Monday, 23 December 2013

Congratulations to the Class of 2013

In November our English Literature undergraduates became Bachelors of Arts. The Awards ceremonies took place at the Centaur, overlooking Cheltenham. It is a privilege to attend and always an occasion for pride, and some emotion. We all hear a great deal about what education can do for us, but not enough about how people's talents and achievements help to create a better society. So let us pause and say so.

The University's Flikr album captures some moments from the day. Professor Robert Macfarlane, who gave last year's  annual Laurie Lee Memorial Lecture , received an Honorary Doctorate. The School of Humanities was among several schools represented. Our congratulations go to everyone.

After the ceremonies at the centaur, lots of new graduates returned to Francis Close Hall for the School of Humanities's farewell tea. That was fun.


We wish the Season's greetings and a very happy New Year to all graduates, and to current and prospective students. See you in 2014.

Friday, 6 December 2013

Open Day at Francis Close Hall, Saturday 7 December

Please join us for our last Open Day before Christmas on Saturday 7 December.  Francis Close Hall is the Gothic bit of the University, a five-minute walk from the town centre. Take a virtual tour of Francis Close Hall here.

You can find out about English Literature, English Literature and Creative Writing, and our other Humanities courses, including English Language and Linguistics; History; Religion, Philosophy and Ethics [RPE] and Theology and Religious Studies [TRS].

You'll meet some of the staff team, and people from Finance and Accommodation are on hand to answer your questions. Best of all, you'll meet current students who can talk with you about what it's like to study with us. Our friendly Student Ambassadors will take you on a campus tour and are also happy to chat about life and work at the University of Gloucestershire.

Please take a look at our course maps for English Literature and English Literature and Creative Writing to see the modules we offer (clicking on the module titles will bring up full descriptors and links to reading lists). And finally, this blog features posts on student activities, our research, the Cheltenham Literature Festival, our Humanities Public Lecture series and anything else of a literary nature that captures our imaginations as lifelong readers and writers. Please scroll through.

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Jack Zipes speaks on 'The Grimness of Contemporary Fairy Tales' at the first Humanities Public Lecture at the University of Gloucestershire

The School of Humanities welcomed Professor Jack Zipes, the internationally-recognised scholar of fairy tales and children's literature, to Francis Close Hall last Wednesday evening for the first Humanities Public Lecture. More than a hundred people, including students and members of the public, joined us for this very special event.

Photo courtesy of Debby Thacker. Flowers and poster design by Simon Cuttell.

Professor Zipes is Emeritus Professor of German at the University of Minnesota and a prolific author. Dr Debby Thacker, herself an expert on children's literature, introduced Professor Zipes, noting that he had 'changed the way we think about fairy tales'. His lecture, 'The Grimness of Contemporary Fairy Tales', challenged everything we thought we knew about these formative stories.

Noting that the word 'grim' sits within a wide semantic field in both German and English - it connotes gloom, fierceness, roughness, authority - Professor Zipes asked us to bring 'a critical Grimness' to our sense of what these tales mean to us. Jakob and Wilhelm Grimm are the 'experimental founders of folklore' committed to storytelling and to the most demotic literary form, the fairy or 'wonder' tale. Their genius was 'personal, profound, artistic and scholarly' (and linguistic, since they gave their name to a vowel shift). However, their work also belonged to the new print culture that emerged in the early nineteenth century; the brothers questioned the tales even as they conserved and validated them.

Many contemporary writers have been drawn to the Grimm tales. Professor Zipes singled out Anne Sexton, Angela Carter, A.S. Byatt, Margaret Atwood, Emma Donoghue, Tanith Lee, Sara Maitland, Philip Pullman, Neil Gaiman and Cornelia Hoegland as writers who have 'contested the authoritative sources while reshaping them'.

A short question and answer session with the audience followed, and Professor Shelley Saguaro proposed a vote of thanks. But that wasn't all: Professor Zipes stayed behind to chat with a few English Literature students and to sign their copies of The Complete Fairy Tales (Vintage 2004). Well, it is a class text, as Stanley Fish would say.

We thank Professor Zipes for a truly memorable occasion. We also thank Harriet Heathman, Sam Hyde, and Nicola Riley for their invaluable assistance, and all English Literature and Humanities students who attended.

