Welcome to English: Shared Futures 2020!

On this page you will find the full programme of papers, sessions, dialogues, salons and lectures  for the conference.

You can click on each day to explore everything that’s on offer and you can search by name of panel convenor and title of session.  When you’re ready, you can “star” sessions you’re particularly interested in to build your own personal schedule.

The plenary lectures will be held in the Opera Theatre, Royal Northern College of Music. All the other sessions run in parallel and will take place in rooms in the RNCM, Manchester Metropolitan University, or the University of Manchester. The Publishers’ Hall and small press area will be in the RNCM, where there is also a café. We’re also running a range of fringe events (further details available soon). Details of rooms, and routes between them will be supplied shortly.

There’s no official lunch break, though tea and coffee will be available throughout the conference in the RNCM, and details of local cafés and restaurants will be provided on the web-site soon.

For ease of reference, you can also download a simple PDF programme. There will be a very limited number of paper programmes available at the conference for delegates with accessibility requirements.

We very much hope you’ll enjoy seeing what’s on offer, and that you’ll enjoy discovering new scholarship and subjects as well as more familiar interests.

Please note that the room numbers are placeholders; we will add in the actual names of the rooms closer to the conference.

  Registration Session I Session II Session III Session IV Session V Evening
Friday 09:30 – 11:00 11:00 – 12:15 12:30 – 13:45 14:00 – 15:15 15:30 – 16:45


17:00 – 18:15


18:30 – 20:00

Saturday 08:30 – 09:15 09:15 – 10:30


11:00 – 12:15

12:45 – 14:00 14:15 – 15:30 15:45 – 17:00 English Association Fellows’ Reception


09:45 – 11:15

11:30 – 12:45 13:00 – 14:15 14:30 – 15:45 16:00 – 17:15  



Friday 26 Jun 2020

11:00 am – 12:15 pm Friday Session I

25 Years of Beginning Theory: A (Celebratory) Roundtable

Natasha AldenLecture Theatre

2020 marks the 25th anniversary of the publication of Peter Barry’s Beginning Theory (Manchester University Press). Barry’s book has been a reassuring presence on the desks of at least two generations of undergraduates. This session celebrates the book, and considers its influence on the teaching of theory today.

Peter Barry, Aberystwyth
Stephen Regan, Durham (speaking on the book’s impact in teaching theory)
Sophie Vaclos, Glasgow (co-ordinator of the ‘Theory Now’ network)
Matthew Frost, Manchester University Press (publisher of the ‘Beginnings’ series)
Alice Bennett, Liverpool Hope (speaking on teaching with Beginning Theory)
Tasha Alden, Aberystwyth (speaking on recent developments in the teaching of theory)

Coordinators: Alice Bennett (Liverpool Hope) and Tasha Alden (Aberystwyth)

Fri 11:00 am – 12:15 pm


Adult, Continuing, Extramural, Community, Lifelong… English

Jenny BavidgeMMUd

This panel will address the current and future contexts for teaching of English literature to adult students within and without the academy.

English Literature was at the heart of the century-long development adult education in the UK. Figures such as Raymond Williams and Richard Hoggart led the development of extramural courses which brought mature and working students to literary study, to begin their path towards HE qualifications or purely for the love of the thing. However, since the 1990s, the continuing education sector has undergone a massive decline and many of these courses and opportunities have disappeared. Most extramural departments have been closed or severely attenuated and, with them, University English’s direct contact with continuing education students has diminshed.

Any discussion of adult or extramural education has to acknowledge this decline in/destruction of these hard-fought for spaces, but we should also look to the opening up of other kinds of formal and informal pedagogic opportunities. What kind of English is being developed in courses emerging from newer, more flexible and responsive modes of engaging public and lifelong audiences in literary study?

Leonard, Jude and Rita too: is there still space in HE for extramural learners?
Jenny Bavidge, Academic Director and University Senior Lecturer in  English Literature, Institute of Continuing Education, University of Cambridge

OU Eng Lit at 50
Jonathan Gibson, Senior Lecturer and Qualification Lead for English Literature at The Open University

Richard Danson Brown, Head of School Arts and Humanities at The Open University

An Inclusive and Engaging Curriculum: Seeing yourself and meeting others
Marie-Annick Gournet, Director of Part-Time Programmes and BA English and Community Engagement, University of Bristol

Fri 11:00 am – 12:15 pm

Applying English: a Panel on the Future of/in Applied English

Jessica NorledgeMMUb

The next generation of digitally augmented learning regards the inherent fluidity of the student experience as the fixed constant, around which course material and modes of delivery can adapt and flex. Unlike traditional web-based courses, which typically comprise ‘prescriptive’ (Garrison, 2011: 30), often static content and rigid core designs, Distance Learning provision for the mid-21st century must respond to the increasingly dynamic nature of students’ working lives, where portfolio careers are rapidly becoming the norm and lifelong education must adapt accordingly. As noted by Sànchez-Elvira Paniagua and Simpson (2018: 7-8), ‘in our current, enriched, complex and technologically mediated scenarios of teaching and learning, more than ever students will need to be conveniently empowered for a successful learning experience’, with systems and methods for online learning providing innovative and exciting opportunities that take students well beyond the boundaries of a three or four-year degree.

Constructing learning and teaching systems and environments for and with Distance Learners is, however, notably challenging, with face-to-face contact and synchronous discussions being harder to facilitate; with differences in time-zones impacting upon the organisation of live seminars; and with potential student numbers exceeding those of typical on-campus cohorts. This impacts not only on the traditional “academic” aspects of teaching and learning, but also on students’ access to peer communities and pastoral support and resources. This has been noted as perhaps the ‘greatest shortcoming’ of Distance Learning programmes to date (Garrison, 2011: 30), with isolation and problems of access creating and enforcing barriers for and between students (Neville, 2007: 54-55).

The School of English at Nottingham is uniquely positioned to deliver sector-changing and visionary international education which meets these pedagogical challenges, proposing a major re-imagining of augmented education in the untapped market of high-level postgraduate study. In autumn of 2020, we will be set to launch a new suite of tailored MA degrees for Distance Learning, which in placing student experience at their centre, will provide bespoke teaching opportunities, and project a defining new model for digital course delivery and global reach. These courses by design are multimodal, permeable, responsive, personalised, textured and contextually connected. Our panel will comprise six ten-minute presentations, each of which will centre of one of our guiding principles, reflecting our current thinking and pedagogical innovation and exploring the following key themes and topics:

  • Teaching linguistics and literature together
  • Technological advances in teaching English
  • English and work/life
  • EDI and accessibility
  • Teaching English at distance

Dr Rebecca Gregory (University of Nottingham)
Dr Carina Hart (University of Nottingham)
Emma Hutson (University of Nottingham)
Dr Martina McCarthy (University of Nottingham)
Dr Jessica Norledge (University of Nottingham)
Prof. Peter Stockwell (University of Nottingham)
Dr Paweł Szudarski (University of Nottingham)
Dr Anne Marie Williamson (University of Nottingham)


Garrison, R.D. (2011). E-Learning in the 21st Century: A Framework for Research and
Practice, 2nd edition. London New York: Routledge.

Neville, L. (2007). The Personal Tutor’s Handbook. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Sànchez-Elvira Paniagua, A. and Simpson, O. (2018). ‘Developing student support for open
and distance learning: The EMPOWER Project’, Journal of Interactive Media in Education, 9(1): 1-10.

Fri 11:00 am – 12:15 pm

Are Children Still The Future?

Dominic DeanMMUf

Chair/respondent: Pam Thurschwell (Reader, Sussex)

In his landmark 2004 work, No Future, Lee Edelman argued that mainstream politics uses the image of the child to promote a futurism that forecloses any possibility of radical change. For Edelman, it was axiomatic that a dominant neoliberal politics demands allegiance to the future – and the child – as a coercive, universalist morality. Can this premise still be assumed?

During the 2010s, intergenerational conflict has become a defining theme of political life, with accusations of an older generation deliberating rejecting the image of the child (and perhaps of neoliberal futurism) alongside catastrophic climate change, migration crises, economic jeopardy and new waves of queer (particularly Trans) identities conflicting with renewed social conservatism.

As rhetoric of saving the future intensifies in urgency – yet meets with increasingly unapologetic rejection – where does this leave the image (and reality) of the child in literature, culture and politics? Does Edelman’s child as fundamentally conservative trope still hold? And how might the theory and practice of reading evolve to respond to our collapsing and conflicted futures?

This panel, which puts postgraduate and early-career researchers into dialogue with established scholars, will comprise four short and provocative position papers, followed by a 30-minute discussion/Q&A.

Dean’s paper argues that the 2010s have seen international crises, renewed nationalisms, and major institutional scandals, all generating conflicts over responsibility for the child – modernity’s most compelling figure for global responsibilities and their failures. These conflicts seek to re-attribute responsibility for the child between the ‘international community’, the nation(alist) state, and the (educational or other) institution. With reference to Kazuo Ishiguro, Sarah Waters, and Jim Crace, this paper will introduce how contemporary British fiction negotiates these conflicts.

Dominic Dean (REF Manager and Course Tutor, Sussex)
Dominic Dean is an early-career researcher working on children and violence in contemporary fiction, on which he has published in Textual Practice, Commonwealth Literature, and Literature and History. Dom is currently preparing a monograph on killing children in British fiction from Thatcherism to Brexit. Dom works at Sussex, split between teaching and managing the submission to REF2021.

Barnsley’s paper explores the ‘the global child,’ a racialised and gendered figure that often imposes blueprints of ‘good’ children formulated in the Global North onto childhoods in the Global South. This neo-colonial international development requires critical interrogation. However, cultural engagements with childhoods in the Global South maintain the child as a rich imaginative figure, who draws us into proximity with the precarious futures of poor youthful societies in the context of planetary catastrophe and suggests ways of facing up to them. If we are to ‘take issue’, following Rita Felski, with the ubiquitous critical negativity towards the child advocated by Edelman, what kind of postcolonial reading practice is required?

Veronica Barnsley (Lecturer, Sheffield)
Veronica is a lecturer in Contemporary Literature at the University of Sheffield. Her research focuses primarily on childhood and international development. Currently she’s fascinated by representations of midwifery and reproductive rights and is leading a public engagement project on cross-cultural birth narratives. She has published articles in Moving Worlds, The Journal of Commonwealth Literature and Journal of Postcolonial Writing and is writing a monograph on the child in global literatures.

Liberatore’s paper considers how, following Edelman’s polemic, critics (Bond Stockton 2009; Zaborskis 2015) have argued that the figural Child, far from representing foreclosure of queer futures, has rich potential for being strange to adult ideas of “straight” temporality. Considering the “breaking” voices of child choristers, Liberatore argues against development that would have the body unfold happily in “due time”; for some children, it is delay, not growth, which presents possibilities for thriving. How might the Child as queer (because asynchronous) meet real children’s experiences of being out of time?

Benjamin Liberatore is a Ph.D. student in sociocultural anthropology at Columbia University in New York. His fieldwork concerns choristership in English cathedrals and asks how children are imagined in narratives of continuity or change. Ben’s research interests also include the co-elaboration of gender and age and debates around puberty suspension.

Vardy’s paper explores how the figure of the child functions as a site for debates about contemporary historicity, defined by Jameson as a ‘perception of the present as history.’ Reading Sarah Moss’s Ghost Wall (2018), in which the child embodies both contemporary cycles-of-abuse and experiences of deep time, Vardy argues that the child complicates any neat critical opposition between ‘naturalising’ and ‘denaturalising’ the present.

Christopher Vardy (Lecturer, Manchester)
Christopher Vardy is a lecturer in Contemporary Literature at the University of Manchester. He is writing a book exploring figurations of Thatcherism and the End of History in 21st-century British culture and recently co-edited a special issue of Keywords exploring contemporary conceptions of crisis. He has published articles on materialism and adolescence in British historical fiction and the use of the abused child as a metaphor for historical transformations.

Thurschwell (chair/respondent) has published extensively on children and youth in literature, psychoanalysis, and popular culture.

Fri 11:00 am – 12:15 pm

Between the Acts 2021: An Adaptation in Progress

Rosie LavanMCRo

Between the Acts (1941), Virginia Woolf’s final novel, contains fragments of a pageant never intended for performance before a live audience. This panel explores the tensions – ethical, creative and intellectual – inherent to a project of adaptation, which seeks to realise not only the pageant of Woolf’s Miss La Trobe, but also the world of the novel from which it emerges. In so doing, both the panel and the adaptation in progress we describe press upon the intersections of performance, text and context.

This project is timed to mark the 80th anniversary of the novel’s publication, and the 80th anniversary of its author’s death. At the same time, this project seeks to draw out the contemporary social, political and artistic relevance of Between the Acts. Woolf wrote the novel under extreme pressure: personal and geopolitical. It was published in a country at war, with a heightened sense of national self-consciousness, if such a state can be described. It strikes at the heart of issues that remain urgent preoccupations, chiefly the matters of community coherence, collective responsibility and shared understanding. Our adaptation asks what it means to listen to and to see ourselves, and each other, in such a febrile and fragile environment.

In the course of the panel, we will present and explore distinctive choices we have made early in the creative process for casting and designing the production – choices which are informed by sources as distinct as Danny Boyle’s Isles of Wonder (2012), the AHRC-funded project The Redress of the Past: Historical Pageants in Britain, 1905-2016, the RSC’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream: A Play for the Nation (Erica Whyman, 2016) and Carol Ann Duffy’s My Country; A Work in Progress (Rufus Norris, 2017). Our focus will rest on a key aspect of our adaptation: how communities across the United Kingdom might be involved in realising Woolf’s original pageant and in expanding the period ‘between the acts’. Miss La Trobe’s pageant covers several centuries: she begins with the medieval and ends on a precipice, a June day in 1939. In our production, we envisage extending the performance to take account of subsequent shared pasts, presents and futures nationwide. How would communities in today’s UK play out the last 80 years and look forward to the next?

In addition to describing the process of adaptation, we want to use the opportunity to present at English: Shared Futures to discuss how the novelist’s style and technique frustrate broader philosophical questions of form and genre. An analysis of the ways in which Woolf uses the tools of fiction to make us see in Between the Acts has to be central to any attempt to adapt the novel into a performance. What is the effect, on the reader, of combining novel, script and live performance? How are the visualisations captured on the pages of a novel distinct from those potential scenes encapsulated within a play text, or the words and movements of a play text enacted? How is imagination different from realisation or from consciousness? Where do we sit in relation to a text, its context and our own? How do we commune with a text and with our fellow readers – or viewers? Is a reader, at once and inevitably, an audience member?

Between the Acts 2021 will be the third production made by Sidelong Glance. Lavan and Lybeck are co-directors of the company and presented their collaboration on theatre and research piece Wild Laughter at English: Shared Futures 2017.

Dr Rosie Lavan, Assistant Professor, School of English, Trinity College Dublin
Dr Eleanor Lybeck, Independent scholar, writer and theatremaker 

Fri 11:00 am – 12:15 pm

Creative Writing and poetry: a panel on the changing contexts of poetry in England

John McauliffeConference Room

Addressing the absence of poetry in Mark McGurl’s account of the Program Era, Loren Glass argues that poetry is “the ‘purer’ product of the Program Era,” since poetry, “by contrast […] remains resolutely useless in an economic sense (if not entirely uncontaminated by the logic of capitalism).” Considering the recent history of creative writing in the UK, from the first graduate programme at the UEA in the 1970s to the present day, in which over 500 undergraduate
creative writing courses are offered by around 100 institutions, this panel asks how contemporary poetics have indexed the changing pedagogical and institutional contexts of poetry in the university.

Lucy Burns addresses this question of the utility or value of poetry, by examining the recent poetry and fiction of UEA doctoral graduate, Sam Riviere, this presentation analyses use and uselessness in Riviere’s generative poetics.

Joey Connolly will reflect on the different contexts for thinking about and documenting poetry and its outcomes at university level and in private providers including The Poetry School and the Faber Academy.

John McAuliffe will examine changing ideas of Creativity and productivity, ideas prevalent in UK universities, and whether they may be seen to affect Creative Writing curriculum and, more speculatively, some developments in recent English poetry and poetics.

JT Welsch will consider the challenges and possibilities for integrating practice-based creative writing pedagogy into the critical study of literature. An MA module called ‘The Making of Modern Poems’ provides a case study, using a responsive workshop model based on Charles Bernstein’s notion of ‘wreading’ (or reading through writing).

Fri 11:00 am – 12:15 pm

Embedding Well-Being Into The English Curriculum

Kate AughtersonMMUe

No-one could deny that the media account of a crisis in young people’s mental health and well-being is born out by the personal experience of academics and teachers in Higher Education and secondary schools (https://www.timeshighereducation.com/features/academics-need-greater-help-addressing-mental-health-problems-their-students)

What can and should educationalists do about this crisis? What is our role and how might, can or should it relate to our discipline?

Recent national research and investigative reports in the sector such as Houghton and Anderson’s Embedding mental wellbeing in the curriculum: maximising success in higher education (HEA, 2017) and UUK’s Student mental well-being in higher education (2016) urge universities to respond to the crisis.

John Morton (‘Balancing Resilience with Wellbeing and Student Experience in English Literature’) argues that despite the contemporary focus among employers and TEF data collection on the necessity of building student resilience to improve student’s chances of securing positive graduate outcomes, programmes still have both a duty of care for their students, and metric-related reasons to be wary of focusing too strongly on resilience and employability. Students often take a dim view of resilience-building activities, which can be reflected in verbal feedback, the NSS, and in a lack of attendance and engagement. This highlights a key tension in English Literature pedagogy between challenging students to develop skills and experiences outside of their ‘comfort zone’, and providing a programme and atmosphere conducive to their wellbeing. Morton suggests several approaches which a programme could take to both develop resilience but keep student wellbeing central to its focus.

Kate Aughterson and Vedrana Velickovic will discuss two case studies of recent developments in targeted areas of the English Curriculum at the University of Brighton. The first is the introduction of reading groups as support for an early modern module; and the second is the recent establishment of a hub called WriteWell, which was setup to foster an inclusive learning community for students. Research shows that writing and reading both regularly and collectively and in a supported environment improves resilience, a sense of community (see, for example, Pennebacker and Smyth, 2016; Smith 1997; Mindlab International, 2009), as well as general skills which are essential to successful life-long achievement and happiness for Humanities-based graduates (British Academy, Occupation and Skill, 2017). Aughterson argues that a twenty-first century version of humanism can both strengthen our students and strengthen our discipline’s distintinctiveness. Vedrana Velickovic is Principal Lecturer in English Literature and Academic Programme Leader at the University of Brighton. She is the author of Eastern Europeans in Contemporary Literature and Culture: Imagining New Europe (Palgrave, 2019) and has published on other contemporary literature topics and writers ranging from the intersections between postcolonialism and postcommunism, Bernardine Evaristo, Dubravka Ugrešić, Vesna Goldsworthy and literary theory. She also runs a decolonising the curriculum reading group with literature, media and creative writing students at Brighton.

Michelle Prentice has been instrumental in embedding well-being in her secondary school in Hove over the past two years, and continues to work at ways in which well-being can be seen as integral to learning communities in an increasingly education system (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_ArvWFpnR-c). She argues that by building well-being into the everyday curriculum and at subject level, we can resist the instrumentalism of education. http://www.hovepark.org.uk/Mental-Health-and-Wellbeing

Fri 11:00 am – 12:15 pm

English as activism

Katharine Cox 2MCRl

This panel explores a series of interrelated projects addressing gender-based violence in India by an interdisciplinary team of academics from Sheffield Hallam and Bournemouth University working in partnership with community social enterprises in Sheffield and Mumbai and NGOs based in India. These projects coalesce under the banner of ‘Justice for Her’ and include high-profile dissemination activities through the Jaipur Literature Festival and via social media. Conceived initially as a criminological intervention into social policy, practice and police education in India, the project team has expanded the project remit to consider the opportunities for arts-based activism. Specifically, this has taken the form of ‘English as activism’ through the creation of spoken word poetry and filmmaking commissions led by Dr Sunita Toor.

As part of the panel, we will screen the ‘Justice for Her’ spoken word poem (approx. 5 minutes), and, time allowing, connect with Simar in Mumbai. The panel will consider ‘Applied English’ through multi-agency and international working, focus on the commissioning process, the ways in which English can be a facilitating discipline for activism and consider the project team’s next steps in our development of arts and English-based activism.

Joe Kriss (Director of Opus Independents, Sheffield)
Simar Singh (Unerase Poetry, Mumbai)
Dr Sunita Toor (Principal lecturer in Criminology, Sheffield Hallam University)
Dr Henry Bell (Senior Lecturer in Theatre, Sheffield Hallam University)
Professor Katharine Cox (Head of Humanities & Law, Bournemouth University)

Fri 11:00 am – 12:15 pm

Journeying the Contemporary Women’s Writing and CWW creative writing PHD : workshop

Gina WiskerMCRn

Led by Prof Gina Wisker, this workshop will begin with short inputs from a panel comprising colleagues at various stages in our careers who are writing, or have completed PhD’s in contemporary women’s writing and/or creative writing with a CWW focus, are supervising, and or examining . We will introduce issues about and discuss the journey: writing, supervision, examination and broader questions about what a contemporary women’s writing PhD, especially in the discipline of creative writing, is or can be. The workshop will develop into Q&A, and discussion so that the burning issues, processes, experiences, challenges and delights can be teased out and shared.

We might think about the following issues:

The journey:

  • Considerations around process, e.g. the pros and cons of receiving feedback on early drafts. Teaching alongside the PhD
  • the process of writing as research and the melding of creative and critical elements
  • What research methods would be used and how would these be woven together to form a cohesive critical-creative dissertation.
  • Choosing an institution and supervisors
  • Fitting a creative project into traditional academic moulds (for proposal, funding applications, etc.)


  • How might the supervisor help prepare the PhD student for an academic career?
  • What is the optimum mechanism for collaborative supervisions?
  • What role should the supervisor play in guiding the PhD student in relation to publication plans, conferences and undergraduate teaching experience?
  • Should the supervisor’s role end at the point of successful completion, or should the supervisor continue to mentor informally


  • How do you examine a contemporary women’s writing PhD? And particularly a CWW PhD that involves creative writing?
  • Surviving the examination and afterwards

Professor Gina Wisker (University of Brighton) I am fascinated by the forms, explorations and the lived journeys of working with the PhD in both contemporary women’s writing and creative writing, the challenges, the personal, creative, theorised involvement and outcomes (supervised 35 PhDs to completion and examined 47, some on contemporary women’s writing and some also on creative writing.) Research and write across HE (postgraduate supervision, writing for academic publication) and contemporary women’s writing, teach CWW and CW and write creatively (poetry and short stories ) run workshops on supervision and writing and was a member of the AHRC collaborative skills development.

Professor Lucie Armitt (University of Lincoln): I have supervised to completion Phd students at 4 different UK universities, examined as external (UK and internationally) 25 Phd theses, run a Doctoral Training Programme specifically Phd Students in English at the University of Lincoln. In 2012-2014 I was P.I. of an AHRC-funded Collaborative Skills Development Programme for ECRs and PGRs ( contemporary women’s writing). I have become increasingly interested in the relationship between supervising and professional development (of students and co-supervisors) and the role the supervisor might play as a mentor (formal or informal) to the student planning an academic career.

Fiona Martinez, University of Sheffield gained her PhD in contemporary women’s writing in 2019.

Rachel Newsome Lecturer in Critical & Contextual Studies at The University of Salford, two thirds way into a Creative Writing PhD Here Be Monsters: Writing The Dangerous.

Hannah Vincent, the University of Sussex, a practising novelist, playwright and Creative Writing tutor, interested in maintaining a balance between theoretical investigation, academic rigour and the instinctive, unconscious patterning (a la Julia Cameron, Natalie Goldberg et al) that allows a creative practice to flourish.

Paula McGrath Writer, recent Creative Writing PhD student and teacher of Creative Writing at UCD, PhD project combined critical and creative writing to find strategies for the representation of trauma in prose fiction found at the intersection of theatre and the novel. It contrasted modernist strategies used by Eimear McBride to represent trauma in her novel A Girl is a Half-formed Thing with those used by Annie Ryan in her stage adaptation of the text, analysing both approaches within the context of current literary trauma theory.

Fri 11:00 am – 12:15 pm


Outsiders and Art: writing prose poetry in a troubled world


Simon Critchley wrote, “Poetry describes life as it is,
but in all the intricate evasions of as… It is a world both seen and
unseen until seen with the poet’s eyes.” Prose poetry is by nature an
experimental artform which “pushes at the boundaries of what constitutes poetry
and prose respectively” (Caldwell, 2020). This panel explores ‘prose poetry’
and the three prose poet/academics offer a discussion on the larger than life
range of critical observation of a ‘troubled world’ offered through its
critical lens. Protest art, protest songs and protest poetry are familiar tools
of activitism. The prose poem offers a unique hybridity and artistic
inhabitation which, like Freud’s unheimlich (strangely
familiar) evokes a doubling: that which we inhabit and that which inhabits us.
It is an ideal form for our contemporary world. 

Anne Caldwell is
a poet and creative writing lecturer with the Open University.  She is
completing a PhD at the University of Bolton.  Anne has published three
collections of poetry and edited works of creative non-fiction and prose
poetry. She is a tutor for the Arvon foundation at Lumb Bank this autumn
–  https://www.arvon.org/writing-courses/courses-retreats/prose-poetry. She
co-edited The Valley Press Anthology of Prose Poetry in 2019
with Oz Hardwick, with support from the Arts Council. She is currently working
on a forthcoming book of prose poems exploring place called ‘Alice and the

Oz Hardwick is
Professor of English at Leeds Trinity University, where he leads postgraduate
Creative Writing programmes. His creative work has been published and performed
internationally in and on diverse media, and he has also published extensively
on medieval art and literature, and on medievalism. His chapbook Learning to
Have Lost (Canberra: IPSI, 2018) won the 2019 Rubery International Book Award
for a poetry collection.

Andrew Melrose is Emeritus Professor of Writing at the University of Winchester, UK. He has over 150 films, fiction, nonfiction, research, songs, poems and other writing credits, including 33 scholarly or creative books. He is currently working on The Boat, an extended poem, book and exhibition about people migrating to safer countries on boats. 

NAWE logo

Fri 11:00 am – 12:15 pm

Representing Manchester: Designing and Delivering a First Year Mandatory Core Unit

Ginette Carpenter (was Michelis 2)MMUc

This panel discusses Representing Manchester, a Level 4 (first year) core module designed for all students on the nine degree programmes housed by the department of English at Manchester Met. It was first delivered in 2018-19 to approximately 240 students and then in 2019 to approx. 300. In term one the unit teaches theoretical, analytical and critical approaches to reading at university level; term two turns to production skills as students devise, research and complete an extended project. The unit also delivers skills-based learning and personal tutoring and is designed as a holistic approach to Level 4 learning whereby a focus on the discipline-specific strategies needed for transition, learning and progression are augmented by ongoing skills delivery and academic support. All of this is achieved via the lens of a wide range of texts produced by and representative of Greater Manchester and the attendant cultural geographies.

The papers in this panel address differing aspects of the unit’s remit to demonstrate the huge potential for learning and innovation that this type of delivery can bring but also some of the problems we have encountered in managing and/or teaching on such a large core. This session, then, will be rooted in the particularities of this new unit at Manchester Metropolitan but, at the same time, opens-up wider thinking about curriculum design and delivery.

Strategic Overview – Facilitating Progression, Risk-Taking and Skills Development (Dr Nicola Bishop)

Education Lead, Department of English Manchester Metropolitan University

This paper takes an overview of the ways that a substantial core unit designed in this way can support a wide array of initiatives that contribute towards significant areas such as progression, closing the attainment gap, and the development of skills that will be crucial for the degree (and beyond). It looks at the ways that Representing Manchester has become a significant portal through which to address key aspects of the student experience, from both a micro and macro perspective, as a platform for curricular development (reading and writing skills, for instance), extra-curricular opportunities (including careers and employability support), and personal development.

Easing Transition – Embedding Personal Tutoring into Unit Delivery (Dr Ginette Carpenter)

Level 4 (Year One) Stage Tutor, Department of English, Manchester Metropolitan University

One of the key design aims of Representing Manchester was to implement a new method of delivery for Level 4 personal tutoring (PT). This was driven by historically erratic engagement with PT meetings over Level 4 and a desire to foster greater cohesion between curriculum content, delivery and PT. In dovetailing Level 4 PT with curriculum delivery the unit seeks to augment the tutor-tutee relationship, facilitating both weekly contact and differential levels of support. In this paper I detail the tutor and student experience of this model of embedded PT and argue for the benefits of this structure for underpinning a holistic student journey that emphasises transition, retention and progression.

Reading & Writing the City – Supporting Student Projects (Dr David Cooper)

Senior Lecturer, Department of English, Manchester Metropolitan University

The major assignment for the ‘Representing Manchester’ unit is the design and production of a substantial independent project emerging from the city and its environs. This paper will map out the pedagogic rationale for introducing place-based – and potentially interdisciplinary – project work at Level 4 paying particular attention to the opportunities it offers for the braiding of critical, creative, and reflective practices. It will also reflect on some of the pedagogic challenges that this extended, and often participatory, work has presented to tutors including the raising of ethical questions and issues and the time-intensiveness of project supervision.

Fri 11:00 am – 12:15 pm

Rescaling Eco-Poetics

Sam WeselowskiMCRg

In Spaces of Hope, David Harvey argues that to fight capital the left must “learn to coordinate potentially contradictory politics within itself at the different spatial scales for it is often the case in hierarchical spatial systems (and ecological problems frequently pose this dilemma) that what makes good political sense at one scale does not make such good politics at another” (50). In the struggle against capitalism’s multiple names and destructive modes — racialized and colonial extractions, austerity, deindustrialization, neoliberalism, the Anthropocene, the Sixth Extinction — how would contradictory politics be articulated in politically, socially and ecologically active poetics? How would the poem pay attention to the both expanding and contracting scale of political action necessary in the present? If articulating contradictory politics across distinct spaces, places and temporalities poses a problem for political coherency (and by extension efficacy), how might poetry and poetics begin to intervene on this problematic? Is poetry and poetics already engaged in such an intervention?

This panel seeks to take up these question through the theory and praxis of ecopoetics. As Jonathan Skinner notes, “ecopoetics brings ecology (an understanding of Earth systems including human ecology) together with the systems-aware writing of the ‘New American’ poetry, and conversely brings awareness of the writing environment into discussions of ecology” (322-323).

Taking ecopoetics as a creative practice that rearticulates global- and world-systems through the specificities of poetic form while also drawing attention to the site of composition (in every sense of the word), this panel critically re-examines poetry’s capacity for radical politics under conditions of ecological collapse. Crucially, this panel explores how the biospheric effects of globalized, geophysical capitalism are felt on the minutiae of the poem — the intimacy of its address, the inner workings of the line, syllable and phoneme. This panel in turn interrogates how the ecopoetic text bears these pressures to produce modes of attention that create informed politics across spatiotemporal scales and the contested relations between space, place and forms of life within them.

Some questions and/or topics of discussion might include:

  • Ecopoetics
  • Ecocriticism
  • Scale
  • Industrialization, post-Industrialization, deindustrialization
  • Urban ecology
  • Anthropocene
  • Capitalocene
  • Globalization
  • Digital and environmental humanities crossovers
  • Centre/periphery
  • Local-global dialectics
  • Movement
  • Attention
  • Microspection
  • Cartography
  • Cognitive mapping
  • Labour
  • Totality
  • Close and distant reading
  • Migration
  • World-Systems Theory
  • Affect
  • Combined and uneven development

Home is Where the Wi-Fi Connects Automatically: Exploring the Poetics of Roaming (Katharina Kalinowski)

PhD Candidate, Universität zu Köln / University of Kent / University College Dublin

Vernacular Realism: Looking from Below in the Poetry of Peter Culley (Tom Crompton)

PhD Candidate, University of Warwick

“[I]ncorporated into the waste stream”: Toxic Politics, Socio-Ecological Reproduction, and Poetic Scale (Katy Lewis Hood)

PhD Candidate, Queen Mary University of London

“Words turn mysteriously against those who use them”: Jack Spicer’s Microspection (Sam Weselowski)

PhD Candidate, University of Warwick

Marianne Moore’s “An Octopus”: Arctic Ecologies of the Self (Dr João Paulo Guimarães)

Postdoctoral Fellow, University College Dublin

Fri 11:00 am – 12:15 pm

Shakespearean City

Ewan FernieCarole Nash Recital Room

Despite being a small market town at some distance from the metropolitan centre, Stratford is an international capital of Shakespeare performance, education and culture. The phenomena of ‘Global Shakespeare’ and postcolonialism have tended to direct attention almost everywhere else, but this has hardly displaced Stratford’s centrality. The Shakespeare world comes to Stratford (as well as to London), and the big Shakespeare organisations have responded by
welcoming and showcasing the world there. But in fact there is ‘a world elsewhere’ just up the road in Birmingham – the youngest city in Europe, and a super-diverse one to boot….

This panel will present Birmingham’s lost Shakespearean heritage. Shakespeare was first played in modern dress in Birmingham, and the Birmingham Rep and other organisations continue to honour and refresh that vital tradition; but Birmingham was also home to the first great Shakespeare Library in the world, one which, in theory, still belongs to all the people of the city.

The establishment of this Birmingham Shakespeare Memorial Library in 1864 was meant as part of a world-historic, now largely forgotten effort to ‘give everything to everybody’, signalling nothing less than the start a new epoch of cultural democracy. ‘Shakespearean City’ begins with an exploration of this precious, mislaid heritage by Professor Ewan Fernie of The Shakespeare Institute, University of Birmingham. It will showcase the ‘Everything to Everybody’ Project, a collaboration between the University of Birmingham and Birmingham City Council meant to unlock and revive the first great Shakespeare Library for people and communities across contemporary Birmingham in time for the 2022 Commonwealth Games.

The panel continues with a proposal from the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Director of Education, Jacqui O’Hanlon, for ‘a grand alliance’ between Universities, cultural organisations and schools which will recover, reprise and renew the heritage of local communities such as Birmingham in a creative contribution to contemporary culture. O’Hanlon will offer a taste of the RSC’s commitment to and activities in Birmingham, before handing over to Dr Abigail Rokison-
Woodall (also of the Shakespeare Institute), who will unfold their pioneering collaboration with the city’s D/deaf children and how it connects to the ‘everything to everybody’ ethos.

The panel concludes with a collaborative presentation by the Head of Research at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, Rev Dr Paul Edmondson, and Birmingham City University’s BBC New Generation Thinker Dr Islam Issa on tapping into the multiplicitous faith traditions of today’s Birmingham in order to engage with Shakespeare and the city in new ways.

In the comparable, post-industrial city of Manchester / Salford, ‘Shakespearean City’ will explore the example of Birmingham in order to test the potential for community-building and civic renovation which art and culture, and Shakespeare in particular, offer to British and other cities in our time.

Fri 11:00 am – 12:15 pm

Shame and Contemporary Literature

Jennifer Cooke JMCRm

This panel responds to a major new scholarly work, Kaye Mitchell’s Writing Shame: Contemporary Literature, Gender and Negative Affects (EUP, 2020). Shame has attracted the interest of theorists but, as Mitchell’s introduction establishes, few literary studies have resulted. Writing Shame rectify this. Through readings of recent texts— literary and popular, fictional and autofictional, realist and experimental—the book maps out a contemporary, Western, shame culture, unpicks the complex triangulation of shame, gender and writing, and intervenes forcefully in feminist and queer debates. The book argues that shame cannot be overcome or abandoned, and that femininity and shame are utterly, necessarily imbricated. Foregrounding matters of sexuality, and touching on questions of race, masculinity and childhood, Writing Shame offers sharply political readings of neglected genres (lesbian pulp fiction), highly topical texts (like Kraus’s I Love Dick and Knausgaard’s My Struggle), and established authors (such as Mary Gaitskill, A.M. Homes, Rupert Thomson) on whom relatively little scholarship exists.

Writing Shame is a wide-ranging, ambitious study and the engagements with it offered by the panellists are evidence of its importance to the fields of contemporary literature and theory, feminism, and gender studies. Papers will be 15 minutes long, leaving 15 minutes for discussion.

Dr Alexandra Kingston-Reese is Lecturer in Modern and Contemporary Literature, University of York and author of Contemporary Novelists and the Aesthetics of Twenty-First Century American Life (U of Iowa P, 2020). She is reviews editor of ASAP/Journal. She has published and forthcoming articles on the contemporary arts and affect, and is working on a book on difficult affects involved in care, repair, and absorption in contemporary literature, art, and visual culture. Engaging with Mitchell’s second and third chapters on the work of Chris Kraus and Karl Ove Knausgaard, she will consider the formal affordances of contemporary autofiction, confession, and shame.

Dr Georgia Walker Churchman is Lecturer in the Humanities at the University of East Anglia.
She completed her PhD on representations of madness in contemporary writing in 2016 and has published on madness and nationalism in the work of Alasdair Gray. Recently, she has worked on the relationship between affect theory, psychoanalysis, and the medical humanities. Drawing on Mary Gaitskill’s The Mare (2015) and Lisa Taddeo’s Three Women (2019), her paper, ‘What Do We Do With Shame?’ will focus on Mitchell’s central claim that shame is a condition of dishonour so ‘integral…to the [feminine] processes of subjectivation’ that it is impossible to simply overcome, asking what do we do with it, and how is it done?

Oliver Haslam is a Doctoral College-funded third-year PhD student at Loughborough University. He researches the persistence of minimalism within American literature from the twentieth to the twenty-first century. This exploration is intertwined with theorisations of affect, shame, and the everyday in relation to Joan Didion, Raymond Carver, Paul Auster and others. Mitchell’s analysis of shame in relation to failed masculinities (and the troubling heroization that often occurs through such a foregrounding of shame) is integral to an understanding of the complexities and unavoidable paradoxes of this affect within literary form. Haslam’s paper is titled ‘Failed Masculinities: Erasure and Exposure in Formations of Shame’.

Panel proposer and chair
Dr Jennifer Cooke is Senior Lecturer in English at Loughborough University and author of Contemporary Feminist Life-writing: The New Audacity (CUP, 2020) and Legacies of Plague in Literature, Theory, and Film (Palgrave, 2009) She is editor of New Feminist Studies: Twenty-first-century Critical Interventions (CUP, 2020) and Scenes of Intimacy: Reading, Writing and Theorizing Contemporary Literature (Bloomsbury Academic, 2013).
Email: J.A.Cooke@lboro.ac.uk

Fri 11:00 am – 12:15 pm

Teaching and researching the Poet laureate: The impact of Carol Ann Duffy’s Laureateship on poetry inside and outside academia

Angelica MichelisMMUa

This panel wants to discuss the ways in which Carol Ann Duffy’s laureateship has affected the teaching and researching of contemporary poetry. The various contributions will pay attention to specific themes in her poetry (for example, the figure of the foreigner), the relationship between poetry, sexual and gender identity, concepts of national identity and the construction of new readers of poetry (for example, poetry for children). Speakers will be from an HE and sixth form background, a postgraduate student and poet who is completing a PhD in critical and creative writing and also teaches and organises workshops and courses on poetry outside academia. There will also be a participant from outside Britain, talking about teaching and researching Duffy’s work at a Chinese University. The panel will explore and discuss how Duffy’s poetic output and outreach work has expanded the readership of poetry to reduce the gap between poets and potential readers. The various speakers will give a short introductory precis of their research and/or pedagogical work on Duffy’s poetry and then open the discussion to the room.

Fri 11:00 am – 12:15 pm

The Past is a Foreign Country: Minoli Salgado and Seni Seneviratne in Conversation

Minoli SalgadoSeminar Room 3

This paper explores the recuperative role of the imagination in the troubled space of border witnessing in Cambodian refugee tales. Drawing on the notion of ‘the witness traveller’ (Felman and Laub), it shows how witnessing at the limit experience of death compels an engagement with fictive registers and various realisms – figural, traumatic and magical – to mediate the traumas of genocidal survival and cultural displacement. It draws together Loung Ung’ autobiography First They Killed My Father, Madeleine Thien’s novel Dogs at the Perimeter and Vaddey Ratner’s fictionalised memoir In the Shadow of the Banyan to show how these writers use a variety of fictive registers to ‘unnarrate’ the past.

Minoli Salgado is a writer and Reader in English at the University of Sussex who from January 2020 will be the new Professor of International Writing at MMU. She is the author of the critical monograph, Writing Sri Lanka: Literature, Resistance and the Politics of Place (Routledge, 2007), the novel, A Little Dust on the Eyes (Peepal Tree, 2014), which won the first SI Leeds Literary Prize and was longlisted for the DSC Prize in South Asian Literature and a collection of short stories, Broken Jaw (87 Press, 2019). She is currently on a Leverhulme Fellowship exploring the way testimonial narratives from global sites of exceptional violence offer literary landscapes for the mediation of justice.

Academic profile: http://www.sussex.ac.uk/profiles/10687

Personal website: www.minolisalgado.com

Fri 11:00 am – 12:15 pm

University English – Decolonising the Discipline

Opera Theatre

Fri 11:00 am – 12:15 pm

Victorian and Edwardian Women’s Ghost Stories

Emma LigginsMCRh

This panel aims to reassess the development and diversity of women’s writing about the supernatural in the Victorian and Edwardian period. It focuses on the ways in which female authors of ghost stories, including neglected figures such as Mary Braddon and the Anglo-Indian writer Alice Perrin, used the conventions of the ghost story to tap into wider cultural heritages of Victorian and Edwardian gender and genre construction. It includes papers by scholars at different stages in their careers.

Victorian Women’s Haunted Houses: Sensational Ghosts (Janine Hatter, Lecturer, University of Hull)

Dr Janine Hatter researches Victorian popular literature, art and culture. She is co-editor of two series: New Paths in Victorian Fiction and Culture and Key Popular Women Writers, both for Edward Everett Root Publishers. Janine is Associate Editor of Victorian Popular Fictions, conference co-organiser for the Victorian Popular Fiction Association and has co-founded the Mary Elizabeth Braddon Association.

As friends, Rhoda Broughton and Mary Elizabeth Braddon discussed such mundane daily activities as shopping, gardening and hosting tea parties. As two of the best-selling authors of the mid- to late-Victorian period their published works are more gripping, but essentially cover domestic settings and issues. Both authors made their names in the 1860s writing sensational narratives, and both continued to write into the Edwardian period, keeping up-to-date with social advances. This paper examines some examples of their haunted house narratives, ranging from the 1860s to the 1890s, to demonstrate their engagement with the key genre of Victorian women’s ghost stories. Sensational, psychological and urban in their settings, Broughton’s ‘The Truth, The Whole Truth, and Nothing But the Truth’ (1868) and Braddon’s ‘The Ghost’s Name’ (1891) used the genre to address a range of social issues, such as women’s knowledge and agency, the damaging effects of the construction of Victorian masculinity and medical advancements.

Haunted Gardens in the ghost stories of Mary Elizabeth Braddon and Margaret Oliphant (Dr Emma Liggins (Manchester Metropolitan University))

Dr Emma Liggins is Senior Lecturer in English Literature in the Department of English at Manchester Metropolitan University. Her publications include George Gissing, the Working Woman and Urban Culture (Ashgate, 2006), The British Short Story (with Andrew Maunder & Ruth Robbins) (Palgrave, 2011) and Odd Women? Spinsters, Lesbians and Widows in British Women’s Fiction, 1850-1939 (Manchester University Press, 2014). She has a chapter on modernist women’s ghost stories in British Women’s Short Story Writers: The New Woman to Now eds. Emma Young and James Bailey (Edinburgh University Press, 2015). She is currently completing her forthcoming monograph, The Haunted House in Women’s Ghost Stories, 1850-1945: Gender, Space and Modernity, to be published by Palgrave in 2020.  

This paper examines the spatial dynamics of the haunted garden in Victorian ghost stories such as Mary Elizabeth Braddon’s ‘Eveline’s Visitant’ (1867) and Margaret Oliphant’s ‘Earthbound’ (1880) and ‘The Lady’s Walk’ (1882-3). It considers the haunted garden in relation to notions of the architectural uncanny, as a place of both freedom and imprisonment for women whose spectral encounters atone for or symbolise a suffocating and stultifying domesticity. As Sarah Bilston has argued, the Victorian garden is a contradictory space, disrupting notions of public and private, both domestic and non-domestic, yet ‘a freer place than the home’ (2004: 2).

In ‘Eveline’s Visitant’, the pleasaunce, or antique garden, in the French chateau is supposedly safe from intruders but admits a ghostly rival to the neglectful husband with fatal results. In ‘Earthbound’ the neglected walled garden becomes a prison for the lost female ancestor whose commemorative urn encloses her untold story. The staging of the spectral encounter outside, rather than inside, the Victorian home, highlights the relationship between women’s restricted movements and the freedoms/limitations of green space.

Marriage and the Inefficacious Supernatural in Alice Perrin’s Anglo-Indian Tales (Dr Victoria Margree (University of Brighton))

Dr Victoria Margree is Principal Lecturer in the Humanities at the University of Brighton. She is the author of a monograph entitled British Women’s Short Supernatural Fiction, 1860-1930: Our Own Ghostliness (Palgrave, November 2019), which explores how the ghost story functioned as a public forum for negotiating women’s experiences in rapidly changing social conditions, looking at stories by Margaret Oliphant, Charlotte Riddell, Mary Elizabeth Braddon, Edith Nesbit, Alice Perrin, Eleanor Scott and Violet Hunt. She is also co-editor of an essay collection on fin de siecle popular fiction writer, Richard Marsh (Manchester University Press, 2018) and author of a study of the second wave radical feminist, Shulamith Firestone (Zero Books, 2018). She is co-founder of the Short Story Network, a research network dedicated to the short fiction of the long 19th century.

In Alice Perrin’s short stories of life in the British Raj, the 19th century marriage question migrates to a colonial context. Here it is reworked in relation to a hybrid Anglo-Indian supernaturalism, utilised by Perrin in her attempt to resolve the tensions between her commitment to imperial marriage and her recognition of the pervasiveness of marital discontent. This paper focuses on Perrin’s depiction of supernatural phenomena that are, however, inefficacious. In ‘Eastern Echoes’ (1901), transgressive longing is sublimated into spiritual communion at the moment of the death of a would-be lover. In ‘The Packet of Letters’ (1906), Perrin subverts the conventions of the Victorian ghost story to show that not even otherworldly intervention can avert the terrible consequences of marital infidelity. In these stories the supernatural is made a vehicle for expressing feminine knowledge about the emotional complexities of married women’s lives, but only on the condition that such epiphanies entail no material change within the masculine, pragmatic world of Empire.

Fri 11:00 am – 12:15 pm

‘Attending to the Auditory: Literature and Music’

Delia da Sousa CorreaSeminar Room 2

Chair: Dr Delia da Sousa Correa, Senior Lecturer in English, Open University

This proposal comes in response to the listing of ‘literature, language, creativity and music’ among the topics invited by the organisers of ESF2 and anticipated in the provisional listing of a panel on ‘Music as Literature, Literature as Music’ on the conference website. The panel brings together speakers with interdisciplinary interests in literature and music working in different periods. All three have current research projects and prior publications in the field of literature and music studies. Their topics are planned so as to address the overarching theme of the conference, proposing shared future research directions for literature and music. Where possible, speakers will also address the pedagogical value or potential of their work. Jointly, they explore possibilities for innovative conjunctions of reading and listening experience and offer analysis of the long-standing figurative potency of music as an absent ideal for writing.

Ewan Jones will explore a series of nineteenth-century anticipations of the concept of entrainment, which concerns the tendency for individual organisms to synchronise rhythms with external stimuli. Such rhythmical porosity allowed thinkers such as George Henry Lewes, George Eliot and Herbert Spencer to investigate (and challenge) the distinctions between human and nonhuman life; to conceive of societies as complex dynamical systems; and to pose anew the question of the development of artistic modes. By reading Eliot’s still-overlooked verse tragedy The Spanish Gypsy (1878), this paper will demonstrate how poetry is able not merely to dramatise such questions, but to actuate them. It will conclude with a discussion of how the concept of entrainment might contribute not only to research agendas, but also to pedagogical method.

Dr Ewan Jones, Lecturer in Nineteenth Century Literature, University of Cambridge

Adrian Paterson will address ‘Forgotten futures in C20th words and music’. His paper will explore the fractious, argumentative, incestuous but extraordinarily productive relationship between literature and music, when in the mid-twentieth century the connection underwent (another) revolution as poetry’s form exploded and microphone technology renewed attention to the sounds of the voice. It will do so by re-examining some forgotten futures: pioneering vortexes of potential connection in avant-garde American music, poetry, and drama that flowered and faded in copyright claims and performance limitations. By examining moments such as Ezra Pound’s direct use of musical notation in The Cantos (1948), composer Harry Partch’s ‘corporeal’ adaptation of W.B. Yeats’s King Oedipus (1952), using speech patterns and microtones, and Frank O’Hara’s off-beat Noh play Try! Try! (1951), at The Poet’s Theatre, it will question the exclusion of hybrid and experimental forms in the spaces between the arts, and find that attending to historical ideas with new focus and technology can re-animate our fixed understandings of past, present, and future.

Dr Adrian Paterson, Lecturer in English, the National University of Ireland, Galway

Christin Hoene will propose that music offers a possibly unique potential for exploring and expressing identities in postcolonial literature. Her talk will chart a theoretical map connecting postcolonial studies and word and music studies along routes of identity, place, performance, and aesthetics. Representation is at the heart of this theory of music in postcolonial literature. To substantiate this, this paper will analyse two novels where music plays a crucial role for the development of character and plot, Amit Chaudhuri’s Afternoon Raag (1993) and Hanif Kureishi’s The Black Album (1995). Given the nature of both music and text, music is not represented as either sound or notation; the whole exercise of writing music into literature is thereby an act of displacement and of transgression, where the text displaces the music and the music transgresses the text. The tension thus created between presence and absence opens up creative spaces within the text for the representation of postcolonial identities that traditionally are defined by their absence from written history.

Dr Christin Hoene, Lecturer in Postcolonial Literature, NYU London

Fri 11:00 am – 12:15 pm

12:30 pm – 1:45 pm Friday Session II

Accelerating equality in English Studies: a HAStEN workshop

Kate ChedgzoyMMUb

This participatory workshop is hosted and facilitated by members of HAStEN (Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences: the Equalities Network), a real-world and virtual (hosted by Advance HE Connect, https://connect.advance-he.ac.uk/topics/14283/feed) network of academic and professional colleagues committed to 1) working for equality in those disciplines; and 2) contributing our discipline-specific expertise and insights to enrich the equalities landscape in universities.

In this participatory workshop we will work collectively to

  • identify some key challenges to making English Studies a more diverse, equal and inclusive disciplinary space;
  • consider how they make themselves felt in specific aspects of our working and studying lives;
  • and collaborate to generate and share some concrete tactics and actions for addressing them.

We will be open to exploring challenges and possible solutions in all aspects of English Studies, including curriculum content, teaching and learning experiences, research cultures, pathways into and through the profession, and anything else that participants choose to highlight. Our goal will be for everyone to go away equipped with at least one thing they can go and do to hasten our disciplines’ progress towards equality, diversity and inclusion.

Rachel Carroll, Reader in English at Teesside University and author of Transgender and the Literary Imagination: Changing Gender in Twentieth Century Writing (2018) and Rereading Heterosexuality: Feminism, Queer Theory and Contemporary Fiction (2012). She was co-lead with Fiona Tolan (Liverpool John Moores University, UK) of Decolonising Feminism, a Global Challenges Research Fund project.

Kate Chedgzoy, Professor of Renaissance Literature at Newcastle University and Director of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion for the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences. She is a feminist and queer scholar of early modern literature and culture.

Fri 12:30 pm – 1:45 pm


Anglican Women Novelists—Chaired Panel Discussion followed by Q&A

Catherine WilcoxSeminar Room 3

What do the novelists Charlotte Brontë, Charlotte M. Yonge, Rose Macaulay, Dorothy L. Sayers, Barbara Pym, Iris Murdoch and P.D. James all have in common?

These women, and others, were inspired to write fiction through their relationship with the Church of England. But till now no-one has looked at them together, or investigated the ironies and opportunities of their unusual vantage point, intimately involved yet never (till the ordination of women) allowed to be part of the church’s public face.

A new collection of essays in Bloomsbury’s Anglican Women Novelists identifies and addresses this gap.

The discussion will be followed by an opportunity for questions.


  • To celebrate the creative contribution made to the English language by this newly identified group of Anglican women writers
  • To bring their work to an audience of creative writers and English academics
  • To engage new audiences outside the academy, and promote it via church and other faith networks across the region
  • To discuss recent fictional portrayals of Anglicanism.
  • To explore future possibilities for the novel form as it engages with Anglicanism/other faith traditions


Rev Canon Dr Judith Maltby is co-editor of the book and author of the chapter in it about Rose Macaulay. She is also a historian of Anglican culture, and chaplain of Corpus Christi College in Oxford.

Prof Alison Shell is the other editor, and author of the chapter on P D James. She is Professor of English Literature at University College London.

Rev Canon Dr Jessica Martin is the author of the Dorothy Sayers chapter. A former academic at Cambridge, she is now a Canon of Ely Cathedral and a noted preacher.

Dr Catherine Wilcox will chair the discussion. She is a Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing at Manchester Metropolitan University, and Academic Director of the Manchester Writing School.  Writing as Catherine Fox, she is herself an Anglican novelist.

Fri 12:30 pm – 1:45 pm

Future Thinking

Max SaundersMCRp

The aim is to build a network of researchers with an interest in how people imagine and write about the future. Drawing on Max Saunders’s work in Imagined Futures (OUP, 2019), a study of the pioneering To-Day and To-Morrow series of over 100 short books (1923-31) predicting the futures of a range of topics and disciplines, and of its implications for thinking about the future, the project we are developing focuses on contemporary methodologies for conceiving the future – i.e. scenario planning, forecasting, horizon scanning, big data analysis – compared with such earlier precedents.

The session would be run as an adaptable combination of pop-up workshop and salon – in a venue such as the Henry Royce Institute/Alan Turing Building (if possible). We shall outline our current project, and invite participants to share the ways in which their work engages with the future, whether in (for example) utopias, predictions, science fiction, prophecies, manifestoes, political or cultural programmes, science and technology studies, etc.

The project is concerned with new ways in which the Arts and Humanities might contribute to multi-disciplinary research, and help change the conversation about future possibilities. It is thus an experiment in ‘applied’ English: how the production of ‘speculative non-fiction’, and critical thinking about it and about other futurological methods can lead to positive changes in the world beyond universities in order to address local, national and global challenges.

Fri 12:30 pm – 1:45 pm

Old Age as a Shared Future: Age Studies in the Context of English Studies

Liz BarryMMUf

Chair: Dr Liz Barry, University of Warwick

This panel will share recent work at the intersection of age studies and English studies, showcasing some of the work that will appear in the 2020 issue of the English Association’s journal Essays and Studies: ‘Ageing and Literature’. It will look at the experience of growing old in Anglophone literature from the late nineteenth century to the present day, a period shaped by changes in longevity, a new science of ageing and geriatrics, the availability of state
pensions, and other phenomena of recent history. The work presented here will challenge the idea that old age is a period of relatively uneventful time that customarily falls outside the parameters of conventional narrative or lyric form. The panel will demonstrate, rather, that taking age as a symbolic theme can offer alternative narratives to dominant stories of capitalist productivity, scientific progress and masculine vigour. It will also present a rich and complex
image of the experience of ageing itself, in which burdens are alleviated as well as accumulate, grace found as well as lost.

This is an exciting moment for cultural age studies: a moment akin to second wave feminism which seeks to look beyond the representations of ageing in literature and culture (important as attention to the politics and form of such representation has been) to engage critical and theoretical paradigms, and enlarge the possibilities of literary studies in engaging with this complex and elusive phenomenon. This panel will gesture towards recent critical and
conceptual approaches that do this challenging work, the papers opening out beyond their respective case studies into a discussion of what is at stake, intellectually and socially, in attending in a concerted way to older age in the context of English studies.

‘‘‘A changing place called old age”: changing discourses of senescence and culture from the late nineteenth century to the present’ (Professor David Amigoni, University of Keele)

The paper will use recently published narratives as a lens through which to explore the culturally and historically transforming relationships between ageing and change narratives. It will account for the later nineteenth century, when, in response to profound demographic changes and greater visibility of an ageing population the ageing self became identified as an object of change, open to scrutiny and a source for generating insight and advice. The paper
will focus on titles such as Mortimer Collins’s The Secret of a Long Life (1875} and Nicholas Smith’s Masters of Old Age (1905). These late Victorian narratives were identified, codified and evaluated by some of the earliest works of scientific gerontology that also identified older people as a particular class of writing subjects (‘literature written by and about the aged’), including one of the founding texts of academic gerontology, G. Stanley Hall’s, Senescence
(1922). Hall also identified Harriet E. Paine’s Old People (1909) which, in its emphasis on frailty and loss of cognitive function, as well as forms of compensatory inner life, exemplifies a number of paradigms around inwardness, gender and disability. How do these narratives of age shape discourses of culture, and how did discourses of culture shape perceptions of ageing? How too have they shaped modern narratives of dementia, a new form of change narrative exemplified in Wendy Mitchell’s Somebody I used to Know, which presents to us new versions of disability and inwardness.

Age and anachronism in the contemporary dystopian novel (Dr Sarah Falcus, University of Huddersfield)

Dystopian novels of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries are inherently concerned with the exploration of lateness in the form of what Kermode calls ‘the sense of an ending’. In these worlds apocalyptic environmental and social collapse frequently result in societies where the life course, progress and the promise of the future are all disrupted by threats to generational continuity. The anachronism that then results is both reflective of science and speculative fiction’s central concern with time and the future, and specifically a temporal anxiety that brings together lateness as social and generational. This paper will consider generational disruption, ageing and anachronism in dystopian fiction of recent decades, focusing specifically on two novels: P.D. James’ The Children of Men (1992) and Yoko Tawada’s The Last Children of Tokyo (2014). Both depicting future worlds in which generational disorder is a key fear, these texts demonstrate how important ageing is to the dystopic imagination.

Critical Interests and Critical Endings: Cognitive Decline, Narrative Selves and Literary Form in Recent Fiction (Dr Liz Barry, University of Warwick)

In his essay on ‘Ageing and Human Nature’, philosopher Michael Bavidge contends that we can distinguish “between the end of our existence as animals, as human beings, and as persons.” And there is no guarantee, he goes on, that “these terminations will neatly coincide and harmonize with each other”. This paper will ask how far the cultural imagining of dementia in recent fiction might support the idea of these different endings, and how it navigates the different identities they presuppose. In what Stephen Post has called the ‘hypercognitive age’, what survives of personhood in the face of dementia and age-related cognitive decline, when memory and propositional speech are lost? And, if we come to this condition, how does this and should this bear on the question of our ending? The paper engages recent philosophical debates about critical interests, personhood and advanced age (Dworkin, Schechtman, Jaworska) in a reading of recent British and North American fiction, focusing in particular on Matthew Thomas’s 2014 novel We Are Not Ourselves.

Fri 12:30 pm – 1:45 pm

Poetry, Place, & Process: Exploring the Creative-Critical PhD

David Cooper 2MCRn

Debates surrounding the affordances and challenges of the creative-critical PhD emerged as one of the most engaging and energising themes during the inaugural ‘English: Shared Futures’ conference in Newcastle. This proposed session will build on those conversations by exploring the creative-critical PhD in relation to poetry and place. The session will bring together creative-critical practitioners from three different institutions with different research environments. At the same time, it will bring together researchers at different stages of their academic careers: senior lecturers with administrative responsibilities for postgraduate research (Duffy & Morgan); a recent PhD graduate (Campbell-Morris); and a current doctoral student (Burdett).

The session will primarily consist of a roundtable discussion based on key questions and themes that will be circulated to each of the participants in advance of the conference. The topics to be covered will include the integration of poetry and geographical theory; the ethics of working in and with local communities; interdisciplinary collaboration and experimentation; and the formal expectations and possibilities of the Creative Writing PhD. The panel will also consider the contemporary funding landscape and post-doctoral opportunities both within and outside the academy.

One of the overarching aims will be to see how those responsible for administering/supervising, and those producing postgraduate research, respond to the same set of questions. In keeping with the focus of the session, the roundtable conversation will also be punctuated by a series of poetic interventions in which each of the participants will read from their own place-specific creative-critical writings.

The session will be of particular interest to colleagues involved in supervising and producing postgraduate creative-critical research on poetry and place. Although the discussion will be rooted in this particular field, however, the session will also be of interest to anyone currently supervising and writing Creative Writing PhD theses, as well as any delegates who might be considering doctoral study.

Organiser: David Cooper & Nikolai Duffy (Manchester Met)
Natalie Burdett (Manchester Met)
David Cooper (chair)
Nikolai Duffy
Jake Campbell-Morris (Newcastle)
Ceri Morgan (Keele)

Fri 12:30 pm – 1:45 pm

pop-up workshop on Foundation Year English

Naomi HetheringtonMMUc

Integrated degrees with Foundation Years offer an alternative for students without traditional A level qualifications to access UK Higher Education provision. The Universities of Sheffield, Durham and Plymouth at which we teach each offer their own distinctive degree programmes with FYs in English and Creative Writing. The students whom we teach come from a diverse range of backgrounds including a high number of mature students and first-generation university students. Many may not have studied English Language or Literature in a formal educational setting for some considerable time, making our task one of simultaneously building confidence and bridging a skills or knowledge gap. At a time when this provision has come under threat from the recent Augar review of post-18 education and funding, we wish to share our experiences of working with students on the transition into successful University studies with colleagues from across the HE and FE sectors – whether via foundation years, Access to HE or more traditional A-level routes. We believe there are many benefits to foundation year learning and teaching which are also directly transferable to higher levels of HE pedagogy.

This workshop, therefore, sets out to share strategies for developing an inclusive classroom as one fundamental driver for effective pedagogies in and beyond the foundation year. The workshop has two key aims: firstly, to inform colleagues about the range and diversity of approaches to teaching English at foundation level; and, secondly, to work with colleagues to develop examples of inclusive learning and teaching which they can embed within their own English curriculum and teaching practice at whatever level of study.

The first part of the workshop consists of a front-led presentation drawing on the foundation years at Sheffield, Durham and Plymouth in order to illustrate the structure and design of foundation level teaching in different institutional contexts. We outline the particular learning and support needs of our diverse cohorts and illustrate how these needs are met both through in-house student support and curriculum choices.

In the second part of the workshop, we take a hands-on and collaborative approach to inclusive learning and teaching and invite participants to work together to develop new tools and strategies to take into their own classroom. To facilitate this process, we will draw on examples of collaborative and playful approaches to learning from our own practice: the use of mindfulness to aid students in learning unfamiliar concepts in environmental poetry; the subversion of fairy tales to teach students about the cultural construction of gender, class and race, and the use of Twitter to assist students in interrogating how image and metaphor are used to construct character in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby.

The workshop will conclude with a plenary discussion in which participants are invited to share the tools and strategies and to consider future possibilities for collaboration across different sectors in the inclusive learning and teaching of English.

Dr Naomi Hetherington, University Tutor for English and Humanities, Department for Lifelong Learning, University of Sheffield
Dr Alison McManus, Programme Co-ordinator for Arts and Humanities, Foundation Centre, University of Durham
Christopher McMillan, Tutor for English, Foundation Centre, University of Durham
Dr Ryan Sweet, Lecturer in English, School of Humanities and Performing Arts, University of Plymouth

Fri 12:30 pm – 1:45 pm


Teaching Creative Writing

Seminar Room 2

The Creative Writing workshop: ‘Empowerment through poetry’ (Joanna Reardon and Elizabeth Ford)

This paper shares the ways in which using techniques of literary analysis can be a transformative experience for participants of Creative Writing workshops. Interrogating and reflecting on the writing process through reading as a writer is a key threshold concept for students in Creative Writing which often feels contradictory to the creative process.

Students of Creative Writing in academic institutions might expect this as part of their study but what of the participants in Creative Writing workshops outside the academic context? We will show how academic approaches from the critical analysis of prose, poetry and dramatic texts, can inform and enable creative writers to develop their own writing skills.

We will present a case study taken from experimental workshops using poetic form for local women in Lancashire ranging from 30 to 75, who have either left the workplace, retired or been ‘left behind’ by education, but who still want to express themselves through a variety of writing genres. Our approach to teaching Creative Writing through the analysis of texts by canonical writers has broadened and developed significantly the students’ experience and creative output. The results are surprising and, in some cases, ground-breaking for students with little or no prior experience of reading or writing poetry or prose.

Teaching Creative Writing in a Tailspinning World (Kevan Manwaring)

How do we continue to teach creative writing when faced with multiple challenges and crises on a personal, institutional, community, national, and international level? Geopolitical turmoil; a corrupt and broken political system; media bias; the Climate Emergency; austerity, casualization, and precarity; the rise of the Far Right … From an ontological perspective, this paper then adopts a more grounded approach, and considers motivation, morale, and pedagogical strategies when dealing with daily existential challenges, as well as practical ones: student mental health and well-being; the pressure of REF, league tables, and the oppositional paradigms of Higher Education (monetization versus the inherent value of a liberal arts education, etc). An honest discussion is encouraged as we ask the tough questions, collectively consider the answers, and conduct a self-audit of our motives and approaches.

Literature Beyond the Domain of Words: Can the visualisation of literary texts help creative reading? (Rumiko Oyama-Mercer)

It is taken for granted that reading literature means reading words on a page, but reading is a mix of highly complicated activities when the message is processed and interpreted. It is well established that literature can be transformed into other textual forms such as visual art, films, dance, and music. The current paper proposes that visualisation of literary texts by readers can enrich and enhance the interpretation of literary texts.

I demonstrate several examples of visualisations (e.g. drawings) of English short stories created by literature-major undergraduates. The paper argues that the rationale on the part of the reader, as to what is visualised and how in relation to what aspect of the verbal narrative in the story, reveals the process of reading as act. Making the process of reading ‘visible’ in the form of, for example, drawings benefits the reader in that they can re-examine how language in the text works and be encouraged to pay closer attention to the narrative.

By involving different modes of communication, therefore, I hope to demonstrate that reading becomes more profound and encourages the reader to engage more proactively in words. By involving visual images into the act of reading, the emphasis of reading will shift from what you understand as a product to how you reached your own interpretation of the story; the process of the reading. It follows that literature (literary texts) can provide a rich source of creativity that goes beyond words only. The interface between words and visual images should also be explored in relation to meaning making processes when/while/after given literary texts are read. When the linearity in written narrative is translated into one of simultaneousness of visual representation, socio-cultural conditioning of the reader might also emerge as issues to be considered.

Fri 12:30 pm – 1:45 pm

The Alluvium Panel: “Interrogating the Boundaries of the Literary in the 21st Century: Emerging Ideas”

Zoe Bulaitis 3Lecture Theatre (Conference Room for overflow)

Panel Curators (Current Managing Editors of Alluvium)
Chloe Ashbridge (University of Nottingham)
Zoe Bulaitis (University of Manchester)
Caroline Wintersgill (Winchester University / UCL)

Alluvium is an open access scholarly journal dedicated to 21st-century writing and 21st-century approaches to the literary canon (https://www.alluvium-journal.org/). At English: Shared Futures, Alluvium proposes to present six flash papers (8 minutes each) exploring the idea of literary boundaries in the 21st Century, whether of genre, form, discourse or discipline. These ‘Flash Papers for the Twenty-First Century’ have been divided into two thematic sections, with 30 minutes for questions and discussion at the end of the session.

Since Alluvium is dedicated to promoting new voices, our speakers are all PhD students and ECRs. They were selected from an open CFP and summaries of their abstracts are included below.

STRAND ONE: Politics Identities and the Self in the Contemporary Novel

Jade Hinchliffe (University of Hull) j.hinchliffe-2018@hull.ac.uk is a PhD researcher at The University of Hull, funded by the North of England Consortium for Arts and Humanities. Her interdisciplinary thesis explores surveillance, social sorting and critical posthumanism in twenty-first century critical dystopian fiction. Her flash paper explores critical dystopian fiction and its importance as a political genre, in reference to Sabrina Vourvoulias’ Ink (2012).

Christine Lehnen (University of Bonn) christine.lehnen@uni-bonn.de is an author, theatrical director and teacher of creative writing. Her paper will reflect on two pieces published in Alluvium this year. She will reflect upon contemporary European literature written in the UK and discuss how practitioners perceive the role of their national identity and post-national solidarities in their writing. Original interviews with David Szalay and Ali Smith will inform her paper.

Arya Thampuran (University of Durham) a.s.thampuran@durham.ac.uk is a PhD researcher interested in alternative reading practices for somatic expressions of trauma, drawing on indigenous African epistemologies. Using Walter Mignolo’s elaboration of ‘border thinking’, Thampuran’s paper seeks to offer a counter-narrative of trauma that rescripts an Euro-American psychiatric, diagnostic narrative, and its attendant notions of the whole, healthy self.

STRAND TWO: Art and the Contemporary Novel

Sofie Behluli (University of Oxford) sofie.behluli@lincoln.ox.ac.uk is a PhD researcher at Lincoln College. Her paper ‘Painting with Words in Contemporary Fiction’ will investigate the word-image aesthetics in Amy Sackville’s fictionalized biography of Diego Velázquez, Painter to the King (2018). Behuli argues that Sackville’s use of the motif of the frame – both as a metaphorical frame narration and as a literal object in the story-within-the-story – implicates the reader within its meaning-making processes of seeing, knowing and distributing power.

Katie Harling-Lee (University of Durham) k.o.harling-lee@durham.ac.uk is a musician and PhD researcher interested in ‘musico-literary novels’: novels which are thematically concerned with music. Her paper defines the characteristics of this recent generic trend, using examples from Do Not Say We Have Nothing (Thien 2016), Orfeo (Powers 2014), The Cellist of Sarajevo (Galloway 2008), Bel Canto (Patchett 2001), and The Noise of Time (Barnes 2016). This paper proposes that these musico-literary novels present conflict and upheaval in ways that illuminate how we relate to classical music, raising important questions about the power often ascribed to music.

