DEL newsletter Summer 2022

Take-Home Exams

Exams have already begun for some people, but for those who are yet to begin their exams, here are some of the key points to remember:

  • The exam paper will be released at 10am on the morning of your exam.
  • You will find your exam paper in the ‘Take Home Exams’ tab on the left-hand menu of the module page on Blackboard.
  • For all DEL exams, across all Parts, there is a word limit of 2000 words for the paper overall. You are advised to balance the word count between your two answers. That means you should aim to write approximately 1000 words per essay, but one answer may be a little longer than the other.
  • Please use 12pt font size, Arial and 1.5 line spacing, and write your 5-digit anonymous candidate number, module code and the number(s) of the question(s) answered on the top of each piece of work that you submit.
  • We advise you to treat these assessments as exams. You will not have the time to research, draft, and revise as you do when you are writing an essay. You should reference printed materials as you normally would in an exam, giving the author’s name, the title of the text, and – if possible – the year of publication in your answer. You do not need to provide a bibliography or footnotes. You are free to use copies of primary texts, your own notes, and other revision resources as you see fit.
  • You are advised to work on each exam paper for only 2 to 3 hours overall. You may organise this as you wish and take a break if you choose; we will not monitor this in any way.
  • You have 23 hours – until 9am the following morning – to submit your exam answers.
  • As with assessed essays, it is not a good idea to submit your exam answers close to the deadline as Turnitin will be busy. We advise you to upload your answers as soon as you’ve finished so you can move on.
  • Make sure you keep the email receipt for your upload. You can also take a screenshot of the page confirming your upload.
  • There will not be special arrangements for students who usually get extra time or rest breaks in exams, as there will be sufficient time available to you within the 23 hours.
  • Submission points and question papers will only appear at the exam start time and will disappear after 23 hours.
  • Late submissions will not be possible. Once the 23 hours is up, the submission point will disappear, and you will have missed the exam if you do not submit in time. If you encounter a submission problem, please email a copy of your work to immediately, and before the 9am deadline. Any exam answers sent to this email address after the deadline will not be accepted and will receive a grade of zero.

You can view your personal exam timetable on your individual RISISweb portal: log in to RISIS and find your timetable under the ‘Programmes and Modules’ tab. If you have any trouble viewing your timetable, please contact

You will find full guidance on 2022 exams and assessments here:

There is further support for take-home exams here:

You will also find helpful information about what to expect in your exams, and what is and isn’t allowed, here:

Exceptional Circumstances affecting your ability to complete your exam(s)

If circumstances arise before the exam that make it impossible for you to take the exam on the set date (for example, if you are scheduled for medical treatment), you can ask to be ‘Deemed Not to Have Sat’ and if this is granted you can take the exam for the first time in the resit period (August/September 2022, exact dates tbc). In this situation you should submit an Exceptional Circumstances request as soon as possible (through RISIS: go to the ‘Actions’ tab), and definitely before the date of the exam.

If you are ill on the day of the exam, or if there are other adverse circumstances on the day that affect your ability to take the exam, you should not fill in an Exceptional Circumstances form at the time. Our strong advice is that you should attempt to do the exam if at all possible. There is a good chance that you will do well enough to get you through, and this will avoid having to do resits. If you are not able to take the exam, or if you attempt the exam but feel your performance has been significantly compromised by your circumstances, you should gather evidence of your illness or other form of incapacity (from your doctor/counsellor/COVID test provider, etc) in order to support a future Exceptional Circumstances request. You can talk to the Student Support Co-ordinator Rachel Weekes, via ‘Ask a Question’ on RISIS, to check what kind of evidence you will need for your particular circumstances. You should then wait until your exam results are released, after which you can weigh up whether you need to retake the exam. You should take advice from DEL Exams Officers, Prof. Andrew Mangham (Part 1 and Part 2) and Dr Nicola Abram (Part 3), about this. You have five working days from the date of the publication of results to submit a Post-Results Exceptional Circumstances (PREC) request, and a further five days to provide evidence to support your claim. Your request will not be allowed if there is no evidence to support it (but see note below on the collection of evidence). If your PREC request is granted you will be able to retake the exam as if for the first time in the resit period (August/September, dates tbc). PLEASE NOTE: If your PREC request is accepted, the mark you received for the Summer Term exam will be cancelled. If you do not then complete the retake in the resit period, your mark for that exam will be zero. The original mark cannot be reinstated. This could affect your progression into the next year of your degree, and/or your degree outcome. Please therefore consider very carefully and take advice from a member of staff before submitting a Post-Results Exceptional Circumstances request.

Evidence for Exceptional Circumstances

The University recognises that there continue to be situations related to Covid-19 where it may be impossible or very difficult to obtain evidence of Exceptional Circumstances, so the requirement for evidence has been relaxed in these instances.  If you are unable to provide evidence for your Exceptional Circumstances, you must clearly explain in your request why you are unable to provide evidence and describe the impact that your circumstances have had on your assessment(s).  If you do not provide sufficient explanation your request may be rejected.

For full information on Exceptional Circumstances see:

Getting you through the Exams:

The perfect, light, fluffy and summery Coconut cake (very easy, very few ingredients)


  • 200g desiccated coconut
  • 100g sugar (whatever you have in the house, both white and brown sugar works for this!)
  • 125g butter
  • 4 eggs (separated into egg whites and egg yolks)
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 100g chocolate chips (or chocolate broken/chopped into small pieces)


  1. Melt the butter in a small saucepan over a low heat.
  2. Combine the 4 egg yolks with the 100g of sugar in a bowl. Once the butter has cooled slightly (to avoid cooking the egg) add this to the yolk sugar mix.
  3. Add flour, coconut and chocolate chips to the wet mixture.
  4. Whisk egg whites with an electric whisk to until peaks form.
  5. Fold all of the egg whites carefully into the wet mixture. (I like to do this using a spatula)
  6. Bake 20 minutes at 180 Celsius or until golden.
  7. Decorate with flowers, extra desiccated coconut or even whipped cream.
  8. Enjoy!

Afternoons off:

Bugs Bottom, Caversham Heights

Bugs bottom is an idyllic space within Caversham with rolling hills and open fields. There is a plethora of walks you can do in this stunning location to get away from the stress of university. The space combines a small woodland area with open fields. Also because of the area is quite hilly, good for ambitious walkers, some really great views of the Reading can be seen. I find coming to this space like much needed a breath of fresh after having my head in the books all week.

Vintage Clothes Shopping

I really enjoy vintage and second-hand shopping in Reading. I can’t promise you that it’s the best place I’ve ever vintage shopped, but I will let you in on all of my favourite hotspots! Firstly, town has several second-hand shops that are always worth checking out, the first rule of vintage shopping is not to overlook the little guy. In the town centre there is a little hidden gem of a vintage shop in the Harris Arcade called ‘Georgina’s Vintage couture’. I have seen some really nice vintage knit jumpers here the few times I have stopped by! My second recommendation is ‘Fanny’s antiques’ which does not stock clothing but still has a lot of interesting antique furniture and bric-a-brac to look at. Lastly definitely do not pass up a chance to look at the Oxfam bookshop in town, I have gotten a lot of my favourite books here. Also don’t forget to check out the Oxfam music shop which is located down the road from the bookstore. The people who work here are very well informed about music and give great recommendations. I am always thoroughly impressed at the array of record they have available, and they are reasonably priced too!

