Dr Wendy O’Shea-Meddour at the Oxford Literary Festival

As part of the St Hilda’s College Writers’ Day at the Oxford Literary Festival, Dr Wendy O’Shea-Meddour (alumna, St Hilda’s College, now English Lecturer at the University of Reading) and her daughter/illustrator, Mina May (now aged 16), discussed their adventures in the world of children’s books with Nicolette Jones of The Sunday Times.

Their internationally best-selling ‘Wendy Quill’ series threw them into the limelight when Mina was only 11 years old, and they were quizzed them on what it felt like to appear on stage at Edinburgh Literary Festival, on Woman’s Hour with Jenni Murray, and to have the film crew for Newsround squeezed into their lounge! In the beautiful setting of Worcester College, and amongst an audience of academics, children, and aspiring creative writers, they also discussed topics such as ‘the power of humour in fiction’, and ‘how to get and stay published’.

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The Monroe Group: University of Reading Interdisciplinary Research Network for the study of Politics in the Americas  


Dr Madeleine Davies writes:

Staff and research students are invited to attend the University of Reading’s new interdisciplinary research network launch event on 2 May, 2017.

The Vice-Chancellor, Sir David Bell, will launch the network and introduce the keynote speaker, Professor Andrew Rudalevige (Bowdoin College). This will be followed by a one-day conference on President Trump’s first 100 days.


Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally at the Treasure Island Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada June 18, 2016. REUTERS/David Becker – RTX2GYKG


The network is led by Dr Mara Oliva (Department of History), and Dr Mark Shanahan (Department of Politics); Dr Madeleine Davies (English Literature) is also involved in the planning and organisation of the Network which is designed to encourage dialogue between scholars in the arts, humanities, social sciences and sciences working on all aspects of politics in the American continent. It has been developed in response to a recent expansion of staff and student recruitment working in the field of US and Latin American politics at the University of Reading.

The Monroe Group will be home to existing UoR researchers and PhD students working in this area and will facilitate new collaborative projects, research grants applications and teaching development across all disciplines.


As part of its creation, you are invited to attend the launch event, ‘Trump’s First 100 Days’ on May 2nd. The link is below.




DEL colleagues may also be interested in two other political events this term: on Tuesday 25th April, Douglas Carswell will be speaking in the Van Emden Lecture Theatre, 5-7pm (organised by Dr Mark Shanahan in the Department of Politics), and on Thursday June 1st we welcome Jess Phillips MP to the University. She will be speaking in the Van Emden Lecture Theatre between 6-8pm on June 1st (organised by Dr Madeleine Davies). To reserve a place at either event, go to reading.ac.uk/events.

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Dr Madeleine Davies views the Vanessa Bell exhibition at the Dulwich Picture Gallery (April 13 2017)



If you have an interest in ‘The Bloomsbury Group’, you may enjoy visiting the Vanessa Bell exhibition at the Dulwich Picture Gallery. Vanessa Bell was Virginia Woolf’s older sister and she was an influential artist in the early twentieth century. Born in 1879, she studied art at the Royal Academy in 1901 (working with John Singer Sargent for part of her studies). She was later influenced by Post-Impressionism and by Abstraction, and she was central to Roger Fry’s Omega Workshop which sought to challenge the division between decorative and fine arts. Much of Bell’s work for Omega, designing murals, mosaics, screens, stained glass and textiles, is influenced by Cubism and Fauvism.

The Dulwich Picture Gallery is a treat in its own right. It was designed to showcase innovative methods of illumination and it is the oldest public art gallery in England. The gallery sits in wide green spaces and the permanent exhibition houses works by Gainsborough, Hogarth, Constable, Poussin, Watteau, Raphael and Canaletto amongst many others.

The Vanessa Bell exhibition has gathered together a wide selection of Bell’s artworks and textile designs. Of particular interest to Woolfians is the collection of Bell’s original book jacket illustrations for her sister’s novels and extended essays. Also interesting are Bell’s textile designs, mainly produced in the 1920s, but suprisingly contemporary in colour and shape.