Professor Zipes and Dr Thacker. Photo: H. Weeks

Friday, 15 November 2013

Jack Zipes to give Public Lecture at the University of Gloucestershire

We are thrilled to welcome Professor Jack Zipes, one of the world's leading literary scholars, to the School of Humanities public lecture series. Professor Zipes will be speaking on "The Grimness of Contemporary Fairy Tales" on Wednesday 20 November at Francis Close Hall, main lecture theatre TC001, at 7.30pm.

Jack Zipes is Professor Emeritus of German at the University of Minnesota and has previously held professorships at New York University, the University of Munich, the University of Wisconsin, and the University of Florida. In addition to his scholarly work, he is an active storyteller in public schools.

Regarded as one of the world-leading scholars on storytelling, folk and fairy tales, he has published over 30 books including Sticks and Stones: The Troublesome Success of Children (2000), Speaking Out: Storytelling and Creative Drama for Children (2004), Hans Christian Andersen: The Misunderstood Storyteller (2005), Why Fairy Tales Stick: The Evolution and Relevance of a Genre (2006), The Enchanted Screen: The Unknown History of Fairy-tale Films (2010), and The Irresistible Fairy Tale: The Cultural and Social History of a Genre (2012). He has also translated a number of story collections.  More information about this event is here.

Tickets cost £5. For staff and students, there is no charge, but you must book your tickets through the Online Shop.

Monday, 11 November 2013

Standing room only at the English Literature talks on Saturday!

We are delighted that so many people came to visit us on Saturday. And yes, we need a bigger, better room for the English Literature talks - we'll work on it. To all our visitors, thanks for your patience and forebearance. Thanks also to our Student Representatives and Ambassadors who contributed so much to the talks and, we hope, made your visit worthwhile.

If you visited us on November 9, please feel free to post a comment.

Monday, 4 November 2013

Open Day on Saturday 9 November at Francis Close Hall

Please join us for our second Autumn Open Day on Saturday 9 November. The October Open Day went fabulously well, particularly since the sun came out in time for lunch. We are hoping to be as lucky again with the weather.  Francis Close Hall is the Gothic bit of the University, a five-minute walk from the town centre. Take a virtual tour of Francis Close Hall here.

You can find out about English Literature, English Literature and Creative Writing, and our other Humanities courses, including English Language and Linguistics; History; Religion, Philosophy and Ethics [RPE] and Theology and Religious Studies [TRS].

You'll meet some of the staff team, and people from Finance and Accommodation are on hand to answer your questions. Best of all, you'll meet current students who can talk with you about what it's  like to study with us. Our friendly Student Ambassadors (trying not to freeze in blue sweatshirts) will take you on a campus tour and are also happy to chat about life and work at the University of Gloucestershire.

Please take a look at our course maps for English Literature and  English Literature and Creative Writing  to see the modules we offer (clicking on the module titles will bring up full descriptors and links to reading lists).  And finally, this blog features posts on student activities, our research, the Cheltenham Literature Festival, and anything else of a literary nature that captures our imaginations as lifelong readers and writers. Please scroll through.

We hope to see you next Saturday.

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Paula Byrne speaks on Jane Austen at the Laurie Lee Memorial Lecture 2013, Cheltenham Festival of Literature

The annual Laurie Lee Memorial Lecture, sponsored by the School of Humanities, is always a highlight of the Cheltenham Festival of Literature. Last year, the scholar, traveller and Booker prize judge Robert MacFarlane was the distinguished speaker (read about it here). This year, Paula Byrne gave a fascinating talk based on her latest book The Real Jane Austen: A Life in Small Things (HarperPress, 2013).

Professor Shelley Saguaro, Head of Humanities, introduced Dr Byrne to a large audience (including English Literature students). A professional biographer as well as an Austen scholar, Dr Byrne began by discussing the biographer's task and the organising principles of a good biography, noting that chronological sequence was often the least inspiring way to explore and understand a life. For The Real Jane Austen Dr Byrne selected some of Austen's personal belongings, such as an Indian shawl, a packet of letters, a writing desk, and a gold chain with topaz crosses (pictured below), in order to open up and explore aspects of her life and work.

