCL Congress 2017, University of York, Toronto

Rebecca Lindsay, part-time PhD student, writes:

My paper at the IRSCL Congress 2017 was a success; the Postgraduate Research Fund helped me get there.

My trip to Canada to present at the International Research Society of Children’s Literature Congress 2017 was a great success: not only did the presentation of my paper go well, with one member of the audience saying it was an inspiration to her and how she thought of childhood, but I have learnt so much, and met such wonderful people. It was a fantastic opportunity for me to engage with the foremost research in the field – for both an intellectual and cultural exchange.
One of the cultural issues that was discussed throughout the conference, which was not only of such significance in Canada (and in their ‘150th birthday’ of being a nation) but also one that I had never heard of before was that of the ‘Residential Schools’ that ran from the late 19th century up until 1996. These schools took indigenous children from their families, denied them their language, and exposed them to widespread, systematic abuse, that the Truth and Reconciliation Report of 2015 described as a ‘cultural genocide’. As a central concept of my paper was an exploration of constructions of ‘normality’, it drove home the dangers of marginalisation and their ongoing impact, as well as the importance of work that challenges social and institutional assumptions.

This has been such an enriching experience for me; from everything I have learnt and shared, to the new friends I have made. This would not have been possible without the funding the School provided. I am incredibly grateful, and would like to take this opportunity to say thank you so much to the Department!



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We are pleased to announce that Dr Rebecca Bullard has been awarded the Oxford Centre for Life-Writing Tony Gray Visiting Scholarship, 2017-18. Rebecca will join the community of OCLW Visiting Scholars at Wolfson College, Oxford, to work on her project: “Obituaries and New Media, 1700-1780.” Her project explores the emergence of the obituary as a popular genre in the 18th century and addresses the impact of gender, socio-economic and class status, geographical region and new media, such as periodicals and newspapers, on the structure and style of these texts. The research carried out during her time at OCLW will form part of Rebecca’s monograph, The Oxford History of Life-Writing, volume 3: The Eighteenth Century.

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Fan studies – a new article

Evan Hayles Gledhill writes:

Fan studies is an exciting and developing field that is highly inter-disciplinary; drawing together social science, history, literature, musicology and media scholars. My own research, into Gothic fiction, led me to become interested in audiences and fandoms. Gothic is a very meta-textual genre, drawing on the readers awareness of the constructed nature of the fiction – from the first-wave gothic tradition of pretending to have ‘found’ a manuscript you translated to produce the tale, to the ‘found footage’ monster movie like Cloverfield (2008). A hyper-awareness of form, context and audience response in the genre led to Gothic fans being one of the first fandoms depicted within their own genre – in Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey (1817).

Fan studies, as a recognised discipline, has been developing in the academy since the 1970s and scholars have addressed modern fandoms from those focused on football, to Star Trek, to the Backstreet Boys. The Fan Studies Network formed five years ago, and holds annual inter-disciplinary conferences. My interest is in tracing the roots of the individual and group behaviours we ascribe to fans back before the twentieth century. Scrapbooking, collecting items that had been used or touch by the object of devotion, and the writing of fanfiction are all practices with a long history. As a PhD student based in the literature department, I focus on the textual aspects of fandom – fans of authors, fans as authors, and authors as fans!

The fan is often positioned, culturally, in opposition to the author for control of the meaning and content of the literary text. This binary dynamic between reader and author is a discourse of power relations, as are other pairings such as masculine and feminine, or public and private. This article explores how these inter-linked pairs describe a matrix of gendered space, both physically and textually. The title of this article draws a parallel between debates over authorship and control of the text, and the enclosure debates about ownership and land usage in the nineteenth century. Debates about fan practices and audiences often seem to be purely about the content of the text itself. However, they are as much about the spaces involved – the space of the text on the page, and the space in which fan practice occurs – and thus, are about the value structures regarding the gendered bodies that inhabit these spaces.

If you would like to read more, this last paragraph comes from my article ‘Poaching in the Textual Enclosure: Nineteenth-Century Literary Fandoms, at the Intersection of Gender and Space’ appears in the Goldsmiths postgraduate journal GLITS-e for 2015-16, which has just been published online:


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Emerson and the Archives

Dr Krissie West writes:

Some months ago, I was fortunate to receive funding from the Ralph Waldo Emerson Society to further my research for my monograph on Emerson and childhood.

