Heritage & Creativity

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A multi-media installation created by Dr Teresa Murjas, Associate Professor in the Department of Film, Theatre & Television has inspired the work of The National Archives, Kew and its national Explore Your Archive campaign (18-28 November 2017).

The film, sound and object-based installation – The First World War in Biscuits – is an interpretation of one of the archives held at Reading Museum and the Museum of English Rural Life (MERL). In August 2017 Teresa welcomed colleagues from The National Archives (TNA), together with The Great British Bake-off finalist, Miranda Gore-Brown, to Reading. She gave them a tour of Reading Museum and the MERL, where she had selected archival materials and artefacts from the Huntley & Palmers collection for them to view.

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By David Brauner, Professor of Contemporary Literature, University of Reading

Lincoln in the Bardo is a worthy winner of the Man Booker Prize and is further confirmation of the supremacy of American authors in the field of contemporary fiction, following Paul Beatty’s win last year for The Sellout.

With a few notable exceptions, British novelists seem tame and timid in comparison to their American counterparts. It was great to see Kazuo Ishiguro win the Nobel Prize but he would probably be the first to agree with Garrison Keillor that it’s a scandal that so many of the great contemporary Americans – Philip Roth pre-eminent among them – have been consistently overlooked for the honour. Every year, for the best part of two decades, Roth has been heavily tipped for the prize – alongside fellow Americans Don DeLillo, Thomas Pynchon and Joyce Carol Oates – but when, last year, they finally decided to give it to an American writer (an American Jewish writer, at that), it was Robert Zimmerman (aka Bob Dylan) who got the nod.

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By Dr Gemma Watson, Post-Doctoral Research Assistant in the Department of Archaeology

Back in May 2017, Roberta Gilchrist, Professor of Archaeology and Research Dean at the University of Reading, presented the prestigious Rhind Lectures, the oldest and biggest archaeology lecture series in the world, hosted by the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland.

Professor Gilchrist presented on the theme of ‘Sacred Heritage: Archaeology, Identity and Medieval Beliefs’, exploring over six lectures the value of sacred medieval heritage today and in the past. The lectures outline a new research agenda for the archaeological study of later medieval monasticism with a strong emphasis on the archaeology of medieval Scotland and tying in with the Scottish Government’s Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology 2017. The lectures are now available to watch online.

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By Professor Neil Crosby, Professor of Real Estate & Planning, University of Reading

With the increase in house prices in London since 2008, and resultant increase in land values, there might be an expectation that the number of affordable homes provided within residential development schemes would meet local planning authority policy expectations.

However, this has not happened. Instead, the percentage of affordable housing delivered within schemes has actually fallen. These were the findings of a research project I co-authored, which was commended in the recent RTPI Awards for Research Excellence.

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By Andy Willimott, Lecturer in Modern Russian and Soviet History, University of Reading

With the centenary of the 1917 October Revolution approaching, historians who focus on this period, like me, find ourselves in demand. As well as highlighting the facts of Russia’s second revolution that year, we often find ourselves focusing on the turning points, the personalities, and the politics.

Of course, it’s impossible to view the events of 1917 without considering those that followed. The popular uprising of that momentous year could be viewed as a mere punctuation mark in a story that takes in five-year plans, Stalin, the Gulag and a reign of Terror.

But the socialist revolution in Russia was about more than just Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin, and the birth of a new state.

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Researchers from across the Heritage and Creativity theme at the University of Reading have started the new academic term strongly with several funding awards and the publication of new books.

Professor Roberta Gilchrist, Research Dean for Heritage & Creativity, said: “My congratulations to all our colleagues with good news to share.

“While the new university year has just begun, the summer is actually one of the busiest periods for research. Our researchers mark the new academic year with major new publications, grants, honours, and research events.”

Reading researchers with good news to share across the arts and humanities include the following:

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A model box by Peter Snow, the designer of Hall’s 1955 Waiting for Godot

Professor Anna McMullan, Film, Theatre and Television, University of Reading.