Topaz crosses on a gold chain, on display at the Jane Austen House.

Paula Byrne challenged the conventional image of Jane Austen as spinsterish and uninterested in matters beyond the drawing room, an image that her relatives, publishers and early biographers fostered. Austen was well aware that England's trade was supported partly by slave labour in the colonies, for example, as a careful reading of Mansfield Park reveals.  Her publisher John Murray, whose clients included Walter Scott and Byron, appreciated Austen's toughness as well as her literary gift. Austen also emerges from journals and letters as a goofy aunt beloved of her nieces and nephews, and quite capable of being rude to people's faces on social occasions. She was pretty good at getting the measure of other people's mannerisms and behaviour, working them into literary grotesques that figure in hilarious letters to her sister. Jane Austen was, then, always at work, whether her family and friends chose to recognise it or not; a dangerous person to be around.

After a question and answer session, Dr Byrne left to sign copies of her books in the Waterstone's tent, no doubt continuing the animated dialogues she developed with the audience. As our English Lit undergraduates noted, her talk was passionate and committed, and made you want to rush off and (re) read Austen. On a squally and miserable Sunday evening in October, that was quite a triumph.

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Gardens in fiction

Professor Shelley Saguaro presents a research paper on Gardens in fiction at the Institute of Historical Research, University of London, on Thursday 17 October. Her research interests encompass representations of gardens, the natural world, ecocriticism and green studies, and the work of Virginia Woolf (a dedicated gardener).

Part of Virginia Woolf's garden at Monk's House, Sussex (National Trust). Image:

Monday, 14 October 2013

...and what a day it was

The Open Day on October 12 went brilliantly. The sun shone (eventually). Hundreds of people visited the campus, and dozens wanted to know more about studying English Literature and related Humanities subjects with us. If you were one of them, thanks for giving up your Saturday to visit us. We'd love to have your thoughts. Please post a comment.

Monday, 7 October 2013

Open Day at Francis Close Hall, Saturday 12 October

Our Open Day for English Literature and all Humanities subjects, including Creative Writing, English Language, History, Religion Philosophy and Ethics [RPE] and Theology and Religious Studies [TRS] takes place this coming Saturday. We are based at Francis Close Hall, the Gothic bit, very close to the town centre. Take a virtual tour of the campus.

As well meeting some of the English Literature staff team, you will be able to talk to people about  accommodation at the university, finance, and admissions. You'll also have the chance to meet some of our current students, too; after all, they are best placed to talk about what it's like to study with us.

Do please look at the range of modules we offer. Click on our 'course maps' for the BA Hons degree in English Literature and English Literature and Creative Writing, . You can also combine English Literature with History or English language. Click on the course  here for maps.

Do you ever wonder what kinds of things we study? The answer is that we're interested in everything to do with the cultural and literary life. Please take a look at some of our blog posts.

Our friendly Student Ambassadors will be on hand to show you around and take you on a tour of the campus, Library, and halls of residence. They know everything one could possibly know about student life at the University of Gloucestershire (ask them).

Let's hope the nice weather holds. Whatever the day brings, we look forward very much to meeting you on Saturday. Please join us.

Saturday, 28 September 2013

English Literature students visit Cheltenham's Everyman Theatre during Induction week

Students of English Literature, and English Literature and Creative Writing, work and play hard during Induction week. The highlight is a visit to Cheltenham's historic Everyman theatre. This gorgeous Victorian theatre runs a lively programme all year round and is very much at the heart of Cheltenham's cultural life.

Here are some of one student's photos of the theatre:


Photos courtesy of Emily Coleman, class of 2016.

We think there's no better way to introduce students to their new home town than to to explore its cultural history. Freshmen students research, create and present a project on the theme Literary Cheltenham: Writing the Town. Every group of students came up with something new, or a fresh insight, reminding us that research is really a matter of curiosity, noticing things, seeing anew.
Students then contributed an idea, image or, in the case of one group, a collage of words and images to an oversized map of Cheltenham; a map of cultural or psychogeographic space. Our Writer in Residence, Anna Lawrence Pietroni, and Dr Debby Thacker led this part of the project; the English Literature team joined students for a round-table discussion at the presentations.
The best thing about this project is that students devise their own ways of looking, reflecting, and working. Our thanks go to all who took part.