Julie Tanner (QMUL) julie.tanner@qmul.ac.uk is a PhD researcher interested in visual art and the novel. Her paper ‘Verbal and Visual Thresholds in the Contemporary Novel’ explores the recent upturn in novels that engage with visual art (e.g The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt, How to be both by Ali Smith and 10:04 by Ben Lerner). Using examples from the recent work of Ben Lerner, Tanner’s paper will explore how the uncertain boundaries of intermediality are embraced and tested by the contemporary novel, resulting in new ways of engaging with both word and image.

Fri 12:30 pm – 1:45 pm

The value of English: through and beyond employability

Cassie UlphConference Room

Narratives of ‘value for money’ in higher education since the introduction of higher undergraduate fees increasingly focus on student ‘employability’ and salary outcomes, particularly in the media. It is a common and fair observation by academics that this fails to recognise more holistic kinds of ‘value’, particularly in the humanities. At postgraduate level, universities have long seen PhD students in the Arts and Humanities as loss leaders. However, against this financial loss there is also a constant drive to increase PhD student numbers, diversify sources of research income for PhD studentships, and increase the research outputs and contribution to the research community that PhD students undoubtedly make. At all levels, concepts of ‘value’ are not mutually exclusive and it is in the best interests of students and universities that we recognise their interconnections.

This panel, then, will ask not only how we can articulate the value of English as a subject, but how do we value our students? In order to support truly equal participation in arts and humanities subjects, it is necessary to develop ideas of cultural, personal and social value alongside the practicalities of students’ lives, recognising the importance of work-preparedness and students’ financial stability. As the constitution of this panel reflects, this is best supported through collaborative work between academic and professional colleagues, and across levels of study.

This panel will offer different perspectives and experiences of articulating the ‘value’ of an English degree: both for the benefit of the students and within and beyond ‘The University’. It will consider the reciprocal relationships that can be established between employability ‘skills’ and broader social, cultural and personal ‘values’, and how English degrees in particular can empower students to navigate employability contexts through recognising their own value in a wider world. We will focus on three distinct areas as a prompt for discussion:

English@Work: Cassie Ulph and Claudia Capancioni will share their experience of developing and running English@Work, a subject-specific employability module at Bishop Grosseteste University established as part of BGU’s recently revalidated, interdisciplinary English programmes, which focusses on students’ projects and interests in a Humanities context. We will draw on examples of student work and consider outcomes in terms of practical skills, professionalization and personal development. We will also consider the benefits of co-delivery of subject-specific employability modules by subject specialists with academic-related and professional staff.

English in the World: applications and opportunities for Literature, Language, and Creative Writing courses: Susan Anderson and Kaley Kramer explore how what sometimes gets treated distinctly as ‘employability’ is at the heart of English studies, making English a degree for life, not just for work.

PGR skills, value and employability: Zi Parker will explore the value of PhD students and endeavour to discuss how the best PhD student experience adds value to both the individual student experience and wider research community. Drawing on both REF 2014 data and student destination data Zi will debunk the myth that making a financial loss on a PhD student is problematic for universities and show how the best student training and support can lead to better PhD student outcomes and continue to add value to the wider arts and humanities community.

Fri 12:30 pm – 1:45 pm

Transnational Infrastructure and National Identity in the Nineteenth-Century Novel

Karin KoehlerMCRh

This panel responds to a recent groundswell of ‘infrastructuralist’ criticism, a way of reading that demonstrates how literary form mediates perceptions and understandings of infrastructures that often remain invisible (Rubinstein, Robbins, Beal 2015). It brings together three twenty-minute papers exploring how nineteenth-century novelists use images of communication and transport infrastructure to interrogate conceptions of national identity and transnational connection. These novels, we argue, resonate urgently in the present moment, as Britain’s shape and international place is undergoing reconfiguration.

‘I was not know for sure what be the Queen, Evan; was you?’: Infrastructure and Identity in Amy Dillwyn’s The Rebecca Rioter (1880) (Karin Koehler (Lecturer, Bangor University))

This paper reads Amy Dillwyn novel The Rebecca Rioter (1880) against the background of infrastructural development in Victorian Wales. Set in 1840s South Wales, the novel portrays the Rebecca Riots, protests during which toll-gates were destroyed as symbols of excessive taxation on agricultural communities. Dillwyn’s text constantly, albeit subtly, evokes the broader infrastructural significance of toll-gates, used to fund the upkeep of Britain’s roads and, by extension, facilitate the circulation of people, goods, and mail. For Dillwyn, exclusion from this network signifies economic, intellectual, and moral backwardness. And yet, her novel modulates between advocacy for infrastructural development and sympathy for its Welsh narrator’s resistance to being incorporated into – and exploited by – national networks. Thus, Dillwyn’s novel allows us to trace resonances between Victorian past and twenty-first-century present, as infrastructure continues to emerge as a site of conflict between competing conceptions of collective and national identity.

Shared European Infrastructures: the Channel Railway and Thomas Hardy’s A Laodicean (1881) (Nicola Kirkby (Leverhulme Early Career Fellow, Royal Holloway University))

This paper couples debates about building a Channel Railway between Britain and France in the 1880s with Thomas Hardy’s novel A Laodicean (1881), to investigate how fiction interrogated the material and imagined limits of Britain’s link with mainland Europe. By examining ‘reverberation’, that is the unintended and noisy oscillation of the tracks, it teases out subtle yet significant links between technology, interpretation, and control that underpin Hardy’s novel, and the Channel Railway project more broadly. It argues that imaginative writing provided a testing ground for exploring political and practical risks raised by the prospect of a railway connection between Britain and France, and shows how fiction exacerbated fears about what (other than trains, passengers, and freight) such a line might carry. The Channel Railway debates parallel British isolationist attitudes that continue to resonate through present-day Brexit.

‘These twelve hours saved by the post from America’: Imagining ‘British’ global travel postally in Jules Verne’s Around the World in Eighty Days (1872) (Eleanor Shipton (South West and Wales Doctoral Training Partnership Candidate, University of Exeter and University of Southampton))

This paper outlines the infrastructural developments of nineteenth-century steam-packet routes, arguing that Jules Verne’s imagining of Phileas Fogg’s ‘British’, global travel was made possible by these imperial mail routes. From their inception in the late 1830s, long-distance steam-packet lines would come to transport news, letters, freight and passengers globally with unprecedented speed and reliability. By putting Verne’s Around the World in Eighty Days into conversation with contemporary descriptions of global travel, I show that mail steam-packet routes, in particular, worked to circulate conceptions of British imperialism and link the world to the ‘mother-land’. However, I also demonstrate that, as his ‘British’ protagonist circulates—quite literally— the globe, Verne’s text explores how these routes work to problematize boundaries between nations. As letters marked with the British monarch’s head circulated the world, steam-packet infrastructures complicated the boundaries between national identities, which remain as contested and controversial today.

Fri 12:30 pm – 1:45 pm

Ugly Audacities: On Jennifer Cooke’s Contemporary Feminist Life-Writing: The New Audacity (C.U.P., 2020)

Kaye MitchellMCRm

Chair: Dr Kaye Mitchell (Manchester)

This panel will address and respond to an important new scholarly publication in the fields of contemporary literature, life-writing and autofiction, and gender and sexuality studies. Jennifer Cooke’s Contemporary Feminist Life-Writing: The New Audacity is the first book to identify and analyse the ‘new audacity’ of recent feminist writings from life – by authors including Katherine Angel, Alison Bechdel, Virginie Despentes, Sheil Heti, Juliet Jacques, Chris Kraus, Maggie Nelson, and Vanessa Place. Characterised by boldness in both style and content, willingness to explore difficult and disturbing experiences, the refusal of victimhood, and a lack of respect for traditional genre boundaries, new audacity writing – as theorised and illuminated by Cooke – takes risks with its authors’ and others’ reputations, and even, on occasion, with the law.

After a brief introduction (5-10 minutes) by the chair, Kaye Mitchell, setting out the significance of Cooke’s analysis within wider discussions of feminist writing, autofiction and ‘hybrid’ texts, and the writing of vulnerability, the three panellists will then deliver a short response (10-15 minutes each) to the second chapter of Contemporary Feminist Life-Writing: ‘Ugly Audacities in Auto/Biography: Genius, Betrayal, and Writer’s Block’. This considered response to a single chapter will bring out the richness of both Cooke’s source material and her analysis, allowing for a fine-grained engagement that will offer a model of focused scholarly dialogue; it will also gesture outwards to the bigger questions around affect, authenticity and women’s self-authorship which permeate the book as a whole.

Kaye Mitchell is Senior Lecturer in Contemporary Literature and Co-Director of the Centre for New Writing at the University of Manchester. She is the author of three monographs: A.L. Kennedy: New British Fiction (Palgrave, 2007), Intention and Text (Continuum, 2008), and Writing Shame (EUP, 2020), editor of Sarah Waters: Contemporary Critical Perspectives (Bloomsbury, 2013) and co-editor (with Nonia Williams) of British Avant-Garde Fiction of the 1960s (EUP, 2019). She is the UK editor of Contemporary Women’s Writing journal (OUP) and an editorial board member of Open Gender journal in Germany.

Katherine Da Cunha Lewin will consider how the ugly process of writing relates to the self-image of the writer as a writer, contrasting the strategies Sheila Heti, Kate Zambreno and Alison Bechdel use to give a sense of the difficult and labour-intensive work of writing, with the language through which work by women is often dismissed. As Joanna Russ notes, one way of dismissing work by women is through ‘polluting their authority’; Lewin will consider what happens when this idea of polluted authority is turned back on itself, by portraying the creative process not in its idealised form, but instead as a difficult, painful and sometimes impossible action – asking whether and how if writers can pollute their own authority as a strategy of undermining the methods through which their work is ignored.

Katherine Da Cunha Lewin is a writer, tutor and researcher. Her PhD investigated spatial aesthetics and interiority in the work of Don DeLillo and J.M. Coetzee. She is the co-editor of Don DeLillo: Contemporary Critical Perspectives (Bloomsbury, 2018), and her essays and reviews have appeared in the Times Literary Supplement, The White Review, The London Magazine and Los Angeles Review of Books among others.

Alexandra Parsons will examine the role ugliness plays in Bechdel, Heti and Zambreno’s projects, exploring how betrayal and the co-option of others’ stories operate within them. She will consider what Cooke describes as ‘grappling with what is inherited’: the challenges of confronting and trying to find a place within one’s personal histories and literary legacies. Finally, she will examine what is at stake in writing about the ugliness of the self and question to what extent this category helps us theorise these authors’ work.

Alexandra Parsons researches contemporary literature and visual cultures, with particular interests in queer histories, life-writing, and feminisms. She is a postdoctoral fellow of the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art and teaches at Queen Mary and UCL. Her book about queer icon Derek Jarman’s life-writing is forthcoming by Manchester University Press. 

Monica Pearl will be addressing issues around the conceptualisation of writing as ‘redemptive’ or transformative. As Pearl argues, what is meant by ‘transformative’ or ‘redemptive’ in this context is the idea that the text of life-writing or autofiction is often not just a record of the change, an emblem of it, but part of the process of it; in other words, it expresses the way that it is the writing itself that manufactures change. Pearl asks what the difference is between texts that do this – offer a blueprint of the shifts and changes in a life or psyche – and those that offer a journey or change as complete, or as a history.

Monica Pearl is Lecturer in 20th Century American Literature at the University of Manchester; she is the author of AIDS Literature and Gay Identity: The Literature of Loss (Routledge) and essays on Alison Bechdel’s graphic memoir Fun Home, on Audre Lorde’s biomythography Zami, and Maggie Nelson’s The Argonauts.

Following these three presentations, there will be a panel discussion of 15-20 minutes to tease out the differences and continuities between them and to reflect further on Cooke’s idea of the ‘new audacity’ and the textual forms in and through which it is embodied.

Fri 12:30 pm – 1:45 pm

University English – Decolonising the Discipline

Opera Theatre

Fri 12:30 pm – 1:45 pm

Writing Back: Creative Engagement with the Premodern and Pedagogy

Elizabeth ElliottMMUd

Recent work in medieval and early modern studies draws on affect studies to historicise how emotion is theorized within premodern texts, and to reflect on the role emotion plays in reading and reception. As Glenn D. Burger and Holly A. Crocker argue in their collection, Medieval Affect, Feeling, and Emotion (2019), ‘history of emotions and contemporary affect theory are insufficient for dealing with the complexity and nuance of medieval renderings […] we need to explore further the historicizing effects of thinking about affect and emotion synchronically” (14). Bringing together insights from affect studies and practice-based research, this workshop focuses on forms of reception characterized by identification and adaptation to ask how these modes of response impact on our sense of the past. To what extent are such practices of emulation and adaptation engaged in dialogues that recognize and amplify voices from the past, and to what extent do they efface them? Ash-Irisarri and Elliott will introduce brief examples of these models of reception: Elliott’s work with Edinburgh Old Town Development Trust on The Evergreen: A New Season in the North offers insight into a project that evokes the legacy of an early modern manuscript as reworked by Allan Ramsay and Patrick Geddes to shape a conversation about Edinburgh and Scotland as they have been, are, and might be. Ash-Irisarri’s use of creative responses to medieval literary texts in postgraduate classes prompts students to engage not only with aesthetic appraisal of pre-modern material but also to consider the connection between memory, imagination, and learning that informs understanding of medieval cultural practices. Participants will then have the opportunity to engage in some practice-based research, with brief exercises designed to produce similar examples of adaptation. The workshop will incorporate time for reflection on the value of these exercises for pedagogy and public engagement, and for participants to share their own experience of creative engagement with premodern literature.

Dr Kate Ash-Irisarri, Assistant Professor in Medieval and Early Modern English Studies, University of Nottingham, kate.irisarri@icloud.com

Dr Elizabeth Elliott, Senior lecturer in English, University of Aberdeen, elizabethelliott@abdn.ac.uk

Fri 12:30 pm – 1:45 pm

Writing Historical Fiction: the distant past, near past and historical future


“Why are we so attached to the severities of the past? Why
are we so proud of having endured our fathers and our mothers, the fireless
days and the meatless days, the cold winters and the sharp tongues? It’s not as
if we had a choice.” said Hilary Mantel
when talking about Wolf Hall. Writing
historical fiction is by its very nature problematic. Not because of the facts
history provides but because of, as Mantel also said, “the absence of facts
that frightens people: the gap you open, into which they pour their fears,
fantasies, desires.” ‘Three writer/academics will discuss their own novels set
in the distant past, the near past and the historical future, talking about how factual events
and creative imagination collide
into a story worth telling.

Dr Claire Gradidge is
an Associate Lecture in Creative Writing at the University of Winchester since
2012, has previously had short fiction and poetry published. Her first
novel, The Unexpected Return of Josephine Fox, is a historical
crime fiction set in Hampshire in WWII. It won the Richard and Judy Search for
a Bestseller competition and was published in August 2019.  She is
currently working on a sequel.

Dr Lisa Koning has
a Doctorate in Creative Arts (Creative Writing) and lectures in Creative and
Professional Writing at the University of Winchester. She writes predominantly
historical fiction. Having been published in the Historical Novel Society
anthology, her subseqent first novel is now being represented by a major agent.
She has also published in Axon: Creative Explorations, is the Publications
and Editorial Manager for The National Association of Writers in
Education (NAWE) and is writing on Professional Writing for Palgrave’s
Approaches to Writing series.

Andrew Melrose is Emeritus Professor of Writing at the University of Winchester, UK. He has over 150 films, fiction, nonfiction, research, songs, poems and other writing credits, including 33 scholarly or creative books. He is currently working on The Boat, an extended poem, book and exhibition about people migrating to safer countries on boats. 

NAWE logo

Fri 12:30 pm – 1:45 pm

Writing Nature: A Creative Perspective

Andrea AshworthMCRg

In the age of climate anxiety and environmental uncertainty, the natural world has become of increasing concern among writers of fiction and poetry. From novelists such as Jon McGregor, Jeff VanderMeer and Melissa Harrison to poets such as Alice Oswald, nature is playing a more prominent role in creative work, with authors consciously engaging with present ecological developments. This subject has also caught the imaginations of creative writing PhD researchers across the UK, many of whom are undertaking practice-based research in a bid to reposition the place of nature in fictional contexts – from passive backdrop to focal point.

Andrea (A. J.) Ashworth is a writer and PhD candidate at Edge Hill University, Ormskirk. She is the author of the short story collection Somewhere Else, or Even Here (Salt Publishing, 2011; Edge Hill Prize shortlist), as well as editor of Red Room: New Short Stories Inspired by the Brontës (Unthank Books, 2013). Michael Wheatley is a writer and PhD candidate at Royal Holloway, University of London. He is the inaugural recipient of the University of Worcester Black Pear Press Prize for Fiction and the author of the short story collection, The Writers’ Block (Black Pear Press, 2019). Both writers are undertaking practice-based research in order to produce novels that engage with and incorporate the natural world in deep and authentic ways.

For her research, Andrea is writing a literary novel that features the dragonfly in a strongly embedded way. Set in the present day, it is the story of a young bereaved boy called Henry who is facing certain challenges – including estrangement from his father – as a result of the death of his mother. The novel, provisionally titled Dragonfly, details these difficulties as well as the friendship that forms between him and dragonfly watcher Clara – a meeting that provides the starting point to the story and which, through the vehicle of the dragonfly, offers the possibility of hope for Henry and his father. The dragonfly – in particular its entomological properties, such as life-cycle, biology and behaviour – inform both the structure and content of the novel, with the insect being used in a real and symbolic sense throughout. The novel will also feature a strand from the point of view of dragonflies in a bid to foreground and give voice to the natural world.

For his research, Michael is attempting to reframe weird fiction as an ecological mode by writing a hybrid novel of the Weird and literary fiction. Set on Rathlin Island in the 1890s, the novel’s protagonist, Canice, feels a spiritual connection with the sea, believing it to be a manifestation of God. After Canice learns of the sentience of the oceans, however, she must re-evaluate her relationship with nature as the lines between human and nonhuman become increasingly blurred. Drawing upon Timothy Morton’s theory of dark ecology, the novel seeks to chart the shift in human perception from a deep ecological harmony to a dark ecological uncertainty.

During the conference, the writers will present a shared reading of their novels-in-progress, followed by a reflective discussion which will investigate the challenges of incorporating elements of the natural world into a fictional realm; the tension between narrative pull and the inclusion of scientific fact; formal experimentation; and representing the nonhuman. The authors will also talk about their desire to foreground the natural world instead of conforming to more traditional, passive representations, especially with regard to the environment being used purely as setting or backdrop. As published short story writers, Andrea and Michael will also make reference to the challenges of moving from short to longer-form fiction, especially in a PhD context.

Fri 12:30 pm – 1:45 pm

‘Close Reading’ and Resistance

Neil CocksMCRo

In this panel we will discuss a ‘close reading’ approach to teaching English Literature. We will be referring to the provision that has been developed over the last thirty years within the MA in Children’s Literature at The University of Reading, but we will making connections to the wider pedagogical and critical scene. We acknowledge that the approach we are discussing is often viewed as either outmoded or partial within academic teaching practice. We will address some of the most frequently cited concerns, especially in the context of First Year undergraduate teaching and the transmission from FE to HE.

We wish to address specifically the links between our engagement with notions of ‘textuality’ and ‘close-reading’ that have fallen out of critical favour and our teaching of Children’s Literature. We have found that discussions within this field often turn on the ability to correctly identify the child, its needs, and the books that will meet these. In response, we ask our students to focus on the precise term of the texts they are reading, and through this reflect on their on their assumptions about childhood, texts and reading. As Prof. Karin Lesnik-Obersien, the convenor of the MA, has written: ‘instead of clinging to the perusal of understanding the other, [our students] are challenged to investigate their own investments and interpretations, and the way this produces narratives about the other.’ We argue that such a seemingly simple approach to literary perspective can lead to a profound and systematic critique of enabling structures and ideologies.

The panel will begin with two papers that forward a close reading approach to literary texts, whilst also drawing attention to its limitations. The first of these will focus on Children’s Literature, with a reading from the work of Louisa May Alcott (West). This will help set out some of the controversies around a narration focused and non-essentialist approach to the field, and go some way to introduce our work on Children’s Literature. We will follow this with brief reading of a passage from Paul de Man’s ‘The Resistance to Theory’, which will further clarify the stakes, and caution against a too easy dismissal of close reading when engaging what is perhaps the best known example of a text that offers such a caution (Cocks).

The next section of the panel (led by Cocks/West) will address the place of close reading in contemporary pedagogy. Taking NATE’s 2004 Text: Message as a starting point, we will: explore some of the doubts that have arisen concerning a provision rooted in close reading; discuss the place of close reading within the contemporary affective, material, and ethical ‘turns’ within theory; think through some of the difficulties that can attend a reading-based pedagogy within the contemporary University.

The panel will close a discussion of the practical and pedagogical challenges that impact on reading-based provision at both Part 1 and Foundation level (led by Das). We have found that close reading can open up University level study to new students, not least in the confidence and independence it can promote, and the way in which it builds on established work with A02. There are significant challenges with this kind of provision, however, not least the need to introduce students to a wide range of approaches when commencing their studies.

Our intention is that Soma will be joined in this final section by a teacher from the Reading area, specialising in A Level English Literature. We are, at present, clarifying availability and financial support, and will forward full details when confirmed.

Dr Neil Cocks, Associate Professor of English Literature and outreach officer, University of Reading
Dr Krissie West, Independent scholar, A Level Tutor
Soma Das, PhD candidate, The University of Reading

Fri 12:30 pm – 1:45 pm

‘Working in the hyphen’: The status of factually-informed creative writing in the academy

Barbara Cooke BMMUa

Round-table discussion with lecturers in English and Creative Writing at Loughborough University

The past five years have seen a growing vogue for both non-fictional narrative and historical fiction. In 2017, for example, Dr Sophie Coulombeau hosted the ground-breaking Fictive Histories/Historical Fictions (Huntington Library, San Marino). This year, UEA’s collaboration with the National Writer’s Centre and the IES continues to interrogate the modish yet slippery term ‘creative-critical writing’.

Fewer discussions, however, have acknowledged the shared DNA of these disciplines: both apply scholarly research and engage with the factual, but in ways adjacent to those required by conventional literary-critical writing. Recognising the joint heritage of such genres in the term ‘factually-informed creative writing’ puts historical fiction and non-fictional narrative in conversation with each other and with the kindred practices of poetry and auto-fiction.

We are four academics who engage with factually-informed creative writing as theorists and practitioners. After briefly summarising our works-in-progress, we will address concerns common to all academic practitioners of factually-informed writing including:

  • How does factually-informed creative writing benefit the practitioner and/or the academy?
  • (Why) does the academy impose a hierarchy on the various genres of factually-informed creative writing?
  • Why might a creative practitioner choose to keep this work distinct from their professional academic activities, and how do they do this?
  • Are there professional risks associated with publishing in both conventional and factually-informed creative modes?
  • What purpose do “hybrid” terms such as the ‘creative-critical’, ‘autofiction’ and ‘non-fictional narrative’ serve? At what point do these terms lose their descriptive power?

We all position our creative work differently in relation to the academy, as we respond as individuals to the demands of professionalisation. Today, we ask what this management of our scholarly identities means for us as literary critics and creative writers: however we understand the synergies between these roles.

Dr Barbara Cooke is a biographer, editor and lecturer in English. She is co-executive editor of OUP’s Complete Works of Evelyn Waugh, and has co-edited Waugh’s autobiography A Little Learning (2017) for the edition as well as publishing the site-specific biography Evelyn Waugh’s Oxford for Bodleian Library Publications (2018). She is currently at work on a biography of H.S. ‘Jim’ Ede, the founder of Kettle’s Yard art gallery in Cambridge.

Dr Jennifer Cooke is Senior Lecturer in English and author of Contemporary Feminist Life-writing: The New Audacity (CUP, 2020) and Legacies of Plague in Literature, Theory, and Film (Palgrave, 2009) She is editor of New Feminist Studies: Twenty-first-century Critical Interventions (CUP, 2020), and Scenes of Intimacy: Reading, Writing and Theorizing Contemporary Literature (Bloomsbury Academic, 2013), and a special issue of Textual Practice on challenging intimacies and psychoanalysis (September 2013). She is also a poet, who has published Apocalypse Dreams (Sad Press, 2015) and *Not Suitable for Domestic Sublimation (Contraband Books, 2010).

Dr Kerry Featherstone is a Lecturer in Creative Writing. He has published critical essays on contemporary travel writing, experimental poetry and representations of Afghanistan, as well as being widely published as a poet. He is interested in writing landscape, memory and history, and is currently working on a series of poems set in locations in England.

Dr Sara Read is a literary historian, who lectures in English. She specialises in cultural representations of the reproductive body in early modern England. In addition to publishing conventional academic works, including a monograph and scholarly edition, she has brought out non-fiction works for popular presses. Most recently, she has published a research-as-practice historical novel, The Gossips’ Choice (Wild Pressed Books, 2020).

Fri 12:30 pm – 1:45 pm


2:00 pm – 3:15 pm Friday Session III

Another Heritage of Letters: British literature, publishing, and memory reexamined

Chelsea HaithSeminar Room 2

This panel will present the researchers’ experience and findings from public engagement projects that speak to the legacies of imperialism, inequality and other marginalised narratives within the study and teaching of English in Britain today. Writers Make Worlds, Uncomfortable Oxford, and After Empire? are each projects that seek to center displaced narratives, raising questions about the legacies of empire in modern Britain, the continuing role of migration and migrant voices in contemporary literature and the politics of memory in our institutions and built environment alike. In this panel we will discuss our experiences ranging from practice-as-research based approaches to rethinking pedagogy in literature teaching and learning environments.

The Writers Make Worlds project which ran from 2016-2018 as a series of workshops, reading groups and other events, and continues as a dynamic podcast, asked how Black and Asian writing in Britain works as a dynamic cultural and imaginative medium through which new ways of thinking about Britain, and Britain in the world can be developed. Our reading groups explored participants’ responses to texts, gauging these for their empathy and identification with characters. Beginning with the question of why Ian McEwan’s novels are more often set on A-level syllabuses than Aminatta Forna’s or Bernardine Evaristo’s, we were particularly interested to find how and for what reasons readers related to books often found outside the British literary mainstream, both in respect of publishing catalogues and of curricula.

Uncomfortable Oxford ran a series of literary-themed walking tours around Oxford aimed at facilitating critical discussions of Oxford, empire, and narratives from and about Oxford. The tour most especially excludes canonical figures such as Tolkien, CS Lewis and Inspector Morse and concentrates on writers and thinkers such as Dambudzo Marechera, Thomas Hardy, VS Naipaul, the Huxley family and also considers the question of repatriating manuscripts. The script-writer for this tour will discuss the tour’s contents as well as the responses received from participants during the tours.

After Empire? The Contested Histories of Migration, Race and Decolonisation in Modern Britain began life as a series of events hosted in the city of Leeds, including a two-day conference and additional public talks and panel discussions. Organised entirely by PhD students from various universities across Yorkshire, After Empire? sought to question the continuing and often unseen legacies of Britain’s imperial past, from hidden histories of slavery in National Trust properties to the co-option of colonial imagery in contemporary British drinking culture. In this presentation one member of the organising committee will reflect on the role literary texts played within these ongoing conversations on post-imperial Britain and the importance of situating literary analysis within these wider, cross-disciplinary talks.

Professor Elleke Boehmer, Professor of World Literature in English, University of Oxford
Emma Parker, PhD candidate at the University of Leeds
Chelsea Haith, DPhil candidate at the University of Oxford

Fri 2:00 pm – 3:15 pm

Contemporary Concerns in Children’s and Young Adult Literature and Media

Rosemarie MillerMCRo

The question of how young subjectivities are represented in relation to social and cultural forces is central to the study of children’s and young adult literature and media, for as Robyn McCallum explains, ‘identity is formed in dialogue with the social discourses, practices and ideologies constituting the culture which an individual inhabits.’ The contributors to this panel will therefore address three concerns which are current in western culture and influence child and young adult readers i.e. environmental crisis; the representation of disability and migration. The papers in this panel address such questions in various ways as in the following abstracts.

Speculative Futures and Strategies for Survival in John Marsden’s Tomorrow When the War Began (Dr Rosemarie Miller)

Rose Miller has published on the Australian Gothic and works within the International Forum for Research in Children’s Literature at the University of Worcester. 

Narratives concerning the white child, who wanders into the Australian bush and becomes lost, were used in the construction of a national imagination in which child and nation are symbolically associated. In John Marsden’s novel Tomorrow When the War Began (1993), the bush is re-drawn as a protective environment for young adult protagonists at a time of cultural upheaval and environmental crisis. The reliance on knowledge of the bush for survival reflects the cultural desire to address collective forgetting through the process of reconciliation with the land and the implied racial Other.

Disability → Ability: changing representation of disability in fiction for children (Prof Jean Webb)

Jean Webb is Professor of International Children’s Literature at the University of Worcester. She has published on health and disability in children’s literature.

Attitudes toward disability and the representation of disability in fiction for children have changed considerably over the past century to appreciation of the abilities and special talents of children with impairment and a greater understanding of their lives. Jacqueline Wilson’s Katy (2015) revises nineteenth century representation of disability as typified in Susan Coolidge’s What Katy Did (1872). This paper will discuss the changing attitudes and consider the innovative development in children’s literature concerning such representation.

MIGRATIONS – Open Hearts Open Borders: Challenging Mass Media Representations of a Humanitarian Crisis Through the Use of Metaphor and Authentic Testimony (Tobias Hickey)

Tobias Hickey’s editorial illustrations have been published widely. He is a founder member of the International Centre for the Picture Book in Society based at the University of Worcester. See http://www.picturebookinsociety.org/ for more information on the MIGRATIONS project.

MIGRATIONS Open Hearts Open Borders is a distillation of an international postcard call out to question whether illustration is able to respond and instigate change in response to a sociopolitical crisis. The 50 selected images, sent from 28 countries (some by migrant and asylum artists), provide a wide-ranging, international response, and serve as a counterpoint and alternative testimony to the popular mass media vision of a humanitarian crisis evident in news and media outlets. The metaphor of the bird is used to present migrants in a positive light and to challenge the accepted tropes of the life jacket/capsized boat/aerial images of mass human suffering. The postcard format offers an inclusive and universal means of communication, mirroring the bureaucratic and sometimes unsuccessful/perilous passage taken by the migrant. MIGRATIONS promotes illustrators from outside of the Anglophone environment such as Roger Mello and Isol, and has been selected by the CLPE (Centre for Literacy in Primary Education) for their Power of Reading program which seeks to raise engagement and attainment in reading and writing for all children.

Fri 2:00 pm – 3:15 pm

Creative Histories of Witchcraft 1790 – 1940: the AHRC-funded collaboration between a historian, a poet and a playwright.

Poppy CorbettMMUb

How might creative writers work with historians? What does it mean for history to be ‘creative’? Why might historians take a ‘creative turn’?

The Arts and Humanities Research Council funded leadership project ‘Creative Histories of Witchcraft, France 1790-1940’ looked for answers to these questions through a combination of research into witchcraft in the long nineteenth century, and a collaboration between creative writers and a historian. This panel will focus on an analysis of this ground-breaking practice-based research project, which took place in 2019.

The project was the first attempt to document criminal cases involving witchcraft in France from 1790-1940, drawing from digitized versions of over two hundred and fifty different regional and national newspapers, as well as research in more than thirty different regional and national archives. But the project extended beyond this topic, to a much wider consideration of creative history and interdisciplinary collaboration.

In this panel, the poet, playwright and historian who worked on this project will discuss their findings (both academic and creative), and what they learnt from working collaboratively together. The panel will include readings of the prose, poetry and theatrical scenes created as part of the project.

Anna Kisby-Compton, Research Associate in Creative Writing (Poetry), University of Bristol

Poppy Corbett, Research Associate in Creative Writing (Drama), University of Bristol

Will Pooley, Lecturer in 19th/20th Century Western European History, University of Bristol

Fri 2:00 pm – 3:15 pm

Engagement, Experience, and English Literature

Veronica HeneyMMUf

In considering the probable shared futures of the study of English literature we might meaningfully question with whom such sharing might occur. In particular, this panel considers how academic analyses of English literature and language might share not only their conclusions but more broadly their practices of reading, analysis, and theorisation with those outside of English Literature departments, and the practical and methodological implications of such a sharing.

Sticking with the Trouble of Self-Harm (Veronica Heney, PhD Student, University of Exeter)

In analyses of self-harm complex embodied practices are generally read by medicine, psychology, and the wider public as fundamentally ‘troubling’, despite frequently being experienced as productive. Considering this as a potential ‘misreading’ highlights the benefits of focusing on practices of interpretation, reading, and spectatorship within a study of fictional narratives of self-harm. Following calls from within Affect Studies to move away from a hermeneutics of suspicion, this paper will contend that the use of qualitative methodologies to explore how narratives of self-harm are interpreted might allow such experiences to be positioned not simply as successful or failed readings but as a tool through which meaning and narrative can be explored. Thus fictional narratives of self-harm might be brought together with and analysed through experiences of self-harm, exploring the overlaps and interrelations between narrative, embodied experience, and interpretation.

Engagement and Ecologies (Kelechi Anucha, PhD Student, University of Exeter)

As part of the Wellcome-funded Waiting Times research project at Exeter and Birkbeck, we developed story-sharing workshops with the nurses, professional carers, volunteers and service-users of a day hospice in rural, agricultural Devon. This engaged work provided an opportunity to think dynamically about the relationships between narrative and time at the end-of-life outside of a literary context. However, the writing-up process foregrounded the methodological challenges of integrating a literary critical approach into socially engaged research. This paper will elucidate the reading and critical framing practices we employed. Critical ecology studies played a surprising but important role; we were able to think with Donna Haraway and Ursula Le Guin to find forms with which we could ethically and simultaneously “hold” the research, alongside the collective and individual life experiences of group members.

The Index of Evidence (Dr Gill Partington and Prof Laura Salisbury, University of Exeter)

The ‘Index of Evidence’ recognises that we are in a historical, socio-cultural, and political moment where the question of what constitutes a ‘fact’ and how evidence might legitimately be used to address health problems has come to a point of crisis. Although access to data is increasing, data cannot be transformed into credible evidence, or into facts that are legible as such, without modes of interpretation that use affective investments, narratives, generic conventions, and particular patterns to give them a meaningful shape. Changes in the ways in which people access information sometimes enable richer understandings of the complexity of actions and relations, but sometimes they weaponise uncertainty.

The ‘Index of Evidence’ proposes a performative response to this new terrain that emerges from expertise in English Studies. It aims to unfold the new ontology of evidence through a co-produced index to an imagined but unwritten book. The online index links to pieces of writing that unpack particular corners, lines, or questions of evidence. Some entries are obvious: ‘alternative facts’; ‘evidence-based medicine’; ‘big data’; ‘qualitative’; ‘quantitative’; ‘randomised control trial’; ‘vaccination’. Others are much more unexpected and speculative: ‘genre’; ‘badgers’; ‘gold’; ‘anomaly’; ‘pattern’; ‘folklore’. The co-produced index allows readers to take an unexpected journey through the territory of evidence by flattening out traditional hierarchies of knowledge and discursive practices.

Fri 2:00 pm – 3:15 pm

Hope Against Hope: 21C Utopian Forms

Siân AdiseshiahMCRn

“Everybody want the Promised Land now” -Andrea Hairston, Mindscape (2006)

“We inhabit the bottom of a slippery slope of equation and conflation, where opposition to totalitarianism becomes opposition to utopianism becomes opposition to ideology becomes opposition to the political” -David M. Bell, Re-thinking Utopia (2017).

This panel seeks to investigate utopian functions, impulses and potentials of utopian forms in and of the twenty-first century. Drawing on a cross-disciplinary range of perspectives including Literature (Edwards, Stock), Theatre (Adiseshiah), Education (Webb) and Art (Smith), we seek to address a series of questions relating to the study of utopian forms including the potential for the integration of utopian thinking into our teaching practice. Can utopias and utopianism be repositioned, from objects of study to models of emancipatory thought and action? We are also interested in the limits of utopian thinking, how we can work through the problems embedded in its history and whether or not utopia as a textual and cultural form can be recuperated from its long association with colonisation and colonial logic.

Universities are now welcoming as undergraduates a post 9/11 generation who have grown up in the shadow of nineteen continual years of the “War on Terror”. The structure of feeling of the early twenty-first century is marked by resurgent far-right nationalism, an existential climate crisis, the far-reaching surveillance capabilities integrated into new technologies, the domination of a world economy with less numerous, but more powerful number of corporations, increasing financialisation, and the privatisation of public goods. For both post-millennial and mature students the study of utopian forms in the historical context of the twenty-first century has the potential to introduce them to the historical contingency of the present and the possibility of alternative modes of being. Yet in the current institutional context of higher education, we ought not to oversell the transformative potential of utopian studies; as Darren Webb (2018, 100) notes, “the field of critical pedagogy/radical education is heavy on bombast and the realities of the utopian classroom often fall short of the theory-heavy promises”.

Notwithstanding these limitations, utopian forms are essential tools for us and our students to affect stringent critiques of the structure of feeling of our age, to identify, and analyse what Williams termed “emergent forms”, and to begin to think about the possibilities for alternative modes of being, and changes in social relations. In our roundtable we want to raise for discussion a series of important questions, including:

  • How we can fully acknowledge and work through the role of western utopian imaginaries in the history of colonialism, while seeking to decolonize curricula within existing institutional constraints?
  • What is distinctive about utopian forms in the twenty-first century and why do they matter?
  • How are twenty-first century writers, artists, and educators using particular forms to enable utopian affects?

Dr Siân Adiseshiah is Senior Lecturer in English and Drama at Loughborough University. Her research interests are in contemporary theatre, utopianism, age studies, gender studies, and class studies. She is author of forthcoming Utopian Drama: In Search of a Genre (Bloomsbury, 2021), co-editor (with Jacqueline Bolton) of debbie tucker green: Critical Perspectives (Palgrave, 2020), (with Louise LePage) Twenty-First Century Drama: What Happens Now (Palgrave, 2016), (with Rupert Hildyard) Twenty-First Century Fiction: What Happens Now, 2013 (Palgrave, 2013), and author of Churchill’s Socialism: Political Resistance in the Plays of Caryl Churchill (CSP, 2009).

Dr Dan Byrne-Smith is Senior Lecturer in Fine Art Theory at Chelsea College of Arts, UAL. He is editor of the forthcoming Science Fiction: Documents of Contemporary Art, (Whitechapel/MIT, 2020) and is currently the Horniman Museum Art, Design and Natural History Fellow.

Dr Caroline Edwards is Senior Lecturer in Modern and Contemporary Literature. She is author of Utopia and the Contemporary British Novel (Cambridge University Press, 2019). [Full bio tbc.]

Dr Adam Stock is Lecturer in English Literature at York St John University. His research interests are in utopian studies, modernism, and science fiction. He is author of Modern Dystopian Fiction and Political Thought: Narratives of World Politics (Routledge, 2019). He served as Hon Treasurer of the Utopian Studies Society 2014-2019.

Dr Darren Webb is Senior Lecturer in Education at the University of Sheffield. Over the past few years he has become increasingly interested in the pedagogical practices of the ‘utopian’ educator. How does a committed utopist bring this commitment to bear on their role as an educator? Can there be such a thing as utopian pedagogy? Or a utopian pedagogue? Where and how can/should utopian pedagogy best operate? These are the questions that animate his research. He is currently working on a book for the Ralahine Utopian Studies series titled Utopian Subjectivities: Hope, Education and the Radical Imagination.

Fri 2:00 pm – 3:15 pm

Just apply language? Notes from the nexus of research, teaching and engagement

Robert LawsonMMUa

In recent years, questions have been raised about the relevance of arts and humanities research in a society preoccupied with more explicitly ‘applied’ subjects. In turn, arts and humanities scholars have critically reflected on the ways in which their research is positioned and how it speaks to broader social concerns, an endeavour which has intensified amidst the growing centrality of ‘impact’ as a measure of research efficacy. This raises considerations around how impact is theorised, who has a remit to ‘do impact’, and how collaborative knowledge is leveraged to improve human well-being. It also relates to inter-/ trans-disciplinarity and the extension of traditionally defined and bounded disciplines towards innovative methodological approaches to knowledge creation.

This panel brings together presenters from all career stages to consider ‘applied’ language/linguistics and diverse approaches to teaching, research and engagement operating at the nexus of these three activities. While research-led teaching is widely understood to underpin quality student education, we suggest that there is space for work which operates across institutionally imposed boundaries. We showcase projects which demonstrate how academics, students, universities and schools can collaboratively create shared knowledge, expanding the scope of applied language studies/applied linguistics. We plan to hold our panel and related exhibition in the Whitworth Gallery (Multilingual Streets project partner).

Moving applied linguistics out of the classroom: engaging university partners in collaborative knowledge production (Robert Lawson, Esther Asprey, Charlotte Bond, Birmingham City University)

This paper discusses the implementation of a new undergraduate module at BCU, where students work with university partners to investigate an issue related to language use. The presentation shows how students can lead on collaborative knowledge creation through partnerships with the university community and how linguistics can align to student concerns such as employability and professional development.

Children’s language: development and change as children encounter and create texts (Lucy Taylor, University of Leeds and Becky Parry, University of Sheffield)

This paper focuses on the written texts of primary school children, particularly those written without adult mediation or guidance. Examining how children use language to imagine, create and communicate, it shows that children’s authoring of texts is contextual, socially situated and informed by their affinities with favoured and familiar texts. An approach drawing on applied linguistics offers new insights into children as users of language and a broader semiotic toolkit, enabling teachers and researchers to explore new ways to respond to the texts children author.

In their own voice?’: using arts-based research practices to represent co-produced knowledge in research (Ryan Bramley, University of Sheffield)
This paper focuses on a documentary film project using arts-based practices. It argues that such research offers the opportunity for the voices of co-producers to be more authentically represented, particularly with research participants’ use of language and dialect, an area where written transcription often falls short.

Multilingual Streets I: creative practice meets linguistic landscapes (Louise Atkinson, Jessica Bradley, University of Sheffield)
This paper considers the ‘Multilingual Streets’ project which uses linguistic landscapes-based research methodologies and arts-based practice in exploring young people’s understandings of language diversity in Manchester and Sheffield. It focuses on artistic processes in dialogue with a linguistic ethnographic approach, demonstrating how we might extend and disrupt our understandings of research and engagement.

Multilingual Streets II: a school’s perspective (Greg Morrison and pupils from Burnage Academy, Manchester)
Pupils and teachers involved in the ‘Multilingual Streets’ project offer their perspectives on their research explorations and findings. Artworks from the project will also be displayed.

Fri 2:00 pm – 3:15 pm

Literary Culture, Meritocracy, and the Assessment of Intelligence, 1880 to 1920

Michael CollinsMCRh

Drs. Sara Lyons, Natasha Periyan (University of Kent), and Michael Collins (KCL) recently completed work on an AHRC early career grant project (2016 -19). The object of the research was to investigate how British and American novelists understood, represented, and problematised the concept of human intelligence between 1880 and 1920.

These forty years saw intense scientific debates about the mechanisms underlying biological heredity as well as the establishment of mass compulsory education systems in both Britain and America. The convergence of these developments galvanised a new drive to establish the fundamentally innate and measurable nature of mental ability.

The rise of intelligence testing and the associated concept of IQ was highly controversial, but it nonetheless achieved a considerable scientific and cultural legitimacy in both countries, and encouraged a tendency to conceptualise intelligence in statistical terms, as a phenomenon that distributes itself predictably around a norm in a population.

This project compared how British and American novelists used the bildungsroman form – the novel of education and personal development – to grapple with the implications of the new drive to render intelligence an objectively knowable phenomenon.

Key questions included:

  • What did it mean, and how did it feel, to be classified as being above, below, or of average intelligence, at a moment when such judgments began to lay claim to scientific authority?
  • To what extent did novelists in the period endorse or contest the IQ model of intelligence, and what alternative ideas about the evaluation of intelligence can be discovered in the bildungsroman, a form with roots in Romantic theories of education?
  • What is the relationship between new efforts to conceive of intelligence as a testable and unitary entity in the brain and the shift toward more experimental modes of literary representation in the late nineteenth- and early twentieth centuries?
  • What impact did the rise of the notion of IQ have upon modern ideas of talent, creativity, and aesthetic value?
  • How does literary culture in this period both clarify and enrich our contemporary debates about competitive examinations, meritocracy, and genetic determinism.

In this session Sara Lyons, Natasha Periyan, and Michael Collins will offer 20 minute research papers on a number of the writers covered by the project that they will situate in the context of the larger project. The initial panel roundtable will run for 60 mins before moving to a Q&A and audience responses.

D.H. Lawrence and Women in Love: the intellect and the senses (Dr Natasha Periyan)

Natasha Periyan’s research examines the relationship between modernist-era literature and educational debates. She has worked as a Research Associate at the University of Kent on the AHRC-funded project ‘Literary Culture, Meritocracy and the Assessment of Intelligence in Britain and America, 1880 – 1920’ and held teaching positions at Goldsmiths, Falmouth, Royal Holloway and is currently teaching Northeastern University students at the New College of the Humanities. She has published articles and book chapters on writers including Virginia Woolf, George Orwell and D.H. Lawrence. Her book, The Politics of 1930s British Literature: Education, Gender, Class (Bloomsbury 2018) won the 2018 ISCHE First Book Award.

This paper analyses D.H. Lawrence’s novel Women in Love in the context of his teaching practice and training. On a plot level, Women in Love rejects the conformity of the classroom and the narrowness of intellectual knowledge, celebrating instead the realm of instincts and the senses. Like its teacher-author, though, the novel retains a pedagogic design; to lead the reader through the experience of the text’s narrative confusions into an epistemological critique of the rationalised intellect and the male teachers who embody it. The poems and textbooks Lawrence was reading during the novel’s gestation suggest that Lawrence’s modernist style was an alternative form of teaching ‘sense’ to his readers, in line with his wider conception of the educational qualities of art.

“Breeding Stupid Lads and ‘Cute Wenches”: Heredity and Intelligence in The Eliot’s Mill on the Floss (1860) (Dr. Sara Lyons)

Sara Lyons is a Senior Lecturer in Victorian Literature at the University of Kent. Her first book, Algernon Swinburne and Walter Pater: Victorian Aestheticism, Doubt, and Secularisation was published by Legenda in 2015. She is currently at work on a book which explores how Victorian novelists understood and represented human intelligence, particularly in relation to concepts of meritocracy and inequality.

As the science writer Carl Zimmer has recently observed, it is extremely difficult to calculate the influence of environment upon a person’s IQ score because such influences cannot be ‘snapped apart into distinct chunks the way genetic variants can. They ramify into each other, forming the mycelium of experience’ The ‘mycelium of experience’ is a phrase that George Eliot surely would have appreciated: she famously reaches for web metaphors when trying to capture the intricate interrelatedness of social life and individual development. This paper will suggest that turning to Victorian novels, and in particular to Eliot’s 1860 bildungsroman, The Mill on the Floss, can help to renew the stale modern debate about intelligence and heredity. The long-running controversy over the extent to which differences in IQ scores are attributable to genes or environment, nature or nurture, has its roots in the middle decades of the nineteenth century. Mid-Victorian scientists and psychologists – most notably Herbert Spencer and Francis Galton – began to conceptualise intelligence as a biological trait, shaped by evolution and largely determined by heredity. Intelligence was thus disentangled, at least in theory, from personality and moral character, and open to objective measurement, just like any other physical attribute. In the same period, intelligence came to be understood not in terms of specific skills or talents but as general ability – the Victorian antecedent to the concept of g, or general intelligence, the quality that IQ tests purport to measure.

As a polymathic thinker and deep reader in contemporary science and psychology, Eliot was unusually well-attuned to the implications of the new biologisation of the intellect. Most clearly, The Mill on the Foss is a critical response to the fact that mid-Victorian scientists and psychologists dwelled with particular intensity on the supposed innate differences between male and female minds. Beyond this, the novel’s representation of the educations of Maggie and Tom Tulliver is a subtle polemic about the inescapably social and emotional nature of intelligence. In this, Eliot used the resources of the novel form to substantiate the same argument that her common-law husband, George Henry Lewes, would later make in his Problems of Life and Mind (1877): ‘All cognition is primarily emotion. We only see what interests us. No phenomenon is interesting until it is illuminated by emotion, and we see, or foresee, its connection with our feelings’.

Dr. Mike Collins

After completing a Ph.D at The University of Nottingham with a thesis on the 19th Century US Short Story and Theatre, Dr. Collins held a Leverhulme postdoc there to work on the relationship between class politics and anthropology in 19th -and 20th- century US literature and culture (forthcoming from EUP under the title The Making of U.S. Modernism: Class, Culture, Aesthetics). He then took a up post as Lecturer in American Literature at the University of Kent, before coming to King’s College in Sept. 2018. Most recently, he has been working on a cultural history of intelligence testing in the U.S. “Progressive Era” as part of an AHRC Early Career project entitled, “Literary Culture, Meritocracy and the Assessment of Intelligence, 1880- 1920”, and is working with Prof. Gavin Jones (Stanford) on developing new critical approaches to the American Short Story.

What is the right mood in which to approach the essential, but often remarkably frustrating, task of shaping and cultivating other minds? Popular culture abounds with images of inspirational teachers motivated by the apparent value of knowledge itself to propel themselves unguardedly and without reservation into educating others. Yet, under the conditions of capitalism the profession itself is one commonly marked by the economic precarity and cultural liminality of its practitioners. In this condition, the demands that we display unflappable enthusiasm seem like an example of what the historian of affect Lauren Berlant has called “Cruel Optimism” – an emotional stance in relation to pervasive inequality that in seeking to present the world as otherwise brutalises the subject. Arguably, no teacher historically (save, perhaps, Socrates or depending on your stance Christ) has been the subject of such hagiographic descriptions as Anne Sullivan, the “Miracle Worker” who in the words of her charge the deaf and blind Helen Keller bestowed upon her “the key to all language” (Living My Life, 25) and put her on the path to her world-changing career. Yet the Boston-Irish Sullivan commented frequently upon her ill-preparation for the task, her anger, resentment and disappointment at having to do it, and the “ugly feelings” (Ngai) of envy and contempt she periodically felt for her disabled, aristocratic, Southern pupil in the wildly unequal U.S. Progressive Era.

In this paper, using a methodology informed by the work of Sianne Ngai on “ugly feelings”, Lauren Berlant on “cruel optimism”, Sara Ahmed on race inequality, and Jacques Rancière on radical enlightenment, I read Anne Sullivan and Helen Keller’s pedagogical interactions as a means of exploring the emotional states attendant upon educating another when one feels utterly unable to do so. This article extends Jacques Rancière’s vision of “the ignorant schoolmaster” as an ideal condition in which to approach democratic forms of pedagogy (wherein one does not impart wisdom so much as through their own ignorance of the topic at hand engender a habit of inquiry in one’s students) to consider the affects of the teacher-subject placed in that role. In doing so, I theorise the “indignant schoolmaster” as a consciously Nietzschean, “suspicious”, reading of the potentially damaging effect of certain versions of capitalist optimism for teachers. I demonstrate the manner by which a stance of positivity may be called upon to de-professionalise the work of teachers and enable the forms of casualisation, precarity, and inequality frequently desired by their managers and institutions.

Fri 2:00 pm – 3:15 pm

New Materialism And Literary Studies

Sophie VlacosSeminar Room 3

New Materialism has been hovering at the peripheries of English Studies for a good many years now and is perhaps best encapsulated by the prevailing doxa of ‘entanglement’; a term that gestures towards a broadly post-dualist, post-Deleuzian conception of cultural and material, human and non-human relations. Key to entanglement’s non-binary relations is the philosophical concept of emergence, whereby material entities and cultural qualities emerge co-productively within a complexity of many relations operating at many levels. For advocates of New Materialism, entanglement and emergence present the cornerstone to a ‘natureculture’ (Barad, 2003) philosophy that is neither idealist nor materialist in a naively or dialectical manner; it signals a stepping-stone to new pathways in critical theory that are, to quote Manuel de Landa ‘neither realist nor social constructivist.’ (deLanda 2006). Moreover, it pronounces itself not so much as a new school of thought in opposition to older schools of thought, so much as an act of re-reading across disciplines.

The purpose of this panel is to interrogate the claims of New Materialism from a distinctly literary perspective, by questioning the critical, creative and ethical implications and potentials of this movement:

Paper One: Critique (Dr Sophie Vlacos)

University of Glasgow

One important criticism levelled at New Materialist theory is that it skips all-too readily from an ontology of entanglement to an ethics of entanglement; to a kind of dispositional openness to the non-human and to difference which, so the argument goes, repeats the solecism of rationalist thinking insofar as it fails to acknowledge any material constraints to accessing non-human nature, or what’s more, to acknowledge the true dominion of the Cartesian nature-culture binary as it continues to exert its logic within social existence (Rekret, 2016). This reservation illuminates a point of literary-philosophical intersection, between New Materialism and the kind of post-rationalist fatigue signalled through the resurgence of Sontag’s literary erotics under the banner of post-critique. This paper will examine the relation between the two energies, the historical tensions they rehearse, and their implications for literary concepts such as form, poiesis and singularity.

Paper Two: Ethics (Dr Lorna Burns)

University of St Andrews

The ethical dimension of New Materialism comes into sharp relief when viewed against contemporary social issues and global challenges – demanding a narrative that encompasses ecology, politics, health, technology and science. The literary text can thus be identified as a site in which human and nonhuman entanglements are narrated and reimagined anew. But to what extent can New Materialism account not merely for what is actively registered, but also for what is repressed; in short, to what extent can the New Materialist’s ontology of non-binary entanglement adequately account for, and prepare us for, an engagement with the ethical other? This paper challenges New Materialism to account for the other and to furnish an ethics in the strong sense of the word.

Paper Three: Imagination, Synaesthesia and Sensorium (Dr Helen Palmer)

Kingston University

This paper interweaves social history, evolutionary biology, musicology, anti-psychiatry, spectrometry and literary theory into a performative interrogation of the literary and creative potentials of New Materialism conceived as a re-evaluation of conventional categorisations and literary parameters.

Fri 2:00 pm – 3:15 pm

Other Empathies: New Directions in Literary Animal Studies

Timothy BakerMCRg

‘Our capacity to see animal suffering in a new light – or rather, to see animal suffering at all – depends on our willingness to include emotion’.

Elisa Aaltola

This panel, covering a range of historical contexts, cultural perspectives, and media, examines how questions of empathy have taken a central position in literary animal studies, and how the relationship between human and nonhuman animals challenges traditional understanding of culture, aesthetics, theory, and politics.

Animals and Empathy in Indigenous Contexts (Emma Barnes)

Emma Barnes is an AHRC PhD Student in Nineteenth-Century Literature at the University of Salford.

Speaking of animals, Jeremy Bentham asked is it not, ‘Can they reason? nor, Can they talk? but, Can they suffer?’ This notion of suffering and sentience has been pivotal in the provocation of empathy towards animals and the formation of animal rights, particularly in relation to Western cultures. Within Indigenous cultures of North America, however, animal kinship, empathy, and animal suffering are not necessarily mutually exclusive. This paper draws upon the work of Indigenous writer, Tekahionwake, to explore how Indigenous fiction navigates the tensions that arise between empathy towards animals, animal sacrifice and indigenous hunting rights that are central to the survival of tribes, Indigenous self-rule, and the sustainability of Indigenous lands. By engaging with Indigenous fiction, the concept of empathy towards animals and its complexity within different cultures can be examined.

‘Their blood does not stain our hands’: Insect Ethics, Aesthetics and Empathy (Danielle Sands)

Dr Danielle Sands is Lecturer in Comparative Literature at Royal Holloway, University of London and Fellow of the Forum for Philosophy at the LSE. She is the author of Animal Writing: Storytelling, Selfhood and the Limits of Empathy (Edinburgh, 2019).

This paper tracks the flying and scurrying of disparate unpinned insects, emphasising both their instrumental and intrinsic value and the necessity of supplementing empathetic with non-empathetic approaches when thinking and writing with them. It will examine three figures of the insect: the first, the insect as other other in Damien Hirst’s work, exposes the limitations of empathetic responses to nonhuman life. The second, the queer insect, draws on Elizabeth Grosz’s reading of Darwin, Roger Caillois’ interpretation of mimicry, and Lee Edelman’s work in queer theory to argue that the insect provides a figure of the inhuman that counters logics of heteronormative futurity. The final figure, that of the disgusting insect, is generated through Braidotti’s reading of Clarice Lispector’s novel The Passion of G.H and Derrida’s reading of Kant’s third critique. The paper concludes by advancing disgust as a useful tool in the development of an inhuman insect ethics.

‘I Like the Ants’: Animal Life, Empathy, and the Politics of Adaptation (Timothy C. Baker)

Dr Timothy C. Baker is Senior Lecturer in Scottish and Contemporary Literature at the University of Aberdeen. He is the author of Writing Animals: Language, Suffering, and Animality in Twenty-First-Century Fiction (Palgrave, 2019).

Anna Tsing, Donna Haraway, and Judith Butler have influentially posited precarity and vulnerability as the central questions of twenty-first-century life. This paper highlights the relationship between precarity and nonhuman life in Jonathan Glazer’s adaptation of Michel Faber’s Under the Skin (2013) and Lynne Ramsay’s adaptation of Alan Warner’s Morvern Callar (2002) to ask how the representation of animals challenges traditional understandings of individual psychology and the politics of the nation-state. The added focus on nonhuman life in these films allows for the formulation, in Rosi Braidotti’s words, of ‘a new collective subject, a “we-are-(all)-in-this-together-but-we-are-not-one-and-the-same” kind of subject’ that creates a space for transformation and new forms of being-with, where empathy replaces traditional notions of agency.

Fri 2:00 pm – 3:15 pm

Poetry recitation as historical legacy and as contemporary, embodied, interpretative poetic practice

Tim ShortisMCRp

Since 2007, several new-style national poetry recitation competitions have been established in the post-colonial legacy of the English-speaking world, including Poetry by Heart in England, Talk the Poem in Jamaica, and Poetry for Life in South Africa. This panel session considers these three cases of the unlikely revival and reinvention of poetry memorisation and performance: an older and sometimes discredited practice in school English teaching.

Poetry recitation was a staple of 19th century schooling in the English-speaking world before falling into decline from the mid-20th century, with a reputation compromised by memories of enforced rote learning of prescribed poems in acts of class and colonial imposition. Meanwhile many poets have argued for the special relationship between poetry and memory as well as for the special value of attending to poems in spoken public form. In spite of such advocacy, poetry recitation remains contested with connotations so problematic that the word itself is avoided in the titles of the new competitions, which instead bring attention to the affective experience of a poem taken into memory and its public sharing: Poetry Aloud; Poetry Out Loud; Poetry By Heart; Poetry in Voice; Talk the Poem; Poetry for Life.

The session consists of three presentations, the first elaborates on the introduction above by presenting a critical comparison outlining how poetry recitation is being reinvented in the England, Jamaica and South Africa, including the poems chosen, the notions of performance promulgated and valued in the judging processes, the very different levels of resourcing available in the three contexts examined, and the consequences of that.

The second presents a case study comparison of versions of Linton Kwesi Johnson’s poem ‘Sonny’s lettah’ (1979), as spoken in “Landan Inglan”, and in Kingston, Jamaica in the finals of two national poetry recitation competitions, arguing that recitation affords a reinvented form of person-centred, culturally-specific, embodied literary criticism. In these performances, students differently embody the poem and their interpretation of it simultaneously, sharing it with others in a manner which appears to elicit strong levels of engagement. While literary analysis has often focused on the words and meanings of the written text of a poem, poetry recitation gives attention to interpretation made by the wider range of communicative resources that are orchestrated when a poem is spoken in public space. This case study suggests that the new-style of recitation may have potential as a manner of embodied literary criticism which is found vivid and culturally-attuned by its school student contestants and their audiences. This is of significance for pedagogical practice and for future empirical research.

The third presentation is an opportunity to hear from teachers and contestants and to think critically about the strong claims which have been made about the transformative impact of involvement in the Poetry By Heart competition on appreciation of poetry. While poets such as Heaney and Hughes have asserted that memorisation and speaking of just a small number of poems might alter understanding of poetry, those claims were made without reference to evidence. Does the new kind of video testament offer a warrant and how credible and generalizable is the testament of a competition’s winners? Is recitation – in its newly recontextualised competition format – offering a new manner of select enjoyment or does it go further, and how might we know?

Dr Julie Blake, Co-founder and Co-Director of Poetry By Heart, Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge
Dr Georgie Horrell, Homerton College Cambridge, Director of Poetry Across Borders, adviser on Poetry for Life
Dr Tim Shortis, Co-Director of Poetry By Heart
David Whitley, Fellow of Homerton College, University of Cambridge, Principal Investigator of Leverhulme Poetry and Memory project, Poetry By Heart judge
Teachers, librarians and Poetry By Heart school organisers (names to follow)

Fri 2:00 pm – 3:15 pm

Romanticisms: Canons, Values and Working on the Fringes

Simon KovesiMMUe

This panel explores Romantic-period writing in and from its less canonical fringes, in areas that remain relatively unexplored, and largely untaught. We will look at the inclusion of science writing and scientists; issues of class, gender and sexuality, nationality, ethnicity and race. The panel will consider both texts and ideas encountered through research, but also at the ways texts, contexts and the period itself, work in the classroom. Across the papers, we will open up to scrutiny this shortest of periods and we will necessarily encounter many of the continuing assumptions and privileges of canonical Romanticism, while also considering how Romantic-period based arguments and values might be relevant to, and informed by, current contemporary debates.

‘Love, Gender, Sexuality 1740–1824’ (Dr Caroline Gonda)

Fellow in English, St Catharine’s College, Cambridge

In 2019–20, the English Faculty at Cambridge introduced a new final year undergraduate option entitled ‘Love, Gender, Sexuality 1740–1824’. Using the introduction and first iteration of this course as a starting point, this paper will discuss what it means to make official space for the study of sexuality in the undergraduate English curriculum. It will also address some of the challenges inherent in researching and teaching the history of sexuality in a period before the invention of sexual identity categories, and in particular how to think through ideas of queerness and same-sex desire in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.

Humphry Davy’s Notebooks (Prof Sharon Ruston)

Professor of Romanticism, Lancaster University

While Humphry Davy is a canonical figure in the History of Science, he is still a marginal figure in British Romanticism. I have attempted to show in a number of ways how central he was to key concepts and writers associated with Romanticism. Davy was a friend and critic of Coleridge, Wordsworth, and Byron, among others. In this talk I will explore Davy’s notebooks, which are themselves an under-considered form in literary studies. Davy slides from the scientific to the poetic in his notebooks. I will look at moments where his thoughts link and divide these ways of understanding the world.

#litPOC: On #Bigger7, #BIPOC18, and #POC19 Critical Antiracist Intervention (Dr Christine “Xine” Yao)

Lecturer in American Literature to 1900, University College London

How can we be critical about our scholarly practices in the long eighteenth and nineteenth centuries? In 2017 #Bigger6 was created to organize scholarly work and discussions committed to a more inclusive Romanticism. #BIPOC18 soon followed, calling to reframe eighteenth-century studies as a site of anticolonial refusal. In 2018 Jennifer James coined #POC19 in response to grassroots issues about scholars of color working in long nineteenth century America. These are a few of the grassroots movements that developed independently but are now in conversation under the umbrella term #litPOC which I named later in 2018. In my presentation, I will give an overview of these antiracist interventions through the neglected, underexamined, and suppressed writings of peoples of color in the archive in ways mindful of our own embodied positionalities as scholars dedicated to praxis informed by different configurations of critical race and ethnic studies, feminism, disability studies, and queer theory. By attending to archival absences we seek not only to recover these writings as evidence of their presences, but take seriously their work as critique. Our work in dialogue considers the temporal, affective politics of citation not only of the past but our active practices as critics anticipating, creating, opening a future. Finally, I will turn to how my project seeks to disrupt our understandings of affect studies and Adam Smith’s concept of sympathy through attending to the political and affective disaffection of peoples of colour.

Speaker: Simon Kövesi
Paper proposal: ‘The Class Acts of Romanticism’. The Romantic period was an even more stratified and socially immobile society than our own. By far the majority of the population across the period we now laughably know as Romantic, lived rurally, and in poverty. The literature of the period is often celebrated – and confidently celebrated itself – as being inclusive of ‘ordinary’ lives: of including in its poetic purview, at least, chimney-sweeping children, slaves, orphans, the grieving, the insane, and the otherwise marginalised or disenfranchised – alongside the more traditional literary heroics and dramas of the aristocracy and a swelling bourgeoisie. Yet writers themselves of impoverished or marginalised origins were not often warmly included in the literary adventure. And even when they were successful, they have largely been met since first publication with dismissal by the Romanticists of the academy. This paper wonders whether Romanticism is founded on exclusions; whether the term ‘Romantic’ is itself a middle-class construct of our own middle-class academy that inherently excludes; and whether the idea of a working-class tradition is an anachronism, or a palpable, meaningful thread, in the way we might understand some work of this period.

Fri 2:00 pm – 3:15 pm

Roundtable: Decolonising the English Department

Lecture Theatre (Conference Room for overflow)

Recent years have witnessed student-led calls to decolonise the curriculum and engage with the colonial heritage on which many of Britain’s universities are built, and which underpins present constructions of history, literature and knowledge. This strand will consist of three sessions in which we aim to approach the challenges of decolonising the curriculum from an early career academic’s perspective. We want to foreground the voices of early career academics who identify as black or minority ethnic; at the same time, we believe that ‘oppression belongs to the culture of the oppressor’ (Cynthia Ozick) and encourage critical interrogations of whiteness alongside celebration of anti-racist practices in English by academics of all colours.

Roundtable with invited early career academic speakers representing the variety of research in English (i.e. creative writing, literature and linguistics) and moderated by a senior academic. Speakers will be given a choice of keywords, with each speaker being asked to speak for five minutes about their keyword, followed by a moderated discussion including questions from the audience.

Lola Olufemi
Preti Taneja
Alyica Pirmohamed
Jay G Ying
Hannah Durkin
Rianna Walcott

Fri 2:00 pm – 3:15 pm

Early Career Academics, ECAs

Salon: Bart van Es, interviewed by Tim Robertson

Bart van EsCarole Nash Recital Room

Welcome to our literary salon, where we ask a leading member of the profession about their life in the subject and the subject in their life, exploring their career, work, ideas and thoughts for the future in a relaxed, informal atmosphere.

Bart van Es works on Renaissance drama by Shakespeare and his contemporaries and on ideas of history in the Renaissance and teaches at the University of Oxford. He is also the author of a prize-winning non-fiction book, The Cut Out Girl (2018), which explores his own family history and the concealment of a Jewish girl during the occupation of Holland. He will be interviewed by Tim Robertson, Chief Executive of The Anne Frank Trust UK and formerly Director of the Royal Society of Literature.

Fri 2:00 pm – 3:15 pm


Teaching Contemporary Women’s Dystopian and Apocalyptic Fictions

Susan WatkinsMMUc

(Organised by the CWWA (Contemporary Women’s Writing Association))

Since the turn of the millennium the dystopian and apocalyptic genre has become increasingly popular with students of English Literature (who are mostly women) and other young readers and is a frequent choice of dissertation topic. The papers in this panel all examine the ethical issues raised by this genre’s popularity with young readers and ask how can we encourage their engagement with it in innovative ways.

Post-Apocalyptic Writing and Creative/Critical Interventions: Engaging BAME Young Adult Women (Susan Watkins and Rachel Connor)

Susan Watkins is Professor of Women’s Writing in the School of Cultural Studies at Leeds Beckett University, UK.
Dr Rachel Connor is Director of Creative Writing in the School of Cultural Studies at Leeds Beckett University, UK.

In many dystopian and post-apocalyptic novels the world has been rebuilt after a disaster along totalitarian lines to create a society where there is no individual freedom and women and children are subordinate. Although these novels’ strong young women central characters challenge the power structures around them and potentially begin to resist the idea of women as victim, they are ambivalent at best in term of gender, sexuality and race. This paper argues that we need to look to a wider range of critical / creative possibilities for young people in the context of the array of texts that are published each year in this genre. We explore our experience of organising an event for YA women students (age 15-18) from a predominantly BAME and Muslim girls’ school in Bradford. Supported by AHRC Being Human festival funding, and by our partners – the charity First Story and the Leeds Library – we encouraged students to question the assumptions inherent in much post-apocalyptic and dystopian writing, introduced them to new examples and new histories of the genre, and enabled them to take part as writers and creators of post-apocalyptic narratives.

Eco-Apocalypse, Decolonized Geographies, and Posthuman/Postcolonial Archives (Hope Jennings)

Hope Jennings is Professor in the Department of English Language and Literatures, Wright State University (Dayton, Ohio, US).

This paper will discuss my pedagogical experience and student responses to contemporary postcolonial and indigenous eco-apocalyptic texts explored in a graduate seminar offered in Spring 2020, Archive Fevers. This seminar focused on literary texts and theories that explore various manifestations of the archive, as a term that functions both literally and figuratively in cultural texts and spaces, and how the politics of the archive inform posthuman/new materialist theories and eco-apocalyptic narratives. Students interrogate the uses of institutional and individual archives in shaping responses to traumatic pasts and precarious futures, and the ways in which such responses articulate apocalyptic anxieties in the face of global climate and refugee crises, extinction politics, and histories of settler colonialism. Texts by Brenda Shaughnessy, Alexis Pauline Gumbs, Alexis Wright, and Valeria Luiselli are used to prompt debates on collective memory and conceptual/material archives. This paper will assess the extent to which teaching contemporary eco-apocalyptic texts by indigenous and postcolonial writers offers opportunities to pursue innovative research questions that “unsettle” and challenge normative, dominant, and/or first-world Anthropocene narratives.

The Handmaid’s Tale and Beyond: Women’s Speculative Fiction within the Educational Canon (Laura-Jane Devanny)

Laura-Jane Devanny is Head of English at Bosworth Independent College, Northampton and Associate Lecturer, University of Northampton, UK. She also runs The Write Approach.

