DEL Island Discs Episode Four: Dorothea Brooke

Today’s presenter is Professor Gail Marshall, Head of the School of Literature and Languages, and Gail’s castaway is Dorothea Brooke, a central character in George Eliot’s Middlemarch, A Study of Provincial Life (1871-2).

Disc 1. Vaughan Williams, ‘The Lark Ascending’
This is Dorothea as we meet her at the start of the novel in the English Midlands, brimming with the purity of her potential, exquisitely beautiful, and ready to soar like Vaughan Williams’s lark, whilst being aware of the sadness of the world around her, of the deep plangent notes of suffering of those not enjoying her kind of privilege. But her energy wins out, as does the lark’s, and it’s her vibrant yearning that gives heart to the opening of the novel, whilst signalling a vulnerability in that yearning that Vaughan Williams’s final moments also capture.


Disc 2. Marilyn Monroe in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, ‘Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend’
This is a deliberately lighter piece of music, and a reminder of the importance of humour of Midddlemarch, which we often overlook. The song came to mind when I was thinking of Dorothea’s relationship with her younger sister, Celia, and the memorable scene early in the novel where Celia, eager to begin to wear jewellery, encourages her older sister to sort through the gems left to them by their mother. The scene is a wonderful example of the dynamic between the two young women: Celia’s quiet determination and a self-belief that plays havoc with Dorothea’s less grounded, less materially-determined sense of self. Dorothea is persuaded to take an emerald and diamond bracelet and ring, while Celia has the necklace of purple amethysts on which she’d set her heart. The song parodies Dorothea’s fears about the worldliness of jewellery, but also speaks of a collusion between women, and thus touches albeit tangentially on the relationship of the sisters, which, despite their being very different people, is the one of the most abiding and one of the closest relationships of the novel. Think Fleabag and Clare. Elizabeth and Margaret in The Crown. Jo and Amy in Greta Gerwig’s Little Women.


Disc 3. ‘Sixteen Going on Seventeen’ from The Sound of Music
Another inappropriate song you might think, but I wanted something to represent Dorothea as she becomes betrothed to the middle-aged Casaubon. Dorothea, like Liesl, is overjoyed with her older beau, revelling in his maturity and her belief that he will be able to teach the dead languages and ancient wisdom that she longs to know. Rolf betrays Liesl and Casaubon betrays Dorothea, and both men betray the better selves they probably were unable to become. The song rings with ungrounded optimism, and a naïve delight that later turns to tragedy.


Disc 4. Puccini, ‘Vissi d’Arte’ from Tosca, sung by Maria Callas in 1964
Chapters 19 and 20 are in many ways the most important in the novel. Dorothea and Casaubon go to Rome on their honeymoon. He studies in the Vatican Library; she is left to her own devices and to try to make sense of the ‘stupendous fragmentariness’ of ‘the city of visible history’. Dorothea is soon found sobbing in her room after a quarrel with Casaubon. Her marriage is already falling woefully short of what she expected it to be, and Rome signals all the plenitude that Casaubon will never be able to supply. Eliot makes it clear that Dorothea is overwhelmed by Rome, its art and its history, and, by what seems clear to the reader if not yet to Dorothea, by her dawning attraction to Will Ladislaw, Casaubon’s attractive young cousin. Puccini’s heroine lives for art and love, and this vision is what Rome offers – bewilderingly – to Dorothea.

Disc 5. Joni Mitchell, ‘Both Sides Now’

A popular choice recently on the real Desert Island Discs, this song speaks to the bewilderment of adulthood, and the reality that experiencing more doesn’t necessarily mean knowing more: ‘I really don’t know life at all’. Dorothea’s young expectations that knowledge would give her fulfilment are dashed, but she does begin to realise that the recognition of complexity is itself a gain. Eliot and Joni Mitchell guide their readers and listeners on a similar journey.