Sunday, 15 September 2013

To all new and returning students, welcome to English Literature at the University of Gloucestershire

We are ready for another academic year. Tomorrow the new students arrive for Induction week. If you're one, we wish you a very warm welcome to the University of Gloucestershire. You'll meet your tutors and your new fellow students, join the student-run English Society, receive a Library induction, enjoy a special behind-the-scenes tour of the Everyman Theatre, collaborate on a small research project with your new colleagues, and begin the task of settling in. Our rule: if you are not sure of something, just ask us.
Everything kicks off with the first School of Humanities meeting in the Chapel at 9:00. And yes, Francis Close Hall Campus quad really does look as brightly autumnal as in the photo.
We look forward to welcoming back our current students into the next level of their degree programme. Every September, a new phase begins. We hope you are as excited about resuming your studies as the new students are about beginning theirs.  We think there's nothing better than the literary life, and hope you agree.

Saturday, 7 September 2013

Summer turns to autumn in the Cotswolds, and a piece of Gloucestershire literary history

The author Laurie Lee (Cider with Rosie) has a special place at the University of Gloucestershire. The School of Humanities sponsors the annual Laurie Lee Memorial Lecture at the Cheltenham festival of literature (stay tuned to the blog for more information shortly). This summer, a beautiful area of ancient woodland at Slad once owned by Laurie Lee was preserved as a nature reserve. It epitomises the link between writing and place that's at the centre of our research and teaching.

But that was in June, and soon Gloucestershire will look like this:

Westonbirt Arboretum in the Fall.
 And soon the new academic year begins. We look forward to welcoming new and returning students. September is the best month of the year.  See you soon.

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Exciting new projects at the Everyman Theatre Cheltenham

The Everyman Theatre, Cheltenham, has close ties with our School of Humanities. English Literature students are treated to a special tour of the theatre as part of their Induction week project (read all about it here ); many students develop a passion for the theatre and we hope that the visit heralds three years of drama study and  playgoing. Creative Writing students too have collaborated with the theatre in staging their work.

This year, the Everyman has joined forces with the  Touring Consortium Theatre Company for a series of plays, including Brassed Off, Regeneration and To Sir, With Love, and a new joint venture, the TCTC/Everyman Theatre Ambassadors Scheme. The aim is to introduce new audiences to theatre in Gloucestershire. Schools, young people and others interested in drama can get involved in local activities, and the National Writing Competition, via the upcoming platform Theatre Cloud.

To launch this new partnership, the Everyman hosted a successful launch event in the Studio Theatre this week. It was a great opportunity for theatre staff to mingle with local theatre-goers and teachers.  The TCTC previewed their upcoming production of The Cole Porter Songbook. If Cole Porter's songs are unfamiliar to you, go to the show and learn about one of the greatest songwriters of the twentieth century. Great fun, great music, and the Company posed graciously (and exclusively) for our blog:

Special thanks to the Touring Consortium Theatre Company, and to the Everyman Cheltenham.

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Busy June

The exam and award boards may be over, and Wimbledon's almost finished, but the university's work continues. Recruitment and outreach events take place throughout the year. We had Open Days on June 6 and 22, and met lots of very nice people. June 6 was on the quiet side, as expected around A level exam time;* but at the English Literature subject talk on June22 it was standing room only. Our thanks go out to our visitors, prospective students, their families and friends. We hope we'll see you in September.

It wasn't really sunny and warm at the Open Days. This is s stock photo.

Also in June, sixth-formers from the Cotswold School, who joined us for our first English Literature Sixth-Form conference back in March,  returned to   Francis Close Hall  for a study day on research and library skills. The Humanities Subject Librarian, Mrs Rachel Reid, ran a workshop designed to introduce A-level students to the concept and academic practice of using secondary sources ibn their work - an essential tool for degree-level study.

*Special thanks to Matt Butcher BA (Hons), Amy Hall BA (Hons) and Mike Jordan BA (Hons), our student colleagues at the year's Open and Applicant Days.