Arguably, speculative fiction by contemporary women writers is a crucial site of critical engagement in investigating some of the more urgent questions posed by the intersection between postmodern politics, popular culture and feminist theory; these include the social consequences of projected technologies, anxieties over capitalism and the culture industry, apprehension about economic and ecological sustainability and the possibilities of changing embodiment. Increasing interventions by literary women writers have led to the genre gaining in prominence and credibility so it is, therefore, surprising that there remains a lack of such writers on the list of set texts for secondary exam board syllabi and sparse opportunity to teach women’s dystopian fiction at further education level.

This paper will explore how Margaret Atwood, as a canonical literary writer ‘slipstreaming’ within SF genre fiction, firmly established herself within the realms of literary education through her 1985 novel The Handmaid’s Tale. With the renewed momentum generated by the recent publication of The Testaments, Atwood continues to pioneer the transformative potential of women’s dystopian and apocalyptic fiction and cement its place within the educational canon.

Fri 2:00 pm – 3:15 pm

Learned societies

The British Society for Literature and Science panel: Field Observations

Greg Lynall 1Conference Room

A panel (of 5 x 10-minute talks followed by Q&A) which will showcase the latest research across the field, and in particular will demonstrate the cross- and interdisciplinary reach of our members. It will feature scholars at different career stages, with a doctoral student, ECR, mid-career and professorial speakers. The session addresses the place of English studies within responses to global challenges such as the climate emergency and the increasing adoption of AI.

Chair: Professor John Holmes (Professor of Victorian Literature and Culture, University of Birmingham)

  1. Victorian Gothic Literature and Climate Change (Dr Emily Alder (BSLS Membership Secretary, and Lecturer in Literature and Culture, Edinburgh Napier University))
  2. Environmental Catastrophe in Margaret Atwood’s “ustopian” narratives (Gemma Curto (PhD candidate, University of Sheffield))
  3. Global AI Narratives (Dr Kanta Dihal (Postdoctoral researcher, Leverhulme Centre for the Future of Intelligence, University of Cambridge))
  4. Divided pasts and shared futures in literature and science (Dr Greg Lynall (Chair of BSLS, and co-director of Literature & Science Hub, University of Liverpool))
  5. On Theorizing Literature and Science (Professor Michael H. Whitworth (BSLS Treasurer, and Professor of Modern Literature and Culture, University of Oxford))

LEARNED SOCIETIES STRAND: The British Society for Literature and Science

Fri 2:00 pm – 3:15 pm

Learned societies

The ethics and politics of poetic attention

Bridget VincentMMUd

Poetry and the Deed of Reading: Forms of Attention and Immersion (Dr Sarah Kennedy)

Fellow in English, Downing College, University of Cambridge

How does the close reading of poetry speak to the dialogic character of literary studies? How might we articulate the pedagogical function of reading and interpreting poetry in our contemporary, attention-starved moment? And by what means can we incorporate the incantatory power of the human voice, and the deep relations between speech, memory, and the body, into our reading and teaching practice? This paper investigates the ethical possibilities of the absorbed attentiveness of close/deep reading, exploring concepts of play as well as recent developments in phenomenologically-inflected reading. This paper draws on Geoffrey Hartman’s insight that “myth and metaphor are endued with the acts, the gesta, of speech; and if there is a mediator for our experiences of literature, it is something as simply with us as the human body, namely the human voice.” How might we, students, teachers, and readers, enter into a dialogue with those elements of texts that speak back to and through a variety of utterances and echoes? Situated at the disciplinary crossroads of aesthetics, pedagogy, and philosophically-oriented literary criticism, this paper argues for a vision of poetry as an embodied play-function for ethical enquiry about social life.

Elitism, Populism, and Attention in the Difficult Poem (Dr Bridget Vincent)

Lecturer in English, University of Nottingham

The interactions of the terms ‘elite’ and ‘populist’ have recently come under particular pressure with the rise of Trump, Brexit and European far-right movements. This paper proposes that useful resources for examining the nuances of this unstable term can be found in the contemporaneous debates taking place around elitism and accessibility in poetry. Working from the framework of Geoffrey Hill’s conception of democratic difficulty and the particular mode of attention it engenders, I will consider the fraught definitions of ‘elitist’ and ‘democratic’ underpinning discussions of accessibility in new digital and spoken forms of poetry. I will pay particular attention to the changing inflections of the therapeutic and the confessional as categories, with reference to the critical reception of figures as diverse as Carol Anne Duffey, Warsan Shire, Hollie McNish, Rupi Kaur, and Kate Tempest.

This is a two paper session because it aims to build in a shared reading and Q&A section, in which audience participation will be actively sought. Attendees at this session will be asked to reflect on how the category of attention manifests itself in their own work and connects with the discussion in the panel.

Fri 2:00 pm – 3:15 pm

The Politics and Poetics of Consolation: A Dialogue on Discrepant Solace

David JamesMCRm

Can literature help us to make sense of loss? In the face of illness, dread, or grief, why write? And amid the tumult of sorrow, can the very process of writing itself offer a kind of solace? If so, what form does that consolation take? In his 2019 book, David James tackles these tough and enduring questions, in order to engage with how literature evokes formidable experiences of loss, while also addressing how twenty-first-century writers examine consolation itself as a
source of ethical self-scrutiny and creative potential. The challenges writers face in attempting to convey, let alone compensate for, the social ramifications and psychological effects of devastation are not new; but as Discrepant Solace reveals, we have witnessed in recent years a flourishing range of novels and memoirs that confront consolation’s complexity and unpredictability in daring, innovative ways.

This panel brings together scholars from different career stages (Prof. Ankhi Mukherjee (Oxford), Dr. Adam Kelly (York), and Dr. Charlotte Terrell (Oxford)) who represent distinct areas of expertise, who work across genres and methodologies, and who all share an interest in the affective work of modern and contemporary literature. They will discuss the implications of James’s book, both by relating its arguments to their own research and by assessing its contentions within the context of a larger dialogue about how we read literature’s emotional, ethical, political affordances.

Each speaker will offer a relatively concise position paper (10-15 minutes). The panel will then be followed by a short response from James himself. The session will thereby prioritise discussion between the panel and its audience, facilitating broader conversations beyond the book itself about the critical consequentiality of studying the way literature produces emotional knowledge.

Dr. Adam Kelly (Senior Lecturer in English, University of York)
Prof. Ankhi Mukherjee (Professor of English and World Literatures; Tutorial Fellow, Wadham
College, University of Oxford)
Dr. Charlotte Terrell (Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Worcester College, University of Oxford)
Prof. David James (Professorial Research Fellow, University of Birmingham)

Fri 2:00 pm – 3:15 pm

The Public Humanities in the 21st Century: Roundtable Discussion

Zoe Bulaitis 1Opera Theatre

We will host a roundtable, in collaboration with Routledge, on ‘The Public Humanities in the 21st Century’. The purpose will be to consider the work and role of the humanities in the UK, and specifically the subject of English, in contemporary civic life. The roundtable features leading scholars in the field of literary studies and reflect on the idea of a/the public humanities. Our confirmed speakers offer varied and informed perspectives.

The session is intended to be exploratory and form a starting point for future research into the intersections between literary research, philosophies, publishing, and teaching in relation to public life in the twenty-first century. In this roundtable discussion, we invite speakers to reflect on the potential for the concept of a ‘public humanities’ which will develop and move beyond the well-established ‘value of the humanities’ debate and the critique of the marketization of university. Speakers will be offered the opportunity for a short provocation (5 minutes with prompts provided in advance) before broadening into a panel discussion with engagement and questions from the audience.

The roundtable aims: to better articulate and understand the relationship the humanities has to public and civil life; to explore the ways in which the humanities has evolved, or might evolve, within higher education in the twenty-first century; and, to reflect on how we might develop forms of scholarship that ensure not just adaptation and survival, but ones that effect change in the wider environment.

Dr Zoe Bulaitis (Research Associate, School of Arts, Languages and Cultures, University of Manchester) zoe.bulaitis@manchester.ac.uk

Dr Sarah Dillon (University Lecturer in Literature and Film, Faculty of English, University of Cambridge) sjd27@cam.ac.uk

Fri 2:00 pm – 3:15 pm


3:30 pm – 4:45 pm Friday Session IV

A Practice-Based Exploration of Therapy & Experimental Poetry

Victoria SparrowMCRg

While the therapeutic function of autobiographical poetry is well-documented, the therapeutic potential of experimental poetic practice is under-explored. This panel will look at how therapy (in its broadest sense) might be represented, enacted and/or contested through experiments with language and form, from the perspective of both reader and writer. The panel will comprise of three interlinked performance-lectures or practice-based papers which will raise questions around what the experimental poem can do that the talking cure can’t, and how we might conceptualise this as a mode of therapeutic work – or otherwise. In addition, the embodied nature of these performances will implicitly, and perhaps explicitly, consider what tactics could be deployed to keep the vulnerable and physical self in view whilst thinking about the politics of avant-garde writing. A central question will be: can the experimental poem’s disruption of conventional narrative be thought of as a mode of collective therapy, perhaps with connections to radical care? As a practice-based panel, we aim to encounter and open out topics without necessarily arguing for a single academic position. In essence, this panel aims to be a shared interpretation of the contemporary mental health crisis, read through the lens of the university and its framing of expressive arts.

Fri 3:30 pm – 4:45 pm

Applied Language


A Study of the Concept of Exile and Dislocation in Layla Atrash ‘s “la Toshbeh Thatoha “(2014) : Critical Discourse Analysis (Hijazi Eman)

Layla Atrash , a Palestinian Jordanian female novelist, has been devoting intensive efforts in spreading the values of love, tolerance and justice. She pays great attention to defend the humanitarian and social issues, especially representing the Arab women’s image in their society and the issue of dislocation . The study aims to analyze the used language to represent the concept of exile and dislocation linguistically in the light of Layla Atrash “la Toshbeh Thatoha”. The researcher employs critical discourse analysis (CDA) as a tool to analyze the linguistic features of the language used by the protagonist “ Habeba Al-Ein” who is the only narrator in the novel. Habiba narrates her story through the interior monologue to convey a message for the people who seek to replacement in other countries and the dream of better life is just illusion . Therefore the researcher will rely on the Norman Fairclough‘s theory of discourse to identify the narrative discursive strategies by focusing on the concept of the exile and enforced emigration as represented by both lexical and syntactic choice of this discourse in addition to the ideological and social implications. Consequently, this study is considered as the first one focusing on analyzing the used language by AL-Atrash linguistically in the light of the CDA techniques such as lexicalization, figurative speech, verbalization and normalization , passivity and activity personifications, and finally symbolism. The result shows that Layla Al-Atrash succeeded in utilizing her discourse linguistically to introduce the pain and the sufferance that the emigrants encounter in the exile.

Practical Literacies in a Multilingual Prison: A community-based approach (Rodney Jones and Suzanne Portch, University of Reading)

Mastering the literacies of institutions involves the complex interaction of individual competencies, institutional agendas, and the range of social practices with which these literacies are associated. Mastery of institutional literacies is even more complex in contexts in which individuals are brought together around regimes of practice over which they have limited control — contexts such as hospitals and prisons. In such contexts literacy practices sometimes act to constrain the agency of individuals or create barriers to them accessing the services they need. This paper reports on a project to examine the institutional literacy practices in a foreign-national prison in the UK. The aims of the project were to examine how literacy practices create communication problems for prisoners and prison staff, to understand the strategies people developed these problems, and to explore ways to facilitate solving these problems by inviting prisoners and staff to work together with students and researchers in applied linguistics.

The part of the project reported here involved students studying English Language and Applied Linguistics from the University of Reading working together with prisoners and staff to solve two specific problems: one having to do with the difficulty prisoners had in understanding the signage in the prison alerting them to the availability of various services; and the second having to do with the difficulty prisoners had understanding the legal language in deportation notices and in completing the documentation necessary for their immigration cases. This paper describes the processes by which the students, prisoners and staff worked together to formulate ways to address these literacy challenges, each group contributing different kinds of linguistic expertise, and showcases results: a set of redesigned signs to be placed in the corridor leading to the prison’s residential wings, and a short handbook for peer advisors helping them to deal with language related issues around immigration cases.

Implications for community based responses to issues around institutional literacies in other contexts are explored.

Fri 3:30 pm – 4:45 pm

Burgess: teacher

Adam RobertsInternational Anthony Burgess Foundation (3 Cambridge Street Manchester M1 5BY)

Anthony Burgess worked as a teacher all around the world, first as a sergeant in the Army Educational Corps during his military service and then at various schools in Britain, Malaya and Brunei. He often represented teachers and teaching in his fiction, and although he left the profession when he became a full-time writer in 1959 he continued with what might broadly be called a pedagogic authorial aesthetic, not only in his many non-fiction titles but also in his
novels. This panel will explore the linked topics of Burgess, education and fiction, unpacking the ways his oeuvre embodied and disseminated particular ideas about English as a discipline.

The panel will consist of Professor Andrew Biswell, Director of the Anthony Burgess Foundation; Dr Jim Clarke (Coventry University) author of The Aesthetics of Anthony Burgess: Fire of Words (Palgrave 2017); Professor Adam Roberts (Royal Holloway University of London), whose completion of Burgess’s unfinished The Black Prince was published by Unbound in 2018, and Dr Graham Foster, Publications Officers of the Anthony Burgess Foundation and co-editor of the
ongoing Irwell edition of Burgess’s complete works.

The event will be held in the International Anthony Burgess Foundation (3 Cambridge Street Manchester M1 5BY).

Fri 3:30 pm – 4:45 pm


Louise JohnsonMCRp

A recurring argument within children’s literature is that children need to read representative texts (Rudine Sims Bishop, 1990) and as Karen Coats recognises, gender plays a vital part in such issues of representation yet remains underexplored (2017). By delivering a series of papers which work to destabilise, question and interrogate theorisations about the ‘girl’ within both children’s and young adult literature, this panel seeks to address that critical lacuna. In particular, it looks to take both a “pleasure in the confusion of boundaries” and a “responsibility in their construction” (Haraway, 1991: 149), by arguing against dominant reductionist readings of both girls and girlhood and instead working to reclaim, theorise and celebrate her complexity.

Alison Baker – University of East London
Louise Johnson – University of York
Mia Khachidze – Open University

Works cited:-
Bishop, Rudine Sims. “Mirrors, Windows, and Sliding Glass Doors” Perspectives : Choosing and Using Books for the Classroom. 6.3, 1990.
Coats, Karen. “Teaching the conflicts: Diverse responses to diverse children’s books” The Edinburgh Companion to Children’s Literature. ed. Clementine
Béauvais and Maria Nikolajeva. Edinburgh University Press, 2017.
Haraway, Donna. Simians, Cyborgs and Women : the reinvention of Nature. Routledge, 1991.

Fri 3:30 pm – 4:45 pm

Contemporary Conversations: British Association for Contemporary Literary Studies

Philip LeonardOpera Theatre

‘Contemporary Conversations’ will bring together speakers from various creative and professional contexts to consider how the idea of ‘the contemporary’ is initiating new directions in literary studies and allowing us to rethink the place of writing in the world. Participants in this session will include a writer, an early career academic, a publisher, an established researcher, and a representative from the UNESCO Cities of Literature network. Each will be invited to discuss recent literary developments relating to a range of cultural and social provocations that are now preoccupying many writers, literary studies teachers, students, and researchers, and in the creative industries. These include:

  • contemporary book production
  • contemporary Britain
  • contemporary canons
  • contemporary crises
  • contemporary experimentalisms
  • contemporary futures
  • contemporary inequalities
  • contemporary pasts
  • contemporary technologies
  • contemporary transnationalisms

Shaping this conversation will be a consideration of how we might critically examine the ideas of ‘here’ and ‘now’ that are implied by ‘the contemporary’. Discussion will take in questions relating to chronology and periodization (when does ‘the contemporary’ emerge? When will it end?) and space, place, and geography (is ‘the contemporary’ experienced across regions and territories? Is there a global present?), as well as disconnection and anachronism (is detachment from ‘the contemporary’ essential to understanding it?). Throughout, speakers will consider recent literary developments, writers, and texts that raise – and sometimes seek to answer – these questions.

LEARNED SOCIETIES STRAND: British Association for Contemporary Literary Studies

Fri 3:30 pm – 4:45 pm

Learned societies

Global Literatures: Twenty-First Century Perspectives

Jade Munslow OngMCRn

This roundtable brings together the editors of, and contributors to, the new Routledge series, Global Literatures: Twenty-First Century Perspectives. The roundtable discussions will address questions relating to recent theoretical and critical shifts from postcolonial to global literatures; world vs. global literatures; and the politics and aesthetics of regional, national and global literatures in the twenty-first century. The contributors will also address themes specific to the books in the series, including the environment (Jade Munslow Ong and Matthew Whittle), terror (Daniel O’Gorman), Caribbean literature (Sarah Lawson Welsh) and literature from the Middle East (Nadia Atia and Lindsey Moore). As the series is aimed primarily at undergraduate students, the roundtable aims to be widely accessible, providing an introduction to key issues in the study of global literatures, as well as signalling directions for future work in the field. There will be opportunity for audience contributions and questions as part of the session.

Confirmed roundtable participants:
Claire Chambers (Senior Lecturer in Global Literature, York)
Sarah Lawson Welsh (Associate Professor and Reader in English and Postcolonial Literatures, York St John)
Jade Munslow Ong (Lecturer in Nineteenth-Century Literature, Salford)
Shital Pravinchandra (Lecturer in Comparative Literature, QMUL)
Matthew Whittle (Lecturer in Postcolonial Literature, Kent)
Lindsey Moore (Senior Lecturer in English, Lancaster)
Daniel O’Gorman (Research Fellow in English, Oxford Brookes)

Sponsored by the Postcolonial Studies Association

Fri 3:30 pm – 4:45 pm


Medieval Books, Modern English Studies: A Conversation

Clare Lees 1MMUb

Book History, Publishing Studies and Digital Approaches to English Studies 1
Organizer: The Institute of English Studies, University of London

Chair: Professor Clare Lees (Director of the Institute of English Studies, Professor of Medieval Literature)

Dr Laura Cleaver (Institute of English Studies)
Laura Cleaver is Senior Lecturer in Manuscript Studies, Institute of English Studies. She is currently working on an ERC-funded project examining the trade in medieval manuscripts 1900-45. She has previously published on Anglo-Norman History Books, medieval diagrams, and education as a theme in medieval art.
Dr Cynthia Johnston (Institute of English Studies)
Cynthia Johnston is Lecturer in the History of the Book and Communications at the Institute of English Studies, School of Advanced Study University of London. Her current research is funded by the Paul Mellon Foundation for the Study of British Art on rare book collections held by museums and libraries in Lancashire including Blackburn Museum, Blackburn Public Library, the Harris Museum in Preston and Towneley Hall Museum in Burnley.
Professor Elaine Treharne (Stanford)
Elaine Treharne is Roberta Bowman Denning Professor of Humanities and Professor of English at Stanford University, where she directs Stanford Text Technologies. She has published on medieval literary culture and manuscript production and on the long history of information technologies. She is currently finishing The Phenomenal Book, and researching Immortality. She is a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries, and of the Royal Historical Society. She is an Honorary Lifetime Fellow of the English Association, for which she was the first woman to be both Chair and President.

This roundtable will consider the modern history of medieval books. Panelists will speak for 10 minutes on a book, collection or event that exemplifies how medieval book history challenges assumptions and expectations about art objects and canon formation, medieval and modern disciplines, and books and collections. Subjects addressed will include The Burlington Fine Arts Club Exhibition of Illuminated Manuscript (1908), the celebrification of the Beowulf manuscript in the modern GLAM sector – galleries, museums, archives and museums – and the cult-like status of the modern collector of medieval manuscripts. In these ways, the panel will consider the reach of medieval book history into new and different communities across time, inviting consideration of the question of what medieval books have to do with modern English Studies.

Fri 3:30 pm – 4:45 pm


New Forms


Teaching Virtual Reality in the Humanities: Hands-on Pedagogies for Embodied Learning (Richard Graham)

Richard Graham is a Lecturer in Contemporary Literature and the Digital at the University of Birmingham. He has recently finished writing a monograph, titled Unimaginable Communities, which investigates how to analyse dynamic digital technologies, such as Google’s search engine, from a humanities perspective. Richard’s most recent publication explores Google’s role in the dissemination of fake news and the changing nature of work and digital labour: “Google and Advertising: Digital Capitalism in the Context of Post-Fordism, the Reification of Language, and the Rise of Fake News”.

Richard currently convenes and teaches modules on digital culture and contemporary issues, the history and philosophy of technology, videogames, and speculative literature and film. At the University of Birmingham, Richard leads the practical teaching of VR and videogames to English students in workshops and tutorials at all levels of undergraduate study. He is currently working on a collaborative project that investigates international examples of best practice of teaching of digital culture in higher education. The project includes an edited collection and series of interviews with international scholars focusing on the challenges and opportunities that teaching digital culture generates for traditional humanities pedagogies.

This paper explores recent changes in humanities pedagogy within an increasingly digital environment. I use a case study of how to incorporate practical hands-on sessions of Virtual Reality (VR) within existing undergraduate teaching. This paper examines how we can teach VR within English degree programmes and highlights the wider opportunities and challenges that such pedagogical activities raise. I reflect on the following questions:

  • When teaching practical sessions of VR, alongside theoretical approaches, creative responses, and contemporary issues, how can we establish a learning environment that facilitates nuanced and critical student engagement?
  • How can VR sessions productively build upon existing disciplinary approaches to interactive fiction, videogames and other dynamic texts?
  • How might we introduce VR and other hands-on technology experiences into syllabi in a way that constructively aligns with learning outcomes, assessment and good pedagogical practice?

In response to these questions, I argue that every student has a different experience with VR, one that is affective, embodied and highly personal. Debates within literary studies regarding how students should negotiate between affective and critical modes within the classroom are not new. However, due to the media specific characteristics of VR, such experiences particularly implicate the ways in which students identify, in terms of gender, race, class, and disability. This paper explores how, rather than de-personalising and de-politicising these educational experiences, VR might provide us with an opportunity to empower the diversity within the classroom and challenge the separation between the educational development of students and the duty of care we have for their wellbeing.

This case study relates to VR sessions taught within English Literature modules focused on contemporary digital culture at the University of Birmingham. My central focus, therefore, is not only about establishing a robust pedagogical framework for VR, but also using the practical experiences of students to push back against current technological norms that often silence marginalised voices. In implicating students at a personal and affective level, practical VR sessions can address problematic topics such as virtual tourism, ableist design philosophies and heteronormative narratives, that often implicitly inform current technology design.

‘Everything that is said is said underneath’: gender, class and lyric subjectivity in the footnote poem (Kate Potts)

Through analysis of Jenny Boully’s 2007 work The Body: An Essay (Boulder: Essay Press) and through consideration of the creative utilisation of footnotes in my own poetry, this paper will explore the ways in which the footnote poem might facilitate a radical reconsideration and reworking of the gendered, classed body’s mediation and communication through the lyric ‘I’.

Boully’s The Body: An Essay consists entirely of footnotes to a non-existent text, engaging the reader in a confrontation with, and an imagining of, the ‘body’ implied by the blank space of the page. Subverting the conventional relationship of text and footnote in which the (central) text is augmented and given additional authority by the footnotes’ scaffolding, and challenging distinctions between poetic and academic discourse, Boully undertakes a Derridean deconstruction of the idea/ideal of a central, linear text. Boully’s footnotes navigate and explicitly comment on traditions and associations of the lyric ‘I’, and of the singular speaking subject; the work’s marginality is integral to its form, and the ‘I’ is nonunitary, hypertextual and – in terms of the ‘body’ of the text – radically absent.

Drawing on Beverly Skeggs’ analyses of class, value, and the singular subject and Gillian White’s Lyric Shame (Cambridge MA: Harvard, 2014) as well as Judith Butler, Rosi Braidotti, Boully’s The Body and my own sequence of footnote poems, Undersong, this paper works towards new considerations and constructions of lyric ‘authenticity’. It engages in nomadic thinking, inviting us, as Rosi Braidotti does, to ‘rethink the structures of the self by tackling the deeper conceptual roots of issues of identity.’

Framing Catastrophe: Turner’s Seascapes and the Ekphrastic Prose Poem (Patrick Wright)

This paper will investigate how ekphrasis (loosely defined as writing in response to images) might engage with prose poetry. I am interested in discussing, with reference to my own poems and my PhD research, how the shape and formal properties of a poem might relate to those of an image. More specifically, I am interested in how ekphrasis practice might be developed when working with artworks that are abstract or monochromatic, and how making use of this kind of image might lend itself to the prose poem. The latter is understood by Paul Hetherington and Cassandra Atherton, among others, as a form that is recursive, circular, and lends itself to subjects such as trauma or disaster. Here I wish to make a case for the appropriateness of this form in my ekphrasis of seascapes – especially those by J.M.W. Turner from the 1840s – which likewise seem to picture catastrophe and contain it. In some of my recent poems, for instance, my ekphrasis stretches from one side of the page to the other, or the orientation of the page is landscape – mimicking or finding correspondence with the visual prompt. In addition to a dialogue between form and content, I will look at framing devices and the boundaries that govern both the poem and the image, and how these might correspond with or jar against each other. Finally, I will discuss Oulipo techniques and procedural verse, with the proposal that such approaches can provide an organising principle for the ekphrastic prose poem.

Fri 3:30 pm – 4:45 pm

Poetry for the people: creative translations of academic research

Andrew McRaeMMUe

This session will examine ways in which academic research conducted within English
departments is being translated into ambitious arts projects. It will consider the motivations
and values of such projects, as well as the practicalities of management and funding. It will
reflect in addition on the ethical and personal challenges that can be posed by creative
engagement led by academics, questions which are more commonly and urgently faced in the
‘impact era’. In short, it asks why and how to embark on this path.

‘Poetry of the Public’ will be a panel-based session, structured around presentations
by English academics who have successfully led public engagement projects in recent years.

There will be between two and four presenters; the two confirmed are:

  • Dr Corinne Fowler (University of Leicester), leader of the ‘Colonial Countryside’
    project. Based at the University of Leicester’s Centre for New Writing, Colonial
    Countryside is a national writing and history project in partnership with Peepal Tree
    Press and the National Trust. It assembles authors, writers, historians and primary
    pupils to explore country houses’ Caribbean and East India Company connections. It
    commissions, resources and publishes new writing by children and professional
  • Professor Andrew McRae (University of Exeter), leader of the ‘Places of Poetry’
    project. Across the summer of 2019, Places of Poetry’s distinctive online map of
    England and Wales was open for members of the public to pin original poems of
    place, heritage and identity. The project was promoted and enhanced by a programme
    of residencies, involving workshops and readings with targeted communities. The
    map attracted more than 7000 poems.
Fri 3:30 pm – 4:45 pm

Political Activism, Archives, and Modernist Women Writers

Michael CollinsMMUc

Research Papers followed by Archives Showcase by the Working-Class Movement Library, Salford

Recent years have seen renewed interest in the political activism and social commitments of modernists, with a particular focus on writers of the interwar period. Harnessing the potential of this organizational turn in modernist studies,twin-strand session, including a panel of research papers and an archive showcase, will put the spotlight on women writers and activists.

The leftist political activism and social commitments of interwar women writers were extensive and varied. Winifred Holtby was a member of the Six Point Group and Independent Labour Party, Sylvia Townsend Warner was a committed communist and a Red Cross volunteer in Spain during the Civil War, Naomi Mitchison was a committed socialist and stood as a Labour Party candidate, Storm Jameson was co-founder of the Peace Pledge Union and a Labour Party activist, and MP Ellen Wilkinson wrote two popular novels during the course of her political career. The research panel will include 15 minute academic papers considering the way these women writers and activists responded to their social and political contexts and wrote their own commitments into their fiction and non-fiction texts in a range of, often unexpected, ways.

The archive showcase that follows will include talks from Labour movement archivists and offer the audience an introduction to some of the gems of the Working-Class Movements Library and an opportunity to discuss the role of archival research in English Studies more broadly.

Fri 3:30 pm – 4:45 pm

Rehoming and Unhoming Pedagogies


Unhoming Pedagogies: Curiosity, Collaboration and Interruption in Contemporary Literary Studies (Nathalie Pollard)

This paper focuses on ways of being together as researchers and teachers that get ‘outside’ institutional space/thinking and which attempt to cut through existing educative habits. How can we engage in modes of knowing that are nomadic, digressive, curious, dialogic and vulnerably between agencies – ‘unhomed’ – rather than treating knowledge as secure, uni-directional, domesticated, belonging, or easily graspable?

Exploring theories and activities that have to potential to activate anti-hierarchical and collaborative modes of research and teaching, the paper considers how to bring about ‘unhomings’ and ‘interruptions’ of traditional knowledge structures and educational power hierarchies. It seeks to provide space for dwelling in complex moments of wonder, uncertainty and transformation, and to engage multiple voices and trans-disciplinary perspectives.

Chester Retold: Unspoken Stories, Put into Words (Eileen Pollard)

This innovative level five experiential learning module offers students the opportunity to take storytelling out into the community of Chester, as the undergraduates engage with the local community through learning about narrative and storytelling together. The module is run in partnership with Storyhouse and helps facilitate their commitment to reach out to the community of Chester – ‘This house is your house’ – while allowing for the unspoken stories of the people of this ancient city to be put into words and heard, so that the story of Chester can be retold for today.

Each session is taught either at the University of Chester or at Storyhouse. Every year the module works with a different Chester-based community partner that fosters the inclusion of marginalised groups. Chester Retold has previously had short-course students from Fallen Angels Dance Theatre (2018) a charity helping people recover from addiction and mental health problems through movement and dance – and LIVE! Cheshire (2019) who work to include young people with physical and/or learning disabilities. Participants from the community have full access to University facilities, including the right to borrow books and access online resources throughout the module.

In previous years, we have looked at storytelling through maps, memories, film, objects, storyboarding and drama, making the module highly interdisciplinary. The teaching has taken a range of forms, including talks, small group discussions, bring and shares, walks around the city walls, drawing, acting and meditation exercises – as well as flashmobs in the Storyhouse foyer!

This paper is an opportunity to reflect upon and share the challenges and gains of teaching English in this way, as well as suggesting why other English teachers may wish to try this approach to teaching the subject themselves.

Of [in] hospitality & Of [in] creativity: Writing through Derrida in the house of Academia (Agnieszka Studzinska)

Is there room? I ask. Is there space? Am I welcome here? Am I, an imposter in this field of knowledge inside the house of academia, whose hosts invite me but for how long? Under what circumstances can I remain? Under what thatched roofs is my  writing received in my readings of theory?  In my adaptations of them. Is this a creative process or an academic one? How do I admit the subjective, personal I into the structures of close readings and third parties and other remote voices of authority? Is my writing invited here? This creative- critical voice speaks of –

“The question of hospitality is thus the question of the question,” writes Derrida in Of Hospitality (Derrida and Dufourmantelle: 2000: 29) The question presents itself in the different welcomings, I choose to accept.  Does hospitality consist in interrogating the new arrival? Does it begin with the question addressed to the newcomer… what is your name? Derrida asks? (Derrida and Dufourmantelle: 2000: 27) Already my name, is foreign-looking and foreign-sounding, implies distance, an elsewhere from here in the United Kingdom. “Is it more just and more loving to question or not to question? To call by the name or without the name?”  he continues (Derrida and Dufourmantelle: 2000: 29).  In this paper, I open the question of hospitality proposed by Derrida and rearticulate, revise, readdress, re map this word onto a new surface, whose writing asks, how does one write creatively of an academic text in academia? What value is placed on this writing? for whom is this writing, who is the audience and what of [new] audiences? What other houses do I build with the diction of another in this collaboration of creativity and theory? In this paper, I follow the lines of this sentence, “I seek a permanent home, but this structure has an appearance of indifferent compoundedness and/isolation…” [1] to explore what finding a home or the hospitality of this concept [both home/hospitality] might mean in the context of creativity and academia as places and sites of productions of new ways of thinking about how knowledge is offered, invited, understood and conveyed.

[1] This is the first line from a poem by the American-Asian poet Mei, Mei Berssenbrugger in her poem called ‘Permanent Home’ in the collection, Nest: Kelsey St. Press (2104) pg 11

Agnieszka Studzińska has an MA in Creative Writing from the UEA. Her first debut collection, Snow Calling was shortlisted for the London New Poetry Award 2010. Her second collection, What Things Are is published by Eyewear Publishing (2014). She has had poems published in The Long Poem Magazine, The Manhattan Review, Wildcourt, Agenda, Myslexia, as well as having poems featured in several other anthologies. Her poem ‘Winged Narratives’ was nominated for the 2019 Forward Prize, for best single poem.  She is currently working towards her PhD at Royal Holloway London exploring how the image of the house is appropriated in contemporary poetry. She teaches creative writing and lives in London.

Fri 3:30 pm – 4:45 pm

Salon: Priyamvada Gopal, interviewed by Sauleha Kamal

Priyamvada GopalCarole Nash Recital Room

Welcome to our literary salon, where we ask a leading member of the profession about their life in the subject and the subject in their life, exploring their career, work, ideas and thoughts for the future in a relaxed, informal atmosphere.

Priyamvada Gopal is a public intellectual and teaches colonial and postcolonial literature and theory at the University of Cambridge. Her most recent book is Insurgent Empire (2019) and she publishes and presents widely in the national and international media.  She has taken part in a number of national and academic debates in public, over the legacy of Empire, decolonising the curriculum and on issues of race and racism. Her twitter handle is @PriyamvadaGopal. She will be interviewed by researcher and writer Sauleha Kamal, who is currently a PhD candidate working on a project on the post-9/11 South Asian novel in the context of human rights and politics and tweets at @Sauliloquy1.

Fri 3:30 pm – 4:45 pm


Teaching Loose Baggy Monsters: Victorian Fiction in the 21st-Century University Classroom

Angela DunstanMCRh

In the Twitter era, when hyper-economical forms are privileged, how we can we encourage our students to read the lengthy, sometimes prolix ‘loose baggy monsters’ of Victorian fiction? Given the prominent, self-reflexive interest of much Victorian fiction in the historical past, and the inclusion of images in many Victorian texts through the ubiquity of illustration practices, what particular opportunities and challenges does teaching Victorian fiction present in our own avowedly interdisciplinary age? How do we balance close reading practice alongside other disciplinary methods? While the preference of much British Victorian scholarship is for the recovery of and advocacy for marginal, forgotten texts, how do we really implement research-led teaching when the classroom requires us to return, again and again, to popular canonical works? Despite the fact that Victorian fiction is often noticeably complicit with 19th-century discourses of colonialism, how do we meaningfully engage with student expectations that we decolonise the curriculum? This panel will offer a forum for thinking through some key challenges of teaching Victorian fiction in the 21st-century tertiary classroom, drawing on our own experiences and experiments team teaching together a year-long second-year ‘Victorian Fictions’ module at QMUL.

Dr Rob Drummond – Reader in Linguistics, Manchester Met.
Dr Erin Carrie – Senior Lecturer in Linguistics, Manchester Met.
Dr Sadie Ryan – Research Associate, Manchester Met.
TBC – Research Associate, Manchester Met (to be recruited Spring 2020)

Fri 3:30 pm – 4:45 pm

TOEBI Panel I: Pedagogy and Public Engagement: Early English In and Beyond Higher Education

Mike Bintley 1Conference Room

This panel will explore the intersections between teaching, research, and knowledge exchange (KE) activities through the experiences of early and mid-career HE teachers and researchers working with early English language and literature. These papers represent a variety of collaborative public engagement projects across the Midlands, East Anglia, and the South East, and discuss ways in which their presenters have used connections between literature, language, landscapes, objects, and other forms of cultural heritage, in order to facilitate conversations with various constituencies within and beyond HE. They show some of the ways in which the study of early English (c. 400-1100) is of increasing relevance to English studies as a whole, and explore the subject’s connections and relevance to various adjacent fields.

‘Early English Literature and the Public Arts: Water, Words, Worlds’
Beth Whalley, PhD candidate, KCL

Using examples from two KE projects in Worcestershire themed around water, landscape, and community, this paper discusses experiences and challenges working between early English language and literature and contemporary creative arts. Between 2017-19, I was researcher for the Canal & River Trust’s major public arts programme, The Ring, a series of installations and events located at heritage sites on the Worcester and Droitwich waterways. In 2018, I collaborated with folk guitarist Ben Walker and local communities to create a soundscape for BBC radio, drawing on the wetland landscapes of the village of Pinvin. Though early English literature was central to neither project, discussions of early languages and communities emerged in diverse and important ways. This paper identifies how etymologies and place-names can be employed in radical cross-chronological and multi-geographic storytelling and pedagogy within and beyond HE.

‘Poetry, Objects, and Landscapes: Research, Knowledge Exchange, and Students as Heritage Practitioners’
Fran Allfrey, LAHP/AHRC PhD candidate, KCL

My research examines how Sutton Hoo is represented in mass media and museums, especially in relation to Old English poetry. In collaboration with undergraduate students, in 2017 I developed, delivered, and evaluated a display and activities on the theme of ‘Trade and Travel’ at Sutton Hoo, which explored early medieval objects alongside Old English and Latin literature. I will outline the difficulties and opportunities I met developing the project, and present visitor responses from: families who played language games exploring etymologies; sound walk participants who connected poems and landscape; and visitors who interrogated ideas of personal and national identity with reference to objects and texts. I will suggest how literature scholars of all periods might connect with places or objects to facilitate outreach and research, how students can be involved in the development and delivery of public engagement, and how experiences of KE transfer to HE classrooms.

‘Landscapes of Pedagogy, Research, and Knowledge Exchange in Early Medieval English Studies’
Michael Bintley, Lecturer in Medieval Literature and Culture, Birkbeck

REF has created an environment in which early-career scholars are increasingly developing portfolios of pedagogy, research, and KE to satisfy the requirements of fixed-term and permanent roles. These pressures have produced a context which encourages the development of approaches to the development of curriculum and teaching practice which are increasingly contiguous with research, outreach, and public engagement. Making a case study of KE projects developed in Folkestone and Canterbury (2015-19) involving texts, landscapes, and early medieval studies, this paper will discuss intersections between KE and the teaching of early English literature and culture. It aims to show how this period of English literary study is of increasing relevance and importance both in the current political climate, and in the development of transhistorical and transnational studies of English.

LEARNED SOCIETIES STRAND: Teaching Old English in Britian and Ireland

Fri 3:30 pm – 4:45 pm

Learned societies

TOEBI Panel II: Translating Early English

Mike Bintley 2Seminar Room 2

Translation is a necessary part of teaching and researching early English literature, whether it takes place with or for the benefit of students and readers. This panel interrogates translation as process and practice, considering how translation intersects with (amongst other things): ecocriticism and the material turn; cross-period discussions of landscape, place, and identity; and as a means of introducing general audiences to the complexities of early medieval England’s multilingualism. Together, these papers consider the way in which translation, as a fundamental element of teaching and research in early English studies, is being used to address issues including decolonization, environment, and transhistorical readings of the past and present.

‘Translating the Nonhuman: Early Medieval ‘Things’ in Modern English Verse’
James Paz, Lecturer in Early Medieval Literature, University of Manchester

Translation theory has shown that translators can appropriate a source text by accommodating it to the worldview of the dominant target language and culture, effacing its otherness and silencing the voice of the subaltern speaker. Concurrently, the rise of eco-materialist approaches in medieval studies has directed our attention to the marginalised perspectives of nonhumans in Old English riddles, challenging anthropocentricism by exploring the point of view of the material world. This paper will explore the confluence between translation theory and eco-materialism in order to examine how translators of early medieval riddles appropriate nonhuman speakers for modern audiences. Translation is often defined as the transposition of words across time or space. But the translation of Old English riddles can also carry language across ‘ontologies’ or boundaries of being.

‘“Crowland-diawliaidd/ Wealisc-man lingo speaking?”: Rereading the early medieval lives of Guthlac with David Jones’
Francesca Brooks, Teaching Fellow, UCL

This paper will explore the macaronic translation of the life of Saint Guthlac by David Jones in the third sequence of his poem The Anathemata (1952), ‘Angle-Land’. Here, Jones mounts a poetic search for the surviving Britons in the ‘Anglo-Saxon’ fenland by reading the Old English poems Guthlac A and B and Felix’s Vita Sancti Guthlaci alongside recent archaeological finds from Caistor-by-Norwich. In one of the most densely multilingual and allusive passages of his poem, Jones stages an encounter between three of the languages of early medieval Britain in order to, to paraphrase Seamus Heaney, recirculate the hidden wealth of Modern English. This paper will argue that this reimagining of Guthlac as a trilingual, Anglo-Welsh saint allows Jones to tell a different story of early medieval Britain, remapping the history or early ‘England’ or ‘Angle-Land’.

‘The Riddle Ages: Translating Beyond the Classroom’
Megan Cavell, Birmingham Fellow, University of Birmingham

Several hundred poetic riddles record the minutiae of daily life and worldly wisdom in early medieval England. They tell us that onions could be the butt of a rude joke, cats were then (as now) fiercely independent, and violence did not go unquestioned when swords were given the chance to speak. This paper will focus on the Old English and Anglo-Latin riddle tradition’s potential for engaging audiences in the culture of early medieval England through translation projects that are open-access and consciously playful. Case studies examine how close reading skills are modelled through commentary posts narrating the process of translation on The Riddle Ages website, and how language learning can be gamified through a medieval library-themed ‘escape room’ to be hosted at Sutton Hoo. With a concerted effort to translate the riddle tradition’s texts and contexts, its potential for fostering public engagement with the history of England and (some of) its languages can be realized.

LEARNED SOCIETIES STRAND: Teaching Old English in Britain and Ireland

Fri 3:30 pm – 4:45 pm

Learned societies

Translating difficult histories

Jennifer WongSeminar Room 3

In this panel, we will explore the convergence and inter-relationship between literary research and creative writing practice. In particular, we emphasise the importance of narration and (self-)translation as a means of articulating new forms of selfhood in the contemporary moment. In our presentation, we will discuss (i) the knowledge gained from critical research via literary texts, followed by (ii) a shared reading of our creative work inspired by research.

Drawing on different theoretical approaches such as postcolonial and trauma studies, cultural theories on positioning as well as psychoanalytic perspectives, we aim to examine how the present translates and carries with it memories of different times and places, the possibilities and limits of representation.

Maya Caspari, PhD candidate, University of Leeds
Funded by the AHRC WRoCAH consortium, Caspari’s research focuses on the representation of touch in contemporary world literature. Drawing from new materialism, postcolonial studies and trauma studies, Caspari’s work examines how writers including Teju Cole, Han Kang, Katja Petrowskaja and Claudia Rankine negotiate the politics of relation and perform a poetics of resistance in their texts. Tapping into the possibilities and limits of comparative reading, her work engages the relationship between history and the creative ‘text’.

Inspired by the research on the history and translation of suffering and the relationship between the body and the outside world, Caspari writes poetry that explores the divide between what’s visible and the hidden truths from the past, between the physical and the inner being. In particular, she pushes boundaries in the use of form such as fragments, prose poetry and stream of consciousness to translate displacement and hope.

Amali Rodrigo, Associate Lecturer (Creative Writing), University of Lancaster
Grew up in Sri Lanka and based in London, Rodrigo teaches creative writing as associate lecturer at Lancaster University where she is completing her creative writing PhD. Her first collection, The Lotus Gatherers, was published by Bloodaxe in 2016. Her work is informed by a strong sense that there are many different realities, an idea reflected in an alertness to the surreal and to the spiritual.

Drawing from her current practice-based research on the locale of ‘negative capability’ (1) in creative practice through Wilfred Bion’s Grid and Carl Jung’s use of the Mandala, Rodrigo explores the relationship between the Self and Other, the Individual and the Collective unconscious, engaging with the concepts of intertextuality, allegory and fable.

Jennifer Wong, Associate Lecturer (Creative Writing) at Oxford Brookes
Born in Hong Kong, Wong is the author of Goldfish and Diary of a Miu Miu Salesgirl (Bitter Melon Poetry). Her next poetry collection is forthcoming from Nine Arches Press in 2020.

Wong is an Associate Lecturer in Creative Writing at Oxford Brookes. Her PhD thesis examines the transnational poetics of Asian diasporic poets including Li-Young Lee, Marilyn Chin, Hannah Lowe and Sarah Howe, with a focus on the translation of identity in terms of personal longings and history.

(1): ‘…that is when a man is capable of being in uncertainties, Mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact & reason – Coleridge, for instance, would let go by a fine isolated verisimilitude caught from the Penetralium of mystery, from being incapable of remaining content with half knowledge.’ See The Letters of John Keats, ed. by H E Rollins, 2 vols (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1958), i, pp. 193–4.

Fri 3:30 pm – 4:45 pm

What are we gonna do now?: Academic-ing in the ongoing catastrophe

Pamela ThurschwellMMUf

This roundtable brings together people who have taught and researched, at Sussex in order to talk about how we are responding locally in our academic lives to global crises including climate change, upsurges of racism and xenophobia, and the other ongoing and deepening crises of whatever-stage-we-are-at Capitalism. These crises affect our teaching/mentoring/research every day, just as they affect our students’ and colleagues’ lives and expectations for their futures. We hope this panel will allow us to consider where we are, and strategize about how we might work together. The goal is to try and connect the dots between different experiences of labour in an English Department such as Sussex (the impact agenda, precarious labour, mental health crises, what we can do via Widening Participation, etc) in ways that are personal but also relevant both internally and externally. We aim to bring our fears off Twitter feeds and out of hallway conversations into the Shared Futures space to talk about what we can do, and what we are doing, as people involved in Higher Education in critical times.

Dr. Tom Bamford-Blake is a poet, postdoctoral researcher, and creative writing tutor based at Sussex. Speaking as a casualised early career academic and Widening Participation worker, Tom is interested in a dialogue between those excluded from the academy and those struggling to transform it from within. How can we share academic intellectual resources in a way that places them in their social and experiential contexts rather than simply reinscribing their value as cultural capital?

Dr. Hope Wolf is a Senior Lecturer in Modernism at Sussex. Taking as a starting point her recent curatorial work with regional galleries and museums, she will talk about the uncomfortable experience of coming up against neoliberal pressures to use the arts to brand and monetise places (and, conversely, to use places to sell the arts). She will reflect on the market-led binds that are is pushing and pulling around both the work of the ‘cultural industries’ and also of academics through ‘impact’ projects (which, partly due to funding calls and government agendas, have very often focussed on place). She will ask whether research on place will inevitably be reactionary or place sites in a competitive relationship with others. What could a more resistant and progressive relationship between regionalism and the arts look like? Should the ‘regional’ frame be abandoned all together?

Dr. Annabel Haynes is an Early Career Academic working on work, late modernism, and utopian/ dystopian writing. She has worked as teaching fellow at Sussex and is also training in psychodynamic counselling skills. She will talk about the work life and feelings of an early career researcher, and her experience of confronting emotions and using counselling skills in the university classroom.

Dr Jennifer Cooke is Senior Lecturer in English at Loughborough University who did her BA, MA and Phd at Sussex. She will address how out of step the very idea of assessment is with the transformative conversations that can take place in the seminar room. What would happen if we advocated for abandoning the concept of assigning grades to student work? Successful US universities (Brown, Sarah Lawrence College) use a blended system, or allow students to opt out of grading entirely. What might UK university education look like if we abandoned grades?

Dr. Pam Thurschwell is a Reader in English who has taught at Sussex since 2007. Her talk will focus on the challenge of teaching and writing in the midst of what seems like permanent upheaval. Do we try and keep our own fears about capitalism, climate change, fascism, economic precarity, out of the classroom? If the answer is no (and I think it is usually no) then what do we think should be happening in classrooms now?

Chair: Dr Sam Solomon (Senior Lecturer in English and co-director of the Sussex Centre for the Study of Sexual Dissidence)

Fri 3:30 pm – 4:45 pm

What is “Victorian Popular Fiction” and why should we care? (VPFA)

Andrew KingLecture Theatre (Conference Room for overflow)

This 75-minute panel session, led by Professor Andrew King (Greenwich), Dr Janine Hatter (Hull) and Dr Helena Ifill (Aberdeen) is a showcase for the work of the Victorian Popular Fiction Association and its journal Victorian Popular Fictions.

Our research has shown that, contrary to appearances, a comparatively small set of authors still form the core canon of research published in Victorian studies: what is new about such research is how that small core is placed in relation to other texts which, nonetheless, remain on the periphery. The VPFA is dedicated not only to expanding the range of texts so that the periphery is studied in its own right – popular writers, literary genres and other cultural forms of the long
nineteenth century across the globe – but also how we conceptualise and study the wider field of nineteenth-century culture from the perspective of the “popular”.

The experience of members of the Association shows that students respond unusually well to Victorian popular fiction. Since such fiction was usually written in order to capture the general reader for commercial ends, there are few problems with basic understanding. As teachers, we can therefore more easily take the opportunity to explore the many issues of cultural and social hierarchy that such texts raise – issues which are still with us.

Victorian popular fiction has enormous potential to generate research beyond the traditional kinds of output such as the article and monograph authored by experts. Since many Victorian popular texts are available gratis online but have not received modern editorial treatment, they offer great potential for collaborative undergraduate and postgraduate research and assessment in, for example, the generation of online editions of various kinds, in creative writing, design, acting and video-making. This hands-on, participatory panel will comprise brief introductions from the panel members, before we share short extracts from Victorian popular texts and jointly consider how we have used them and might use them in the future, both in the classroom and in our research.

LEARNED SOCIETIES STRAND: Victorian Popular Fiction Association

Fri 3:30 pm – 4:45 pm

Learned societies

Working Posthumanism: Changing collaborative practice by rethinking the human

Danielle SandsMCRm

Posthumanism, or thinking beyond humanism and the human, represents an increasingly prevalent if disparate collection of stances underpinning human action in art practice, science, technology, and industry, medical care, social and cultural life, psychological and spiritual experience, human-animal and human-ecological relationships, political policy, and disciplinary work in academia, including training and pedagogy. In fact, expert work in each of these areas is often already shaped by thinking which is demonstrably posthumanistic, even if that term would, as yet, never be used to describe the approach taken.

Posthumanism is more than an academic theory or philosophy in this interdisciplinary context—it is also expressed in practice, in the very act / work of cultural production. When knowledge is communicated from one domain to another, from one area of expertise to another, however, the most radical insights can often be lost to a residual humanism underpinning public discourse. This is perhaps unsurprising; for various reasons humanism, or some form of anthropocentrism, still dominates human thinking and perception. Humanism, not posthumanism, often seems to be the language of interdisciplinary communication, particularly (but not only) in the West. How might this change, and why would it be worth changing?

The presentation begins with a brief introduction to posthumanism, and to the speakers’ own research and industry networks. We will then outline ongoing plans for collaboration between researchers, practitioners, and institutions in (and outside of) the UK that are invested in exploring and explaining the implications of posthumanism. We are especially interested in focusing on the real-world impact of posthumanist perspectives, and engagement with currently disinterested groups. We aim to promote, produce, and support work which puts posthumanistic thinking into action, with the hope of demonstrating new possibilities opened up by collaborative thinking and/or working in a way which deploys or builds off of a posthumanistic stance.

Dr Matt Hayler (University of Birmingham)
Matt is Senior Lecturer in Contemporary Literature and Digital Cultures at the University of Birmingham. He is the author of Changing the Phenomena of Technology (Palgrave 2015).

Dr Megen de Bruin-Molé (University of Southampton) 
Megen is Teaching Fellow in Digital Media Practice at the University of Southampton, Winchester School of Art. She is the author of Gothic Remixed: Monster Mashups and Frankenfictions in 21st-Century Culture (Bloomsbury 2019).

Dr Danielle Sands (Royal Holloway, University of London) 
Danielle is Lecturer in Comparative Literature and Culture at Royal Holloway, University of London. She is the author of Animal Writing: Storytelling, Selfhood and the Limits of Empathy (EUP 2019).

Fri 3:30 pm – 4:45 pm

5:00 pm – 6:15 pm Friday Session V

Plenary: The Linguistics Behind Language Creativity

Opera Theatre

The capacity to generate and transmit new ideas through language has transformed the history of our species. How do we unleash this exceptionally powerful creativity with a small set of building blocks? Are some parts of human language more creative than others? Is it difficult to communicate if we’re too creative? Looking at both speech and writing, this panel will explore the interplay of creativity and normativity in language cognition, language learning, and language change.

David Adger is
Professor of Linguistics at Queen Mary University of London, and President of
the Linguistics Association of Great Britain. He works on the syntax of human
language and how syntax links to other aspects of language, including
 sociolinguistics, prosody, word-structure, semantics and pragmatics. His
most recent book is Language Unlimited:
The Science Behind Our Most Creative Power
(OUP, 2019).

is Professor of Sociolinguistics at Queen Mary University of
London. Her research is on new English dialects, inter-ethnic contact,
bilingualism, accent variation, and language change. Her edited works
include The Oxford Handbook of World Englishes, Research Methods in
and English in the Indian Diaspora. She
directs the online public resources Teach Real
 and Multilingual

Jennifer Smith is Professor of Sociolinguistics at the University of Glasgow. She works on language variation and change, with a specific focus on how sociolinguistic norms are acquired in childhood and how they develop in later life. She is director of the Scots Syntax Atlas, an online resource for the study of Scots. 

Routledge LogoSponsored by Routledge

Fri 5:00 pm – 6:15 pm


6:30 pm – 8:00 pm Friday evening


RNCM Main Concourse

All are welcome to celebrate English: Shared Futures on the RNCM main concourse.

Fri 6:30 pm – 8:00 pm

Saturday 27 Jun 2020

9:15 am – 5:15 pm Karvan – Saturday

KARVAN: travelling the world through literature and poetry

Emma Dawson Varughese

The KARVAN is a literary art installation which offers a creative space to explore what it means to ‘travel together’ whether this is by investigating the reality of living ‘British Values’, by exploring different cultures and traditions or by travelling the world through fiction and poetry.

It will be available and staffed on…. BOB TO INVESTIGATE

Sat 9:15 am – 5:15 pm

9:15 am – 10:30 am Saturday Session I

Affect and Censorship in Publishing


Teaching Controversy (Yugin Teo and Julia Round)

Dr Julia Round is a Principal Lecturer in the Faculty of Media & Communication at Bournemouth University
Dr Yugin Teo is Lecturer in Communications & English in the Faculty of Media & Communication at Bournemouth University

This paper uses analysis of controversy and censorship as a lens to explore the conference theme of literary inequalities. It draws on material taken from the module ‘Culture and Controversy’ which is part of Bournemouth University’s unique MA in English and Literary Media. The paper surveys and compares literary controversies as diverse as the American Comics Code scandal, the Booker Prize, and the reception of texts such as Kaur Bhatti’s play Behzti and Bret Easton Ellis’s novel American Psycho. It highlights significant differences between the reception and response to particular texts, themes, and events. It concludes by reflecting on how inequalities of class, medium, theme and so forth underpin and shape our notions of canonisation and acceptability, and on the pedagogical value of analysing controversy in this way.

‘Keeping the Flame Alive’: Reading, critical affinity and affect in the fiction industry (Caroline Owen Wintersgill)

Caroline Wintersgill is Senior Teaching Fellow in Publishing at University College London. She is completing a PhD on endings in contemporary fiction at the University of Winchester.

How do literary agents and editors read and how do their reading practices inform what is published and how it is published? Should we understand agents and editors as critics, literary fans, surrogate ‘ordinary’ readers, or with Bourdieu as ‘equivocal figures, through whom the logic of the economy is brought to the heart of the sub-field of production’? Why do these questions matter to our literary-critical understanding of the contemporary novel?

The paper reports on a qualitative study of publishing professionals in the field of literary fiction interrogating the processes through which they select novels, assess their place in the market and work with the author on shaping them for publication. It probes the ways in which agents and editors demarcate the ‘literary’ from other forms of fiction-writing, how they evaluate and engage with different elements of the novel, including beginnings and endings and the idea of the author’s ‘responsibility’ to the reader. The interviews reveal the strength of commitment to ‘keeping the [literary] flame alive’. They demonstrate a rich literary-professional discourse operating in a distinct register from the critical voices of ‘university English’, combining affective and intellectual responses and paying particular attention to elements such as musicality of form and the importance of ‘landing’.

The paper contests the dominance of a Bourdieusian model in which editorial taste is shaped by structural considerations, arguing for a complex, dialectical relationship between the agency of individual actors with their own tastes and enthusiasms and the structure of the literary marketplace. I argue that central to the editorial process is a tripartite conception of reading: agents and editors act as first readers, critical readers and attuned readers, each mode informing different aspects of editorial practice.

“Minor literature” in times of decolonisation (Csilla Toldy)

Dedalus Press is an Irish poetry press edited by poet Pat Boran. He published two anthologies of poetry by “new Irish” poets, Writing Home and Landing Places ten years apart. Writing Home is his 150th book, and it contains poetry by 50 international poets living in Ireland.

Stupor Mundi Press is a Scottish publisher of “eclectic” literature, ran by the playwright and novelist Jonathan Falla, who came to the UK on a Windrush boat from Jamaica with his parents. He publishes poetry, fiction, non-fiction, the latest an autobiography of Robert Le Page, a Pidgin Fancier, the father of sociolinguistic.

The discussion is lead by Hungarian writer Csilla Toldy, who lives in Northern Ireland. Her work has been published by both publishers. She writes in English, which is her third language.

Csilla Toldy and Jonathan Falla are lecturers of creative writing at the Open University.

My interest is in minor literature. I think, my work is very much in that niche, being a bi-lingual writer. I recently found an interview with Seamus Heaney talking about his Gaelic heritage. He said that he likes to think that “Irish is the vowel and English is the consonant” – which is a wonderful metaphor for any poet of “minor literature”.

The focal question of the panel would be what is minor literature in the English language and where is its place in publishing. As both panelists are editors, I would be interested to find out what aspects of editing are taken into consideration to keep the uniqueness of a bi-lingual writer’s voice both in poetry and prose.

Sat 9:15 am – 10:30 am

British Association of American Studies – Definitions Towards Solidarity: BAME Americanists in the UK and Critical Race and Ethnic Studies

Cara RodwayMMUh

Our series of panels develops a shared vocabulary for UK BAME Americanists working on critical race and ethnic studies at all career stages. We seek to introduce the latest approaches to familiar frameworks for cultural analysis, scholarly praxis, and intersectional activism to recover their radical critical energies.

This panel confronts questions about representation and institutionalization in American Studies as a discipline in the United Kingdom. In this panel, we ask what are the implications if there are few scholars of colour working in a field where critical race and ethnic studies is thriving? And how might we advocate for increased representation whilst retaining a commitment to forms of institutional critique? We take a stand against what Roderick Ferguson calls the “heterogeneous absorption” of such discourses under the guise of diversification.

In the spirit of solidarity we bring together definitions from our work in an act of collective self-definition towards the deliberate emergence of scholarly community of BAME scholars at all career stages: keywords for key conversations about research, teaching, and lived experience informed by queer and feminist approaches to critical race and ethnic studies in American studies. In this way we bring together old and new voices in a continued conversation that seeks to break the barrier between panel and audience in order to foster collectivity in ways mindful of the politics of citation.

Afrofuturism (Omara Dyer-Johnson (Nottingham))

My keyword is “Afrofuturism,” a term first used in a series of interviews by Mark Dery (1994) to refer to the disparate examples of black science fiction and fantasy. Whilst the meaning of Afrofuturism is intentionally flexible, it has become a way for artists and authors to examine the past, present, and future of black existence simultaneously (Ytasha L. Womack, 2013). It is a theoretical practice and an aesthetic that places the future of the African diaspora at the forefront of genre fiction. Afrofuturism has been used to refer to black nationalist literature from the 19th century to contemporary works of science fiction (Lisa Yaszek, 2016).

My research examines the way Afrofuturism addresses the lack of minority representation in science fiction and fantasy. The movement or aesthetic uses popular science fiction and fantasy to emphasise the multiplicity of black identity and importance of self-expression across the diaspora. I will discuss the way Afrofuturism in its many forms, has become a valuable creative tool in reimagining a future that is more inclusive of difference within the diaspora.
Afrofuturism can be useful for scholars as it intersects critical race theory, popular culture studies, future studies, as well as science fiction and fantasy studies. The aesthetic values the speculations of underrepresented black voices by focussing on the way they shape the future despite a pronounced lack in economic or political power. Afrofuturism emphasises the potentiality of futures for the African diaspora that contrast to the dystopian predictions which often make futurity seem inconceivable.

Refusal/resource (Leila Kamali (University of Liverpool))

My use of the double keyword “refusal/resource” draws from bell hooks’s account of the marginalised state which the woman academic of colour occupies on the basis of her intersectional position (hooks 1989); this tension is one where as a precariously-employed scholar of race, and a mother, I experience isolation in the university-network setting, as well as in other communities in which I participate. Drawing on hooks, I argue that the difficulty of this position also holds the potential of radical creativity in the discursive approaches which become available in my disciplinary and lived mobility between academic and ‘other’ spaces.

The position of ‘refusal/resource’ acknowledges moments when the personal psychic resource to continue to do the work must come at least in part from the refusal of the pressures of the institution, both in role-related affairs and in negotiating the job market. In this regard, ‘refusal/resource’ turns to the preoccupation of my literary research with terrains of silence, the unspeakable, inarticulate noise, and disembodied and deterritorialized memory. Where Sara Ahmed names the practice of institutional diversity policy itself as a ‘brick wall’ which prevents meaningful action, and the blurred distinction between diversity and intersectionality as a more fertile ground for change (Ahmed 2012), I envision an encounter with the language of diversity which insists upon the need for what Kamau Brathwaite calls ‘total expression’, a communal speaking space which must run around and under brick walls in order to give the language of diversity the ground upon which to acquire meaning.

Palimpsest (Nicole King (Goldsmiths, University of London))

I propose “palimpsest” as my keyword for this panel. The primary definition of palimpsest provided in the OED is a ‘parchment or other surface in which later writing has been superimposed on effaced earlier writing.’ The OED’s secondary definition, however, the more general, ‘something bearing visible traces of an earlier form’ is closer to the spirit of how I use palimpsest in my own work. In my investigations of 20th-century literary representations of African American childhood, I use the idea of an active palimpsest to describe and to theorise the instance, the how, and the why of the child figure seen to be actively questioning, expressing ambivalence or even refusing a racial identity already inscribed on their bodies, whilst simultaneously contemplating or forging alternatives. The image of visible traces of an earlier form provided by ‘palimpsest’ proves to be a nimble concept as it evokes the layers of inscription carried by the bodies of African American children, even as their bodies and minds actively grow and evolve, and invite and enact new ‘writing’ and sometimes contradictory superimpositions. ‘Palimpsest’ can be useful to others as a way of scrutinising the processes of racialisation and of black racialisation in particular. How black children read and write themselves in relation to socially constructed notions of ‘race’ and how they are read by others continues to function as a touchstone of American culture reflected in African American literature.

Integration (Christine Okoth (Warwick))

This contribution proposes a definitional exploration of the term “integration” to acknowledge its invocation of U.S. state formations on a local and global scale. Integration is most often associated with the achievements of the Civil Rights Movement and a political programme built around extending access to state institutions to disenfranchised populations. When detached from this particular context, however, integration takes on a more ambiguous character. For Jodi Melamed and Grace Hong, for example, the selective integration of formerly extraneous populations and discourses is one of the primary gestures of neoliberalism and has helped sustain a violent state apparatus. In relation to land, environment, and natural resources, integration has largely translated into the further displacement and dispossession of indigenous populations. On a global scale, the integration of regions in sub-Saharan Africa into U.S. economic and political programmes speaks of expansionism under the guise of development. In short, integration in the contemporary moment is yoked more to exploitation than emancipation.

In pointing to the evolving character of integration across geographies and temporalities this brief paper also proposes a thematic and methodological pivot from exclusion-based studies of subjection to an interrogation of the terms, mechanisms, and functions of inclusion. In doing so, it offers an expansive mode of framing resistance to subjection to include minute and minor acts of non-compliance that may not be easily categorized as revolutionary. In the spirit of conversation, this paper is therefore intended to provoke discussions of how we might build an activist scholarly practice that is not easily amenable to neoliberal methods of integration.

Unfeeling (Christine “Xine” Yao (University College London))

I propose “unfeeling” as my keyword towards a methodology that refuses the demand for the marginalized to prove their affective interiorities as evidence of their humanity. In my research I argue that racialized and queer unfeeling dissents from expectations of expressive and responsive affective labour according to sentimental biopolitics. The negativity of “unfeeling” registers how minoritarian affects are occluded in the American culture of sentiment; instead, I take this demonization of affective tactics of survival and resistance as indicative of the insurgent potential of alternative structures of feeling.

My paper then explores how the term intervenes in the inadequacies of affect theory to address race through the antisocial turn. I share how “unfeeling” brings together conversations about refusal and dissatisfaction with the universal human and belonging from Black, Asian American, and Indigenous studies informed by feminist and queer of color critique. While I briefly sketch the racial and sexual politics of specific modes I study elsewhere in more depth like Oriental inscrutability, unsympathetic Blackness, and queer frigidity, this presentation also offers “unfeeling” as a useful heuristic for understanding other dimensions of concepts like Edouard Glissant’s right to opacity and Koritha Mitchell’s shamelessness as necessity for the formerly imprisoned.

In closing I discuss how unfeeling operates as praxis for scholars of colour and those others marginalized whose affective resources are continually drained by the structures of the academy. By legitimating unfeeling in our activism and pedagogy to decenter whiteness, I claim that we can create collective space to survive and thrive.

LEARNED SOCIETIES STRAND: British Association of American Studies

Sat 9:15 am – 10:30 am

Learned societies

Children’s Challenging Cultures


Running Riot in the 2000s: Subcultural Fiction, Terror and Resistance (Blanka Grzegorczyk)

Blanka Grzegorczyk is a Lecturer in English (Writing for Children and Young Adults) at Manchester Metropolitan University and a Teaching Associate in Education at the University of Cambridge. She is the author of Discourses of Postcolonialism in Contemporary British Children’s Literature (Routledge, 2015) and Terror and Counter-Terror in Contemporary British Children’s Literature (forthcoming with Routledge in 2019).

The outpouring of novelistic comments on the attractiveness of subcultures to younger members of ethnic minority communities in post-terror Britain suggests a cultural urgency to the connection that these writers divine between local cross-racial solidarity and social empowerment. This paper looks at subcultural literature that sets out to explore the limits and possibilities of certain youth alliances—a kind of literature which in itself has received little scrutiny after falling between academic disciplines (see, for example, Bentley 2014)—in its socio-political context and through the lens of the meanings that subcultures hold for those involved. Considering these texts in the light of postcolonial and critical race theory involves highlighting the ways in which colonial legacies continue to complicate young people’s individual and communal sense of identity at the same time as counter-terror wars triggered by 9/11 and 7/7 appear to be underpinned by the contemporary incarnation of colonial oppositions. The paper traces the emergence of new trans- and subcultural identities that are especially attractive to ethnic minority youth growing up in Britain following these terror events. Its readings of novels by Bali Rai, Na’ima B. Robert, and Nikesh Shukla demonstrate how young minority Britons attempt to create shared imaginative spaces for the construction and reinforcement of hybrid identities outside the boundaries both of the state and of existing social structures. The focus is the fictional investigation of whether these new modes of belonging can be the sustaining basis for transcending the discourses that associate minority groups in Britain with the threat of home-grown terrorism, and whether they can provide a nonviolent grounding for new political constructions, positions, and affiliations. Taken together, the novels I discuss might stand as an exploration and a performance, albeit from very different standpoints, of both problematic and positive aspects of subcultural affiliation and expression in the new, post-terror reality. We can see in them an increasing investment in the transnational and the global as post-terror geographies of social regeneration and political liberation, and an emphasis on the capacity of youth culture to determine the way in which we imagine and hope for a truly democratic global space to be produced.

Absent architectures: post-war housing in British children’s picture books (1960–present) (Emma Hayward)

In the decades following World War II, British cities—and, to a lesser degree, rural areas—underwent radical architectural and structural transformations. Yet, architecture associated with post-war reconstruction is significantly underrepresented in children’s picture books of the period. The home, the street, and the high-street are, more often than not, depicted in a formal language associated with Georgian, Edwardian and Victorian architectural ideals. This paper explores what kind of cultural ideologies children are integrated into when it comes to the representation of post-war architecture. Specifically, the paper focuses on domestic space and asks what ideas of the ‘home’ are promoted. Drawing on Gaston Bachelard’s exploration of the relationship between domestic architecture and emotional/psychological response in The Poetics of Space (1957), and Jean Baudrillard’s theory of communication in the age of postmodernity, the paper maps the influence of post-war architectural design on a selection of children’s picture books published during the 1960s and 1970s.

Immortal Children: W.E.B DuBois, Jessie Redmon Fauset and Children’s Magazines (Katie Taylor)

As editor of prominent African American magazine The Crisis, W.E.B DuBois was committed to providing literature for African Americans, which both educated and entertained readers as well as countering the racist stereotyping featured in the mainstream white press. Children played a key role in DuBois’s efforts to provide literature that would show black Americans positive representations of themselves and black people across the world. In The Crisis’s annual Children’s Numbers, and later in the establishment of the first African American children’s magazine The Brownies’ Book, DuBois and his literary editor Jessie Redmon Fauset published a range of artistic responses to and debates about black childhood that, as Katherine Capshaw Smith argues, brought about the nativity of African American children’s literature (2006).

The objectives of this paper are:

  1. To discuss DuBois’s concept of “the immortal child,” as laid out in his 1920 publication Darkwater: Voices From Within the Veil. DuBois emphasised the importance of educating black children on the reality of racism in America and of raising them with a sense of race pride and hope for the future. To do this, he believed, was to ensure infinite generations of black progress.
  2. To explore how The Crisis’s Children’s Numbers and The Brownies’ Book responded to racism in the white press by creating a counter-literature which both inserted black children into existing narratives about American childhood and established a children’s literature that drew specifically on black culture.

Capshaw Smith writes that DuBois and Fauset ‘spotlighted the special role of the child to the movement for black social progress and artistic distinction’ (2006), and the focus of this paper is to spotlight in turn how their children’s magazine publications sought to eternalize that progress by writing for black children.

