The Mauritian Novel – Liverpool University Press in Conversation with Julia Waters

As Mauritian ecologist Vincent Florens asserts, Mauritius truly is a ‘laboratoire du monde’. With no original, in-dwelling inhabitants, Mauritius’s present-day population is made up entirely of the descendants of French colonial settlers, enslaved Africans and Malagasy, Indian indentured labourers, Chinese traders and other economic migrants from across the globe, with each successive human wave leaving its mark on the languages, cultures, customs and natural environment of this small, postcolonial ‘rainbow nation.’ On 12 March this year, Mauritius marked fifty years of independence from Great Britain, in a ceremony attended by heads of state, crowds of ordinary Mauritians – and me. Despite Mauritius’s inauspicious beginnings as an independent nation, post-colonial Mauritius has been widely praised for its ‘economic miracle’ and for the peaceful accommodation of its multi-ethnic population. Nonetheless, Mauritian literature – especially that written in the wake of the inter-ethnic ‘Kaya riots’ of 1999 – paints a rather different picture of the island-nation, marked by inequality, injustice, difference, division and violence. Given the diverse composition of Mauritius’ population (made up of Franco-Mauritians, Indo-Mauritians, Sino-Mauritians, Muslims and Creoles), Mauritian fiction is also centrally preoccupied with the question of what it means to be ‘Mauritian’ today: in other words, with the issue – or problem – of ‘belonging’.

What drew you to focus your research on Mauritian Literature and the notion of ‘belonging’?

My fascination with Mauritian literature was originally sparked, back in 2001, by a lively, wine-fuelled conversation with Mauritian academic, Kumari Issur, at an ASCALF conference in London. I had just presented a paper on Gallimard’s contentious ‘Continents Noirs’ series and Kumari recommended that I read Amal Sewtohul’s first novel, Histoire d’Ashok et d’autres personnages de moindre importance, which was about to appear in the same series, along with his compatriot, Ananda Devi’s Pagli. Numerous subsequent visits to Mauritius, meetings with Mauritian authors, impassioned debates with Indian Ocean academics, and continued voracious reading, often ‘hot off the press’, of the impressive stream of novels that have continued to flow from the tiny island-nation since, have merely confirmed my initial fascination with Mauritius’ culture, history, society and literature.

My interest in the notion of ‘belonging’ – a sense of attachment to, and identification with, a place or people – was prompted both by the thematic and stylistic recurrence of the notion in contemporary Mauritian literature and, more broadly, by the term’s paradoxical ubiquity and obscurity. Everyone thinks they know what they mean when they talk about belonging, but, as geographer Marco Antonsich points out, they ‘actually know very little about what belonging stands for and how it is claimed.’[1] I was keen to find out more. Whereas existing postcolonial paradigms, such as hybridity or créolisation, had already been fruitfully applied to the Mauritian situation, no one had yet taken belonging, or the ‘universal human desire to belong’, as the primary thematic and conceptual focus of study. As John Crowley points out, ‘while the term [belonging] itself is not new, it is little used as an analytical or theoretical tool.’[2] I was keen to rise to this challenge.

What makes your book stand out from others in its field?

My monograph is the first book-length study in English on twenty-first-century Mauritian fiction in French and as such, I hope, makes a significant contribution to the recent expansion of research on Indian Ocean cultures. The book is original in its focus on the under-researched, affective dimension of belonging (place-belongingness) and its intersections with the often brutal and exclusionary ‘politics of belonging.’ My chapter on Shenaz Patel’s Le Silence des Chagos, in which I explore the uses and abuses of competing notions of belonging in the UK’s forced expulsion of the Chagos islanders in the 1960s and 70s, should also be of interest to anyone following the latest developments in their long struggle for the right to return at the International Court of Justice this year.

My book develops a new, multidimensional approach to understanding issues of belonging and exclusion in diverse, multi-ethnic societies that will, I hope, be of interest to a broad academic audience than those already interested in Mauritian literature or Indian Ocean cultures. Through a series of close textual analyses of individual novels or pairs of novels by leading contemporary Mauritian writers, my book examines Mauritian literary responses to the inter-ethnic ‘Kaya’ riots of 1999 and to the problems of belonging and exclusion that they so dramatically exposed. And it does so by applying an eclectic range of theoretical approaches, not usually associated with ‘postcolonial’ texts, to the particular concerns of individual novels and chapters: violence, place, gender, displacement, the everyday, migration.

Your book is available Open Access, can you tell us why you chose to pursue this option?

In this, the 50th anniversary year of Mauritian independence (1968), there is intense international interest in post-independence Mauritian culture. There is also renewed interest this year in the plight of exiled Chagos islanders, as the Mauritian government challenges the U.K. for its illegal separation of the Chagos archipelago from Mauritius, prior to independence. My book is therefore timely and should, I hope, garner considerable international attention, including amongst readers in Mauritius, India, Africa and the Indian Ocean region. Open Access publication is thus ideal for making my book both logistically and financially accessible to these and other key readerships, both overseas and in the UK. I am therefore grateful to the University of Reading for their institutional support of the OA publication of my monograph – and to Liverpool University Press, Modern Languages Open and Oapen Library for making it happen.