Post-exams Days out: From Reading in 25 minutes


Henley-on-Thames is just a short bus ride away from Reading and I think that it is worth it! This little town is very cute and quaint, not to mention the Thames runs through here. I find that this is a different experience to walking along the Thames in Reading. One of the main draws here would be that this is where the Regatta takes place in summer. The excitement in the air during this event is contagious. The walks here differ from Reading in that it is more open, the Thames is much wider at this point and there are plenty of grassy spots to sit.


Another place I must recommend for walking is Tilehurst. You can take the purple 17 or royal blue 33 here from town, it’s very accessible. The main draw to Tilehurst for me would be the stables that are located in the area. A walk where you see horses is the best kind of walk you can have in my opinion! This area combines open fields with woodland and feels like a nice break from the town centre. Sometimes its necessary clear your headspace away from town and university. I have found that this is a nice distance away from all that noise that it feels like a little escape. This is farming land I believe, however there are walks accessible to the public in this area.

Reading to Oxford – a trip for the sightseers

Oxford is the perfect place for sightseeing! The city is littered with historic buildings to venture through and is the home of the ‘Westgate’ shopping centre. Head through the many university buildings to Radcliffe Square where you will find the Bodleian Library, one of the oldest libraries in Europe. Taking the train from Reading to Oxford will take approximately 25 minutes and the city is pretty easy to navigate from there.

Reading to Windsor – a trip for the walkers

Fancy getting some steps in? Windsor is the home of ‘The Long Walk’ a very accurate name for the path from Windsor Castle to Snow Hill. The 2.64-mile walk takes under two hours and provides the most spectacular views, the path leading to the ‘Copper Horse’ (King George III Statue). The walk that takes you through the Deer Park is intertwined with historic value – legend says that Snow Hill is where Henry VIII sat whilst waiting to hear the news of Anne Boleyn’s execution. To embark on ‘The Long Walk’ take the train from Reading to Slough and then from Slough to Windsor Eton Central a journey that will take approximately 25 minutes, from there ‘The Long Walk’ is just a short walk. The trip is great if you’re on a budget!

Reading to London – a trip for the wanderers

From Reading catch the approximately 25-minute train to London Paddington where you won’t be far from Hyde Park and will be able to explore central London where you’ll be able to visit tourist attractions and museums.

Celebrating the Queen’s Jubilee: 5 Places to visit near Reading to Celebrate the Queen’s Jubilee

BUCKINGHAM PALACE: To get to the headquarters of the monarchy, take the train to London Paddington and then to London Victoria. Watch the change of the guard, explore Green and St James’ Park and walk the Diana Princess of Wales memorial walk

ELTHAM PALACE: though a long trip from Reading to London Paddington, then Paddington to Charing Cross and from there to Eltham, the palace is one of London’s best kept secrets!

WINDSOR CASTLE: catching a train from Reading to Slough and then Slough to Windsor Eton Central leads you straight to Windsor Castle, where you can book a tour.

HAMPTON COURT PALACE: to venture to this palace, first take the train to London Waterloo and from there a train to Hampton Court, the palace is only a short walk from the station.

KENSINGTON PALACE: take a trip to on the train to London Paddington and take a short walk to Kensington Gardens before exploring the palace with a tour guide.


Congratulations to everyone who will be graduating this summer. You have been brilliant!

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DEL newsletter spring issue 4

Reminder: Module Fair

The Module Fair for Part 2 modules will take place on Wednesday 16 March at 2pm in Edith Morley Room G44.

The Module Fair for Part 3 modules will take place on Wednesday 16 March at 3pm in Edith Morley Room G44.

Module selection is done through RISIS and will begin in April.

Essay Writing FAQ

Where is the English Department Style Guide?

If you go to the ‘Information for English Literature Students’ Blackboard Organisation and click on ‘Handbooks and criteria used in marking’ in the left-hand menu, you will find the Style Guide: Advice on Essay Writing, Style Guide: References and Citations and the Department’s Criteria used in marking

Where can I find more information on the marking criteria?

Every module will emphasise different aspects of the department’s agreed marking criteria, depending on the kind of work done in the module. A statement of the module-specific marking criteria can be found in the ‘Assessments’ folder of each module. (The essay questions and the link for uploading your work will be in that ‘Assessments’ folder too.)

Where can I get help with my essay writing?

You can ask your seminar leader or Academic Tutor for advice on how to approach the essay. If you want someone to check your draft or your essay plan, you can make an appointment with the Royal Literary Fund Fellow: Sara is available for meetings on campus on Tuesdays (Edith Morley G18 and online on Thursdays)

Where can I get information about uploading my work to Turnitin?

The Technology Enhanced Learning Team have lots of help available on Blackboard, just log in and click the ‘help’ button on the left-hand menu.

What if I have problems with my computer / Wi-Fi?

It is best not to leave uploading your essays until the last minute, because connectivity problems can strike anywhere! If your essay is failing to load, and you are concerned about missing the deadline, you should contact the Student Support Coordinator through the ‘Ask a question’ function on RISIS. They will advise you on what to do next.

What if circumstances beyond my control make it very difficult for me to meet the deadline?

If there are circumstances that have been affecting your ability to complete your assignments, you might need to apply for an extension or other adjustments to your assessment using the Exceptional Circumstances Form. You can find out more on the ‘Essentials’ website pages. You can access the form through the ‘Actions’ button on RISIS. You can also ask the Student Support Coordinator through the ‘Ask a question’ function on RISIS.

Student Experience Awards

The Student Experience Awards are open for nominations! Do you know a student rep who has done amazing things this year? Have you attended an event or helped to set up an initiative that you think deserves to be recognised? Are you aware of a student campaign that has made an impact on campus, in the local community, or elsewhere in the world? Nominate the person or event for a Student Experience Award and get them the recognition they deserve! There are a wide range of awards across a number of categories including Academic, Volunteering & Fundraising, Diversity & Inclusion, Welfare, and Democracy & Sustainability.

Please follow the link and let us know who you think deserves to be recognised:

Nominations close on 28 March 2022

New Learning Capture System

The university has purchased a new learning capture system. The recorded lectures produced over the last two years will not be used routinely as we move back to full ‘face-to-face’ teaching in Autumn 2022, but the new learning capture system enables lectures to create learning resources in the form of short (and VBS – Very Brief Screencasts) as well as recording their live lectures. If you want like to see how the new system works, go to the Blackboard Organisation ‘Information for English Literature Students’ and click ‘Yuja’ on the left-hand menu. Please tell us what you think of the system, so that staff will have a clearer sense of how important video learning resources are to you: you will find a short survey here.