Sat 9:15 am – 10:30 am

Creation Stylistics: using literary linguistics for making Drama, Films, Poems

Kieran O’HalloranMMUd

Traditionally, close reading of literary texts has been employed to facilitate insight into their creativity as well as to appreciate their effects on the reader. The particular approach to close reading in which we are schooled – “Stylistics” (Literary Linguistics) – largely continues with this focus also. However, neither in Stylistics, nor literary analysis more broadly, has there been a sustained use of close reading for assisting the production of a creative work. In an accessible demonstration, we showcase three innovative approaches, independently devised, for helping to generate creative works – drama, film, poetry – by using close reading techniques from Stylistics.

Nigel McLoughlin highlights his pedagogical use of Stylistics for creating poetry. In his work with university Creative Writing students, he draws on the branch of Stylistics known as “Cognitive Stylistics”. This branch of Stylistics is concerned with understanding and explaining the mental processes involved in the reading of literary texts. In his teaching, Nigel encourages students to apply ideas and frameworks from Cognitive Stylistics in their making of poems. These ideas and frameworks usefully help the students to think through what effects they want to create in a poem, as well as what linguistic and cognitive structures can be used to create the desired effect. Nigel will illustrate his pedagogical approach with examples from students’ creative work, as well as their accompanying discussions and rationale for their creative choices in the poems they produced.

Nigel McLoughlin (University of Gloucestershire)

Kieran O’Halloran uses Stylistics pedagogically for creating “film poems” – films of poems. Undergraduates on his recent “Film, Poetry, Style” module* make film poems on their mobile phones for the purpose of developing their creative thinking. In the film poem genre, the film’s vision usually exceeds, often radically so, the likely intentions of the poet. This makes pedagogical usage of film poems ideal for fostering creative thinking. However, in this genre, the stylistic detail of the poem is largely bypassed in its cinematic realisation. Kieran’s pedagogy not only addresses this oversight/limitation, but crucially highlights how analysis of a poem’s style can be used to motivate the film’s creativity. As illustration, Kieran will play a short film made by a student, explaining how their analyses of simple features of the source poem’s style drove their cinematic realisation and, in doing so, reinforced/enhanced their natural gift for creative thinking.

Kieran O’Halloran (King’s College London)

Jeremy Scott’s focus is using insights from Stylistics in creating theatre. An integral part of the process of devising a play is improvisation: the playing out of scenarios and use of free-form exercises to develop pre-created characters and build a rough-sketch narrative. Jeremy’s paper will discuss a current and on-going theatre project he is writing (with Greg Lawrence), The Plant,** which makes use of these techniques, drawing directly on Stylistics to investigate notions of “theatricality” (also including the work of arts research student Jonathan Fitchett). His paper describes the creative processes involved (initial character sketching, improvisations, scripting), and then goes on to examine the results (video excerpts from rehearsals and the completed script) using a novel combination of analytical and theoretical frameworks drawn from Stylistics and Drama Theory. Jeremy highlights how employment of these frameworks productively articulates moments of theatricality and, in turn, usefully helps to support decisions the authors make in the crafting of the final script.

Jeremy Scott (University of Kent)

Through our spotlighting of how Stylistics can be used to help originate creative works, our panel will both make a novel contribution to the theme of the conference as well as concretely and accessibly convey how our approaches could be used by conference participants in their own creative / educational contexts.

* https://www.kcl.ac.uk/study/courses-data/modules/5/film-poetry-style-5ssel025
** www.plantassemblytheatre.com

Sat 9:15 am – 10:30 am

Decolonising the Curriculum as an ECA


Recent years have witnessed student-led calls to decolonise the curriculum and engage with the colonial heritage on which many of Britain’s universities are built, and which underpins present constructions of history, literature and knowledge. This strand will consist of three sessions in which we aim to approach the challenges of decolonising the curriculum from an early career academic’s perspective. We want to foreground the voices of early career academics who identify as black or minority ethnic; at the same time, we believe that ‘oppression belongs to the culture of the oppressor’ (Cynthia Ozick) and encourage critical interrogations of whiteness alongside celebration of anti-racist practices in English by academics of all colours.

Decolonised Curricula: The Challenges of ‘Good’ and Ethical Reading (Lyndsay Miller (Glasgow))

The rise and fall of BA English at SOAS: An experiment in decolonizing the curriculum (Sarah Pett and Katie Reid (SOAS))

Decolonising pedagogy across disciplines: Empowering students with the vocabulary to decolonise the curriculum (Arunima Bhattacharya (Leeds))

Sat 9:15 am – 10:30 am

Early Career Academics, ECAs

Encouraging creative and independent thinkers through poetry (KS3-KS5)

Raina ParkerMMUa

GCSE syllabuses have become more and more packed, with literature pushing to take more curriculum time than can be found: as a result, GCSE work has tended to filter down to KS3. This session will look at ways of using poetry to encourage independence in students, allowing us to find time in the packed curriculum space to foster confidence, deliver well-paced lessons, and enable students to be successful in analysing unseen poetry. The work will focus on GCSE, but with approaches that have proven effective across all secondary stages.

In this practical session there will be opportunities to:

  • explore ideas around students working independently
  • consider how poetry can stimulate creative writing
  • engage in practical approaches
  • try out activities that can be used immediately in the classroom.

Raina Parker is Vice Chair of NATE, as well as a teacher of 11-18 students for the past 26 years. She currently teaches in the Lake District and has worked in a range of management roles in schools from London to rural Shropshire, as well as as a moderator and examiner at GCSE and A Level.

logo of The National Association for Teaching of English (NATE)

This session is part of the National Association for the Teaching of English (NATE) strand

Sat 9:15 am – 10:30 am


Handling Text: Multisensory Learning’

Louise Lamb and Anna HallamMMUc

Our combined interests aim to approach secondary English teaching through physical classroom engagement, individual creative expression, a critical approach to texts and ‘high ceiling’ discussion. In our approach, students interpret ‘text-worlds’ through multi-sensory encounters. We will use our session to show how teachers can actively explore object-focused activity to reconnect learners to the independent response which animates secondary English teaching so successfully.

The session will animate the following sequence:

  1. Place texts beneath a lens of investigation.
  2. Introduce the factor of handling a three-dimensional object, guiding all learners through a kinaesthetic encounter with texts, where they explore and demonstrate independent thought.
  3. Transpose the outcomes into a critical and creative response which meets and goes beyond assessment criteria.

This sequence is the basis for our KITS (Kinaesthetically Inspired Teaching Schemes), which form a collection for teachers to use. They are geared towards limited resource classrooms and are intended to be easy to try with any size of group.

KITS to be explored in the proposed session include:

  • ‘Framing the Text-World’: a new approach to unseen text analysis
  • ‘Limited Resources, Unlimited Minds’: investigative and memory-based English
  • ‘Synergising Practice: Bridging the Gap’: using context to fire up text

KITS have integrated Information Literacy features, whether they form the initial task, support the method or drive the extension opportunities at the close of the scheme. They manipulate an object as part of the learning process and all materials can be inexpensively sourced. Clear and accurate definitions are attached to clarify how they meet Assessment Objectives in the formal curriculum.

KITS can operate as stand-alone units or form a linked strategy of lessons. They are highly flexible teaching tools, providing a teaching resource that can run for an hour, a week of lessons, a revision strategy, or a bespoke Literacy lesson. The teacher may enhance the template and deliver it as they deem appropriate, informed by departmental strategies and necessary differentiation. As part of the session, a pack will offer delegates ‘route maps’ for future guidance through the schemes.

We are keen to make this session as participatory as possible. At NATE 2019, we were fortunate to have delegates from international, secondary and further education whose contributions greatly enriched our workshop. We hope that ‘Shared Futures’ will offer us the chance to further share our practice.

Anna has over 25 years of experience in English teaching in both the maintained and independent sectors, at home and abroad. She has worked in an advisory capacity in English departments with the explicit focus of embedding multi-sensory strategies in a synergised language and literature curriculum.

Angie is a professional librarian and archivist who has been responsible for the planning and implementation of innovative school library systems, facilitating the sharing of excellent practice in the North East. Angie has invested professional and personal interest in our methods for several years.

Louise has been teaching secondary English for 12 years. She is also qualified as an EAL specialist and has delivered limited resource teacher training in Nepal and Malaysia. She currently teaches IGCSE and OIB English Language and Literature to bilingual students in a state lycée in Paris.

Collectively, we form Paperhouse, a group of education professionals passionate about promoting the links between multi-sensory classroom learning and Information Literacy strategies.

Sat 9:15 am – 10:30 am

How to Get Published

Christabel ScaifeMCRk

This panel, organized by Liverpool University Press, is aimed at early career researchers. The publication process can sometimes be a daunting one for first-time authors, and this panel offers friendly advice, practical tips and insights into how an academic press works. Covering topics such as book series, journals and the process of converting a PhD into a monograph, it will include experienced speakers from both publishing and academia. Questions are very welcome and we look forward to a lively Q&A session.

Chair: Claire Jowitt, University of East Anglia

Christabel Scaife, Liverpool University Press
Christabel Scaife, Senior Commissioning Editor for Literary Studies at Liverpool University Press, shines a light on the sometimes vexed process of turning a PhD thesis into a monograph. She explores the important differences between a thesis and a book, as well as offering tips on how to put together an effective book proposal and what to expect from the peer review process.

Claire Jowitt, University of East Anglia/Jennifer Richards, University of Newcastle
We turn now from an editor’s perspective to an academic’s perspective on book publishing. Claire Jowitt and Jennifer Richards have both published prolifically with a wide range of well-known academic presses and have a lot of useful experience to share with first-time authors. In addition, as the editors of the book series English Association Monographs: English at the Interface they are able to provide a valuable insight into what series editors look for in a good book proposal.

Adam Hansen, Northumbria University
The final presentation moves from book publishing to the equally important area of journal publishing. Adam Hansen, one of the General Editors of English: The Journal of the English Association, gives an inside perspective on the workings of an academic journal and offers helpful practical advice to ECRs on how to get a journal article published.

Sat 9:15 am – 10:30 am

Early Career Academics, ECAs

MaxLiteracy Awards: inspiring writing through art

Ronda Gowland-PrydeMMUe

This panel discussion focuses on the conference panel themes of: inequalities: working-class literature, language and creative writing; regional differences; access to literature and social capital through the MaxLiteracy Awards 2018-19 programe.

The MaxLiteracy Awards
The inaugural Max Reinhardt Literacy Awards were initiated and funded by the Max Reinhardt Charitable Trust in 2014. With the support of the National Association of Gallery Education (Engage) and the National Association of Writers in Education (NAWE), the awards have developed into a biennial programme enabling galleries, art museums and visual arts venues in England to support dedicated creative writing and literacy work with schools through art.

Exploring case study examples from the 2018-19 projects: Steel Stories at Kirkleatham Museum and Stories Inside from The Whitworth, panelists share learning and experiences from galleries and museums that have collaborated with writers and schools through the MaxLiteracy Awards in innovative ways. Hear Creative Writers, Gallery-Educators and programme stakeholders talk about what makes MaxLiteracy unique in supporting the creative writing development of young people in a variety of different contexts from developing literacy with boys through intergenerational place-based poetry, to Mental Health and Wellbeing, inspired by Outsider Art.

Kirkleatham Museum – Steel Stories
Teesside communities are a repository for a rich local history, founded on iron and steel, spanning over 170 years. Through Steel Stories Roadshows, the project engaged communities in collecting memories, memorabilia, material culture, artefacts, stories and knowledge in capturing this shared heritage. The project combined new findings, academic expertise and existing archive material, co-curating an exhibition at Kirkleatham Museum, Redcar. The exhibition ultimately represented the community-led celebration of iron and steel, and was launched in April 2019 to universal acclaim, particularly from the same former steelworkers and their families, but also further afield.

Steel Stories aimed to create an intergenerational dialogue developing boys writing for audience and purpose through working with a nationally recognised creative writer. Students developed skills in writing accurately, fluently, effectively and at length through writing scripts for new audio resources used in Steel Stories – a new exhibition at Kirkleatham Museum in 2019. The Steel Stories photographs and painting resonated with students and encouraged them to explore Redcar’s community identity and their own reaction to the way the steel industry has been a cornerstone of the town. As a result of the programme, students gained skills in their choice of vocabulary, writing flowing narrative and in creative presentation skills: dramatic reading, clear diction and taking pride in their work.

The Whitworth – Stories Inside
Inspired by visual images Musgrave Kinley Outsider Art Collection at the Whitworth this project aimed to support mental health literacy amongst students. Working with a class of 30 Year 9 pupils, using the collection as a catalyst, the aim of the project was to improve students’ confidence and imagination in GCSE creative writing, and to pull pupils away from exam driven outcomes, allowing them to look within and enjoy writing without pressure. Throughout the sessions there was an overall focus on mindfulness and wellbeing.

Veronica Reinhardt (Max Reinhardt Charitable Trust)
Jane Sillis (Director, Engage)
Dr Kate Fox (Creative Writer – Kirkleatham Museum)
Denise Bowler (Secondary and FE Coordinator, The Whitworth)

Sat 9:15 am – 10:30 am

Medieval English in Secondary Education

Neville MogfordMMUb

Chair: Dr Rachel Roberts, Lecturer in in Secondary English Education, Institute of Education, University of Reading.

Medievalists frequently come across the belief, held by many teachers, students, and policy makers, that medieval English literature and language is boring, difficult, and redundant. As a result, the secondary English curriculum in England and Wales largely excludes the first thousand years of written English. Consequently, the impression given to many secondary school students is that the world before Shakespeare was a literary dark age. This is extremely unfortunate. Medieval literature is staggeringly diverse and vibrant, and it belongs to everyone. Moreover, the skills it teaches are still relevant in interpreting the world today. This session aims to dispel the myths by bringing together the ideas, experiences and perspectives of three medievalists who have experience in secondary teaching. In doing so, it will make a powerful case for a greater medieval presence in the English curriculum.

How did we get here? Medieval Literature and Language in English and Welsh Secondary Education, 1917-2020 (Neville Mogford)

PGCE/PhD student, Institute of Education, University of Reading/Department of English, Royal Holloway

The first paper places the teaching of early English literature and language in its historical context. It charts its ever-changing fortunes, from the early days of the HSC, through the study of Chaucer at O-level, to the declining importance of medieval texts under the National Curriculum. Today, the influence of medieval English is at a historical low: medieval texts have been abandoned to history departments and the study of grammar is largely modern and synchronic. But medieval English need not become extinct in secondary education. Rather, we must take the opportunity to create new and more relevant curricula that introduce it properly to a wider audience.

Irrelevant? Early English Texts in the Secondary Curriculum (Dr Stefany Wragg)

Department of English, St George’s College, Chertsey

The second paper observes that when early English texts are brought into the classroom, students do engage, often in interesting and surprising ways. Curriculum changes under the coalition government brought about key changes in the content and delivery of English language and literature, alongside many other subjects. This paper will draw out some of the key changes and outline some of the implications that specimen changes have on both practising teachers and pupils. In doing so, it also offers personal evidence on how the author has used medieval texts in KS3 and KS5– focusing on Beowulf in Year 8 and Chaucer at A level.

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and the Secondary School Curriculum: Modelling Courage and Humility in the Learning Process (Dr Sheri Chriqui)

Visiting Lecturer in Medieval Literature, Department of English, Royal Holloway

The third paper focuses on the Middle English poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. It argues that the poem appeals to secondary students for many reasons—the story includes knights, magic and heroism, and it depicts a young knight who struggles to live up to the expectations of himself and others. As a young person who is repeatedly tested throughout the narrative, Gawain offers secondary school and A-Level students a resonant example of how to navigate the challenges of experience. If we, as teachers, desire our students to be courageous, to accept challenges, and to be ready to grow from their successes as well as their failures, then it would be negligent on our part not to introduce students to potential role-models such as Gawain and to the fruitful challenges and pleasures of coming to terms with the poem’s original language.

Sat 9:15 am – 10:30 am

Publishing Work by English Students: A Sharing Showcase

Andrea Macrae 2Conference Room

This session brings together a range of magazines and journals that publish work by English students.

The first part of the session will introduce and showcase the magazines and journals, presenting the remit and aims of each, along with recent highlights.

The second part of the session will be a roundtable discussion by the contributing panel of editors on topics such as:

  • the practicalities of running these publications (inc. launching, promoting, sustaining, etc.)
  • the editorial process
  • how the editorial and publication process supports students to develop their thinking and writing and to shift from writing coursework to writing for national/international audiences
  • the role of associated competitions and conferences
  • how these publications help to model academic research and writing
  • career profiles of students who publish in these journals/magazines
  • publication lifespans and legacies
  • evolving publication contexts and technologies
  • implications of open access publishing, copyright and creative commons

The third and final part of the session will be devoted to discussions of ways in which English teachers and lecturers can support students in publishing their work.

The contributing journals and magazines and the editors who will be representing them are:

Postgraduate English: A Journal and Forum for Postgraduates in English http://community.dur.ac.uk/postgraduate.english/ojs/index.php/pgenglish/

  • Aalia Ahmed, PhD candidate, Department of English Studies, Durham University
  • Dr. Alistair Brown, Teaching Fellow, Department of English Studies, Durham University
  • Lucia Scigliano-Suarez, PhD candidate, Department of English Studies, Durham University

Exclamat!on: An Interdisciplinary Journal

  • Teresa Sanders, PhD candidate, Department of English, University of Exeter
  • Ash Gannicott, PhD candidate, Department of English, University of Exeter
  • Joe Holloway, PhD candidate, Department of English, University of Exeter

Lifespans and Styles: Undergraduate Papers in Sociolinguistics http://journals.ed.ac.uk/lifespansstyles/

  • Dr. Lauren Hall-Lew, Reader in Linguistics and English Language, Edinburgh University

Mesh: The Journal for Undergraduate Work Across English Studies

  • Prof. Billy Clark, Head of English, Northumbria University
  • Dr. Marcello Giovanelli, Head of English, School of Languages and Social Sciences, Aston University
  • Dr. Andrea Macrae, Principal Lecturer for Student Experience and Stylistics, Department of English and Modern Languages, Oxford Brookes University

Babel: The Language Magazine

  • Dr. Matt Evans, Senior Lecturer in Linguistics, Department of English, Linguistics and History, University of Huddersfield


  • Barbara Bleiman, English and Media Centre
  • Dan Clayton, English and Media Centre [TBC]
Sat 9:15 am – 10:30 am

Remaking “English” at the Intersection of Digital, Medical and Public Humanities

Anne SchwanMCRl

This panel explores English Studies’ engagement with the world beyond universities and its potential to address local, national and global challenges through its conversation with the interdisciplinary fields of Digital, Medical and Public Humanities. Collectively, and in discussion with the audience, panel members will consider practical and theoretical questions arising in the context of research, knowledge exchange and curriculum development.

Dr Tara Thomson will discuss her role as an English Studies researcher in the development of a new Literature House for Edinburgh, a heritage experience for engaging visitors in the story of literary Scotland. This is an interdisciplinary team project at the intersections of cultural heritage, literary studies, and informatics, in collaboration with university researchers, digital developers, cultural sector organisations, and their stakeholders. Of course, the key stakeholders at the centre of this digital and public humanities project are local residents; as such, this talk will argue for the necessity of public engagement as part of a critical digital humanities practice. In context of the Literature House and other literary heritage projects, the production of narrative space must be resolved with inclusive and ethical uses of public space, and this talk will reflect on practical models for implementing the theoretical call to start from the ‘Public, First’ (Brennan, 2016) in digital scholarly research.

Dr Jana Funke will introduce the Wellcome Trust-funded Transformations project, a collaboration between the Rethinking Sexology project (University of Exeter), community group Gendered Intelligence, artist Jason Barker and Dr Catherine McNamara (Portsmouth University). The project engages young trans and gender diverse people with LGBTQ+ history and the history of science to co-produce a public performance. Dr Funke’s paper will explore how she drew on her literary research on modernist authors Bryher, Virginia Woolf and Vita Sackville-West to work with the young people as part of this project and how literary and historical scholarship shaped the overall project.

Professor Anne Schwan will conclude the panel presentations by reflecting on the first year of delivering a new MA in Digital and Public Humanities. Co-taught with Dr Thomson and the English team at Edinburgh Napier, the MA combines literary and cultural analysis with training in digital skills and community engagement, including a work placement option. Schwan will focus on some of the conceptual-theoretical and logistical challenges of broadening the scope of English Studies in this way. The presentation will consider to what extent a critically informed Public Humanities has the potential to not only enhance graduates’ employability but also to contribute to social justice agendas by integrating questions of social capital and access to literature and the arts into the curriculum.

Works Cited:

Brennan, Sheila A., ‘Public, First’, in Debates in the Digital Humanities, eds. Matthew K. Gold and Lauren F. Klein (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2016). http://dhdebates.gc.cuny.edu/debates/text/83

Sat 9:15 am – 10:30 am

Screening the Contemporary Gothic

Sorcha Ni FhliannMMUf

This panel brings together three scholars working on the contemporary screen Gothic and its metaphorical horrors whose work individually and collectively draws upon postmodern slippages between the past and the present —through zombies, Satanic Panic and spectral horrors— in order to interrogate contemporary anxieties about precarity, prejudice, and socio-political nightmares onscreen.

‘I’ve Found the First Risen … He’s Beautiful’: Oppression, The Uncanny and Sympathetic Monstrosity in Dominic Mitchell’s In the Flesh (2013-2015) (Hayley Charlesworth)

Hayley Louise Charlesworth is a PhD candidate at Manchester Metropolitan University, researching depictions of bisexuality and concepts of bierasure and biphobia in post-millennial Gothic television.

This paper interrogates the depiction of the queer sympathetic zombie in In the Flesh. Through the relationship between the characters of Kieren Walker and Simon Monroe, I will show how the zombies here complicate notions of the undead as an example of the Uncanny, as the homophobic and religious prejudices they face both humanise the zombie and demonise the human characters. This will call upon a history of the zombie being used to represent oppressed minorities, from White Zombie to Night of the Living Dead, and will apply the notion of the sympathetic monster as detailed in Abbott and Jowett’s TV Horror (2013) to these protagonists, while also relating the different politics of Kieren and Simon to the assimilationist Gay Liberation movement and the radical Queer movement respectively. I will draw direct comparisons between the show’s radicalised human and zombie activist groups, focusing on how both groups manipulate the scripture to their own ends, and how each group ‘others’ their opposition. This will also require a line to be traced between Kieren and Simon and the Biblical figures of Jesus and Judas. Ultimately, the research will conclude in showing how the themes of religion, homophobia, and prejudice allow us to view the minority at its centre as sympathetic.

‘Devil’s Den’ in the Trump Era: American Gothic Masculinity and Satanic Panic in True Detective, Season 3 (2019) (Charlotte Gough)

Charlotte Gough is a PhD student at Manchester Metropolitan University funded by the NWCDTP. Her research examines the representation of, and relationship between, masculinity and Satanic Panic in American Gothic films of the 1980s and 1990s. She has been published in The Irish Journal for Gothic and Horror Studies and Fantastika Journal. 

This paper will examine how the third instalment of American seasonal anthology series, True Detective (2019)—centring on a macabre investigation involving missing children in Arkansas—engages with the real-life ‘Satanic Panic’ of the 1980s and 1990s through the traumatic, transtemporal subjectivity of its central detective protagonist. Indeed, it is set within, and reflects upon, the period in which US society was permeated on a national scale by paranoiac claims of criminality and problematic ‘recovered memories’ surrounding Satanic worship and ‘Ritual Abuse’ of children; mobilised by the conservative rhetoric and New Right Christian Fundamentalism of the Reagan era. I will present how True Detective articulates this phenomenon as culturally-entwined with the then-contemporary issues of post-Vietnam trauma and related ‘crisis’ of masculinity (Faludi, 1999); interrogating the configuration of dominant (gendered) selfhood through national memory and racial discourse. Furthermore, with its significant broadcast in the Trump era, this season’s retroactive representation of such themes speaks not only to the current cultural conversation of toxic masculinity and populist paranoia—recalling Reagan’s ‘Make America Great Again’ philosophy—but more broadly evidences the distinctly Gothic repetition of ‘occult’ scapegoating in periods of conservative, patriarchal unrest throughout American history.

The Rift between Worlds, or the Gothic 1980s: Revisiting the Re-decade, Reagan’s America, and chasing our futures (again) in Stranger Things (2016 — ) (Sorcha Ní Fhlainn)

Dr Sorcha Ní Fhlainn is Senior Lecturer in Film Studies and American Studies, and founding member of the Manchester Centre for Gothic Studies, at Manchester Metropolitan University. Her recent books include Clive Barker: Dark imaginer (Manchester University Press, 2017), and Postmodern Vampires: Film, Fiction and Popular Culture (Palgrave, 2019). She is currently leading a project on the long 1980s onscreen and its cultural legacy. 

The Netflix series Stranger Things is one of a host of recent 1980s-set texts that returns to the 1980s as a site of significant relevance today, revisited through the lens of cultural nostalgia. Recalling and resituating its viewers into the Reagan-era, the series presents its narrative at a period of profound cultural importance, and setting its secondary space, the Upside Down, as a shadow world that conveys profound implications for a terrifying future. Examining the decade as a nexus point for socio-political change that is keenly felt today under President Trump, I argue that Stranger Things situates its characters at the precipice of a wrong turn in history, a period in which its protagonists, like so many 1980s heroes in its science fiction and fantasy cinema, are chasing their own futures in order to prevent a terrible fate that they have witnessed as a disjunction in space-time.

For the 1980s generation onscreen, the future has to be chased down in the face of the Cold War, generational doom and alienation, and economic precarity; today, we loop back to the 1980s nostalgic past to trace the moment of the rift, the inception of the nightmare, in order to find solutions to, or to escape from, our present horrors.

Sat 9:15 am – 10:30 am

The Global Renaissance

Rachel WillieMCRj

The twenty-first century has witnessed a proliferation in scholarship on the Global Renaissance. This work has illustrated that the world during the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries was more culturally permeable than has been understood previously. Artistic, diplomatic, economic, cultural, intellectual, pedagogic and religious interactions between East and West informed Renaissance literature, asking us to reassess how Europeans and non-Europeans interacted in this era and influenced each other. Yet the term ‘global Renaissance’ has not been without its critics, who question the limits of transcultural influences upon the local. Even the very terms we use – words such as ‘influence’, ‘encounter, ‘engagement’, ‘contact’, and ‘interaction’ – are often inflected with colonial nuances that obfuscate our understanding of transcultural experience in the early modern period. In a recent special issue of Renaissance Studies on the practice and experience of travel in the Renaissance, Eva Johanna Holmberg encourages researchers ‘not only to keep looking for new sources and to diversify the material we engage with but also to continue to approach the more canonical travel writing from new angles’ to make visible the multivalent experiences of travel. Partly in response to this call, this roundtable will return to the global and to the canon to evaluate recent trends and contentions. We will ask what these trends tell us about how global interactions informed and shaped Renaissance English literature, how the vocabulary we use to engage with what it means to be ‘global’ in the Renaissance influences our understanding, and explore recent work on decolonising the canon.

Natalya Din-Kariuki is Assistant Professor in the Department of English and Comparative Literary Studies at the University of Warwick. Her research examines the literary and intellectual history of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, with a particular focus on travel writing, transnational and transcultural encounters, modes of cosmopolitanism, and rhetoric and poetics. She has held visiting fellowships at the University of Leeds and the Folger Institute in Washington, DC. Previously, she was Lecturer in English at Worcester College, Oxford.

Matthew Dimmock is Professor of Early Modern Studies in the School of English at the University of Sussex. His research interests focus upon Early Modern English Literature and History, including notions of ‘otherness’ which concern cultural, racial and religious difference – particularly in reference to Islam. Christian and more recently ‘Western’ depictions of the Prophet Muhammad and their history. His most recent book is entitled Elizabethan Globalism
England, China and the Rainbow Portrait (Yale, 2019).

Jane Grogan is Associate Professor in the School of English, Drama and Film at University College Dublin, Vice Chair of the Society for Renaissance Studies and joint editor of The Spenser Review. Her research interests include global Renaissance studies, particularly European cultural relations with the Middle East, and the Mediterranean world. Her second monograph, The Persian Empire in English Renaissance Writing, 1549-1622 (Palgrave, 2014), was the first book published on the subject and she is currently finishing a critical edition of the first English translation of Xenophon’s Cyropaedia for the MHRA Tudor and Stuart Translations series.

Ayesha Mukherjee is Associate Professor in English at the University of Exeter. Her research interests lie in the field of early modern literature and cultural history, particularly, the literature and history of famine and dearth. Her first book Penury into Plenty: Dearth and the Making of Knowledge in Early Modern England was published by Routledge in 2015. She is currently working on a monograph provisionally titled Placing Famine: Cultural and Medical Geographies of Dearth in India and Britain, 1550-1700, based on her recently completed AHRC project Famine and Dearth in India and Britain, 1550-1800, which produced a web-database in collaboration with colleagues from Jadavpur University and Aligarh Muslim University in India, and the Exeter Digital Humanities team.

Rachel Willie is Reader in Early Modern Literary Studies at Liverpool John Moores University. Her research focuses on seventeenth-century literary history and culture. She is currently PI on the AHRC-funded research network, Soundscapes in the Early Modern World and has a collection, Travel and Conflict in the Early Modern World, co-edited with Gabor Galleri, forthcoming from Routledge.

Sat 9:15 am – 10:30 am

The State of Secondary English and the Shape of Things to Come

Rachel RobertsOpera Theatre

Sat 9:15 am – 10:30 am

Thinking with Difficulty: Outreach and Collaboration

Michael CollinsMCRm

Thinking with difficulty: inside and outside the classroom
The idea of difficulty is central to the study of English Literature, serving as both a marker of apparent value and a perceived barrier to access. These two linked roundtable sessions will approach the question of difficulty from a number of perspectives. Contributions will consider the teaching of ‘difficult’ texts (particularly those drawn from early and pre-modern periods) and the ways in which difficulty functions in those texts. We will also examine other difficulties the discipline faces: recruiting students, particularly male and first-generation students, and the difficulties inherent in attempts to work with colleagues outside the university. Participants will explore methods – practical, administrative and critical – that might reframe these questions and reflect on their own experiences inside and outside the classroom in order to open a broader discussion.

Difficulty I: Outreach and Collaboration
Drawing on the expertise of English teachers, Session 1 will reflect on the difficulties of teaching English at school and preparing students for further study of the subject at university. Panellists will each give a short talk about ‘difficult’ texts they teach or particular difficulties they have encountered in the university classroom. We will also discuss recent developments in curricula (A-level, GCSE, and earlier), our experiences in encouraging students to apply to university to read English, and on the particular challenges facing students from widening participation backgrounds.
Participants: Lidia Kuhivchak (Beauchamp College), teachers from King’s College London widening participation network, Sarah Knight (Leicester), Hannah Crawforth, Daniel Smith (King’s College, London).

Sat 9:15 am – 10:30 am

Workshop on Extinction Rebellion, the Environment, Civil Disobedience and English and Children’s Literature

Karin Lesnik-ObersteinMCRn

This proposed workshop sets out to engage both in its form and in its content the most urgent, current, environmental and ecological questions in relation to English Studies and ‘Shared Futures’. At the forefront of much media attention and social activism internationally is Extinction Rebellion, which as an activist organisation draws on and is allied with eco-critical precedents and historical environmental activisms, including those which in turn come from literary inspirations such as, perhaps most famously, Henry Thoreau’s Walden or Life in the Woods and ‘Resistance to Civil Government’. The fifth core principle of XR is: ‘We value reflecting and learning, following a cycle of action, reflection, learning, and planning for more action (learning from other movements and contexts as well as our own experiences)’. This principle links to the aspects of English Studies which engage with critical thinking and learning with and through reading how to both question and develop and implement ideas and actions that challenge social and cultural norms and vested interests.

Carolyn Sigler has argued that Ecocriticism is an interdisciplinary field of inquiry that has developed over the past twenty years in response to growing academic concern about the responses of literature and literary theory to the global crisis of environmental degradation. Both ethically and practically, ecocriticism decenters humanity’s importance in nonhuman nature and nature writing […] and instead explores the complex interrelationships between the human and the nonhuman […]. Despite this deemphasis on humanity’s place within the world, ecocriticism does not ignore ethical or practical concerns […] Analogous to the decentering of patriarchal assumptions and values enacted by feminist theory and practice, ecocriticism’s biocentrism instead allows writers and critics to explore the interconnectedness of all nature […]. As Cheryll Burgess-Glotfelty explains, ‘ecocritics ask questions like “How does literature function within the ecosystem?” or “How does a given textual representation affect the way we treat actual nature?” (2)’.

The proposed workshop will therefore also be working through the principles of these challenges in not being a hierarchical, pre-determined, delivery of papers by individuals, but instead a fully participatory space for ‘reflection, learning and planning for more action’ through engagement in critical thinking through certain texts. These texts will include children’s literature on the environment and global warming since children have long been the designated carriers of futurity, as argued for instance by Lee Edelman in No Future. The designation of children as the saviours of their own future is at the heart of considering how and whether the reading of children’s literature or any literature can both be seen to uphold a status quo and vested interests while at the same time being a means of critically reflecting on and challenging that status quo and those vested interests, as Edelman too argues.

As a non-hierarchical learning space, the workshop will engage the conference attenders in the reading and the thinking and planning. It is intended that the participants who facilitate the critical thinking will include the named academics below, but also selected undergraduate, MA and/ or PhD students, one of whom is already named below, but some of whom will be drawn from students who have participated in the Part 3 Children’s Literature module at the University of Reading or other, related, modules.

The Centre for International Research in Childhood: Literature, Culture, Media (CIRCL) at the University of Reading runs the world’s oldest cultural studies and critical theory M(Res) in Children’s Literature in the world (from 1984; instead of an Educational or Librarianship MA course in Children’s Literature) as well as the Part 3 Children’s Literature module and has a long and eminent history of both eco-criticism and animal studies in relation to childhood and children’s literature, including histories of educational and historical environmental activism in education and literature. The facilitators will include:

As stated above, it is hoped to include undergraduate students and the conference audience on a participatory basis in the workshop. This may require some funding support from either the conference organisers or the University of Reading to support the ability of students to partake in the conference.

As Director of CIRCL and the M(Res) in Children’s Literature, Professor Lesnik-Oberstein published a chapter on children’s literature, eco-criticism and the environment in one of the first specialised edited volumes on eco-criticism in the UK, Richard Kerridge and Neil Sammells’ Writing the Environment: ecocriticism and literature (London: Zed Books, 1998) and has continued to publish and teach in this area. She also was a signatory to one of the first XR letters published in the UK press: https://www.scientistswarning.org/act-now-to-prevent-an-environmental-catastrophe/

Dr Sue Walsh: Dr Walsh completed her PhD in Childhood and Animal Studies and has published key articles on children’s literature, childhood, constructions of the animal and environment and animal rights and continues to teach in these areas.

Dr Neil Cocks: Dr Cocks has published and teaches extensively on ideas of children’s literature, children as readers and learners, pedagogy and educational philosophy as well as on ideas of childhood and the animal. He is also a political theorist with an edited book forthcoming on Ayn Rand from the Left.

Soma Das (BA, M(Res) in Children’s Literature): Mrs Das is a CIRCL PhD student working on interdisciplinary ideas of time and futurity.

Dr Krissie West: Dr West completed her PhD thesis on ideas of childhood in the work of the American Transcendentalist Ralph Waldo Emerson and has written two books (forthcoming), one on the writings of Louisa May Alcott, the daughter of the environmental, educational and social activist Bronson Alcott, and another on ideas of gender and childhood in the American history and literature of the Salem witch trials.

Dr Bonnie McGill: Dr McGill completed her PhD thesis on ideas of vision in Quantum Physics and has an ongoing interest in transdisciplinary critical theory across the humanities and sciences.

Sat 9:15 am – 10:30 am


11:00 am – 12:15 pm Saturday Session II

Plenary: Making Difficulties for Ourselves: Why English Teachers Worry about Creative Writing

Kate ClanchyLecture Theatre (Conference Room for overflow)

Since English was invented as an academic subject, its practitioners have doubted its seriousness and its difficulty. As Creative Writing becomes established in the academy, many of those worries are transferring to its assessment and practice. In the school classroom, where teachers have even more difficulty being taken seriously and where successive governments have made a football of the curriculum, anxiety over the place and assessment of Creative Writing, especially poetry,has become acute. One of the UKs foremost practitioners demonstrates how the teaching of writing can indeed be alarmingly simple – yet extremely complex.

Kate Clanchy’s most recent books are the much acclaimed Some Kids I Taught and What They Taught Me, a memoir of 30 years of teaching in state schools, and England: Poems from a School, an anthology of her migrant students’ poems. Grow Your Own Poem: A How to Book will be published in September. She also runs the popular twitter account @KateClanchy1. Kate teaches at Reading University and EMBS College, an alternative provision sixth form unit. She was made MBE for Services to Poetry in 2018.

NAWE logo

This session will be chaired by the National Association of Writers in Education

Sat 11:00 am – 12:15 pm


12:45 pm – 2:00 pm Saturday Session III

Accents and Attitudes: Exploring linguistic diversity

Billy ClarkMCRj

This session addresses two themes of English: Shared Futures: ‘inequalities’ and ‘applied English’. It brings together and showcases a range of projects and activities exploring accent diversity, attitudes to accents, and ways in which recognising accent diversity can bring benefits to teachers, students and others.

Each of the projects shares an interest in viewing accent diversity as a positive resource and minimising possible negative effects of this diversity, including contributions to conscious and unconscious bias, and exclusion (including self-exclusion).

Each talk will last ten minutes with five minutes for questions and discussion.

Colleagues from York and Dublin will discuss a project to devise and deliver a free online MOOC on Accents, Attitudes and Identity: an Introduction to Sociolinguistics. The goal was to repackage research concepts, theories, methods and applications for students and teachers of English Language A level, and for the general public and an international audience. In this talk we describe the content and structure of the course and reflect on feedback received.

The Diversity We Can Hear project aims to raise awareness of accent diversity, to investigate the extent to which this diversity is recognised and focused on in a range of kinds of classroom practice, and to develop resources for use in classrooms and in other contexts. This talk presents the results of an initial survey of classroom practice with responses from teachers of English Language and Linguistics in both HE and secondary/FE, with comparison to responses from teachers of Film/Media Studies.

The Role of Accent in British Teaching is a project exploring attitudes to accents in teacher training which aims to start a nationwide dialogue with teachers from all over on how accent should be addressed in Teachers’ Standards. This talk discusses the status certain accents have in the context of UK teacher training, and how mentors and trainee teachers can differ with regard to what is deemed to be a ‘professional’ accent for the teaching profession.

The Accentism Project (http://accentism.org) was set up in 2018 to collect stories of language-based discrimination, prejudice and negative stereotyping. Seeing a need to encourage discussions of the area among young people, we recently began to run workshops in schools around the project, in order both to raise awareness of attitudes towards varieties of speech and to celebrate language diversity. Here, we describe the project, and report on the success and findings from the school workshops.

Accent Bias in Britain (https://accentbiasbritain.org/) is a project which examines current attitudes to accents in Britain, and investigates whether unconscious accent bias plays a role in how job candidates are evaluated. This talk presents a summary of findings so far from a survey of attitudes to five regional accents and the impact of accent bias on hiring practices in the legal profession.

The projects and project members discussing them are:

Repackaging Research on Accents, Attitudes and Identity for a MOOC
Sam Hellmuth, Claire Childs, Carmen Llamas, Dominic Watt, Paul Kerswill, University of York
Sarah Kelly, University College Dublin

Diversity We Can Hear: Raising awareness of accent diversity as a classroom resource
Anna Charalambidou, Katerina Loukopoulou, Middlesex University
Billy Clark, Alex Leung, Robert McKenzie, Northumbria University
Sam Hellmuth, University of York
Sarah Kelly, University College Dublin

The Role of Accent in British Teaching
Alex Baratta, University of Manchester

Taking the Accentism Project to Schools
Erin Carrie, Manchester Metropolitan University
Rob Drummond, Manchester Metropolitan University

Accent Bias and the Judgement of Professional Competence in Britain
Devyani Sharma, Queen Mary University of London
Dominic Watt, University of York

Sat 12:45 pm – 2:00 pm

Co-creation Overseas: International Filmpoetry

Katharine CoxMMUc

What happens when film and poetry come together? How do artists in these two mediums collaborate and co-create? What happens when we commission student artists to undertake this research-led practice?

Inspired by the international scope and disciplinary experimentation of Joe Kriss and Rachel McCrum’s Literature Showcase (funded by British Council 2018), Sheffield Hallam University used their film and poetry showcase as the basis of a student-staff project. Internal funding from the GoGlobal initiative funded 11 student places to visit two literary festivals in Montreal and Zagreb, connected with the original bid. Student places were secured through a commissioning and interview process. In situ, students in conversation with practitioner-academics negotiated and developed a way of working based on a co-collaborative approach. Filmmaker Annie Watson and poet Chris Jones worked to create their own collaborative piece, mirroring student practice.
After a premiere screening of the completed poems, this group of students, academics and practitioners will reflect on the research-led process. This panel will be of interest to colleagues who would like to find out more about student co-creation, commissioning student research, employability and English, interdisciplinary working and the emergent medium of filmpoetry.

Students: Paul Belsey, Norah Lovelock, Kate Griffiths, Vikki Acornley
Joe Kriss (Director of Opus Independents, Sheffield)
Annie Watson (Principle Lecturer in Film, Sheffield Hallam University)
Dr Chris Jones (Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing, Sheffield Hallam University)
Dr Kaley Kramer (Principle Lecturer in English, Sheffield Hallam University)
Professor Katharine Cox (Head of Humanities & Law, Bournemouth University)

Sat 12:45 pm – 2:00 pm

Comedy in the Classroom: Teaching Comedy, Humour and Satire

Adam SmithMMUi

About the York Research Unit for the Study of Satire

YRUSOS draws together researchers and satirists to historicise, problematise, theorise, teach and perform satire and satirical material.

This workshop will stage cross-disciplinary discussion of approaches to teaching comedic genres as writers, readers and performers. It will foreground the peculiar challenges and opportunities associated with these genres and seek to share useful pedagogical practices from different disciplines.

10mins Welcome from YRUSOS and introduction to the workshop
30mins 4 x Flash papers (approx. 7 mins)
15mins Activity in pairs/small groups
20mins Feedback and Discussion

The workshop will foster informal and free-flowing discussion amongst delegates from different disciplines and institutions. The flash-papers will provide prompts for discussion, establishing a series of positions and providing case-studies of how we approach the teaching of comedic and satirical material in our own practice.

This will be followed by a 15min activity in which delegates work through a series of questions about their own practice in small groups. This will promote networking and the dissemination of best practice. The final discussion, chaired by our speakers, will provide a space to share ideas and draw together themes emerging from the session.

We will encourage delegates to share their details with YRUSOS, ensuring these conversations continue after the conference has concluded.


Writing for Performance: Text, Play and Humour (Dr Claire Hind)

Associate Professor Dr Claire Hind, York St John University (Theatre and Performance)

Writing text for contemporary performance is an incongruous practice where the compositional elements of constructing a score and the approach towards performing the score arrive at a mismatch. Productively, this creative juxtaposition is paramount to the artist’s process because humour is a felt experience, one that relies upon the rules of a game and an attitude towards play.

Adapting Satire: Killing Stalin Again (Dr Robert Edgar)

Associate Professor Dr Robert Edgar, York St John University (Creative Writing)

This paper will consider approaches to teaching satire and comedy through the application of theories of literary adaptation to screen with reference to the graphic novel and film versions of The Death of Stalin. Approaches considered will include the relationship between history and fictional representation, reading graphic novels and the canon of work by Armando Iannucci.

Satire and Unlearning The Literature A Level (Dr Jo Waugh)

Dr Jo Waugh, York St John University (Literature)

Satire should rarely be studied with a straight face, and often it cannot be analysed via many of the strategies students have been used to, or indeed compelled to, use in their engagement with the literary text at school or college. When students learn to engage with insincerity, humour, playfulness, or internal contradictions in reading satire, then, they are learning to read and analyse in ways which will help them toward a more nuanced and ultimately useful mode of engaging with literary texts of all kinds.

Historical Humour and Satirical Literacy (Dr Adam James Smith)

Dr Adam James Smith, York St John University (Literature) 

Using a second-year optional module on eighteenth-century literature as a case-study, this paper will argue that detailed and extensive engagement with historic examples of ironic and satirical materials demands an especially nuanced and carefully contextualised mode of close textual analysis. It will demonstrate that comedic material can also be used to rehearse critical thinking and rhetorical skills applicable elsewhere on the degree and in professional life.

Sat 12:45 pm – 2:00 pm

Doing American Studies Now: African American Text, Media and Theory

Cara RodwayMMUh

The British Association for American Studies is pleased to propose the panel ‘Doing American Studies Now: African American Text, Media and Theory.’ Our panel will discuss new trends in research, publication and teaching in American Studies, focused through the study of African American literature, culture and performance. We give attention to theories of Afro-Pessimism, the Black Lives Matters movement, and the study of contemporary African American literature and film/media in conversation with key texts from the 20th-century and with classical forms. Our panel coheres around the urgency and challenges of doing African American Studies in British universities in 2020.

Afro-Pessimism and Black Literary Childhood (Dr Nicole King)

Dr Nicole King, Lecturer in American Literature, Goldsmiths, University of London (Panel Chair)

This paper explores the intersections of literary representations of modern black childhood and Afro-pessimism. Afro-Pessimism is currently the most influential theoretical idiom within African American and black diaspora studies. In this paper I will introduce its main features, drawing on the work of humanities scholars such as Christina Sharpe and Saidiya Hartman. Whilst narratives of childhood intrinsically suggest progress and development, the way in which black childhood is represented in modern African American Literature is consistent with Afro-Pessimist ideas, particularly a questioning of generational racial progress narratives. I will anchor my discussion with specific examples from short stories by Ann Petry (Miss Muriel and Other Stories, 1971) and Z.Z. Packer (Drinking Coffee Elsewhere, 2003).

‘“In Memory of…”: The Catalogue in Black Lives Matter Literature’ (Dr Gavan Lennon)

Dr Gavan Lennon, Senior Lecturer in American Studies, Canterbury Christ Church University 

When the list of victims of racial violence gets ever longer, how do we prevent any one name from fading into the background? How do we do the ethical work of memorialisation without losing sight of the individuality of the person we mourn? How do we #SayHerName without becoming jaded or hopeless? Since 2012, African American poets including Jericho Brown, Ross Gay, Claudia Rankine, and Danez Smith and writers of fiction including Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah, Angie Thomas, and Jesmyn Ward have confronted these challenging ethical questions. This paper argues that they answer them by turning to a surprising and very old formal technique: the catalogue. Going back at least as far as Homer, the catalogue might seem at odds with the contemporary, politically engaged writing listed above. In innovative and experimental reimaginings of the form, however, these writers put the catalogue to work, articulating new and compelling means of literary protest.

Teaching African American Literature Intertextually: A Pedagogic and Personal Reflection on “Diversifying” Higher Education (Dr Janine Bradbury)

Dr Janine Bradbury, Senior Lecturer in Literature, York St John University 

In this paper, I offer a series of reflections on the first two years of delivering a new interdisciplinary African American literature module (Level 5). Primary texts included on the module range from Childish Gambino’s This is America (2018) and Beyoncé’s Lemonade to Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun (1959), and Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight (2016). Inspired by the autoethnographic approaches offered by bell hooks, Patricia Hill Collins, Toni Morrison and others, this critical and creative reflection on pedagogy asks how teaching, assessing, and reading African American literary texts with an interdisciplinary approach has become a vital component in my own practice as a woman of colour academic in predominantly white higher education institutions. I also explore some of the challenges inherent in my approach, and why and how we can support and encourage interdisciplinary readings of African American literary material in the classroom that draw upon film and media studies, history, and creative writing.

LEARNED SOCIETIES STRAND: The British Association for American Studies

Sat 12:45 pm – 2:00 pm

Learned societies

English Literature, Community Engagement, and widening participation at the University of Bristol

John McTagueMCRo

The BA in English Literature and Community Engagement (ELCE) at the University of Bristol is a part-time degree aimed primarily at mature students, taught in the evenings over six years. Students study literature in English from the medieval period to the present day, and develop a ‘community engagement’ project, through which they share what they have learned from the degree with the wider community. The course is direct entry and there are no formal entrance requirements. The Foundation in Arts and Social Sciences (Cert HE) at the University of Bristol is a one-year programme designed to prepare students for undergraduate study in the arts, humanities, and social sciences. Again, there are no formal entrance criteria, and students apply directly to the programme. Students who complete the course satisfactorily are guaranteed a place on a degree in either the Faculty of Arts or the Faculty of Social Sciences and Law at the University of Bristol. While the programme is structurally interdisciplinary—students are introduced to the range of subjects on offer in the core units, and specialise as the programme progresses—two of the core units feature ‘set’ literary texts (currently, Achebe’s Things Fall Apart and Behn’s Oroonoko). The School of Humanities also runs a series of short and taster courses (such as ‘Reading English Literature’, or ‘Building Academic Language and Literacy’), which run both on the university campus and in community settings around the city. Many students taking these courses go on to apply to ELCE or the Foundation programme, or another degree at Bristol or another institution, but they are not simply part of a ‘recruitment strategy’, serving communities in the city and the university in a number of ways.

In this roundtable discussion, a group of staff involved in the design and delivery of these programmes will speak about their experiences, addressing issues around widening participation, recruitment and retention, curriculum and programme design, community engagement, and student support.

Jess Farr-Cox (Lecturer in Academic Skills, University of Bristol)
April Gallwey (Lecturer in English Literature and Community Engagement, University of Bristol)
Marie-Annick Gournet (Director of ELCE and Part-Time Programmes, University of Bristol)
Amy Laurent (Lecturer in Arts and Humanities, University of Bristol)
Pam Lock (Lecturer in Literary Communities, University of Bristol)
John McTague (Programme Director, Foundation in Arts and Social Sciences, University of Bristol)
Helen Thomas-Hughes (Director of ELCE and Part-Time Programmes, University of Bristol)

Sat 12:45 pm – 2:00 pm

Literature and Publishing history: interfaces in teaching and research

Clare Lees 2MMUe

Book History, Publishing Studies and Digital Approaches to English Studies 2
Organiser: The Institute of English Studies, University of London

Chair: Dr Andrew Nash (Reader in Book History and Director of the London Rare Books School, Institute of English Studies)

Publishing studies has been provocatively described by Simone Murray (2005) as ‘research in search of a discipline’. As courses in this area increase in number and popularity, what is the role of publishing studies and publishing history within English studies? What are the interfaces between literature and publishing in teaching and research, and what can a study of the methodological approaches used in the fields of book and publishing history offer English studies now? This panel will offer three perspectives on these questions, examining the interfaces between literature and publishing history in relation to archival research, education publishing, and translation studies. It seeks to show publishing history, with its focus on material objects and archival sources, offers special opportunities to enhance research-based teaching and learning; how publishing decisions influence canon-formation and educational practice; and how understanding the global nature of the book can help broaden the scope of our subject.

Bringing publishers’ archives into the literature classroom (Dr Nicola Wilson)

Associate Professor in Book and Publishing Studies, University of Reading
Undergraduate students have not generally been exposed to the excitement and challenges of working with archives and special collections, but this is where they can really begin to understand the intellectual value and benefit of undertaking original research. This talk will reflect on efforts at the University of Reading to bring publishing history into the literature classroom through the creation of a third-year module entitled Publishing Cultures: Writers, Publics, Archives. The module builds hands-on archival work into classroom teaching each week, and requires students to engage closely with and re-make archival documents as part of their assessment. Looking more broadly across the sector, the talk will consider the role of publishing studies within English studies, and consider what it can add to our students’ degree programmes.

Literature, publishing and education (Dr Gail Low)

Senior Lecturer in English, University of Dundee

This paper begins with some reflections on the interface between educational and trade/literary publishing, starting with a series of simple questions about publishers series such as Penguin Classics, Virago Classics, the African Writers Series, and Canongate Classics. The paper will ask: what is a classic, whose classics, what makes a classic, and what are the function of classics in the context of English studies? In responding to these questions, the paper will focus on Canongate Classics as a publisher’s series, exploring the role of the Scottish Arts Council in funding the publication of the series, and the interface between educational and literary/trade publishing in the construction of tradition and the creation of cultural capital.

Literature, publishing and translation studies (Michelle Milan)

Marie Curie Fellow, Institute of English Studies, University of London

The significance of translation to English literary studies and book history is still a relatively understudied topic of interdisciplinary inquiry. Scholars have noted that while translators have played a key role in the transnational circulation of texts and the reading of literatures written in other languages their role has been marginalised in the creation of literary histories. This paper will examine the production of English translated texts in nineteenth-century Britain and Ireland focusing on translator-publisher relations and the transactions surrounding translation. Drawing on evidence in publishers’ archives, the study sheds light on this largely hidden area of English-language authorship by discussing the legal and material aspects of nineteenth-century translation, particularly translators’ remuneration and questions of copyright.

Sat 12:45 pm – 2:00 pm

Presentation of award-winning solo spoken word show THE EMPATHY EXPERIMENT and Q&A discussion

Rose CondoMCRn

ABOUT THE SHOW: THE EMPATHY EXPERIMENT asks if empathy is in decline and whether smartphones are to blame. Embarking on her own Day Of No Mobile Phones, Rose invites the audience to join her in the final hour of her experiment – including handing over their own phones. Rose writes an open letter to Facebook about how their relationship has turned sour. She shares a fairy tale featuring a magic mirror that tries to evoke empathy from the current American president. She swaps shoes with a member of the audience at one point, as a very literal act of empathy. Rose hits a crisis of confidence in realising that mobile technology has become essential for some people (e.g. disability access). She tries to reconcile feelings of guilt with still wanting to address tech addiction.

After winning Best Spoken Word Show at the Greater Manchester Fringe Awards, THE EMPATHY EXPERIMENT played to full houses in Edinburgh and received critical acclaim from audiences and reviewers:

★★★★ ‘Her poetic storytelling is the highlight of the show’ – The Feminist Fringe
★★★★ ½ ‘Relevant and enthralling’ – The Reviews Hub
★★★★ ‘She models true empathy’ – Three Weeks

ROSE SAID: ‘I saw my own increasing addiction to my smartphone and saw people in all corners of public and private spaces with eyes constantly fixed on screens. I wondered what impact this was having on how we show compassion and empathy. What began as a naïve hope that a phone-free day might increase empathy on a global scale, became a journey into the complexities of mobile communication and recognising that there are many positive reasons that people have come to rely on this technology.’

SESSION OBJECTIVES: This proposal hopes to align with the conference’s aims of exploring alternative forms of engagement. The show is a strong example of spoken word theatre, which is an increasingly popular form of poetry in performance. The show will provoke critical thinking around how performance poetry can be used to delve into topical issues. The follow up Q&A discussion will give attendees a chance to share feedback and will enable Rose to shed light on her creative process – in particular her compassionate use of audience participation as a way of deepening engagement with the material.

Please note that Rose has recently written a paper called ‘I thought I was just coming to watch: audience participation in live spoken word’ which will be part of a collection of essays on spoken word in the UK being published by Routledge in 2020 (Editors: Lucy English and Jack McGowan). Rose’s critical reflection on her practice will underpin her discussion in the Q&A.

Please also note that although the show has been performed in theatres, it requires no technical support. THE EMPATHY EXPERIMENT would work in a classroom, lecture hall, café, or whatever space is available.

For further information about Rose and her work please visit www.rosecondo.net.

Sat 12:45 pm – 2:00 pm

Race: it’s not just about representation

Velda Elliott VConference Room

This session will explore questions of race, representation and interpretation as they relate to secondary English teaching, and connected subjects. The papers draw on empirical data, experience of interdisciplinary PGCE teaching, and analyses of curriculum texts. Three twenty minute papers will explore different aspects of the topic, followed by (hopefully) vigorous discussion.

We need to talk to each other more: Interdisciplinary approaches to race and representation in the humanities curriculum (Lesley Nelson-Addy)

PGCE Tutor and DPhil candidate, University of Oxford Department of Education

Historically, departments within schools tend to operate as independent clusters – engaging with and disseminating their curriculum content in departmental isolation. Following the changes in the GCSE curriculum, I noticed a shift in the way departments began to communicate with one another in order to interpret and approach the new curriculum content and objectives. As an English teacher, these discussions were useful; relatively accessible for the teachers involved, since the GCSE ‘changes’ in Language and Literature continued to engage with similar Anglocentric texts to those taught in typical undergraduate degrees, but these discussions tend to be largely operational. As I continue my reflections on the need to diversify the English curriculum, this paper will explore how members of departments within the schools and PGCE departments in universities can use each other to establish and employ richer, diverse knowledge that is well contextualised.

London Kills Me: embodying the Gothic in a KS5 London classroom (Tabitha Mcintosh)

PhD Candidate Birkbeck College, University of London and Teacher of English, Nower Hill School, London

This presentation is a multimedia on the colonising functions of the curriculum, comprised of teacher-researcher led analysis and 6th form student-created and curated queer, Asian, East Asian, Black, autistic, twin, synaesthetic, anxious, ADHD, and dyslexic subjectivity experienced and expressed through the OCR A Level Literature unit on the Gothic. Using photography and analytic commentary, students explore the architectural, institutional and cultural boundaries of set texts (Dracula and The Bloody Chamber) and the OCR Subject Delivery Guidelines. In the process, they challenge the ways in which their identities and embodied subjectivities are perpetually removed from the core curriculum and rendered fetishised, alien and Other.

Framing race in English teaching: disrupting the norm of whiteness (Velda Elliott)

Associate Professor of English and Literacy Education, University of Oxford Department of Education

This paper will consider the framing of race and ethnicity within texts set for examination in England, and other texts commonly taught in the curriculum. It will draw on the two distinct framings of race in curriculum: as absence or as victim, with a view to Adrienne Rich’s “moment of psychic disequilibrium, as if you looked in the mirror and saw nothing” and Jesmyn Ward’s concept of the markedness of the black body which “would never be gifted with escape” in typical encounters with race in the classroom. It will discuss the new ‘racially diverse’ novels added by Edexcel to its GCSE curriculum and the responses to their perceived framing of race as ‘difficulty’ within the selection. It will end with a consideration of the potential offered by NEA (coursework) at A level to move beyond a norm of whiteness in the English classroom.

Sat 12:45 pm – 2:00 pm

Refugee Narratives: Authentic, Literary, Comparative

Bryan CheyetteMCRl

The aim of this proposed panel is to explore refugee narratives in three different contexts. These are the refugee camps in Jordan; in British literary fiction; and in relation to slave and camp narratives. Questions raised will include: In what way can refugee stories be deemed to be authentic? Do they have to have “literary” qualities to attract a wide readership or audience? Are they unique (part of a particular history) or can they be compared to other forms of testimony in extremis?

Two of the panellists, Yasmine Shamma and Katherine Cooper, are ECRs but their papers are based on well-established projects. Bryan Cheyette will present on a new project. The proposed Chair, Lyndsey Stonebridge, is contingent on the timing of the panel; Hari Reed, a doctoral student, is a reserve panellist as she is currently completing her PhD to a November deadline.

Yasmine Shamma, “We lived in many houses”: The perpetuity of displacement

Yasmine Shamma is Lecturer in Modern and Contemporary Literatures at the University of Reading. She is principal investigator on the British Academy “Tackling the UK’s International Challenges” grant, through which she is creating an interdisciplinary digital archive featuring Syrian testimonies of displacement. She is the author of Spatial Poetics: Second Generation New York School Poetry (OUP 2018) and has recently edited two books on the New York School.

This paper addresses the perpetual seeking of refugees–specifically in relation to the Palestinian diaspora. Coming out of work on the recent Syrian crisis, this paper examines the way refugees of both diasporas living within Jordan and moving through Jordan have come to find themselves engaged in what Helen Taylor calls “the life-time project” of pursuing, seeking, and ultimately creating, homes.

Katherine Cooper, The Politics of Welcome: Refugees, Narrative and Textual Hospitality in Mid-century fiction

Katherine Cooper is Senior Research Associate at the University of East Anglia. A BBC/AHRC New Generation Thinker, her first book, on Margaret Storm Jameson, is forthcoming with Bloomsbury (April 2020). She is currently working on a monograph which explores how British writers interacted with refugee writers during World War Two.

Exploring fiction by Winifred Holtby, Rebecca West, and Stella Gibbons, this paper will think through the ways in which British writers mediated narratives of exile during the mid-twentieth century, inflecting them with their own concerns and preoccupations whilst trying to create a meaningful portrayal of the refugee. Bringing these into dialogue with more recent critical work around refugees and the politics of hospitality, it questions what these narratives might show us about British attitudes to refugees at this time and how these representations might open up continuing debates and difficulties around writing the refugee.

Bryan Cheyette, Testimonies: Slave, Camp, Refugee

Bryan Cheyette is Professor of Modern Literature at the University of Reading. He has published ten books and co-edits (with Martin Eve) the series New Horizons for Contemporary Writing (Bloomsbury Academic). His most recent book is a short history of The Ghetto for OUP.

This paper will look at testimonial narratives across different histories and experiences of forced confinement (nineteenth-century slavery, twentieth-century concentration camps, twenty-first century refugees). The aim is to see if there are any commonalities between the way that memory is turned into narrative (or not) in these disparate traumatic circumstances. Questions addressed will include the construction of the reader; the use of received narrative motifs; and questions of authenticity. One critical model for this kind of work is Laura T Murphy’s The New Slave Narrative (2019) on this century.

Sat 12:45 pm – 2:00 pm

Some Kids I Taught and What They Taught Me

Gail Marshall 2Opera Theatre

Sat 12:45 pm – 2:00 pm

Teacher Education for the English classroom: the role of linguistics

Gee MacroryMMUf

In the light of relatively recent curriculum changes, including the National Curriculum changes in 2013, changes at GCSE and A level, the introduction of a phonics test at age 7 and the GPS (Spelling, Punctuation and Grammar) test at the end of primary schooling, this session will consider the implications for teacher education, in terms of both subject knowledge and pedagogy. Teacher educators face the challenge of preparing teachers for the day to day reality of the classroom at the same time as enabling both student and experienced teachers to develop an informed critique of current developments.

The talks include a consideration of the place of formal grammar in primary classrooms, given the controversy that the introduction of this has caused, attempting to provide some clarity in the debate by categorising the arguments put forward by both sides in terms of their focus and the assumptions that appear to underlie them, and to explore how far they are potentially addressable by research in education and linguistics. Two talks will address the teaching of reading, in the light of current policy and practice within England which supports a phonics first approach: one will report on research into young children’s phonological awareness to consider the extent to which phonics should dominate within reading instruction, which brings into question current guidance around the teaching of phonics; a second will report on research into teachers’ understanding of reading comprehension. A fourth talk will focus on digital writing practices that see pre-adolescent boys play with language and experiment with breaking the rules of conventional writing. Finally, a talk will consider the implications of research into sociolinguistics for teacher education, asking whether more should be done to equip teachers with authentic and relevant knowledge of language variation and diversity. Central to all the talks will be the issue of what learning English means in the contemporary classroom, and what this may mean for policy and practice.

‘Fancy the fabric ere you build’: an end to the ‘grammar wars’ (Huw Bell)

Reader in Teaching and Learning, MMU

Phonemes emerge from words but are noticed by letters: implications for teacher education (Steph Ainsworth)

Senior Lecturer, Primary English, MMU

How do teachers teach and understand reading comprehension? (Karin Boyle)

Senior Lecturer, Primary English, MMU

‘My mate’s Russian so spelling doesn’t matter!’ Understanding the nature of pre-adolescent boys’ digital writing practices (Julie Scanlon)

Principal Lecturer, MMU

In defense of the non-standard: the importance of sociolinguistic awareness in teacher education (Rob Drummond)

Reader in Linguistics, MMU

Each talk will last 10 minutes, with 5 minutes for discussion.

Sat 12:45 pm – 2:00 pm

The British Society for Literature and Science roundtable: Turning English into STEAM – what can Literature do with Science, for schools, universities and the public?

Greg Lynall 2MCRk

Chair: Dr Greg Lynall (Chair of BSLS, and co-director of Literature & Science Hub, University of Liverpool)

LitSciPod – The Literature and Science Podcast: opportunities in new media and interdisciplinarity

Dr Catherine Charlwood (Early Career Researcher, University of Liverpool)
Dr Laura Ludtke (Scholar-in-Residence, Queen’s University, Canada (Bader International Study Centre))

Building the Book of Nature: Literature and Science in Natural History Museums

Professor John Holmes (Professor of Victorian Literature and Culture, University of Birmingham)
Professor Janine Rogers (Head of Department, the Reverend William Purvis Chair of English Literature, and Professor of Medieval and Sixteenth-Century Literature, Mount Allison University, Canada)

Insects Through the Looking-Glass: communicating the science of the climate and biodiversity crisis through literature

Dr Fran Kohlt (University of York)

Perspectives on STEAM

Professor Martin Willis (Professor of English Literature, and Head of the School of English, Communication and Philosophy, Cardiff University)

LEARNED SOCIETIES STRAND: The British Society for Literature and Science 

Sat 12:45 pm – 2:00 pm

Learned societies, roundtable

Thinking with Difficulty: University Classroom Practice

Michael CollinsMCRm

Thinking with difficulty: inside and outside the classroom
The idea of difficulty is central to the study of English Literature, serving as both a marker of apparent value and a perceived barrier to access. These two linked roundtable sessions will approach the question of difficulty from a number of perspectives. Contributions will consider the teaching of ‘difficult’ texts (particularly those drawn from early and pre-modern periods) and the ways in which difficulty functions in those texts. We will also examine other difficulties the discipline faces: recruiting students, particularly male and first-generation students, and the difficulties inherent in attempts to work with colleagues outside the university. Participants will explore methods – practical, administrative and critical – that might reframe these questions and reflect on their own experiences inside and outside the classroom in order to open a broader discussion.

Difficulty II: University Classroom Practice
The second roundtable will consider difficulty at university, where students are regularly asked to confront difficult texts and concepts while academic and professional services staff face the difficulties of making texts, disciplines, departments, and universities more accessible – both intellectually and practically. This panel will consider recruitment and retention, widening participation programmes, and important initiatives such as the First Generation network.
Participants: Rufeida Alhatimy, Joshua Davies, Zubaida Chowdhury, James Paz, Hannah Crawforth, Jon Ward.

Sat 12:45 pm – 2:00 pm

Using scriptwriting to inspire young writers (KS3)

Jonathan MorganMMUa

At a time when formulaic approaches to writing at GCSE are stifling young people’s creativity and damaging their perception of English, teaching scriptwriting at KS3 can be an inspiring way to get students using their understanding of narrative, character and genre to develop creative writing skills and digital literacy, providing a structure that learners of all abilities can engage with.

In this practical session, there will be opportunities to:

  • explore scriptwriting conventions
  • discover how a fiction text can be adapted to the screen
  • consider how scriptwriting can be used to generate ideas for original writing
  • experiment with your own adapted or original short-film script

Jonathan Morgan is Director of NATE, and a former Secondary English consultant and Head of English who has published a range of KS3 and GCSE textbooks for students and teachers. Jonathan has a personal interest in writing for radio, TV and film, following his MA in Scriptwriting and former role in leading BBC Young Reporter at his previous school.

logo of The National Association for Teaching of English (NATE)

This session is part of the National Association for the Teaching of English (NATE) strand

Sat 12:45 pm – 2:00 pm


What is knowledge in English? A workshop for educators in English at all levels

Bob EaglestoneMMUb

Knowledge is a central idea of education and research: yet the sort of knowledge that English teaches and provides is complex. The aim of this workshop, aimed at teachers of English at all levels, is to investigate both theoretically and practically what knowledge in this discipline is.

This is a pressing question not only of intellectual interest. In education more widely, ‘knowledge’ – understood in a range of novel ways, often drawing on educational psychology – is becoming the key rhetoric.

In secondary education, the question of ‘What is knowledge for English?’ is being posed by the demands of curriculum design and by the growth of a range of cognitive models for learning drawn from psychology, and perhaps of questionable use in English. It is also a crucial question for teachers for the understanding of their role in educating students not only for future study of the subject but also for their lives as educated citizens.

In Higher education, the well-known fissiparousness of the discipline, the dominance of historicism (which suggests that literary knowledge is historical knowledge, often constructed in a positivist form), the growth of the digital humanities and the attendant use of a mass corpus, alongside the rise of creative writing, all pose questions about what knowledge in the subject is.

At both levels, ‘knowledge’ is used to differentiate the discipline from ‘skills’ and ‘the skills agenda’, yet the ‘know-how’ associated with practising the subject is intimately related to what we know. Knowledge is also central to issues of assessment – are we seeking to test what is known, what is ‘mastered’, what is understood or, perhaps, what is felt? These issues are given more urgency at a time when recruitment into the discipline is a cause for concern.


This 75 minute workshop will begin with a short overview of the issue of knowledge in the discipline, briefly highlighting both the historical and more philosophical concerns, along with some of the current ways of thinking about knowledge that are emerging at secondary level.

It will then turn to a practical exploration, inviting educators at all levels to explore what knowledge in the subject might be.

We suggest that English is a complex mixture of different forms of knowledges. These may map onto older traditions of knowledge (say, the five intellectual virtues in Aristotle: craftsmanship, knowledge, wisdom, understanding and intelligence) or may be understood in more recent kinds of analysis of knowledge.

Certainly English is a mixture of generic knowledge (of the deep forms that structure the novel, for example); linguistic knowledge; contextual and traditional knowledge (of some of the key movements in literary history, for example); ‘how to’ knowledge (finding one’s way around a poem); and other, perhaps more demanding kinds of knowing.

We hope that this will add to the growing conversation over these matters.

Barbara Bleiman was until recently Co-Director of EMC and continues to work there as an Education Consultant and Co-Editor of emagazine. She is a novelist and a Salon Guest at ESF.