[1] Marco Antonsich, ‘Searching for Belonging – An Analytical Framework’, Geography Compass, vol. 4, no. 6 (2010), pp. 644 ̶ 59; p. 644.

[2] John Crowley, ‘The Politics of Belonging: Some Theoretical Considerations’, in Andrew Geddes and Adrian Favell (eds.), The Politics of Belonging: Migrants and Minorities in Contemporary Europe (Aldershot: Ashgate, 1999), pp. 15 ̶ 39; p. 18.

Reviews

‘In this insightful book, Julia Waters provides new perspectives to chart the Mauritian 21st century novel – these stimulating and provocative essays illustrate the challenge provided by both the varied subject matter and the critical lenses adopted.’
Kumari R Issur, University of Mauritius

About The Author

Julia Waters is Professor of Contemporary Literature in French at the University of Reading.

When research and life come together in the most unexpected ways

As an academic working on Cuban culture since 1959 https://www.reading.ac.uk/modern-languages-and-european-studies/stories/mles-story-kumaraswami.aspx , and as a lifelong supporter of Manchester City, imagine my delight at being invited to speak at an event which featured Manchester City’s manager, Pep Guardiola? Huge thanks to Dr Diana Cullell, Professor Claire Taylor and Professor Chris Harris for the invitation!

And so, on 21 November 2018, I travelled to the University of Liverpool and listened to Pep talk about the importance of travel, learning languages, engaging with other cultures, recent political events in Catalunya and, of course, about his work as one of the world’s most successful football managers. The video of his talk is available here: https://www.liverpool.ac.uk/modern-languages-and-cultures/events/pep-live/

Following his talk, I gave my own paper, a mixture of personal experience and research reflexions. This was possibly the easiest academic paper I have prepared in my life (based on so many conversations with family and friends), and certainly the most fun to deliver (sound recording to be added soon). Here’s a summary of the main argument:

The twelfth man? Some unlikely connections between Manchester City and Revolutionary Cuba

I frequently experience reactions of curiosity and surprise. These reactions are rarely articulated but they seem to be born of certain assumptions, to follow a certain orthodoxy. Why continue to work with such dedication on a context where writers and artists are denied freedom of expression and have to distort their ideas and work to fit political and ideological prescriptions? Why continue to support a football team and club which have lost touch with the grassroots, and which are fuelled and sponsored by unlimited reserves of Middle Eastern oil money?

This paper aims to question those reactions, to interrogate assumptions about Cuba and about football, and to propose a more nuanced understanding of both. It is based on much reading and writing https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt1vwmdc2 ; https://www.palgrave.com/gp/book/9781137569639  and on abundant participant observation on the terraces and in Cuba https://www.leverhulme.ac.uk/research-project-grants-2014.

So, the essential question is how to understand two cultural contexts which, in my view, have been over-determined politically and economically https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/apr/19/cuba-president-miguel-diaz-canel-modernise-economy ; https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/dec/24/who-pays-for-manchester-city-beautiful-game . What these two approaches fail to notice, and what my work on cultural participation in post-1959 Cuba emphasises, is the importance of culture – as both everyday practice and artistic representation – in providing the glue that binds societies and social groups.

Let’s start with Cuba: whilst many scholars and commentators focus on periods of crisis for writers and artists, often related to the ‘Sovietisation’ of culture in the 1970s, they fail to notice the other discourses and policies that have provided a direction for Cuban cultural policy since the revolutionary government came to power, and, crucially, the continuity that has characterised those policies over 60 years: that is, a commitment to investing in culture, a sustained attempt to ‘change the rules of the game’ in order that elite forms such as literature become massified practices, and, of course, the creation of an infrastructure for publishing and he socialisation of literary culture. These ideas were crystallised in a series of speeches by Fidel Castro, the ‘Palabras a los intelectuales’/Words to the intellectuals’ of 1961 http://lanic.utexas.edu/project/castro/db/1961/19610630.html;https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1470-9856.2009.00315.x . One of the key examples here is the Feria Internacional del Libro de la Habana (FILH)/Havana International Book Festival, and its massification and diversification in the 2000s. At its height in 2006, and bearing in mind that Cuba has a population of around 11.5 million, the FILH attracted 5 million people and sold 5 million books across the island’s territory https://www.researchgate.net/publication/292324130_The_feria_del_libro_and_the_ritualization_of_cultural_belonging_in_Havana . Yet some Cuban writers complained at the time that the massification of the FILH diluted or trivialised the serious work of producing and consuming literature.