RUSU elections

Congratulations to Sophie Jordan, currently Part 2 Course Rep for English Literature. Sophie is the new Senior Rep for the School of Literature and Languages!

The new RUSU offers are:

  • Inclusion and Communities Officer 2022/23 is Jem McKenzie
  • Welfare Officer 2022/23 is Poppy Lindsey
  • President 2022/23 is Sheldon Allen
  • Education Officer 2022/23 is Oscar Minto
  • Activities and Opportunities Officer 2022/23 is Harry Everitt
  • Black Students’ Officer 2022/23 is Oluwaseun Tijani
  • Disabled Students’ Officer 2022/23 is Sophie Flecknell
  • Environment and Ethics Officer 2022/23 is Phoebe Barker
  • International Students’ Officer 2022/23 is Vanessa Chan
  •  LGBQ+ Students’ Officer 2022/23 is Oscar Cresswell
  • Minority Ethnic Students’ Officer 2022/23 is Ish Aa Sujau
  • Postgraduate Research Students’ Officer 2022/23 is Raheem Aminu
  • Trans Students’ Officer 2022/23 is Charlie Dennis
  • Women’s Officer 2022/23 is Talor Boyd

Things to do in Reading part 2

Caversham court garden is a delightful space to relax next to the river. This space is tranquil and calming. The perfect picnic spot or just a space to sit and enjoy a good book. There is a café, benches and toilets available. Perfect outdoor hang out for the approaching summer months. This garden is located along the river Thames. Not to mention the open-air theatre that takes place here during the summer months, keep your eyes peeled for Shakespeare renditions!

Mapledurham is a short boat ride away from Caversham. This is the perfect day out to see this stately house and working water mill. The house is very picturesque, idyllic and charming. Parts of the house are open to the public, and there is a lot of history to the place which is always interesting. It is incredible to see the working water mill in action; this is made even better by the delicious scone available made from the flour milled on site. The grounds are big and open, adding to the grandeur of the property. Personally, my favourite part is taking the ‘Caversham Lady’ down the Thames to get to this location, seeing all of the wildlife and relating on a small scale to Ishmael from Moby Dick.

This one for the Pride and prejudice fans! Basildon Park was used for the set of Netherfield Park in the 2005 Joe Wright adaptation of Pride and prejudice, and is in Berkshire so is totally worth checking out for those of you who are as obsessed with this movie as I am. The stately house is even more grand and magnificent in person. It is amazing to see where this iconic movie was filmed. The grounds are extensive and fascinating to explore. There is an entry fee for the house, but the place is so filled with history I would argue it is worth it. Rumour has it that they decorate the interior of the house seasonally for Christmas and Halloween, although I have not experienced this myself. If any of you check it out, you will have to let me know!

What I’m reading now

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DEL newsletter spring issue 3

Module Fair and Module Selection

To help you select your modules for next year, the department will be hosting a module fair for Part 1 students (choosing their Part 2 modules) and for Part 2 students (choosing modules for Part 3).

The Module Fair for Part 2 modules will take place on Wednesday 17 March at 2pm in Edith Morley Room G44.

The Module Fair for Part 3 modules will take place on Wednesday 17 March at 3pm in Edith Morley Room G44.

Module convenors will be available to answer questions and information on the modules will be available.

Students will also be able to consult their Academic Tutors about their module choices.

Module selection is done through RISIS and will begin in April (date to be confirmed).

DEL Research Seminar

Please join us for the second DEL research seminar of the term, when we will be joined by one of the most distinguished scholars in the field of comics studies, Professor Hillary Chute. All welcome.

Wednesday 2nd March, 5.00-6.30 GMT:

Professor Hillary Chute (Northeastern University), ‘Maus Now’.

Topic: DEL Research Seminar

Time: Mar 2, 2022 04:30 PM London


RUSU elections

Voting has opened in the RUSU elections. Polls are opened Tuesday 22nd February to Friday 25th February 2022. Make sure you cast your vote and have your say!

For details on how to cast your vote, go to

If you have any problems participating, please contact

Introducing the RED Award

Reading Experience and Development (RED) award is the University’s scheme to help you build your extra-curricular activities and make them more visible to potential employers. Students normally complete the award within one academic, and when they have completed they receive a certificate that is included in your diploma supplement annex (part of the official University record of your degree). To gain an award, you need to do 40 hours activity overall: 35 hours of work-experience (paid work, internships, and some volunteering) and four hours of training and development (organised through the scheme.

You will find all the information about the scheme, and some case-studies by students who have already completed their award, on the  RED award ‘Essentials’ page.

Celebrating LGBTQ+ History month with poetry

 ‘Homosexuality’ by Frank O’Hara

‘My Lover is a Woman’ Pat Parker

‘The Dream’ Aphra Behn

International Women’s Day 2022: Together we can!

This celebration of our amazing community of students and staff who are striving to make the world a fairer place for all women will feature:

Professor Parveen Yaqoob,

Professor Rosa Freedman

Professor Robert Van De Noort

Women’s Choir

Cheerleading society performance

Student presentations and art works


Refreshments and time to chat

To register, please click this link.

Things to do in Reading this summer

This issue and next we will look at the some of the places you can explore around Reading as the weather starts to improve!

Picture of Caversham BridgeAlong the Thames in Caversham

Personally my favourite thing about Reading is its proximity to the river Thames, which obviously runs through a lot of England but I think there are some pretty spots in Berkshire in particular! My recommendation to you would be to go to the river in Caversham, very easy to access from the town centre. Here you can see the Caversham Bridge (see photograph) as well as walk along the river and feed the ducks! The views are spectacular, there is something so calming about the water and the river gets wider the further up you walk. I like the luscious field that you pass and all of the weeping willows, It’s very uplifting and inspiring. Also if you walk towards Christchurch meadows and continue past the tennis courts you eventually come across the Caversham Lock and if you are lucky you might get to see it in action. This is a great activity to do in summer because people tend to gravitate towards bodies of water in heat. Overall this location is perfect for pictures and a great spot to watch the sunset.

picture of Reading Abbey ruinsThe Abbey Ruins

The abbey ruins near the town centre is worth checking out! I love that this piece of history exists right in the middle of the bustling shops, a juxtaposition between the modern and the old. Surrounded by the beautiful Forbury gardens and near a river this location feels like a little get away from all the noise of town. The structure itself is very impressive and I am a fan of the informative signs that are available, educating you on the history of the grounds. It’s fascinating to wonder through the exposed stone wall remains that are now grown over with nature and events are frequently put on here so keep an eye out!

World Book Day

Thursday 3 of March is World Book Day, and nobody loves books quite as much as English Literature students! To celebrate, we’ve decided to share some shelfies: our favourite books, all in a row.