Disc 6. Stormzy, ‘Crown’
I love this song. And it’s perfect for Dorothea when she’s struggling after Casaubon’s death to recognise everyone’s needs, and particularly when she comes to believe that her beloved Will is in love with the married Rosamond Lydgate. Dorothea is utterly lost – ‘Searching every corner of my mind, Looking for the answers I can’t find’. Will isn’t of course disloyal, but the pain and depletion that his apparent betrayal brings upon Dorothea is beautifully recognised in ‘Crown’, as are the misunderstandings that Dorothea’s attempts to do good provoke. In its Shakespearean echo, the song also reminds us of Eliot’s on-going conversation with Shakespeare through the novel’s allusions and quiet references to the playwright.


Disc 7. Bill Withers, ‘Lovely Day’
But then, in a wonderfully romantic moment, Stormzy’s ‘rain falling down at the Brits’ is replaced by real thunder and rain crashing outside, and all misunderstandings dissolve as the lovers declare themselves:
While he was speaking there came a vivid flash of lightning which lit each of them up for the other—and the light seemed to be the terror of a hopeless love. Dorothea darted instantaneously from the window; Will followed her, seizing her hand with a spasmodic movement; and so they stood, with their hands clasped, like two children, looking out on the storm, while the thunder gave a tremendous crack and roll above them, and the rain began to pour down. Then they turned their faces towards each other, with the memory of his last words in them, and they did not loose each other’s hands.
Her lips trembled, and so did his. It was never known which lips were the first to move towards the other lips; but they kissed tremblingly, and then they moved apart.
The rain was dashing against the window-panes as if an angry spirit were within it, and behind it was the great swoop of the wind; it was one of those moments in which both the busy and the idle pause with a certain awe.

This gorgeous song knows, as do Dorothea and Will, that the world isn’t perfect, that things will continue to ‘bear heavy on their minds’, that someone else ‘always seems to know the way’, but in each other they’ve found a source of deep and lasting happiness in expressing the mutual love that’s been obvious to readers for a very long time.


Disc 8. Roger Whittaker, ‘Streets of London’
This final choice is prompted by a comment from Celia when she hears that Dorothea is marrying Will and moving to London where he’ll become an MP: ‘How can you always live in a street?’ I barely noticed this sentence until it was used by Andrew Davies in his outstanding adaptation of Middlemarch. At a time when a significant demographic shift to cities was beginning, the line signals quite how far Dorothea is moving away from Celia’s and her own previous existence. The song lyrics also show, however, that even in the city, there will be a need for Dorothea’s philanthropic work, and that it’s there on those streets that ‘the effect of her being on those around her’ would become ‘incalculably diffusive: for the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs’.


Dorothea’s Book
Dorothea will diligently read the Bible and Shakespeare, so I’d like to cast her away with a DIY manual, so that she can try to build a shelter. She once designed model cottages for the workers on Sir James Chettam’s estate, and with a little help, she’d probably do a good job on the island.

Dorothea’s Luxury
A miniature of Will’s grandmother. The portrait appears throughout the novel, and as Dorothea falls in love with Will she comes to relish the resemblance between the young woman of the miniature and her handsome grandson. At one point in the novel, when Dorothea fears she’ll never see Will again, ‘For the first time she took down the miniature from the wall and kept it before her, liking to blend the woman who had been too hardly judged with the grandson whom her own heart and judgment defended. Can any one who has rejoiced in woman’s tenderness think it a reproach to her that she took the little oval picture in her palm and made a bed for it there, and leaned her cheek upon it, as if that would soothe the creatures who had suffered unjust condemnation?’ It would be a comfort on a desert island.

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DEL Island Discs Episode Three: Mosca Mye

This episode has been co-written by Dr Mary Morrissey, Cait Cromartie (Year 12) and Aideen Cromartie (Year 9).

This week’s castaway is Mosca Mye, the main character in two books by Frances Hardinge: Fly by Night (2005) and Twilight Robbery (2011).

These novels are set in a world that is far too mundane to fit most people’s idea of fantasy; it has some elements that are reminiscent of early modern history and others that the author has invented. But the characters are very recognisable, as are the feelings of greed and fear and friendship and loyalty that motivate them.