Robert Eaglestone is Professor of Contemporary Literature and Thought at Royal Holloway, University of London, and the author of Literature: why it matters (Polity 2019)

Sat 12:45 pm – 2:00 pm


Workshop: Decolonising our own Academic Practices


Recent years have witnessed student-led calls to decolonise the curriculum and engage with the colonial heritage on which many of Britain’s universities are built, and which underpins present constructions of history, literature and knowledge. This strand will consist of three sessions in which we aim to approach the challenges of decolonising the curriculum from an early career academic’s perspective. We want to foreground the voices of early career academics who identify as black or minority ethnic; at the same time, we believe that ‘oppression belongs to the culture of the oppressor’ (Cynthia Ozick) and encourage critical interrogations of whiteness alongside celebration of anti-racist practices in English by academics of all colours.

Workshop led by Anna Girling and Mathelinda Nabugodi. The workshop will provide a space in which participants can reflect on the problems, premises and promises of decolonising the university. The starting point is the participants’ own thoughts, previous experiences and ideas that they have been exposed to in the preceding conference sessions. The aim is to inspire and empower participants with practical advice for their future careers. This will be achieved through a structured discussion of a set of questions, e.g.:

  • Who is the human in the humanities?
  • What does decolonial practice mean in practice?
  • Is decolonial synonymous with anti-racist?
  • Is it possible to unlearn white privilege?
  • Do we have a responsibility to unteach white privilege?
  • Is it important to increase the number of BAME academics? Why?
  • Does it make a difference to increase the number of BAME academics if the institutional (racist) structures remain in place?
  • Can the discipline of English further the cause of diversity? How?
Sat 12:45 pm – 2:00 pm


Writing, Between and Beyond

Caroline MagennisMMUd

Chair: Dr Caroline Magennis (Lecturer, Salford)

This panel brings together three academics who have moved from traditional scholarship into a more creative kind of writing. It will begin with short readings.

The Promise of Ficto-Criticism (Dr Jane Kilby)

Senior Lecturer, Salford

As a reader, I prefer scholarly writing (I’m not a big reader of novels but I try keeping that quiet). As a writer, however, I’ve developed a liking for making things up (although not all the time, otherwise I would be novelist). To be able to read my own work, then, I’ve started to blur the art of scholarship and storytelling. Ficto-criticism is an approximate yet enabling term for this hybrid practice. (To say I’m blurring truth and fiction, or critical and creative writing is not quite right. ‘Scholarship’ is a distinct institutional practice, which is shaped by a range disciplinary conventions and protocols.) I’m still trying to make sense of what this new writing means, of what it promises and its viability. (There are issues.) However, if pushed I would say I now writing in discovery of change and how it might happen. There has to be a politics at work.

Writing ‘in between’: Breaking the Rules of Academic Writing (Dr Claire Lynch)

Reader, Brunel

I started writing memoir in the spaces in between. The first draft was written wedged between two incubators. At night, when the babies slept and we didn’t, I wrote about our new family. As the babies grew, so did the memoir, and I found space to write between the things I know as a theorist and the things I’m learning as a writer. Learning how to write memoir (as opposed to writing about memoir) has taught me how much I didn’t know about it. When I sit at my desk to write I hear the siren call of library catalogues and bibliographies, I am happy there, but I can’t find what I need.

When I write autobiographically, I am, in many ways, deliberately breaking the ‘rules’ of academic writing. There are no footnotes to hide behind, no conventions of rhetoric to distance me from the language. Personal essays are ethically challenging; the people I represent are not symbolic or fictive, they are real people, many of whom live in my house. The form is, by definition, exposing, compromising even. How can an academic maintain a position of intellectual objectivity if she also publishes stories in which she makes jokes about her ovaries? How can an academic stick to the old rules once she learns the value of breaking them?

Writing Female Rage, Before & After MeToo (Katie Lowe)

Novelist and PhD Student, Birmingham

The conversation around female anger has changed. Books like Rebecca Traister’s Good and Mad, Brittney Cooper’s Eloquent Rage and Soraya Chemaly’s Rage Becomes Her – all published in 2018 – have made explicit the ways in which female rage has been transformed by contemporary cultural events, from the election of Donald Trump, to the #MeToo movement.

My novel, The Furies, was written over seven months in 2017, with the final rights auction taking place in the US on the same day the Harvey Weinstein allegations were first published in the New York Times.

The language created by the widespread emergence of #MeToo that followed has created a shorthand for addressing ideas around women’s anger, sexual harassment and power that have always been present, but have only recently been embraced by the mainstream culture – and has enabled me to explore this anger both in the wider landscape of modernist and contemporary fiction, and in my own creative practice.

Sat 12:45 pm – 2:00 pm

2:15 pm – 3:30 pm Saturday Session IV

A role for the literary society: a mediated conversation with the Thomas Hardy Society

Andrew HewittMCRn

This session explores the potential of the literary society – traditionally, a non-professional group dedicated to enjoyment of a favourite writer – to support students and teachers of English by mobilising networks and sharing resources. One of the largest literary societies in the world, the Thomas Hardy Society is a community of general readers and enthusiasts as well as students and academics. It also maintains strong links to educational institutions, heritage organisations, local and national interest groups, and other literary societies. In recent years, recognising the need of teachers for classroom resources and creative support – and keen, as always, to bring Hardy to new audiences – the Society has revitalised its programme of communication and educational outreach to provide a range of resources to schools.

This session will engage four members of the Society and a mediator in conversation on the role of the literary society in sustaining and enriching English as a subject at school and as an ongoing interest for many people. Panellists will draw on their experience of recent Society initiatives including:

  • Resources. The Society works with academics from several UK universities to promote, and develop, research-based resources that support the teaching of nineteenth-century literature to GCSE and A-level students. For example, a recent collaboration between the Society and the ‘Diseases of Modern Life’ (DoML) project at Oxford used workshops for teachers and students to raise the profile of the DoML’s ‘classroom-ready’ medical/scientific texts, designed to help
    prepare students for tasks such as the unseen non-fiction prose component of the GCSE English Language exam.
  • Online hub. The Society’s website and extensive social media presence serve as a ‘first point of contact’ for anyone interested in developing their knowledge and appreciation of Hardy. It’s vital for forging and maintaining links with a world-wide community of readers, students, and teachers.
  • Creativity. The Hardy Society’s programme of poetry and writing workshops has visited schools in the Midlands, Dorset, and Cornwall, and engaged over 100 students in an outpouring of poetry that in 2019 resulted in a new anthology. Many schools sign up for a return visit and the Society is creating resources to support other practitioners in running similar workshops to reach even more students. As another stimulus for engaging with literature, the Society also runs an annual Study Day and essay writing contests for students at secondary, sixth-form, and university level.
  • Engagement. By June 2020 the Society will be ready to report back on the findings of a smallscale research project exploring the use of poetry to engage reluctant students in reading and writing.

Rather than making formal presentations, the panellists will engage in conversation with the mediator, each other, and attendees, and share examples of free resources curated or promoted by the Society to support teachers and students. The Society aims to be an active partner in the education of the next generation of readers and thinkers and in the preservation of English as a vital and valuable aspect of British education. The session will encourage discussion of how the modern literary society in general, whether focused on specific authors or more broadly-oriented, might embrace this role and participate in the future of English Studies.


Sat 2:15 pm – 3:30 pm

Learned societies

Belonging: creative writing, pastoral care and precarity

Jessica Farr CoxMMUg

The Foundation Year in Arts and Humanities (www.bristol.ac.uk/arts/study/foundation/students/) is a one-year course designed specifically to allow those with few or zero qualifications to access higher education. We teach and mark them very much like first years, with an emphasis on equipping them with the skills and confidence to go on to a Bachelor’s degree.

All the students have a difficult relationship with education and are forming their identities as scholars in ways that are quite different from the experiences of ‘conventional’ undergrads. Moreover, Foundation Year students have complex lives, including histories of addiction, immigration, domestic violence, physical and mental illness, caring responsibilities and time in the armed services. They may be working in their second or third language and the age range can span several decades. Consequently, their pastoral care can be challenging and time-consuming. We must support every student with warmth and understanding, but without creating dependency and/or unrealistic expectations of what they should expect as undergrads, and without placing an unmanageable burden on part-time, precarious staff.

For the last two years, I have run a small, optional creative writing group for these students. This was intended to be a fun ‘extra’, with no anticipated impact upon their other writing. In fact, it has proved to be a pedagogical tool of considerable and subtle power. Firstly, the informal setting and format has improved relationships between students, and between myself and the students. Secondly, it has given the students a safe space in which to process trauma and personal issues through fiction if they so wish, as well as alternative ways of engaging with material covered in class. Thirdly, it has allowed them to encounter and experiment with different modes of writing, which has had a noticeable knock-on beneficial effect on the quality of their essays and their confidence when handling complicated and varied texts. This has been particularly useful for students who find writing essays difficult, but who have excelled creatively, allowing them to battle their imposter syndrome. Fourthly, the CWG has given the students a space in which to practise responding to feedback, which has improved their responses to marking and their behaviour in seminars. They have also learned to give constructive feedback to each other, and to me: while I lead the sessions, I also offer my own writing for them to critique and take their comments very seriously.

Finally, the CWG has benefitted me enormously. I have been teaching on this course since its inception seven years ago, but have never had a contract longer than eighteen months and for the first four years was employed on a succession of ten-month contracts. Like many staff in similar positions, I cram all my teaching, meetings and office hours into the smallest space available, which can lead to a profound sense of ‘missing out’ on the life of the department. The CWG has changed that for me, because I have (accidentally) created something that contributes to the life of the Department, helping both me and my students to feel a greater sense of belonging.

I propose this session as a small pop-up workshop, using the format we employ in the CWG: short, timed creative writing exercises with prompts; reading creative work aloud and critiquing it; and seeing where the discussion takes us. Ideally, I’d like participants to write something on the theme of ‘belonging’ in advance, to bring with them and share with the group, but I’ll also bring some work that my students have written.

Jess Farr-Cox, Lecturer in Academic Skills, Dept. English, University of Bristol
Sat 2:15 pm – 3:30 pm




Writing the Now: Social Fractures and Narrative Fissures in Ali Smith’s and Amanda Craig’s Brexit Novels (Maria Elena Capitani)

Dr Maria Elena Capitani holds a BA and an MA in English and French from the University of Parma (Italy), by which she was awarded the title of ‘Doctor Europaeus’ in 2016 for her dissertation “The Politics of Re-(en)visioning: Contemporary British Rewritings of Greek and Roman Tragedies”. In 2014 and 2015 she was a Visiting Scholar at the Universities of Barcelona (Spain) and Reading (UK). Her research interests lie in twentieth- and twenty-first-century British literature and culture, with a special focus on drama, fiction, intertextuality, identity, and adaptation/translation for the stage. She has presented papers at international conferences across Europe and published various articles and book chapters on contemporary British dramatists including Martin Crimp, Sarah Kane, Tony Harrison, Simon Stephens, David Greig, and Liz Lochhead, and novelists such as Bernardine Evaristo. She currently teaches English and Anglophone Literature at the University of Parma.

In 1934 Ezra Pound famously stated that “literature is news that stays news”, stressing the close relationship between literary artefacts and the society in which they are produced and, even more interestingly, the transhistorical potential of texts to speak to a subsequent readership. The idea of the novel as something ‘new’ that deals with the (disorienting) ‘now’ permeates Ali Smith’s post-referendum Seasonal Quartet, published by Hamish Hamilton and now flourishing into its fourth instalment, Summer. As the Scottish writer points out, it is not clear whether in a few decades her four novels will “be stale and mean nothing to us or if there are things in them that will hold”. However, “the concept was always to do what the Victorian novelists did at a time when the novel was meant to be new. Dickens published as he was writing Oliver Twist. He was still making his mind up about the story halfway through. That’s why it’s called the novel” (Guardian, 23 March 2019). This paper will examine the opening act of Smith’s cycle, Autumn, defined by critics as the first example of ‘BrexLit’, and Amanda Craig’s state-of-the-nation satire The Lie of the Land. While Smith’s novel was rapidly written in the aftermath of the 2016 referendum, Craig’s work had a longer genesis, being inspired by the 2009 recession and published by Abacus in 2017. In different ways, both novels investigate the fractures of an inevitably gloomy, divided and disconnected Britain, in which Remainers and Leavers, cosmopolitanism and insularity, urban landscapes and the English countryside, immigrants and native people, future scenarios and nostalgia for the imperial past starkly contrast. Through moments of narrative disruption, both Smith and Craig dissect the social tensions exacerbated by the referendum and tackle the thorny question of British identity that lies at the very heart of Britain’s crisis. This (inter)national tsunami necessarily questions assumptions, encouraging writers, readers and scholars to think out of the box. Indeed, as Robert Eaglestone observes in his Introduction to Brexit and Literature (2018), the extraordinariness of a traumatically dividing event such as Brexit cannot help “demand[ing] thoughtful out-of-the-ordinary critical and cultural responses of all kinds” (2).

The “common tongue which all men speak”? Teaching Shakespeare as intercultural, multilingual resource in Brexit Britain (Duncan Lees)

In 2016, during the 400th anniversary of his death, Shakespeare was repeatedly invoked as a shared resource, and even a shared language. Positing the works of a man who lived in early modern England as a “shared language” for the world in the twenty-first century raises numerous questions, not least of which is how this relates to the actual language in which his works were written. Both Shakespeare and English attained global prominence after emerging from a small island on the edge of Europe – which, given the current political wrangling over Brexit, could be in the process of once again becoming more isolated. With Shakespeare having at times been co-opted by those on both sides of the debate, what challenges and opportunities are there in teaching “Shakespeare’s English” in a divided Brexit Britain?

While the 2016 commemorations often emphasised Shakespeare’s supposed timelessness and universality, this paper advocates teaching Shakespeare as an intercultural, multilingual resource. To begin with, ‘[e]very engagement with a Shakespearean text is necessarily intercultural’ (Tatlow 2001: 5) – an encounter with a different time, place and – in certain respects – a different English. Referencing Paula Blank’s work, this paper argues that acknowledging the unfamiliar in Shakespeare is fundamental not only to negotiating the challenges involved in teaching him, but also to embracing much of what makes it so exciting. Of course, Shakespeare’s work and “his” English were themselves drawn from intercultural, multilingual sources – a recognition that can open up space for re-examining connections between language and national identity then, and now. If, as John Gallagher argues, ‘[t]he idea of England as a monoglot nation is a modern one’ (2019: 2), then it is an idea that can change once more. Teaching Shakespeare as an intercultural, multilingual resource could be one small way of challenging the supposed inevitability of English speakers being monoglots, and recognising the existing intercultural and linguistic competencies of so many in the UK as resources, rather than threats.

Duncan Lees is a doctoral researcher at the University of Warwick. His PhD on intercultural Shakespeare education at Chinese universities is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, and draws on the thirteen years he spent teaching English-language drama and literature at Guangdong University of Foreign Studies in Guangzhou, China. His research and teaching combines work on applied linguistics and intercultural education with an interest in early modern drama, and especially Shakespeare and Fletcher. 

‘This Blessed Plot’: BrexLit and the Island Mentality (Kristian Shaw)

Kristian Shaw is Senior Lecturer in Contemporary Literature and MA Programme Leader at the University of Lincoln. He released his first monograph in 2016 entitled Cosmopolitanism in Twenty-First Century Fiction (Palgrave) – funded by the AHRC. He is currently finishing his second monograph entitled BrexLit (Bloomsbury) and editing two collections on the work of Kazuo Ishiguro and Hari Kunzru. He serves as a reader for the C21 Literature journal and sits on the executive committee of BACLS (British Association of Contemporary Literary Studies). 

Britain’s recent exit from the European Union on 23rd June 2016 signalled an unprecedented historic moment for the nation and has resulted in a form of political isolationism unthinkable at the turn of the millennium. The years leading up the EU referendum witnessed a sudden and violent shift towards right-wing populism, hostility towards supranational forms of cosmopolitical democracy and global interdependence, extensive opposition to open border policies, discontent with the cultural implications of globalization, and a xenophobic resistance to both immigrants and transnational mobility more widely. Such developments call for a re-evaluation of how Europe is narrated in Britain and the impact of ‘national’ literature on the cultural imaginary. Beginning with a brief analysis of Brexit and its immediate consequences, the paper will then provide a timely close reading of post-Brexit fictions – forming a literary genre which I have termed ‘BrexLit’ (Shaw 2016) – including Spring (2019) by Ali Smith, Exit West (2017) by Mohsin Hamid, Breach (2017) by Annie Holmes and Olumide Popoola, and The Wall (2019) by John Lanchester.

The paper will also argue that British antipathy towards the European project was already evident in the late twentieth-century British fictions of Kingsley Amis, Tim Parks and Malcolm Bradbury, which betrayed a Eurosceptic resistance to immigration and the renegotiation of borders, casting the British as ‘reluctant Europeans’ – inhabitants of an island resisting cosmopolitan imaginaries and the worst excesses of globalized society. In comparison, selected post-Brexit works will be shown to envision potential European political futures and conceptualize new cosmopolitan forms of belonging across borders. In so doing, the first wave of BrexLit indicates literature’s potential to engage with emergent geopolitical realities and anticipate the fate of the nation.

Sat 2:15 pm – 3:30 pm

C21 Literature: publishing, journals and open access in Contemporary Writing

Katy ShawMCRk

This roundtable discussion is the first publishing panel on contemporary literature led by the founders and the team behind the main academic open access journal in this specialist field, C21 Literature. The session will provide valuable guidance for scholars on policy perspectives on OA, both current and future, and in particular REF mandates and Plan S. The session will encourage debate and offer an open Q&A with participants that pools experience and leadership about the realities of writing for, editing and publishing contemporary criticism in open access format. Centred on the case study journal C21 Literature, the editor, publisher and supporting team will speak about their experiences and responses to challenges in publishing in the field of twenty first century literature, as well as the opportunities for writers and conference delegates for profiling their work and accessing new avenues of publication and reach.

Through insights into the lifecycle of open access publishing in contemporary literature and the context of the Open Library of Humanities model, the panel of speakers will offer a publishing clinic and take participants questions and queries about routes to publication as well as visions of the future of academic publishing in contemporary literature in the decades to come.

Prof Katy Shaw, Northumbria University (Editor C21)
Prof Martin Eve, Birkbeck (OLH)
Dr Rose Harris-Birtill. St Andrews University (OLH)
Dr Claire Nally, Northumbria University (Reviews Editor C21)

Sat 2:15 pm – 3:30 pm


Computational English Studies: A Roundtable

Clare Lees 3MMUe

The various activities grouped under the ‘digital humanities’ umbrella have led to a proliferation of impressive digitisation efforts, new projects, media attention, and timely questions about the nature of research and teaching methods in English literature. However, computational training is still sparse and rarely mandatory in English Studies curricula, and it is still rare for English researchers to primarily produce digital outputs for REF submissions and promotion dossiers. At a time when English is facing dwindling enrollment numbers and resources, could digital methods offer further strings to our collective bow, not to challenge but to complement the traditional approaches of the discipline? Debates about the ‘value’ of English have grappled with digital tools and methods in a technocratic age that dismisses the arts and humanities and expects ‘value for money’ in digital projects. The recent attention toward so-called ‘distant reading’ has also led to several criticisms from within English, including Nan Z. Da’s recent article, which claimed that computational literary studies is neoliberal, overly hyped, not verifiable, and unable to clearly elucidate the significance of its findings (‘The Computational Case Against Computational Literary Studies’, Critical Inquiry 45 [Spring 2019]). While worth attending to, such criticisms nevertheless tend to reflect a misunderstanding of the landscape of digital research in English, particularly that it covers a wide range of methodologies and outputs, but also that it is inherently experimental and interdisciplinary.

This symposium-style roundtable panel will feature brief statements about the gains and losses of computational approaches to English by four leading academics working at the intersection of English Studies and digital humanities, followed by a lengthy discussion guided by pointed questions and provocations. Among the various topics that speakers will address are: the effects of digital media on publishing, scholarly editing, archives and book history; new modes of reading, interpretation, and scale (namely, how to reconcile close reading, distant reading, computer-assisted close reading); pedagogical questions about the best ways to train humanists in digital skills; and institutional questions of prestige, REF, and the possibilities of interdisciplinary work.

Chair: Dr Christopher Ohge (Lecturer in Digital Approaches to Literature, Institute of English Studies)

Christopher Ohge is Lecturer in Digital Approaches to Literature at the Institute of English Studies, University of London School of Advanced Study. He also serves as an Associate Director of the Melville Electronic Library. His research interests are nineteenth- and twentieth-century literature, scholarly editing, text encoding, text analysis, and applying data science principles to reading and stylistics. Previously he served as an Associate Editor on the Mark Twain Papers and Project, where his editorial credits included the third volume of the Autobiography of Mark Twain (2015), Mark Twain: April Fool, 1884 (2017), and the forthcoming Innocents Abroad. Since 2018, he has convened the Digital Scholarly Editing courses at the London Rare Books School. 


Dr Francesca Benatti (Open University)

Francesca Benatti is Research Fellow in Digital Humanities at the Open University. In her role she develops research in Digital Humanities and promotes collaboration and networking between Digital Humanities researchers and other parts of the University. She is also a member of the READ-IT project and the Reading Experience Database. Her research interests are digital scholarly editions, text encoding, stylometry, the writings of Thomas Moore (1779-1852), and book history, with a focus on the role of Irish periodicals and newspapers in nineteenth-century Irish cultural nationalism.

Dr James Cummings (Newcastle University)

James Cummings is Senior Lecturer in Late Medieval Literature (c. 1350-1510) and Digital Humanities at the School of English Literature, Language, and Linguistics of Newcastle University. He works on the use of digital technology, primarily for digital editing, and late medieval drama. Since 2005 he has been an elected member of the Text Encoding Initiative Consortium’s Technical Council, and was previously its Chair. Part of his time is also spent on the Animating Texts Newcastle (ATNU) project, which explores new frontiers at the cross-roads between traditional scholarly textual editing, digital editing, digital humanities, and computer science.

Dr Elizabeth Williamson (University of Exeter)

Elizabeth Williamson is Research Fellow in Digital Humanities and English at the University of Exeter. Her research sits at the intersection between Renaissance literature, historical enquiry, archival studies and the digital humanities. Her interests include early modern archives and epistolary culture, especially in a diplomatic and governmental context; the practical and theoretical concerns of the Digital Humanities; and textual scholarship and digital publication. Before joining Exeter she co-edited documentary editions of thirty plays by authors other than Shakespeare for A Digital Anthology of Early Modern English Drama at the Folger Shakespeare Library.

Sat 2:15 pm – 3:30 pm


Contemporary Irish Fiction

Liam HarteMMUd

Selling John McGahern (Professor Frank Shovlin)

Institute of Irish Studies, University of Liverpool

This paper will focus on the various ways in which the work of John McGahern was marketed on both sides of the Atlantic between 1963 and 2002. It will consider controversies over dustjacket design and examine various efforts by his UK publisher, Faber and Faber, to cash in on his place in the so-called ‘Irish tradition’, a ploy much disliked by the novelist himself. The paper will also examine why there should have been such disparity in the selling of McGahern in the UK and the promotion of his work in the US, where he was published by Macmillan, Knopf, Atlantic, Harper and Row, Penguin and finally Knopf again. Why, for instance, was That They May Face the Rising Sun (2002) sold under that title in the UK but changed to the more prosaic By the Lake when marketed in the United States? Answers to this and other questions will allow us a better understanding of how literary reputations are built and fostered, and give us a glimpse into the more hard-headed, business-like outlook of this one great Irish writer.

Mothers in the Fiction of Colm Tóibín (Professor Liam Harte)

School of Arts, Languages and Cultures, University of Manchester

One of the paradoxes Colm Tóibín’s fiction is the disparity between the centrality of mothers as characters and the dearth of portrayals of mothers performing nurturing activities. The flawed mothers that populate his novels and short stories have led some to regard their unconventional behaviour as bordering on the monstrous, an epithet applied to the maternal figures in his debut novel, The South (1990), by the novelist himself. This paper will critically examine the evolution of Tóibín’s fictional treatment of maternal subjectivity, from Katherine Proctor in The South to the eponymous heroine of his eighth novel, Nora Webster (2014). The analysis will pay close attention to the ways in which the powerful ambivalence of Tóibín’s fictional mothers both subverts the idealisations of motherhood inherent in Catholic discourse and complicates attempts at feminist recuperation.

“Local women en masse”: Histories and Futures of Northern Irish Women’s Writing (Dr Caroline Magennis)

School of Arts and Media, University of Salford

As every scholar of contemporary writing knows, one of the pleasures of the field is anticipating which new novels will come to dominate the literary landscape, and the boom in writing by women from Northern Ireland has been unprecedented. In this paper I will account for the social, political and literary influences on this remarkable field of writing by examining recent texts by Jan Carson, Rosemary Jenkinson, Wendy Erskine, Lucy Caldwell and Anna Burns, paying close attention to their relationship to histories and futures of both the fictional landscape and Northern Ireland itself. Focusing on their rethinking of the domestic, sexuality and borders, the paper will ask how their writing might reframe vital questions about Northern Irish identity at a time where homogenising discourses are in the ascendant.

Sat 2:15 pm – 3:30 pm

Decolonising the Curriculum


Understanding and dismantling barriers to BAME student success (Nicola Abram)

Dr Nicola Abram (Lecturer in Literatures in English, University of Reading, UK)

This paper will report on two recent projects designed to support black, Asian and minority ethnic (UK and international) students of literature and languages at the University of Reading.

The 2018/19 project ‘A Thousand Words: Student Life Through a Lens’ adopted the PhotoVoice method (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9158980) to give BAME students in all years of undergraduate study a platform to present their experiences of university life to staff and other students, helping the Department – and, therefore, the University – to better understand the challenges faced. The resulting photographs were temporarily exhibited in the University Library and are now permanently displayed in the Department of English Literature, as well as online at https://www.instagram.com/uor_life_through_a_lens/. The project identified the paradox of BAME students’ simultaneous hypervisibility and invisibility within an institution, department and discipline that are predominantly white. Findings clustered around the power of voice and the importance of belonging to an institutional and disciplinary identity.

A follow-on project running in 2019/20 aims to cultivate BAME student community in the Department of English Literature, through a programme of informal meet-ups, panels of recent graduates, motivational workshops with external guest facilitators, and bespoke study enhancement sessions. This new network is run in partnership with two final year undergraduate students. It acts to centre BAME students within the Department of English Literature – that is, to acknowledge and value their constitutive presence – and to disrupt the reified whiteness of the Department and the discipline, diversifying both to the benefit of all.

Through reflection on the lessons learned, contextualised with information on the ethnicity attainment gap, this paper will suggest some possibilities and priorities for departments of literature and languages in UKHE.

Decolonising the Curriculum: Teaching Across Continents (Clara Dawson and Jessica R. Valdez)

Dr Clara Dawson, Lecturer in Victorian Literature, University of Manchester (permanent) and Dr Jessica Valdez, Assistant Professor in School of English, The University of Hong Kong (tenure-track)

This paper will engage with the Decolonising the Curriculum strand. It will present Valdez and Dawson’s collaborative pedagogical practice on a 2019/20 module on Global Victorians, taught simultaneously at the University of Hong Kong and the University of Manchester. Drawing on recent research on pedagogy and decolonising the curriculum, the paper will examine how our collaborative pedagogical experiment puts this research into practice.

The module assesses group projects which invite students to collaborate across the continents. Small groups of students at respective institutions create a factsheet about an object in a museum in each city pertaining to empire or global trade. They exchange factsheets and then create a podcast comparing and contrasting objects from both cities. By opening up students to the experiences of their counterparts on a different continent (one set of students studying in the industrial heart of the British Empire, another in a city created and shaped by the Empire), we aim to encourage students to reflect on how their views and subjective positions on Empire have been shaped by the cities they live in. We respond to Mignolo and Walsh’s call ‘to open consideration about the ways in which subjects, peoples, and movements who live the colonial difference not only act but also produce knowledge and construct theory’ (2018, p. 28). Museums are a key site for the production of knowledge and comparing the presentation of museum objects in Manchester and Hong Kong will enable students to critically interrogate the construction of colonial and postcolonial identities. By creating a horizontal plane across which students in different continents communicate, we eschew any sense that we as teachers ‘are in possession of a decolonial universal truth’ (Mignolo & Walsh, p. 1), instead enabling peer-to-peer learning.

The module will run for the first time in Spring 2020 so we will discuss any problems or difficulties that arose in the course of the module, the benefit to students as perceived by students themselves (via formal module feedback) and as perceived by us, in terms of the quality of assessments produced. The structure of the paper will be as follows:
5 minutes: outline the module and collaborative assessment methods.
10 minutes: explore how the module responds to and carries forward pedagogical research in decolonising the curriculum.
5 minutes: problems and benefits of our approach.

Teaching Post-millennial Indian genre fiction in India with Generation Z: de-colonising the Curriculum from within? (Emma Dawson Varughese)

E. Dawson Varughese, independent scholar (UK) and Snr Fellow Manipal Centre for Humanities, India

This paper reports on the pedagogical and socio-cultural concerns of teaching post-millennial Indian genre fiction (in English) to/with Generation Z in a South Indian university. Teaching on a BA Humanities degree where students major in English, this paper questions what it means to teach ‘English’ as a subject at a HE institution in India in the post-millennial years and relatedly, how ‘Indian genre fiction in English’ contests ideas of ‘Indian literature in English’ that have historically (and predominantly) represented the ‘English’ degree curriculum in the country. The paper also explores how ideas of Indianness read in and through the genre fiction texts further complicate notions of the Humanities major as ‘English’, asking questions about Indian reader reception, domestic circulation of core texts and representations of ‘Indianness’.

“Things Fall Apart, the Centre Cannot Hold: Decolonizing African histories and futures – a literary feminist perspective” (Aretha Phiri)

In an article entitled, ‘True African literature is crucial in helping the real Africa to emerge’ (2018), Hans Pienaar paraphrases writer and academic, E. E. Sule’s, criticism of an “African writing scene that is not really African.” While Sule’s sentiments are ostensibly aligned with contemporary global south decolonial imperatives, (African) literary criticism’s characteristic inclination towards identitarian discourse reveals its continued operation within racially over-determined and parochial, purist and nativist – imperialist – paradigms.

Indeed, recent criticisms that African diasporic literature is not conversant with “African everyday life” (Harris 2014) and is, “by definition, less specifically textured” (Ojwang and Titlestad 2014), have their antecedents in the inaugural African Writers Conference convened in June 1962 at Makerere University in Uganda in order to deliberate the efficacy of African literature written in English post colonialism. Dominated by male scholars, the notable absence of female writers in these discussions was here compounded by Obiajunwa Wali’s cynical essay the following year entitled, “The Dead End Of African Literature?” (1963). Arguing for “the development of a truly African sensibility” that needed necessarily to counter a growing body of extroverted, ‘Western-oriented’ literature, the essay’s disturbingly gendered and sexualized discourse set the tone for what is today a worrying tendency in academic circles to reassert heteronormative and heteropatriarchal, potentially exclusory hierarchies in the ideological and discursive delineation of African histories and futures.

Building on Taiye Selasi’s provocative talk entitled, ‘African Literature Does not Exist’ (2013) and in which she problematizes the (ethno-taxonomic) exigencies of both the literary establishment and the publishing industry, this paper attempts to probe the limits and prospects, in/for the twenty-first century, of African literature(s). Exploring the articulation of a defiant and disruptive shift in ideological focus and tenor, the paper proposes that a burgeoning corpus of literature written in English by women writers in the African diaspora reflects and presents, in the contemporary moment, an-other, alter-native, decolonial feminist initiative and imperative that speaks to the diversity and creativity of African materialities and visions. In a reading of selected fiction by Afrodiasporic women writers and examining its ability to undermine and even upend history as a (masculine) positivist practice, the paper examines the ways in and extent to which this writing could be said theorize African histories and futures otherwise.

Sat 2:15 pm – 3:30 pm

Developing visual and verbal literacy through media study (KS3)

Peter ThomasMMUa

KS3 English should be more than a rehearsal of GCSE exam protocols. The focus of this session will be on developing students’ creativity and criticality through multi-media study, focusing on the ways in which TV advertising influences and reflects social trends. The session will include materials on ‘Creative Persuasion’ produced in collaboration with the Ideas Foundation and some leading advertising agencies, including video material (adverts from Nike and John Lewis) and classroom resources for detailed study.

Although the materials and activities are matched to the English curriculum and to eventual generic GCSE English assessment objectives, the aim is to insert a media studies element into KS3, developing critical literacy by use of stimulating real-life texts to promote active groupwork and oracy, as well as an understanding of how English works in real-life contexts. Media texts provide stimulus for developing skills relevant to print texts and life experiences, and provide scope for communicative skills for life and work, as well as essentials of the English experience that matters across the ability range.

Peter Thomas is Chair of NATE, an experienced GCSE principal examiner and moderator, and a prolific writer on many aspects of English teaching, in particular the teaching of Shakespeare using creative and active approaches.

logo of The National Association for Teaching of English (NATE)

This session is part of the National Association for the Teaching of English (NATE) strand

Sat 2:15 pm – 3:30 pm


Gentrification and Alternative Spaces in Contemporary Fiction

James PeacockMCRn

We are proposing a panel which addresses different aspects of the conference’s specific interest in inequalities, including working-class literature and identities, and regional differences. The papers deal with a range of changing urban spaces and are connected by their engagement with processes of urban renewal, including gentrification.

Bentley’s paper, “‘It wasn’t always like this’: Gentrification and Displacement in Ross Raisin’s Waterline (2011) and Lisa Blower’s Sitting Ducks (2016),” examines narratives of gentrification with respect to post-industrial landscapes in contemporary Britain. As Tom Slater has argued, underneath the rhetoric of regeneration and renewal, gentrification often involves the economic and cultural displacement of established communities and individuals. This paper explores how fiction can offer a nuanced representation of the affective experience of this process of displacement, specifically the costs of gentrification as experienced by working-class communities. It examines two contemporary British novels: Ross Raisin’s Waterline (2011) and Lisa Blower’s Sitting Ducks (2016). Waterline details the experiences of the a redundant Glasgow shipbuilder after the closure of the shipyards in the late 1990s and presents a narrative of personal dissolution for the main character Mick Little that maps onto a more general sense of community decline. Sitting Ducks offers a narrative of post-industrial Stoke-on-Trent, with respect to the marginalized and precarious existence of its central characters, through a narrative that focuses on home ownership and belonging after the impact of Thatcherite policies.

Nick Bentley is Senior Lecturer in English at Keele University. He is author of Radical Fictions: The English Novel in the 1950s (2007) and Contemporary British Fiction (2008). He is currently working on a monograph on youth subcultures in postwar and contemporary fiction.

Morgan’s paper is called “Contemporary Youth Spaces in Guillaume Morissette’s New Tab (2014).” As its name suggests, Morissette’s novel is very much concerned with virtual spaces, specifically the spaces of social media and, to a lesser extent, gaming. Thomas, a 26-year-old games designer, lives in the gentrified hipster Montreal neighbourhood of Mile End. This is referenced occasionally in relation to physical meeting places, such as Sparrow—the name of a real-life cafe situated on boulevard Saint-Laurent. Much of the novel, however, is structured around interactions between the protagonist and his friends and acquaintances via Messenger and email. The focus is on the daily routines of a young individual living in a highly technologised world. Whilst we might anticipate themes of this kind in millennial fiction, the language politics within and around New Tab are what give the novel its distinctness, and have contributed to some of the significant attention it has received. Thomas is a francophone choosing to live and write in English. He studies creative writing at Concordia University—as did Morissette (the author describes the novel as “semi-autobiographical”). Although Morissette claims that “writing in English was never a political thing; it was more of a pragmatic thing,” New Tab poses questions around belonging, collectivity versus individualism, gentrification and linguistic expression in the contemporary social spaces of the internet.

Ceri Morgan is Senior Lecturer in English and Creative Writing at Keele University. Author of Mindscapes of Montreal (2012), she is currently working on geohumanities projects on collective walking, participatory creative practices, deindustrialisation, and chronic pain.

Peacock’s contribution, “Exposed Foundations and Endless Regeneration: Joseph Knox’s Aidan Waits Thrillers,” proceeds from the assumption that urban noir, so dedicated to uncovering the secrets of the past in rapidly changing cities, is particularly amenable to exploring urban renewal and gentrification. This paper focusses on Manchester, the setting for Knox’s three novels featuring troubled policeman Aidan Waits. In moving between gentrified spaces – bars, luxury apartment blocks, Media City – deprived working-class neighbourhoods, and abandoned spaces such as the Palace Hotel in the second novel, The Smiling Man, the detective reveals a cityscape striving to break free of an industrial past and yet consistently failing to do so. Manchester both reflects Waits’ struggles with his own past and shapes his consciousness, his interactions with different communities. Urban renewal is shown to perform a kind of melancholia, distinct from nostalgia (although gentrification also employs nostalgic effects), and to produce melancholic individuals like Waits.

James Peacock is Senior Lecturer in English and American Literatures at Keele University. He is currently researching contemporary gentrification stories, and is the author of Brooklyn Fictions: The Contemporary Urban Community in a Global Age (2015).

Sat 2:15 pm – 3:30 pm

Manchester Voices

Rob DrummondConference Room

Manchester Voices is an ongoing, unique research project exploring the rich tapestry of accents, dialects and identities that help make Greater Manchester (GM) what it is. The project has diversity and community at its core, with the central aim of investigating and celebrating the role of language in shaping the multiple identities that exist in our region, while at the same time challenging linguistic inequality. We draw on innovative methods from a range of disciplines including Linguistics, English, Youth Studies and History, to help us capture the linguistic and cultural essence of GM in the 2020s. This panel will describe the research processes and reflect on challenges and opportunities that have emerged so far, both in the current project and in the successful 2016-2017 pilot study.

There are four main strands to the research:
1. Online mapping of people’s perceptions.
Regional accents and dialects are heavily bound to notions of place and belonging; here, we seek to explore the geographical landscape of GM from a sociolinguistic perspective. Using a specially-designed online tool, people are invited to draw a digital map of where they feel people speak differently from one another within GM, before naming and describing the dialects. The composite data will be analysed using GIS (Geographic Information System) techniques, enabling us to create heat maps showing areas where certain dialects are thought to be spoken and where perceptions of dialects are shared.

2. The Accent Van.
Moving away from traditional sociolinguistic techniques, we will undertake a comprehensive tour of the ten boroughs of GM in our Accent Van – a specially kitted-out vehicle which serves as a mobile interview booth and recording studio. Participants will be asked to share their thoughts on how they speak, reflecting on deeply embedded beliefs regarding the status and value of their own, and other people’s, accents and dialects and how they relate spoken language to a sense of local identity.

3. Poetry and history workshops.
We will be organising oral history and poetry workshops in collaboration with the Manchester Centre for Youth Studies, the Manchester Centre for Public History and Heritage and Manchester Met’s English Department, which will serve to engage members of the public in discussion and creative collaboration around issues of accent, dialect and identity.

4. Attitude surveys.
A series of attitude surveys will track people’s thoughts and feelings about the speech of the region. Investigating people’s attitudes towards accents and dialects is crucial to explaining their use, loss, and maintenance at a community level. Attitudes also enable us to explore the ways in which individuals and groups identify and associate with one another within our local communities – for example, the feelings people from different boroughs, from different linguistic and cultural backgrounds, and of different age groups may have about their own and others’ speech (and about the speakers themselves). This aspect of the project seeks to uncover deeply embedded and widely held beliefs about regional accents and dialects, and to use this data to challenge any negative perceptions, to promote linguistic equality and diversity, and to nurture a sense of social and regional pride.

This panel is made up of the core research team of the project, representing individuals at different stages of their careers and from a variety of backgrounds. All team members work across the four strands of the research, yet each is responsible for the delivery of a particular aspect.

We will invite panel attendees to take part in the mapping part of the project, and will be able to offer exclusive tours of the Accent Van itself. We will also have a performance of local dialect poetry.

Manchester Voices is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, Ref: AH/S006125/1.

Sat 2:15 pm – 3:30 pm

Neoliberalism in/and Literature


Beyond the Pale: Contemporary Writing and Education (Antonella Castelvedere)

The paper argues that, in the age of ’public obscenity’ (Žižek 2019), English is called upon to investigate the mechanisms and pervasiveness of the language of neoliberalism in public discourse and education. In current scholarly debate, neoliberalism is being variously interrogated while continuing to inform the language of education. The reading and teaching of contemporary writing (and critical theory) therefore assume a key function in the ability to reveal the obscene limit of neoliberal immediacy, which consists in the inability to imagine a ‘post’ (Nilges 2015). In particular, the works of Ali Smith and Kazuo Ishiguro make use of techniques of performativity and defamiliarisation that render intelligible the attraction to the logic of universal destruction that underlies the apocalyptic imagination and its contamination of the ‘symbolic efficacy of traditional ethical structures’ (Žižek 2010). As Žižek notes, ‘nowhere is today’s resistance to the political act proper more palpable than in the obsession with catastrophe, the negative of the act’ (2004). In opposition to the escapist apocalyptic industry that simply reinforces neoliberalism’s crisis of imagination, this type of writing turns the apocalyptic imagination onto itself to interrogate its underlying contradictions. I will consider: a) contemporary literature’s engagement with the structural contradictions of neoliberalism, whose assimilation of the future into the present is a catalyst of insecurity; b) contemporary literature’s ability to generate new modes of knowledge and foreground unpredictable elements of language, through which we can think ’beyond the pale’ so to speak. The second part of the paper will suggest the need for a reconsideration of pedagogical practices in higher education in light of the ways in which the ideology of neoliberalism makes itself felt in the language of education. Following Labour’s observations (2004), I will contend that the function of the educator is not to debunk but to assemble, offering the participants arenas in which to gather and attend with care and caution to the dynamic interconnection of language and neoliberal ideology, in which world views are both created and contested. I will refer to examples of teaching practice in my English Courses at the University of Suffolk, which combine the study of literature, language and creative writing. Our students are encouraged to think critically about the world around them and to be aware of the values that inform their educational context, in addition to being involved in ‘real world’ applications of knowledge and skills by working in multidisciplinary projects, and drawing links between academic pursuits and the wider community.

Uncollegial Precariat: Academic Fiction and the Labour of Teaching English (Ross Dawson)

This paper will interrogate the shifting literary representation of teaching within the increasingly corporate institutions of Anglo-American Higher Education. In her literary history, Faculty Towers, Elaine Showalter (2005) suggests classic academic fiction of the 70s, 80s and early 90s documents a relatively secure middle class profession and satirizes the existential crises of academic eccentricity, status anxiety, sexual temptation and the incestuous world of university politics. Here, the scenes of teaching are usually moments for academics to display knowledge and power, even as its fragile basis is explored. More recently, Jeffrey Williams (2012; 2014) accounts for the shifting significance of the academic novel (as opposed to the student centred “campus novel”) both as an expanding genre and as a literary expression of the changing structures of the academic profession as it has become exposed to the market. Here the casualization of academic labour emerges as a key tenet for the new university novel.

Two post-millennial novels, Incredible Bodies by Ian McGuire (2007), and The Lecturer’s Tale by James Hynes (2001) will be used to examine the way that teaching English has been affected by the neoliberalization of the university. My analysis will draw on the recent institutional work on the transformation of the university by, among others, Christopher Newfield (2008; 2016), Marc Bousquet (2008) and Stefan Collini (2012) to inform the critique offered by these prescient novels. More specifically, I will focus on the place of teaching within the power dynamics of what Bill Readings calls the “University of Excellence” (1996). Both fictional protagonists are qualified academics working on short-term contracts in English Departments at public universities in the United States and UK. In each novel teaching is a realm of anxiety, necessity and exhausting contradiction: for Morris Gutman and Nelson Humboldt teaching offers a memory of their original academic idealism and the labour-time that keeps them from access to a prized “permanent academic job”. Each precarious adjunct uncovers this contemporary academic reality that collegiality cannot sustain, while working towards different literary and political resolutions.

The Push-back Against Neo Liberalism: reading history as an alternative consumption model and guide to post-crash political economy (Simon Frost)

In the market of symbolic goods, the explanation for people’s behaviour offered by neo-classical economics does not really work. Symbolic goods are not consumed but read, in ways that can be better understood by cultural studies, literature sociology, reading history and by book history. Furthermore, the main actor in this market is not homo economicus, the self-interested darling of disastrous neo-liberalism. She is homo narrans, who does not exploit value based on demand and scarcity, but creates it through inter-textual socialisation. Part historical study, and part alignment of theory, this paper turns back to the early days of commodity culture around 1900, to historic book retail and selling fiction as the prime example of a market in symbolic goods. Its case and place is the port city of Southampton, England, and its network of book-selling businesses. In selling fiction as much as haberdashery, glass ware and stationary as much as library subscriptions and biography, the city’s bookshops sustained and were sustained by the dreams of ordinary readers. Because of each other, and because of their society, together they created the values that powered this network. Today, such reader-created markets comprise much of the world’s branded late-capitalist economies and, in our current post-crash era, they are too important to leave to the broken prescriptions of free market neo-liberalism. It is vital, therefore, that disciplines beyond economics contribute to the design our political economy, wherein the market sustains life and not vice-versa. English studies can play an important role in the contribution, and our students become central players in the fourth industrial revolution.

Sincerely Neoliberal: Helen DeWitt’s Capitalist Realism (Adam Kelly)

ADAM KELLY is currently Senior Lecturer in English at the University of York, and from January 2020 will be Associate Professor of English at University College Dublin. He is the author of American Fiction in Transition: Observer-Hero Narrative, the 1990s, and Postmodernism (Bloomsbury 2013) and the editor of special issues of Comparative Literature Studies and Open Library of the Humanities. He has published articles in various edited collections and in journals including Twentieth-Century Literature, Studies in the Novel, Post45, Critique, and Philip Roth Studies. His current book project is “American Fiction at the Millennium: Neoliberalism and the New Sincerity.”

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Sat 2:15 pm – 3:30 pm

Refugee and Indigenous Comics: ‘Decolonizing’ the English Classroom

Candida RifkindMCRl

This session will explore the role that comics and graphic narratives might play in current efforts to ‘decolonise’ curricula in English Departments in both the UK and Canada, paying especial attention to the contrasting implications of the word ‘decolonise’ in those comparable but different contexts. Dr Dom Davies, a Lecturer in English at City, University of London, has written and published widely on graphic narratives, focusing especially on their relationship with infrastructures, borders, and stories of post/colonial violence and displacement. Professor Candida Rifkind is a comics scholar and Canadian literature specialist whose current research focuses on Indigenous comics and migrant/refugee comics as graphic interventions that unsettle dominant narratives of settler colonial and post/colonial displacements and dispossessions.

Together, they have recently co-edited a collection of sixteen essays and three comics, Documenting Trauma in Comics: Traumatic Pasts, Embodied Histories, & Graphic Reportage, which will have been published with Palgrave by the time of this conference.

In this session, Dr Davies and Professor Rifkind will each give a short presentation, on which we include more details below, before leading a short sample workshop/lesson on how comics might be used in decolonising contexts. Plenty of time for questions and discussion will also be scheduled into the session.

Teaching (with) Refugee Comics (Dr. Dominic Davies)

Dom has been both teaching, and teaching with, refugee comics at several different academic levels for over two years, from Widening Participation programmes to BA first and third-year levels and, most recently, through to MA modules. In this short presentation, he will discuss some of the different teaching environments in which he has used refugee comics and comment on their intersection with his (and his Department’s) commitment to decolonising their curricula. Dom will discuss the use of refugee webcomics to expand both primary and secondary school students’ understanding of what a degree in English Literature can and might involve; the use of canonised graphic narratives of displacement, such as Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis, to engage English students with the sometimes daunting analytical lenses of postcolonial and decolonial studies from the very first year of their degree; and his design and delivery of, as well as early student responses to, a whole MA module in which students study a cohesive body of refugee comics – from canonised graphic novels such as Maus and Palestine through to more recent and experimental works – alongside a range of theoretical texts that raise questions about the ethics and politics of regarding violence, from Susan Sontag to Nicholas Mirzoeff and Ariella Azoulay.

Place and Pedagogy: Indigenous Comics in/and English (Dr. Candida Rifkind)

Candida is a settler (non-Indigenous) scholar who has been researching, teaching, and organizing campus events around Indigenous comics for over four years, teaching them from the first year level to graduate studies, collaborating on the first Indigenous Comics Annotated Bibliography, and co-organizing the inaugural “One Book UW” mass reading event at the University of Winnipeg in Fall 2019, in which over 1000 students read a collection of Indigenous history comics, This Place: 150 Years Retold (HighWater, 2019). In this presentation, she will discuss the politics of reconciliation in the Canadian university, with reference to institutional and departmental Land Acknowledgements, and the surge of interest in teaching Indigenous writers and artists in order to ‘decolonize’ the settler colonial English curriculum. Drawing on her own teaching and research, students’ insights, and Indigenous theorists (Daniel Heath Justice, Eve Tuck, Elizabeth LaPensée), she will discuss the scholarly, pedagogical, and administrative tensions that emerge when ‘decolonization’ becomes sanctified by settler colonial institutions, and traditionally devalued and disruptive forms, such as comics, move into positions of prestige.

Sat 2:15 pm – 3:30 pm

Salon: Barbara Bleiman, interviewed by Rachel Roberts

Barbara BleimanOpera Theatre

Welcome to our literary salon, where we ask a leading member of the profession about their life in the subject and the subject in their life, exploring their career, work, ideas and thoughts for the future in a relaxed, informal atmosphere.

Barbara Bleiman is one of the most deeply-informed, thoughtful and influential commentators on teaching English in the country.  She was Co-Director of the English and Media Centre, and continues to work there as an Education Consultant and Co-Editor of emagazine. She was previously Head of English in an inner-city sixth form college and has nearly 40 years of experience of teaching English, providing CPD for teachers, publishing and contributing to educational developments and debates, including acting as a consultant to QCA and Awarding Bodies. In addition to her work for teachers and students, her widely-read blogs and pieces in the national media, she’s also published two novels. She was awarded the Outstanding COntribution to English Teaching Award by NATE in 2019. She will be interviewed by Rachel Roberts who teaches Secondary English Education at the University of Reading and is former lead English Teacher. She is also NATE’s Initial Teacher Education Committee Chair.

Sat 2:15 pm – 3:30 pm


Scottish Literature Beyond the Academy: Canonicity, Public Engagement, and the Curriculum

Timothy Baker 2MMUc

This roundtable invites participants and attendees to consider new directions for Scottish Literature beyond the confines of Higher Education, and provides an opportunity for colleagues outside Scotland to understand more about the public and critical debates surrounding the production, reception, and discussion of literature in Scotland. Drawing on their backgrounds in schools, universities, and the public sector, the panel will share their perspectives on the teaching of and public response to Scottish literature in a variety of contexts in order to develop new approaches to the question of how literary studies operates outside the academy and in dialogue with it, in Scotland and beyond. Primary topics of discussion will include the Scottish National Curriculum (from both student and teacher perspectives), and in particular the benefits and pitfalls of the Scottish Set Text, as well as the relation between the Scottish and English curriculum; the formation of a contemporary Scottish canon, particularly in relation to gender equality; current trends in Scottish publishing, festival programming, and reviewing; the visibility and function of bodies such as Literature Alliance Scotland and the Association for Scottish Literary Studies; and questions of cultural capital and access to literature (book festivals, author appearances, the effect of Edinburgh City of Literature, etc). The wide-ranging discussion, including quantitative and qualitative approaches, will offer ways of thinking about the relation between the teaching and study of Scottish literary texts in schools and universities and the reception of such texts both in Scotland and the United Kingdom as a whole, and what questions of literary value and accessibility might emerge.

Timothy C. Baker is Senior Lecturer in Scottish and Contemporary Literature at the University of Aberdeen.

Lilith Johnstone received her MLitt in Scottish Literature from the University of Stirling and now is a teacher of English at a school in East London.

Christina Neuwirth is the recipient of the AHRC/SGSAH Creative Economy Studentship “Women of Words” and is a PhD student at University of Stirling, University of Glasgow and Scottish Book Trust.

Gillian Sargent completed her PhD the University of Glasgow in 2013. Her research focused on the literature of James VI and I. She is presently Teacher of English at Grange Academy in Kilmarnock.

Alice Tarbuck is a poet and academic based in Edinburgh. She recently completed her doctoral thesis on the poetry and practice of Thomas A. Clark, at the University of Dundee.

Stevie Marsden is a researcher and lecturer in contemporary publishing culture and practice and has written extensively about literary prize culture in the UK. During her PhD she was an embedded researcher working with the Saltire Society in the administration and promotion of their series of literary awards. She is the author of The Saltire Society Literary Awards: A Cultural History (Anthem Press, 2020). E-mail: stevie.marsden@leicester.ac.uk

Sat 2:15 pm – 3:30 pm


Sussex Writes: Transforming Outcomes through Cross-sector Creative Writing Communities

Emma NewportMMub

In 2017, the School of English launched a new creative writing initiative, Sussex Writes, developed in conjunction with Dr Mark Fairbanks and piloted at Beacon Academy. Exam-condition creative writing was introduced for the first time in summer 2016 to replace the old model of creative writing coursework at GCSE. Students struggle with formulaic writing, frequently becoming resistant to writing creatively. Partner schools identify a gap in children’s attainment as teaching creative writing is a challenging area, not least because it is given little attention during PGCE training. Due to curriculum changes, the study of English has become more prescriptive and emphasises the functional; creative writing remains a rare arena for self-expression and exploration, yet the change in assessment has detracted from these possibilities. Barriers to attainment and access are often linked to crises of confidence. Significantly, since these changes, pupil uptake of A Level English has dropped by over 20%, which correlates with similar figures at HE.

Sussex Writes connects the University of Sussex with local schools via student-led creative writing workshops in local classrooms for students in Years 7-11. We primarily work with students who are first generation, PP, FSM and/or BAME. Writing talent and experiment is multi-generational and barrier-free: creative writing is vital to community experience and cohesion and is critical to addressing inequality through developing confidence and overcoming barriers to attainment. The Sussex Writes team is recruited from across the university, leading to meaningful collaboration between UG and PG students from the Schools of Education; Media, Film and Music; Psychology; Drama and English. Sussex Writes welcomes international students, so the programme has benefitted from the experience of teachers from Nigeria and students from the USA, Australia and across Europe, who have helped lead workshops and run the programme.

By involving UG and PG students, Sussex Writes creates a safe space for secondary students to play with words and ideas; the HE students gain valuable experiences in the classroom and help realise and facilitate the application of English in the real world. Another powerful aspect of the programme is the opportunity for secondary students to meet undergraduates – especially undergraduates passionate about the further study of English. The programme encourages more students to pursue the study of English beyond the compulsory level of GCSE.

Sussex Writes is now developing a rich online multi-level platform, which gives additional opportunities for HE students to develop employability skills as they help create and manage the site; roles are mapped onto job descriptions issued by recruiters. Furthermore, the website functions as a real-world space for secondary students to share their creative outputs. The programme is now examining how to address global as well as local challenges in the teaching of English and creativity, including recruiting international educators to create a cross-cultural exchange of practice.

The roundtable represents those involved in secondary education in the UK and Nigeria, in HE and includes the UG/PG students who deliver the programme. After a brief introduction to Sussex Writes, contributors will discuss questions including: how changes to the curriculum have impacted studying English and how schools and the HE sector can collaborate to minimise these impacts; how creative writing helps widen participation; what role creative writing can have in bridging educational and social change; to question the ways the HE sector works with schools and to examine ways of increasing collaboration and reciprocity, particularly in developing curricula and pedagogical practice in both HE and school settings; to reflect critically on the innovations in the methods for inclusion and engagement in the Sussex Writes model. The panel will then conclude in an open forum with the audience.

Sat 2:15 pm – 3:30 pm


The Renaissance of public engagement

Rachel WillieMCRj

According to the REF, impact measures the benefit that University research has on society. Conversely, the National Coordinating Centre for Public Engagement stresses the importance of public engagement as a creative practice between university researcher and external partner. This roundtable explores the different definitions of, and approaches to, public engagement and impact across different sectors; it will consider how, for example, the National Trust’s focus upon enhancing the visitor experience through emotional engagement helps and challenges the often ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to knowledge transfer encouraged by REF impact criteria. As researchers in all sectors are increasingly asked to provide demonstrative evidence of the societal influence and benefit of their research, there seems little consensus as to how to measure this benefit. The links between research and public engagement can be complex, non-linear and multi-faceted, raising questions as to whether it is possible (or desirable) to evaluate and quantify all forms of public humanities activity. For scholars of early modern literature, these questions about how to quantify public engagement become more pressing as we interrogate how to make accessible a language and culture that might seem alien or obscure. The ubiquity of Shakespeare seems to offer a ready-packaged commodity for public engagement activity, yet Shakespeare’s very centrality to the canon can present challenges to deeper engagement with early modern literary culture. We will discuss how meaningful conversations between external partners and university researcher enables the past to be constructed as public history and how we evaluate the cultural value of literary historical research. Bringing together researchers in the heritage industries and university researchers, we will discuss applied humanities and recent collaborative public engagement activities that have focused upon expanding public knowledge of Renaissance literature.

Jerome de Groot is Professor of Renaissance Literature at the University of Manchester. He is PI on the AHRC-funded project Double Helix History, which considers how DNA sequencing for ‘leisure’ purposes – making a family tree – might change the way that people think about themselves and the past. He has written several books about the historical novel, popular history, and contemporary television and film. He is Chair of the Board of Trustees for Manchester Literature Festival and a Trustee of New Writing North.

Islam Issa is Senior Lecturer in English Literature at Birmingham City University. A multi-award-winning author, curator and broadcaster, in 2017, he was made an AHRC BBC New Generation Thinker. A literary critic and historian, his work has focused primarily on the modern-day reception of Renaissance and Early Modern English literature in global contexts, particularly Shakespeare and Milton, and the cultural history of the Middle East. In three languages, he has made over 100 tv and radio appearances across over 50 stations worldwide and is an in-house broadcaster for the BBC.

Ben Wilcock is Academic Partnership Manager for the National Trust North Region and completed his PhD in History from the University of Manchester in 2016. He is passionate about public engagement with academic research, and his role is to develop relationships between National Trust properties and academic researchers. He evaluates how National Trust properties in the North already work with academic research and identifies new ways for the properties to engage with academic researchers to underpin the stories they tell. He has also worked with Stockport Museums at Bramall Hall and with Manchester Histories.

Julie Sanders is Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Newcastle University. She has special responsibilities for academic strategy, the University’s work and commitment to Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, and Environmental Sustainability, as well as the Engagement and Place sub-strategy including its focus on social justice. She is an English Literature and Drama specialist with an international reputation in early modern literature and in adaptation studies and a trustee of Northern Stage.

Rachel Willie is Reader in early modern literary studies at Liverpool John Moores University. Her main area of expertise is seventeenth-century literary history and culture. She is PI on the AHRC-funded research network, Soundscapes in the Early Modern World where she is working with the National Trust and the Wellcome Collection on public engagement and knowledge exchange activities. In 2017, she was shortlisted as an AHRC BBC New Generation Thinker.

Sat 2:15 pm – 3:30 pm

Women Writing South Asia: canons, curricula, careers

Rachel CarrollMMUf

This panel brings international perspectives to debates about the position of contemporary women’s writing in University curricula and questions of gender equality in relation to women’s academic and research careers in South Asia.  Bringing together UK-based and overseas scholars, activists, publishers and early career researchers, it examines the conditions in which contemporary South Asian women’s writing enters into canons of contemporary, feminist, postcolonial and world literature, considering the impact of publication, translation, marketing and reception practices.  Noting the predominance of Anglophone and diasporic writing in British and Western publication and academic contexts (Ranasinha, 2016), the panel will pay special attention to the diversity of ethnic, class, linguistic, regional and religious formations of South Asian literary expression, and provide a platform for critical reflection on the opportunities and challenges encountered by early career women researchers from South Asia. So doing, it will offer a vital opportunity to explore affinities and differences in strategies to redress gender inequality in Higher Education in the UK and South Asia, and to investigate the extent to which inequalities of access, opportunity and progression are mitigated or reinforced within the UK based academic publishing and research funding landscapes.

The panel is presented in partnership with the Contemporary Women’s Writing Association and is part of Women Writing Pakistan: gender in the South Asian Literary Landscape, a collaborative project supported by a QR Global Challenges Research Fund award and led by Rachel Carroll (Teesside) and Madeline Clements (Teesside). 

Confirmed speakers

Sofia Hussain, Assistant Professor, Department of English, International Islamic University, Islamabad; Muneeza Shamsie: author of Hybrid Tapestries: The Development of Pakistani English Literature (2017) and editor of And The World Changed: Contemporary Stories by Pakistani Women (2005); Munazza Yaqoob, Chair of the Department of English at IIU Female Campus, Islamabad and Director of the project Consciousness Raising of Pakistani Women on Contemporary Academic and Social Issues (2015-17); and Shirin Zubair, Professor of English, Kinnaird College for Women, Lahore and author of the forthcoming Feminism, Gender and Education: A Study of Womens Literacies, Lives and Representations in Pakistan.

Panel Convenors

Madeline Clements, Senior Lecturer in English Studies at Teesside University and author of Writing Islam from a South Asian Muslim Perspective: Rushdie, Hamid, Aslam, Shamsie (2015); Rachel Carroll, Reader in English at Teesside University and author of Transgender and the Literary Imagination: Changing Gender in Twentieth-Century Writing (2018) and Rereading Heterosexuality: Feminism, Queer Theory and Contemporary Fiction (2012); Fiona Tolan, Senior Lecturer in English at Liverpool John Moores University and author of Margaret Atwood: Feminism and Fiction and co-editor of Writers Talk: Conversations with Contemporary British Novelists.

Individual Contributor Abstracts

How the World Changed: Early English Life Writing by Pakistani Women (Muneeza Shamsie)

This paper explores the lives of four pioneering women—Atiya Fyzee Rahamin, Shaista Suhrawardy Ikramullah, Abida Sultaan and Shireen Nana—who employed the English language for life-writing, including memoirs and letters which reveal their determined struggle for empowerment and self. This paper will comment briefly on the role of Englishwomen on the development of the earliest Muslim women’s memoirs in undivided India. Thereafter, the discussion looks at Atiya Fyzee Rahamin’s Zamana-e-Tehsil which was first serialized between 1906—1907. This was the first Urdu travelogue about a trip to Europe by an Indian Muslim Women and which has a clear link to Iqbal published in English thirty years later. centering on the English letters written to her by the poet Sir Muhammed Iqbal. The paper will look at the autobiographies of Shaista Suhrawardy Ikramullah From Purdah to Parliament and Abida Sultaan’s Memoirs of a Rebel Princess which tell of two very different women who fought very different battles to fulfill their dreams of freedom and were among the earliest Pakistani women to be given diplomatic postings as Ambassador.  The paper will lead up to Letters to Emily: Life Inside and Outside the Haveli by Shireen Nana which consists of correspondence between Nana and her American friend, describing multi-layered, multi-cultural Pakistan. 

Practicing Critical Feminist Pedagogy in the Pakistani University Classroom: Possibilities and Challenges (Sofia Hussain, International Islamic University Islamabad, Pakistan)

The modern developmental discourses consider women’s education to be an important marker of their empowerment and economic independence. However, many studies indicate that the quantitative increase in the enrolment of girls and young women at primary as well as secondary level of education in Pakistan has not brought about any substantial change in the status of women, as they continue to face discrimination at all fronts and are subjected to different forms of harassment and violence. The current pedagogical practices prevalent in Pakistan are largely traditional that encourage the creation of docile and compliant individuals particularly women, who do not challenge the existing socio-cultural dynamics and reinforce the status quo which favors patriarchy. My paper argues that critical feminist pedagogical paradigms can be used as an alternative instructional model in higher educational settings, to enable young female learners to not only understand the gender bias that operates in different societal and academic structures, but also become critically conscious and empowered individuals who learn to deconstruct and dismantle such inequitable patterns. I also argue that, the course contents of a literature classroom in the universities can be effectively used to raise the consciousness of women by employing critical feminist pedagogical practices which emphasize the co-construction of knowledge by the learners, and the revision of the entire teaching-learning paradigm from a feminist perspective. These pedagogical practices insist on the inclusion of marginal perspectives, such as those of women and their experiences as a significant means of knowledge – making through interaction, collaboration, and negotiation. My paper is a presentation of my PhD research in which an experimental study was conducted on two batches of BS and MA, in the Department of English, Female Campus, International Islamic University, Islamabad. The students of the selected classes were taught the course of “Pakistani Literature in English” for a semester through critical feminist pedagogical paradigms and significant developments were observed in female learners’ abilities to understand, challenge and devise strategies to transform inequitable social structures. Henceforth, I argue that such alternative instructional models can become an important means to develop the critical consciousness of young women and make them more empowered and self-actualized individuals.

English and Feminist Studies in Pakistan: A Self-Reflexive Case Study (Shirin Zubair, Kinnaird College for Women, Lahore, Pakistan)

This paper problematises some of the issues surrounding Feminism within the teaching of English in contemporary Pakistan. The research reported here is based on an exploratory study of women studying feminist theories and texts as part of their MA / MPhil courses and how this impacts upon their identity.  Teaching of English (Literature) has always been ambivalent and controversial in Pakistan. On the one hand, English is promoted and aspired to as an international language of power and prestige while on the other, detested as a bearer of Western ideologies; colonial legacy is so deep-seated that policy makers, and academics alike prefer British- canonical-patriarchal texts over indigenous and/or feminist writers, although in the past two decades several Pakistani writers including women have won international acclaim for their literary works.  The research draws on Postcolonial, Muslim and Western feminist theories combined with self-reflexivity as a feminist research method to reflect on my experiences as a professor of English and a feminist educator at a state university in Pakistan. Using the self-reflexive approach from a feminist standpoint the research aims at unpacking the  institutional feelings and reactions, emotive  responses and reception practices that the teaching of  Feminism  and Women Studies entails in this context. Through citing anecdotal and empirical data, I bring out the rampant marginalization of Feminism and Women Studies courses and the persecution of feminist academics.  I also consider the discourse surrounding the related issues such as  the complex linkages between the gendered institutional practices, customary laws, discriminatory legislation,  sexist attitudes and linguistic codes such as chador aur char deewari (veil and four walls) and similar discursive constructions and practices. Thus this article calls for an awareness of the way in which the mainstream academy in Pakistan has been involved in stigmatizing and marginalising English Studies particularly Feminism and  Women’s Studies as transgressive and inappropriate forms of knowledge posing a threat to the structures and hegemony of the patriarchal academy. Further, the paper theorizes the ways in which feminist bodies are read, interpreted, and silenced within institutional spaces that are shaped by historical forces of state-sponsored Islamization campaigns that are built upon the bodies of women by illustrating how feminist bodies and the work that they do disrupt historically constructed hetero-patriarchal spaces structured by Islamization ideologies.

The overarching goal of the research is to theorize institutional feelings and reactions to further our understanding of how these gendered ideologies and discourses—promoted through discursive and coercive measures—might not only impede feminist epistemology and praxis within the discipline of English Studies, persecute feminist academics as Westernized and irrelevant, but also lead to the curtailment of general academic freedoms and violation of women’s human rights.

Gender Balance in Higher Education Institutions in Pakistan: A Pathway to Social Transformation and Development (Dr. Munazza Yaqoob, International Islamic University Islamabad, Pakistan)

Gender inequality, generally in the education sector and particularly in higher education has deprived women of voicing their concerns in policy designing and decision making in the areas of education, economic, and political planning in Pakistan. As a result of the absence of powerful voices of women, there is no significant transformation in socio-cultural scenarios of the country required to eliminate structures of inequality and discrimination. The gender equality index has placed Pakistan at 135thposition out of 136 countries. For Pakistan, like other developing countries, it is mandatory to address gender-based discrimination in education and human resource development institutions to achieve sustainable development goals. Pakistan is currently investing efforts to prioritize higher education and eliminate gender-based discrimination in access to higher education to benefit from the new trends in economy, which is predominantly knowledge-based. However, despite the efforts, women remain underrepresented in higher education institutions and have unequal access to higher education opportunities. My paper focuses on the under-representation of women in influential decision making and senior management positions in Pakistani universities to investigate the challenges and barriers women encounter to rise to higher positions of power and management. I mainly discuss the current trends of universities in Pakistan where access to higher academic positions and thus to senior management is based on publishing and conducting intensive research disregarding classroom teaching and familial responsibilities of women. Keeping in view, the socio-cultural constraints, such as family care, domestic responsibilities, and stereotypical understanding of the role of women in society, I also attempt to explore the institutional structures and policies which further contribute in marginalizing women and gravitate them towards lower positions and hinder their access to senior academic as well as managerial positions. The discussion will involve other issues related to this marginalization, such as absence of or ineffective women’s networks, lack of women’s access to academic and professional networks, research funding and publishing opportunities, facilities for mobility and training, and other such opportunities to improve their expertise and skills necessary to maneuver their way to higher academic and management positions. I will also probe the impact of the communication styles, mentoring, and adequate educational support required to facilitate women to manage their disproportionate responsibilities, both at home and workplace. The paper argues that women at managerial positions and influential academic positions can serve as an effective strategy to encourage and have more women in higher education and at higher decision-making positions to achieve sustainable development goals and a meaningful social transformation in Pakistan. The data will be collected from three major universities in Pakistan, which include International Islamic University, Islamabad (IIUI), COMSATS University, Islamabad, and National University of Modern Languages (NUML) Islamabad.

Sat 2:15 pm – 3:30 pm

3:45 pm – 5:00 pm Saturday Session V

BAIS: Issues with Irish Studies

Caroline MagennisMMUd

Chair: Caroline Magennis/Claire Lynch

A panel organised by the British Association for Irish Studies to discuss new critical approaches to Irish writing.