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DEL spring newsletter issue 2


Struggling to balance online and in-person learning? Overwhelmed by your course? Confused about your next essay? Your course rep ensures that your concerns about your teaching and learning are addressed by the department – course reps are responsible for voicing your opinions. If there are any questions regarding your course, its structure, its workload or even the way in which its assessed bring it up with your course rep who can represent your views in formal and informal meetings with the department during the year. A meeting will be held on the 9th of February to discuss the spring term so far and to address anything you’ve brought up with your course rep(s).

How to get in touch with your course rep?

Part 1 is presented by Ab Thomas, Ab is a joint Art and English Literature student. You can contact Ab on:

Part 2 reps are Joe Walsh and Beth Lewis. Joe studies English Literature with Creative writing; Beth takes SH English Literature. Sophie Jordan also represents Part 2 as a joint honours Language and Literature student. Contact them on: and

Your Part 3 course reps are Daphne Sutton  and Emily-Ann Robinson

From Sara Taylor, the RLF Fellow

Hi! I’m your Royal Literary Fund Fellow! You might recognise me from posters in the corridors or notices turning up in your inbox. I’m here to support you in your writing, no matter what stage you’ve gotten to.

Outside the RLF, writing is my day job. My short stories and novels tend to be classed as literary fiction or Southern Gothic, but I like to borrow from other genres and play with the rules. A lot of what I write tends to look at the darker parts of life, the ways that people wrong each other on a personal and systemic scale, but always with hope that humanity can do better. If that sounds interesting, you can find my books in the Reading library system, or find my short stories online. I also write nonfiction and academic work, mostly on censorship and information suppression in the United States, but the questions that come up while researching fiction often grow into essays of their own.

This term I’m working on finishing a multi-form project on American eugenics. It’s a grim subject, so if you would like to give me an excuse to spend some time on your writing instead I’d love to see you, either in person or virtually. Email to make an appointment.

Students sharing their experience with applicants:

The department is keen to provide a way for current students to share their experiences of studying English at Reading with our applicants. If you would like to write a book review of something you read on one of your modules, or tell next year’s students about your experience on a module, either by writing a short post or creating a short video, please contact Neil Cocks, our Admissions and Outreach tutor. Neil’s email is

Launch of The Canvas

The Canvas, the University of Reading’s new Online Arts Magazine is nearly ready to launch, containing poems, prose, ad artworks by students, staff, local and visiting writers. The title-page cover is an early Rembrandt in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. The editors plan to publish on Saint Valentine’s Day, Monday 14 February. Watch this space—

Film Review: ‘Tick tick…boom!’ tick ticked all my boxes

Tick tick…boom! is a Netflix original movie that was released at the end of 2021, starting off the new year with a bang. The movie is a tribute to the late and great

Jonathan Larson, the creator of the well-known musical Rent, as well as Superbia (the musical the movie storyline is based around) and the movie’s namesake ‘Tick tick…boom!’.

The plot is driven by a sense of running out of time that is constantly in the foreground because of the tick tick ticking clock that echoes throughout the 1 hour and 55 minutes. This universal theme of fearing the future, fearing your own mediocracy, fearing the running out of time is cleverly explored through the story of one of the greats, which has proven to resonate deeply with its viewers. It seems implausible that the man capable of something as well loved and timeless as Rent had the same fears as so many of us.

This casting gives a new meaning to star studded. Instead of the overwhelming presence of A-list celebrities suffocating every scene, Lin -Manuel Miranda has paid homage to so many musical theatre maestros. Every scene in this movie is packed with details, references and links to the biz that we call show and in particular Larson’s life. There are cameos of Lin-Manuel Miranda himself (director of Tick tick…boom! and writer of Hamilton), and Vanessa Hudgens from High School Musical to name a few. There are also little nods to Jon, his presence felt in the movie, from the crammed and sagging bookshelf to a painting that used to hang in his apartment and of course the green dress he would later write a song about. Details like these makes it apparent how determined this movie is to honour Larson’s legacy and how heartfelt Miranda is in his efforts to do so, making this viewing experience a pure delight as there is so much to unpack.

The movie is of course musical with numbers that Larson wrote himself brought to life by the vocals of Andrew Garfield, who does a brilliant job of capturing the eccentric, desperate theatre writer’s talent and larger than life personality which positively bounces off the screen. Somehow even with the many catchy musical numbers and habit of breaking into song the tone of this movie is so beautifully raw and wonderfully real, there is something fragile about how tenderly Larson’s life story is portrayed: his relationship troubles, the struggles he has with his friends and feeling his mortality. That’s no even to how clear this is a piece of art: from the views of Manhattan, to the pivotal underwater scene, and the ricocheting between the storyline and Jonathan narrating the story in his one man show, there is real cinematic mastery here.

I must confess that going into this movie I was not a theatre fanatic, my knowledge on the subject matter was sub-par at best, I really am not the person who ought to be writing this review. But after watching this movie I have a strong sense of how well loved this man is, of the impact of his work and a desperate desire to consume everything he created as soon as possible. I can only imagine the joy (and pain) this brought to so many theatre heads. I would be remiss if I did not mention how dearly I love the end of this movie in all its simplicity, authenticity and melancholic tones, a greeting from a realistic portrayal of life, put simply ‘this is the life bo-bo bo bo bo’.

Oedipus Tyrannus in many languages

Towards the end of term the European Festival of Latin and Greek will happen, which means that all over the world groups of people will get together to read, in public, part/s of Sophocles Oedipus Tyrannus, in a public place, and in a language of their choice.  Classics will participate, in English, Ancient Greek, Modern Greek, and Arabic (so far) and we would love to invite anyone from English along too.  We are thinking the last Wed afternoon of term, in the Edith Morley quad.  Do you think any of your colleagues/students would be interested?

Here is a link to the website:

And here is a sign-up sheet just in case:

Valentines’ lemon cheesecake recipe – Foodie February


110g digestive biscuits (although the more biscuits you do the thicker the crust! Adjust the butter accordingly)
50g butter
25g light brown sugar
350g mascarpone
75g caster sugar
1 lemon zested
2-3 lemons, juiced


  1. Crush digestive biscuits with a rolling pin in a plastic ziplock bag or with a food processor.
  2. Melt butter in a saucepan, once melted take off the heat and stir in crushed biscuits and brown sugar (I like to do around 45g of sugar because I am not a fan of sweet things)
  3. Line base of loose bottom cake tin with parchment paper (although once I made this in a big circular plastic Tupperware and it worked well). Press the biscuit mixture into the bottom of the tin and refrigerate while you make the topping. (It’s worth it to really press this mixture down using a spoon or the base of a Tupperware to ensure its tightly packed)
  4. Beat together the mascarpone, caster sugar, lemon zest and juice until smooth and creamy. (I find at first the mascarpone gets stuck in a whisk because it’s pretty thick, a wooden spoon works better)
  5. Spread mascarpone on top of biscuit base and refrigerate for a couple of hours (my tip would be to leave it in the fridge overnight to ensure its set!
  6. Top with raspberries or flowers for a Valentine’s twist.


