The Christopher G. Wagstaff Film Collection

Thursday April 6, 2017 marked the official launch of the Christopher G. Wagstaff Italian Film Collection at the University of Notre Dame. Wagstaff, who retired from the University of Reading in 2015 after four decades as a teacher and scholar of Italian, delivered a short talk at the event, which recognised his distinguished career as well as the generous donation of his personal film archive to Notre Dame.

Chris Wagstaff, who taught Italian at the University of Reading for four decades

As Wagstaff’s former colleague Professor Zygmunt G. Baranski has said, in his long career at the University of Reading Chris “worked tirelessly and, at times, eccentrically, to develop new undergraduate and graduate courses, to build a major film library, to establish national and international contacts and networks, to enlighten and encourage students, and, most importantly, to demand the highest standards of scholarly seriousness from himself and his students.” With that in mind, we want to take this opportunity to recognise Chris’s contribution to the University of Reading and to the wider Italian and Film-Studies communities.

We asked Tracy Bergstrom, Curator of Italian Imprints and Co-Director of Digital Library Initiatives and Scholarship at the University of Notre Dame, to tell us about the archive. She explained that the Christopher G. Wagstaff Film Collection is built around roughly 2,000 Italian films and television programs donated from Wagstaff’s personal collection. These films are currently being catalogued and made available through the Hesburgh Libraries, as well as digitised for preservation purposes. Both digital and commercial copies are supplemented by the University of Notre Dame’s large print collection, housed in the Hesburgh Library, which explores the history, culture, and aesthetics of Italian media.

The Hesburgh Library at the University of Notre Dame, new home of the Christopher Wagstaff Film Collection

Brendan Hennessey, Assistant Professor of Italian at the University of Binghamton and the archive’s first curator, further expanded on the significance of the archive. “The Christopher G. Wagstaff Film Collection aims to become a centre for the study of Italian film and television that will be open to scholars and students, a North American cineteca at Notre Dame, the first of its kind, capable of supporting extant research while promoting future projects in Italian screen studies.

The mission of the Wagstaff Collection is not to preserve individual films, but to permit the study of a corpus of cinematic works facilitated by their digitisation. It will nurture research, screenings, curated film series, and scholarly events. In so doing it perpetuates Christopher Wagstaff’s original vision to expand our understanding of Italian cinema through the study of all types of Italian media production. Over the course of his prolific career as both teacher and scholar in Italian studies at the University of Reading, Christopher Wagstaff’s role as amateur archivist reinforced his position as one of Italian cinema’s most respected interpreters.

During his career at the University of Reading Wagstaff published several path-breaking studies, including this magisterial examination of Italian neorealism

As an archivist-scholar, Wagstaff brought precision to the study of both “classics” and non-canonical films, with a particular interest in exploring how production contexts (and their illuminating empirical data) could be gateways for sharpening Italian film hermeneutics. Evidenced by the titles in the archive, his tastes are indeed eclectic: art-house staples, rare versions of neorealist classics and auteur films from the 1960s neighbour popular genre films (science fiction, action-adventure, peplums) and an extensive assortment of spaghetti westerns. Recent scholarship attests how such an expansive horizon of types was prescient for Italian screen studies in the twenty-first century. Today, as the reverence for traditional canons and their inevitable hierarchies are on the wane, collections that stretch beyond the precincts of the post-war Italian art film are increasingly vital.”

We at Reading are proud of the work that Chris has done and want to congratulate him on the launch of the Christopher G. Wagstaff Italian Film Collection at the University of Notre Dame. Well done Chris!

Incredible Thank-you from Alicja Kobylecka, a BA German and Italian graduate

The winking robot Maria by Alicja Kobylecka

Staff in Italian and German studies were overwhelmed when Alicja Kobylecka, a BA German and Italian graduate, brought in a gift: three of her paintings based on films she studied with us. Two of the paintings depict films from the German final year module Cinema of the Weimar Republic. A third depicts a film from the second year module on Italian cinema.

The winking robot Maria from Fritz Lang’s Metropolis (1927) is dedicated to the German staff; a second painting showing “German Expressionism entering HumSS Building” is based on F.W. Murnau’s Nosferatu (1922) and is a thank you to the Senior Tutor of DMLES, Dr Wölfel. The third painting depicts Gelsomina from Federico Fellini’s La strada (1954) and is dedicated to all of the Italian staff.