Mosca spent her childhood in the waterlogged village called Chough. She is an only child to a distracted academic and has recently been orphaned at the opening of Fly by Night. But her worst problem is her name: in this world, people are named after the demi-god to whom the period of time (often only a few hours) in which they were born has been dedicated, and their personalities are thought to be shaped by their names. Mosca was born in the time dedicated to Palpitattle, a trickster who (when well disposed) ‘keeps flies out of jams and butterchurns’ but who is also a thief and a liar. So Mosca (from the Italian for ‘fly’) has a name that makes people think the worst of her right from the start.

Mosca knows this about her name, and she knows that her name does not define her. So her first song is ‘This is me’ from The Greatest Showman musical.

In Fly by Night Mosca has to leave home in a hurry after a disaster in which she is blamed for burning down her house. She travels to Mandelion, a great city where all the intellectuals live. She has only vague plans for what she will do when she gets there. But she has one very important ally: her companion on her travels is Saracen, a ‘large and homicidal’ goose. Saracen could never be called a pet; he is, rather, a ferocious protector of Mosca. Mosca is aware of how small and weak she is relative to those who would harm her. But she is immensely brave, and so she and Saracen make an ideal team. There is only one song for this kind of friendship, from Toy Story, ‘You’ve got a friend in me’.

Mosca’s first job is given her by the glamorous but cold Lady Tamerind of Mandelion. Mosca is instantly fascinated by her elegance and power. Mosca always has great trouble keeping her bonnet on and her hair tidy; the apparently effortless grace of Lady Tamerind seems at first to be something admirable. Later Mosca would learn more about the darker of Lady Tamerind’s machinations, but the unquestioning admiration of an older, elegant woman is a very sympathetic characteristic in Mosca, and it reminds us that she has missed out female role models and friends. How better to explain the effect that Lady Tamerind has than K.T. Tunstall’s ‘Suddenly I see’:

Mosca’s job is to spy on a pot-poet who glories in the name Eponymous Clent. The two become uneasy partners and eventually friends, although they are a very odd pair. Clent is a rogue, a liar and a ne’er-do-well who is constantly in debt but never short of elaborate reasons why he should not pay. Clent has no problems with self-esteem but enjoys an inflated sense of self-importance matched only by a well-honed survival instinct. His concern for Mosca over the two books in which their adventures coincide becomes deep and settled. But she is never unaware of the faults as well as the saving graces of her bombastic friend. The song that best suggests the generous egotism of Clent is The Pogues, ‘I’m a man you don’t meet every day’, sung here by Cait O’Riordan:

In both Fly by Night and Twilight Robbery, Mosca finds herself on the wrong side of the powerful Locksmiths’ Guild. Because the Locksmiths are in charge of keeping people and their belongings safe, they can control all criminal activity, and in effect they become not the punishers but the managers of the criminals. Controlling all the locks means that they control all the secrets. Mosca quickly sees the power the guild have and how unjustly they use it. She has an all-consuming sense of what is right and fair, and even though she is small and almost friendless she is determined to do what she can to break the Locksmiths’ hold on ordinary people. So Mosca would love Tracy Chapman’s ‘Talkin’ about a Revolution’:

Mosca inherits her father’s love of books, but unlike her father she is not satisfied with just reading about things that happen in the world: she wants to be involved with them and to go on adventures. And so, although she initially cherished a hope of settling in Mandelion and being accepted into one of the academies there, at the end of Twilight Robbery she decides against that future and instead takes to the road with her friends Eponymous Clent and Saracen the goose. She has decided on the life of a rover and so her last song will be a celebration of the life of travelling people: here is Luke Kelly singing ‘The Travelling People’:

Mosca’s book
Mosca loves reading and her favourite books are adventure stories, including many ‘penny dreadfuls’. If she is only allowed one book on the island, however, she needs to choose one that she will happily re-read. The best adventure story to read many times over must be Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson, and so we will send that to Mosca on her island.