Histories Galore: Remapping Irish Literary Studies in the Age of Platform Publishing (Tom Walker)

Ussher Lecturer, Trinity College Dublin

This paper will reflect on how Irish literary studies has recently seen the publication of several large-scale collections of essays that collectively constitute a significant (and sometimes controversial) remapping of the field. Variously pitched as handbooks, histories and companions, these include: The Oxford Handbook of Modern Irish Poetry (2012); The Cambridge Companion to Irish Modernism (2014); The Oxford Handbook of Modern Irish Theatre (2016); A History Of Modern Irish Women’s Literature (2018); A History of Irish Working-Class Writing (2018); A History of Irish Autobiography (2018); The Cambridge Companion to Irish Poets (2018); A History of Irish Modernism (2019). Further volumes also in the pipeline are: ‘The Oxford Handbook of Modern Irish Fiction’; ‘A History of Irish Women’s Poetry’; and the six-volume ‘Irish Literature in Transition’ series. Such an unprecedented glut of multi-authored literary histories and critical overviews demands critical examination not only of the contents of these volumes, but also as regards the wider intellectual, institutional, commercial and digital imperatives shaping their production.

Telling the story of the home during the Troubles (Eli Davies)

PhD Candidate, Ulster

This paper will consider the radical potential of inserting domestic space into memories and narratives about the Troubles in the north of Ireland. As Briony Reid argues, homes in the region “have been made full participants in the public world in ways specific to the province’s history and politics.” (Reid, 2007, 943) Homes were sites of invasion and violence and continue to be, in Reid’s words “the carriers of political symbols” in the commemorative landscape. I will highlight the ways that male-dominated public narratives about the Troubles have worked to erase the significance of what went on inside the home, the emotional and physical work, frequently performed by women and argue that literature, with its stress on the specificity of individual, private lives, is ideally placed to describe this experience. Working at the intersections of literary studies, memory studies and psychology, my paper will use extracts from both literary texts and the real life accounts of women about their memories of the home and examine the relationship between the two.

(Border) Crossings and/or Crosscurrents: Rethinking Critical Paradigms for Irish-Scottish Studies (Stefanie Lehner)

Lecturer, QUB

Northern Ireland has always been a nodal-point for multiple Irish-Scottish crossings. First articulated in 1987, Edna Longley pointedly captured these crosscurrents with the Denkbild of an open-ended ‘cultural corridor’. Coined during the peak of the North’s political conflict, Longley’s notion resonates in the devolutionary post-conflict and Brexit eras: negatively, in the prospect of a hard border returning to isolate Northern Ireland from the Republic or an Irish Sea border isolating it from Great Britain; positively, in that Northern Ireland’s receptivity to Europeanness (evinced in the region’s majority vote to remain in the EU) mirrors similar sentiments along the ‘Celtic fringe’ in the Republic and Scotland. This paper reconsiders the resonances, benefits and pitfalls of such critical paradigm for thinking about past, present and future Irish-Scottish inter-relations through the lens of Northern Irish literature and culture.

‘A certain swaggering vulgarity’: The Irish cultural revival and the London music hall (Richard Kirkland)

Professor, KCL

This paper will discuss the activities of London Irish music hall performers in the British capital during the period of the Irish revival (for my purposes, roughly 1880-1910). It will describe how performers created from the residues of an Irish diasporic musical culture a style of interactive, frequently confrontational, cockney performance that spoke directly to urban audiences. These entertainments did not exist in cultural isolation; the Irish songs of the music hall had a habit of reflecting back the forms and preoccupations of Irish nationalist and revivalist texts in often crazy, excessive, and multiple forms. In this way Irish London’s two major cultural activities at this time formed an unlikely relationship of call and response.

LEARNED SOCIETIES STRAND: British Association for Irish Studies

Sat 3:45 pm – 5:00 pm

Learned societies

BAVS: Victorian Futures; Victorian Pasts

Alice CrossleyMMUi

This panel brings together research which engages with issues of futurity, memorialisation, and longevity in the Victorian period specifically. These three papers interrogate Victorian writers’ analyses of their position in a world of rapid change amidst popular rhetoric of progress, the intersection of the textual and of material objects at moments of narrative tension, and anxieties about ageing and decline in Victorian fiction. This panel brings together work from scholars at all career stages working in Victorian Studies, each of whom is a member of the British Association for Victorian Studies (BAVS) Executive Committee.

‘Victorian Futures: Languages of Prediction’ (Professor Dinah Birch, BAVS President)
Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Cultural Engagement, University of Liverpool
‘So the world gets on step by step towards brave clearness and honesty!’ George Eliot’s determinedly cheerful response to Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species reflects a confidence in the future that was not universally shared by her contemporaries – nor always by Eliot herself. The Victorians were intensely conscious of their place in history. Writers, artists, social reformers, politicians, and scientists saw their work in the context of rapid social and technological change. But they were deeply divided, and often anxious, about the nature of this change. Would it lead to progress? Or disorder and loss? This paper will consider nuanced ambivalences in Victorian languages of prediction, as uncertainty contends with optimism in their troubled visions of the future.

‘Matter and Form: Literature, Material Culture and Victorian Hairwork’ (Heather Hind, BAVS Postgraduate Representative)
PhD Student, University of Exeter
Hairwork—decorative objects made from human hair—constitutes a peculiar category of object owing to its bodily material and particular processes: its matter and form. Hairwork is a means and process of representation in which the hair at once figures its donor while its working gives shape to the affects, relationships, and identities of its donor, maker, and wearer. Accordingly, hairwork emerges in Victorian literature at moments of tension, when relationships are being consolidated or redefined, transitions are taking place, or ideas of identity are being questioned and explored. This paper will consider the relationship between real and represented hairwork and suggest ways we might analyse objects alongside and against texts. I reflect on objects as a catalyst for literary analysis, describing and assessing hairwork artefacts in order to tease out points of intersection with and divergence from their represented counterparts. [This paper develops work for which Heather was awarded the 2019 Hamilton Prize.]

‘Fictions of Ageing in the Victorian Age’ (Dr Alice Crossley, BAVS Secretary)
Senior Lecturer in English Literature, University of Lincoln
As an aspect of identity construction that often gets overlooked in favour of, for example, class or gender, ageing may be viewed as complex because of its instability and constant flux. We are all ageing; yet ageing, or to become old, offers no homogenous pattern of experience. Victorian fiction, however, offers an enduringly fruitful lens for the study of ageing and its implications for the individual, as well as the collective nation – particularly at the century’s close, when an ageing queen becomes a highly symbolic figure of a world in a state of flux. This paper will consider the interplay of age-anxieties within Victorian literature, as it draws on a rhetoric of ageing to which we are often still subject today. In reflecting on examples of Victorian fiction by writers such as Thomas Hardy, Anthony Trollope, and Israel Zangwill, this paper will explore the texts’ challenges to biological, calendrical, and cultural age construction in the Victorian period. To do so, it will interpolate ageing studies with theories of embodiment and disability theory, to reflect on the text’s engagement with both ageist and ableist discourses. Victorian fiction, this paper will demonstrate, functions to recuperate the multiply-Othered figure (in terms of age – but also nation, body, and physical dependency).

LEARNED SOCIETIES STRAND: British Association for Victorian Studies

Sat 3:45 pm – 5:00 pm

Learned societies

English Studies and the C-word(s): Class, Classrooms, & Contexts

Graham HallMCRn

This roundtable discussion reflects on the place of social class within the Higher Education English subject area(s). While English educators (language, literature and creative writing) are often advocates for equality, diversity and inclusion – and for social justice more broadly – the lenses we commonly apply to equality issues tend to focus on protected characteristics of race, gender, religion, sexuality, age and ethnicity (in line with the Equality Act, 2010). Discussions of socio-economic background and attainment are often more difficult to embed within educational curricula and processes relevant to general professional practices; consequently, the correlation between HE academic engagement and excellence (student and professional) is challenging to trace (Vandrick, 2014; Block 2014). Understanding more about the class-contexts of HE English university cultures makes patent sense in the current market – with falling application numbers to both secondary and tertiary Englishes across the sector; and the impetus to do so, as dust settles on the 2017 fee increase (to £9,250), has arguably never been higher. Issues of fees and student recruitment are core aspects of this discussion, but they also feeds into wider challenges of curriculum design, classroom pedagogical practice, and the concept of the student experience; wider HE pressures and professional working cultures relevant to class-backgrounds should also come under scrutiny in light of similar concerns.

This roundtable therefore aims to explore the relationship between social class and what, how, and to whom English might be taught in universities. Furthermore, we also ask how, from the perspective of social class, the academic journey through English (from undergraduate to lecturer and researcher) may play out. Discussion brings together lecturers and postgraduate students from Northumbria University – a former polytechnic with a high proportion of students from low-participation backgrounds (in stark contrast to its close-neighbours at Newcastle University and Durham University). Drawing upon the range of experiences of speakers and audience participants, the C-word roundtable will share individual and institutional perspectives on these sensitive issues. Each speaker will prepare lead-in discussion points and personal reflections on issues relating (but not limited to) class and: the student experience; tertiary recruitment; pedagogy; professional working cultures; and intersections with other equality issues/determinants.

Questions might include:

  • How is social class dealt with in the English(es) curricula, if at all? To what extent is ‘class-washing’ or ‘class awareness’ built in to our programme content?
  • In what ways do our classroom pedagogies and modes of assessment facilitate or create barriers to learning and achievement for students from a range of social backgrounds?
  • How do entrants to university English(es), either as students or as ECRs, from a range of social backgrounds experience their arrival and subsequent experience of the English academy? What enabling factors and/or barriers to participation and membership of the academic community exist?
  • How might we better engage with class (and its intersections with protected characteristics) through equality and diversity agendas?

Dr Clare Elliott, Senior Lecturer in Nineteenth-Century Literature, and Department of Humanities Equality and Diversity Lead, Northumbria University.
Dr Paul Frazer, Senior Lecturer in Early Modern Literature, Northumbria University.
Dr Graham Hall, Associate Professor in Applied Linguistics/TESOL, Northumbria University.
Louise Pybus, Northumbria University BA English Language Studies alumnus, current Northumbria University PhD researcher.
Dr Lyndsey Skinner, Northumbria University BA (Hons) English Literature and PhD alumnus; writer.
Dr David Stewart, Associate Professor in Romantic Literature, Northumbria University.

Block, D. (2014) Social Class in Applied Linguistics. London: Routledge.
Vandrick, S. (2014) ‘The Role of Social Class in English Language Education’. Journal of Language, Identity and Education, 13/2. 85-91

Sat 3:45 pm – 5:00 pm

Ethics and the Gothic

Chloe Germaine BuckleyMMUh

Though the cultural production of the Gothic and its academic critique have proliferated in the twenty-first century, Gothic Studies faces the same crisis as the broader humanities. That is, it must confront the question of what function it serves in these uncertain times. This panel suggests that an ethical framework for reading the Gothic offers ways forward for the discipline. The papers reveal how the Gothic mode is fundamentally premised upon the central difficulty of the ethical relation. We also suggest that the mode gestures to ethical models that engage with the myriad of problems attendant upon our present.

Guests, Hosts, Ghosts: Towards an Ethics of Gothic Writing (Dale Townsend)

Dale Townshend is Professor of Gothic Literature. His most recent publication is Gothic Antiquity: History, Romance, and the Architectural Imagination, 1760–1840 (OUP, 2019).

To what extent might we read the Gothic as an ethical mode? Alternatively, to what extent does Jacques Derrida’s account of the ethics of hospitality draw strongly upon Gothic affect? Drawing upon a broad range of fictions from the eighteenth century to the present day, this paper explores, through the theoretical insights of Derrida, the ethics of Gothic writing, showing how, at its most characteristic, the mode is poised on that aporetic hinge or ‘brisure’ between ‘ordinary’ hospitality, on the one hand, and ‘radical’ or ‘impossible’ hospitality on the other. And while the significance of Shakespeare’s Hamlet to the Gothic and to Derrida’s later ethical turn have long been acknowledged, the paper argues that, in both, it is often an appropriation of Macbeth that determines and underwrites the ghostly ethical relation.

Stranger Danger? The paradoxes of hospitality in Hilary Mantel’s Eight Months in Ghazzah and Fludd (Ginette Carpenter)

Dr Ginette Carpenter is a Senior Lecturer in English whose research interests include contemporary women’s writing, feminist practices, constructions of femininity and textual articulations of space and place. She is co-editor, with Eileen Pollard, of Hilary Mantel: Contemporary Critical Perspectives (Bloomsbury, 2018)

This paper argues that in Eight Months on Ghazzah Street (1998) and Fludd (1999) Hilary Mantel mobilises motile anxieties about foreignness to demonstrate systemic, cultural and embodied in/hospitalities. I deploy Derrida’s conceptions of the host and the guest to demonstrate the unlikely parallels between a novel located in an expatriate Saudi Arabian community and in a parochial Catholic enclave in Northern England. These correspondences are explored via the lenses of burial and excavation, both literal and metaphorical, and the dogged surveillance that pervades both communities. I argue that the texts operate on a studiedly maintained tension between welcome and rejection and that this results in the novels’ proliferation of uncanny spaces and places, spaces and places that are simultaneously – and impossibly – hospitable and inhospitable. The paper concludes that this ‘impossibility’ produces an ethical slipperiness that insists upon an re/evaluation of the foreign other: ultimately the texts position danger as much closer to home.

Gothic Entanglements: Ethics and Materiality in the work of Frances Hardinge (Chloé Germaine Buckley)

Chloé Germaine Buckley is a Senior Lecturer in English. Her research areas include the Gothic, children’s literature, fiction and ecology, and games. She is author of Twenty-First-Century Children’s Gothic (EUP, 2017). 

This paper proposes “entanglement” as the ethical ground from which matter and meaning emerge. Reading contemporary fiction with new materialist philosophy and theories originating in quantum physics, I suggest that the Gothic imagination challenges enlightenment fantasies of human separability and objectivity. Relational ontologies proposed by physicists and philosophers (e.g. Barad 2007) imply an ethics of responsibility that precedes human notions such as duty or religion. This idea is not new in philosophy: Emmanuel Levinas (1961) anticipates Barad’s concept of ‘intra-action’ when he suggests that being is founded on a primordial responsibility to and for the other. The work of Frances Hardinge proves an ideal companion through which to think these ideas. In her novels, matter and meaning are thoroughly entangled. Imperilled Gothic heroines navigate their becoming within a complex web of material relations – agentive assemblages of girls, ghosts, animals and plants, each entangled with the other in continually shifting relations. Only through such an imaginative ontoethics can we confront the grave challenges that result from humanity’s embeddedness in a material world.

Sat 3:45 pm – 5:00 pm

Language, Literature, STEM and beyond

Michelle SheehanMMUe

This session seeks to highlight the connections between the skills acquired in English Language and other subjects which form part of the secondary curriculum. The speakers are all part of the national initiative LASER (Language Analysis in Schools: Education and Research) which seeks to build bridges between academic linguists and UK schools, bringing the latest research in linguistics into the classroom and investigating how this impacts on learning and teaching. LASER also aims to create projects that involve working with teachers to carry out new research, and is supported by two of the main linguistics societies in the UK, the Linguistics Association of Great Britain, and the British Association for Applied Linguistics.

The talks range from a general discussion of the skills involved in linguistic analysis to specific examples of how tools from linguistics can enrich and support the study of literature, literacy, modern foreign languages and STEM subjects. In all of the talks, we consider some of the key skills that are foregrounded in the curricula for public examinations in English Language (at GCSE and A-level) and show how these skills are of central importance in many other disciplines. These key skills relate both to the formal analysis of language structure, and to the understanding of the function of language in its social and communicative context.

The aim of the session is to disseminate work which is already happening in this area and to seek new collaborators in schools and universities keen to contribute to LASER and its developing regional hubs. Discussion will focus on how to take the LASER initiative forward and how to support those keen to demonstrate the importance of English Language to others (such as teachers of other subjects, and senior management teams in schools).

Each talk will last 10 minutes plus five minutes for discussion.

Language analysis as a transferable skill (Graeme Trousdale)

Professor of Cognitive Linguistics, University of Edinburgh

Linguistics and literary analysis (Billy Clark)

Professor of English Language and Linguistics, Northumbria University

Linguistics and literacy (Suzannah Runnacles)

PhD candidate, University of Exeter

Linguistics as a bridge between English Language and Modern Foreign Languages (Michelle Sheehan)

Reader in Linguistics, Anglia Ruskin University

Linguistics as a STEM subject (Maria Arche)

Associate Professor of Linguistics and Spanish, University of Greenwich

Sat 3:45 pm – 5:00 pm

Literature, Terror, and Survival


Testimonies from the Edge: Border Witnessing and the Fractured Realisms of Cambodian Survivor Narratives (Minola Salgado)

Minoli Salgado is a writer and Reader in English at the University of Sussex who from January 2020 will be the new Professor of International Writing at MMU. She is the author of the critical monograph, Writing Sri Lanka: Literature, Resistance and the Politics of Place (Routledge, 2007), the novel, A Little Dust on the Eyes (Peepal Tree, 2014), which won the first SI Leeds Literary Prize and was longlisted for the DSC Prize in South Asian Literature and a collection of short stories, Broken Jaw (87 Press, 2019). She is currently on a Leverhulme Fellowship exploring the way testimonial narratives from global sites of exceptional violence offer literary landscapes for the mediation of justice. Academic profile: http://www.sussex.ac.uk/profiles/10687 Personal website: www.minolisalgado.com

After the independences, as nation-states failed to deliver on the promises of liberation, postcolonial writers and filmmakers were interrogating how the interpenetrating economic and psychic legacies of colonialism were shaping their present. Working with a materialist conception of selfhood drawn from Frantz Fanon, my thesis considers African and South Asian novels and films (from the 1950s-1980s) for their treatments of subjectivity in relation to a neocolonial reality. I examine works by Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Souleymane Cissé and Ritwik Ghatak amongst others for the relationships they trace between economic conditions and the constitution of subjectivities – and it is within this context that I approach the subject of this paper, Buchi Emecheta’s 1982 novel Destination Biafra.

Recounting individual suffering through their overlapping contexts, Biafra narrates women’s everyday experiences of the 1967-1970 Nigerian Civil War. Sustaining a narrative approach that oscillates between the subjective and the material experiences of conflict, the novel demonstrates how, when individual psychic traumas are collectivised and historicised, they can be understood as an arm of neocolonial oppression – making subjectivity a source from which political consciousness can arise, and the self an unforgoable terrain in any work of resistance. Following Nigerian women of different ethnicities and classes who all rely on and contribute to one another’s psychic and material wellbeing throughout the War, Biafra underlines how inter-generational memory and the taking on of responsibility for others’ wellbeing sustains women’s ability to live with, despite, and against their economic, social, sexual and political environments – whatever shift in circumstances may arise.

Proposing we read Destination Biafra as a Womanist intervention into historiographies of the Nigerian Civil War – alongside an intervention into white feminist ideas of African womanhood – my paper will trace how Emecheta’s novel, far from solely interested in its upper-class protagonist Debbie’s individual fate, sets up the above correlation between the subjective and the material through contextualising the collective experiences of women in this violent, gendered conflict within a broader history of West African women’s oppression under colonialism. Individuals’ memories of suffering, though irreparable, are recounted
within and as part of a collective history that challenges the erasure of women’s disproportionate victimhood and women’s self-directed resistance from official Nigerian Civil War historiography. In doing so, Emecheta positions the experiences of women in the War as the historical account of the War – as the only perspective that confirms both the neocolonial nature of the conflict, and verifies its full social and psychic impact.

Memory, Nation-History and Womanist Work: Buchi Emecheta’s Destination Biafra (1982) and the Nigerian Civil War, Rewritten (Sarah Jilani)

This paper explores the recuperative role of the imagination in the troubled space of border witnessing in Cambodian refugee tales. Drawing on the notion of ‘the witness traveller’ (Felman and Laub), it shows how witnessing at the limit experience of death compels an engagement with fictive registers and various realisms – figural, traumatic and magical – to mediate the traumas of genocidal survival and cultural displacement. It draws together Loung Ung’ autobiography First They Killed My Father, Madeleine Thien’s novel Dogs at the Perimeter and Vaddey Ratner’s fictionalised memoir In the Shadow of the Banyan to show how these writers use a variety of fictive registers to ‘unnarrate’ the past.

Sat 3:45 pm – 5:00 pm

Narrative and Policy

Zoe Bulaitis 2MCRo

This panel explores contemporary thought and practice around the intersection of narrative and policy. The objective is to present current work taking place at this intersection in order to prompt collective discussion about the challenges and opportunities for English scholars and scholarship to interact with policy and policy-makers. The format will be three fifteen minute papers from scholars who are actively engaged in this intersection both theoretically and practically, followed by thirty minutes of open discussion with the audience.

Dr Bulaitis will discuss how and what literary methodologies can tell us about the value of the humanities within contemporary higher education policy. Her paper will perform a literary engagement with government debate and white papers surrounding the raising of tuition fees in 2009-10 (specifically the Browne Review, Students at the Heart of the System) from a humanities perspective. Placing higher education policy within a longer historical discourse of cultural public value, Zoe’s paper will question how unexpected the marketisation of the humanities within universities actually is, and reflect on what might be gained from a humanities-oriented engagement with political language and white papers.

Dr Liveley will present her current work with Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) and the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) ‘translating’ narratological principles and theories to help them develop stronger narrative competencies in order to enhance their skill-set as cyber-risk managers. Dr Dillon’s paper will move from a focus on what narrative analysis can reveal about and bring to policy documents and communications, to make the case for the role that narrative evidence can play in public discourse and decision-making. Drawing off her forthcoming book, co-authored with Claire Craig, Storylistening: Narrative Evidence and Public Reasoning (London: Routledge, autumn 2020), Dr Dillon will outline the case for the value of attention to stories, and the importance of understanding their functions and effects, in the context of high-level policy-making.

Dr Zoe Bulaitis (Research Associate, School of Arts, Languages and Cultures, University of Manchester) zoe.bulaitis@manchester.ac.uk

Dr Sarah Dillon (University Lecturer in Literature and Film, Faculty of English, University of Cambridge) sjd27@cam.ac.uk

Sat 3:45 pm – 5:00 pm

Pedagogy and Politics/ the politics of Pedagogy


Developing A Culture of Reading at Paddington Academy (Emma Hayward and Amy Walters)

It is well documented that reading widely for pleasure is linked to higher academic attainment (Clark and DeZoya, 2011; OECD, 2010). As well as obvious benefits to literacy skills, research led by Sullivan and Brown (2015) shows that reading for enjoyment is also linked to an enhanced ability to learn across the curriculum. However, students from low socio-economic backgrounds are significantly less likely to read for pleasure than students from more privileged socio-economic backgrounds (Clark and Akerman, 2006).

Research conducted by Doug Lemov (2016) revealed that students in schools across New York City were reading an average of only 17 minutes per hour in English/reading classes, and even less elsewhere. Typically, students would spend 20 minutes per day reading and almost 40% of students did not read at all. For students who come from low socio-economic backgrounds, where reading is less likely to be practiced habitually at home, limited reading time in school will have severe, long-term detrimental effects on their ability to read for both pleasure and information.

In response to this research, teachers at Paddington Academy have developed and implemented a series of reading strategies designed to ‘normalise’ reading across the curriculum, ensuring that it becomes a daily habit. Located in central London, Paddington Academy is a non-selective secondary school which serves a predominantly disadvantaged community (66% of pupils eligible for Free School Meals in the past six years and 91% of pupils come from families whose first language is not English). In this paper, we will discuss the pedagogical strategies deployed by teachers to address the socio-economic barriers that prevent students from reading regularly and independently both for pleasure and information. We will also reflect on the initial impact of these strategies, as well outlining the next stages of the project.

“Oh Captain! My Captain!” Where are all of the linguists? A Causal Layered Analysis on the decline of students choosing English Literature A-Level (Haili Hughes)

The steady decline in students opting to study English A-Level has been reported widely, with take up for English Literature plummeting by 3,500 students on last year’s figures (Ofqual, 2019). Academics and teachers who are looking for answers as to why this is happening have cited various reasons, such as incorrect beliefs about English graduates’ value on the job market (Eaglestone, 2019), or the perceived pointlessness of an English degree (Shaw, 2018).

However, many of the worries about English Literature take-up are rooted in past events, with little research existing on the analysis of different causal factors, which would help identify solutions and build a better educational future on the English landscape.

This paper will utilise Inayatullah’s ‘Causal Layered Analysis’ to identify four different layers of the causes of decline in take-up, so that recommendations can be made which will galvanise English teachers across the secondary, further and higher education sectors, and enable them to make synchronised changes at all levels, encouraging more students to choose English Literature A-Level.

Looking After, Taking Care: Essaying on teaching, creativity and maternal pedagogies (Gail Low)

Who am I when I see my students’ faces looking up at me, asking: Tell me how. Show me the way…

I am a teacher, and I am a teacher who wants to think about more recent pedagogical developments at University level, and about seminars and workshops in, especially, creative writing. I want to reflect reflexively on my experience in a manner begun by Roland Barthes’ work on the seminar: the institutional contract; teaching practices; spaces to explore; spaces to creatively dialogue, succeed as well as fail. Current management and pedagogical practices have sought to minimize risk, and cast failures as lack only. In putting into a play an aims-and-outcomes knowledge-transfer model of teaching we restrict our students unnecessarily. In response, I ask, in what ways can failures be creative? Especially in humanities teaching today, we worry about a lack of knowledge but we foreclose on enquiry, encouraging an instrumentalising of education and fashioning higher education in the image of the schoolroom. I argue for the importance of risk and challenge as a creative way of learning in the Humanities, and essaying as a malleable and expansive form to inaugurate discovery.

I want to think about essaying and teaching, not only for myself as a teacher, but for myself as who I am, positioned within discourses and circumstances that enable or disable intellectual and affective connections in the space of the classroom. I begin with challenging myself to reflect on with Barthes’ triangulation of the seminar as a meeting of three spaces where no one space has precedence: the institutional, where knowledge transfer is promised, and where authority and authorisation (who possesses or gives authority) is hierarchised; the transferential, where teaching relations are both vertical (between teacher and student, and vice versa) and horizontal (between student and student); the textual, whether these take the form of products (writing, articles, research essays) or practices that constitute its own text within the confines of the seminar. I ask, but what if our teaching roles are aligned with maternal pedagogies acknowledging desire, but moving in the direction of care; support; encouragement; provision; direction; and the space to try. I wonder, too, if by aligning such a development in the HE sector with a powerful creative and matrixial urge to nourish, encourage and protect I might rediscover my teaching and learning in a more positive light. Following our earlier collaborative essay work, the paper will “perform” these explorations in the form of a creative essay on teaching experiences.

Even in unfavourable circumstances: On mediating the ‘Govian’ English curriculum (Lilith Johnstone)

I am currently an NQT English teacher at a school in East London. Always keen to improve my research and practice, I am also studying for a MA in English Education. Last year, I completed my PGCE at the Institute of Education, UCL and prior to this I achieved an MLitt in Modern Scottish Writing at the University of Stirling and an MA in English Literature at the University of Glasgow. Here, my research focus was on the representation of women in contemporary Scottish fiction written by men, an area of research I remain passionate about. I first became interested in English, teaching, Scottish identity, gender and the intersection of all these things when growing up in Orkney.

My paper will be adapted from the final assignment of my PGCE course and is entitled “Even in unfavourable circumstances: On mediating the ‘Govian’ English curriculum.” The paper explores why and how ‘Michael Gove’s’ 2014 English national curriculum can and should be mediated in the classroom. It unpacks the debate around its implications and explores the criticism usually levelled at it from educators, the press, and, in particular academics in education, namely Oliver Belas’ and Nigel Hopkins’ recent essay: ‘Subject English as Citizenship Education’ (2019). It draws upon the author’s own experiences of the Scottish national curriculum and suggests reasons why, in light of this, perhaps, a more positive approach towards Gove’s policy might be required. To do so, it analyses in-depth two moments when I was a (student) teacher of a Year 10 class at Green View Secondary School, a girls’ school in North London and where curriculum
mediation occurred in ways I did not expect. The paper uses these moments to illustrate and argue for ways in which, in contrast to critics like Belas and Hopkins, the mediation of the ‘Govian’ English curriculum is not only possible, but productive and, in fact, essential.

Sat 3:45 pm – 5:00 pm

Plant Fetish

Scott ThurstonConference Room

Chanje Kunda

Plant Fetish + Masks

The show was created by performance artist Chanje Kunda who was suffering with stress and anxiety when she first discovered that plants soothe the soul. She then learnt that some women in Mexico, fed up with men, were getting married to trees. Trees aren’t very talkative, but they are tall, do great things for the planet, and are renowned for their wood. Chanje was inspired and surrendered to this notion. She fell in love with plants: fleshy succulents, monstera’s handshaped leaves, the Venus flytrap, the twining of a creeper. The pressures of life drifted away.
This show maps her journey, and will feature a harem of stunning tropical plants that dress the stage. There will be music and movement, dramatic narrative and metaphors of growth and renewal. The show ends on a climax…

I would like to research and develop a new show based on the concept of masquerade. The concept behind this is that: we have a ‘face’ that we show to the public, a ‘face’ that we show to our friends and family, and then the ‘face’ that we never show to anyone. It is thought in psychology that the face we never show to anyone is our true, authentic self.
Also, within the culture of celebration, masquerades are also part of pageantry, theatre, and celebration. In African culture, masks are cultural artefacts that show the history of a people.
I can research and develop the new show and present that in a digital format, as opposed to live, using text and visual imagery. People will be able to have an insight into the new show and an insight into the creative process I undertake when developing new work. This could be in the form of video content (performance for digital media), that could be available to delegates, as well as separate content I make available via social media platforms.

Chanje Kunda

Jayne Compton

Sat 3:45 pm – 5:00 pm

Recreating Shakespeare in the classroom

Nigri LuciaMMUb

The status of Shakespeare as a focus in educational practice has no rival. Since 1989, Shakespeare is the only compulsory author to be studied in the National Curriculum for English (Olive 2015 and Irish 2016). Regardless of the possible political agenda implied in this decision, “the pedagogical value of Shakespeare as literary heritage” (Irish 2016: 7) consistently initiates – at national and international level – interest among practitioners of the discipline. In particular, the last decades have registered a rise in the number of multimedia re-appropriations of Shakespeare aimed at engaging young people with his work while facilitating access to different learning styles and providing opportunities to take advantages from different key resources (online editions, YouTube recording of theatrical performances, and so forth). Through sharing and discussing information, providing social support, and creating artistic media, educators have found ways to bridge the gap between making new generations appreciate Shakespeare’s linguistic intricacy and finding a way to benefit – critically and creatively – from newly accessible digital tools.

This session will focus on different ways of engaging with the intellectual strength, diversity, and creativity of teaching Shakespeare and will have contributors from different cultural and professional background.

Sat 3:45 pm – 5:00 pm

Refugee Narratives in Teaching and Practice

Agnes WoolleyMCRl

This session celebrates the publication of Refugee Imaginaries: Research across the Humanities by Edinburgh University Press. Comprising 35 original essays from humanities-led scholars, the book is a collective intervention in the politics of national and transnational community and aims to place the study of the refugee at the centre of contemporary critical inquiry. Refugee Imaginaries provides an account of how and why the refugee has emerged as one of the key figures of our era. It demonstrates how refugees have been written into being by international law, governmental and non-governmental bodies and the media, foregrounding the role of the arts and humanities in imagining, historicising, and sometimes obscuring the precarious experience of forced migration and statelessness.

Refugee Imaginaries illustrates a deepening engagement by humanities researchers in the field of refugee studies. This calls for an interrogation of our methodologies and our pedagogies when working with narratives of displacement and statelessness. Our aim with this session is to explore with conference participants some of the key ethical, representational and political questions surrounding the research and teaching of refugee narratives.

The editors, along with poet and Assistant Professor at Durham University Kayo Chongonyi, will begin by reflecting on their teaching and research experiences before posing questions for consideration:

  • How might we transform xenophobic fears and anxieties into scholarly, historical, and critical transnational solidarities?
  • How might we better imagine and historicise the refugee’s experience and how best narrate this experience alongside other forms of migration and displacement?
  • What ethical challenges does the teaching of refugee narratives raise?
  • What opportunities are there for a more open and participatory approach to working with students on these issues?
  • What are the risks as well as the possibilities associated with aestheticising refuge histories, trajectories and experiences?’
  • What are the implications of narrative credibility in asylum adjudication for the teaching and researching of these narratives?
  • How might we involve refugees, NGOs and policy makers in our teaching and research?
Sat 3:45 pm – 5:00 pm

Salon: David Crystal, interviewed by Rebecca Woods

David CrystalOpera Theatre

Welcome to our literary salon, where we ask a leading member of the profession about their life in the subject and the subject in their life, exploring their career, work, ideas and thoughts for the future in a relaxed, informal atmosphere.

David Crystal, OBE, FBA, is one of the best known and most significant linguists in the UK, author of over 100 books, ranging widely over the field and for many different audiences. He is a frequent media presenter, commentator and contributor, a consultant to many national and international bodies and a globally respected scholar. We’ve all read some of his work. He will be interviewed by Rebecca Woods, lecturer in Language and Cognition at Newcastle University and external Relations Officer for The Linguistics Association of Great Britain: she writes that she is “primarily interested in questions, both main and embedded, and their syntax, semantics and acquisition”, which makes her an ideal interlocutor for David Crystal.

Sat 3:45 pm – 5:00 pm


Teaching English and the Didactics of Sustainability: Translating Educational Research into Practice

Sofia AhlbergMMUc

Our belief is that the future legitimacy of the study of English literature lies squarely within its close ties to the teacher training programs. This is despite the views of some who see this affiliation between English and education as a threat to literary studies as an area of research in its own right. However, in our panel we demonstrate possible intersections between literary studies as a research field and the teaching profession where both fields have an interest in sustainability, broadly speaking, and environmental studies. Representing a range of interests in English as researchers, project developers and teachers at both tertiary institutions and the upper secondary school, our aim in this panel is to show ways in which didactics is an integral extension of literary studies as a research field. With this is mind, we wish to share with the audience the early stages of a widening-participation project between Uppsala University and the upper secondary school Katedralskolan, Uppsala, Sweden, where English language and literature is taught as a second language.

The aims of this project follow two related trajectories: to build community among those seeking to share knowledge from their university training in sustainability education with interested stakeholders, including regional schools and policymakers; and for these stakeholders reciprocally to inform research and scholarship. The goal of our collaboration is to support, implement, and disseminate practice-informed research that will further affect sustainability-aware education. One of our objectives is to supply data and other research findings to teaching and support-services that will inform best teaching and classroom practice for enhanced delivery of sustainability-aware curricula. This will be achieved through workshops and other education programs that explore and provide support to local schools for implementing sustainability goals in their literacy programs.

The dyad proposed between teachers and the field of environmental humanities is, we think, optimal, not least because it is anticipated that the research field of the scholar, on one hand, and the work of the practitioner, on the other, will be productively integrated to produce new knowledge of direct relevance to both. This is because, despite ubiquitous references to the importance of learning in relation to sustainability goals, the notion is poorly conceptualised and empirical research on how learning actually takes place is rare (Van Poeck et al, 2018). To address this shortfall, we wish to:

  • establish a solid, thorough research base to support and inform the work required to translate this knowledge into the curricula
  • identify a concurrent yet separate need for reforms to teacher education programs that will support pre- and in-service teachers to better understand didactics of sustainability
  • examine the role of a generally improved literacy as an intrinsic part of sustainability
  • develop a robust investigation into cutting-edge pedagogical approaches to respond to the demands especially facing the young in our society
  • identify and describe concrete strategies for the inclusion of issues regarding sustainable development in the classroom of young learners of English as a foreign language

Importantly, our collaboration is also about how to support students, classroom teachers, scholars, as well as non-formal educators, who struggle to respond to students’ lack of faith in the education system. This is an attempt to reignite a sense of the humanities as being responsive to real-world issues including loss of biodiversity, climate change and environmental justice.

Sofia Ahlberg: Associate Professor in English literature, Department of English, Uppsala University

Maria Allström: Project Leader, Professional Development, Department of Education, Uppsala University

Sue Ericson: PhD candidate, Department of English, Uppsala University (literature and didactics)

Frida Lust: an alumni of the Department of English, Uppsala University, now teacher in English (language and literature) at Katedralskolan

Sat 3:45 pm – 5:00 pm

Teaching poetry in the sixth form: developing literary awareness (KS5)

Gary SnapperMMUa

For many students, poetry appears to be simply an examination hurdle rather than an art form that exists in a world of pleasure beyond the classroom; a puzzle to which ‘the right answer’ must be found rather than a rewarding aesthetic experience. Additionally, students’ search for meaning in poetry often focuses almost exclusively on understanding the imagery of a poem and the way this contributes to its narrative or argument, rather than on broader aspects of the poet’s craft – for instance form and tone – and the way these help to shape meaning. Formulaic approaches to the study of poetry at GCSE have not been helpful in changing students’ attitudes and experiences.

This workshop explores some ways in which we might begin to break down these barriers in the sixth form classroom by looking at poetry through the lens of art, and considering what poetry is actually for, as well as some ways in which we might help students to get into the mind of the poet and understand the poet’s ‘bag of tricks’.

Gary Snapper is Editor of NATE’s magazine Teaching English. A former Head of English, he has taught A Level and IB English for over 30 years, and is Curriculum Tutor for PGCE and Masters students at the University of Oxford.

logo of The National Association for Teaching of English (NATE)

This session is part of the National Association for the Teaching of English (NATE) strand

Sat 3:45 pm – 5:00 pm


The May Sinclair Critical Editions Project: Publishing and Pedagogy

Claire DreweryMMUf

This panel arises from the work of the Edinburgh May Sinclair Critical Editions Project: the publication of a series of annotated scholarly editions of Sinclair’s work, as well as a wider engagement with modernist textual editing as a disciplinary field in its own right. The three papers address potential interconnections between scholarly editing, archival research and digital humanities, exploring their usefulness in informing and enhancing teaching practice.

Shalini Sengupta will discuss the collection of May Sinclair papers recently acquired by the University of Sussex Special Collections and the insight this offers into Sinclair’s mysticism. The paper argues that Sinclair’s short-story manuscripts and philosophical writing reveal a burgeoning interest in Eastern (Indian) mysticism and discusses the manner in which the Critical Editions Project expands upon this little-studied thematic thread. Additionally, the paper underscores Sinclair’s interest in priestly and privileged Eastern literature (such as the Upanishads and the Sutras) and traces this interest alongside Sinclair’s review of Tagore as ‘the great mythic poet from Bengal’ (Sinclair, ‘The “Gitanjali”’: Or Song Offerings of Rabindranath Tagore’). It concludes with a discussion on how the Critical Editions Project broadens the scope for the study of British (modernist) writing by exploring its foray into Eastern mysticism. How might this relationship favourably extend the scope of modernist studies for scholars all over the world?

Shalini Sengupta is a doctoral student at the University of Sussex. She is a Research Assistant working on Tranche 1 of the Sinclair Critical Editions Project (funded by a British Academy/Leverhulme Small Grant).

Claire Drewery shows how, uniquely, the Sinclair Editions are being released as a series of themed tranches which emphasize their author’s multi-disciplinarity, from popular and experimental literature and literary history to biography, criticism, war memoirs and philosophical Idealism. Sinclair’s philosophy – a key tenet of her modernism – is the focus of Tranche 1. This paper explores the possibilities these fields of research open up pedagogically, and for the teaching of modernism specifically, in the light of two of my University’s key objectives for redeveloping its literature degree provision: HSE (Highly Skilled Employment) and decolonizing the curriculum. I explore ways in which scholarly editing and modernism inform the creation of two modules which are each assessed by means of live project briefings: ‘Creating and Curating’ (Level 4) and ‘Transforming Bodies’ (Level 6).

Claire Drewery is a Senior Lecturer at Sheffield Hallam University, co-founder of the May Sinclair Society, and a General Editor and Volume Editor of the Sinclair Critical Editions.

Rebecca Bowler discusses the digital arm of the Sinclair project. The editions team were recently awarded NEH funding to produce a digital genetic edition of one of Sinclair’s short stories. This edition will include digitised scans of all drafts of one short story, from Sinclair’s original workbook notes (including the whole workbook, so interdisciplinary connections can be traced), through manuscript and typescript draft, to page proof and the first published version of each text. Users of this open access resource will be able to trace each idea from its initial inception through to finished publication. This paper discusses the pedagogical implications of this resource, and of open access research repositories more generally, in opening up archives at prestigious (and often geographically remote) institutions to achieve a global reach. What potential is there in these projects for more radical forms of inclusion?

Rebecca Bowler is a Lecturer in Twentieth-Century Literature at Keele University. She is co-founder of the May Sinclair Society and a General Editor and Volume Editor on the May Sinclair Critical Editions Project.

Sat 3:45 pm – 5:00 pm

What Is a Mentor?: Mentoring, Community, and Literary Culture

Will MayMCRj

The last decade has seen new mentoring schemes for both writers and reviewers (Complete Works, Ledbury Emerging Critics Programme, New North Poets, Arvon/Jerwood), a rise in commercial mentoring services, and a renewed focus by national arts funders on mentoring as a means to stimulate literary and creative culture across the UK. The vitality and success of these initiatives suggests a literary culture eager for formal mentoring, in part to offset the exclusionary potential of edited magazines, creative writing programmes, established presses, or coteries formed around educational privilege. Recent accounts of postwar literature (Larrissy 2016; Osborne 2016) demonstrate how far these existing structures stifled or sidelined the work of BAME, women, and LGBTQ writers in previous decades.

Yet literary scholarship has had very little to say about the practice or process of mentoring. In part, the word’s ubiquity explains the absence: Anthony W. Lee notes the ‘vox populi valence’ of the term worldwide gets in the way of sustained academic enquiry. There are also a number of challenges and opportunities in the new landscape: what does the career of a writer-mentor look like, how can they develop their own practice, and who mentors our mentors?

This panel explores the historical, critical, creative, and practical insights of mentoring, and suggests how a shared conversation between literary mentors and scholars might help connect diverse strands of our discipline and bridge literary communities working in and outside of HEIs.

The panel’s contributors include Dr. Nazneen Ahmed, writer in residence at Southampton City Museums, mentee from the inaugural round of Penguin Random House’s annual WriteNow mentoring scheme, and previous writer-in-residence at Southampton’s public libraries; Dr. Aiysha Jahan, who runs an Arts Council England-funded young writers mentoring project in Southampton, and is a former school teacher, Dr. Will May (University of Southampton), who recently co-ran a ‘Writing in the Community’ CPD course, and is developing a new project on the history of mentoring in postwar British poetry, and Matt West (Artful Scribe), director of a Southampton-based literature development agency Artful Scribe, and an experienced poet-mentor and mentee.

The panel will address some of the following topics:

  • how do we mentor, and what forums do we have to share mentoring practice?
  • how can mentoring develop writers and literary communities in the UK?
  • what can literary history tell us about the practice of mentoring?
  • what are the challenges and opportunities for a writer-mentor, and what kinds of support do they need?
Sat 3:45 pm – 5:00 pm

Writing, Pedagogy and Well-Being in Schools


Pedagogic Literary Narration: teachers’ unique dialogic work with literary prose (John Gordon)

How teachers of literature vocalise texts, their narrative voices and direct speech during collective literary study can be understood as the orchestration of multiple voices. The interplay of teacher, student and text voices is dialogic, and in a term used by Bakhtin to describe the layering of multiple voices in single utterances, also ‘heteroglot’. The literary form of the novel itself is essentially heteroglot, a confluence of voices where ‘literary language is a complex, dynamic system of linguistic styles’.

This paper

  1. introduces and explains the concept of Pedagogic Literary Narration as an umbrella term for the unique dialogic work teachers of literature perform when they present novels for students’ attention and analysis;
  2. examines the role of spoken quotation as it introduces the printed text to conversation and for shared discussion;
  3. identifies pedagogic functions of spoken quotation as it positions students’ orientation to the focal study narratives, and
  4. shares a conception of literary pedagogy that recognises the subtle and unique disciplinary-specific skills of teachers of literature.

The paper draws on transcript data from primary and secondary classrooms, and from university seminars. Discussions represented in the transcripts attend to texts as diverse as The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas (Boyne, primary), The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (Stevenson, secondary) and Pond (Bennett, higher education undergraduate study).

The paper’s methodological innovation adapts conversation analysis to account for the introduction of study texts to talk, the turn of the page as embedded quotation. During presentations of narrative in literary study classroom, the teacher (or any student reading aloud) inevitably brings to narration the grain of their own voice (Barthes) and may also combine quoted material with their own words within single conversational turns. Resources of intonation, volume and rhythm bring new affordances in sound and time. Even where the text narrative enters the lesson quoted directly, as direct speech, it is something changed, a new narration. Any vocal utterance introducing the study text as direct speech is dialogic, creating an interaction between the text’s words and the speaker’s own, or between the text’s words and the speaker’s use of the additional presentational and mediating resources of speech. This is a new dual expression, for Bakhtin like the interplay of ‘rejoinders in dialogue’. It is as though the speaker of the text’s words also converses with the text. The paper considers teachers exposition as a model and guide for literary-critical talk, a space where the modality of texts is transformed from print to oral expression, and examines student interactions that follow. Teachers’ spoken quotation develops students’ sensitivity to how literary texts position their readerly perspective and response. Purposed to disciplinary pedagogic goals, spoken quotation has positioning influence, as teachers of literature guide students through multiple orientations to text with skill and efficiency. In this respect, the paper highlights the often unacknowledged and distinctive expertise of teachers of literature as they present novels to their students for discussion.

“I’m going to write to give myself time”: diary writing as a positive tool for teacher wellbeing (Lucy Kelly)

In a profession experiencing a current recruitment and retention crisis, and workload at an all-time high (a quarter of teachers now work a 60-hour week (TES, 2019)), the objective of this paper is to explore how diary writing can be used as a tool for positive teacher wellbeing. According to the NFER’s (National Foundation for Educational Research) study ‘Engaging Teachers’ (Lynch et al., 2016), ‘a high workload is associated with two other negative outcomes – poor health or feeling undervalued – which leads to teachers wanting to leave’ (p. 14). Although it could be argued that writing a diary might add to a teacher’s workload, I position the paper within the fields of selfhood and subjectivity to propose that having a space to ‘open up’ and develop one’s personal and professional identity, can actually help teachers regain their autonomy in an era of prescriptive education and, in turn, improve teacher retention and recruitment. Indeed, if the self is a ‘construct’ (Heehs, 2013: 227), then we can ‘self-invent’ within the ‘narrative identities’ (Eakin, 2008: 30) that we write and share and, to draw on Virginia Woolf’s thoughts about diary writing, ‘knit’ (1919, n.p) together a different cloak that allows us to express our authentic selves and support our wellbeing. As Martin and Goodman note, teachers can “make themselves through the act of writing” (2004: 6).

The project:
These ideas will be exemplified by drawing on the findings of a recent research project called ‘Re-imagining the Diary: writing and wellbeing for busy people’ (Brigstow University of Bristol, 2019). Two colleagues and I asked fifteen teachers (predominantly secondary and at different stages of their career) to keep a diary for a week during term-time and to reflect on this process and the impact it had on their wellbeing. Our findings show that over 93% of participants perceived an improvement in their wellbeing when keeping a diary. They noted that diary writing can be a tool for celebration and catharsis; that it can enable you to explore different perspectives on an event or situation; that aesthetics play an important role in the writing process; time (finding it, keeping it and making it) is the biggest factor to consider; and, when writing, one needs to set aside expectations of what a diary ‘should’ look like in order to make it bespoke.

The future of diary writing:
I will share how these findings were used to ‘re-imagine’ a diary for twenty-first century teachers. Rather than one set format, I propose that a ‘diary toolkit’, which foregrounds play and creativity, will give teachers the opportunity to make diary writing personal, and meaningful, to them. This physical toolkit – which will be shown during the session and was designed in collaboration with a Bristol-based company called ‘Stand +Stare’ – includes ‘pre-emptive’ activities to help teachers transition into a reflective mode, and then a range of mediums for teachers to engage in (such as writing a letter, drawing a picture or making a video). The purpose of the toolkit is to open up the diary as a format which, in turn, overturns prior expectations around diary writing and becoming the next Virginia Woolf or Anne Frank. Instead, diary writing is a creative opportunity for individuals to celebrate, question, negotiate and reflect upon their personal and professional identities, so that ‘the individual realizes [sic] his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community’ (WHO, 2018, online). By doing this, positive teacher wellbeing becomes the much-needed next chapter in the story of teaching.

References List:
Eakin, P. J. (2008). Living Autobiographically: How We Create Identity in Narrative. London: Cornell
University Press.

Heehs, P., (2013). Writing the Self: Diaries, Memoirs and the History of the Self. London: Bloomsbury

Lynch, S., Worth, J., Bamford, S. and Wespeiser, K., 2016. Engaging Teachers: NFER Analysis of Teacher
Retention. [pdf] Slough: The National Foundation for Educational Research.

Martin, J. & Goodman, J., (2004). Women and Education, 1800-1980. Houndmills: Palgrave Macmillan.

Speck, D., (2019). Workload: 1 in 4 teachers works a 60-hour week. TES, [online] Available at: < https://www.tes.com/news/workload-1-4-teachers-works-60-hour-week> [Accessed 9 October 2019]
Woolf, V. 20 April (1919). Personal diary entry. [online] Brain Pickings. ‘Virginia Woolf on the Creative Benefits of Keeping a Diary’.
Available at: https://www.brainpickings.org/2013/01/25/virginia-woolf-on-keeping-a-diary [Accessed 10 April 2018]

World Health Organisation, (2018). Promotion of mental well-being. [online] Available at:
http://www.searo.who.int/entity/mental_health/promotion-of-mental-well-being/en/ [Accessed 1 March 2018]

Novels and Why We Need Them (Julie Lamin)

‘Novels and Why We Need Them’ is a practical seminar which can be delivered in a single English lesson of an hour. For the English: Shared Futures Conference presentation lasting 20-25 minutes, Julie will explain how her seminar, based on the opening chapter of ‘Beyond the Volcano’, excites young adult readers and helps them to understand the connection between the GCSE English Language examination and the way an author structures, writes and edits a novel.

We step out of the ‘exam factory’ to consider how:

  • writers make choices about characters, setting, language and structure
  • fiction shows us ‘the truth’ of the world we live in
  • we combine passion for writing with the discipline of editing

Sample student reviews of the seminar:

Julie’s seminar helped me to understand the importance of structure and how to use it effectively in narrative writing.

‘Beyond the Volcano’ has inspired me to read and write more and has helped to extend my knowledge of how to analyse writing in GCSE questions.

Writing and social justice
‘Beyond the Volcano’ by Julie Lamin
Growing up in the United Kingdom during the nineteen-seventies, I was lucky enough to live with peace and freedom and to benefit from all the welfare state had to give in health and education. ‘Beyond the Volcano’ is inspired by the many young people in the world who were not so lucky.
Sharrowland is ruled by a dictator whose National Army soldiers murder young, poor people like Stella, Walter and Leonie. As their fear escalates, their best hope for survival is to join the resistance movement. Oscar and Freddie, protected at first by their privileged background, gradually awaken to the horrific nature of the dictatorship.

Despite the injustices and suffering in the novel, ‘Beyond the Volcano’ is about hope and the belief that when brave young women and men work together, they can achieve the future they deserve.

Sat 3:45 pm – 5:00 pm

Sunday 28 Jun 2020

9:45 am – 11:00 am Sunday Session I

Plenary: Writing and Righting: Literature in the End Times (?) of Human Rights

Lyndsey StonebridgeLecture Theatre (Conference Room for overflow)

The obvious humanity of books would seem to make literature and
human rights natural allies. But is the connection about between literature and
human rights as obvious and as benign as we assume? This lecture explores how
the history of human rights owes much to the creative imagining of writers to
ask what remains of this legacy today.

Right now, when ideas about human rights and the humanizing benefits of literary education are both under attack, I’ll argue it is not enough to claim that literature is the empathetic wing of the human rights movement.  Instead, the writers we need how are the historical truthtellers, the bold callers out of easy sympathy and comfortable platitudes – the creative-critical anti-colonialists, feminists, and political-moralists for whom literary sentiment was never enough to make the inequalities and injustices of the world okay.

Lyndsey Stonebridge is Interdisciplinary Professor of Humanities and Human Rights at the University of Birmingham, UK. Her recent books include Placeless People: Rights, Writing, and Refugees (OUP, 2018), winner of the Modernist Studies Association Best Book Prize, 2019, The Judicial Imagination: Writing after Nuremberg (EUP, 2011), winner of the British Academy Rose Mary Crawshay Prize. Her other books include The Destructive Element (1998), Reading Melanie Klein (with John Phillips, 1998), The Writing of Anxiety (2007), and British Fiction after Modernism (with Marina MacKay, 2007). Writing and Righting: Literature in the Age of Human Rights, is out with Oxford University Press later this year. She is currently writing a book on the relevance of Hannah Arendt for our times, Thinking Like Hannah Arendt, which will be published by Jonathan Cape in 2022, and collaborating two interdisciplinary projects Refugee Hosts and Rights4Time.

This plenary is sponsored by English.

English is an internationally known journal of literary criticism, published on behalf of The English Association. Each issue contains essays on a wide range of authors and literary texts in English, aimed at readers within universities and colleges and presented in a lively and engaging style. There is a substantial review section, in which reviewers have space to situate a book within the context of recent developments in its field, and present a detailed argument. English is unusual among academic journals in publishing original poetry. This policy embodies the view that the critical and creative functions, often so widely separated in the teaching of English, can co-exist and cross-fertilise each other.

Sun 9:45 am – 11:00 am


11:30 am – 12:45 pm Sunday Session II

A Novel Response to Brexit: A critical/creative Discussion with authors Maggie Gee and Catherine Fox, and Dr Ellie Byrne

Catherine WilcoxCarole Nash Recital Room

How have contemporary novelists engaged with Brexit in their fiction? This panel is made up of two novelists and an English academic. Each will give a 15-minute presentation, which will be followed by discussion, with an opportunity for Q&A at the end.


  • To explore how novelists are responding to Brexit in their fiction
  • To ask whether the traditional novel is a good medium for exploring current political developments, or whether new forms are needed
  • To examine how novelists have addressed transformations in Britain’s political and cultural imaginary in the last three years

Prof Maggie Gee, Professor of Creative Writing at Bath Spa University.  She has written thirteen acclaimed novels, including The Ice People, My Cleaner, My Driver and The White Family, a collection of short stories, The Blue, and a memoir of her life as a writer, My Animal Life (2010).  Her latest novel, Blood (2019), is a black comedy about parricide set in a disturbed, chaotic Brexit Britain.

Dr Ellie Byrne, Senior Lecturer in English at Manchester Metropolitan University. In 2018 she ran the symposium Brexit Wounds: Arts and Humanities responses to leaving the EU selected papers are forthcoming in a special edition of the Open Arts Journal, including her paper on ‘Brexit Season’ in Ali Smith’s novels, a second symposium Europe and the Child: Crisis, Activism, Culture, will happen in February 2020 both funded by the MJMCE (Manchester Jean Monnet Centre for Excellence).

Dr Catherine Wilcox, novelist (writing as Catherine Fox) and Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing and Academic Director of the Manchester Writing School at Manchester Metropolitan University.  Her recent Lindchester trilogy was blogged in weekly instalments ‘in real time’.  She wrote the final volume, Realms of Glory, during 2016, blogging about Brexit as it unfolded.

Sun 11:30 am – 12:45 pm

Aphra Behn and the Early Modern Book Trade

Gillian WrightMCRh

Chair: Gillian Wright, Reader in English and Irish Literature, University of Birmingham

This panel derives from ‘Editing Aphra Behn in the Digital Age’, a Standard Research Grant project funded by the AHRC between 2016 and 2020. An interdisciplinary project, ‘Editing Aphra Behn in the Digital Age’ has centrally involved collaboration between literary scholars and digital humanities specialists, who have worked together to produce the print/electronic Cambridge Edition of the Works of Aphra Behn, as well as associated digital outputs such as an electronic workbench and a website.

This panel will report on key findings from the project as it reaches the end of its AHRC-funded period and as the first tranche of the Cambridge Behn edition nears completion. Aphra Behn (1640?-1689) was famously hailed by Virginia Woolf as the first Englishwoman to earn her living by her pen. Yet although she is among the best-known women writers of her period, Behn’s reputation among scholars has largely rested on just a few works (principally, her comedy The
Rover and her slave narrative Oroonoko). Research for the Cambridge edition has uncovered fascinating new evidence as to the extent and detail of Behn’s engagement with the contemporary book trade across the full spread of her diverse oeuvre. Careful collation of original copies of her works, now held in scholarly libraries throughout the world, has revealed the degree to which these texts were subject to stop-press correction, while research into individual publications has both illuminated the astonishing intellectual and generic range of Behn’s work and provided evidence to assess her creative interactions with a wide array of book trade professionals. The project has also enabled a systematic re-evaluation of the many dubious works attributed to Behn after her death, through the use of both literary and digital humanities methods. An exemplary application of cuttingedge computational stylistics techniques to literary texts, the project’s work on attribution has helped to clarify not only the boundaries of the Behn canon but also the commercial significance of Behn’s name in the decade after her death.

‘Aphra Behn and the Early Modern Book Trade’ will comprise three papers: on the collation of early Behn editions (Claire Bowditch); on the placement of Behn’s works with a wide range of booksellers (Elaine Hobby); and on the insights to be gained from computational stylistics analysis of her attested texts and dubia (Mel Evans).

Claire Bowditch, Postdoctoral Research Associate, Loughborough University

Mel Evans, Lecturer in English Language and Linguistics, University of Leicester

Elaine Hobby, Professor of Seventeenth-Century Studies, Loughborough University

Sun 11:30 am – 12:45 pm

Class and Literature in Victorian and Early-20th-C. Literature


A.J. Cronin’s The Citadel (1937) and the Creation of the NHS (Ryan Brown)

A. J. Cronin’s middlebrow novel The Citadel has often been held up as a key influence in enabling the cultural environment which led to the creation of the NHS in 1948. The historian Raphael Samuel claimed that Cronin’s ‘fictions probably did as much as the Beveridge Report – and certainly more than the Thirties poets – to secure Labour’s landslide victory in the 1945 election’. As of yet a close-reading of the claims the novel makes and how these are made has not been done.

This paper will rectify that.

The novel is particularly pertinent in its emphasis on the ways in which financial motivations may lead to a medical practice which is not focused on the act of care instead being driven by the desire for accumulation of more and more capital. Such a view struck up much controversy at the time but equally had supporters. Certain individual doctors and in particular Socialist Medical Association were already making the same arguments of Cronin. The novel is therefore indicative of wider social attempts to imagine health care in a new and more egalitarian fashion. It demonstrates the ability for literature to be fully committed and engaged within the political reorganisation and reimagination of society.

Writing, Publishing and Reading: Stella Benson, Vita Sackville West and Tobit Transplanted (Nicola Darwood)

Amongst the thousands of books in the library at Sissinghurst, the home of Vita Sackville West and Harold Nicolson, lie a number of written by Stella Benson. These include her 1931 novel, Tobit Transplanted which was published to great acclaim, winning the 1932 Femina Vie Heureuse prize. Tobit Transplanted is a novel which, with a great deal of humour, retells the story of the Apocryphal tale of Tobit transplanting him and his family, in terms of both location and nationality, so that he becomes a White Russian living in Kanto, Manchuria. Benson’s lengthy ‘Introductory Note’ gives few hints as to any sense of the comedic in the ensuing novel, indeed she directs the reader to ‘keep, as it were, one eye on the Apocrypha’ and, to assist the reader, includes the Book of Tobit as an appendix. In May 1932 during a visit to Sissinghurst, Benson gave a copy of this novel to her hostess. It’s easy, perhaps, to imagine Sackville West taking this book to her reading room in the tower at Sissinghurst and lying on her chaise longue, reading Benson’s novel, pencil in hand and making marks in the margin as she read, perhaps to remind herself at a later date of passages that resonated with her. Drawing the unpublished diaries of Stella Benson, and Sackville West’s own marginalia, this paper details the journey of this extraordinary novel, from writing to publication, and its transplantation from the Apocryphal tale via Benson’s pen to Sackville West’s reading room.

Mary Sewell and her Circle: Poetry for the Poor in Victorian England (Celia Brayfield)

This paper highlights the writing of the popular poet and novelist Mary Sewell (1797- 1884) and of her women friends and relatives who saw popular literature as a powerful social force. Beginning with textbooks for the millions of home educators who, like her, could not afford to send their children to school, Mary went on to write immensely popular verse novels. The first two titles, Mother’s Last Words and Father’s Care, were astoundingly successful, each selling around a million copies in Britain and America.

Using dynamic metre, easy rhymes and simple language, she wrote for the urban poor who lived in extreme deprivation, and intended her books to help lift families out of poverty, teach basic life skills such as nutrition and childcare, and combat crime, violence and addiction. The books were intended to be read aloud and were bought and given away in large numbers by charities. Sewell’s writing grew from her own volunteer social work. Her husband was often out of work and her own life precarious but, like a benevolent character in a Dickens novel, she was prompted by her Christian faith to visit hospitals, workhouses and tenements doing whatever she could to help the poorest and most marginalised people in society, from finding jobs to scrubbing floors. Her writing drew directly on the experience of people she helped in London and the south of England, and provide a rare picture of working-class lives in the late nineteenth century. Sewell’s circle included her sister Anne Wright, an acclaimed writer of books about nature for children and the author of The Observing Eye, or Letters to Children on the Three Lowest Divisions of Animal Life (1851) which Queen Victoria chose for the royal children’s library. Another sister, Maria also wrote popular novels in the same vein as Mary, and their circle was to include other women writers including Sarah Stickney Ellis and Elizabeth Boyd Bayley, who became Mary’s biographer. Mary Sewell’s most famous associate, however, was her daughter Anna, whose only novel, Black Beauty, continues the family tradition of entertaining didactic fiction. The genre has been overlooked because of its literary simplicity and perceived sentimentality. This paper will
argue that it provides an invaluable record of working-class life in the darkest decades of the industrial age.

Messages from the later nineteenth century (Ursula Jeffries)

This paper will discuss ways of hearing the voices of ordinary as opposed to literary people and the development of modern advertising media as their access to reading materials increased. In the second half of Queen Victoria’s reign a massive expansion of popular publishing arose out of increased literacy and the evolution of printing methods. From penny dreadfuls to religious tracts a great industry of communication was now serving the general public. The commercial opportunities offered by these new influencers and educators were quickly exploited. There were many short-lived enterprises but a number of lasting legacies are worthy of note. In addition, the comparison with the late twentieth century adaptation to the computer throws up some interesting parallels and has relevance for modern media theory. The sheer volume of material surviving from the era of the periodical results in the evocation of something quite near to everyday speech. Many of the publications contain modest short stories full of dialogue and detail. The tone of trade papers is direct and businesslike while letters pages express personal attitudes. Poems and jokes and lengthy reporting of lectures all combine to render a register far removed from the literary giants.

These could well be useful sources for discussion of authorial viewpoint. It quickly became clear that here was a new vehicle for advertising on an industrial scale. The audience could now be directed to the latest books or inventions. The trades could influence fashion in everything from hats to greetings cards and exhorted each other to sell. The concept of marketing could now grow from a genteel note regarding a small business to a campaign with all that means in terms of volume, design and repetition. London was already a city of advertising posters covering walls and horse-drawn buses as printers sought out eyecatching designs to set the slogans. The public was ready and the printing trade periodicals seriously discussed new approaches and weighed up the competition. The language used is still as recognisable as some of the products.

This scarcely equates with what is often thought of as Victorian in terms of the range of open discussion and discourse between groups in society. The new era of mass marketing came with a rapidity comparable to that of the internet with all its implications for promotion, new writing and the use of the vernacular.

Sun 11:30 am – 12:45 pm

Contemporary Literature


Ghost of a Thought: Darwin, Marx, Nietzsche and Freud in Contemporary Literary Cultures (Katie Jones)

Katie Jones is a recent PhD graduate; her research interests lie in gender studies, the history of psychoanalysis, and life writing. 

As ‘initiators of discursive practices’, Freud, Marx, Darwin, and Nietzsche constitute figures whose influence moves far beyond the texts that bear their names. While there are numerous depictions of Freud, Nietzsche, and Darwin in contemporary fiction and film, Marx appears less frequently. However, there nonetheless exists an under-explored body of contemporary literature, film, and other media in which these figures are deployed. Focusing on such hauntings raises questions regarding contemporaneity, class, sexuality, gender, and scientific imperialism, all of which pertain to concerns regarding social justice and the voices of those historically repressed.

This joint paper aims to explore the representations of these “fathers” of modern thought, asking how contemporary writers subvert or engage with these figures, who have become disfigured as shorthand for entire schools of thought – sometimes mistakenly, as is the case for Nietzsche, who is often incorrectly associated with Nazism. We wish to consider how these figures constellate and give false unity to broad ideas; while some of their theories may be subversive, the use of these “fathers of thought” reproduce a conservative, almost feudal, system of ideology, acting as coalescing, totemistic figureheads – much like a feudal monarch. This is a joint paper, which asks how these well-known nineteenth-century figures raise questions regarding class, sexuality, and gender in the contemporary context? What might our collective fantasies about these figures reveal about our times? Some of these figures are now digital meme icons, how might this and other re-fashionings inform their deployment? Why do these figures continue to haunt us, and what do these anachronistic figures offer to the contemporary novel?

The shared politics of the gothic and magical realism in 21st century British fiction (Tori Marland)

Tori Marland is a PhD student at Kingston University, supervised by Professor Sara Upstone and Professor Fred Botting. Her working thesis is titled ‘Metamodern Britain: intersections of the gothic and magical realism in contemporary British Fiction’. 

Traditionally, the modes or genres of gothic and magical realism have been considered separate entities. Magical realism, in particular, has been strongly associated with Latin American and post-colonial fiction, where it is commonly used as a means to convey extraordinary political events in an ordinary setting. Meanwhile, the gothic has been employed as a tool to situate broader cultural anxieties, including politics, within an otherworldly setting that is apparently different from the ordinary. Yet, this is not the case in contemporary British fiction. In texts by authors such as Max Porter, Andrew Michael Hurley, Helen Oyeyemi and Ali Smith, these modes of gothic and magical realism share more in common than what divides them.

In this paper, I suggest there is an intersection between the gothic and magical realism in 21st century British fiction, and that this intersection is specifically aligned with broader trends in literary criticism, notably the idea of the move from postmodernism to a metamodernism which challenges postmodern relativism with a renewed ethico-political commitment. While much contemporary criticism separates the concepts of gothic and magical realism, I argue that in light of recent political events, such as Brexit and the rise of populism, these concepts converge to provide a mode which enables critique of the strange political times in a metamodern context. In conclusion, I will consider how such a mode offers new ways in which contemporary British texts can be viewed, and the potential of metamodernism as a mode of academic enquiry.

Revisioning the Self: Metamodernism and Literary Fiction (Meriem Mentri Lidia)

Scholarly literature seems to suggest that postmodernism is no longer the appropriate system of thought explaining the cultural paradigms of the twenty first century. Postmodernism is now succeeded by a new sensibility termed metamodernism, which can largely be described as a structure of feelings oscillating between the modern and postmodern dominants. This metamodern sensibility seems to advance a rejuvenated interest in grand narratives; most notably the notion of self. While previous models of selfhood were strictly categorized into two opposing paradigms, which mark much of the previous centuries’ discourses on self as being either material or spiritual, metamodernism on the other hand appears to bring this rivalry to an end by directing these two patterns towards a comfortable place of no reconciliation.

This paper seeks to demonstrate the continuous dichotomy surrounding selfhood by tracing it back to various historical eras; starting first with Plato and Aristotle, then Descartes and Hume, to contemporary philosophers Bruce Hood and Mary Midgley. Similarly, it aims to highlight the impact of metamodernism by investigating the emergence of a new model that is metamodern in essence. This model of self, celebrated in contemporary fiction, appears to oscillate between the postmodern illusory, socially constructed sense of self and the modern authentic, elevated self. This way, metamodernism deconstructs prior trends considered in the study of self; there are no longer two main extremes of the self spectrum. Moreover, these concerns will be explored in the works of acclaimed novelist Hari Kunzru, in which the metamodern self is depicted as it reiterates vital questions regarding consciousness and elaborates an understanding of what it means to be a conscious being in the twenty first century.

Literature and sociological late-modernity: the great crossover potential (Philip Miles)

This paper draws from recent research focusing on the understanding of literary narratives via utilisation of sociological ‘late modern’ theoretical frameworks. We live in precarious times where the combined (but not exclusive) effects of risk, anxiety, fragmentation, identity politics and erratic security affect the way that people lead their lives in the present, plan their futures and evaluate their histories. Sociology has an evolved framework of understanding such latent anxieties and perceptions of structural certainty developed notably by Anthony Giddens (on ‘structuration’), Ulrich Beck (on ‘risk’) and Zygmunt Bauman (on ‘liquidity’). Each approach effectively amalgamates with the development of an idea of lived modernity as being in transition but that such transition ostensibly remains founded on principles of certainty that give evolving fragmentation ‘legibility’: thus, for example, we respect ‘authority’ in utilising its reliability as a method of comprehension of our evolving mores, values, biography, identity and so on, observing, managing and validating change via reference to the ‘normal’. In the study of literature, this provides us with a useful technique of recognising continued usefulness of, inter alia, moral code, observation of (social) change, comparative mores and values and resistance in contemporary society, observable both as an authorial process and reader effect in delivery and reception. This is not about the study of a real or perceived nostalgia but, instead, about the certainty that literary narrative and form can give to a restless, anxious and uncertain individual, group or (perhaps) nation. Utilising a variety of texts and a central theoretical standpoint (‘the mezzanine’, developed in my recent book Midlife Creativity and Identity: life into art), the paper will take on four phases: ‘sociology of literature’; narratives of change; utility and life politics; and, finally, ‘the interdisciplinary turn’.