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Fairytale and children's literature expert Professor Jack Zipes speaking at the University of Gloucestershire in November


We are very excited to announce that Professor Jack Zipes will be speaking to university students, lecturers, and members of the public in November 2013. His topic is not yet confirmed, but with publications such as Fairy Tales and the Art of Subversion (2011), Sticks and Stones: The Troublesome Success of Children's Literature from Slovenly Peter to Harry Potter (2000), The Enchanted Screen: The Unknown History of Fairy Tale Films (2010), we expect that his lecture will be spell-binding in all senses. Professor Zipes is also the editor of The Oxford Companion to Fairy Tales (2000) and The Norton Anthology of Children's Literature.

Professor Zipes's lecture is part of the School of Humanities's inaugural Public Lecture Series. The series kicks off in October 2013 with the University's  annual Laurie Lee Memorial Lecture at the Cheltenham Festival of Literature . The programme is being finalised, so check back soon.

Monday, 13 May 2013

Professor Roger Ebbatson speaks on Hardy, Jefferies this week at Francis Close Hall

The Centre for Writing, Place and History (CWPH)
Research seminars 2013

Professor Roger Ebbatson
Emeritus Professor of English Literature, University of Lancaster
'Traversing the South Country: 1850-1914'
Wednesday 15 May
Francis Close Hall
HC202A, 5:30 - 7:00
Everyone is welcome

Friday, 3 May 2013

Humanities 'webinar' with prospective students

Last week, as we finished the semester's work, the School of Humanities ran a 'webinar' for students who have applied to study with us in September.  Using Skype technology, the webinar allowed prospective students to log into a live chatroom with the Course Leader and students of their selected course. Matthew Butcher (English Literature and Language) and Chris Moore (History) joined me in the chatroom to answer questions about the course, their experience of studying, the University's social life, the Literature Festival, and even whether Kindles can be used for studying (an excllent question, and the answer is....well, take a look).

Please note that you will need the current version of Adobe Flash Player to see the webinar.

If you use Skype, you'll know that it is a great way to keep in touch with friends. It's also terrific for making new acquaintances. Wendy, Scarlett, and Rebecca, thanks very much indeed for taking the time to log on. We enjoyed meeting you and hope we answered your questions. Speaking of which, applicants who have further questions or who would simply like to keep in touch, do please join our Facebook group. Click on 'request' and Dr Dave Webster will add your name to the group.

My special thanks to Matt and Chris, scholars and stars both.

Monday, 8 April 2013

Chinua Achebe 1930-2013

African writing is thriving and enjoys a worldwide readership.  It was not always so. The late Nigerian Ibo novelist, short story writer, editor, political activist and critic Chinua Achebe was for many the years the only African writer other than Wole Soyinka who European audiences could name if asked. Things changed slowly, however. Many of us can remember the orange covers of the Heinemann African writers series and the authors published: Ngugi Wa Thiong'o, Buchi Emecheta, among others.

Achebe's novel of 1957 Things Fall Apart takes its title from a poem by W.B. Yeats to critique western cultural and political domination of colonised Africa. Blending oral and written traditions in his novels, Achebe refuses to allow the fictions of universalism to co-opt African representation:

Does it ever occur to these universalists to try out their game of changing names of characters and places in an American novel, say, a Philip Roth or an Updike, and slotting in African names just to see how it works? But of course it would not occur to them to doubt the universality of their own literature.
(From Hopes and Impediments: Selected Essays (New York: Doubleday Anchor, 1989), p. 75

Achebe may have considered a lecture he gave on Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness in 1974 just one piece of writing from his professional career. It caused outrage among academics and gave him a certain notoriety (we are judged by the quality of our enemies). As part of his programme of satire by reverse psychology, Achebe dared to anlayse what T.S. Eliot had called 'the mind of Europe' sixty years earlier:

[...]  Conrad did not originate the image of Africa which we find in his book. It was and is the dominant image of Africa in the Western imagination and Conrad merely brought the peculiar gifts of his own mind to bear on it. For reasons which can certainly use close psychological inquiry the West seems to suffer deep anxieties about the precariousness of its civilization and to have a need for constant reassurance by comparison with Africa. If Europe, advancing in civilization, could cast a backward glance periodically at Africa trapped in primordial barbarity it could say with faith and feeling: There go I but for the grace of God. Africa is to Europe as the picture is to Dorian Gray -- a carrier onto whom the master unloads his physical and moral deformities so that he may go forward, erect and immaculate.