Mosca’s luxury
Mosca’s stockings are always getting ripped and torn and stained on her many adventures. For her luxury we will give her a pair of really well-fitted jeans, because they will withstand whatever she throws at them!

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DEL Island Discs Episode Two: Sue Trinder

Welcome to the second episode of DEL Island Discs! To celebrate the weekend and the end of the first week of term, we are going to cast away an extra victim this week.

In this series, literary characters are cast away on a distant desert island, located somewhere on the enigmatic fourth floor of the Edith Morley building. Each week we will hear the musical choices of a new castaway, presented by one of their fans from the Department of English Literature.

Before getting started this week, we’d like to thank the Department of History for giving us the inspiration for this series, and recommend you give their castaways a try, too.

Our second castaway is Sue Trinder from Sarah Waters’ Fingersmith (2002), presented by Shelley Harris.

Fingersmith is a modern classic, a neo-Victorian novel which is a masterpiece of narrative structure. At its heart is seventeen-year-old Sue Trinder. Brought up by petty thieves, she has always been told: ‘You’ll make your fortune – and ours along with it.’ One day, the mysterious Gentleman comes calling. When he asks for her help in cheating another girl of her inheritance Sue agrees, thinking the time has come to fulfil her destiny. But destiny has other ideas…

Disc One – London, England – Corduroy


Disc Two – Shoplifters of the World Unite – The Smiths


Disc Three – Opportunity – Joan Armatrading


Disc Four – Constant Craving – K D Lang


Disc Five – Can’t Stand Me Now – The Libertines


Disc Six – Mama – Bjork



Disc Seven – Won’t Get Fooled Again – The Who


Disc Eight – All I Want is You – U2


Sue’s book
Sue cannot read, but there is one book she might treasure enough to take to the island. It’s mentioned on the final page of Fingersmith – but I won’t give any spoilers.

Sue’s luxury
A single glove.

You can find out more about our presenter this week, Shelley Harris, on the DEL website, or on her own website here. Thanks for joining in and see you next week!

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DEL Island Discs crossover – Elizabeth I

The DEL Island Discs team are very grateful to our colleagues in History for giving us the idea for this series (interdisciplinarity in action). We recommend you pop over to the History blog this week and catch up on the musical choices of Elizabeth I, presented by guest blogger Professor Carol Fuller. Students or prospective students of our Part 2 module Renaissance Texts and Cultures might like to listen to these alongside reading or revising Elizabeth’s poems for the module.

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David Brauner’s top five graphic novels.

Professor David Brauner recently wrote for the online magazine ‘The Conversation’ about his favourite graphic novels.

Here he writes for us an expanded article on his top give graphic novels. Student readers might wish to note that David teaches all the texts featured in this piece on his third-year module ‘American Graphic Novels’. So enjoy!

Compiling an all-time top five of graphic novels is challenging not just in the way that any such list is – i.e. the difficulties of deciding which criteria to use, the agonising decisions over which favourites to exclude etc. – but also because it raises the tricky question of what counts as a graphic novel and what doesn’t. There are anomalies in every medium — novels written in verse and prose-poems, for example — but most people can agree on what a poem or a novel look like. With graphic novels things are rather fuzzier. That the term refers not just to fiction but to all sorts of life-writing is accepted, but beyond that there is little consensus. If a comicbook was originally published in serial instalments and only collected in one volume retrospectively, is it a graphic novel? If there are multiple volumes (e.g. Neil Gaiman’s Sandman or the Hernandez brothers’ Love and Rockets series), should the whole series be counted as one epic graphic novel, or should only individual volumes be eligible for consideration? And what about a book like Phoebe Gloeckner’s The Diary of a Teenage Girl (2002), which tells the story of an authorial alter-ego, Minnie, through a combination of prose diary entries, illustrations with captions, comic-strip narratives, letters, poems and photographs? Or Joe Sacco’s comic-strip documentary journalism? Or Lynda Barry’s mash-ups of essays, sketches, collages and workbooks? Or Nick Sousanis’ Unflattening (2015), which is based on his PhD thesis and is part philosophical essay, part scholarly history, part experimental artwork? For the purposes of this exercise, I have chosen five books that I (and many others) regard as central to the graphic-novel canon. They are all richly-textured, powerful, nuanced books that are immediately arresting but also reward repeated rereading.

