Climate change is one of the most urgent issues facing humanity. While we will all feel its impact, it hits hardest the poorest and most vulnerable people on the planet. To mark the UN World Day of Social Justice 2018, we highlight our new Reading Centre for Climate and Justice which was launched last month by Mrs Mary Robinson, former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Image by Asian Development Bank licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

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by Professor Peter Stoneley, Head of Department, English Literature, University of Reading

A poem about a man who murdered his wife isn’t an obvious choice for Valentine’s Day, but Oscar Wilde made it clear that his The Ballad of Reading Gaol was, in fact, about love:

Yet each man kills the thing he loves,
By each let this be heard,
Some do it with a bitter look,
Some with a flattering word.

Written after his two years of imprisonment with hard labour from 1895 to 1897, and first published on February 13th 1898, Wilde’s poem focused on an execution by hanging that was carried out in Reading Prison during his own incarceration. Charles Thomas Wooldridge was a trooper in the Royal Horse Guards who, out of jealousy, stabbed his wife to death. Wooldridge thought his death sentence was right, and he did not seek clemency. He was hanged on 7 July 1896, and buried in an unmarked grave within the Prison walls.

Oscar Wilde’s ‘love poem’ was also a plea for prison reform

In the present climate, where attitudes and behaviour towards women are rightfully being challenged, presenting Wooldridge as a hero, or suggesting his actions were a “crime of passion”, seems abhorrent.  Wilde, though, draws Wooldridge with sympathy.  The trooper seems haunted by his crime, as he looks “with such a wistful eye/Upon that little tent of blue/Which prisoners call the sky”.

Further, Wilde chooses to explore the thought that all people fail their love in one way or another: “each man kills the thing he loves”.  The paradox of the poem is that Wooldridge becomes the hero of love because he, out of the intensity of his devotion, commits the greatest crime.

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Many autistic children perceive the sensory world around us differently. Some autistic children for example are overwhelmed by sounds or touch. This can make everyday situations such as visiting a busy supermarket a challenging task for families, and being overly sensitive has also been linked to anxiety.

A new project being conducted at the University of Reading’s Centre for Autism and funded by the charity MQ  will explore if sensory reactivity, such as being oversensitive to sounds, can predict later anxiety and related mental health symptoms.

The team will follow autistic children for 2 years, starting at age 4, asking caregivers questions about how their child reacts to the sensory world around them, such as sounds and lights. Children’s reactions towards sensory stimuli directly will also be observed, such as different sounds or a touch by a feather. Using questions about anxiety and related symptoms at all time points, the team will look at whether the relationship between sensory reactivity and anxiety and related mental health issues is stable over time. In addition, they will test if early sensory reactivity can predict later mental health symptoms.

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By Dr Federico Faloppa, Lecturer in Italian Studies

This is the first in a series of blogs exploring key issues ahead of the Italian General Election. The series is being curated by Dr Federico Faloppa and will include perspectives from academics in Modern Foreign Languages and Politics and International Relations from the University of Reading on the key issues on the 2018 General Election.

 

Irish Naval personnel from the LÉ Eithne (P31) rescuing migrants as part of Operation Triton

Ahead of the General Election that will take place on 4 March this year, President Sergio Mattarella urged all parties to keep their electoral promises realistic, practical and responsible, and notably, to calm down.

In his New Year’s speech, Mattarella attempted to remind the campaigning parties, and the general public, that jobs and the economy are “the primary and most serious social issue, especially for the young.”

However, it seems that the advice has fallen on deaf ears. Not only are Italian election campaigns dominated by unfulfillable promises, but they are also presenting immigration as Italy’s biggest concern: the perfect scapegoat not to tackle the real problems of the country, and to cover for main parties’ political failure to offer Italians decent socio-economic prospects. Read the rest of this entry »

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By Dr Paddy Bullard, Co-director of the Centre for Collections-Based Research at Reading

The University of Reading’s Collections are an outstanding resource, from the Beckett Collection through to the Museum of English Rural Life. Research using Collections is taking place right across the Institution, and has been for a number of years.

Examples include investigations into the Hugh Sinclair Archive by Food and Nutritional Sciences, Architecture’s use of the DWG Collection and use of the WH Smith Archive by the Henley Business School. However, given the breadth and quality of this resource we could be making much greater use of the Collections for grant-winning research.

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The shared experience of poring over the pictures in a book with a child can feel like a luxury for many parents and carers as they juggle the responsibilities of parenthood. But the value of these early interactions cannot be overestimated. Professors Lynne Murray and Peter Cooper have worked with parents and children in low- and middle-income countries for more than 20 years to assess the impact of early parenting interventions on child development. Here they tell us how a simple, inexpensive intervention to promote sensitive book-sharing can help child development and support the largest group of potential educators – parents.

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Despite numerous initiatives to tackle educational inequalities and encourage social mobility, little has changed in the past 50 years. Here, Dr Carol Fuller, Associate Professor at Reading’s Institute of Education invites you to join her at a symposium in Westminster on 27 February which she hopes will help change the way policy-makers think about education.

Turning education policy on its head

Our research shows that activities that build confidence, resilience and self-efficacy outside the classroom can make a real difference in the classroom. But despite a wealth of evidence and research, activities like these are not part of the formal curriculum. And education policy-makers remain transfixed with attainment figures and grades.

On the 27 February, I will be joined by education experts and practitioners at a symposium in Westminster to figure out why the educational attainment gap between “the haves” and “the have nots” shows no change.

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The visual, performing and literary arts play an important and evolving role in shaping experiences and appreciations of landscapes as well as providing critical and cultural understanding of them.

In recent years, the significance of the arts in landscape and environmental research has been increasingly emphasised, with arts and humanities components now a common, if not required, element in research proposals, such as activities delivered through the Valuing Nature research programme. Similarly, many and diverse landscape management projects with arts-based elements are funded by public money.

Event details >

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The ‘language of depression’ can be spotted using computer analysis which looks for patterns of words used by those who are suffering from the disorder, explains Dr Mohammed Al-Mosaiwi in a new post for The Conversation.

Kurt Cobain by Maia Valenzuela/Flickr, CC BY-SA

From the way you move and sleep, to how you interact with people around you, depression changes just about everything. It is even noticeable in the way you speak and express yourself in writing. Sometimes this “language of depression” can have a powerful effect on others. Just consider the impact of the poetry and song lyrics of Sylvia Plath and Kurt Cobain, who both killed themselves after suffering from depression.

Scientists have long tried to pin down the exact relationship between depression and language, and technology is helping us get closer to a full picture. Our new study, published in Clinical Psychological Science, has now unveiled a class of words that can help accurately predict whether someone is suffering from depression.

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Of all I’ve read in my life, and all that’s yet to come, what’s going to count? How much of it has changed me? How much has even marked me? How much has done both but I don’t know it yet? Readers get to make these discoveries in the privacy of their own heads. Writers must make them in public and then wear them in their back catalogues for as long as they have a readership who cares.

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