Wilde stated in the Preface to The Picture of Dorian Gray that 'The nineteenth century dislike of Realism is the rage of Caliban seeing his own face in a glass'. Rage of Caliban? 'The main thing', as Edward W. Said writes, 'is to be able to see that Caliban has a history capable of development, as part of the process of work, growth, and maturity to which only Europeans had seemed entitled' (Culture and Imperialism (1994), p. 257. But it took Achebe to turn the mirror back to face Europe.

Thursday, 28 March 2013

School of Humanities Applicant Day, 27 March

Our visitors made heroic efforts last Wednesday to get to the University of Gloucestershire through snowdrifts and Siberian breezes.  Once they got here safely, and thawed out, we had a great day of meeting, talking, and learning. We run a couple of Applicant Days each year as special information and learning events for students who have accepted a place with us but want to find out more about what we're like. The Head of Humanities, Dr Shelley Saguaro, welcomed students, parents and friends before we split into course groups for taster sessions. We try to give students a sense of what they'll experience in the classroom in their first year of study. It's quite an adjustment for students to go from the periphery of learning to its centre; social as well as academic skills are required.

The English Literature session, 'Blake's 'Jerusalem' and the Politics of Romantic Poetry' asked students to think about Blake's well-known but never-understood poem 'Jerusalem'. This hymnlike poem appears in the Preface to a much longer epic poem, Milton (composed c. 1804-11).  The second odd point is that far more people have heard the poem than read it. Hubert Parry set it to music in 1916, and it was adopted by the Suffragette movement. English (not always British) people like to sing it at various national events, from football to the Womens Institute AGM, and of course every year at the Last Night of the Proms.

But is the poem a statement of triumph, or a warning? Students noted that the poem seemed full of ironies, that it contained folkloric elements that perhaps suggested a popular mode, or an anti-style. Until lunchtime, we began a conversation that will not end, but will continue to open up inquiry indefinitely.


Student input is such an important part of the day for potential students, and we've been so lucky this year to have the help of three eloquent third-year students, Matt Butcher, Amy Hall and Mike Jordan. Amy joined Debby Thacker and Shelley for a Q & A session with parents; and after lunch, Mike  kindly took time away from writing his dissertation on Raymond Chandler's novels to speak to students and parents about the experience of studying English Literature at the University of Gloucestershire. Mike, and Matt on a previous occasion, put everyone at their ease with candid responses and personal testimony. And they are such pros to work with, for which we give them our special thanks.
As the event broke up at around 2:30, we wished everyone a safe journey home. We'll see them, we hope, in September.  Thanks to everyone who gave up their day to visit us.

Monday, 25 March 2013

'Hardy and the Inaugural': Professor John Hughes's Inaugural Lecture at the University of Gloucestershire

Stinsford Church, Dorset, burial site of Hardy's heart.

Old and new friends and colleagues gathered together last Wednesday to hear John Hughes, Professor of Nineteenth-Century English Literature, give his Inaugural Lecture. The poet and novelist Thomas Hardy, about whom John has published for many years, is fascinated by beginnings and transitional states. In his lecture 'Hardy and the Inaugural', John took up the notion of the 'inaugural' as a particular quality of lyric poetry. He remarks:

The lecture explores the idea of the inaugural as to do with transitions, turning points, transformations, and new beginnings. It links this discussion to an account of the effects of poetic language in general, and to some examples drawn from the poetry of Thomas Hardy, in particular. 

And, he might have added, from Bob Dylan. In an unexpected departure**, John drew insights from Hardy's poetry to show how Bob Dylan represented an inaugural stage of 1960s culture, a poet who shares Hardy's awareness of creative moments of transition. Dylan is as famous for the way he appears in photos as for the way he sounds; John argued persuasively that these visual representations contained what Hardy would have called poetic 'Moments of Being'. Even politicians are keen to borrow some of Dylan's aura for themselves; one of John's lecture slides, showing David and Samantha Cameron in a photo from the Huffington Post in which their body language imitated that of Dylan and Suze Rotolo on the cover of The Freewheeling Bob Dylan, brought the house down. But John was making a serious point about how the inaugural can be recuperated, morally, politically and aesthetically, so that its representations can create the illusions of transitions.