With the paintings a thank-you note to the Italian section from Alicja came:

German Expressionism entering HumSS Building by Alicja Kobylecka

Understanding the enigmatic world of a new culture through learning language in a social context is a fascinating but also quite challenging process. It definitely changed my perception of the world forever. Additionally, after being introduced by my lecturers to Italian Neorealism and German Expressionism, I was lucky enough to find an inspiration for my artworks. What a bonus! Therefore, to all the lovely people from the German and Italian sections I would like to say a big thank you for sharing your knowledge with me and for the amazing support all the way!

The paintings will remain displayed in the Edith Morley building. There is nothing more rewarding for us then getting something so exceptionally creative back. We know that we are only as inspiring and productive as our students are. Thank you, Alicja!

A languages degree gives you a huge variety of transferrable skills

What can you do with a degree in languages? We asked Emily Skew, who graduated from the University of Reading in 2015 with a BA in French and Italian, and who now works in marketing. She has excellent advice for anyone wondering where a languages degree might take you:

Emily Skew, a 2015 graduate of the University of Reading, now works in marketing for FEED

French was always my favourite lesson at school. Once I started looking into university courses, I knew a languages course would be for me. I looked at many universities, considering their various combined degrees knowing that I wanted to study French as well as another subject. It wasn’t until I went to an open day at the University of Reading that I made up my mind to study Italian as my second subject, thanks to the friendliness and enthusiasm of the Italian staff. From then, Reading was my only choice.

The Department of Modern Languages and European Studies at the University of Reading was amazing. As students we had so much support and help all the way through the course – something which I didn’t sense I would have had in the other universities I visited – and that didn’t stop when it came to looking at our future after graduation. The University and the department put on many careers events and workshops, which helped enormously to tackle the daunting prospect of leaving university.

A University of Reading Careers Fair

During my last term at Reading I wasn’t sure that a typical languages job, such as translation or teaching, would be for me, so a careers advisor suggested I start looking at industries where I could use skills gained from learning languages. I landed myself an internship in a marketing agency after my exams and I loved it.

Having had so many hands-on hours during my course and a year abroad, I was used to conversing and communicating with lots of different people, meaning a role in communications was probably a good choice. So, while I wasn’t using my languages as such, I was using the many skills my degree had given me. This applied for my next role in PR where my languages helped me get the job even though I wouldn’t necessarily be using them.

I have since moved back to the Marketing sector with an agency called FEED and I am now working on eBay’s global email marketing where I project manage the campaigns by assigning work to copywriters and designers. We look after the French and Italian eBay emails so I finally have the chance to use my languages by checking and editing the emails before they are sent back to the client.

Where will your University of Reading degree take you?

My advice to anyone wondering what to do with a degree in languages? It doesn’t matter if you don’t immediately find a job working with languages. A languages degree gives you a huge variety of transferrable skills which will really impress employers and there is always a large chance you will end up working with languages again. There are so many international companies out there looking for people with invaluable language skills, so you don’t have to go into teaching or translation to make use of your languages.

To learn more about your employability 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.

Are you a University of Reading graduate? Consider becoming a Thrive Mentor.

If you’d like to tell us where your Reading degree has taken you, and perhaps to share a few  memories of the department, please get in touch with our Alumni Officer, Dr Charles Leavitt. 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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FAUST – German Studies Theatre Trip

German students and lectures

On Thursday, 16th March 2017, our first and second year German Studies students went to see FAUST X2 at the Watermill Theatre in Newbury.

The play provided an interesting mix of Goethe’s and Marlowe’s versions of the tragedy of Dr Faust, whose unsettling story has fascinated and shocked readers and theatre enthusiasts throughout the centuries.

Heinrich Faust, a genius and scholar, is driven by never-ending need to stimulate the senses and experience the unknown. Consequently, he becomes a very powerful wizard and is able to summon spirits and demons who obey him and  fulfill his dreams. Eventually, he summons the strongest of all, Mephisto. Mephisto – the devil himself – is willing to form a pact with the greedy scholar but not without a prize. If Mephisto wins the love of Gretchen – the most innocent and beautiful women who ever treaded the earth, he will receive Faust’s soul in exchange. Faust willingly agrees and so the tragedy begins.

Ian Diarmid played a fabulous, tormented Faust, who has been rarely presented as the old man which he would have considered during the time
when the story was written.

He is supported by Jacques Miche as a cunning Mephisto who allows Faust to use his body as an alter ego, and Daisy Fairclough who convincingly plays the innocent maid Gretchen that suffers a lethal fall from grace by falling for Faust’s desires.

Intriguing music and sound effects added to a very exciting theatre experience for students and staff alike. Overall, it was a very successful and fascinating evening.