  1. Watchmen (1987), Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons. A book that works on so many levels — it is, among other things, a whodunnit, a love story, a commentary on Cold War politics and an exploration of fundamental philosophical and ethical questions — Watchmen is both an homage to, and a deconstruction of, the classic superhero comic-strip narrative, which in turn has inspired numerous subsequent revisions of the genre, from Pixar’s The Incredibles (2004) to the Marvel Comics (and later MCU’s) Avengers civil war storyline. Shifting points of view, disrupting chronology, layering texts within texts, Watchmen is a hugely ambitious narrative that discloses new details (visual as well as literary) with every fresh reading. It’s also a real page-turner.
  2. Maus (1991), Art Spiegelman. Maus probably did more than any other graphic novel to make readers and critics take graphic novels seriously as an art-form (though Spiegelman, like Moore, dislikes the term graphic novel). It’s the story of the author’s father, Vladek, who survived Auschwitz; the story of Spiegelman’s relationship with him; and (in the second volume) the story of the ramifications of the success of the first volume. Controversially representing Jews as people with mouse-heads (and sometimes tails), preyed upon by German cat-people and often betrayed by Polish pig-people, Maus nevertheless resists stereotypes, representing both its author and his father as flawed, complex individuals who struggle in different ways to deal with the legacy of a trauma that makes itself felt in every aspect of their lives.
  3. Ghost World (1997), Daniel Clowes. Ghost World is the shortest, and at first glance the most straightforward, of my choices. It is a bittersweet tale of the friendship, and gradual estrangement, of Enid and Becky, two young women (recent high-school graduates) on the cusp of adulthood. Cynical and vulnerable, with a sardonic sense of humour and a nostalgic streak, Enid is, in part, a portrait of the artist as a young girl grappling with her sexuality, ethnicity and her conflicting expectations of herself. But Ghost World is also a powerful evocation of what it is like to drift, ghost-like, through a nondescript, soulless urban environment that it is itself ghostly. Full of quirky characters and memorable images, Ghost World manages, paradoxically, to represent boredom and ennui vividly and entertainingly.
  4. Jimmy Corrigan, the Smartest Kid on Earth (2000), Chris Ware. The publication of Jimmy Corrigan was a landmark moment for the graphic novel. It was the first graphic novel to be awarded major literary prizes on both sides of the Atlantic — the American Book Award and The Guardian First Book Award – and has been hugely influential in the field, for example on Nick Drnaso’s Sabrina (2019), the first graphic novel to be longlisted for the Man Booker Prize. Like Watchmen, Jimmy Corrigan has a complex, non-linear structure and subverts conventional notions of (super-) heroism; like Maus, it is a book about fathers and sons; like Ghost World, it has a protagonist who is drifting aimlessly through life, alienated from the world around him. Yet it is visually and formally more radical than any of the other books on this list. Ware’s dark palette and landscape format and his use of diagrams, instructions and definitions make the book, as an object and text, highly unusual. Narratively, too, Ware is a great innovator: the absence of exposition and page numbering, the abrupt transitions back and forth between a historical narrative focusing on Jimmy’s grandfather and the present-day narrative focusing on Jimmy, the use of surreal dream-sequences, and the disruption of conventional panel sequencing all make Jimmy Corrigan quite difficult to read (and to teach). But it’s well worth the effort. It is a beautiful, heart-breaking story that has been much imitated but never bettered.
  5. Fun Home (2006), Alison Bechdel. Through its adaptation as an award-winning musical, Bechdel’s work has reached an audience that might never have encountered her graphic novel, or indeed anyone else’s (though the book itself was a bestseller). Fun though Fun Home the musical is, in common with the film adaptations of Watchmen and Ghost World, it can’t quite do justice to the complexity of the original. Fun Home the book is a coming-of-age and a coming-out story, a self-consciously literary Bildungsroman that pays homage to James Joyce, Marcel Proust and Oscar Wilde, among others. It is also a moving memoir about the author’s relationship with her father, whose queer sexuality finds an echo in her own lesbianism, and whose (possible) suicide haunts the book. I might also have included Bechdel’s sequel, Are You My Mother? (2012): if the later book can’t quite match the emotional power and fierce intelligence of Fun Home, Bechdel can console herself with the knowledge that few other graphic novels, or novels of any sort for that matter, can.