Poetry reading in Bayamo, April 2018

A more recent example is from the provincial iteration of the FILH in 2014. At a poetry reading organised in the central square of Bayamo, the capital of Cuba’s eastern Granma province, the organiser of the reading complained that it was being interrupted by the public shouting to friends, generally enjoying the fair-like atmosphere rather than paying attention to the poetry being recited. The organiser felt that this demonstrated ‘una falta de respeto’/’a lack of respect’, whilst I argued back vigorously that in fact it showed the opposite: the sense of entitlement to occupy public spaces for culture produced in Cubans of all walks of life by decades of government and public investment in cultural access and participation. What emerges from initiatives such as the FILH is the notion that elite and mass/popular cultures are compatible, mutually constitutive and reciprocally beneficial, that they create a particularly effective model for cultural prestige; furthermore, that collective participation also creates a sense of well-being in providing spaces, opportunities and practices that bind individuals loosely, in ways which allow them to feel a sense of both identification and self-differentiation. The local and physical aspects of that participation are key.

What does all this mean for Cuba and for football? The fact that two levels of activity, each with functions that are infused with cognitive, moral, affective and corporeal components, can come together in a public and collective space, means that the public – whether at a book reading in Cuba or a football match at the Etihad stadium – enjoy the opportunity to feel, believe, represent and perform identities which are vital to our sense of belonging and well-being. As long as they are harmonised with top-down policies, these interactions nourish social integration: in my experience, the football terraces are the only place in contemporary English society where people of all ages, genders, classes and cultural heritages come together to inhabit the same space as a collective.

Quite simply, cultural participation, whether at a book festival or a football match – especially at times of rapid socio-cultural and political change – can be the twelfth man.

Dr Par Kumaraswami, Spanish Section, Department of Modern Languages and European Studies, University of Reading

Endless opportunities: from an Italian degree to the fashion industry:

With the graduation ceremony for the Department of Modern Languages and European Studies at the University of Reading just around the corner, there’s no better time to celebrate the successes of our recent graduates. This week we’re featuring an inspiring story from Alice Boulton, who earned her BA in Italian Studies in 2016, and who now works in fashion. We asked Alice to tell us how she found the transition from uni to her career, and how she thinks her languages degree has helped her in the fashion world. Here’s what she had to say:

Alice Boulton received her BA in Italian Studies from the University of Reading in 2016.

A degree in languages without a doubt sets you apart from many other candidates when applying for a job. Not only does it demonstrate your ability to learn, but it also exemplifies your ability to adapt and to conquer the many challenges that you may face. When people ask me what I studied, I always get the same response: Wow! I am so proud to say I earned my degree in Italian Studies at Reading. I know it played a huge role in how I secured my current position, and all of my prior positions as well.

I currently work as a Product Admin Assistant at the British clothing brand Boden. A PAA is essentially a hybrid between a Buying and Merchandising Admin Assistant, which allows me to gain the skills and knowledge to further progress in either field in the fashion industry. I spend my days switching between two lines in Womenswear, currently Accessories and Softs (basically garments like dresses and skirts), both of which vary greatly day to day. For the Merchandising side of my job, I do a range of tasks from creating purchase orders to our warehouses in the UK and US, ensuring new collections will arrive on time for launches and line drops, to minimising backorders and creating finance plans for new seasons. With the Buying team I create style plans, uploading new designs to our systems, ensuring all colourways, size ranges and style codes are correct, as well as checking each style on our website and catalogues are correct before going live, and creating comp shops; comparing competitor styles and prices to our designs for the upcoming seasons. Additionally, I make sure our showroom is prepared for fitting sessions and meetings with Head Buyers.

I thoroughly enjoy my career. Boden is an amazing place to work. I love that each day is different, and I love the fast paced nature of the fashion industry. I find it really interesting how a product evolves from the initial ideas on a moodboard to the actual finished item. The fashion industry is a competitive field and one that constantly keeps you on your toes, but I truly believe my degree prepared me for the challenge. Throughout my studies, whether it was at Reading or during my Year Abroad, I was consistently using my initiative. Additionally, my knowledge of languages is important in my career, given Boden’s aim to expand further throughout Europe. It certainly helps that I can speak to our many Italian fabric suppliers in their mother tongue.

I’ve always wanted to work within the fashion industry, but I never wanted to do a specialist fashion degree. I didn’t want to narrow my opportunities after university, especially if I eventually decided to pursue a different career path. I believe that a degree in languages offers endless opportunities for work, at home and abroad.

Alice Boulton and Milly Bolton on their Year Abroad in Florence

My degree in Italian undeniably paved the way to me securing this position. I was able to intern at the Italian fashion designer Ermanno Scervino during my time in Florence as part of my degree at Reading. During my Year Abroad I worked backstage at Milan Fashion Week during their catwalk, and gained experience in a fashion house. In addition, the Year Abroad helped me develop so many life skills, from improving my language to boosting my confidence in challenging – as well as in general-day-to-day –  situations. After that, nothing feels too challenging. An interview in English? EASY! If you can enroll at a university overseas, take an exam in a foreign language, or debate over the phone to a late taxi driver in his mother tongue, you’ll find it easy to explain in English why you’re the right person for a job. That’s as simple as ordering your morning coffee.

