UROP 2020: Tracing the Nigerian Civil War in the archives of Heinemann’s African Writers Series

Dr Sue Walsh is looking to recruit a student in the middle year(s) of their undergraduate degree (second year, or third year of four year degree) to work on a project working on the archives of Heinemann’s African Writers Series, which published Chinua Achebe’s famous novel Things Fall Apart as the first novel in the series. A full description of the project can be found here:


The African Writers Series was particularly significant for the development of postcolonial literature in Africa; one reason for this was that Chinua Achebe acted as its editorial adviser and as well as being credited as the father of modern African literature he is also an influence on contemporary writers like Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. When the series was first established in 1962, Nigerian authors were among its most significant contributors, many being from the south-east (including Achebe); but in 1967 civil war broke out when the south-eastern part of Nigeria attempted to secede from the rest of the country.

The focus of the project will be to conduct initial research to see where and how the civil war is referenced in the archives relating to particular authors who wrote about the war or were based in the south-east. Since Heinemann was in the difficult position of being a British company (Britain supported Nigeria during the war) publishing a significant number of authors from the secessionist side of the conflict whilst trying to maintain its offices in Nigeria, you will also research into where and how the civil war is discussed in the papers of the publishers during this period (1967-70). You will be responsible for writing a blog on your research to be hosted on the Special Collections website, and in collaboration with me (Dr Sue Walsh), and you will write an article supported by an online exhibition of material curated from the archives to be launched in Black History Month, October 2020.

The project involves:

Original research on the African Writers Series in the Heinemann archives: tracing references to, and discussions of, the Nigerian civil war and its impacts both on individuals and on Heinemann’s publishing ventures in Nigeria. Identifying relevant materials within the archives to examine, document, and write about (in blog posts for the Special Collections website) in relation to the issues above. Research on archive materials relating to selected Nigerian authors who wrote about the civil war, and on selected uncatalogued papers. Co-authorship of an online article and co-curation of online exhibition material for the new Special Collections website promoting the AWS archives to be published at the beginning of Black History Month, October 2020. Research for project (50%) Blogging about the research (20%) Co-authorship of article with co-curated exhibition (30%).

I welcome applications from students who have a willingness and ability to work independently and think critically and have an interest in post-colonial literature.

The project will be for the equivalent of 6 weeks at 30 hours per week paid at the rate of £220/week. I am aiming for the placement to by mid-to late June but pre-booked holidays and other commitments can be accommodated.

To apply for the project please check out the full details of the project at the link above, and send your CV, with details of two referees, and a brief cover letter/email explaining why you are interested in this specific opportunity to Dr Sue Walsh (s.a.b.walsh@reading.ac.uk) by end of day (5pm) on 3rd April 2020.

Interviews are currently planned to be held in the first week of summer term 2020.
UROP 2020: a chance to complete a research project, get paid and boost your employability! For more information  see: http://www.reading.ac.uk/internal/UROP/ForStudents/For_students.aspx


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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