“No Story”: Narrative Refusal in Rachel Cusk and Ottessa Moshfegh (Mark West)

Dr Mark West is a Tutor in English Literature at the University of Glasgow. His research focuses on the intersections of ecology and history in contemporary American fiction. He has published on Joseph O’Neill, David Foster Wallace, and Emily St John Mandel. Twitter: @markpeterwest

In Rachel Cusk’s Outline (2014), multiple characters feel they have “no story.” In this paper, I will examine the implications of having – and sometimes welcoming – a lack of narrative. I will compare the ways Cusk’s novel and Ottessa Moshfegh’s My Year of Rest and Relaxation (2018) engage in what I will call “narrative refusal.” Both books feature narrators who reject narrative as a response to an event in their life that reveals the limits of narrative as a means of understanding or controlling one’s reality. I will argue, however, that there are differences of both degree and approach between the two novels: Cusk’s narrator continues to engage with the world but refuses to impose narrative order on events, while Moshfegh’s narrator decides to stop participating in the world altogether – her way of refusing narrative is to ensure there are no events to narrate. The implications of this, though, I will argue, are counterintuitive: narrative refusal is in fact more sustained in Cusk’s novel, and is undertaken because of a near-absolute suspicion of animators of narrative like agency and volition. Moshfegh’s narrator, on the other hand, refuses narrative as a way of breaking a bad narrative cycle, and her desire to sleep through the events of life is a desire to ‘reset’ her position in the world. In other words, she refuses narrative in order to restart narrative. These contrasting approaches, I will argue, have formal implications too: in Outline, progression is inhibited by the way each chapter re-stages a new beginning with a new conversation; in My Year, the narrator’s (literal) reawakening coincides with her induction into a larger American narrative signalled by the events of September 11th 2001. Finally, I will consider these novels as historical fictions – as fictions that confront what it means to exist historically. I will argue that their relationship to history is quite different: whereas Outline’s form makes the same vow as its narrator, remaining wary of history’s fickleness, My Year’s refusal is temporary, and is broken by the narrator’s realignment with the world.

Sun 11:30 am – 12:45 pm

Digital Literary Responses

Nigel WoodMCRg

Although Reader Response theories have been widely discussed within English Studies, this century has seen challenges – both practical and ontological – to the definitions and habits of reading and spectating. Digital “reach” has introduced a more widespread sense of virtual community and this has influenced both creative energies as well as analytic attention. Are our more traditional senses of the “reader” and “spectator” viable any more? And if our responses have been altered definitively, then should we simply embrace new bases for interpretation and leave behind outdated practices? This panel will attempt to address these issues both in theoretical terms and, as far as creative composition is concerned, also in terms of creative practice. Do we know our audiences that well? And are our publications now geared up to more interactive possibilities, where their “finished” status is questioned?

Sun 11:30 am – 12:45 pm

English Shared Spaces – Discussing Inclusive Learning Environments.

David EllisMMUa

How do we create not just a curriculum but also an environment within which inclusivity is fostered as an aspect of professional practice and the student experience. In English Studies, where the politics of identity are central to how we consider, evaluate and discuss narrative perspectives, how do we develop modules and programmes that open spaces for discussions and assessments that recognise and enhance inclusivity? What are the anxieties and responsibilities of academic staff to encourage and manage the learning environment and how central are their own identity markers in influencing this? And, in the pursuit of Athena SWAN awards, the Race Equality Charter Mark and the Stonewall Index, how do academic managers appoint, support and develop their staff to protect the wellbeing of everyone who inhabits the shared spaces of the university learning environment.

This event will be a staged conversation and debate involving a small panel of colleagues drawing upon their own experiences of actions around inclusivity in the teaching of English.

Sun 11:30 am – 12:45 pm

Exploiting Truth, Exploiting Trust: Money, Literature and Lies in an Age of Uncertainty

Rob HawkesMCRm

More than a decade since the global financial crash of 2007-8 and in the midst of a crisis of public trust in mainstream politics, traditional news media and ‘experts’ of all kinds, this panel will examine questions of truth and duplicity, money and trust in literature and culture from the Victorian fin-de-siècle to the age of modernism. What can literature and literary language tell us about the relationships between truth, money and trust? And what light can the decades before and after the turn of the twentieth century shed on our own turbulent political and economic times?

“The power of money is so hard to realise”: Realism, Melodrama, Money and Trust in Gissing’s New Grub Street and Wilde’s An Ideal Husband (Rob Hawkes)

Dr Rob Hawkes is Senior Lecturer in English Studies at Teesside University, UK

This paper will argue that George Gissing’s New Grub Street (1891) and Oscar Wilde’s An Ideal Husband (1895) foreground, interrogate and enact questions of trust by simultaneously activating and undermining the expectations of readers and audiences whilst raising concerns about poverty and exploitation, financial wrongdoing, and the pervasive power of money. Gissing’s realist novel presents literary realism as a spent force in a literary marketplace with increasingly little space for serious art. Meanwhile, Wilde’s melodramatic society comedy engages playfully with questions of sincerity and authenticity. Both texts, furthermore, elicit and challenge the trust of readers and audiences via their differing forms of self-conscious generic uncertainty and, in so doing, reveal surprising connections between literature and money, reputation, manipulation, performance and fictionality.

“To the Machine, Work is Life”: Economic Critique in Lucas Malet’s The Far Horizon (1906) (Jane Ford)

Dr Jane Ford is Lecturer in English Studies at Teesside University, UK

Lucas Malet’s (Mary St Leger Kingsley Harrison) The Far Horizon (1906) offers an important, but now largely forgotten, critique of economic conditions at the end of the nineteenth century. Set between some of the most crushing defeats of the Second Boer War and the death of Queen Victoria in 1901, the novel narrates the experiences of a middle-aged bank clerk, the lion’s share of whose professional and emotional activity has been undertaken in the service of a fictional counterpart of the troubled Barings Bank. In this paper, I will map Malet’s contribution to late nineteenth-century debates about the ethics of modern capitalism, positioning The Far Horizon as a unique meditation on what happens to the nobler human instincts of hard work and self-sacrifice in an age characterised by corporate impersonality, secularisation and violent fiscal operations abroad.

Between Literature and Lies: Post-truth in the Modern World (Rod Rosenquist)

Dr Rod Rosenquist is Senior Lecturer in English and Creative Writing at the University of Northampton, UK

The paper will examine the blossoming language of duplicity, fraud and scepticism in the early twentieth century, as bullshit (1910), bunk (1916), hokum (1922), malarkey (1923), hooey (1924) and baloney (1928) all enter the lexicon. What was happening at this time to provoke so many different terms for mild-mannered falsehoods and types of deception that aren’t, for whatever reason, offered the simpler label of lies? And how might they be related to our own terms for these phenomenon: post-truth, fake news, alternative facts? The paper will detail the work of modernist writers and artists who were challenged by the emergence of a new inflationary set of values, largely tied to rapid developments in advertising culture – and in turn challenged their audience’s perception of the state of truth in a world governed by ‘bunk’, including by developing the act of ‘debunking’ (coined 1923).

Sun 11:30 am – 12:45 pm

Feminist research methodology in contemporary literary prize research

Christina NeuwirthMMUd

Quantitative research has long occupied an awkward position in the scholarship of contemporary literary cultures. Study of the production, circulation and reception of literary texts has traditionally been seen as one that requires flexible and interpretive approaches afforded by qualitative methods, and not the blunt instrument of statistical analysis. However, in spaces where exposing and subverting long-standing power structures is the objective, quantitative approaches are necessary. Writing about quantitative research methods and the United States Publishing field, author Roxane Gay observes that, “The gender (and racial) inequity exists. It is stark. Counting is useful for reminding us.” Gay’s sentiment lies at the heart of a quantitative research practice that seeks to understand and challenge the status quo. This paper argues how bringing together quantitative and qualitative research methods is a feminist approach to researching contemporary literary prize culture. Drawing upon collective research experience, the authors examine the ways in which quantitative research methods have transformed field-wide understandings of power and prestige. Quantitative methods are one in a suite of reflexive, embedded and situated techniques that can be brought together in the pursuit of knowledge that “reminds us” how and why, for example, it took until 2019 for the Booker Prize to be awarded to a work of fiction by a Black woman (and even then the winner, Bernardine Evaristo, shared the prize with Margaret Atwood). Numbers alone can not present researchers with all the answers, but they have broad descriptive capabilities and can provide a depth of insight that, when combined with qualitative methods, can provide fuller insight into the workings of hierarchy, discriminatory practice and value exchanges in literary prize culture.

This collaboratively written and presented paper will facilitate a wide-ranging discussion about feminist methodological approaches, applying these methods in the context of literary prize research, and explore the benefits and limitations of quantitative methods in contemporary publishing studies. Examples from our work will illustrate how we have justified the quantitative and qualitative methods we have used and we will reflect on our research practice and perspectives on the broader question of how feminist empiricism should – and can – be done.

Christina Neuwirth draws here particularly on her work as a researcher embedded in the contemporary Scottish literary landscape, where she conducts her doctoral research on gender equality. As a member of the advocacy group ROAR, she has previously published her work on reviewing, publishing and festival programming on www.roar.scot. Christina’s fiction and non-fiction writing has been published widely, and her novella Amphibian (Speculative Books, 2018) was shortlisted for three literary awards in the UK.

Christina Neuwirth, PhD researcher, Stirling Centre for International Publishing and Communication, University of Stirling

Alexandra Dane’s experience with feminist counting methods is the foundation of her scholarly practice and her research into contemporary book cultures, formal and informal literary networks, and the relationship between gender and the distribution of power in the literary field. Alexandra is the author of Gender and Prestige in Contemporary Australian Book Culture (Palgrave Macmillan, 2020).

Dr Alexandra Dane, Sessional Lecturer and Research Assistant, School of Culture and Communications, University of Melbourne

Stevie Marsden is a researcher and lecturer in contemporary publishing culture and practice and has written extensively about literary prize culture in the UK. During her PhD she was an embedded researcher working with the Saltire Society in the administration and promotion of their series of literary awards. She is the author of The Saltire Society Literary Awards: A Cultural History (Anthem Press, 2020).

Dr Stevie Marsden, Research Associate, CAMEo Research Institute of Cultural and Media Economies, University of Leicester

Sun 11:30 am – 12:45 pm

Gérard Genette: Critical Reflections

Ben DaviesMCRo

Chair/Organiser: Dr Ben Davies (University of Portsmouth)

As a form of critical reflection following his recent death (2018), this session will offer a series of engagements with Gérard Genette’s impressively rich and diverse theoretical work. Panellists will give short-format papers of around ten minutes duration covering topics such as paratexts, book history, narrative speed and textual alarms. To honour the wealth and widespread use of Genette’s work, we also seek lively discussion, with comments, reflections and critiques from the floor.

Dr Alice Bennet (Liverpool Hope University)
Professor David Duff (Queen Mary, University of London)
Kate Wilkinson (ECR, Queen Mary, University of London)
Dr David Wylot (University of Leeds)

Sun 11:30 am – 12:45 pm

Intersectionality as our Shared Future: Responses to Patricia Hill Collins’ Intersectionality as Critical Social Theory (2019)

Zalfa FeghaliMMUe

Chair: Zalfa Feghali (University of Leicester)

This roundtable offers responses to Patricia Hill Collins’ Intersectionality as Critical Social Theory (2019). Intersectionality gives us a vocabulary to have conversations about our overlapping privileges and oppressions; as Collins puts it, “intersectionality stands in a meeting place of its own making” and its implications are “far reaching” (41). Working with Collins’ book as a starting point, the Journal of American Studies seeks to spark reflective conversations about the role of intersectionality within and outside “English”, including postcolonial studies, American and Canadian Studies, and Caribbean Studies, especially in relation to how intersectionality as both theory and practice can help shape the future of our fields.

Topics we may cover over the course of the 75-minute roundtable may include (and are certainly not limited to):

  • Teaching intersectionality. How do we connect this to our aspirations to inclusive curricula?
  • In what ways can we use intersectionality to reflect on our positions within (and outside) UK Higher Education?
  • Class and academia;
  • Intersectionality and the BME attainment/award gap;
  • Intersectionality, academic precarity, and neoliberal HE;
  • Intersectionality in our research;
  • Intersectionality and work around impact, outreach, and knowledge exchange.

Envisioned as a roundtable conversation, this panel will not offer formal papers beyond brief responses from speakers at the start of the session (20 minutes total) before opening up to become a q&a and broader discussion session. We hope that this format will encourage a lively conversation with the audience so that we can all engage deeply with Collins’ book while reflecting on the theory and praxis of intersectionality in our work, lives, and working lives.

Zalfa Feghali is Lecturer in American Literature at the University of Leicester, where she works on contemporary North American cultural studies, border studies, and protest writing. She is author of Crossing Borders and Queering Citizenship (Manchester UP), co-editor of the forthcoming Routledge Companion to Gender and Borderlands, and Associate Editor of the Journal of American Studies.

Rachel Gregory Fox is Lecturer in World Literature at Queen Mary, University of London, where she teaches modules on postcolonial literature and Middle Eastern writing. Her first monograph on the representational politics of Afghan, Iranian, and Pakistani women in contemporary literary and visual media is under contract with Routledge. She is also co-editing Post-Millennial Palestine: Memory, Literature, Resistance with Dr Ahmad Qabaha, which is under contract with Liverpool University Press.

Leighan Renaud is a lecturer at the New College for the Humanities where she teaches English Literature. She recently completed her PhD at the University of Leicester where she explored representations of matrifocality in contemporary Anglophone Caribbean fiction.

Gillian Roberts is Associate Professor in North American Cultural Studies at the University of Nottingham. Her current research focuses on postcolonial film adaptations. She is the author of Prizing Literature (U of Toronto P) and Discrepant Parallels (McGill-Queen’s UP) and editor of Parallel Encounters (with David Stirrup, Wilfrid Laurier UP) and Reading between the Borderlines (McGill-Queen’s UP).

Hannah Spruce is an AHRC Midlands3Cities doctoral student in English at the University of Leicester. Her research explores psychopathy narratives in contemporary Canadian and U.S. women’s writing. She is the former Managing Editor of the Journal of Languages, Texts, and Society and her research has been published in Estudios Irlandeses.

Sun 11:30 am – 12:45 pm


Kazuo Ishiguro Panel

Kristian ShawMCRf

The proposed panel will reappraise the work of Sir Kazuo Ishiguro following his recent knighthood and Nobel Prize win in 2017. Ishiguro is not simply a British author, but a complex cultural figure capable of creating global fictions which are as broad in their geographical and thematic scope as their stylistic diversity. As one of the most celebrated and critically acclaimed British authors writing today, Ishiguro’s work attempts to move beyond modernist and postmodernist paradigms and has proven to be exceptionally prescient: The Remains of the Day and The Buried Giant speak to the class divides, political ruptures and imperial nostalgia surrounding Brexit, while Never Let Me Go anticipates recent developments in biotechnology and gender and identity politics.

The panel members will attempt to situate Ishiguro’s work within current debates regarding modernism, postmodernism and postcolonialism, and examine how his fiction is central to major thematic concerns of the contemporary novel including national identity, Britishness, cosmopolitanism, memory, biotechnology, terrorism, art practice, trauma, Brexit, immigration and populist politics. Discussing Ishiguro both as a British and global author, the panel will engage with current debates regarding the politics of publishing of ethnic writers, examining how Ishiguro has managed to shape a career in resistance of narrow labelling where many other writers have struggled to achieve long-term recognition.

Sebastian Groes, Professor in English Literature, University of Wolverhampton
Kristian Shaw, Senior Lecturer in English Literature, University of Lincoln
Peter Sloane, Lecturer in English Literature, University of Lincoln
Sara Upstone, Professor in Contemporary Literature, Kingston University 

Sun 11:30 am – 12:45 pm

Literature and Form


Imagining the European Nomad: Creative Writing as Embodied Cartography (Eva Aldea)

Dr Eva Aldea is a writer and lecturer based in London, exploring issues of migration in her creative and academic work. He short story ‘Baba Ganoush’ appears in the The Epigram Books Collection of Best New Singaporean Short Stories: Volume Three (Epigram, 2017). She recently published the essay ‘The Lost European Nomad’, in Brexit and Literature: Critical and Cultural Responses (Routledge, 2018) and is currently writing a novel based on her own family’s tales of migration. She works at the University of London, teaching contemporary literature online to students across the globe.

This paper investigates the intersection of creative writing and critical theory in my own work by tracing the progress of my second novel, Stockholm. The novel mixes the facts of family narrative and the myths of historical discourse, and is informed by my interrogation of European attitudes to nation and migration through Gilles Deleuze’s theory of nomadism as developed by Rosi Braidotti. The paper proposes to present theoretical concepts in practice through readings of my creative work.

Stockholm follows an alter-ego protagonist trying to piece together who she is after suffering amnesia. Her returning memories are not only her own, but those of previous generations, revealing the stories of belonging and experiences of dislocation that have shaped her, her family and Europe itself across the centuries. By eliding the time of personal memory and a thousand years, spanning Poland, Romania, Sweden and the United Kingdom, the narrative enters the cracks in the stories of nation and ethnicity in order to imagine a European subject that as Braidotti says, “actively constructs itself in a complex and internally contradictory set of social relations”.

In this paper I investigate how the creative process of writing this novel has been subtly shaped by Braidotti’s call for a European social imaginary adequate to a beleaguered postnationalist vision. The impulse to trace the construction of personal and national identity through language led me naturally towards a practice that echoes Braidotti’s concept of material and embodied cartography. Considering the interaction between ongoing current events and personal creative practice, I will also seek to address the question of if and how, at a time when the issue of migration is turning the idea of the European Union inside out, the act of writing fiction can allow us to uncover the histories of displacement at the heart of the centre, in order envisage a new “nomadic” subjectivity for Europe and beyond.

Literature as Cultural Translation – Science and Literature in Ian McEwan’s Saturday (Marco Neves)

Marco Neves is an Invited Professor at NOVA University of Lisbon and a researcher at CETAPS. He has been a professional translator since 2002, having founded a translation company in 2006, where he is responsible for setting up and maintaining many of the essential systems, including project management procedures. He was certified as a memoQ trainer in 2015. He has been a speaker in many international conferences and a distinguished speaker, by invitation, at the American Translators Association Conference 2018, in New Orleans. His research interests include complexity in translation, translation technology, Iberian languages, Portuguese linguistics and English culture. While writing his PhD thesis on translation complexity (to be delivered in November 2019), he has been involved in many outreach activities, including interviews, encounters with students about language and translation, articles in magazines, etc. He has published six books on language, one literary essay and one novel.

Ian McEwan’s Saturday can be seen as a fictional answer to 9/11. In this novel, Ian McEwan shows how fear starts creeping into big cities and interprets terrorism as irrationality erupting into seemingly rational lives (in fact, the climatic scene is terrorism in a familiar scale, mirroring terrorism at the global stage). Saturday is also another step in a continuous literary engagement with science – the author explores the relationship of literary and scientific cultures and helps us see how both can be an answer to our questions as inhabitants of a fearful age. We’ll see how Ian McEwan’s dialogue with science is a contribution to the creation of a common intellectual culture. It goes even deeper than that: both science and literature are seen by the author as a common ground that helps repair divisions created by anti-humanist and irrationalist movements (nationalism, religious extremism, etc.). I propose “cultural translation” as a concept that allows us to productively analyse what Ian McEwan is doing, allowing us to understand how the author bridges the gap between different intellectual cultural, each with its cultural presuppositions, syntax and vocabulary.

Genre: The Way that We Make Sense of the World (Caty Flynn)

I am an ECR, and currently reading for the second year of a full-time PhD in Creative Writing at University of Salford, fully funded by the AHRC NWCDTP. My research focus is interdisciplinary, branching across disparate areas including Neuroscience, Psychology, Sociology, Linguistics and Genre theory. I am also a professional writer and my debut novel will be published by Corsair in 2021. In my academic pursuits, I am attempting to create a new theoretical framework for Literary Genre based upon research in social, psychological, and cognitive science. As a creative practitioner, I am using this research background to inform various techniques including characterisation, tone, voice, and form. I am particularly interested in trying to convey a “true” sense of memory throughout my work. As a way of combining my critical and creative practices, I hope to establish a Prosaics based upon the new genre framework, and also a new genre of the “self”. I plan to publish my PhD research on genre, and this will also result in the fashioning of my next novel. I have recently presented at international conferences on topics including Creativity, Interdisciplinarity, and Shakespeare. I also work as a part-time lecturer at UoS, teaching on modules “Shakespeare and the Play of Thought” and “Utopias and Dystopias”.

The question of what genre “is” appears to be a simple enough question and one which in all likelihood hardly merits an answer because the answer seems so obvious. After all, The Oxford English Dictionary’s first definition only uses three words. In fact, many people use and apply the term without ever considering its deeper significance, function, and meaning, while many others feel so antipathetic towards the concept that they would happily abolish the term altogether. For a long time I felt that I belonged to these groups myself but now would argue that the problem stems from the failure to recognise the much larger function that genre plays in our lives, its definition mostly being relegated to an arbitrary and systematic confinement on our artistic outputs.

My aim here is to introduce a new theoretical framework for genre which finds its foundations in research from the fields of Neuroscience, Psychology, and Sociology. I do not have any pretensions that I am a scientist, but I hope that I can provoke some critical thinking about what I believe to be the profound function of genre. In this conceptualisation, genre functions as a constantly changing feature of mental structures. Similar to memory, genre is accumulative and dynamic. A genre changes with each new work or experience, enveloping each instance and thus enriching and expanding the collective memory. When we begin to focus on and actively utilise genre, to think rhetorically in a purposeful way, we extend our understanding. I want to suggest that genre plays an implicit but crucially important role in the way that we conceptualise, communicate, understand, and create meaning. By using this novel framework, we can find even greater depths to great writers such as Shakespeare and perhaps even feel satisfied that we have “understood” their work, as well as more properly understanding our everyday ways of conceptualising.

Sun 11:30 am – 12:45 pm

Lyndsey Stonebridge’s Placeless People

Bob Eaglestone 2Opera Theatre

Lyndsey Stonebridge’s award-wining Placeless People: Writings, Rights, and Refugees (2018) has been widely-reviewed and marks a renewed engagement between the literary and the issues thrown into relief by the migration ‘crisis’.

Stonebridge’s academic activism is of particular significance for the future of English studies, and her multi-disciplinary approach in this text indicates the potential futures of literature studies and how our field may more sincerely respond to humanitarian crises. This roundtable panel session reflects on this book and poses questions for further research.

Bryan Cheyette is Professor of Modern Literature and Culture at the University of Reading. He has published ten books and co-edits (with Martin Eve) the series New Horizons for Contemporary Writing (Bloomsbury Academic). His most recent work is a short history of The Ghetto for OUP.

Hari Reed is a PhD candidate at the University of Birmingham. Her research takes an interdisciplinary approach to contemporary European refugee narratives, with a particular focus on representations of the 2015-16 ‘Calais Jungle’. This research is concerned with how literary responses to the ‘refugee crisis’ have departed from traditional humanitarian representations of refugees. Hari is also co-editor of the forum Refugee History, and a campaigner for unaccompanied child refugees in the UK.

Chelsea Haith is a fully-funded DPhil candidate at the University of Oxford, working on twenty-first century speculative fiction and urban geopolitics. She is a Mandela Rhodes scholar from Johannesburg and worked in journalism and publishing in Cape Town before moving to the University of York for her MA. She is the founder of the Futures Thinking research network and is the Research and Development Manager at Uncomfortable Oxford. Her research interests include refugee literature, gender studies, the politics of representation, urban geopolitics and speculative fiction. @chelsea_haith

Sun 11:30 am – 12:45 pm

Postcolonial Methods: New Forms, New Voices


This panel will feature both a roundtable and workshop. The first part of the panel will be used as a roundtable platform for presentations from postcolonial academics who are using new methodologies and techniques, or addressing new forms and texts, in their research. The workshop will then open a conversation on the extent to which it may be useful, or increasingly relevant, to have an expansive, open concept of what ‘literature’ and ‘narrative’ constitutes, particularly as new generations of readers engage with narratives through virtual reality (VR) stories, augmented reality (AR), video games, street literature, comics/graphic novels, and digital media.

Postcolonial research is rooted in focusing attention on the experiences of former colonised societies by including voices, stories, histories, and images from people traditionally excluded from dominant European/western descriptions of the world. This panel will allow participants and the audience to consider how new technologies and new forms can open up spaces for original voices and underrepresented narratives. In this way, by involving the audience as a workshop, the panel hopes to spark a debate, and hopefully abate anxieties, over the ‘literary legitimacy’ of new forms and mediums. Indeed, immersive narrative experiences, such as virtual world-making may and AR, may encourage forms of ‘postcolonial empathy’ and foster new perspectives on difficult heritage and our shared colonial past.

The roundtable and workshop will provide an accessible opportunity for the audience to think about both the ‘postcolonial’ nature of our methods as researchers and the way in which an ongoing and expanding postcolonial analysis of social, cultural, economy and political developments is highly relevant to the future of English as a field. In this way, the panel works in tandem with the PSA’s ‘Decolonising the Literary Discipline’ proposal, by expanding discussion on the specific challenges in decolonising the field and how such challenges are in flux with changing technologies and cultural forms.

The workshop aims to be highly interactive, with handout information and an audience discussion. Ideally, we would also like to invite participants to have a free VR experience of the 360 African film, The Other Dakar, produced by Senegalese fashion designer Selly Raby Kane. The film is one of multiple creations produced by Electric South, a non-profit company based in Cape Town, South Africa, who seek to use new technologies to allow African storytellers and artists to share their work and engage new audiences.

(Sponsored by the Postcolonial Studies Association)

Sun 11:30 am – 12:45 pm

Learned societies, roundtable, workshop

The Work of our Learned Societies

Gail MarshallLecture Theatre

This will be a moderated conversation between the heads of 5 learned societies, who will reflect on the work of their associations, consider how that work might change in future, analyse challenges that lie ahead, and discuss how best societies can work together to address the current landscape. The impetus for the session comes from a recent meeting of representatives of several of our learned societies, and the shared sense of that meeting that working more closely together would be highly beneficial to the societies themselves, but also to the broader English eco-system.

Participants will include:
Dinah Birch (British Association for Victorian Studies)
Andrew King (Victorian Popular Fiction Association)
Anshuman Mondal (Postcolonial Studies Association)
Cara Rodway (British Association for American Studies)
Jeremy Scott (International Association of Literary Semantics)

Sun 11:30 am – 12:45 pm

Learned societies

Transcultural Space(s) in Black British Women’s Writing

Sebnem TopluConference Room

Gender, identity and power relations are reproduced through both spatial interaction and the negotiation of private and public space. This panel intends to explore women’s relations to and representations of spaces in Black British women’s writing. The overall aim is to investigate how transcultural narratives written by black women writers address a variety of issues such as the complexity of cultural assimilation and identity formation in composite linguistic and cultural contexts. The panel will bring into focus transcultural connections in the works of Winsome Pinnock, Bernardine Evaristo and Andrea Levy.

Spaces of Encounter in Winsome Pinnock’s Leave Taking (Dr. Giovanna Buonanno -University of Modena and Reggio Emilia)

The play Leave Taking, originally written and staged in 1987 and revived at the Bush Theatre in London in 2018, revolves around the life of a Caribbean family in North London and dramatizes the tension between the first-generation immigrant Enid and her second-generation daughters Del and Viv. Memories of Enid’s mother who worked on a sugar plantation help to fill the gaps in the family’s history, a history that is shaped by migration and displacement across continents. The play hinges on the generational clash and mother-daughter relationship, while bringing to the fore a web of interconnected issues such as the tension between home and ‘back home’, personal aspirations vs. cultural allegiance, the long shadow of slavery and colonialism. This paper aims to show that the theatrical space becomes the site for the negotiation of transcultural spaces and the retrieval of female stories and memories across continents and generations.

Networking Women in a Space of Emplacement: Bernardine Evaristo’s Girl, Woman, Other (Prof. Dr. Sebnem Toplu- Ege University)

Evaristo’s novel Girl, Woman, Other (2019) is based on women at several stages of life: from a wide range of physical and psychological backgrounds, of diverse ages spanned in a century, covering a large spectrum of issues. Yet, Evaristo creates a rhizomic network of relationships. Foucault in “Of Other Spaces, Heterotopias” states that “[t]here were places where things had been put because they had been violently displaced, and then on the contrary places where things found their natural ground and stability. It was this complete hierarchy, this opposition, this intersection of places that constituted what could very roughly be called […]: the space of emplacement”. Thereby, this paper explores how women characters create their spaces of emplacement and argue that in their network women are deployed in a position to fight for their space in the society.

“Why Are You Here?” Gender, Place and Memory in Andrea Levy’s Short Fictions and Essays (Senior Lecturer Dr. Charlotte Beyer- University of Gloucestershire)

In Six Stories and an Essay (2014), Andrea Levy explored fragments of memory and representations of black British subjectivities negotiating complex hostile and/or indifferent spaces. This paper uses the phrase, “why are you here” from Levy’s essay, “Back to My Own Country”, as starting-point for exploring her use of the short prose form to interrogate ideas of belonging, place and literary production in selected texts from Six Stories and an Essay. Examining these short fictions and the accompanying prose essay which reassesses her own and her family’s history, my paper argues that this work throws fresh light on Levy’s evolving poetics as a black British author. Levy’s short prose texts and annotations provide intriguing glimpses into Levy’s imagination, and align with the rest of her body of work to produce a powerful and compelling critique of gender and post-Windrush black British identities.

Sun 11:30 am – 12:45 pm

Walking into Place: a towpath view of Manchester

Sarah JasmonTBC

‘Below the hills a narrow river (the Irwell), which flows slowly to the Irish sea. Two streams (the Meddlock and the Irk) wind through the uneven ground…into the river. Three canals made by man unite their tranquil, lazy waters at the same point.’

Alexis De Tocqueville (1835), ‘Manchester’, from Journeys to England and Ireland

‘I had no difficulty in finding my way, since everything in Manchester had essentially remained the same as it had been almost a quarter of a century before. The buildings that had been put up to stave off the general decline were now themselves in the grip of decay, and even the so-called development zones, created in recent years…along the Ship Canal…already looked semi-abandoned.’

W.G. Sebald (1996), The Emigrants

‘It was in Manchester, during the Industrial Revolution, that the suburb came into its own… Men commuted to work and women to shop by private carriages, then horse-drawn omnibuses (which, in Manchester, were priced too high to accommodate the poor), and eventually trains. In fleeing the poor and the city, they had left behind pedestrian scale.’

Rebecca Solnit (2002), Wanderlust

Walking up Oxford Road, from All Saints at MMU towards the Palace Theatre, is to participate in a Richard Scarry cityscape, with cars and buses and trains and bicycles and pavements packed with students. To drop down to the canal is to enter a different timeframe, where layers of history and development can become apparent. Rivers dictated the location of the original city of Manchester, as represented by the three blue lines of the Irwell, Medlock and Irk on the city’s coat of arms; canals brought about its second incarnation, as industrial powerhouse. Both forms of waterway have been left behind as the city marches on.

I use the water to navigate my engagement with the city, and walking as a practical means of transport. Walking is integral to my writing about place, combining the immersive experience of being-in-place with the way in which the rhythm of walking triggers the creative process. Emerging out of my creative-critical PhD on writing Manchester’s canals, this participatory session will explore a creative engagement with place on foot: from the central thoroughfare of Oxford Road, along the Rochdale Canal to Castlefield, and then along to the point at which the River Irwell becomes the Manchester Ship Canal.

There will be stops made for creative prompts, the sharing of historical fragments relating to particular places, and trigger questions to stimulate discussion about our relationship with place. These will allow for creative responses in a range of literary forms and that will be recorded in situ on index cards. The cards will then be curated into a (semi) coherent whole piece at the conference base camp, to be displayed on a large-scale map of the walk itself. As my research interests open up the waterways to the workshop participants, so will there be a symbiotic return: the more I walk along these watery routes – and the more familiar they become to me – the more I am inclined to view them from my particular viewpoint. In gathering impressions of, and ways of engaging with, this particular environment from the other participants, I will be able to deepen and enrich the response I myself create.

The walk itself will take approximately one hour, there and back, with a maximum of 15 participants. With the creative stopping points, it will probably be best suited to a double session, though the itinerary could be adapted to fit within a 75-minute session if necessary. There are steps leading down from Oxford Road to the Rochdale Canal towpath, but there is an alternative access point with no steps.

Sarah Jasmon (PhD student, Manchester Metropolitan University)

Sun 11:30 am – 12:45 pm

When an early career in academia is a second career

Katharine WilkinsonSeminar Room 2

What does it mean to consider an academic career in English as a second career? This session focuses on this question, drawing on available research into the profile of Early Career Academics (ECAs) in their 40s and 50s and on speakers’ personal experiences. A roundtable will be followed by workshop-style discussion, aiming to identify challenges and opportunities for mid-life ECAs and good practice for supporting research and career development.

The terms Early Career Academic and Early Career Researcher are used flexibly to describe people in a wide range of career stages, from PhD students to several years post-doctorate. The average age for completing a PhD in the UK is around 27 (according to the European University Institute), though many ECAs in English begin their PhD study at a later age. The environment for all ECAs is challenging and precarious, and this session will explore how age, family responsibilities and gender can affect access to opportunities for mid-life ECAs in particular.

Structural issues to consider include the available study and funding options for a PhD, for example, which is in most cases the necessary qualification for an academic career. Full-time study can be difficult to combine with family responsibilities and commitments that may require supplementary income. Evening events and weekend conferences present challenges for all ECAs with caring responsibilities, and women ECAs can face additional challenges in terms of progression and visible career routes.

Previous professional experience in some cases may be an advantage – a career in teaching, for example, or in creative writing – but in most cases it is unlikely to be relevant when applying for academic jobs in English. What are the implications and impacts of this for ECAs and for universities as employers? The experience of being ‘early’ career in mid-life can produce a sense of ‘belatedness’, for example, as ECAs negotiate new forms of peer and professional relationships. And for universities, as places of study and as employers, there may be questions of age and inclusivity to consider, in training for PhD researchers and for associate teaching staff.

The session will also explore mid-life ECAs’ experience of teaching, where relevant issues include student experiences (both ECAs’ and their students’), student perceptions, training needs and access to mentoring relationships.


Christine Hawkins, Teaching Associate, Queen Mary University of London

Dr Kate Wilkinson, Teaching Associate, Queen Mary University of London

Caroline Wintersgill , Senior Teaching Fellow, University College London

Sun 11:30 am – 12:45 pm

Early Career Academics, ECAs

Writing in/and different media

Seminar Room 3

Sentiment interpretation in online text messages: Emojis relevance in computer mediated communication (Rasha Alsabbah)

In the current era, characterised by technology revolution, emojis have been a necessity in reflecting the speakers’ sentiment, nonverbal behaviour, facial expressions, reactions, and, perhaps, enhancing politeness. It also serves in reducing the effort in typing, meantime, saving time. This study peruses a variant path from the usual studies found in the literature. Instead of adopting a sentiment analysis of phrases that incorporate emojis, it aims at assigning emojis for phrases and messages. A number of synchronic messages has been identified, which do not contain emojis. Some of these messages were in Arabic and others were in English. It is proposed that English needs the incorporation of emojis more than Arabic as Arabic speakers tend to write longer sentences and mostly use linguistic expressions that reflect their emotions. English, on the other hand needs to be supported by emojis so as the speakers’ intention would be transmitted successfully. Respondents, who speak the two languages fluently, were asked to interpret the possible feeling of the speakers by assigning the suitable emoji. this study supports others in the literature regarding the necessity of supporting online messages with emojis.

Say Nothing – the Radical Attention of Creative Writing (Julia Bell)

One of the effects of the connected net is that we are to an extent all writers now. There are an estimated 3 trillion words written online every day. Individuals are now expected to create and curate an identity and writing and reading are no longer acts done in silence and solitude but become a performance of writing and reading – #amwriting.

This creates a kind of public thinking which also, because people are screened from each other, makes them less inhibited or guarded than they might be in the ‘meatspace’ of the physical social sphere. Hyperbole abounds in clickbait headlines, as does the language of piety and bragging, outrage, oversharing and outright lying. And a new language of symbols and emojis and shorthand. In a way we are drowning in language but disorientated because we lack a common meaning. It’s all very well having all this capacity to connect but what do we want to achieve with it? And how has this affected the kind of writing which is being done both inside and outside the classroom, and our mental and physical health?

Taking the thesis from my new short polemic – Radical Attention (Peninsula Press April 2020) – this lecture addresses how Creative Writing teaching can be positioned as a space of radical opposition to this kind of saturation. How writing exercises which encourage deep looking/listening/thinking can act as a counterweight to the reactive, impulsive demands of social media. As Gilles Deluze observes in Negotiations: ‘we’re riddled with pointless talk, insane quantities of words and images. Stupidity’s never blind or mute. So it’s not a problem of getting people to express themselves but of providing little gaps of solitude and silence in which they might eventually find something to say. Repressive forces don’t stop people expressing themselves but rather force them to express themselves; what a relief to have nothing to say, the right to say nothing, because only then is there a chance of framing the rare, and ever rarer, thing that might be worth saying.’

Tell Don’t Show (Adam Ganz)

In my paper Tell Don’t Show I want look at how words and images can speak to one another without either describing or being illustrated. I would like to talk about the relationship between words and pictures in creative writing through short stories I was commissioned to write stories to accompany the work of 4 different photographers by Hotshoe International. where I explored the ideas of lensbased writing a topic I proposed in an essay “‘To make you see’: Screenwriting, description and the ‛lens-based’ tradition” (Ganz, A 2013, ‘Journal of Screenwriting, vol. 4, no. 1, pp. 7-24.) which introduces the notion of lens-based writing and claims the essence of screenwriting “is to indicate a visual experience in prose”. The photographers to whom I responded use the medium in very different ways. In Elemental Roger Ballen one of the world’s leading photographers creates staged representations of an inner world. MIshka Henner’s Feedlots are satellite images of huge Texas ranches, drawing on romantic notions of the American West to convey the relationship with nature as factory, whilst Lauren Rooney’s Chapels of Rest series have a metaphorical resonance. In each story I explore techniques of character and narrative voice through different I/eye narrators, a man remembering his father’s suicide, a lesbian vet at a big cattle ranch, a former soldier working for a funeral supply firm. Each fictional figure comes to understand the world through the images the photographer has created. The stories maintain rhythmic links between image and text (which I have also discussed in writings on ballads and oral narrative) and aim to recreate photographic affect in another medium. How do time, and rhythm function in and across the two media.The intention was to offer a reading of the images without closing down others, through characters who don’t appear in the work but
are evoked by it. This continues a broader interest in ekphrasis and text-image relations and the capacity of the word to communicate meaning and affect in a manner similar to, but not identical with, with photography.

Narrative textiles: stitch as literature (Heather Richardson)

How do we tell a story when working with needle, thread and fabric instead of pen and paper or a keyboard and screen? How does close physical engagement with the production of an artefact change the way we write and think about the story we are telling? And how do readers respond to a story told in a three-dimensional tactile form? This paper will draw on my experience of creating two narrative textile pieces: ‘A dress for Kathleen’, a creative nonfiction work exploring family history, memory and place in the form of a dress, and ‘You are here’, which imagines the experience of three young women in the past, present and future through a trio of emblematic garments. My work combines text and textiles, with the garments as the surface on which the words are written in stitch.
Instagram @a_dress_for_kathleen

Sun 11:30 am – 12:45 pm

1:00 pm – 2:15 pm Sunday Session III

A Body of Words: The Apologetic Body

Helen MortMCRf

The body is a strange home. Our relationship with our bodies is characterised by a deep ambivalence that we grapple with, inevitably, on a daily basis. We both live inside our bodies, and in complex ways attempt to elude them. This panel presents perspectives from creative writers and academics on the female body and the urge to apologise for it, looking at how bodies are represented in literature from the perspective of readers and writers. How does our ambivalence about the body express itself in the tendency to apologise and how might we become unapologetic in our physicality? Creative and critical perspectives are combined.

Hunger (Dr Muzna Rahman)

Lecturer in English, Manchester Metropolitan University

Muzna’s paper explores how the body is inscribed and read, focusing on the notion of weight. This paper looks at the writing of Roxanne Gay – specifically her memoir ‘Hunger’ – from the perspective of literary food studies, and explores the abjectification of the racially and aesthetically othered obese female body. It examines the politics of space (both space given to, and space taken up) and subjectivity in the context of the ‘too-big’ female somatic self. The epigraph to Hunger reads: ‘Every body has a story and a history.’ Whilst agreeing with the sentiment, Muzna argues for rephrasing it: ‘every body IS a story, and a history.’ This paper explores the female body-as-text, and explores its insertion and function in the social.

Sorry, My Fault (Dr Helen Mort)

Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing, Manchester Metropolitan University

In 2019, Helen was commissioned by Radio Three to write a series of essays exploring her tendency to over-apologise, to say sorry when it might not be warranted. This practice-based paper reflects on that experience, examining how female poets use the concept of apology to write about their bodies, particularly in relation to sexual assault and the ‘MeToo’ movement. It links the concept of being ‘at fault’ to the physical notion of a fault line – a fissure or crack in the ground – and to the female body. It draws on poems by Hannah Copley, Layli Long Soldier and Alan Buckley. Helen’s own creative work often seeks to apologise, but she has also written about unapologetic female figures, from early mountaineers to Hull’s Lilian Bilocca, a fishwife and strident political campaigner who faced abuse from the media because of her weight. She reflects on how the two impulses – to apologise and to celebrate those who do not apologise – combine in her writing, how often apology contains a paradox.

Unchecked States (Dr Hannah Copley)

Lecturer in Creative Writing, University of Westminster

In this practice-based paper, Hannah will examine the idea of the apologetic body through the lens of pregnancy and sickness. In particular, she will focus on the experience and representation of extreme morning sickness, and explore how the inability to control or ‘inhibit’ the functions of the body in this context might allow – or even force – a wider renegotiation with secrecy, confession, and personal and creative editing. Drawing upon the writing of Denise Riley, Holly Pester and Sandeep Parmer, and reading pieces from her own upcoming collection, Hannah will ask what it means to produce an unapologetic body of words; a form and content that seeks to emit rather than omit its own ambivalence.

Sun 1:00 pm – 2:15 pm

Applying English methodologies to other disciplines


The potential of autobiographically informed fiction in UK further education (Rebecca Moden (Salford))

Products of Conception: using life writing and critical writing to interrogate concepts of motherhood and madness (Sabina Dosani (UEA))

New Approaches to Law and Literature: Revisiting the Core Concepts of Transitional Justice (Anna Katila (KCL))

Sun 1:00 pm – 2:15 pm

Early Career Academics, ECAs

Applying interdisciplinary methodologies to studying literary texts


Judy Blume Who?: Girls’ Fiction and Interdisciplinary Oversight (Ya’ara Notea (KCL))

Exploiting Magnificence: Hart Crane versus T.S. Eliot on the matter of diction (Nadira Wallace (Royal Holloway))

Bridging the gap between philosophy and linguistics: the value of possible worlds theory as a tool for integrating philosophical and stylistic approaches to English and exploring emotional responses to texts (Megan Mansworth (Aston University))

‘There are no rebels here’: the D’Oyly Carte Opera Company in Ireland (Eleanor Lybeck (Oxford))

Sun 1:00 pm – 2:15 pm

Early Career Academics, ECAs

Caribbean Literary Heritage: Recovering the Lost Past and Safeguarding the Future

Jennifer McDerraConference Room

We’d like to share early discoveries from our Caribbean Literary Heritage project focusing on the recovery and preservation of literary histories and the importance of private and public archives.

The key objectives for this session are i) to showcase the methodologies we have used to conduct a transatlantic recovery research project across a number of sites in the UK and Caribbean, and ii) make connections with other people interested in or already doing similar work.

Featuring findings from archival research in the Caribbean, UK and US, an online authors’ survey, new writing commissions in partnership with BOCAS Literature Festival, Trinidad and a podcast series we will explore why we gathered and how we hope to distribute our findings to create a lasting resource for future writers and researchers from multiple disciplines and regions.

Each member of the team will share the highlights from their individual research project in a relaxed, roundtable style setting (12 mins each). Engagement will be encouraged in response to archive materials and interview samples which we’ll intersperse to animate our explanations.

A concluding 25 minute split session will offer attendees the opportunity to participate in one of the following interactive groups co-facilitated by a senior and junior researcher from the team.

Session 1 focussing on researching in public and private archives in the UK and Caribbean will be co-facilitated by Prof Alison Donnell and Jen McDerra.

Session 2 will focus on the joys and perils of working with contemporary authors as research subjects, co-facilitated by Dr Marta Fernandez Campa and Zakiya McKenzie.


Prof. Alison Donnell | Head of Literature, Drama and Creative Writing | UEA
Dr Marta Fernandez Campa | Research Associate | UEA
Zakiya McKenzie | Postgraduate Researcher | University of Exeter
Jen McDerra | Postgraduate Researcher | UE

Sun 1:00 pm – 2:15 pm

Decolonising: cross-disciplinary perspectives on research and pedagogic praxis

Angelique RichardsonOpera Theatre

This panel considers current calls to decolonise the academy through productive and at times frictional exchanges between disciplines, and with publics outside universities, in addressing the role of English Studies in the current political moment. We are concerned with methods of working out new structures of education with and for future generations, and with foregrounding contemporary meanings and forms of social justice in the humanities and social sciences. To do this necessitates working across disciplines – not to collapse their differences, but to generate approaches to teaching and research that equip academics with tools to engage creatively with decolonial praxis.

The complex task of the academy at this point in time is not only to reform the content of its research and teaching, but to confront its participation in colonial infrastructure. We will consider accusations – inflected with a mistrust-the-expert, post-truth move – that universities are spaces for a liberal elite that is disconnected from political realities and, equally, the notion that English Studies should be a bastion of national culture, amid the global resurgence of ethnonationalism and an accelerating climate emergency. We understand decolonising as an intersectional and intellectual project concerned with challenging the systemic reproduction of inequalities – racial capitalism, gender, disability, sexuality, climate poverty, and class – which is necessarily international in perspective.

The panel will clarify that decolonising within a single discipline, as well as working across disciplines, is not about imposing a uniform standard of conduct. Rather, it involves disrupting and challenging the current instrumentalisation of the privilege of assumed neutrality and free speech as unequivocal standards of academic freedom, demonstrating instead that freedom within universities should be committed to facilitating the making of social justice within and outside them.

Methods of Reading and Anti-Racist Care (Dr Lara Choksey)

Postdoctoral Research Associate, Wellcome Centre for Cultures and Environments of Health, University of Exeter Email: L.Choksey@exeter.ac.uk

In debates over the recent take-up of decolonial projects in institutions designed to house the knowledge and spoils of colonialism – most notably, universities and museums – the focus on content (curricula, objects, people) often obscures the evasion of radical methods of return and reparation that decolonial praxis necessitates. This focus on content over method has allowed movements like Rhodes Must Fall and Decolonise the University to become mischaracterised as single-issue identity politics. But if we are to take the project of decolonising seriously, this means not just naming and contextualising, but taking down forms that have kept this knowledge and these objects in the places assigned to them. Countering – in Ben Pitcher’s words – the “fatalistic tendency to conceive of antiracism as a minority or elite concern” (2019) means encountering institutional racism in the grammar of its processes: in the delineation of limits through parentheses, quotas, and the language of diversity. Here, I identify four words as provocations towards anti-racist methods across research and teaching: identification, participation, catastrophe, and extraction. While these words are key to practices of reading in English Studies, and in communicating these readings to other readers, they also foreclose their own annihilation. If we learn to read with care, as the annihilation of colonial infrastructure, we might both acknowledge complicity in processes of systemic exclusion, and make possible radical forms of return and reparation.

Victorian eugenics and productivity and racial capitalism in 2020 Britain (Professor Angelique Richardson)

Professor of English, University of Exeter Email: A.Richardson@exeter.ac.uk

This paper will consider ways in which Victorian eugenics, while in Britain largely to do with class, was underpinned by a notion of service to the British imperial race and propped up by discourses of patriotism. I will track significant parallels, using Galton’s early periodical work as founding texts of eugenics and his 1910 utopian (read dystopian) romance as a subsequent barometer of eugenic attitudes. I will consider opinions about immigration in the late nineteenth century and how these were fed by notions of productivity and racial capitalism in ways that find resonance today in discourses on disability and ethnonationalism and in hostile environment policy. These readings will demonstrate the political importance of reading the present historically.

Decolonising peace and conflict studies (Dr Malaka Shwaikh)

Associate Lecturer in Peace and Conflict Studies, University of St Andrews Email: mmbs1@st-andrews.ac.uk

The field of peace and conflict studies is a recent one, founded in the 1960s by the Norwegian sociologist Johan Galtung. It has gone through several changes in the last half century, but it fails to establish itself as an independent field of study that takes a holistic approach to decoloniality and structural racism. In the world in which we live today, most conflicts seem to take place in what is habitually referred to as the Middle East, an area that has long been devastated by the impacts of a colonialism that is described as western. Without understanding such impacts on the people in this region and beyond, it will take us even longer to live in a just world. This paper examines the importance of the decolonial approach to the peace and conflict studies as a field of study and as a practical approach to life with mutual and equal rights.

Decolonising African writing: Kenyan case studies (Idris Yana)

PhD researcher, Department of English, University of Exeter and Lecturer in English and Literary Studies, Department of Languages, Faculty of Humanities, Sule Lamido University, Nigeria Email: iy215@exeter.ac.uk

Intellectual activism was a pillar upon which African political structure was built. Writing was used to fight colonialism, re-narrate African history and stories, and critique the emergent African leaders when they failed to fulfil their promises. Decolonising the 21st-century intellectual sphere, as an intellectual endeavour itself, must be self-reflexive hence the need to meta-decolonise our project, especially around the place and contribution of women. The writings of female Africans were oppressed, and doubly so, by the canonised Empire narratives and by that of their male African counterparts. This paper explicates the works of Kenyan women writers such as Grace Ogot, Rebeka Njau and Muthoni Likimani as spaces for the processes of decolonisation to understand and include.

Decolonisation in Museums and Galleries (Sarah Campbell)

Associate Director for Arts and Culture, University of Exeter Email: S.E.Campbell2@exeter.ac.uk

Decolonisation is not just a university issue. Museums and galleries are publicly and politically engaging with it too. To succeed, they need to change everything from collection policies to how objects are written about and displayed, from the way histories are narrated to staffing and pay. There is movement, a result of both internal and external pressures, but the argument is far from won. This paper will share examples from UK, US, and New Zealand museums and galleries, to demonstrate that while decolonisation is an international concern, the response is shaped by specific cultural and social contexts.

Sun 1:00 pm – 2:15 pm

Didactics in reverse: looking critically at skills discussions in the English subject discipline

Paddy BullardMCRh

The ‘Didactics in Reverse’ roundtable addresses a set of problems that trouble many English subject professionals when they are asked to explain their discipline to prospective students. What skills are taught in an English degree programme? And how exactly do English graduates to use them once they leave university? The Subject Benchmark Statement for English (2015) sets out with laconic clarity the categories of ‘subject knowledge’, ‘skills specific to English’ and ‘generic skills’ in which we deal. The terseness of these specifications is replicated in Programme Specifications for English degrees up and down the country. We are used to describing the skills of our discipline in a language that is almost abstract in its economy. We also understand how far short that language falls from describing the skills that all sorts of English graduates practice every day in their working lives, or the sources of those skills in the study of language or literature.

Correspondingly, the conversation about English subject skills is divided upon itself. On one side is the data-driven instrumentality of the employability agenda; on the other is the tradition of humanistic explanation and counter-critique that seeks to explain, either positively or negatively, the values and moralities of the discipline. The ‘Didactics in Reverse’ roundtable seeks to find a middle way through this division by looking critically at how we discuss the skills of our discipline. Our aim is to examine impartially the contradictions and difficulties in which that discussion involves us. Instead of projecting our discipline into the world of work, we want to reverse the perspective: what does and what should our discipline look like from the world outside the university sector?

Round Table Participants:
Nicola Abram (University of Reading)
Will May (University of Southampton)
Paddy Bullard (University of Reading)
Amy Sackville (University of Kent)
And two further panellists, to be confirmed.

Sun 1:00 pm – 2:15 pm


Found in translation? Voicing the feminine across borders.

Ursula HanleyMMUd

This panel proposes a “research in progress” session, in which researchers at different career stages unfold a conversation interspersed with multimedia clips and short creative readings. Varied methodological and disciplinary approaches coalesce around the theme of translation, engaging issues of mental health and decolonisation as they intersect with feminine experience.

Leslie McMurtry, early career researcher and Lecturer in Radio Studies, will open a critical discussion of “The Vampire in Translation” in which she explores Angela Carter’s adaptation practices as they relate to radio and the short story. Angela Carter well understood the intrinsic qualities of radio. According to Lorna Sage (1994:1), this was in part due to Carter’s embodiment of the “wise woman” and the oral tradition of storytelling that this role implies. In 1976, Carter’s original radio drama Vampirella was broadcast on Radio 3, beginning her long association with BBC radio drama. Uniquely, Carter translated Vampirella across media when she reworked it as the 1979 short story “The Lady of the House of Love.” A complete artistic circle was accomplished in 2015 when “The Lady of the House of Love” was “retranslated” across media as an adapted reading for Radio 4 Extra. Leslie will explore how Carter’s understanding of the ontology of the media in which she worked (radio, short story) influenced her repositioning of the narrative of Vampirella / “The Lady of the House of Love.” Sound clips and readings will be included.

Rachel Newsome, PhD candidate and Lecturer in Critical and Contextual Studies, will offer an account of her practice-led research exploring the short story as a container for trauma. Informed by her experience of Jungian analysis, Rachel’s creative writing traverses borders between inner and outer realms to investigate how trauma can be represented and worked through with the aim of shedding light on difficult and intangible experiences and emotions (Van Der Weil 2014). Sharing works in progress that explore vampiric imagery, ghostly archetypes and the ways metaphoric symbolisation can enable the passage between invisible borders (May 1989; Woodman 1997) she will ask: where do the borders between inner “trauma worlds” (Sieff 2017) and the external world begin and end? How can they be crossed in the real and the imaginary? What are the ways this border-crossing can enrich an understanding of trauma for writers and readers alike when more broadly considered in terms of health and well-being (DeSalvo 2000)?

Szilvia Naray-Davey, early career researcher and Lecturer in Drama and Translation, and Ursula Hurley, Senior Lecturer in English and Creative Writing, will explore decolonising the reproductive body via co-translation of Anna Szabó’s short fiction. Offering a Hungarian/English reading they will draw on a developing collaborative feminist translation project to reflect critically upon efforts to relocate contemporary Hungarian short fiction by women into English. This account is particularly concerned with exploring how we might honour and amplify the source text’s politics when it is adapted to a new language, different readerships, and political contexts. The focus of this exploration is Anna Szabó’s short story, “Moon and Palm”, and the experience of translating it. Their translation process engages Eve Ellen Frank’s concept of literary architecture (1983) to “unbuild” the Hungarian text into English. The process of unbuilding aims to evolve feminist translation practices which decolonise spaces and territories in various ways.

Together, the researchers will open a conversation around female vampires, Eastern European constructs, inner and outer worlds, and geographical and bodily territories as they help us to delineate gendered experiences across borders.

All panellists are members of the School of Arts and Media, The University of Salford

Sun 1:00 pm – 2:15 pm

Making a Difference: between theory and pedagogy in a suburban London post-92 institution

Helen PalmerMCRg

Demands to ‘vocationalise’ HE curricula will likely be felt most acutely by teaching staff at post-92 universities, many of which are currently narrowing English provision in their drive to become more ‘practical’ in their focus. This panel discusses survival strategies in the face of such institutional pressures, and considers responses that do not abandon, but instead reaffirm, a commitment to both research-led teaching and student experience. Representing one English Literature department in a post-92 university, the panellists focus on how their research cluster ‘Race/Gender Matters’ – which explores the political and ethical dimensions of (new) materialist theory in new configurations of gender, race, class and the environment – is of particular relevance in a socially diverse, London suburb-located institution.

The Past is a Foreign Country, They Teach Things Differently There

Matthew Birchwood will reflect on the relevance of early modern studies to an institution dedicated to the delivery of a diverse curriculum. The commitment to ensure that the student community ought to be able to see themselves in the curriculum has been a key principle underpinning pedagogical advancement in recent years. Far from being a prescriptive or narrowing injunction, this is an opportunity for research-led teaching to shape the syllabus in exciting ways. If Shakespeare might still be considered as a canonical keystone, then by whom and to what end? How is Shakespeare’s authority (mis)appropriated by those shaping our current and future predicaments? What if the Renaissance wasn’t so ‘European’ after all? This paper will draw together a number of recent developments in early modern studies and teaching practice towards addressing an urgent and contemporary problem: the defence of the Humanities.

Narrative Ecologies: Situating Suburban Stories outside of the Seminar Room

Martin Dines will discuss new ways of appraising stories about the ordinary yet diverse environments of suburban London. The paper considers such suburban stories as ‘narrative ecologies’: complex assemblages of ongoing stories about particular sites that emphasise their connectedness with other spaces, processes and histories. Dines discusses how this perspective has informed the development of ‘walking seminars’, which utilise smartphone-based apps that enable students to engage with suburban stories and environments simultaneously, in order to encourage critical reflection on the production and consumption of dominant and marginalised narratives of suburbia.

iPhone or Stein: Decomposing Matter and the Algorithmic Absurd

Helen Palmer will discuss the ways in which language, space and time figure within new materialist discussions around the agency of matter, and will demonstrate how the disruptive opacity of syntactical and lexical play in modernist writing can be synthesised algorithmically – sometimes by mistake. Through a consideration of the ‘algorithmic condition’ (Colman et al. 2018), a term coined by some new materialist thinkers in a development of both Lyotard’s ‘postmodern condition’ and Arendt’s ‘human condition’, the paper will think through the agency of linguistic digital fragments and the relationship of bodies to language, ultimately articulating a defence of the strange and the ludic as revolutionary pedagogical gestures.

Arendt, H. (1958) The Human Condition.
Colman, F. et al. (2018) Ethics of Coding: A Report on the Algorithmic Condition [EoC]. http://cordis.europa.eu/project/rcn/207025_en.html.
Lyotard, J-F. (1979) The Postmodern Condition

Sun 1:00 pm – 2:15 pm

Multimodality and Creative Writing: identifying ‘the problem’, presenting solutions

Josie BarnardMMUc

The objective of this session is to present innovative new research into multimodality as it affects creative writing teaching, learning and practice. The session – which includes introduction, illustrative case studies and an interactive conclusion – addresses the impact of the ‘digital turn’ on Creative Writing and presents solutions.

Dr. Josie Barnard SFHEA outlines the main challenges that the 21st century’s increasingly multimodal writing and publishing landscape presents teachers, learners and practitioners in the field of Creative Writing. Drawing on the programme of research represented by her monograph ‘The Multimodal Writer’ (2019), Dr Barnard considers how every aspect of work as a creative writer is affected by the ‘digital turn’, from the beginnings of creative process through to publication and how stories are read.

Updates of software and hardware come thick and fast. ‘Never before have the technologies of writing contributed so quickly to the generation of new genres,’ notes Yancey (2014, 63). The exponential growth of new media technologies brings exciting opportunities for writers, and challenges. As Kress (2010, 7) notes, ‘using tools that had served well to fix horse-drawn carriages becomes a problem in mending contemporary cars’. The new ‘tools’ presented in this session include ‘remediation of practice’ ‘whereby – as new challenges and opportunities arise – a writer looks to existing skills and prior experience and adapts or applies them in new contexts as part of a process of, in effect, collaborating with him or herself’ (Barnard, 2017, 1) in order to enable a systematic and ongoing transfer of skills.

Case study 1 gives close focus to an example of remediated practice.
Sarah Gibson-Yates looks at the impact of visual culture on the way we process information and construct narratives, from the perspective of a creative practitioner. Drawn from PhD research into the languages and practices of writing digital culture into contemporary young adult literature, she will contextualise the work within her background in filmmaking and screenwriting, and reflect on the unique challenges of writing a novel concerned with representing the impact of audio-visual culture within a book intended for traditional print distribution. Gibson-Yates’s solution has been to adapt screenwriting conventions to simultaneously dramatise and narrate the memories of her first-person narrator protagonist. In turn, raising relevant questions around the construction, use and interpretation of audio-visual culture, within the context of developing a multimodal writing practice.

Case study 2 considers how remediation of practice can be employed for creative productions that involve audience interaction.
Dr. Amy Spencer examines ambient literature as a case study of a multimodal form of digital writing. Here, narrative is delivered by pervasive computing platforms and responds to the presence of a reader. The reading experience operates both spatially and temporally and a reader is brought into contact with a physical location as part of the narrative as well as with immersive digital technologies. Dr. Spencer considers how writers can engage readers in this digital form by asking them to simultaneously navigate both a physical and imaginative world, while being embodied in a narrative.

‘The problem’ referred to in the title is that there is no single toolkit of technical skills that will survive the constant change that is perhaps the defining characteristic of the digital writing and publishing landscape. Creative flexibility is key. The introduction and overview and case studies present sample methods of developing such creative flexibility. As well as summing up the session, the conclusion is interactive, with panelists and audience working together to agree a new definition of ‘digital literacy’ that is fit for the 21st century.


• Barnard, Josie (2017) ‘Testing Possibilities: on negotiating writing practices in a “postdigital” age (tools and methods)’, in New Writing: The International Journal for the Practice and Theory of Creative Writing, 14: 2, Routledge, DOI: 10.1080/14790726.2016.127802; pp. 275-289
• Barnard, Josie (2019) The Multimodal Writer: Creative Writing Across Genres and Media (London: Macmillan International Higher Education, Red Globe Press)
• Kress, Gunther (2010) Multimodality: A Social Semiotic Approach to Contemporary Communication (London: Routledge)
• Yancey, Kathleen Blake (2014) ‘Made not only in words: Composition in a new key’ in Claire Lutkewitte (ed.), Multimodal Composition: A Critical Sourcebook (Boston, New York: Bedford Books) pp. 74–75.

Dr. Josie Barnard SFHEA, Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing with Journalism, Middlesex University
Dr. Josie Barnard SFHEA is a writer, broadcaster and academic. Her research interests centre on the impact of the ‘digital turn’ on writing and publishing, with specialist areas in employability and social media, subjects on which she has published in peer reviewed journals including New Writing: The International Journal for the Practice and Theory of Creative Writing. In addition to her monograph The Multimodal Writer (2019), she has published five books for Virago/Little Brown, including the Betty Trask award-winning novel Poker Face. Her print and broadcast journalism includes features and programmes for outlets such as BBC Radio 4, the Guardian, the Independent and the Times Literary Supplement. She is a member of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Digital Skills and Inclusion Research Working Group.

Sarah Gibson-Yates, Senior lecturer and Course Leader for the Film and Media Combined BA, Anglia Ruskin University:
Sarah Gibson Yates is a Senior lecturer and Course Leader for the Film and Media Combined BA at Anglia Ruskin University, she is also a writer and filmmaker. Her practice based PhD explores writing digital culture into young adult literature through the production of a novel for young adults using multimodal writing including screenplay, podcast scripts and social media messaging. This strategy locates the reader within the screen mind of the protagonist, playing with multimodal narrative perspectives afforded by different modes of writing practice. Sarah has worked within film education for cinemas and film festivals as well within the community, and as a filmmaker directing and writing short fiction and documentary films. Further info: www.sarahgibsonyates.net.

Dr. Amy Spencer, Post-Doctoral Research Assistant, Bath Spa University:
Dr Amy Spencer is a post-doctoral research assistant and writer. She has a PhD from Goldsmiths, University of London, where her research focused on understanding the process of collaborative authorship in digital writing. She has worked at UWE Bristol as a post-doctoral research fellow as part of the Ambient Literature Research Project and her current research at Bath Spa University addresses the affordance of mobile technologies for telling stories. Amy writes both fiction and non-fiction and is the author of DIY: The Rise of Lo-Fi Culture and editor of the forthcoming essay collection ‘Ambient Stories: Digital Writing in Place’.

Sun 1:00 pm – 2:15 pm

Naomi Alderman’s Fictional Worlds

Caroline Owen WintersgillMMUe

Caroline Wintersgill (University College London)
Mike Witcombe (Royal Holloway, University of London)

Bryan Cheyette (University of Reading)

The proposed panel examines the distinctive literary identity of Naomi Alderman, exploring key strands in her work including spectrality, otherness, loss, self-expression, feminism, religious identity and the relationship of past and future, through readings of her four ‘literary’ novels: Disobedience (2006), The Lessons (2010), The Liars’ Gospel (2012) and The Power (2016). The panel emerges from a 2019 symposium at Bath Spa University, with Naomi Alderman as an engaged participant, where early versions of some papers were workshopped.

The format is four ten-minute papers followed by ten minutes for the discussant to draw out shared themes, a brief response from each contributor and questions from the floor.

Ghosts in the Text: Disobedience

Ruth Gilbert (Reader in English, University of Winchester) reads Disobedience as a profoundly haunted text. The most obvious ghost is of Rav Krushka, whose death prompts daughter Ronit’s return from New York. As past and present intersect, other, more diffuse, ghosts begin to emerge: the lingering, absent presence of Ronit’s mother, the unresolved relationship with her revenant first love, Esti. But perhaps the most significant Jewish ghost in this text is North London. Like the piece of bark lodged in Ronit’s flesh that had ‘healed unevenly’, Hendon continues to leave its mark. The 2017 film adaptation, in reawakening the text, invokes further spectral layers into Alderman’s oeuvre.

Remembrance of Things Lost: The Fetishism of Objects in The Lessons and The Power

Shareena Hamzah (Honorary Research Associate, University of Swansea) reveals how striking depictions of love and loss in Alderman operate through the use of substitute objects in ritualised forms of remembrance, with religion’s role as a repository for collective cultural memory providing a fetishistic link between the mythological and the historical, the traditional and the contemporary, the absent and the present. Hamzah analyses the projection of affective and emotional value onto prominent fetish objects in The Lessons and The Power, revealing an alternative fetishism in Alderman, that is not an operation of suppression and repression, but a radical act of self- expression.

It’s More Complicated Than That, Sugar’: Indeterminacy in The Liars’ Gospel and The Power

Lois Wilson (PhD candidate, University of Edinburgh) suggests that Alderman’s multiple storytellers in The Liars’ Gospel and The Power exercise Alicia Ostriker’s ‘holy trinity’ of hermeneutical strategies: suspicion, desire, and indeterminacy, as they retell biblical narratives from different perspectives. We see characters plant distrust at the heart of a patriarchal text; tease new intimacies from it, draw gleeful attention to the ambiguities and contradictions that threaten to destabilize scripture’s monologic power. Wilson argues that Alderman joins the long tradition of Midrashic literature in wrestling new meanings from ancient texts and bringing to life their marginalized figures. The conflicting testimonies awaken us to dialogic and heteroglossic voices in the Bible and other literary classics, asking whether any narrative can claim to be authoritative.

Epistemological Electro-Shock Therapy: Cyborgs, Hybridity and Temporality in The Power

Hannah Marcus (independent scholar) places The Power in a lineage of feminist epistemology, reading it through the lens of Haraway’s ‘Cyborg Manifesto’. The multiple perspectives of Haraway’s cyborgs match the ‘monstrous’ existence of Alderman’s electricity-shooting women. The Power’s formal construction plays with archaeological time, establishing temporal distance as a subjectivity. It addresses Haraway’s concern with the difficulty of accessing multiple perspectives when seeking new modes of knowledge, while challenging Haraway’s suspicion of apocalyptic renewal and female violence, both integral to The Power’s narrative. For Marcus, the narrative is underpinned by the hybridity of scientific distance and revenge-fuelled violence, serving to diffract Haraway’s own false dichotomy; not goddess or cyborg, but both, or neither.

Sun 1:00 pm – 2:15 pm

Out of the Archive: The Doris Lessing Centenary at UEA

Nonia WilliamsMCRm

In Doris Lessing’s centenary year, this panel reflects on the author and her writing through the lens of her extensive archive, held at UEA. The overall aim of the panel is to argue for and energise our (re)engagement with Lessing, as well as to demonstrate the different kinds of literary critical and creative work that working with and in the rich resource of Lessing’s archive can generate. The panel draws on the work that went into the Doris Lessing centenary celebrations at UEA, including an exhibition at the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, an academic conference, and public events. We will give four short papers.

“Oh academics”: Lessing’s resistance to categorisation in her letters at UEA (Justine Mann, Archivist, UEA)

Lessing fiercely resisted interpretation and categorisation by some academics and yet she chose to bequeath her vast archive of personal diaries and correspondence to an academic institution. This paper will introduce the significant archive holdings at UEA’s British Archive for Contemporary Writing (BACW) including highlights of Lessing’s exchanges with academics. It will examine the challenges inherent in selecting and interpreting material for the centenary exhibition, Doris Lessing 100, and how these were compounded when imagining her likely response.

Triviality, materiality and synchronicity in the Lessing Archive (Jacob Rollinson, Postgraduate Researcher, UEA)

While cataloguing and describing the correspondence of Doris Lessing for the BACW, I have nurtured the idea of an second, imaginary archive reserved for those items whose triviality seemingly disqualifies them from scholarly use, but which stand out as examples of the ephemerality of lived experience, or offer the illusion of some occult organising principle operating within the minutiae of the traces we leave behind. I present the items from Lessing’s legacy that I would place inside this archive of trivial synchronicities.

Doris Lessing and the Language of Communism (Matthew Taunton, Lecturer in Literature, UEA)

In Lessing’s early fiction and in her letters from the 1940s, she vigorously interrogated the nature of Communist language: ‘capitalist hyenas, social democratic treachery, running dogs of fascism’, etc.. These linguistic and attitudinal clichés appear across Lessing’s work as ‘structures of repetition’ (Koselleck), persisting for generations, but Lessing is fascinated by their emergence in moments of historical rupture (like the Russian Revolution), before they became part of a habit or routine. This paper uses Lessing’s work—predominantly the Children of Violence series—as well as her unpublished letters to investigate what Hannah Arendt called the ‘condensation of happenings into concepts’.

The Textures and Textualities of Ageing (Nonia Williams, Lecturer in Literature, UEA)

This paper focuses on correspondence between Doris Lessing and Muriel Spark, and Lessing’s novel The Diary of a Good Neighbour and essay ‘Old’. The letters and faxes between Lessing and Spark express a lively and forthright defence of their identities as ageing women and as writers, and I read between archival and literary materials to consider differences and overlaps between the writing of age and ageing in Lessing’s correspondence and in her published writing. I show how Lessing’s techniques such as narrative perspective and dialogic form are used to express an ambivalence that resists and complicates cultural narratives of ageing.