Alice Boulton and Milly Bolton show off their well-earned first-class marks on their dissertations.

A lot of people think that a degree in languages is simply learning a language. It’s so much more. My degree covered the golden age of Italian Cinema way before the glitz and glam of Hollywood; the history of the Fascist period; the literary icons Dante, Boccaccio and Petrarch; the history of the Italian language; linguistics; poetry and literature from from the Medieval to the Post-War period; and so so much more. A languages degree is like every other degree mixed together along with learning a language, which is the cherry on top.

The Year Abroad was a fantastic experience, it’s hard to put into words just how great it was, I now return to Florence as much as I can, just to bring back that feeling of living there again. With such an array of topics to study overseas, you become agile and gain skills in a variety of subjects that mould you and allow you to jump into any industry, be it straight into work or in further education. My degree also gave me the confidence to apply for jobs in Italy, of which resulted me interviewing for a job in Florence, one which I would never have been able to do if I had not pursued this degree.

Alice Boulton, Milly Bolton, and Dr Paola Nasti

It’s almost impossible to pinpoint my fondest memories from my time at the University of Reading because there are just so many incredible times. I remember my daunting first language seminar, where I met Dr Chiara Ciarlo, who made me feel at ease straight away. I even remember visiting Reading for the first time and meeting the fabulous Enza (da Potenza) Siciliana Verruccio, and I knew this was where I wanted to go. I remember how Dr Federico Faloppa and Dr Paola Nasti managed to make Linguistics and Dante enjoyable. Dr Charles Leavitt, who was my tutor throughout my degree, managed to keep me grounded while I was writing my dissertation abroad. And Dr Daniela La Penna inspiring me with her extensive knowledge of the Italian poet Ungaretti (and so much more). Each and every lecturer that taught and supported me along the way, made my time at Reading unforgettable.

Graduation day was bittersweet, I had gained a degree and ready to move on into the world, but at the same time I was leaving a family and amazing memories behind.

Celebrating success with the staff and students of the Italian section at the University of Reading

If I could give any advice to prospective students it would be: Do it! You will not regret it. A degree in languages prepares you for so much. I would also say do a degree that you will enjoy, rather than what you think sounds prestigious or what you imagine will get you that high-rise job in the city. You can get that job with a degree in languages. Some people may wonder what you can do with a degree in Italian Studies, since it may seem like you’re bound to become a teacher or a translator. You can pursue those jobs, of course, but in truth a degree in Italian opens up endless avenues, especially with the rising demand for bilingual applicants. My advice to current students, of whom I am extremely jealous, is: Make the most of it, work hard and enjoy it, because it’ll fly by and before you know it, those 9ams will feel like a lay in! Keep up your language skills, watch Netflix with subtitles, keep in contact with those you meet abroad and finally don’t be afraid to apply for jobs abroad.

The staff and students of the Italian section at the University of Reading

I cannot stress enough how incredible the Italian section at Reading University is. They made every day at Reading a joy and they become your family away from home, the support you get is sky high and they make every seminar and lecture interesting and enjoyable, even if it is Dante at 9am. My time at Reading was the best 4 years of my life (so far), and if I could do it again, I would do it in a heartbeat.

Thanks Alice. We loved working with you at Reading and we’re so happy to hear that you’ve found success in your career in the fashion industry.

If you’d like to learn more about how a degree in French, German, Italian, or Spanish from the University of Reading can prepare you for a wide variety of careers, including a career in fashion, check out our careers page. Be sure to follow our blog, like us on Facebook, and subscribe to our Twitter feed, too, so that you can keep up on all the news and events of the Department of Modern Languages and European Studies at the University of Reading.

The Edith Morley building at the University of Reading

If you’re a Reading graduate, we’d love to hear from you about your career choices after university. Tell us your story. The University of Reading publishes alumni profiles online. If you’d like to share your experiences, all you have to do is fill out an online questionnaire.

When you do, please consider submitting your story for the “Meet a Reading Graduate” section of our departmental blog. And please consider joining the University’s Thrive Mentoring Scheme to help our students make their transition into the world after graduation.

And remember to subscribe to our blog:


 

The best way to develop yourself and find a new passion

With the 2018 University of Reading graduation ceremonies just around the corner, we wanted to take this opportunity to highlight some of the amazing things that our graduates do after they leave university. With some of our graduates, however, just because they leave Reading doesn’t mean they’ve left university. Many graduates go on to postgraduate studies. Among them is Katie Sparrow, who graduated from the University of Reading in 2015 with a BA in French and Italian, and who last month received her MA in Italian Studies from the University of Notre Dame. Now she’s going on to pursue a PhD in Italian. We asked Katie to tell us how she chose this programme and how her degree in Reading prepared her for advanced study. Here’s what she had to say:

Katie Sparrow (right) at the 2015 University of Reading graduation ceremony, with Dr Paola Nasti (left).