Five poems for falling out of love.

For the next week, you will be bombarded with quotations from poems about falling in love. Here, for those of us at the other end of the process, are five of the best breaking-up poems.

  1. Sir Thomas Wyatt, ‘Blame not my lute!
  2. Michael Drayton, ‘Since there’s no help, come let us kiss and part
  3. Emily Brontë, ‘Long neglect has worn away’
  4. Stevie Smith, ‘Pad, pad’
  5. Audre Lorde, ‘Movement song’

And as a bonus (because some might say it is a song rather than a poem, Leonard Cohen, ‘Hey that’s no way to say goodbye’.

If you have any items for the newsletter, please contact our editors Ab Thomas (Part 1) or Leorah Stewart (Part 2) or email

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DEL newsletter spring 2022 issue 1

Being on campus this term.

You will have had quite a bit of communication from the University, both before and after the vacation, about returning to your studies on campus this term.  If you have missed any of them, please see the latest updates here and also the information on returning to study on campus, both on Essentials.

Please remember that the University is still asking people to wear face coverings indoors, including in the library and in teaching rooms, and when moving around inside the buildings. Please continue to take regular lateral flow tests (LFTs), especially when you are coming onto campus. You can collect LFTs from the collection point in the Library, Monday to Thursday, 13:00 – 16:00.

The good news is that the regulations now allow us more use of our spaces in the Edith Morley building, as long as we ensure adequate ventilation. So the Social Study Space in EM 106 can now be used by more people (and remember, it has a stock of books and a printer!) Academics can meet students for face-to-face meetings in their offices in small groups, and so our regular ‘consultation hours’ (the hour each week when members of staff are available for tutees and students to call in with questions) is being reinstated: please check the information on office doors. 

UoR Fiction Writing Society

New to this academic year WriteSoc is a great way of getting to know new people while working on a new or pre-existing writing project! WriteSoc holds two ‘get togethers’ a week – a writing session and a social session. You can join them for a writing session on Saturdays 1pm to 3pm at the library and/or for a social catch up at Mojos (3pm on Wednesdays). New to the society? WriteSoc will be holding a taster session this week!

For more details check out their Instagram

UoR English Society

EngSoc is excited for a new term with new plans! Welcoming all students EngSoc plans for a term of social events, including film nights, book clubs and formals – and hopefully some trips too!

This term biweekly book club sessions will be held where any book you find yourself reading can be discussed. To keep up with the when and where check out their Instagram.

EngSoc is also planning regular social events this term with a different mixer for each part of our degree and plenty of opportunities to meet new people!

New to the society? A taster session will be held on 27th January, come along to watch ‘10 things I hate about you’ – details can be found in their social media accounts.

Membership: You can purchase membership via the RUSU website

Introducing the careers officer

As things begin to open up again, we can start looking forward to job opportunities and internships being advertised more. So it is a good time to think about career plans. We are very lucky to have a dedicated careers officer for our School, and Daniel Mitchell (our careers officer) is keen to hear from English Literature about their plans.

Daniel is happy to help students who are looking for:

  • Ideas about the kinds of careers they might pursue
  • Help with identifying the ‘next steps’ for your career plans
  • Checking your CV or application form
  • Practising for a job interview

You can get in touch with Daniel via email or you can book an individual appointment with him using My Jobs Online. You can do this by selecting ‘Search Appointments’, then ‘View Appointments’ under one of the appointment types and then clicking ‘Book’ – you’ll then be asked to fill out a quick form to tell us what you’d like to talk about.

If you cannot see any appointments with Daniel listed, do book in with any of his colleagues or call the Careers Reception on 0118 378 8359. You can also email us at, call in the First Floor of the Carrington Building 9-5pm Monday to Friday or visit our website. 

Study Advice in the Library

The Study Advice team in the Library is offering webinars, resources and 1-2-1 sessions to support your learning. Their weekly webinar programme this term focuses on dissertation support, improving essay grades and exam revision. You might also like to check out their Study Guides to help develop your academic skills, including the one on making the most of your feedback when you start to have your assessed work returned to you. If you think you would benefit from a 1-2-1 with the Study Advice team, you can book either a f2f or Teams appointment here.

Film Review: Dune (2021), dir. Denis Villeneuve

*no spoilers*

The film starring Timothée Chalamet is set to be one of three and is jammed to the brim with impeccable visuals. The storyline based on books by Frank Herbert tells an emotionally

charged tale of protagonist Paul Atreides who, as son of Duke Leto Atreides, has more power than he can begin to grasp. Alongside the well-known cast Dune is full of amazing landscapes that bring us into the world of science fiction and mythic. The film is full of intense moments and leaves us craving for another… or perhaps the desire to read the entire book series.

DEL Spring term Research Seminars

Wednesday 2nd February, 5.00-6.30:

Professor Ralph Pite (University of Bristol), ‘Edward Thomas in 1914-15: unfathomable deep time’

Wednesday 2nd March, 5.00-6.30:

Professor Hillary Chute (Northeastern University), ‘Maus Now’.

All events will take place online – Zoom links will be circulated nearer the time.

New Year’s Resolutions (and why we don’t promise to keep them!)

“Honestly, I have never been the type of person to put an emphasis on this celebration or this time of year, so no surprises when it comes to New Year’s resolutions I have little to no motivation. But talking to other students to assemble this amalgamation of opinions on New Year’s resolutions has got me thinking- why is so much pressure put on this time of year? That awkward week in between Christmas and New year’s where time seems to stand still does make us ask if we feel happy about the year that we’ve had? Humans are constantly evolving so it only seems natural that we’ve invented a way to track and assess this progress, to hold ourselves accountable for this evolution as though it were within our control to inflict this change upon ourselves. I guess the point I’m getting at here is New Year’s resolutions act as a sort of wooden obelisk or arbour (you know the type vines grow up?) that ensure we are moving in the right direction, moving forward. Upwards and onwards. After all isn’t the essence of life growth?”

  • Leorah, second year, English Literature

“I’m not too keen on New Year’s resolutions as I think everyday is a new opportunity to make a change. However, this year I decided to start fresh and improve my eating and sleeping habits. One resolution was to drink water so since New Year’s Eve I have been drinking 1 litre of water every day. I eat breakfast and at least 3 meals without fail every day. I had promised to sleep before 10:30pm, but that resolution didn’t get so far after I stayed up to complete a uni assignment.”

  • Maryam, first year, Law student

“I feel like the reason I don’t really bother with New Year’s resolutions is because I think it stops you from making goals at any point in the year. For example, imagine you want to start something in February but because of the social construct of New Year’s resolutions you feel a pressure to put it off until the following year. I prefer to make goals at anytime during the year rather than just New Years. However, I do sometimes like to start things in the New Year because I think it is nice to start the year with fresh goals, although I don’t always find myself sticking to them. I also think its important to note how goals and resolutions change as the year progresses, and even more necessary is to know that this is okay.”