I find Post-Impressionism and Abstraction interesting intellectually, but less satisfying in aesthetic terms. Viewing Bell’s muddy canvases in the gallery did not change my mind about their aesthetic appeal, but it did allow me to identify elements in her artworks that I had not noticed before. I was struck, for example, by her habit of ‘framing’ or even ‘double-framing’ particular images that she associated with either memory or anxiety (or both). Such images are contained by blocks of colour, or by painted parallel structures, as if to exercise tight control over the power of their associations. A particularly vicious painting of one of her husband’s lovers is also well worth seeing (the deliberately ugly image is ‘framed’ by colour blocks on three sides), and her sketchbooks and illustrated letters are equally compelling and reveal Bell to have been a fine sketch artist.

Bell’s portraits of Virginia Woolf are very well known but to see her work in its breadth is an absorbing experience, not least because it evokes the writers, artists, friends and locations of Bloomsbury, and speaks so securely to its ‘atmosphere’ (as Woolf calls it). ‘Bloomsbury’ was as much about art as it was about literature and this exhibition significantly enhanced my knowledge of its aethetic philosophy.

The exhibition runs until 4th June and students have free entry: I recommend a trip to Dulwich to enjoy it while you can.

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Maddi Davies writes:

I have invited Labour MP Jess Phillips to talk at the University on June 1st. She is a witty and engaging speaker who is not afraid of addressing controversial issues. All students and colleagues who have an interest in contemporary politics, equal rights, and in this MP’s campaign against online intimidation, will find this a fascinating event.

You can reserve a free place at reading.ac.uk/events, or go to the event’s web-page: http://www.reading.ac.uk/15/about/newsandevents/Events/Event718558.aspx




The Edith Morley Building, University of Reading

This is a free event. Jess Phillips’ book Everywoman will be available to buy at a discounted price after the event when there will also be a book signing.

Register online at: reading.ac.uk/events

For further information, please email: m.k.davies@reading.ac.uk

Jess Phillips is Labour MP for Birmingham Yardley

This event is supported by the Endowment Fund and is introduced by Sir David Bell

Convenor: Dr Madeleine Davies, Department of English Literature

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RUSU Teaching Excellence Award: Dr Madeleine Davies

Dr Madeleine Davies writes:


I’d like to say a big ‘thank you’ to everyone who nominated me for the ‘RUSU Teaching Excellence Award’. I have won the Award for Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences and I couldn’t be more thrilled.

I will be given the Award at the ‘RUSU Partnership in Teaching and Learning Showcase’ on Wednesday 19th April, 1-3pm (3Sixty). I do hope that some of you will be able to come along because I wouldn’t have won the Award without you.

It is difficult to express how much the nominations for the RUSU awards mean to us as individual colleagues. It makes all the difference to know that the work we do is appreciated and, when our students take the time to make this known, their generosity and goodwill is extremely touching.

Thank you again, everyone: I feel as though I’ve won an Oscar!

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Neil Cocks has a new publication: Higher Education Discourse and Deconstruction: Challenging the Case for Transparency and Objecthood.

Neil Cocks has published a new monograph with Palgrave,  Higher Education Discourse and Deconstruction: Challenging the Case for Transparency and Objecthood.

Neil writes:

My new monograph is concerned with neo-liberalism and Higher Education. We all have at least some idea that universities are undergoing significant change, and that this is to do with an increase in managerialism. The university is subject to market forces, and these manifest themselves in an audit culture, one that produces change through subtle means: ‘steering from a distance’, as the educational theorist Stephen Ball has it. The problem is often understood in terms of an assault on truth. Neo-liberalism requires old certainties to be dissolved, and post-modernity is taken to be its discourse of choice. As such, it is understandable that there are those that turn to objecthood with positive relief. Self evidence, transparency, materiality: with these we might stem the flood! My monograph counsels against this move. Following the groundbreaking work of Bill Readings, I argue that the new-managerial university is resistant to the discursive, not the apparently self-evident.