The Vice-Chancellor, Stephen Marston, introduced John, and Professor Peter Childs proposed the traditional vote of thanks afterwards.

**but we await eagerly Professor John Hughes's book Invisible Now: Bob Dylan in the 1960s, to be published by Ashgate in August 2013.

Friday, 15 March 2013

'Love and Romance in the Song of Songs, the Bible's Only Romance Poem

The Severn Forum

Love and Romance in the Song of Songs, the Bible’s only love poem’
Cheryl Exum, Professor Emerita of Biblical Studies, University of Sheffield, and Director of Sheffield Phoenix Press
Park Campus, Tiered Lecture Theatre (TC014), Thursday 21st March, 7.45.
Free to students
£3 entry (for non-students, non-members).

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Ivor Gurney, poet of the Severn and the Somme

The Gloucestershire poet Ivor Gurney (1890-1937) was also a composer. This week, one of his hitherto unknown sonatas was released from the  Gloucestershire Archives for the first time. Gurney wrote the Violin Sonata in E-Flat Major on his return from the front in 1918. Gurney's beautiful songs and settings are well-known. Listen to 'Sleep' here.

The South Midlands is a musical land, the birthplace of Ralph Vaughan Williams, Herbert Howells, Gustav Holst (Gloucestershire) and Edward Elgar (Worcestershire). It also became famous for its poets after World War I. Some poets, like Gurney and F.W.Harvey, were born here; others, like Edward Thomas, Robert Frost, and Eleanor Farjeon, who identified themselves as the Dymock Poets, were drawn by the special magic of this region. Perhaps the landscape spoke to them in ways that silenced the horrors of war.
The University of Gloucestershire holds the entire Dymock Poets archives and the Edward Thomas collection, among many other things of interest. Be sure to visit.

Monday, 21 January 2013

George Orwell Day

Placa de George Orwell, Barcelona. Photo: H. Weeks
President Obama's second inauguration may have pushed the first annual George Orwell Day out of the headlines, but both occasions are remarkable and deserving of our notice. To mark the 63rd anniversary of Orwell' s death, Penguin Books have declared January 21 a day to remember and to re-read Orwell's novels, essays, and journalism. Today's Guardian collects the events in this article. It includes links to the  upcoming season,  The Real George Orwell  and to Orwell's celebrated 'Politics and the English Language'. Do Orwell's five rules of good writing still mean anything in the digital age? You decide.

He thought of the telescreen with its never-sleeping ear. They could spy upon you night and day, but if you kept your head you could still outwit them. With all their cleverness they had never mastered the secret of finding out what another human being was thinking.
              from Nineteen-Eighty-Four (1949): 2.7
George Orwell (Eric Blair) 
25 June 1903 - 21 January 1950

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Should your Humanities degree make you 'employable'?

Just before the Christmas break, research students and staff from the School of Humanities staged a debate on a subject exercising everyone in the HE sector: employability. Rowan Middleton, a postgraduate student of English Literature and Creative Writing, reports.

Panellists Dr Will Large, Dr Martin Randall, Professor Melissa Raphael, Dr Arran Stibbe and Dr Debby Thacker each outlined their position on the topic 'Should the Humanities embrace or resist the pressure to incorporate "employability" into its programmes?" before engaging in a lively debate. Some of the issues and questions raised are as follows.
  • The difficulty of defining 'employability'
  • A ‘wary handshake’ approach which combined ‘employability’ skills with a critical awareness of work.
  • A potential ‘backlash’ arising from the increased use of internships in the workplace.
  • The dangers involved in seeing people as ‘human capital’.
  • The need for humanities students to put more work into improving their CVs.
  • Are the arts ‘parasitic’ on society or a necessary part of society itself?
The debate could have continued, but we ran out of time – now is your chance to join the debate online by leaving a comment below...
Readers, what do you think?