  • Nippa, first year, Psychology student

“This New Year I’ve done the annual tradition of setting a New Year’s resolution. Usually mine fail or drop off my radar by February/ March time, so in order to stop this happening, I’ve decided to take a new approach. I’ve set myself monthly goals for the year- it appears easier to focus on goal at a time. For instance, my main goal this January is to develop my career prospects and insights. This means I’m working on my CV, researching career paths and meeting with career advisers. Whereas my goal for February is to cook healthy dinners from scratch most day and eat out less.”

  • Bethany, second year, Law student

“I am always adamant to make as many new year’s resolutions as possible even if I don’t keep them. My logic is that at least one of the 10 new habits I try to form will stick. This year I have tried to cover as many different areas of life in my resolutions, from reading at least 6 books to picking up a new sport and exploring different hobbies such as art and cooking. I think that it is important to be conscious that if forming a new habit doesn’t stick this is not a failure. It was simply an attempt to improve yourself and nothing about that should be viewed negatively, after all there is always next year”

  • Second year, English Literature

“I dislike New Year’s resolutions. I hate the pressure as everyone around me seems to have a buzz, this newfound energy to becomes a better person. I am glad that I no longer feel the need to fall under the spell of the constantly gym adverts and Veganuary commercials I am bombarded with. Don’t get me wrong, I am all about self-improvement, but I find this particular tradition suffocating and even a little toxic.”

  • Second year, English Literature

“I am glad that I dropped my New Year’s resolution of waking up at 5 am (habits of successful people). In retrospect I find it a bit absurd, we all function differently, I don’t think that that the idea that successful people wake up at 5am is a blanket statement. Actually, it is a known fact that creative minds tend to spark up late at night or in the early hours of the morning. Also, with university work I found this habit impossible to keep as my schedule is largely dictated by my workload. I guess I would like to take this opportunity to say that you shouldn’t feel pressure to pick up habits like these if they don’t work for you. Whatever routine has you feeling like you are thriving, and doing your best work is the routine you should stick with, even if that means getting up at midday.”

  • Second year, English literature

If you would like to contribute to the DEL fortnightly newsletter, please contact our editors Ab Thomas (part 1) or Leorah Stewart (part 2) or email

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DEL newsletter December 2021

University Closed Dates:

Over the winter break, the University will be closed from Friday 24th December 2021, re-opening again on Tuesday 4th January 2022. Most University staff and services will not be available during this period, and Student Services itself will also be closed on 23rd December. However, if you are in one of the University’s halls of residence, the Halls Hotline will be open 24/7, including Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. Get in touch by calling 0800 029 1984, or by email at

What’s On in Reading: Festive Edition

Here are some fun things to try this festive season with flatmates and friends!

Reading Twilight Trail 2021

3 – 31 December

Forbury Gardens

‘The Twilight Trail is back – bigger, better and biscuitier! The festive light trail made its debut in Reading last year, and unfortunately had to cut its run short due to the Coronavirus Pandemic. This year, the Twilight Trail: Biscuit Town returns to Reading’s stunning Abbey Ruins and Forbury Gardens from 3-31 December 2021 with a biscuit-themed trail to celebrate Reading’s link with the world-famous Huntley and Palmers biscuit factory.

Tickets from £8. Purchase here:

A Christmas Carol

3 – 31 December

Reading Rep Theatre

‘Reading Rep Theatre presents the original Christmas tale, as it finds its perfect home on the cobbled streets of Reading. Step back in time with your favourite characters in this magical world premiere by Beth Flintoff. A festive and magical spectacle.’

Tickets from £14. Purchase here:

Beauty and the Beast – Pantomime!

4 Dec – 3 Jan


‘Beauty and the Beast has all the ingredients for a magical trip to the theatre, with hilarious slapstick humour, plenty of audience interaction and marvellous musical numbers that you will be singing for days afterwards, all in one magical show that is suitable for everyone to enjoy whether they are 3 or 103!

Tickets from £15. Purchase here:

Festive Recipes

Fancy trying some festive food and drinks with your flatmates? Here are some you can try!

Clementine Mock Mojito

Serves 1


1 clementine

½ tsp demerara sugar

1 lemon wedge, chopped


small handful of mint, woody stalks removed

a few drops of orange blossom water

sparkling water, to top up



Juice half the clementine and chop the other half into small pieces. Pour the juice into a glass and stir in the sugar. Tip in the chopped clementine and lemon, then crush using a muddler.


Add a handful of ice, the mint and orange blossom. Top up slowly with sparkling water.

Christmas Crinkle Cookies

Makes 30


60g cocoa powder, sieved

200g caster sugar

60ml vegetable oil

2 large eggs

180g plain flour

1 tsp baking powder

2 oranges, zested

2 tsp mixed spice

1 tsp cinnamon

50g icing sugar



Mix the cocoa, caster sugar and oil together. Add the eggs one at a time, whisking until fully combined.


Combine the flour, baking powder, orange zest, mixed spice, cinnamon and a pinch of salt in a separate bowl, then add to the cocoa mixture and mix until a soft dough forms. If it feels too soft, put in the fridge to chill for 1 hr.


Heat the oven to 190C/170C fan/gas 5 and tip the icing sugar into a shallow dish. Roll heaped teaspoons of the dough into balls (about 20g each), then roll in the icing sugar to coat. Put the balls on one large or two medium baking trays lined with baking parchment, ensuring they’re evenly spaced apart.


Bake on the middle rack of the oven for 10 mins, then transfer to a wire rack to cool – they will firm up as they cool, but still be fudgy in the centre. Will keep for up to four days in an airtight container.

12 Days of Winter Poems

Thomas Hardy, ‘The Darkling Thrush’

Emily Dickinson, ‘It sifts from leaden sieves’

John Donne, ‘A Nocturnal upon St Lucy’s Day’

R.S. Thomas ‘The Coming’

Rita Dove, ‘November for Beginners’

Wilfred Owen, ‘Winter Song’

Robert Burns, ‘Up in the Morning Early’

Anon, ‘Miri it is’ (Merry it is)

John Clare, ‘Winter Fields’

Langston Hughes, ‘Winter Moon’

William Blake, ‘To Winter’

Patrick Kavanagh, ‘In Winter’

Vacation Reading Recommendation

Ruby Red Trilogy by Kerstin Gier probably because it is easy to read but super capturing at the same time. It’s one of these book series where you feel just a little gutted after it’s over.”

– Luzie, Part 3 English Literature

Normal People by Sally Rooney would be my recommendation. It’s heart-warming and a little heart breaking all at the same time, but it truly is a wonderfully written book.”

– Millie, Part 3 English Literature

The Greatness of The Muppet Christmas Carol

I am not an expert in Victorian literature, but I think The Muppet Christmas Carol is a perfect adaptation of Dickens’ Christmas story.