Ze Germans and ze British: Just good Frenemies?

A lot of people know about the German connections of the British Royal Family during the 18th and 19th centuries. But did you know that what was to become British Gas was founded by two German chemists in the 19th century? That Germans were the largest group of foreigners in Britain in the 19th century? That German academics are the largest group of foreign nationals working at British Universities (including at Reading University)? That the Germans are obsessed with a British comedy sketch, Dinner for One, which is shown, and has been shown for decades by every German TV station throughout the day each year on New Years Eve for decades? That two Germans invented the Doc Martens’ air cushioned sole?

A pop-up travelling exhibition, provided by the UK-based Migration Museum Project, explores such relations between Britain and Germany. It is currently on show at the University of Reading and will remain here until 24 March. It can be visited anytime between 9am and 5pm on weekdays in the Humanities and Social Sciences Building on Whiteknights Campus, room 274A. More directions and a couple of weekend dates for external visitors can be found at the bottom of this post.

The panel discussing “The Brelephant in the Room” on 15 February

The exhibition consists of a small number of panels that explore different groups of German migrants to the UK, from the Royal family to the poor and the refugees during the Second World War. It also explores different economic as well as cultural connections between the UK and Germany from Early Modern Period onwards. There is also a panel about stereotypes and sport – yes, football gets a mention, too; but did you know that a German doctor working in London inspired the Paralympics? Each panel provides specific examples as well as a short text about the historical background. Showing this exhibition is timely – with a view on a pending Brexit – and equally interesting from a German as well as from a British perspective, as it describes a part of British migration history and illustrates how (groups of) migrants contribute to the country that they make their new home, and partly also the difficulties that they may face.

Part of the audience at the panel discussion

A little programme of events around the exhibition also attracted visitors, such as a panel discussion about “The Brelephant in the Room: Living in post-referendum UK as an EU citizen”.

Two more events are coming up: A guest lecture by Dr Stefan Manz about “German Immigrants and the First World War. A Centenary Perspective” on Wednesday, 1 March, 4-6pm and a presentation by Final Year German Studies students who interviewed German academics working at the University of Reading on Wednesday 15 March, 4-5:30pm (meet in HumSS 274A for both).

The exhibition and events are supported by the Vice-Chancellor’s Endowment Funds for academic events, the School of Literature and Languages and the Heritage and Creativity Institute.

The Humanities and Social Sciences Building (HumSS) is located on Whiteknights Campus, building number 1 on the map: Room 274A is on the second floor. The exhibition is also open to visit on the following two Saturdays: 4 and 18 March, between 8am-12pm and 2-4pm. Please contact Dr Melani Schröter  if you would like further information.

Vice-Chancellor Sir David Bell visited the exhibition earlier this month

To find out more about German Studies and the other languages we in the Department of Modern Languages and European Studies at the University of Reading – French, Italian, and Spanish –  we invite you to to like us on Facebook and subscribe to our Twitter feed.

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One year on

crowtherLucia Crowther graduated in 2015 with a degree in Italian and History of Art. An excellent and committed student throughout her degree, Lucia was the recipient of the Meneghello-Italianist UG Prize for outstanding academic achievements in Italian Studies. Her dissertation entitled ‘The architectural formalisation of pilgrimage in the portico of the Madonna di San Luca’ was awarded the prestigious British-Italian Society Memorial Rooke Prize for the best UG dissertation in Italian Studies in 2016.

In 2016, Lucia won a full EU-funded Unibo Azione 2 scholarship from the University of Bologna to attend an extremely selective two-year Master’s programme in Visual Arts.

Let’s hear how she is settling in the world’s oldest university.

One year on

I’d never formally studied Italian before I began my bachelor’s degree, so in some ways it feels quite surreal to find myself where I am now. One year after graduating from Reading I’m living in Italy and doing my Master’s degree at the University of Bologna. This is the city I came to for my Erasmus year, and I think I’m only just now appreciating how much that year abroad and my whole degree experience at Reading changed my life.

I still remember the first evening I ever spent in Bologna. Late in the day, standing in a bar in the centre of town surrounded by a crowd of new local friends, someone asked me if I was happy to have chosen the city for my Erasmus placement. I shouted back over the music that I was delighted, and couldn’t wait to try my first spaghetti bolognese. Well, the whole place went silent. I now know, as I’m sure almost everyone reading already does too, that ‘spag-bol’ does not exist in Bologna, and that the locals can spot a tourist a mile away as anyone who doesn’t know that tagliatelle al ragù is the dish to ask for in the Italian capital of food.