And this is the point that I hope a reading of these titles will demonstrate to any newcomers: these are not just great graphic novels but great works of art. The term graphic novel was initially deployed in order to confer intellectual credibility on what had been previously seen as a trivial form of entertainment aimed primarily at children, but the works listed above (and many others) rival anything done in the novel form over the same period, and right now some of the most innovative and exciting work in fiction and life-writing is being done in the graphic novel form.

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DEL Island Discs Episode 1: Dr Faustus

Welcome to the first episode in a new series of DEL Island Discs!

In this series, literary characters are cast away on a distant desert island, located somewhere on the enigmatic fourth floor of the Edith Morley building. Each week we will hear the musical choices of a new castaway, presented by one of their fans from the Department of English Literature.

Our castaway today is a true Renaissance man: a scholar of considerable erudition, learning and intellect. However, he notoriously passed up the opportunity to live a godly life and chose instead an infernal pact with the devil, sacrificing his own soul in the process. Probably he’d welcome an eternity on a desert island in comparison to burning in the fires of hell for all eternity, but unfortunately, that’s not a choice he ever got to make.

Today’s castaway is Doctor Faustus from Christopher Marlowe’s 1592 play, The Tragical History of the Life and Death of Doctor Faustus, presented by Chloe Houston.

Dr Faustus is Marlowe’s version of the cautionary tale of a man who sells his soul to the devil in return for knowledge and worldly pleasures – a bargain which he comes to regret. Marlowe’s play begins with Dr Faustus listing all the subjects he’s mastered. Despite having read every authority of human learning, he yearns for something more, and turns to “necromantic books” to help him. With the assistance of his friends Valdes and Cornelius, he learns enough black magic to summon a devil, Mephistophilis, and contracts to sell his soul to Lucifer in return for twenty four years of service from Mephistophilis. He questions this decision several times during the action of the play but ends it convinced that he is going to hell and cannot be redeemed. The action finishes with him descending into a hell-mouth onstage, and his scattered limbs being found by the scholars whom he leaves behind.

There is a fair amount of music and dancing in the play of Dr Faustus, but who knows what it actually sounded like, so for this list we’ve allowed Faustus to make a wider selection …

Disc One – ‘I’m Bored’, Iggy Pop (1979)
The video for ‘I’m Bored’, with Iggy Pop lounging around moodily, is a fitting version of Faustus as the play starts, frustrated with his reading and looking for trouble…

Disc Two – ‘The Magic Number’, De La Soul (1989)
With Valdes and Cornelius, Faustus learns the arts of magic. Like De La Soul, he is also looking for the magic number and how to be the best at what he does, but unfortunately Faustus chooses to summon the devil instead of create a hip hop masterpiece. Still, it seems worth allowing him one happy song when he’s on the up, and he can dance to this one while he works on some new spells.

Disc Three – ‘Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours’, Stevie Wonder (1970)
Faustus signs his pact with the devil in his own blood after cutting his arm. Although the clotting of his blood nearly prevents him from finishing the job – he should have paid attention to what his body was saying, maybe – Faustus eventually manages to sign, seal and deliver his soul to Lucifer.

Disc Four – ‘Losing My Religion’, REM (1991)
This one is self-explanatory. Faustus says he will “Despair in God, and trust in Beelzebub”.

