The DEL/MERL Seminar Series, 2019: Writing the Rural

All events take place on Thursdays in February and March, 1-2pm, at
The Museum of English Rural Life, Reading. All welcome.

‘Graceful clods: soil in eighteenth-century poetry’
Tess Somervell, (British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Leeds).

‘Seagulls and Hares: Writing in a time of Environmental Crisis’
Suzy Joinson in conversation with Tim Dee, author of The Running Sky,
Four Fields and Landfill, and with poet and critic Hugh Dunkerley.

‘Song Maps and Ridgeways: songwriting and landscape’
a non-musical interview with one of the UK’s most celebrated folk musicians, Martin Simpson.

‘Time Song – Journeys in Search of Doggerland: Time and Landscape’
Suzy Joinson in conversation with author, Julia Blackburn.

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Poetry and Europe: A Celebration

However the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland leaves the European Union, if it does, on 29 March 2019, the long and deep-rooted connections between the poetic cultures of these islands and those of continental Europe will continue to be, and need to be, sustained.

As a celebration of these continuities, whose existence has, if anything, been made more urgently manifest by the current political crisis in which the countries of the British archipelago find themselves, the Department of English Literature at the University of Reading and Two Rivers Press, the town’s most prominent publisher, are hosting an evening of readings featuring poems and translations from or about experiences of Europe.

This event will also serve to launch two new volumes on these and related themes, Ravishing Europa by Peter Robinson (published by Worple Press) and A Part of the Main by Philip Gross and Lesley Saunders (publish by Mulffran Press). Jane Draycott, reading from Storms under the Skin, her translations of Henri Michaux (Two Rivers Press), a Poetry Book Society Recommended Translation in 2017, will join them; and the evening, hosted by Steven Matthews, will include guest appearances by other poets published by Two Rivers Press in 2019, including Kate Behrens, James Peake and Conor Carville.

The event will take place in the foyer café at the Museum of English Rural Life, Redlands Road, Reading, on Tuesday 12 March 2019. Doors will open at 5:30 and the event will be from 6 to 8 pm.

There will be a pop-up bookstore and refreshments.


This event is supported by a grant to the Department of English Literature from the Endowment Fund of the University of Reading and by gifts in kind from Two Rivers Press.

Further information:

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Chancellor’s Awards 2018

Chancellor’s Award winner, Jasmine Davis

Congratulations to Chancellor’s Award winners Jasmine Davis (BA English Language and Literature) and Evelyn Hartnell (BA English Literature), who achieved the top results in their subject at the end of their first and second year, respectively. Jasmine writes: “Studying English has allowed me to explore the world through the eyes of other people and understand something new with every word. One of the beauties of English is how broad the subject can be: from discovering history and reading classic authors, to looking at how people communicate with each other using language today.” We wish both Evelyn and Jasmine, and all our students, every success in the coming year.

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Graduate Centre for Medieval Studies: spring term seminars.

24 January, 4.30 pm in Edith Morley 124
Patrick Lantschner (UCL) ‘City-States and the Political System of the Mediterranean World in the Age of the Crusades’

7 February, 4.30 pm in Edith Morley 124
Anne Bailey (University of Oxford)
‘Problematising Pilgrimage in Twelfth-Century England and Beyond’

28 February, 4.30 pm in Edith Morley 124
Cecilia Gaposchkin (Dartmouth College) ‘The True Cross at the Sainte Chapelle and the Capetian Court’

21 March, 4.30 pm in Edith Morley 124
Tom Licence (UEA) ‘Edward the Confessor and 1066’

28 March, 4.30 pm in Edith Morley 124
Ōlafur Haukur Árnason (University of Oxford) ‘Armenians in 11th-Century Iceland’

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Early Modern Research Centre spring term seminars

28 January,  1 pm, Edith Morley 175
Prof. Alan Cromartie,
“John Bunyan and the Moderate Mr. Fowler”

11 February, 1 pm, Edith Morley 175 
Dr. Olivia Smith,
“Old Wives Tales: Imagined Storytellers in
Early Modern Science and Philosophy”

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Centre for Health Humanities: Spring term seminars







28 January, 5pm, Edith Morley 124

Dr Marjorie Gehrhardt (Modern Languages)

‘“Learning to be Blind”: The Role of the Blind Veterans’ Union in Post-WW1 France’

11 February, 5pm, Edith Morley 124

Professor Sue Walker (Typography)

‘Effective AMR Communication: The Role of Information Design’

25 February, 5pm, Edith Morley 124

Dr Ruth Salter (History)

‘Bathing, Bloodletting, and Bed-Rest in the High Medieval Monastery’

11 March, 5pm, Edith Morley 124

Professor Tom Oliver (Biological Sciences)

‘The Self-Delusion: How a Maladaptive Self-Identity Threatens our Personal to Planetary Health’

25 March, 5pm, Edith Morley 124

Professor Parastou Donyai (Pharmacy)

‘Talk Matters: Tentatively Exploring Language in Pharmacy’

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Forestry Commission launches new project to diversify nature writing

As part of celebrations to mark its centenary in 2019, the Forestry Commission has launched a new writing competition to diversify nature writing.

