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

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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