The most memorable part of my undergraduate studies at the University of Reading was definitely the community in the Italian Studies programme. It was truly because of my passionate and committed lecturers that I, like many others, only needed one year of classes to become completely captivated by all things Italian.

The range of modules offered by Reading’s Department of Modern Languages and European Studies also allowed me to explore whichever avenues of culture or periods in history appealed to me, and the lecturers’ evident passion for their subjects encouraged me to study whatever I found most stimulating. I think that it was this freedom to pursue my own interests that stood out to me at Reading. Dr Paola Nasti‘s first-year module on Medieval and Renaissance culture, in particular, first introduced me to the work of Dante, which I found fascinating, and which has since become the topic of my BA, MA, and PhD research.

After graduating from the University of Reading, I worked for almost a year before I realised that I wanted to return to university and to continue with my studies. With the help, advice, and encouragement of many of my former lecturers in Reading, I applied for an MA program in Italian Studies at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana, USA. I was fortunate to be offered a place and a fellowship at Notre Dame, which meant that my tuition and health insurance were entirely paid for and that I received a generous stipend to cover all of my living expenses as well.

Katie Sparrow (left) and some of her fellow Notre Dame postgraduates on a visit to Chicago.

Arriving and adjusting in the US was certainly an experience, but I soon found myself occupied with a long list of reading to do and with classes that tested my skills of analysis and critical thought. I was also tested on my knowledge of key Italian texts in two oral examinations in my first year. I believe that the most useful skill I have developed over these two years at Notre Dame is confidence in communicating my ideas, thanks to frequent class presentations and the opportunity to present my MA thesis at the Italian Research Seminar.

On top of this, I also teach an Italian language class to Notre Dame undergraduates each semester, which at first was a surprising challenge for me personally. (Why was it so difficult to remember the language exercises my own teachers had set us in class?!) Despite the initial struggle, however, I learnt to love teaching and now feel confident addressing students in Italian. Overall, the wonderful professors at Notre Dame have given me a very solid and comprehensive education that I can build upon as I progress to a PhD.

Katie Sparrow receiving her MA in Italian Studies from the University of Notre Dame.

I spent a semester of my MA preparing and sending applications for PhDs, both in the US and the UK, and eventually decided to stay at Notre Dame, where I was offered full funding. It was not an easy decision. It would be wonderful to study closer to my friends and family in London, but I know that my professional development will benefit most from the excellent professors and resources at Notre Dame.

My advice for anyone considering postgraduate study would be: push yourself to get involved in new things, even those of which you may be afraid or unsure (like teaching your own class or moving to the US, in my case) because it is the best way to develop yourself and find a new passion. Also, remember your personal and mental well being along the way, since it is very easy to overlook with everything that grad school throws at you!

To learn more about how a degree in French, German, Italian, or Spanish from the University of Reading can prepare you for postgraduate study, as well as for a wide variety of careers, check out our careers page. Be sure to follow our blog, like us on Facebook, and subscribe to our Twitter feed, too, so that you can keep up on all the news and events of the Department of Modern Languages and European Studies at the University of Reading.

Old Whiteknights House, home of the Graduate School at the University of Reading.

If you’re a Reading graduate, we’d love to hear from you about your career choices after university. Tell us your story. The University of Reading publishes alumni profiles online. If you’d like to share your experiences, all you have to do is fill out an online questionnaire.

When you do, please consider submitting your story for the “Meet a Reading Graduate” section of our departmental blog. And please consider joining the University’s Thrive Mentoring Scheme to help our students make their transition into the world after graduation.

And remember to subscribe to our blog:


 

My languages degree has prepared me for the wider world

Graduation is just around the corner, and many of our 2018 finalists are already starting the next phase of their lives, after university. We wanted to take this opportunity to check in with one of last year’s graduates, Charlie Ashton, who completed her degree in French and Italian at the University of Reading in 2017. Charlie’s now about to earn another degree: an MSc in Real Estate, and she already has a new job lined up for after graduation. Here’s what Charlie has to say about how her languages degree prepared her for her new career:

Charlie Ashton, receiving her BA in French & Italian from the University of Reading in 2017

I chose to study at the University of Reading because of the expertise of the Department of Modern Languages and European Studies, as well as because of the beautiful and award-winning green campus. The two combined ensured me that it would be a place I would be able to settle in and call home. Five years later, I have not been disappointed and I am still here!

The opportunities to study a variety of subjects at Reading made the transition from A-levels to my languages degree really appealing. Over the course of my degree I studied literature, art, history, culture, politics, linguistics as well as doing modules in Spanish and German in my first two years at Reading.

