Second Sight: The Margaret Atwood Learning Journals

Second Sight: The Margaret Atwood Learning Journals is published by the UoR this week and it celebrates the quality of our students’ work on the final year ‘Margaret Atwood’ module. Co-edited with a Part 3 DEL student, the book presents a collection of learning journal entries and artworks and showcases our students’ critical skill and writing agility.

The book contains several different forms of reflection on Atwood’s novels and includes parodies, mock interviews, letters, responses to critical readings, and exercises in creative writing where students have, for example, presented a perspective not given within the text. Also presented are poems and artworks which students have included within their weekly journal entries. This use of a wide array of different forms has allowed students to combine their creative and critical skills and to submit often witty, critically astute, and highly imaginative work. From my point of view, as a critic of Atwood, the journal entries opened up new spaces for analysis and they also enabled me to appreciate fully the first-rate engagement of our students in the work they undertake for their modules.

I decided to publish the students’ writing because I wanted to retain a material record of the students’ hard work and skill. I sought funding from our Teaching and Learning Deans, who supported the project from the beginning, and I connected with the ‘Real Jobs’ scheme in the Department of Typography where students gain professional experience by managing funded publishing commissions for University staff and external clients. This led me to June Lin, a gifted student typographer, and I asked Bethany Barnett-Sanders, a member of the ‘Margaret Atwood’ groups, to help me edit the book. Throughout the Summer Term, June, Bethany and I met and planned, designed and edited, and the result is a book of which we are proud. With the sole exception of the Introduction, every element of it, from the cover image to the design to the contents, is the work of our students.

A book launch is being held on 5th July and all students contributing to the book have been invited to the party along with their families: Professor Emerita Coral Ann Howells, the patron saint of Atwood studies and the originator of the ‘Margaret Atwood’ module at Reading, will also be at the party, and the book is being sent to several leading Atwood scholars as well as to Margaret Atwood herself. The book will also demonstrate ‘good practice’ journal-writing to next year’s students on the ‘Margaret Atwood’ module and there should be a few spare copies available if other students (or colleagues) would like to buy a copy.

Producing this book with such talented students has been a great pleasure and to have the book available to our students on the day of their graduation provides a fitting conclusion to a busy but extremely rewarding academic year.

About English Literature at Reading

The Department of English Literature at Reading has been an internationally recognised centre for research and teaching in English Studies for over a hundred years. Our teaching system, with its emphasis on seminars and tutorial work, encourages our students to discuss ideas with tutors and other students in a relaxed and supportive atmosphere. All of our students have access to dedicated study advisors; our academic placement scheme and 'professional track' programme provide invaluable preparation for subsequent careers.
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