One sign of the effectiveness of this update is the way that the Muppet dialogue and Dickens’ work so well together that it is sometimes hard to tell them apart. When Scrooge tells the ghost of Marley that he might be a delusion caused by a piece of undigested beef, Scrooge quips that there is ‘more of gravy than of grave about you’. I had to check whether the line was Dickens’: it is. The scriptwriters also knew when to keep Dickens’ prose where it packs an emotional punch. The lines that the Ghost of Christmas Present tell us of Tiny Tim, ‘I see a vacant seat in the poor chimney corner, and a crutch without an owner carefully preserved’ are transposed unaltered into the film. The Muppet and human performers know how to work these lines. Michael Caine brilliantly communicates Scrooge’s growing panic as the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come shows him his death unmourned when he admits ‘the case of this unhappy man might be my own. My life tends that way now’. What The Muppet Christmas Carol has that the novel lacks, of course, are the songs, and although the lyrics do not borrow Dickens’ words so directly, they bring out some of this short work’s dominant ideas. Kermit as Bob Cratchit reminds us of our younger selves’ excitement when ‘there’s only one more sleep till Christmas’, and the song at the film’s close captures what The Christmas Carol asks us to believe of Christmas: ‘The love we found / We carry with us / So we’re never quite alone.’

– Mary Morrissey, DEL

If there is something that you would like to contribute to the DEL newsletter, please contact

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DEL Newsletter autumn term no. 4

*REMINDER* DEL Town Hall Meeting 

Wednesday 24 November 2021, 1-2pm   

Online. Please use this link to access the meeting.   

All English Literature staff and students are invited to the first Town Hall meeting of this year. This is a chance to share your views on how your curriculum is designed and delivered. Staff will answer your questions, take forward suggestions, and give updates on how we are acting on your feedback. 

Introducing the RUSU reps 

The RUSU class reps ensure that the concerns of students about their teaching and learning is fed back to the department, formally (through meetings) and informally during the year. So, we thought this would be a good place to introduce this year’s reps.  

Our Part 1 rep is Abigail Thomas, who is studying Art and English Literature. The film she wants to see next is Dune and the book she would like to see made into a film is ‘Heroes’ by Robert Cormier. You can contact Abigail on: 

Part 2 reps are Joe Walsh and Beth Lewis. Joe is studying English Literature and Creative Writing. The last movie he watched was Star Trek IX: Insurrection, and the book he would most like adapted into a production is Everything Under by Daisy Johnson. Joe’s email is: Beth Lewis takes SH English Literature.  We also have a part 2 student representing joint honours Language and Literature students. Sophie Jordan will be going to see Hamlet at Shakespeare’s Globe on her next theatre trip and the book that she would like to see adapted is We Were Liars by E. Lockhart. Sophie’s email is 

Part 3 is represented by Daphne Sutton and Emily-Ann Robinson. Daphne wants to see is Wuthering Heights at the National Theatre, and a book that she would like to see adapted is Ruth by Elizabeth Gaskell. Daphne can be reached at: Emily will be going to see the new Halloween film, as she is a big fan of the original, and of Jamie-Lee Curtis. The book that she would love to see adapted into a film is Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin: ‘It has been my favourite book for years and I think that it would be interesting to see how an adaptation would compare to my own vision of the novel.’ Emily’s email is 

Getting Involved with The Spark! 

The Spark is the university’s official newspaper, run by students for students! Over the last 18 months COVID unfortunately halted the work of the paper but the new committee is working hard to get things back up and running. We are awaiting the launch of our new website (which should be up in the next two

weeks!) and our print paper should be returning to campus in January 2022.

In the meantime, there are still ways for you to get involved however there may be a little bit of a backlog in getting articles published as we adjust to getting up and running! 

Want to write for us? 

We’ll be sharing regular writing opportunities via our Facebook groups – section editors will share article suggestions and all you need to do is let us know which you’d like to write! 





 We also have a creative group if you might be interested in that too and you can find that here:  

I’d also recommend following us on Instagram and Facebook (we have a brand-new page so please make sure you’re following the right one!) as opportunities will also be shared there if we can’t find writers via the groups – although the groups are your best shout for a first come, first served basis!  



Also, if you sign up as a member via RUSU we’ll have your contact details should we need to email people regarding other opportunities! 

– Millie Smith – Print Editor 

 Library and Study Support 

 As essay deadlines loom, here is a remind of the help and support you can get from our wonderful librarians and Study Advisors. 

Study space no longer needs to be booked ahead of entry, though the 1st Floor Group Study Rooms can still be pre-booked. Individual desks, PCs, and group study spaces are all available on a walk-in basis as usual. There is no longer a Click & Collect service as everyone is able to browse and borrow throughout the Library opening hours.  The Library is open 24/6+ during term time. There is a one-way system around the building for now and everyone is encouraged to wear a face covering when moving around inside (but there is no requirement to keep them on whilst seated).  

Information for new students can be found here: 

New in-depth Library drop-ins 

There is an in-depth Library daily drop-in service from 13:00-14:00 Monday to Friday on the ground floor of the Library, to the right of the stairs. Students can come along with queries, such as how to get started searching for journal articles, which database to use for research, how to find a reference etc.  This compliments the Study Advice drop-in which runs at the same time.  More information can be found here 

Study Advice 

Study Advice have put together a weekly webinar programme covering popular topics such as structuring essays and avoiding plagiarism. You can book onto these using the link above. You also have the choice of face to face or online 1-2-1 appointments this term in addition to a daily drop-in service from 1-2pm every day in the Library. The Study Advice website has a range of videos and guides to help you. 

Do contact if you need more help.  

 DEL Research Seminars 

Autumn Term  

 Wednesday 10th November, 5.00-6.30:   

Dr Rachael McLennan (UEA), ‘“A Small Flashlight in a Great Dark Space”: Elizabeth Warren, Autobiography, and Populism’   

Wednesday 1st December, 1.00-2.30:   

Dr Ruth Maxey (University of Nottingham), ‘“Indiascape”: Bharati Mukherjee’s engagement with E.M. Forster, Hermann Hesse and R.K. Narayan’.  

 Spring Term  

Wednesday 2nd February, 5.00-6.30:   

Professor Ralph Pite (University of Bristol), ‘Edward Thomas in 1914-15: unfathomable deep time’  

Wednesday 2nd March, 5.00-6.30:   

Professor Hillary Chute (Northeastern University), ‘Maus Now’. 

All events will take place online – Zoom links will be circulated nearer the time. For more information, contact David Brauner (

If there is anything you would like to contribute to the DEL newsletter, please contact 

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DEL Newsletter

Things to do in week six

Week 6 / enhancement week / reading week, whatever you want to call it, a break from classes in the middle of term is a blessing and a really useful time to catch up AND breathe for a moment before the chaotic second half of term kicks in! Here are some suggestions of things to get up to:

Take a break

Pop your feet up and relax for a moment. This is a chance to chill and have some time to yourself. Stick on a movie or some Netflix, treat yourself to some self-care, snack on your favourite treat. Whatever it is that makes you feel a little more relaxed and calmer, now’s the chance to do it!