From Wordsworth to J.K Rowling, England’s forests have inspired characters and chronicles that have shaped the nation’s literary history for centuries.

Now, for the first time, the Forestry Commission is today, Monday 10th December, opening applications for two national writer-in-residence opportunities, which will begin in the spring.

The Commission is particularly interested in hearing from people from underrepresented groups, young writers and emerging writers living in urban locations to offer their perceptions of nature in England. It is also looking to attract people using a diverse range of literary forms.

Applications will be judged by an expert panel including Sharmaine Lovegrove, the publisher of Dialogue Books, the UK’s only inclusive imprint, and Jay Armstrong, editor of Elementum, a journal of nature writing and visual arts.

During the residency, the selected writers will embark on a behind-the-scenes tour of the nation’s forests, spending time the people who work there, and the wildlife that calls them home. To apply, writers are asked to submit a video or written pitch (maximum 500 words) outlining their vision.

Sharmaine Lovegrove, publisher at Dialogue Books, an imprint of Little Brown Books, said,

“I am delighted to be involved in the centenary celebrations of the Forestry Commission and very much looking forward to reading diverse, multi-cultural and intergenerational perspectives of our forest landscapes.”

“As a Londoner, I’m not often perceived as someone who embraces nature all the time, but London is the greenest city in Europe! I’m always visiting our parks, urban gardens and forest trails, and reading nature writing from across the globe. Everyone can find inspiration in the natural world, wherever they are.”

Jay Armstrong, editor at Elementum, said,

“When a storyteller enters a forest, some kind of alchemy happens. I can’t think of a tale set in such a place – from Little Red Riding Hood to Macbeth, or the legend of Robin Hood to the writings of Tolkien – that didn’t grip me or leave me changed.

“These residencies offer truly unique opportunities to spend time in these wise places and return with old tales revisited, different stories to tell and new ways of telling them.”

Over several months, the writers will enjoy unique access to some of England’s most loved and spectacular landscapes. The work they produce will be a conduit for engagement, inspiring people to connect with the trees and forests, the experiences they offer and wildlife that relies on woodlands to survive.

The two positions are paid and the writers will receive mentoring support and guidance to shape their work. The work created will be published at the end of 2019, to coincide with the tree planting season.

To find out more and apply, visit:

PK Khaira-Creswell, Director of the Forestry Commission Centenary, said,

“The nation’s forests have long been a well of creativity, inspiring work that has moved generations. To celebrate 100 years of forestry, we’re giving emerging and mid-career writers a chance to put their own stamp on what trees and woods mean to them, and share those sentiments with the wider world.”

The Forestry Commission is celebrating its centenary year with a cultural programme that reflects on its history, while looking forward to the next 100 years. The programme includes artistic works, wildlife surveys, activities for schoolchildren and projects designed to boost health and wellbeing. The centenary year is an opportunity to tell the stories of the nation’s forests, and inspire people to connect with the trees and forests on their doorstep.

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Reading in the global top 150 for study of Arts and Humanities

The University of Reading has been ranked in the top 150 in the world for the study of Arts and Humanities subjects, according to the latest release of the 2019 Times Higher Education World University Rankings by Subject.

The University is ranked 126-150 worldwide in the Arts and Humanities subject ranking, a jump from 176-200 last year.

This reflects year-on-year improvements in the ranking’s assessment of both teaching and research of Arts and Humanities subjects at Reading.

The Times Higher Education analysis judged Reading to have improved against other global institutions in the quality and number of citations (up 63 places to 128), international outlook (up 32 places to 133), research reputation (up 32 to 183) and for teaching (up 11 places to 167).

Professor Roberta Gilchrist, Research Dean for Heritage & Creativity, said: “We are delighted to see Reading’s global reputation for excellence in Arts and Humanities subjects continues to grow.

“Reading benefits from an embedded culture of collaborative research, strong international links and, most of all, the talent and commitment of our wonderful staff and students.”

The Times Higher Education World University Rankings by Subject for Arts and Humanities covers all Reading’s subjects categorised within the areas of Languages, Literature & Linguistics; History, Philosophy & Theology (including Archaeology); Art, Performing Arts & Design; and Architecture.