Along with her the Russian, Portuguese and German friends she met in Siena during her Year Abroad, Charlie took a trip to Bologna.

I still meet up with the friends that I made during my degree and at least go for coffee once a week with them! My fond memories consist of the small classes, getting to know everyone including the fantastic lecturers. This is one of the best things about Reading: the lecturers really are there to listen and help with any queries you have. The classes are more intimate that any other degree subjects and this allows you to maximise your language learning at Reading. Now that I’ve graduated I really miss the department and the friendly chats whenever you walk down the corridor. It felt like family.

A quick trip to Capri during the Year Abroad.

My third year came around ever so fast. This was the Year Abroad and was the scariest and best experience of my life!  I chose to go to Toulouse and Siena. Of course, the Year Abroad came with some incredible challenges, but I wouldn’t change it for the world! They are all valuable life experiences that you can apply in almost any situation. When I came back from my Year Abroad, I felt like I could tackle anything. I have amazing memories of my time in Toulouse and Siena, along with all the friends I made there. I am still in contact with my Erasmus group and we already met in Hamburg to celebrate the New Year together! It is my turn to host them in England very soon!

During my Year Abroad, I had the opportunity to reflect and think about what job I would like in the future. This can be one of the hardest things to consider, because the career options are so wide for a languages student. With so many options available it can be difficult to pinpoint a particular profession.

I realised that as a language student, the opportunities are truly endless due to the skills that you acquire over the four years of your degree. I have always had a passion for art and architecture. This came to life as I was travelling around Italy taking in the stunning views and towns. I realised that I had a real passion for the built environment and maybe this was something I could look into further.

Charlie and some postgraduate friends celebrating the end of the academic year in Henley-on-Thames

On return to Reading I looked into postgraduate degree  programmes. I found the MSc Real Estate programme at the University of Reading and signed up for the Open Day. I loved it and applied straight away for a place on the course.

Perhaps you’re wondering what are the links are between French & Italian and Real Estate? Well, the skills you learn as a language student are invaluable. Effective communication with a wide range of people, not being afraid to speak your mind in a constructive way and to be passionate about what you want to pursue in the future. These are three attributes in particular that I’ve drawn on a lot this year in my Masters programme. They are the same skills that you acquire in a languages degree and that you call on nearly every day during your Year Abroad! Enthusiasm, determination and openness are qualities that you gain from being a languages student at Reading. I would say that my languages degree has really opened my eyes and prepared me for the wider world.

The postgraduate life: enjoying the lunch at the Greenlands Campus before a boat trip!

Now I’m about to begin my new career. During my interview for my upcoming job I was asked, ‘So how do you feel about the prospect of walking into a room full of strangers and engaging in conversation?’ I knew that the interviewer was referring to industry events, which are held quite frequently. For many people this can be a terrifying prospect, one that you’d want to avoid. But I said ‘This was something that I had to do frequently on my Year Abroad, and usually in a foreign language. So I’d say it would be something that I would enjoy.’

I am now going to work for a luxury property developer called Millgate Homes, which is based in Twyford. I’ll work in the land and planning team, where we will locate sites and appraise them for development opportunities. The quality and care that are put into Millgate homes is something that attracted me to the company. During my interview I was asked if I liked Art and I was told that I could get involved with design projects for the in-house design & architecture team if that was something that interested me. Of course I said yes!! In the next few years I will be trained to become a land buyer. I will be dealing with agents, landowners, the public, councils and other government bodies in my day to day life.

The graduates of the Department of Modern Languages and European Studies at the University of Reading. You never know where a languages degree will lead you.

When I started my degree in languages at the University of Reading five years ago I had no idea that I would be in the position I am today! The Department of Modern Languages and European Studies at Reading has enriched me as a person and opened so many doors. I would encourage anyone to choose to study a modern foreign languages degree here because there are so many career possibilities along with the opportunity to learn in a truly fantastic department! I still love to read and watch programmes in French and Italian because they have a big place in my life. I am going to the South of France in September and I can’t wait to speak French again. I am also eager to organise a trip to Italy next year. My experience at Reading always stay with me!

To learn more about the possibilities available to you with a degree in French, German, Italian, or Spanish from the University of Reading, check out our careers page. Be sure to follow our blog, like us on Facebook, and subscribe to our Twitter feed, too, so that you can keep up on all the news and events of the Department of Modern Languages and European Studies at the University of Reading.

If you’re a Reading graduate, we’d love to hear from you about your career choices after university. Tell us your story. The University of Reading publishes alumni profiles online. If you’d like to share your experiences, all you have to do is fill out an online questionnaire.

When you do, please consider submitting your story for the “Meet a Reading Graduate” section of our departmental blog. And please consider joining the University’s Thrive Mentoring Scheme to help our students make their transition into the world after graduation.