Palgrave describe the book as:

‘[…] a critique of neoliberalism within UK Higher Education, taking its cue from approaches more usually associated with literary studies. It offers a sustained and detailed close reading of three works that might be understood to fall outside the established body of educational theory. The unconventional methodology and focus promote irreducible difference and complexity, and in this stage a resistance to reductive discourses of managerialism. Questioning the materialism to which all sides of the contemporary pedagogical debate increasingly appeal, the book sets out a challenge to investments in ‘excellence’, ‘transparency’ and objecthood. It will be of interest to students and researchers in the fields of education, sociology, and literary theory.’

And here is a review from Jan de Vos, author of Psychologisation in Times of Globalisation (2012) and The Metamorphoses of the Brain – Neurologisation and Its Discontents (2016):

‘Have you not always had the suspicion that audit culture and managerialism in higher education have to do with “the sexual, the invisible, the excessive, the linguistic”?, then this fascinating book is for you! Critically engaging with Diane Purkiss’s essay on sexual harassment, Ecclestone and Hayes’s rejection of the discourse on bullying and Nigel Thrift’s Non-Representational Theory, Neil Cocks convincingly shows that these critical voices veer dangerously close to what they attack and are perfectly aligned with neo-liberal managerialism. Cocks’s compelling argument is that when the aim of those critics is to free theory from the tyranny of subjectivity, we are in for a new tyranny: that of the self-evident. This book’s sustained plea to still engage with both irredeemable textuality and the excessiveness of subjectivity should be mandatory reading for scholars and their managers.’
Dr Jan de Vos

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Dr Madeleine Davies writes:

Dr Bethany Layne and I would like to express our sincere thanks to our undergraduate and postgraduate students who helped us organise the ‘Postmodernist Biofictions’ conference in the Department on Saturday 25th March, as well as to all our students who came along to support it.

The conference grew out of our work on our research-led Part 3 modules and the positivity that we received from our students was extraordinary. Eight undergraduate students worked with us on event organisation; they took photographs, managed the digital equipment, publicised the event, and oversaw logistical detail. They also led the Twitter feed from the conference (the comments on the feed are a joy).



Three of our Part 3 students (Chloe de Lullington, Dan Buckingham and Claire Timmerman) agreed to take part in a student panel at the conference and we were delighted to see that our keynote delegates, including Professor David Lodge, Professor Susan Sellers, Professor Maggie Gee, Professor Coral Ann Howells, Professor David Brauner, and Professor Patrick Parrinder expressed a keen desire to hear their papers. All commented on the sophistication of their work and on the professional confidence with which they delivered their academic papers. Several delegates (including Professor Sellers) mentioned how impressed they were that the Department could produce such outstanding contributions from undergraduate students.

Chloe and Dan were central to the planning and detail of the conference, and Part 2 students Jack Champion and Vicky Matthews were also essential to the event. Jack is writing about the event for ‘Spark’ and Vicky took our photographs for us. Part 3 student Ruth Williams helped us with advertising via social media, and PhD student Will Davies chaired a panel for us.

These students’ involvement was a tribute to their personal confidence and it also demonstrated their critical engagement with the material they had studied with us. Their advanced thinking expressed the ‘mastery of the discipline’ and the ‘skills in research and enquiry’ lying at the heart of our teaching principles.

Our collaborative values were demonstrated by the Vice-Chancellor’s attendance at the afternoon sessions of the Conference. Sir David Bell chatted with our students about their work, and his support of Dr Layne and I spoke to our leadership’s commitment to collaborative knowledge sharing and to the development of productive, inclusive relationships.

To all who attended the event, thank you for all your hard work and for being such fine ambassadors for our department. Any student who would like to help us with the organisation of the student and public-facing Jess Phillips MP talk on June 1st, please contact me (m.k.davies@reading.ac.uk). We would also be very grateful for help with the International Virginia Woolf conference to be hosted at UofR at the end of June/early July.