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Learning to speak Shakespeare’s verse in a Workshop with Jenny Caron Hall and Prof. Grace Ioppolo

‘Speak the speech, I pray you, as I pronounced it to you, trippingly on the tongue’:

Hamlet’s advice to the actors who visit Elsinore is, ironically, easy to say but difficult to do. That is why I invited Jenny Caron Hall, an actress and artist, to work with some University of Reading undergraduate students and me in a workshop in which she could teach the verse-speaking method of her late father Sir Peter Hall, the founder of the Royal Shakespeare Company and later the Director of the National Theatre. Sir Peter, one of the most influential theatre and opera directors of all time, has been credited by famous actors, including Dame Judi Dench, with teaching them how to speak and interpret Shakespeare’s language and thereby truly understand his plays. You can watch an interview with Sir Peter Hall discussing his career here:

You can read about Jenny’s career here:

Jenny and I had met over Twitter about four years ago when I was tweeting from my feed @ProfShakespeare about her father’s many contributions to Shakespearean theatre and offering numerous links to interviews and film clips. I had also tweeted about her brother Ed Hall’s amazing work as director of Propeller Theatre, whose all-male production of The Taming of the Shrew had greatly impressed my students and me in 2008. So, when Jenny said a few months ago that she wanted to start teaching her father’s verse-speaking methods, I convinced her to try a workshop with our students.  Of course, it helped that Jenny and I shared a California connection—I grew up in Los Angeles and she lived there as a child when her mother the actress and dancer Leslie Caron was working in Hollywood.

Neither Jenny nor I had ever run a practical workshop solely on verse, so we decided to recruit a few students, hire a film studio and camera operator George Ormisher and technician Christopher Bacon in the Minghella Building and see what happened over two hours. Fortunately, Sir David Bell had awarded me a grant from the Vice-Chancellor’s Endowment Fund to cover the Minghella filming costs and Jenny’s preparation and work.

So, Jenny and I and the students, Maria Ieridou, Raj Khan, Natasha Clarke, Millie Farquhar, Tzeitel Degiovanni, Emily Johnson, Eleanor Dewar and Lauren Collard, all turned up on September 28th at 1pm not quite sure what we were going to do. But within a few minutes, Jenny masterfully explained that her method of speaking verse had been developed by actor-manager Thomas Betterton in the 17th century and then passed on to such later actor-managers as David Garrick, Charles Macready, William Poel, Dadie Rylands and her father and then to her. Jenny also discussed how she thought that she knew Shakespeare’s language while performing in major productions at the National Theatre until she was directed by her father, who showed her how much more command she could have of Shakespeare’s verse.

In the workshop, Jenny began working with students on passages from Henry V, Twelfth Night, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, and The Tempest. As you can see from the clips on YouTube, students who were hesitant at first quickly gained in confidence as Jenny showed them the rhythm and pace of the verse and how to hold the last syllable at the end of a line. As the workshop went along, I also added commentary on my own research and publications into how Shakespeare composed his plays in manuscript form and then transmitted them to the actors and the censor and finally to theatrical audiences in the 16th– and 17th-centuries. When the workshop ended, not only were the students and I impressed but so was George the camera operator, who, it turns out, is an actor with a special interest in Shakespeare. So we all felt that we had learned quite a lot from each other about Shakespeare’s language and plays. I can honestly say that Jenny taught me a great deal about language that I thought that I had understood but clearly had never considered.

Jenny recruited her husband Glenn Wilhide, a film and television director and screenwriter, to do the post-production editing of the film clips, so their quality is much better than in the usually grainy clips posted on YouTube.

The Workshop clips can be found here:

Jenny has scheduled another workshop, for which I am applying for further funding, to be held in December in a replica of an Elizabethan theatre in a film studio in London. If we get funding, we plan to hold auditions and a rehearsal in late November.

So, although we may still be occasionally tripping over our tongues rather than speaking trippingly, we are very excited about the learning opportunities offered by this truly collaborative workshop series.

Professor Grace Ioppolo

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Wilfred Owen: Centenary talk and reading at MERL

6-8 pm Thursday 15 November 2018

MERL The Museum of English Rural Life

A Talk by Dr Jane Potter (Oxford Brookes)

Followed by readings from PENNIES ON MY EYES: Poems by Wilfred Owen

ADMISSION FREE: Further information:

The latest addition to the Two Rivers Press classic poems series, Pennies on my Eyes is a centennial collection of Wilfred Owen’s poetry illustrated by Reading-based artists. The town made its contribution to Owen’s becoming a poet through the encouragement he received from Professor Edith Morley at the University of Reading while based in the nearby village of Dunsden. Each inspired by a work in this memorial volume, the artists offer their unique responses for this celebratory gathering of Owen’s most famous war poems, published on 4 November 2018, the 100th anniversary of the poet’s death on the Western Front at the Sambre-Oise Canal just one week before the Armistice.


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