Disc Five – ‘The Devil Went Down to Georgia’, The Charlie Daniels Band (1979)
This is the classic country tale of what happens when the devil comes looking for trouble, leading to a violin battle between him and a mere mortal. The outcome of this song would have been a happy ending for Faustus; in this version, the human wins.


Disc Six – ‘Go To Hell’, Megadeth (1995)

You can’t have a hell-inspired playlist without some heavy metal, and Faustus might appreciate this classic of the genre, which also, trivia-fans may care to know, featured on the soundtrack of Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey. Faustus can nod along to the lyrics: “much too late I realize […] It’s true you reap what you sow”.

Disc Seven – ‘Everything Goes to Hell’, Tom Waits (2002)
Tom’s message is simple: you can’t trust anyone and hell waits for us all.

Disc Eight – ‘Pandaemonium’ from ‘La Damnation de Faust’, Hector Berlioz (1846), Op.24/Part 4, Scène 19
If Faustus wants to hear some other works of art about his story, he could do worse than listening to Berlioz. Berlioz’s music was inspired by Goethe’s poem Faust and his imagination of hell is full of fury; a review of the 1892 revival of Berlioz’s Faust commented that “when all pandemonium opens, and the infernal chorus breaks forth, the music becomes an unspeakable horror: it screams with agony, it buffets us with the sounds of orgy, it exults in the triumph of hell”. A nice, relaxing listen for the beach.

Doctor Faustus’ book
Doctor Faustus is allowed to take the Bible and Shakespeare to his desert island, but he might not want the Bible for obvious reasons, and few of Shakespeare’s plays had been performed by 1592, so he’d probably choose his necromantic books instead. Good luck, doctor, and thank you for being our desert island castaway.

Doctor Faustus’ luxury
“pleasant fruits and princely delicates”

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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 ( 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:


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Centre for Health Humanities: (Dis)ability at the Centre

Join us to explore the experiences and representations of (dis)ability
past and present, through different media, in and outside of

3 February, 12-1.30pm, Chancellors G13
Dr Kai Syng Tan (Manchester School of Art, Manchester Metropolitan University)
‘Neurodiversity in Higher Education Research Network?’

24 February, 12-1.30pm, Chancellors G13
Dr Marjorie Gehrhardt (Modern Languages, University of Reading)
‘Learning to live with visible facial differences: the reintegration of facially injured
servicemen in post-WW1 Great Britain’

9 March, 12-1.30pm, Chancellors G13
Professor Hannah Thompson (Centre for Visual Cultures, RHUL)
Title tbc

23 March, 12-2pm, Chancellors G13
Nicole Brown (UCL), in conversation with representatives of the Staff Disability Network
‘Ableism in academia: the lived experiences of disabled, chronically ill and/or
neurodiverse staff in higher education’

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Graduate Centre for Medieval Studies spring term seminars

Thursday  30 January, 4.30pm, Edith Morley 124

Myra Bom (Royal Holloway, University of London)
‘Agency and Divorce. The Case of Constance of France (1165).’

Thursday  19 March, 4.30pm, Edith Morley 124 

Christa Gray (University of Reading)
‘Dead body problems: burials in Jerome’s Lives of Holy Men.’ 

Thursday  26 March, 4.30pm, Edith Morley 124 

Megan Leitch (University of Cardiff)
‘Sleep and its Spaces in Middle English Literature: Emotions, Ethics, Dreams’. 

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Early Modern Research Centre spring term seminars

Monday 10 February, 1 pm, Edith Morley 181

Dr. Gillian Woods (Birkbeck),’ “Go make your liuely battel”: representing violence on the Renaissance stage’.

Monday 24 February, 1 pm, Edith Morley 181

Dr. Alanna Skuse (Reading), ‘Biting one’s tongue: glossotomy and gesture in The Spanish Tragedy

Monday 9 March, 1pm, Edith Morley 181

Dr. Lauren Working (Oxford, TIDE project),  ‘Coming of Age with Empire: Performing Colonization at the Inns of Court’


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