Emerson, the spearhead of the nineteenth-century American Transcendentalist movement and the writer of the 1836 work, Nature, is perhaps best known for his creed of self-reliance and his friendship with Henry David Thoreau of Walden and Civil Disobedience fame; however, in his musings on what it was to be a man, Emerson often considered what it meant to be a child. My research on this subject took me back to the Houghton Library at Harvard, where the bulk of his papers are kept, but also to the Boston Athenaeum (a private library), and the archives at the Concord Free Public Library – where I was fortunate to be present when a donor arrived with a letter written by Louisa May Alcott, and was permitted to be only the second person to read it!

I also took the time to research papers on fellow Transcendentalist, A. Bronson Alcott, and on New England witchcraft (including a fascinating trip to Salem); to attend a conference on Henry David Thoreau’s bicentennial; and to give a paper on ‘Growing Tomorrow: A Transcendental Education’ at a conference in Concord, Mass., on ‘The Alcotts, the Thoreaus and the Quest for Social Justice’. Much of the content of both conferences focused not only on the issues of the nineteenth-century but on those of our own – and it was interesting to see how little wider concerns differed between academics in the US and in the UK, and how relevant the lessons of Thoreau’s ‘Civil Disobedience’ are still felt to be.

I was recently elected to the Board of the Ralph Waldo Emerson Society, and look forward to supporting the work of other academics in this field. For more information on the work of the Ralph Waldo Emerson Society, visit:

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Jane Austen and money

In memory of the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s death, and the launch of the new £10 note, featuring Austen, at Winchester Cathedral, Rebecca Bullard has written a piece on Austen and money for the Reading research blog:

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Diversifying Assessment

Thank you for contributing to the ‘Diversifying Assessment’ Survey Monkey

Dr Maddi Davies writes:

Dr Chloe Houston and I would like to thank the 95 students who completed our ‘Diversifying Assessments’ Survey Monkey poll. We appreciate very much the time you took to answer the questions and the detail you provided. This is going to help us a great deal in reflecting on our assessment and feedback practices.

The results of the Survey are presented below (with many thanks to Michael Lyons for producing these charts):

DEL Assessment & Feedback Survey Results (Summer 2017)

A total 95 DEL students took part in the survey. 85% said they valued the opportunity to be assessed with diverse methods.

The Assessed Essay was by far the most popular method of assessment, followed by the learning journal. However, only a small proportion of students have been assessed with a learning journal so it is likely that a very high percentage have stated it to be their preferred method of assessment.

Students gave an average score of 5.1 for the level of assessment on their programmes, with 5 being both the mode and the median scores.

34% found the level of detail covered most useful in feedback, 24% the feedback on writing style, 16% the clarity of the feedback, and 12% its promptness. 7% valued alternative characteristics (eg. ‘sensitivity’) and 7% did not respond to this question.

66% said they always submit formative essays, 18% regularly, 8% half of the time, 4% sometimes, and 4% never do.

40% said they always attend essay supervisions for their formative essays, 14% regularly, 10% half of the time, 22% sometimes, and 14% never do.

The constructive responses to the ‘feedback’ questions were particularly useful and we will be taking comments forward to the next academic session. At our recent Exams Board, our external examiners praised the detail and the quality of our feedback and noted that it is an example of sector good practice. They added that they hope our students read the detailed feedback we provide! While there are always improvements that can be made to any system, the externals’ comments usefully remind us that DEL surpasses many other UK HE Literature Departments in its feedback quality. We will continue to reflect on our feedback practices and continue to enhance its usefulness to our students so that it works effectively to augment attainment.

We will be holding a second student focus group meeting next term (this is a year long project), again in my room, and again with up to 12 students drawn from each year group responding to our questions and assessment ideas. We have funding for this project and we are able to offer a £10 Amazon voucher (and plenty of doughnuts) for every group contributor to say thank you for taking part. Six students have already indicated that they would like to be a member of the next focus group – please look out for emails and posters early next term asking for another 5 or 6 volunteers (or just email me or Chloe). We want to include you as we review our assessment and feedback systems so that we can respond to your input. Thank you once again for all your help so far.

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