That evening taught me a few lessons: firstly, the people of Bologna are among the friendliest, kindest and most forgiving on Earth. The impromptu night-time tour of the city I was given a few hours later was testament enough to that. But secondly, if you move to a new country you will never stop learning new things, and your life will never be dull (whether you want it to be or not!). That’s why I knew I had to come back, one way or another, and at the beginning of September I unpacked my suitcase here for the second time.

After the brilliant Italian language and culture teaching I had at Reading, I felt confident enough to apply directly to Bologna earlier this year. I was lucky enough to be awarded one of the scholarships reserved for international students, and I realised that Italian universities are really welcoming to foreign students. My MA is in the Visual Arts, which is the perfect subject to study in a country so full of beautiful art and architecture, and it’s also really interesting to see how different the postgraduate degrees are over here. I’m able to study a really broad range of topics, so my courses this year range from art restoration, to iconography, to Museum studies. I’ve also made so many new Italian friends in Bologna, and every time I manage to get though a whole day without saying anything inappropriate about their pasta I feel like an honorary Italian all over again.

It’s not for the faint hearted, however. Italian students usually write 30 – 50,000 word dissertations to graduate from their MA courses, so I’ve got all that to looks forward to next year! But while I was at Reading I already managed to do so many things I never thought I’d be able to. I never expected to go from zero Italian to let’s-move-to-Italy-and-start-a-new-life standards, but my degree got me there. And that’s not all: during my second year my tutor Dr La Penna helped me to get a placement as a research assistant with the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Programme (UROP), so I contributed to the databases of the Diasporic Literary Archives project and learned so much from working with researchers from across the University. Then in my final year a module with Dr Faloppa gave us the chance to replace an essay with a personalised project, so I was able to curate an exhibition based on my favourite charity, Amnesty International. After all those different experiences, to mention just a few, I don’t feel worried about taking on a new challenge, and being in this stunning city is all the inspiration I need.

So if you want to see what is, in my opinion, one of the most under-appreciated, lively and cultured cites in Europe, then come and visit any time! You’ll have a lot of new friends before the first night is even over, and if you can get through a whole evening without mentioning spaghetti then it might just be safe to show you where they do the best tagliatelle al ragù in town…

Language studies posted the second-highest salary gains

Heads up, business majors: Employers are newly hot on the trail of hires with liberal arts and humanities degrees.

keep-calm-and-learn-languages-4Class of 2015 graduates from those disciplines are employed at higher rates than their cohorts in the class of 2014, and starting salaries rose significantly, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers’ annual first-destination survey of recent graduates in the workforce.

Degree holders in area studies—majors like Latin American Studies and Gender Studies—logged the largest gains in full-time employment and pay, with average starting salaries rising 26% to $43,524 for the class of 2015, compared with the previous year’s graduates. Language studies posted the second-highest salary gains.

Though area studies majors comprise less than 1% of all graduates in the survey, the pay numbers show employers are seeking hires
with communication skills and comfort in multicultural environments, said Edwin Koc, NACE’s director of research, public policy and legislative affairs.

Overall, pay for liberal arts graduates rose sharply for the class of 2015, moving closer to business graduates’ starting pay, according to Mr. Koc.

“I’ll be interested to see if it’s a one-year quirk or whether it continues to boom in that direction,” he said.

Those with degrees in English and in foreign languages also brought home bigger paychecks, with starting salaries rising 14.3% and 13.6%, respectively.

Behind the numbers is a growing desire among employers for hires with strong communication skills, said Mr. Koc. After complaining that new hires’ soft skills are not up to par, “employers may be reconsidering how they’re approaching recruiting college graduates, and may not be so focused on hiring a particular major,” he said.

Computer-science graduates posted the highest starting salaries in the survey, reporting an average of $69,214. They unseated petroleum engineering majors, who usually top starting-salary rankings but have dipped amid the energy-industry crisis.

Not all liberal arts majors are enjoying boom times. History majors’ starting pay rose 3.7% year-over-year, and visual and performing arts majors were the sole group of humanities students for whom employment declined, with 2.3% fewer graduates employed six months after graduation.

NACE collected employment and salary information from 279 U.S. colleges and universities and 244,000 bachelor’s degree graduates. Overall, more than 80% of 2015 bachelor’s degree holders were employed or in graduate school within six months of graduation, according to NACE.

To read the original post click here

Celebrating Halloween and the Day of the Dead

Jack-o-lanterns

Lanterns

The carved pumpkins, fancy dress and Trick or Treating activities popular in North America have spread to Europe, says Dr Veronica Heath, who teaches on our 19th century European Novels module. However there are also very different traditions unique to Great Britain (such as 5th November Bonfire Night), to other European countries and to Latin America.