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Wendy O’Shea-Meddour at the Oxford Literary Festival

Wendy O’Shea-Meddour (English Literature Lecturer) is delighted to be appearing at the Oxford Literary Festival on April 1st, alongside her illustrator (and teenage daughter), Mina May. They will be in conversation with The Sunday Times children’s book editor, Nicolette Jones, discussing their internationally successful series Wendy Quill, the art of creative collaboration, and the highs and lows of their adventures in the publishing world.

Tickets are £12.50

Venue: Worcester College Lecture Theatre, Oxford University

Time: 12pm, April 1st.

To book a place or find out more: http://oxfordliteraryfestival.org/literature-events/2017/april-01/the-wendy-quill-books

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RUSU Excellence Awards 2017

RUSU have announced the launch of their student-led Excellence Awards for 2017. These aim to recognise members of University of Reading staff who students believe have gone above and beyond expectations. As RUSU states: ‘ Why are [these awards] important? Not only is it important to celebrate and give thanks to hard work, but it is also important to get you thinking about what good teaching means to you. Winners of the RUSU Excellence Awards will receive a trophy at our awards ceremony and are commended publicly by the University at the Graduation ceremonies.’

There are 8 awards. There are 4  Teaching Excellence Awards for lecturers who have provided students with engaging and intellectually stimulating lectures, or have supported, guided and inspired students to achieve their potential through excellent seminars, supervision, feedback and the like. A further Diverse and Inclusive Teaching Excellence Award celebrates teaching staff that design and deliver an engaging and diverse curriculum. There is an award for Personal Tutor Excellence, and another Support Staff Excellence award that celebrates outstanding contributions of non-teaching staff.

This year there is a new award. The Graduate Teaching Assistant Excellence Award. This is for passionate and committed Postgraduate teaching staff and assistants. Some undergraduate students in the department may have encountered brilliant postgraduate teaching in their Part One seminars.

For more information, see https://www.rusu.co.uk/representation/academicrep/awards/excellence/


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Reading Creative Arts Anthology 2017 is launched next Monday

We are delighted to be able to invite you to the launch of the 2017 edition of the University of Reading Creative Arts Anthology, titled Truth is Like a Lazarus; or, A Roof Bursting with Stars. As ever, the publication would not be possible without the fantastic contributions we receive from students, staff and the local community, so to those featured, thank you all for your part in this tenth edition of the Anthology, and the previous nine editions also.

The launch will take place at 6PM on Monday 20th March, in the newly refurbished Van Emden Lecture Theatre in the HumSS Building (soon to become the Edith Morley  Building in honour of Britain’s first female professor). The evening will feature an introduction from the editorial team about work on this year’s Anthology, opportunities to get hold of a copy of the 2017 Anthology (copies are £5, though each contributor receives a copy free; previous editions will be available too at a TBD price), refreshments, and of course readings from the book by the contributors, which will be structured around a short interval. Following this formal part of the evening, we will move to HumSS 106 for a more casual reception.


We would love for as many contributors as possible to read their work on the night, so please let us know if you are planning to attend and would like to read (or alternatively, if you are planning to attend and particularly don’t want to read, which is also fine!), so we can get an idea of how many readings to expect in advance of the evening.

Entry is free, and we’ll have plenty of space in the theatre should anyone wish to bring extra friends along for the evening. If you’re unable to attend, but would still like a copy, there are plenty of ways to do so. If you want to buy one directly from us, please get in touch either via this email address or via my (Jerome) personal email at jeromecoxstrong@gmail.com. Alternatively, the Anthology will be available to buy from Waterstones on Broad Street, and Blackwells in the RUSU Building on Whiteknights Campus, soon after launch.

If you have any questions, please do get in touch. Otherwise, we hope to see you all there on the 20th!

Best wishes,

The Editorial Team

(Jerome, Jack, Josi, Juan & Sophie)

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