The death of Sir Peter Hall on 11th September marks the passing of a major theatre director who shaped post-World War II British theatre. He founded the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1961, and was director of the National Theatre from 1973 – 88, as it moved into its South Bank home. In addition to his landmark productions of Shakespeare and opera, he nurtured the work of contemporary playwrights such as David Hare and Howard Brenton.

All of his obituaries note that the play that propelled the 24 year old director into the public eye was his production of the English language premiere of Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot in August 1955 at the Arts Theatre London. While some critics thought that Waiting for Godot was ‘an odd mass of nonsense’ (Ronald Barker in Plays and Players), the influential Harold Hobson and Kenneth Tynan recognised that Godot was taking theatre in a new direction – Tynan noted that the play forced him ‘to re-examine the rules which have hitherto governed the drama; and, having done so, to pronounce them not elastic enough’. That Hall was strongly drawn to Beckett’s theatre anticipated his championing of Pinter when he staged The Homecoming in 1965 at the Aldwych amid considerable opposition. Read the rest of this entry »

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By Katherine Harloe, Associate Professor in Classics and Intellectual History, University of Reading & Jessica Stevens-Taylor, LGBT+ Heritage Officer, Support U

An appeal for personal stories from members of the LGBT+ community has been issued as part of a project marking 60 years since the publication of a milestone report in the unfinished path towards equality.

Monday September 4 marks the 60th anniversary of the publication of the Wolfenden Report, which resulted 10 years later in 1967 in the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality in England and Wales. The report was named after former University of Reading Vice Chancellor Sir John (later Lord) Wolfenden, who chaired the ‘Report of the Departmental Committee on Homosexual Offences and Prostitution’. He was Vice-Chancellor at the University of Reading from 1950 to 1964.

Now, the University and local LGBT+ charity Support U are seeking to mark the anniversary by collecting stories and recollections from those who have witnessed discrimination first-hand, but also felt the positive difference changes to the law over the past 50 years have made to their lives.

Monday’s anniversary comes two days after Reading Pride, and Support U’s partnership with Reading Buses means many will have seen Lord Wolfenden pictured on the side of buses over the weekend. While ‘pride’ was not an item on Wolfenden’s agenda, indeed his view was that gay people should not be visible, without events like Wolfenden’s Report the LGBT+ community would not have had a voice; they would still have been persecuted into the shadows.

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By Dr Matthew Nicholls, Department of Classics, University of Reading

A heated conversation arose on social media on Wednesday surrounding the question of the racial diversity of Roman Britain, or the Roman empire more generally.

The tweet from Alt Right commentator Paul Jospeh Watson, that kicked off the debate

There is plenty of evidence that the Roman empire was relatively diverse, as might be expected from an empire that encouraged trade and mobility across a territory that extended from Hadrian’s Wall to north Africa, the Rhine, and the Euphrates (and which, less positively, enslaved and moved conquered populations around by force).

Rome itself was a melting pot of people from all over the Mediterranean and beyond (satirical poets moan about it, and we have the evidence of tombstones). Outside Italy the Roman army in particular acted as medium for change and movement in several ways.

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By Dr Rebecca Bullard, Department of English Literature, University Reading

Jane Austen would, I think, have been delighted to feature on the new £10 note. Many of her novels are about the impact of money – and especially the lack of it – on women’s lives.

Her first published works, Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice, feature families full of daughters struggling under a legal system that keeps all property in the hands of (sometimes distant) male relatives. The famous opening of Pride and Prejudice, of course, tells us that ‘a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife’. Austen’s fourth novel, Emma, turns this observation on its head, with Emma Woodhouse declaring that, ‘A single woman, with a very narrow income, must be a ridiculous, disagreeable old maid!’

Austen never condones this kind of snobbery: Emma comes to regret her unkind behaviour towards the impoverished spinster, Miss Bates, and the protagonist of Mansfield Park, Fanny Price, is dignified in poverty. Nonetheless, it’s difficult to escape the conclusion that marrying well for Austen meant, above all, escaping the financial insecurity of a single life; love is a bonus.

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