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First Year Student at WriteAUT prize giving in London

 

Emily Woodall (1st year German) and UoR-OEAD lecturer Elisabeth Koenigshofer
Pictures: © Elisabeth Koenigshofer

On 24th April 2018, the Austrian Cultural Forum in London awarded students from British and Irishuniversities the first WriteAUT literary prize.

 

Last week, the Austrian Cultural Forum in London invited all competitors and their OEAD lecturers to the prize giving ceremony of the first WriteAUT literary prize. This prize was initiated by OEAD lecturers in Great Britain and Ireland, with a trip to Vienna as its first prize and many books, CDs, and films for all other participants, sponsored by the City of Vienna, OEAD, the Austrian Ministry of Education and the Austrian Cultural Forum.

 

Competitors and lecturers on the balcony of the Austrian Cultural Forum in London
© Elisabeth Koenigshofer

 

The competition was open to German language university students across Great Britain and Ireland and seventeen texts were entered.Students had to write a literary text of any format or style for the topic “2018 – Jahr der Erinnerung / 2018 – Year of Remembrance” to commemorate various jubilees such as the centenary of the birth of the first Austrian Republic, the Anschluss 1938, or the 1968 student revolutions. 17 Texts entered the competition, amongst them one by University of Reading student Emily Woodall (first year German).

A jury of experts then chose the winner and another first prize was awarded for the audience favourite. Members of the public were able to read and to vote for all texts via www.writeaut.at and more than 1,000 people participated in the vote. Iona Charter’s “Werte Entwindet” (University of Leeds) and Conor Gleeson’s “Achtung!” (Trinity College Dublin) won the competition.

Prizes for competitors
© Elisabeth Koenigshofer

The ceremony started with opening remarks from OEAD Lecturers Judith (University of Leeds) and Annelise (University College Dublin) and representatives of the Austrian Cultural Forum. Iona and Conor read their winner texts to the fascinated audience and the afternoon was complete with drinks and the opportunity to mingle with German students from various universities.

 

 

Emily, our University of Reading participant, saw

WriteAUT magazine
© Elisabeth Koenigshofer

the competition as an opportunity to revive her love for creative writing, combining it with her interest in the German language. Her modern fairy tale “Ein Märchen der Revolutionen” can be read in the MLES Resources room in the WriteAUT magazine or online at www.writeaut.at.

 

 

We look forward to next year’s competition.

German Studies Project – Der Fund by Veza Canetti

“I enjoyed working with others as a team to tackle the story of “Der Fund” and present it in a new and interesting way that shows the creativity and diversity of the German Department as a whole. We were able to show that through our common knowledge of the German language, one story could be translated to an audience through a variety o

(from left: Sian Buller (Year 2), Sophie Allen (Year 3), Angelina Lotter-Jones (Year 3), Sophie Payne (PhD student), Emily Stanga (Year 3), Elisabeth Koenigshofer (OEAD-lecturer), Nick Bricknell (Year 1), © Regine Klimpfinger)

f means, be it speech, music, or paintings.” (Sian Buller, Year 2)

While the beast from the east had its icy claws around Reading, some of our talented German Studies students braved the cold and set out to present the outcome of this year’s German Studies

Project “Der Fund by Veza Canetti” at Christchurch Reading.

The project was a voluntary extracurricular activity that should help students to develop and foster their German language and creative skills. For this project, which focused on text transformation, students from all years read a short story by almost-forgotten Austrian author Veza Canetti and interpreted it in their own way through various media.

Sophie Payne, a PhD student in the department, was our host for the evening. She gave the audience an insight into the author’s life and led the Q&A after the recital of the translation.

(Emily Stanga, presenting her translation © Melani Schroeter)

Veza Canetti and her short story Der Fund

Author Veza Canetti, wife of Nobel Prize winner Elias Canetti, never stepped out of her husband’s long literary shadow but published extensively from the 1930s onwards. Born in 1897 in Vienna, she emigrated to London with her husband in 1938, fleeing the Nazis who had annexed Austria. During her life time, she published mainly short stories in Viennese working class newspapers but could not find a publisher for her novels. Those were only published from the 1990s onwards.

Her stories focus often on women from lower class backgrounds and their day-to-day struggles. Her short story Der Fund (The Discovery) is no exception, telling the story of Knut Tell, an impoverished poet who is forced to work at a lost property office. There, he finds the letter of an illiterate woman who had been treated ill by her former doctor and lover. Fascinated by her letter, Knut sets out to find her. Love, jealousy, and star-crossed lovers dominate this little gem.

Why Veza Canetti?

Veza Canetti is one of many forgotten female authors of the last century who worked alongside men but did not achieve fame. Like many other artists, Veza had been born into a Jewish family and therefore decided to flee to England when Hitler annexed Austria in 1938. She had worked as an English teacher before she moved to London. Veza was chosen because she reflects anniversaries that are commemorated in 2018: the centenary of women’s rights to vote and 80 years since the annexation of Austria and the dissolution of Austria as an independent nation.