Catch up on any work

Look back at the first five weeks of term and make sure you’re all up to date with notes, assignments, revision and so on. You’ll thank yourself for making sure the first five weeks of term are all sorted and organised when deadline season comes around at the end of term.

Look ahead

Look ahead to the next five weeks of term. Is there anything you can be doing to get prepared? Is there any reading you can do? Any research to help you get started? Anything you can do during this time will help you stay on top of things for the second half of term.

Explore Reading

If you haven’t had a chance already maybe take some time to head into Reading and explore. Shopping in the town centre, a nice meal out with mates, explore the Abbey ruins and so much more!

– Millie Smith Millie Smith, Part 3 English Lit


Student Support at The University of Reading

The first person you can contact about general advice will be your Academic Tutor. They can help you themselves or contact someone else who can best give you support. Another person you can contact is the DEL Student Support Coordinator Lucy Bending: She will be able to answer queries about your studies and anything else academic related.

  • Even if you think a concern is small, you shouldn’t hesitate to seek support from the university. Things you might feel are minor issues, like homesickness, can turn into major struggles over time if left unaddressed. It’s vital to always make sure you take anything that might be troubling you seriously at the start. Student Services is where you can get advice in dealing with everything from financial concerns to counselling and wellbeing.

The reception desk is open for face-to-face enquiries and one of the Student Support Coordinators will help you there:

Monday -Thursday 10:00-17:00, and Friday 10:00-16:30. Closed daily for 1 hour from 13:00-14:00.

You can reach them by telephone 0118 378 5555 or email:

Using the RISIS portal ‘Ask a question’ function is another way to access Student Services. This will send your query to our Student Support Coordinator (Jemima Stevens), who will forward it to the relevant team or member of staff. Jemima can help with any query about your modules or your programme, suspensions of extension requests.

Taking care of your mental wellbeing is just as important as anything else during your time at university. The Student Welfare Team will support you with things such as:

  • Settling in and adjusting to university life
  • Crisis support
  • Difficulties with flat/housemates
  • Family or relationship issues
  • Harassment and bullying
  • Drug or alcohol issues
  • If you are victim of violence (crime/sexual/domestic)
  • Struggling to manage carer responsibilities
  • Concerns about a friend
  • If you don’t know where to go for help

You can schedule an appointment with Heather Price (or another member of the Student Welfare Team) by emailing The team also offers a drop-in service, where you can visit the Student Services Reception in the Carrington Building in person and speak to someone (Monday – Thursday – 13:00 -16:00; Friday – 10:00 -16:00). You can also call 0118 378 4777, Monday – Friday between 10:00 and 16:00 to speak a member of the team. The university website has a page dedicated to student support and you can access it by clicking the link: Student support | University of Reading

– Michelle Parr, Part 1 Creative Writing and Film)


Cindy Becker, What I am reading…

The Private Life of William Shakespeare by Lena Cowen Orlin (Oxford University Press, 2021)

I have always tended to avoid reading non-fiction before I go to sleep at night, but that has changed in recent months, partly because books like this one are such page-turners. In my experience, scholars who attempt to produce biographies of Shakespeare take a few isolated scraps of evidence and the hypothesise about what those scraps might mean. The trouble is, their desperation to imagine the man can lead to theories and suppositions with very little basis in fact, which really puts me off. This book is different, because the author takes a more convincing, and far more intriguing approach.

Take Shakespeare’s wife Anne, for example. We have some records about her, but if we take Lena Cowen Orlin’s approach, we can get a fully rounded idea of her life. By searching for ‘clusters’ of evidence, she puts every small fact we have back in its proper place. By exploring the life of a woman living in Stratford alongside Anne, whose husband was also often in London, who ran business enterprises from her home, but who had masses of documentary evidence for her life, we can piece together Anne’s life in a far more secure way. We also learn that women in that time worked amazingly hard!

I am learning some fascinating facts from this book about the lives of Shakespeare’s whole family and, just as importantly, it is a really good read.


Bonfire Night

One of the annual reminders that I have about being Irish in England is the fact that Halloween is not bonfire night. But there is an interesting history there.

Bonfires were used for all sorts of celebrations in the past. They were associated with the feast of All Saints (1 November) and All Souls (2 November): that’s partly where the tradition of a bonfire on Halloween (the ‘eve’ or night before ‘All Hallows’, that is, All Saints’ day) comes from. But bonfires were just as popular on Midsummer’s Eve, and that tradition lingered in some parts of Britain and Ireland into the modern period. In Bonfires and Bells: National Memory and the Protestant Calendar in Elizabethan and Stuart England (1990) the social historian David Cressy explained how people in the sixteenth century used bonfires and the ringing of church bells to signal celebration for lots of events, one-offs (like the Spanish Armada being defeated) as well for annual celebrations, like the date when Elizabeth I came to the throne. ‘Bonfire night’ as we know it began in 1605, with the defeat of the Gunpowder Plot, a scheme by some disaffected Catholic aristocrats to blow up the Houses of Parliament. There was a concerted campaign, including annual sermons and popular ballads, to remind people of the threat that Roman Catholicism posed to England’s Protestant government, and this became an important means of linking English national identity with Protestantism. ‘Remember, remember, the fifth of November / Gunpowder, treason, and plot’ the folksong runs. And so, the celebration of All Saints’ Day became less marked in English popular culture and the bonfires were moved to 5 November. But whether the fireworks are on 31 October or 5 November, on those days when the clocks go back and the evenings grow dark it feels right to light up the night; whether we re-discover Halloween through cinema and TV from the USA, or stick to 5 November as our night for bonfires, I think we are honouring that instinct.

Mary Morrissey, DEL


If you have an item for the newsletter, please speak to one of the student editors (Millie Smith, Part 3 English Lit) or Michelle Parr, Part 1 Creative Writing and Film), or email

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Professor Karin Lesnik-Oberstein on Power and Children’s Books: Teaching Myths, Fairy Tales, Folktale and Legends

Professor Karin Lesnik-Oberstein was recently asked to contribute to the blog curated by publisher Lantana.

Lantana’s purpose is to ‘publish inclusive books by under-represented voices celebrating every kind of child and family’.

Professor Lesnik-Oberstein wrote on the kinds of ‘power’ (including cultural power and political power) that myths and fairy-tales are often thought to have, and she explains the ways in which these ideas are interrogated in her teaching on the MRes in Children’s Literature at Reading.

You can read Professor Lesnik-Oberstein’s blog here.

More information about the MRes in Children’s Literature can be found here.

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MA English Information Session – Pathways, Students’ Experiences and Creative Writing

Are you in Part 2 or 3 and interested in Master study?

Aimed at current BA students, join us at 12.00 on Friday 23rd April to hear from MA students, Dr. John Scholar and Prof. Peter Robinson about the structure of our MA English, how it compares to studying on one of our BAs and the different pathways, like creative writing, open to you on the course.

For more information and to book on please follow this link:

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