In France, Halloween is more popular among children than adults. Dr Marjorie Gehrhardt, who teaches 20th century French history, says that since the 1990s, you can see groups of children dressed up on 31st October, going around the neighbourhood asking for sweets sometimes late into the evening as the following day is a bank holiday. On 1st November, known in France as La Toussaint [All Saints’ Day], many people take chrysanthemums to the graves of their loved ones. Traditionally the Day of the Dead is 2nd November, but this is a working day, so families tend to gather on 1st November instead. The story goes that as chrysanthemums resist well to the cold and frost, they were used to flower the graves of fallen soldiers after the First World War.

Our postdoctoral researcher on Translation and NGOs, Dr Wine Tesseur explains that ‘in Belgium, families get together on 1st November and eat pancakes, waffles, and/or beignets. On 2 November, there is usually a requiem mass. If someone from your family has passed away in the previous months, a little wooden cross with their name is put on a special notice board in the local church. On 2 November, after mass, you can collect the cross and take it home’.

In Austria, Halloween is more of a children’s celebration, whereas all ages celebrate Allerheiligen [All Saints’ Day]. Like in France, 1st November is a bank holiday and most people go to visit the graves of their loved ones on that day. They light white candles that sit in red glasses, and leave fresh flowers. Another tradition, our German Lektorin Elli Königshofer tells us, is for godparents to give their godchildren a striezel, a sweet pastry containing raisins, shaped into a braid (traditionally women would cut their braided hair in sign of mourning).dia-de-los-muertos-03-full

In Italy too, people remember the dead, visit their graves and eat special food as part of Ognissanti (All Saints Day, on 1st November) and I Morti (2nd November), our language coordinator Enza Siciliano-Verruccio explains. It is the time of the year when the first caldarroste [roasted chestnuts] are eaten and many regions have their own local specialties, like the Frutta di Martorana [a fruit-shaped sweet] in Sicily.

Our Spanish teaching fellow Ivan Ortega, tells us that in Spain too, people go to cemeteries to tidy up their relatives’ graves and bring fresh flowers. Spanish people also have food traditions, such as huesos de Santo and buñuelos de Viento, which are two typical sweets eaten during these festivities.

ev_3_la_catrinaIn Mexico, both 31st October and 1st November are big celebrations. Dr Catriona McAllister, who teaches Latin American history and culture, describes Día de muertos traditions for us: ‘On 2nd November (coinciding with the Catholic festival of All Souls Day), Mexico celebrates the Day of the Dead. The festival offers the opportunity to remember and honour departed loved ones and has its origins in pre-Hispanic traditions that were later combined with Catholic practices. Celebrations can take place over several days, and it is traditional to visit cemeteries where loved ones are buried and to prepare an altar at home. Altars usually contain a range of objects including flowers (particularly cempasúchiles, or marigolds), the favourite food of the departed loved one, candles, objects belonging to the departed, photos and decorated sugar skulls’.

If Halloween, pumpkins and trick-or-treating are becoming more popular, the countries whose cultures and languages we study in the Department of Modern Languages and European Studies also have their own fascinating traditions!

New for 2017! Spanish Single Honours Degree

SpanishWe are very pleased to announce that we have launched a Single Honours degree in Spanish and Latin American Studies, starting from September 2017!

Immerse yourself in the diversity of the Spanish-speaking world by taking modules in language, culture, history and society that reflect the cultures of Spain and Latin America. You will have the opportunity to study with a dynamic team of staff who are internationally-recognised experts in their fields, and to gain a deep understanding of the Spanish-speaking world today.

You will be able to apply for this course to start in September 2017.

For more information visit our website or email languages@reading.ac.uk.

Seminar series TRANSLATING IN DANGER ZONES @MLES

Translating in danger zonesIn a globalised world we are confronted with an increasingly diverse mix of languages and cultures, bringing new challenges to language professions. This series explores the role of language and translation in danger situations, and considers what it takes to work as a translator or interpreter in these contexts. Presented by a mix of practitioners and academics, it will demonstrate how language professions have changed because of these situations, and how translating/interpreting involves more than linguistic knowledge.

First event:

Dr Carmen Delgado Luchner, University of Geneva 

Training field interpreters for humanitarian organisations 

26 October 2016, Room 2s12, URS, 5 pm

CHECK OUR FACEBOOK PAGE FOR FULL PROGRAMME AND MORE DETAILS.