Our students

Nick Bricknell, Year 1, used music to make the text accessible to the audience. During the presentation he played variations of Bach’s Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme Cantata 140 which reflected

(Sophie Payne, introducing Veza Canetti © Melani Schroeter)

the mood and events in Canetti’s text. Nick deliberately chose a lesser known work by a famous German-speaking composer. He has worked as a church organist at Christchurch since the beginning of his studies at Reading and impressed the audience with his skills.

Sophie Allen, Angelina Lotter-Jones and Emily Stanga, all Year 3, put their translation skills to practice and produced a great translation into English. All three worked hard throughout the last months and weeks because Veza’s language is quite different from what our students work on in their translation classes. During the presentation, all three translators read their texts aloud to the audience, accompanied by the organ recital.

Angelina: “Prior to this project I had not heard of Veza Canetti before and there was not an English translation in existence at the time we did this project. What attracted me to participating in this project was the opportunity to have more practice translating.”

Sophie: “I was able to use my methods from my university classes to write the translation, which involves envisioning the target audience and retaining the style of the text.”

(Sian Buller, Der Fund No.1 © Sian Buller)

Sian Buller, Year 2, proved herself as a visual artist. She created four canvases to accompany the narration. She chose a different style and media for each piece, for example acrylic paint, paint-pens and artist pencils. Her fascinating work added a visual dimension to the way in which a text can be interpreted.

Sian: “Through my participation in this project, I felt that I have learnt many valuable skills. I had to be organised and time efficient, in order to give myself enough time to complete each canvas to a suitable level of standard on time, whilst still keeping up with my own university work. I also needed to be conscientious whilst thinking of designs that would be clear to an audience and fit in with any narration or musical pieces created by other participating students. Additionally, I had to make sure that the pieces were captivating as they were used in advertised posters around the university and so served as a public representation for the project itself.”

All participants showed great interest in the project and dedicated a lot of time, energy and effort to their tasks. It is great to see that our students are so engaged and were able to transfer their skills to a new and experimental project. The audience on the evening of the presentation was small due to the weather condition but our students made it worth coming out that evening and the audience truly enjoyed the presentation.

If you would like to see their great work for yourself, the project is exhibited in room EM 274 (Resources Room) in the Edith Morley building.

Second issue of Gendered Voices magazine: “Beyond the Binary”.

I am delighted to announce the recent publication of the second issue of Gendered Voices magazine: “Beyond the Binary”. The magazine is published by the Gender and Sexuality Research Cluster of the AHRC SWWDTP and features work by postgraduate students, academics, and a guest article from the charity sector. This interdisciplinary magazine celebrates diversity and intersectionality. It includes topics such as drag culture, non-binary identity, transgender experience, lgbtq issues, gender fluidity in 19th century France, The Inca Empire, pirates, and much more!

Thank you to all the Reading PhD students who contributed articles and photos to the magazine. The issue certainly demonstrates the richness of postgraduate research in the UK. As we received such a high level of interest from our fellow postgraduate students, we will certainly be publishing a third issue in the future. Watch this space!

The magazine is intended for an audience both within and outside academia, so do please share this magazine with your peers and friends. We hope you enjoy reading it as much as we enjoyed putting it together.

If you’d like to get in touch please contact me by email: genderandsexualitycluster@gmail.com
or via the cluster’s twitter account @swwgender

 

Best wishes

Maria Tomlinson (General Editor)

 

Ashleigh Embling, Runner-up of the Year Abroad Photo Competition 2017

Hello, my name is Ashleigh Embling and I’m a final year French and International Relations Student. I spent my year abroad studying at Sciences Po Lyon, in Lyon. Studying at a Grande Ecole was a challenging experience, but incredibly rewarding and enjoyable.

I chose to study because although the aim of the year abroad is to focus on our language development, I really wanted to keep up the International Relations side of my degree and Sciences Po provided the perfect place to do this, whilst also massively improving my language skills because of the lectures being in French. Studying also provided an environment where it was easy to meet other people doing Erasmus placements, so I had a group of Erasmus friends and our common language was French which really helped improve my level of fluency.

Lyon was unlike anywhere I’ve lived before, it’s the third largest city in France and shows this in its vibrant culture and welcoming atmosphere. Lyon has 9 arrondissements, each with its own personality. My preferred areas are Vieux Lyon which is the historic quarter; home to old churches, a basilica and traditional French streets housing many small ateliers, and Croix-Rousse which is quite a young area with stunning views of the city.

During my year abroad, I travelled to many places including Marseille, Siena, Paris and Madrid. The photo that won second place was taken on one of my trips to Lake Annecy, in a town called Annecy on the Swiss-French border about an hour’s bus trip from Lyon. Being able to travel to so many places was definitely a highlight of my year abroad, and I’m glad I took so many photos like this one to be able to remember each trip!