Sun 1:00 pm – 2:15 pm

Postcolonial Studies in Central and Eastern Europe

Agnes GyorkeMCRn

The four participants will give 10-minute talks on the main issues the panel raises, exploring both academic questions and empirical evidence, which will be followed by an interactive roundtable discussion (moderated by Ágnes Györke) and a Q & A session involving the audience.

Postcolonial Histories and East-Central Europe (Ágnes Györke)

Ágnes GYÖRKE (Senior Lecturer, Institute of English Studies, Károli Gáspár University, Hungary)

‘Internal Colonies Within Europe’: Conceptualizations of Romani/Non-Romani Relations in a Postcolonial Theoretical Framework” (Árpád Bak)

Árpád BAK (PhD Candidate, Doctoral Program in Film, Media and Contemporary Culture, Eötvös Loránd University, Hungary, former Fellow at Central European University’s Romani Studies Programme)

Postcolonial Intertexts in Film and Literature: Ethnicizing the White East European Migrant (Tamás Juhász)

Tamás JUHÁSZ (Senior Lecturer, Institute of English Studies, Károli Gáspár University, Hungary)

Reading Postcolonial Texts in South African and Central European Universities (Kata Gyuris)

Kata GYURIS (PhD Candidate, School of English and American Studies, Eötvös Loránd University, Hungary) 

The main question our panel raises is whether the tools and concepts of postcolonial studies offer a productive theoretical framework to explore the cultures of Central and Eastern Europe. It will primarily focus on the practice of teaching postcolonial studies in Hungary and the applicability of a postcolonial theoretical framework to rethink the dissolution of Central and Eastern European empires and the regime change in 1989 (Györke), the situation of gipsy minorities and ethnic nationalism in the region (Bak) and literary and filmic representations of CEE migrants (Juhász). Kata Gyuris, apart from commenting on the relevance of a Central European approach to pivotal postcolonial literary works, will focus on her experience in South Africa as a PhD student and reflect on the diverse ways of reading postcolonial texts in different socio-political frameworks.

It is our contention that there are two major ways to approach Central and Eastern Europe as a postcolonial region: on the one hand, historical research on the Ottoman, Habsburg and Russian Empires and their legacies offer new approaches which rely on a postcolonial conceptual framework (Omer Bartov and Eric D. Weitz, 2013), while scholars working on literature, cultural studies and social policy argue for the need to rethink the postcommunist legacy of East-Central European countries from this specific angle (Natasa Kovacevic, 2008; Pucherova and Gafrik, 2015, etc). Indeed, relying on a postcolonial theoretical framework, East-Central Europe might be conceptualised as a “blind spot” of Westocentric conceptions of modernity as well as a peripheral region characterised both by an asymmetrical relationship with the West and the rise of conservative ideologies of the nation state. The surge of ethnic nationalism after the democratic transition in 1989 created a hostile environment for ethnic minorities. The most discriminated group in CEE is the Roma, which continues being the target of not only stereotypical representations, but also the subject of oppression at state, municipal and institutional levels. Recent years saw the use of postcolonial theory in discussions of representational strategies in culture and the arts (Junghaus, 2013; Kóczé, 2014, Kovács 2009), urban segregation (Picker, 2017) and the subaltern position of Romani women (Kóczé and Trehan, 2009). Although Loya (2011) and Hooker (2013) also turned to postcolonial thought regarding the hybridization of Hungarian and Romani music cultures, the concept of cultural hybridity remains to be explored in further contexts of Romani/non-Romani relations. Not only the power dynamic between minority and majority cultures in the region lends itself to postcolonial theoretical considerations: the case of white Eastern European migrants in the West is also a significant issue. Particular attention could be paid to the concept of “xeno-racism” (Sivanandan 2001), a new form of racism where low economic standing replaces ethnic difference, therefore impoverished white migrants, usually from East-Central Europe, become targets of prejudice and hostility in Western Europe and the United States. In addition, these phenomena can be revisited in the larger theoretical context of “whiteness studies” where not only whiteness in general is shown to have a history of its own, but where underprivileged East-Central European migrants are seen to possess a kind of “off-whiteness” and, as a result, are bound to be ethnicized (Henry & Tator, 2006, Myslinska, 2014). Cinematic and literary examples are cited from the UK and East-Central Europe including, but not limited to, the films of James Dizdar, Pawel Pawlowski and Szabolcs Hajdú, and the fiction of Kazuo Ishiguro, Monica Ali and Marina Lewycka.

By looking at historical interpretations, empirical evidence and theoretical considerations we find that students of Eastern and Central Europe and those cultivating postcolonial studies in the standard academic sense of the term often share similar concerns. As we hope to show, this approach allows fresh insights into the culture of the CEE region and offers new conceptualizations of the term “postcolonial” as well.

Sponsored by the Postcolonial Studies Association

Sun 1:00 pm – 2:15 pm

Research Excellence Framework Panel

Greg WalkerCarole Nash Recital Room

Discussing issues around the Research Excellence Framework, led by Professor Greg Walker, Regius Professor of Rhetoric and English Literature and chair of Sub Panel 27, Department of English, University of Edinburgh

Sun 1:00 pm – 2:15 pm

Turning Points: Textual Practice and Shared Futures

Peter BoxallLecture Theatre (Conference Room for overflow)

Chair: Peter Boxall, University of Sussex
Drew Milne, University of Cambridge
Caroline Edwards, Birkbeck College, London
Andre Hadfield, University of Sussex

This panel reflects on the publication of ‘Turning Points’ in Textual Practice, since Terrence Hawkes wrote the first Turning Point – the first article, in the first issue in 1987. We have published Turning Points, ever since, as a means of tracing changes in the discipline, of following the ways in which new forms of textual practice emerge, in relation to the shifting political horizon.

The panel brings together three Turning Points, as a way of thinking about how the discipline allows us to think towards shared futures. Drew Milne will discuss the question of solidarity across the biosphere, and what might be understood as the ecological turn in Marxism. He will ask how the inherited hierarchies of struggle associated with class, gender and race are being reconfigured under the sign of climate justice. That is – how might we rewild Marxism and ecopoetics for the coming crises? Andrew Hadfield will explore the relationship between truth and lying in the digital age, and what implications this has for research, publishing and academic standards, especially in terms of the future of English as a discipline. Is the ‘democracy of knowledge’ compatible with academics acting as the ‘guardians of truth’, or is this is a false dichotomy? How do conceptions of ‘open access’ function in such a world? Lastly, Caroline Edwards will reflect on the transformations in our contemporary understanding of utopian possibility. How do emerging literary forms yield glimpses of a newly shared future, redeemed strands of past hopes, and alternative social worlds already alive in the present?

Sun 1:00 pm – 2:15 pm

Victorianists in Academic Leadership

Alice JenkinsMMUb

This panel will be a roundtable discussion led by five female scholars of Victorian literature and culture who hold institutional leadership positions, ie. roles which include responsibility for units other than English. We will discuss how our work in English literature and Victorian studies affects our attitudes and approaches as academic leaders. What does university English look like for someone both within and outside an English department or unit? Do we approach issues of soft power, resources, and information flow in ways that are influenced by our research practice or topics? Do we apply for or accept leadership roles for Victorian(ist) reasons? How are these issues inflected by gender? And how does experience in leadership work in turn affect our identity and work as Victorianists?

The panel will invite audience members to share their experience of engagement with academic leadership at any level and from any specialism within English studies.

Prof. Kirstie Blair (Strathclyde)
Prof. Alice Jenkins (Glasgow)
Prof. Juliet John (Royal Holloway University of London)
Prof. Gail Marshall (Reading)
Prof. Marion Thain (King’s College London)

Sun 1:00 pm – 2:15 pm


Whitman Today: Community and Empathy

Kim Edward-KeatesMCRo

The 2019 bicentenary celebrations of Walt Whitman’s birth have been noteworthy for the effusive celebrations of his radical democratic impulses. Temptingly offering a unifying, “kaleidoscopic Whitman” he has, in the words of Matt Cohen’s recent study, been problematically perceived as “Inspiring political movements and literature on almost all parts of the ideological spectrum”. Yet in “containing multitudes”, Whitman’s poetry and politics raises provocative questions about the universality and relevance of Whitman’s ideals today. How can Whitman speak so profoundly to all without eliding (and therein disguising) structural hierarchies? To what extent have Whitman’s attitudes towards empathy, loss and community been reconfigured for the twenty-first century? And pertinently, how are these issues felt and articulated by marginalised readers today? This panel seeks to explore such questions of concern in light of an ongoing pilot case study which brings Whitman’s poetry to deprived areas of Greater Manchester. Creative workshops with women’s groups, refugees and asylum seekers consider a complex sense of connection with Whitman’s writing, focalised through this academic enquiry and presented by five researchers at the University of Bolton.

Community of the outside in Walt Whitman’s ‘Song of Myself’ (Jill Marsden)

English and Creative Writing Programme Leader, University of Bolton

This paper explores the relevance of Walt Whitman’s writing to our thinking of inequality and social inclusivity today. In “Song of Myself” Whitman does not simply attest to being the “poet of the woman the same as the man”, he professes sympathy for the dispossessed: the scrounger, thief and syphilitic. Refusing to acknowledge any difference between these persons who have been “slighted or left away”, Whitman risks effacing the structural and ideological barriers to social inclusion. Nevertheless, the paper will argue that beyond the moral and ethical issues raised by Whitman’s depictions of socially marginal figures, there are aesthetic resources in his poetry for rethinking the role of the outsider.

Holding Walt Whitman by the Hand (Evan Jones)

Lecturer in English, University of Bolton

My discussion draws on ideas of gift culture and examines notions of the ‘obligation’ both within and because of Whitman’s poetry. The gifting of a physical copy of Leaves of Grass is a gesture in itself, the mentor pressing work into the hands of the student. But what if that gift — more than other books, a fetish or totem — holds catastrophic obligations for the debtor? Taking into consideration a number of recent examples of Whitman as gift, I will examine the afterlife of Leaves of Grass and discuss the ways in which Whitman himself sees his reader’s obligation.

‘The Great Work: Whitman and the End of Death in Chris Adrian’s Gob’s Grief (2001) (Valerie O’Riordan)

Lecturer in Creative Writing, University of Bolton

‘The past, the future, dwelling there, like space, inseparable together.’

Whitman, ‘Kosmos’

For Walt Whitman, democracy was ‘a material reality of physical connections across space and time […] and most importantly among and through the bodies of its citizens’ (Sychterz, 2003, p.14). In Whitman’s Civil War poetry – Drum Taps (1865) in particular – grief emerges alongside democracy as his key theme: here, the poems’ speaker(s), as he mourns the casualties of the war, manifests as a figure of ‘embodied empathy’ (Jamison, 2007, p.23). Similarly, in Chris Adrian’s 2001 novel, Gob’s Grief, which features Whitman himself as one of four focalizing characters, the poet is positioned – by the other characters – as an embodiment both of empathy and democracy: he is ‘the Cosmos’, and the key component in the grand democratic project of the titular character, Gob, to eliminate death and bring back the six million Civil War dead. Both Whitman and Adrian, then, are concerned with productive responses to mass carnage and individual loss – but whereas Whitman’s mourning persona in ‘When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d’ (1865) articulates an ‘anti-resurrectional vision of mourning’ (Jameson, 27), Adrian’s Gob marries nineteenth century rationality and Spiritualism in a mission to make redundant the very acceptance of death towards which Whitman strives. In this paper, then, drawing on Jamison’s work on empathy and Derrida’s theory of hauntology, I will explore how Adrian’s use of the figure of Whitman interrogates the limits of the poet’s own vision.

Walt Whitman and the Wonder Women (Kim Edwards Keates (Lecturer in English, University of Bolton) and Kathryn Thomasson (Doctoral Candidate, University of Bolton))

1880s Bolton marks a pivotal moment in the popular reception of Walt Whitman’s writing, witnessing, as Carolyn Masel notes, “the first group of working people to receive Whitman’s poetry collectively, the first community of non-University readers”: the Bolton Whitmanites of Eagle Street College. This paper presents research that examines the continued relevance of Whitman’s poetry today with marginalised local women’s community groups in Bolton, including the ‘Wonder Women’ and Bolton’s City of Sanctuary. Both groups promote a close sense of community, confidence and well-being, while the City of Sanctuary provides particular support to refugees and asylum seekers. Through a series of shared reading and craft projects, culminating in the delivery of Whitman’s poetry to an international audience, this paper reveals how the groups’ engagement with Whitman in the bicentenary year of his birth produced striking narrative and statistical data sets for those who experience social marginalisation, thus prompting a re-evaluation and analysis of the universality of Whitman’s voice today.

Sun 1:00 pm – 2:15 pm

Writers and their Work: A Snapshot of a Book Series

Christabel ScaifeSeminar Room 2

This panel is organized around the book series Writers and their Work, published by Liverpool University Press in association with Northcote House. Writers and their Work presents brief but rigorous critical examinations of key literary figures from early English to the present day. It has been much loved by generations of students and scholars and has a fascinating seventy-year history, from its early years published by Longmans, Green on behalf of the British Council to its latest incarnation under the stewardship of Professor Dinah Birch and Professor Dame Janet Beer of the University of Liverpool. This panel showcases the work of three current authors in the series.

Chair: Dinah Birch, University of Liverpool

Anne Rowe, Kingston University
Iris Murdoch was both a popular and intellectually serious novelist, whose writing life spanned the latter half of the twentieth century. A proudly Anglo-Irish writer who produced twenty-six best-selling novels, she was also a respected philosopher, a theological thinker and an outspoken public intellectual. Anne Rowe’s paper, based on her 2019 Writers and their Work volume, presents Murdoch as an author who vividly evokes the zeitgeist of the late twentieth century, as well as a figure whose unconventional life and complex presentation of gender and psychology has immense resonance for twenty-first-century readers.

Margaret Kean, St Hilda’s College, Oxford
Philip Pullman is one of the most widely read contemporary English authors, and a well-regarded social commentator. His success has occurred at a time of significant change for the book trade and the established literary milieu, with children’s authors enjoying increasing status, multi-media adaptations providing new economic opportunities for the children’s sector, and both ‘cross-over’ fiction and the fantasy genre reaching new audiences. Margaret Kean’s paper provides a taster of her forthcoming Writers and their Work volume on Pullman’s prose fiction (children’s books, fairytales, cross-over fiction, adult fiction) and non-fiction (literary essays, criticism and lectures, journalism, Daemon Voices).

Rory Waterman, Nottingham Trent University
It is surprising that, after five major collections and over thirty years into an extremely successful career as a poet, Wendy Cope has not received more critical attention: there is no monograph on her work, and only a small amount of serious criticism, most of which is confined to book reviews. Certainly, it cannot be said that she lacks a readership or influence (and indeed her admirers have included Ted Hughes, Rowan Williams, Craig Raine, Seamus Heaney, and many other significant poets), but she is often dismissed as a writer of light verse. Rory Waterman’s paper, based on his forthcoming Writers and their Work volume, puts Cope and her work in its proper critical context.

Sun 1:00 pm – 2:15 pm

“#Ethical Stylistics”: the issue of censorship in the classroom

Marina LambrouSeminar Room 3

Chair: Dr Marina Lambrou, Associate Professor in English Language and Linguistics, Kingston University; Chair of the Poetics and Linguistics Association (PALA)

The aim of this panel is to explore the relationship between contemporary ethics and the teaching of (literary) stylistics with a particular focus on controversial texts and the teacher’s responsibility. The teaching of literature through stylistic approaches allows for numerous insights and interpretations achieved by analysing the linguistic strategies at play. While stylistics is concerned with the study of style (Toolan, 1998), its goal goes beyond simply describing the formal features of texts for their own sake, but to ‘show their functional significance for the interpretation of text; or in order to relate literary effects to linguistic “causes” where these are felt to be relevant.’ (Wales, 2001:373). Traditionally, the preferred texts for stylistic analysis is literature, ‘whether that be institutionally sanctioned “Literature” as high art or more popular “noncanonical” forms of writing (Simpson, 2004:2) so both classic and contemporary texts can be the object of study. One such text (taught by one panel member) is Yeats’ Leda and the Swan, a powerful, vivid, memorable and expertly crafted sonnet whose grammatical choices neatly illustrates the explanatory power of stylistics. The poem can also, however, be seen as a depiction of a rape. Cullingford (1994) describes the poem as “pornography” and an example of canonical status granting immunity from censure to works which legitimise the violent subjugation of women. Is the poem suitable for teaching and should the theme of rape be discussed as one of its interpretations? What of Amis’ (1991) controversial Time’s Arrow, where the protagonist of the novel, a former Nazi concentration camp doctor on the point of death, is born to re-live his life in reverse to enact the poetic undoing or actual reversal of the act of The Holocaust itself. Is this, then, an example of an ethical narrative method as the people who died in the camps appear to ‘come back to life’, in a literal ‘re-writing’ (or un-writing) of history? Then there are texts, which in rewriting or answering back to canonical texts necessarily involve addressing unpleasant topics. One such example is Jane Smiley’s A Thousand Acres, a rewrite of King Lear, in which the head of the family, Larry, is revealed to have abused his daughters. Such texts in themselves can be potentially upsetting for students, particularly in a classroom context. The question this raises is how far do we as teachers censure the choice of texts we present in class and how can we teach controversial subjects as relevant and important objects of study?

Professor Guy Cook, Emeritus Professor of Language in Education, Kings College London 

Dr Jeremy Scott, Senior Lecturer in English Language and Literature, University of Kent

Dr Marcello Giovanelli, Senior Lecturer in English Language and Literature, Aston University 

Cullingford, E B. (19914) “Pornography and Canonicity: The Case of Yeats’ ‘Leda and the Swan’” in Representing Women: Law, Literature, and Feminism, ed. S. S. Heinzelman and Z. B. Wiseman. Durham: Duke University Press, pp. 165-87.
“Pornography and Canonicity: Simpson, P. (2004) Stylistics, A Resource Book. London: Routledge.
Toolan, M. (1998) Language in Literature. An Introduction to Stylistics. London: Arnold.
Wales, K. (2001) A Dictionary of Stylistics. London: Longman.

Sun 1:00 pm – 2:15 pm

2:30 pm – 3:45 pm Sunday Session IV

Academic Writing Free-Style

Jane KilbySeminar Room 2

You’ve had an idea. And a quick survey of recent scholarly literature and you discover that others share it with you: there is a growing desire to break away from the traditional protocols of academic writing. Taking this groundswell as its point of departure, the panel will explore the specific challenges and consequences of hybrid creative-critical work. Key questions to be addressed: if we write differently, will we read and think differently? Will writing ‘free-style’ generate new forms and ways of doing knowledge? Can a fusion of creative and critical writing address the political and ethical need for intersectionality and acknowledging difference; for dialoguing with the non-human; for an interdisciplinary speaking with the future? What are the gender politics of academic experimentation: theory boys, writing girls? Is the demand for public scholarship an opportunity for academics to write free-style or a trap? If we experiment with academic form, what do we risk losing? Is ‘dry’ and ‘difficult’ writing necessarily a bad thing? Anti-intellectualism is rife. Is novelty to be welcomed with open arms or questioned as a neoliberal ruse for new markets?

To answer these questions, the panel will offer work-in-progress, discussion of recent developments in the broader field of critical and cultural writing and insight from novelists and poets working in the areas of meta- and creative non-fiction, and experimental practice.
The panel might not stick to a strict order or set-length presentations. Multiple turning-taking will be a possibility. (Promising too much a certainty.)
Words and phrases that might get bandied around: ficto-criticism, non-propositional strategies, flash readings, ‘constrained’ critique, ‘gonzo’ criticism, wild scholarship.

The panel members might change hats. A poem read.
+ Experiments with tone, style, modes of address (dialogic; polyphonic), voice, and tense.
A pressing of the formal limits of academic language and what constitutes scholarly practice.
Required for this panel: tolerance for failure and the loss of a cracking good idea.
Indulge us.
Early career researchers especially welcome.
At issue: the vitality of academic writing and our ability to engage readers and listeners in our thinking; to sign them up otherwise.
In sum, the panel members are looking for a free-hand to do as they please.
(NB We promise to be in the right room at the right time on the right day; and to stick, more or less, to seventy-five minutes!)

Sun 2:30 pm – 3:45 pm

An interview with Ali Smith

Opera Theatre

Interview with Ali Smith. She will also be reading from, and signing, her new novel, Summer, the final part of the ‘seasonal quartet’.

Sun 2:30 pm – 3:45 pm


Avant Gothic

Nicholas RoyleMCRo

Readings of new short stories in the Avant Gothic mode by writers Rachel Genn, Andrew Michael Hurley, Kerry Hadley-Pryce and Nicholas Royle. The focus of the panel is to investigate, through readings of new works of fiction, the nature of the Avant Gothic and to attempt to define its identity.

Rachel Genn is a senior lecturer at Manchester Writing School/School of Digital Arts. Formerly a Neuroscientist, she has written two novels: The Cure (2011) and What You Could Have Won (2020). She was Leverhulme Artist-in-Residence (2016), University of Sheffield, creating a quasi-institution called The National Facility For the Regulation of Regret, spanning installation art, VR and film (ASFF 2016), presented at SXSW, 2017. She has written for Granta, 3:AM and The Real Story and is currently working on a long essay on immersion in the creative act, as well as Whispers, a binaural experience exploring paranoia, and an ACE-funded collection of non-fiction about fighting and addiction to regret.

Andrew Michael Hurley has lived in Manchester and London, and is now based in Lancashire. His first novel, The Loney, was originally published by Tartarus Press, a tiny independent publisher based in Yorkshire, as a 300-copy limited-edition, before being republished by John Murray and going on to win the Costa Best First Novel Award and Book of the Year at the British Book Industry Awards in 2016. He joined Manchester Metropolitan University as Lecturer in Creative Writing in 2016. The following year his second novel, Devil’s Day, was published. His third novel, Starve Acre, is due on Halloween 2019.

Kerry Hadley-Pryce was born in Wordsley, in the West Midlands, in 1960. She worked nights in a Wolverhampton petrol station before becoming a secondary school teacher. She wrote The Black Country, which was published by Salt in 2015, whilst studying for an MA in Creative Writing at the Manchester Writing School at Manchester Met, for which she gained a distinction and was awarded the Michael Schmidt Prize for outstanding achievement 2013–14. Her second novel, Gamble, was published by Salt in 2018. She lives in the Black Country and is currently studying for a PhD in Psychogeographic Flow and Black Country Writing at Manchester Met.

Nicholas Royle is the author of three short story collections – Mortality, Ornithology, The Dummy and Other Uncanny Stories – and seven novels, most recently First Novel. He has edited more than twenty anthologies and is series editor of Best British Short Stories. Reader in Creative Writing at the Manchester Writing School at Manchester Metropolitan University, where he has been on the staff since 2007, he also runs Nightjar Press and is head judge of the Manchester Fiction Prize. A new short story collection is forthcoming from Confingo Publishing, who also published his translation, from French, of Vincent de Swarte’s novel Pharricide.

Sun 2:30 pm – 3:45 pm

Fragmentation, history, narrative

Jerome de GrootMCRm

This panel explores the utility of the idea of fragmentation to approaching narratives of the past, and about the past. Each talk considers the importance of the gap, the non-normative, the incomplete and the non-corporeal to ways of understanding and approaching narratives of history.

‘Only in Not-telling Can the Story Be Told’: Point of View, Fragmentation, and Writing True Crime (William Pooley (History, University of Bristol))
The fascination true crime holds for audiences today is often criticized for voyeurism. Like media coverage of contemporary crime, it often focuses on the complexity of the figures of monstrous violent criminals, or the wrongly accused. It is the desires, intentions, and actions of perpetrators that take over the story. When they do not focus on perpetrators, accounts of crime are often presented from the point of view of the detective, the journalist, or the amateur sleuth working to uncover what really happened.

What tools can authors of historical (non)fiction use to uncover different perspectives in cases of true crime?
This paper focuses on an ongoing project to write a non-fiction novel about a murder case from Alsace in 1925. While much of the project has focused on the figures of the murderer himself and the criminal investigator charged with bringing him to justice, I want to ask which other voices it is possible to uncover, and how. Techniques under consideration will include research-based speculation, fragmentation, and erasure. For instance, in a book-length erasure poem about the deliberate drowning of 150 slaves in 1781, M. NourbeSe Philip has described her realization that ‘only in not-telling can the story be told; only in the space where it’s not told – literally in the margins of the text, a sort of negative space, a space not so much of non-meaning as anti-meaning.’ As NourbeSe Philip puts it, ‘the fragment appears more precious, more beautiful than the whole, if only for its brokenness. Perhaps, the fragment allows for the imagination to complete its missing aspects – we can talk, therefore, of the poetics of fragmentation.’

‘It looked like the opposite of history’: the disruption of history and narrative in postgenomic writing (Jerome de Groot (English, University of Manchester))
This paper looks at the ways in which postgenomic texts utilise the potentiality – and the concerns – associated with genetic science to challenge and disrupt dominant narratives. After the completion of the human genome project in 2001, much genetic science has laid a claim to expanded knowledge and particularly to knowing the human in new ways. In particular this has changed DNA into a ‘historical resource’ (according to Adam Rutherford), whilst Niklas Rose argues that ‘It is not philosophy but the life sciences which are leading an epistemic change in our relationship to the human’ (2012).

Writers have responded to this newly conceived ability to present the human in multiple and complex fashion. I will look at some foundational texts to demonstrate how, rather than shutting down our understanding of the human, artists have seen the mapping of the genome as a way of challenging traditional modes of knowledge. I’ll look first at Marc Quinn’s 2005 Genomic Portrait of Sir John Sulston, which undermines realism and representation, before turning to some rappers and poets (Kendrick Lamar, Residente, Zaffar Kunial). I’ll conclude by looking at Ali Smith’s harnessing of the double helix in her experimental work How to be both (2014). All these artists challenge the ‘new’ knowledge of the postgenomic condition, instead seeing the disintegration and disruption of the human body. These postgenomic writers present DNA as something that challenges identity, knowing, rationality and realism. For them genetics changes the way we know each other and how we might communicate with one another. It provides the possibility of new modes of being. Most importantly, it reconfigures the way we might think about the past. It recasts discussions about race, ethnicity, identity, roots, inheritance, ownership, legitimacy. It breaks down older modes of communication, challenging the forms in which we present information and attacking the normative.

Scraps of history: Emma Donoghue and theorising the historical short story (Diana Wallace (English, University of South Wales))
In the Foreword to The Woman Who Gave Birth to Rabbits (2002), her book of ‘true’ short ‘fictions’, Emma Donoghue writes: ‘Over the last ten years I have often stumbled over a scrap of history so fascinating that I had to stop whatever I was doing and write a story about it’. This paper will use Donoghue’s work to explore ways of thinking about the historical short story as a (neglected) form which has a suggestive affinity with scraps and fragments of history. Almost all the critical work on historical fiction to date (eg Lukács, Hutcheon (1988), Wallace (2005), de Groot (2010)) has focused on the novel but the historical short story raises particularly interesting questions about the ways in which fiction can engage with incomplete historical narratives. Clare Hanson (1989) has drawn attention to the short story’s appeal to marginalised groups (including the Irish and women), and its formal properties of ‘disjunction, inconclusiveness, obliquity’. Both elements chime with key themes in recent critical accounts of historical fiction: the desire to ‘recover’ or re-imagine the history of marginal groups, and a metafictional focus on history and fiction as forms of narrative.

Donoghue’s experimental stories, each drawn from historical ‘fact’, provide a particularly rich case study. Her sources are ‘the flotsam and jetsam of the last seven hundred years of British and Irish life’: surgical case notes, trial records, ballads, pamphlets, paintings and even ‘an articulated skeleton’. Unusually, each individual story is followed by an authorial ‘Note’ detailing its origin in these ‘scrap[s] of history’. These paratexual notes draw attention to both the hybrid nature of the stories and the relationship between such fragments and the longer narratives, both fictional and historical, with which they are in dialogue.

Sun 2:30 pm – 3:45 pm

Literature and the New World Order


Postcolonial subject as modern orient: A comparative analysis of Hamid’s Exit West and Shamsie’s Home Fire (Zia Ahmed)

Prof. Dr. Zia Ahmed earned his PhD in 2012. He served Bahauddin Zakariya University for a period of FIVE and ran the Dept. of English, as coordinator, under The DDE and successfully supervised 20 MPhil candidates. He visited University of North Texas, USA in 2015 and conducted his postdoctoral research. He has published 25 articles. He has given speeches/talks/lectures at local and National and international Level seminars and conferences, video Lecture in IIU Malaysia in Nov. 2017 and La Rochelle University, France on 6th May, 2019. 

The recent migrations from the war torn and formerly colonized countries towards the world metropolises has created a new migrant and migrant communities populated mostly at the borders, especially in their waiting stage. If on the one hand these borders based communities of migrants are a constantly imposing and haunting threat to the already settled communities inside the world metropolises, on the other hand, they are evolving into modern Orientals whose loyalties with the identity, community, race and language are constantly shifting. The new migrant is a modern orient, especially the female migrants who have not only metamorphosed from an oppressed woman to an aspiring woman seeking identity and recognition for her individual self. This necessitates a debate and discussion about this new migrant. This research study delimits to Hamid’s Exit West and Shamsie’s Home Fire to investigate the new female migrant: Nadia in the former and Isma in the latter respectively and attempts to determine the level of change that has occurred in the migration and settlement pattern in the 21st century under the forces of globalization, new colonialism and neo liberalism. The writer intends to read the selected chunks of the two texts under the lens of Modern Orientalism and evaluate the portrayals of Nadia and Isma, the modern female migrants, as portrayed by Hamid and Shamsie respectively. The most probably outcome of the study is that the post 9/11 migrations have given birth to a new set of issues related to the migrants and their settlements and has brought more sophistication in the characters of migrants and hence they have diverted from their traditional portrayals as migrants.

Levy’s Legacy (Michael Perfect)

Michael Perfect is a Senior Lecturer in English Literature at Liverpool John Moores University. His main research and teaching interests are in twentieth- and twenty-first-century literature and culture. His first book, Contemporary Fictions of Multiculturalism, was published in 2014, and his work has also appeared in a number of journals and edited collections. He has written for The Guardian’s Higher Education Network and been interviewed on both local and national radio. He is currently writing a book on Andrea Levy for Manchester University Press, and is also working on a project that relates to screen adaptations of contemporary transnational fiction.

This paper presents some of the findings of an ongoing research project into the archive of Andrea Levy, who died in February 2019. This large, rich, and extremely diverse archive spans decades of Levy’s work, and features (for example): early notes towards Levy’s novels and other published works; a great many manuscripts and typescripts of those works, from early drafts to fair copies and annotated proofs; documents relating to research that Levy carried out for her novels and other projects; documents relating to various stage and screen adaptations of Levy’s novels; work towards numerous projects that did not come to light during Levy’s lifetime. Drawing on a range of material from the archive, this paper explores Levy’s working methods, her sources, and her influences. In particular, it seeks to emphasise Levy’s literary craft. There is a particular need for such an emphasis in scholarship on Levy. Discussion of her fiction has tended to emphasise its sociological significance; her novels have been widely celebrated for documenting the experiences of post-War Caribbean migrants to Britain and their British-born children. In recent years, and particularly with the emergence of the Windrush Scandal in 2018, her work has come to be perceived as even more sociologically relevant than ever. Following her death, Levy was widely lauded as a chronicler of black British experiences and voices. While it is certainly true that Levy’s work is of enormous sociological value, what is at stake here is the loss of emphasis on its literary value. Using previously unseen material from her archive to draw attention to her extraordinary literary craft, this paper seeks to produce an enhanced understanding of Levy’s legacy.

The ‘Body of Information’ in The Calcutta Chromosome: A Lukácsian Treatment of Amitav Ghosh’s Tale of Economic Migrancy (Rehnuma Sazzad)

In the Theory of the Novel (1962), Georg Lukács argues that today’s fictions have no models left to emulate. The writings cannot even depend on the natural unity of the metaphysical world. Therefore, current novelists are left with two choices: they have to either volatilize the materials they are dealing with to give them an encompassing form, or, show the impossibility of delineating their requisite object. Therefore, the novelist has to represent the fragmentary nature of today’s world through the chosen structure. Thus, the novel’s totality begins by stressing the frail and deficient nature of today’s world as its ultimate reality. The writer enters the arena of creativity not only with the idea of the potency of the subject matter, but also with the knowledge of its earthly limitations. In other words, the novel’s contemporary form has to avoid the contingencies of lyricism and dramaturgy in order to transcend the level of mere conviviality. As a result, the novel depends on an imposed order that highlights its value system and circumvents the outward expanse of its range.

My paper proposes to read Amitav Ghosh’s The Calcutta Chromosome: A Novel of Fevers, Delirium, and Discovery (1995) through the Lukácsian lens in order to demonstrate that the hybrid form of the novel not only emblematizes the simultaneously stable and chaotic nature of postcolonial connectivity, but also manifests how migrancy and borders reveal commonalities of different postcolonies regarding environmental politics and cultural identity. Indeed, Ghosh insists on a globalized identity through his protagonist Antar, who is an Egyptian-cum-New Yorker having been inspired by a Hungarian émigré, and attempting to trace an Indian colleague, who researches an English scientist. Researching on malarial environment, Murugan disappears inexplicably in Calcutta, and is remembered by Antar when his ID card surfaces in a computer-generated program. By unravelling the mystery of Murugan’s whereabouts, Antar discovers a network of interconnected people: Sonali, a Bollywood actor; Phulboni, a renowned Bengali author; Urmila, a troubled but spirited journalist; Romen, a self-made disabled person; as well as astoundingly skilful subaltern lab assistants. Through these people’s multiple instances of economic displacement, the mixed-genre novel, which integrates mystery, fantasy, gothic and sci-fi elements, denies the dominant gaze of Western epistemology by pointing out the limitations of traditional science and technology.

When the novel moves towards a metaphysical exploration of cultural identity by suggesting that history as defined by the educated elites of both the colonial centres and peripheries, so to speak, is far less domesticated than generally assumed, we start to grasp an unhinged world. The economic migrancy of Ghosh’s global citizens makes us realize how lyricism and dramatic conventions are defeated by our machine-driven civilization. Ghosh deconstructs immigrant/citizen, nature/culture, and colonizer/colonized binaries by delineating the fragmentary nature of the world systems, where humans are both victims and empowered entities. Through Lukács, then, we discover the novel’s object to be informational economy, both the materiality and immateriality of which renders it untenable. Lukács enables us to comprehend that the totality of the novel consists of a theory of knowledge through illustrating what Pramod Nayar (2009) calls, ‘the postcolonial politics of information,’ where the creation, collection, dissemination and reception of data are closely connected to the contexts in which they are produced. I will argue if the imposed totality of the novel is a sign of the unresolved range of the postcolonial politics, which is suggested by the questions the novel raises regarding the production, packaging, purposefulness, and adequacy and authorization of the interpretation of the information.

‘Friends Under Every Flag’: 1930s New Zealand poetry and the ‘New Global Order’ (Joe Shaughnessy)

Joe Shaughnessy is a doctoral student at Jesus College, University of Cambridge. His doctoral research explores the circulation of literature and political thought between southern Africa, India, and Aotearoa New Zealand and is entitled This Dark Will Lighten: Internationalism After Empire and Networks of Anglophone Writing, 1900-1950. He is funded by the AHRC.

Ample ink has been spilt over the ghost of interwar ‘literary nationalism’ in Aotearoa New Zealand. Satisfied appraisals of literature’s formative powers in securing a distinct Pākehā settler identity in the 1930s—as a white and masculinist post-colony superimposed over a once-Indigenous space—have been increasingly supplanted by a disquisition of Māori critique and feminist revision, exposing the project as a violent settler fantasy. The immense gravity exerted by settler nationalism, however, has eclipsed the charisma of other political commitments of Pākehā writers of the interwar period. Galvanised by the fraternal register of a popular politics underpinned by the salience of the Communist International, the delicate promise of the League of Nations, anticolonial insurgencies, and burgeoning global fascism, this paper instead considers how interwar Pākehā poetry engaged with the urgency of an international solidarity in the stormy decade before World War II. By excavating the structures of transnational feeling in interwar New Zealand poetics—sometimes awkwardly present in the work of literary nationalists—I hope to shed light on the ways poetry wrestled with forms of empathy, friendship, and solidarity that were not primarily codified by ideas of ‘national community’ and its attendant categories.

Making Cows Live: Bovine Remains and the Rise of Hindu Nationalism (Sundhya Walther)

In Arundhati Roy’s The Ministry of Utmost Happiness, a dalit carcass collector is murdered by a mob calling him a “cow-killer” (88). This incident reflects the rise of such violence in India, where the lynching of presumed slaughterers or consumers of cattle by so-called cow vigilantes now has the tacit support of the state. The sanctity of cows is a central pillar of the Hindu nationalist ideology espoused by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party. Under BJP rule, the treatment of the fleshly bodies of cows, both living and dead, has increasingly become a flashpoint for religious and inter-caste violence.

This paper examines the discourse of cow protection as part of the current push towards Hindu nationalist hegemony. An increasingly complex bureaucratic apparatus forms what Tania Murray Li calls a “make live” project directed at keeping cows alive. Cow protection shares the language of the preservation of life with other such projects, but its primary function is to make vulnerable the lives of minority and subaltern populations. Contemporary Hindutva rests on a revisionist construction of India’s history as a purely Hindu nation, and uses this construction to project a future of national and global Hindu ascendence.

My paper examines the way that bovine remains are caught up in this current political discourse, and in what ways the living bodies of cows can be seen as the “remains” of an ideological architecture that is being forcibly erected by Hindu nationalist power. On May 23, 2019, Modi and the BJP were returned to government. In the coming days and years, the effects of this second mandate on the “remainder” populations of India, those cut out of the narrative of a Hindu nation, will be felt in and through their relationship with the remains of cows.

Sun 2:30 pm – 3:45 pm

Live projects and enterprise in HE English

Andrea MacraeMMUe

Enterprise and live projects give students opportunities to practice and develop skills they gain during their English degrees – skills like critical and creative thinking, teamwork and problem-solving – in contexts beyond the classroom. These opportunities help students to see connections between academic and workplace scenarios and challenges while developing a better understanding of particular sectors and industries.

This session presents examples of enterprise and live projects in English curricula at four HE institutions. It includes discussion of pedagogical rationale and course design, the practicalities of providing learning in these ways, and students’ reflection on their experiences in these modules. The session ends with Q&A time in which other delegates are encouraged to share their experiences of these kinds of learning opportunities.

Live Brief Learning in Literature (Prof Katy Shaw)

Associate Head of Department: Humanities and Head of University Partnerships for Humanities, Northumbria University

This presentation considers case study examples of partnership working with third sector and business organisations in undergraduate literature modules. It explores the use of live brief assessment methods co-designed between HEIs and partners to reframe student learning and highlight the skills scaffold offered by the subject discipline in response to the wider employability agenda.

Enterprise in the English Curriculum (Dr. Daniel Moore)

Senior Lecturer and Employability Lead, School of English, Drama and Creative Studies, Birmingham University

This talk outlines the rationale, outline and outcomes of ‘Enterprising English’, a second year undergraduate module at University of Birmingham, in which students work in groups on a live brief presented to them by a local arts or cultural sector institution. Previous partners include Creative Black Country, the Seed Festival, University of Birmingham Cultural Partnerships, Stan’s Café (a local theatre group) and The Worldly Magazine. This presentation also outlines plans for the next iteration of the module and reflects on best practice on enterprise modules in the arts and humanities more generally.

“But that Dragon’s Den stuff is all for Business students” (Dr. Andrea Macrae)

Principal Lecturer, Stylistics and Student Experience, Dept.l of English and Modern Languages, Oxford Brookes University

This presentation reflects on the new ‘Literary Enterprise’ pathway within a second year module in an English Literature degree course. Students work in teams to develop an idea for a literary product or service, and to generate a business plan, a publicity/marketing/communications strategy, a pitch to potential investors/stakeholders, and so on. The presentation explains the rationale behind the pathway and the supporting learning materials, course structure and assessment strategy. It presents student feedback on the first run of the pathway and planned developments for future runs. This presentation includes a short video of English studies alumni entrepreneurs, developed to inspire current students and break down some myths around enterprise and the humanities.

Career Cartographies: Involving Students, Employers and Professional Services Staff in Co-Creative Curriculum Design (Ben Robertson, Careers Consultant, and Prof. Andrew Cooper, Dean of Cultural Studies and Humanities, Leeds Beckett University)

This presentation reflects on the new ‘Career Cartographies’ final-year online module for Arts and Humanities (including English Literature and Creative Writing) students. Students embark upon a work, enterprise or research placement, supported by reflective exercises, and develop expertise and confidence through a range of credit-bearing assessments linked to employers in the fourth Industrial Revolution, designed to integrate with the World Economic Forum 10 Top Future Skills. This presentation explains how we obtained and sustained involvement and embedded a principle of co-creative design and collaboration, whilst meeting the needs of the range of partners involved. It also includes student feedback on the first run of the module and plans for future development.

Sun 2:30 pm – 3:45 pm

On Ficto-/Critical/Poetic Practices

Oliver BelasMCRf

In Languages of Art, Nelson Goodman demonstrates that whatever “style” is, it outruns our tools of analysis and reason. What he doesn’t consider is whether style is necessarily always beyond the grasp of all modes of analysis (Phil Ford has argued, for example, that “style” should itself be understood as a mode of analysis). “Standard academic practice” (whatever that might mean) is neither a non- nor a-poetic stance; but its pretensions to a certain kind of “objectivity,” and the familiarity of this gesture, may in effect hide its poetic workings in plain sight. Through critical and ficto-critical contributions, our panel explores the affordance and limitations of critical and creative poetics.

Aleister Crowley, Weird Fiction, and Occult Poetics
James Machin (Visiting Lecturer (Critical and Historical Studies), Royal College of Art)

Aleister Crowley is well-known for his peerless contribution to the development of occult theory and practice during his own lifetime and after. He was also, however, a prolific writer and critic, and began his adult life as a poet. This paper explores this side of his output, in particular his engagement with contemporary writers of weird fiction, such as Arthur Machen and Lord Dunsany. Crowley’s occult practice both shapes his own poetics and informs his responses to other weird texts and writers. Examining his approach to questions of authorial intentionality can cast light on wider critical and poetic practice today.

Formation Through Style
Dr. Gareth Farmer (Senior Lecturer in English Literature, University of Bedfordshire)

Writing of the development of styles during particular eras, and among specific clusters of artists, Raymond Williams outlines what he terms “formations of form.” Formal practices are one product of much broader “structures of feeling” in the evolution of particular cultures and styles. I will discuss Williams’ contentions in relation to how critical and creative writers key into the formal dynamics of specific texts or groups of texts in ways enabling the formation of their own writing practices. Drawing on work by John Wilkinson, Peter Manson and Christine Brooke-Rose, I aim to trace how becoming intimate with the formal processes and specific styles of particular texts is formational to both critical and creative textual practices.

“The Artist Must Also Be the Artificer”: Hermitics, Hermeneutics, & Hieroglyphics
Dr. Timothy Jarvis (Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing, University of Bedfordshire)
Dr. Oliver Belas (Lecturer in Education, University of Bedfordshire)

Arthur Machen’s Hieroglyphics (1902) is a long essay framed as a record of the disquisition, on the ecstatic in literature, of a hermit in his rooms in a mouldering house in London’s Barnsbury. A work of poetics in a mode we might now call ficto-criticism. Or so we thought till, one grey autumn afternoon, Jarvis by chance made the acquaintance of a man in a damp basement flat in an obscure little square off the Caledonian Road, who was, or claimed to be, that self-same literary hermit Machen had spoken with so long ago. Our first paper is a record of their conversation – a discussion (perhaps ironically) of the value to criticism of practices drawn from fiction.

Shortly after the rediscovery of “Machen’s Hermit,” Jarvis and Belas were contacted by Sandys Hocombe, a Bedford-based writer who, having heard about Jarvis’s encounter, wondered whether the Hermit might be persuaded to contribute something to the inaugural issue of Hocombe’s forthcoming journal, dedicated to ficto-criticism. Surprisingly, the Hermit agreed, proposing that Hocombe record a series of conversations the two of them would have while walking about Barsnsbury. Hocombe has given us his notes, along with permission to “look for any scraps of food among the garbage” of his now abandoned project. In our second paper, we attempt a recuperation of sorts, suggesting that what Hocombe took as failure might be a poetic success.

Sun 2:30 pm – 3:45 pm

Real Criticism

Thomas Karshan 1MCRh

‘If so large a part of creation is really criticism, is not a large part of what is called “critical writing” really creative?’, asked T. S. Eliot in ‘The Function of Criticism’. The last decade or so has seen a steady erosion of any sharp distinction between the ‘creative’ and the ‘critical’, and of the borders marked out by each of these not wholly satisfactory terms: partly because of dissatisfaction with existing protocols of academic critical writing; partly because of an interest in the critical force of ‘creative writing’; and partly because the rapid expansion of creative writing in universities raises fundamental questions about its relationship with criticism and scholarship.

In response to this, the Institute of English Studies and the University of East Anglia have begun a collaboration ‘On the Creative-Critical’ which encompasses a series of conferences and workshops: a summit ‘On the Creative-Critical’ took place at UEA on June 1, 2019, following a sequence of workshops at IES.

IES and UEA are offering two interlinked workshops on aspects of creative-critical writing and teaching for English Shared Futures 2020:

1. Real Criticism

This session focusses on the relationships between criticism, critic, and the wider world in a collaborative and practice-based manner. It begins with three short position papers by Dr Tim Beasley-Murray (UCL), Prof Tim Mathews (UCL) and Dr Mathelinda Nabugodi (Cambridge) in which they draw on their current creative critical writing. This will set the scene for the main part of the panel, which is a practical workshop in which participants will be invited to do a set of exercises in pairs or small groups. These are designed to raise questions such as:

  • Is literary criticism real (like a tree) or fictional (like literature)?
  • How does your critical persona relate to your private self?
  • How do you as critic relate to the person whose work you’re criticising?
  • Do you make compromises between emotional response and critical reasoning?
  • What is the relationship between (academic) criticism and the (real) world?

The aim is to let participants reflect on their own critical practices and experiment with modes of writing that challenge unspoken assumptions about critical objectivity. The final part of the panel will be devoted to reporting back from the small groups and a general discussion of the above questions.

The second workshop is ‘Creative Imitation in the Classroom’

Sun 2:30 pm – 3:45 pm


The case for Creative Writing in a STEMM curriculum

Aifric CampbellSeminar Room 3

Paper One (Dr Aifric Campbell)

Writer, lecturer in Creative writing

The Creative writing program at Imperial College London is one of a range of Arts, Humanities and Social Science courses that address the importance of cross-disciplinary perspectives in a STEMM education. Sixty years after CP Snow’s “two cultures” lecture on the separation of Science and Humanities, I present the argument for the inclusion of Creative Writing in a STEMM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Medicine) curriculum, drawing on qualitative data from students and external examiners and nine years teaching creative writing to undergraduate and post graduate students in STEMM. I discuss how Creative writing studies promotes curiosity, collaboration, persistence, problem-solving and critical thinking – the “21st Century skills” for students identified by The World Economic Forum in their New Vision for Education, 2015. Creative writing studies offer an innovative, interactive learning experience that promotes intellectual and personal development, encourages consideration of human factors and ethical issues in STEMM, develops creative perspectives on scientific topics, applies storytelling skills to public engagement strategies in science, cultivates an awareness of the societal context of their studies and prepares them for their future careers as scientists, technologists, engineers, mathematicians and medics. I note the rapid progression and quality of STEMM student writing, explore contributing factors and what this might reveal about creative writing teaching and practice.

Paper Two (Anita Chandran)

Writer, doctoral student in Laser Physics

I became interested in the underrepresentation of women in STEMM fields during my undergraduate studies in Physics. My search for role models who might offer guidance in my career was disheartening and alerted me to the dearth of literature on the life, work and struggles of women scientists. Role models play an important role in enabling young women to picture themselves as scientists: in the lab, at the computer, over the operating table. My creative writing studies inspired me to address the challenge of underrepresentation and erasure through the medium of fiction and provided the opportunity to develop and refine my technical and compositional skills. I now combine my doctoral studies in Laser Physics with a creative practice that includes research-based short stories about women in science whose work has gone unrecognised throughout history as well as fictional treatments of themes in contemporary science. I address the literary representation of women scientists, the challenge of authenticity in creative treatments of scientific research and the frequency choice in fiction to portray women scientists as ‘the down-trodden. I address how being a woman of colour in STEMM informs the process of writing fiction about science and scientists and how my outreach work in schools reveals that fictional narratives appeal to young women and girls and encourage them to consider STEMM careers.

Paper Three (Dr Gita Ralleigh)

Writer, medical consultant in breast cancer imaging, lecturer in Creative Writing

The encounter between doctor and patient is fraught with fears, expectations and competing narratives. Medical training foregrounds factual knowledge, allotting little if any curriculum time to analysing patient narratives or reflecting on these encounters. Including creative writing in the medical curriculum enhances narrative competence and improves communication and reflective learning.

Drawing on my experience as medical consultant and creative writing teacher for STEMM students I discuss how reading fiction expands awareness of the human context behind a patient’s story, encouraging empathic listening. Critical reading also reveals underlying assumptions in different narrative modes.

Creative writing allows students to reflect on and evaluate patient encounters. Sharing this work in the writing workshop builds communication skills, allowing students to nurture the resilience necessary for a medical career.

Sun 2:30 pm – 3:45 pm

The Emotional Experience of (Higher Education) Teaching and Learning

Jack McGowanCarole Nash Recital Room

That teaching and learning is a practice and a process with multiple complex, powerful and often uncomfortable emotional components is a fact which is not frequently recognised in discourse around supporting learners and lecturers alike. As scholars in the field of English literary studies we are familiar with the power and persistence of narrative in shaping the world around us, and yet the emotional narratives we attach to our own roles as tutors and which our students construct about themselves as scholars of English at a university level often go unnoticed. Taking its jumping off point from Wittenberg’s seminal study of emotion and children’s education, The Emotional Experience of Teaching and Learning, this panel is concerned with the ways in which various psycho-therapeutic models of thinking and feeling might be embedded in pedagogical practice in the field of English studies. In a moment where pressure on staff and student well-being is pronounced, this panel aims to explore what psychodynamic thinking, mindfulness practice, affect theory, and reflective discussion groups might offer us as pedagogues and practitioners and our students in terms of recognising, managing and making constructive use of the emotional aspects of what takes place in the lecture theatre, seminar room, workshop space and tutorial.

The four papers offered will provide accounts of how the models described above have been deployed practically within the speaker’s teaching practice in ways which recognise our own and our students’ status as feeling as well as thinking subjects.

Dr Jack McGowan’s paper concerns the role of affect and affect transmission in the creative writing workshop, and discusses strategies that may be adopted to successfully structure and negotiate both the sharing of creative writing and the delivery of feedback in the workshop space while taking into account an array of potentially emotive factors.

Dr Lucy Arnold’s paper speaks to how psychodynamic concepts such as projection, containment and the internal world might offer those working in English Studies in Higher Education vocabularies and strategies for dealing with common situations arising when working with students in group and individual contexts.

Dr David Arnold’s paper will offer a perspective on mindfulness derived specifically from Buddhist meditation practice, situating the capacity for ‘open compassionate awareness’ within the context of other forms of engagement with the world, such as investigation and concentration. The paper will go on to outline some of the pedagogical issues arising from this perspective, such as the distinctions between different kinds of knowledge, and the relationship between ‘learning’ and ‘transformation’.

Dr Ian Fairley’s paper will review the life of a PGR ‘Reflective Group’ that he facilitated for research students in English and other disciplines between 2015-19. In making an account of this particular model of group – of the tensions that it sought to hold, and of the tensions in which it was held – he seeks to invite further thinking about what we consider the cultivation of PG research to be. Together these contributions combine to recognise the nature of the emotional experience of teaching and learning in Higher Education and develop a pedagogy that works with and values it.

Dr Jack McGowan (University of Worcester, Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing)
Dr David Arnold (University of Worcester, Senior Lecturer in English Literary Studies)
Dr Lucy Arnold (University of Worcester, Lecturer in Contemporary English Literature)
Dr Ian Fairley (University of Leeds, Lecturer in English Literature)

Sun 2:30 pm – 3:45 pm

Understanding Working-Class Lives Through the Edwardian Book Inscriptio

Lauren O’HaganMMUb

Book inscriptions are often relegated to the status of insignificant markers of ownership. However, they are much more than that. Book inscriptions are rich examples of multimodal vernacular writing that offer valuable evidence of the relationship that people have with their books. When supported by archival research, book inscriptions can provide first-hand accounts of identity performance, social hierarchization, power relations, and political and cultural socialisation. This is particularly the case for Edwardian (1901-1914) book inscriptions, given that the period was one marked by increasing class conflict.

This workshop proposes to demonstrate how the book inscription can be used to explore the lives of working-class individuals in Edwardian Britain. It is based on a number of recent workshops delivered to undergraduates at Cardiff University undertaking a module in Visual Communication. The workshop will introduce participants to a selection of Edwardian books and show how a combination of physical examination and digital tools can be used to explore their content. In particular, it will focus on how the material analysis of an inscription can be strengthened by supporting evidence provided by census returns, military records and other archival documents. Conducting such detailed, multi-layered analyses enable the stories of many working-class individuals who have been forgotten by history to be pieced together and retold to a new generation of learners.

Dr Lauren Alex O’Hagan, Research Associate, Cardiff University

Sun 2:30 pm – 3:45 pm


Why MEMS Matters: A Roundtable Discussion on a MA in Medieval and Early Modern Studies Program

Emily HarlessLecture Theatre

Chair: Emily M. Harless (University of Manchester; English and American Studies PhD Student)

In recent years, students and staff alike have observed the growing success and fruits of the MA in Medieval and Early Modern Studies (MA MEMS) program at the University of Manchester. Recruitment continues to grow, with figures nearly equivalent to that of the institution’s English MA program, and we have seen several students from the recent graduating cohorts go on to further, doctoral study. The interdisciplinarity of the program gives staff and students the opportunity to explore their varied research interests in an environment that gathers the resources, innovative spirit, and enthusiasm needed to support such research. Certain skills taught on the course (such as palaeography and codicology) offer students the opportunity to engage with material culture in a way that may be overlooked by more mainstream programs, while methodological approaches highlighted by the course encourage (or even require) students to engage in research previously seen as being appropriately delegated to a certain department – perhaps a department quite foreign to them. By gathering together scholars of various backgrounds, the MA MEMS program creates a dialogue between departments that has spawned fascinating new research projects. However, there are – as with all programs – some unique challenges for both staff and students.

This roundtable gathers together former MA MEMS students who have now moved forward in their academic careers – both current postgraduate researchers and early career academics – as well as staff who have previously and/or are currently teaching on the MA MEMS course to discuss aspects of both teaching and studying on a course of this type, answering and discussing questions such as the following:

  • How does a course of this sort appeal to students of various backgrounds?
  • Why study on a MEMS course (versus one in English, history, etc.)?
  • What unique challenges does teaching or studying on a course of this type pose?
  • What might the future of a MEMS program like the one at Manchester look like?

The aim of this roundtable is to gain a greater understanding of the strengths, weaknesses, and the future of programs of this type. We hope to use this information to create strategies for the future development of programs of the sort currently operating at Manchester and other institutions.

Sun 2:30 pm – 3:45 pm


Writing Ambiguous Encounters

Dana ArielMMUc

This panel, organised by Dana Ariel and Dawn Gaietto, seeks to explore the relationship between writing and image-making through the individual processes of engaging in practice-based research with creative-critical writing and open the discussion to the larger implications of these practices.

Ambiguity becomes a method of making in practice-based research, dwelling in the fogginess and complexity of ideas. In viewing and reading, the sites of encounter can provoke different interpretations that are not restricted to the voice of the author alone. These sites of encounter could embody different modes of engagement, challenge prior-knowledge and offer textual and non-textual modes of translation. The language of practice does not require adherence to established modes of research, often the form of the research can be determined by the content. Introducing ambiguity as a method allows for an increased degree of imaginative interpretation to the reader or viewer, allowing for a plurality of responses that can generate shared spaces for dialogue.

As panel organisers, originating from practice-led research in fine arts, we understand practice as a form of performative criticality; an act of doing which makes use of audible, visual and linguistic methods as necessary. This is predicated on the desire to translate individual experience into a multitude of situated experiences through the encounter. The intersection of control and freedom in the relationship between the author, the work, and the viewer/reader is central to the act of making. In this performative function, the use of language can create a zone of intentional ambiguity, delineating the boundaries of ambiguity within the possibilities of translation into a situated experience. We propose this session as an interrogation of the speculative positioning of ambiguity as a mediator of the dichotomy between written and visual critical approaches to practice, a mediator of control.

Here is a list of potential questions which we seek to address (note: this list is not exhaustive):

  • What can ambiguity offer to the production of knowledge?
  • What are the functions of language and writing in practice-led research?
  • What is gained through the use of creative and critical strategies in practice-led research?
  • How can we understand the ‘interpretation’ of an ambiguous encounter?
  • How does practice-based research open access to forms of knowledge and knowledge production?
  • How could hierarchies of value in knowledge be subverted through practice-based research?
  • What is the added value of living and/or present artists and authors in the process of engaging with their works?
  • If we consider words as materials, how does this open the ‘what is’ in representation to a plurality of interpretations?
  • How can the practice of ambiguity become an active resistance to an answer?
Sun 2:30 pm – 3:45 pm

‘Race & Poetry & Poetics in the UK’ Research Group

Nisha RamayyaConference Room

Five years on from the formation of the ‘Race & Poetry & Poetics in the UK’ (RAPAPUK) research group, core members join together to outline what has been achieved in anti-racist poetry studies in the UK – and what we think still needs to happen.

As a whole, the research group has organised academic conferences and poetry readings in London and in Cambridge (see our website for more information: www.rapapuk.com). Within the group, members have also collaborated on smaller projects, such as a panel on ‘Race and Poetic Form’ at the Modernist Studies Association conference in Amsterdam, workshops at the National Poetry Library in London and the ‘Decolonial Transformations’ conference in Brighton, and a range of research trips, events, and publications.

Our interests span historical, political, literary, and aesthetic concerns, from questions about the legacies of colonialism, to resistance against borders in universities, to anti-racist and decolonial reading/writing/teaching practices. We propose a panel in which we discuss the following questions:

  • How does long-standing anti-racist work by BAME poetry practitioners, publishers, and event organizers reverberate – or not – in academic English studies?
  • How can we create a pedagogy of hospitality in our classrooms, and in our creative and critical practices? Can translation function as a new model for hospitable, decolonial reading? I.e. should the future of ‘English studies’ include translation theory and born-translated texts?
  • How do we understand the discord between imagining a borderless literary paradigm within the treacherous reality of borders for many academics and poets writing and thinking in English? What does it mean for the literary establishment to sever itself from the socio-historical context, and how this can affect the work of critique?
  • How to think about literary categories and the methods used to define them. For example, how tenable are categories such as ‘British’ poetry or ‘Anglo-American’ poetry in relation to ‘English studies’ or ‘world literature’?
  • In the last decade, there have been more platforms for poets of colour in the UK, but what has changed in the academic fields of poetry, poetics, and English studies? How do we analyse the foundational categories of poetry and poetics in relation to the ongoing legacies of colonialism in supposedly ‘neutral’ ideas about poetics?
  • What are the ‘shared futures’ of our research group?

Our responses will take the form of short papers, poetry readings, and discussion amongst ourselves and the audience. We are keen to share our research, experiences, and ideas for the future, as well as to hear responses from the audience and to generate ideas collectively about what anti-racist and decolonial work we can do within our various academic and literary contexts.

Janani Ambikapathy, Doctoral Student (University of Cambridge)
Edmund Hardy, Independent Scholar
Nat Raha, Independent Scholar
Nisha Ramayya, Lecturer in Creative Writing (Queen Mary University of London)
Sophie Seita, Assistant Professor in English (Boston University)
Sam Solomon, Senior Lecturer in Creative and Critical Writing (University of Sussex)
Dorothy Wang, Professor of American Studies (Williams College)

Sun 2:30 pm – 3:45 pm

4:00 pm – 5:15 pm Sunday Session V

Ali Smith’s Quartet: Community, Brexit and the Transglossic

Kristian Shaw 1Lecture Theatre (Conference Room for overflow)

Beginning with Autumn (2016), a sustained mediation on the anus mirabilis that changed the political and cultural landscape of twenty-first century society, and concluding with the post-Brexit fallout of Summer (2020), this panel dedicated to Ali Smith’s seasonal quartet embeds the contemporaneous events of the EU referendum within a wider cyclical process of British history and natural decline.

Shaw’s paper will discuss how Smith directly engages with the events of Brexit, anticipating and responding to recent socio-cultural and ethno-political shifts. The paper will also discuss how the third instalment of Smith’s quartet, Spring (2019), marks a departure from the Anglo-centric focus of her earlier instalments to comment on Scotland’s troubled and ambivalent place within the British constellation, as well as clear political and ideological tensions between the two nations regarding UK immigration policy. Engaging with Smith’s repeated refrain that literature is how we learn to ‘read the world […] most empathetically, most complexly, most humanly’ (PRI), the paper argues that Smith’s quartet contains an aspirational and animating ‘transglossic’ energy in confronting the cosmopolitical crises of the contemporary moment.

Kristian Shaw, Senior Lecturer in English Literature, University of Lincoln 

Ely will argue that Smith’s quartet builds on her previous work to counterpose a sense of literary and aesthetic community to the polarized ideological positions of Brexit. Smith develops a tendency going back to her earliest publication First Love (1995), where her short story “Text for the Day” constructs a literary community of citations, working together fragments of largely female authors to offer a vision of a feminist and politically motivated literature. In Smith’s reclamation of the legacy of Pauline Boty and Barbara Hepworth and her rumination on Rainer Maria Rilke and Katherine Mansfield, Smith continues this trend, proposing a process of historical, aesthetic and literary reflection which might intervene in the affective rawness and incessant speed of events that have overtaken out political and cultural landscape. The paper will conclude by arguing that Smith’s project may be productively construed as the cultivation of a ‘literary community’, which, following the work of Jean-Luc Nancy, allows for creative and interruptive possibilities in the formation of communal thinking, allowing for the imagination of new, shared, and egalitarian futures beyond the crises of the present.

Peter Ely, Early Career Researcher, University of West London

Upstone will examine Smith’s seasonal quartet with regards to the politics of empathy and the development of the ‘transglossic’. Positioning Smith’s quartet as part modern, part postmodern, part magical realist, Upstone will argue that the novels function equally as future-thinking provocation and as interruptive forces that declare an alternative possibility beyond the confines of the current political status quo. This politicised intervention rests upon a dynamic disturbance of established popular viewpoints. Drawing from examples across the quartet, Upstone argues that Smith eschews the easy binaries of contemporary British politics for a politics of empathy that demands an active, interventionist mode of being. In its simultaneity, Smith’s fiction will be said to represent a many-voiced – or transglossic – mode of representation that is acutely and self-consciously directed toward the intricacies of the current political moment.

Sara Upstone, Professor in Contemporary Literature, Kingston University 

The panel will serve as a ‘showcase’ – containing academics at different stages of their respective academic careers.

Sun 4:00 pm – 5:15 pm

British Association of Modernist Studies: The Futures of Modernist Studies “beyond Britain”

Alex ThomsonOpera Theatre

Organisers: Suzanne Hobson (Queen Mary University London) and Alex Thomson (University of Edinburgh)

The Futures of Modernist Studies “beyond Britain”
The tensions between centre and periphery have long been central to the study of modernist writing, and the expansion of modernist studies in the last two decades has been predicated on ever-widening modernism’s temporal and geographical boundaries. Recent attention to cosmopolitanism and transnationalism reminds us that modernist writing was itself involved in complex debates over the local, the regional, the national and the international and that this involvement took place in the context of the twentieth century crisis of the nation state and the historical processes of decolonisation and globalisation.

Given the contemporary crisis of the British state and of its internal and external territorial politics, this panel proposes to explore the resources that these debates might offer for thinking modernist studies ‘beyond Britain’. We understand this to entail several types of question:
• The place of the national within the context of ‘British’ modernism: and the challenges of decentralizing or decolonizing our understanding of ‘British modernism’.
• The importance of the regional to British modernism.
• The lessons of modernist studies in the era of Brexit and the return of nationalism as a political force within the constituent nations of the UK: what might modernist studies in Britain look like ‘after Britain’?
• Cultural and intellectual relations with Europe, the Americas, Australasia and the rest of the world.
Each of these theoretical questions has a practical corollary in thinking about the disciplinary structures that foster and support the study of modernism:
• What is the relationship between BAMS as a national organisation and the various ‘regional’ and ‘national’ modernist networks SNoMS, MONC, Northern Modernism seminar, London Modernism Seminar and Irish Modernist Network? What does it mean for BAMS to ‘represent’ ‘British’ modernism?
• How might we best conceive the relationship between BAMS and other associations in Europe, North America and Australasia? To what extent is the dominance in the field of the Modernist Studies Association problematic?
• How might BAMS grow and better serve a geographically dispersed membership against a background of climate emergency and increased precarity in the profession?
• What is BAMS relationship to the UK Higher Education sector? What problems or opportunities arise from being beyond national frameworks?

LEARNED SOCIETIES STRAND: British Association of Modernist Studies

Sun 4:00 pm – 5:15 pm

Learned societies

Challenging Universities

Seminar Room 2

Invisible Labour: Writing Pedagogies and their Relation to ‘University Crisis’ (Taylor Morphett)

The phrase ‘crisis in the university’ encompasses a huge range of problems the academy faces today: the defunding of institutions; the subsequent corporatization of the academy; the particular loss of funds in humanities programs; ever-growing administration; reliance on contingent labour, leading to a bleak job market and the endangerment of tenure; falling enrolments in the humanities; and a lack of perceived public value in higher education. Scholars in Critical University Studies (CUS) have considered the many crises of the academy and their relation to one another for decades now. Interestingly, most CUS scholars hail from English departments (Reading; Donoghue; Collini; Nelson; Bousquet; Hanlon; Giroux; Graff; North; Scholes). Why are English scholars so well represented in this discourse? And why, when we talk about university crisis are we so often talking about a crisis in the humanities, and in particular, English Departments? To begin to answer these questions, we need to turn back to the early days of the modern university: the late 18th and early 19th century. In this early moment, humanities scholarship began to be actively differentiated from the emerging sciences, whose members sought a place in the academy. Outside of the academy, literature and thinking around writing was rapidly changing; a new distinction was being made around Romantic creative writing that would differentiate the work of the humanities scholars from creative public intellectuals. These two forces would shape the way writing was theorized and taught in the academy. My paper “Invisible Labour: Writing Pedagogies and their Relation to ‘University Crisis’” will argue that a focus on writing, and in particular writing pedagogy, reveals that many of the problems of crisis come down to a question of how writing situated in the academy. Writing is central to the work that gets done in any university: it is a key aspect of the labour produced by academics and is at the heart of our knowledge production and pedagogy. Writing is key, as well, to the running of any institution, from administrative memos and policies to the assessment of our students. Delving into the history of writing pedagogy by observing 18th century scholars like Hugh Blair, who created writing pedagogies meant to favour the sciences, along with 19th century thinkers like William Blake and Samuel Taylor Coleridge, who retheorized and drew boundaries around creative writing’s place in society, reveals the ways writing was designed to be and now is an invisible labour in the academy.

Low Hanging Fruit (Melissa Bailey)

The Open University keeps data on gender, socio-economic groups, ethnic origin and has a high number of students with additional needs. Increasingly, Universities are creating data warehouse structures collecting large amounts of data and tracking students. This session will explore some of the ethical and practical issues around tracking student data of access in online learning sessions, including students flagged with markers. It has been suggested that online live teaching sessions can increase levels of access and participation in Higher Education. But does it fulfil this promise? This research is based quantitative data of 13,700 Faculty of Arts and Social Science (FASS) students tracked in 2018/19, (71,000 attendance records) supplemented by in-depth qualitative research with around 170 Arts and Humanities students, with a focus on 2nd and 3rd level Creative Writing and English modules. Data about access to online learning events has been described as ‘low hanging fruit’ but there is much that we learned about which groups of students participated more than others in our live
online learning events. For example, we found out:

  • Fewer BAME students chose to participate in online Learning Events and there are different participation rates between different ethnic groups
  • Some groups of students with particular types of disability participated more and some less in online learning.

But beyond this data of access, what do our students think? By talking to and surveying students, we built up a picture of what our students did and did not like about the online learning events we offer and the timing and type of these sessions. The jury is out about whether live online learning sessions really increase access and participation. We are reviewing some of our policies and practices in the light of our research.

Can Literary Studies Save the World? Literature and Global Challenges in the Twenty-First Century (Wendy McMahon)

Research in the Arts and Humanities broadly and literary studies specifically tend to be thought of as irrelevant to challenge-led research goals. Rather, science and social science are deemed to be the areas that will help to provide the solutions to some of the most pressing challenges the world faces in the twenty-first century, whether climate change, food insecurity, conflict, or the decline of democracy and human rights. But all of the challenges that the world faces in the twenty-first century have a human dimension and can offer significant knowledge of cultural, linguistic, social, historical, and political contexts; creativity; and the diversity of global thinking. So, what are we in Literary Studies to do? How do we move from a position of critical engagement with and analysis of a problem to helping to propose solutions? Should be engage with challenge-led research at all? Using a recent project, Explosive Transformations, which brought my research in literary studies together with international development and volcanology with the intention of understanding peoples’ relationships with hazardous landscapes, this session will explore the opportunities and challenges for literary studies in a time of crisis.

Sun 4:00 pm – 5:15 pm

Class in/and Film


Creating a Late Twentieth-Century Accent of Otherness in Moving-Image Media: Alun Owen’s Writing, and the Mythologizing of Scouse, 1958-64 (Peter Atkinson)

Alan Owen wrote the screenplay for The Beatles’ first film A Hard Day’s Night (1964), a film that United Artists initially wanted to have dubbed on account of the Liverpool accent being incomprehensible. Owen was a playwright, a scouser who was given an opportunity to write for TV in the late 1950s as a part of ITV’s search for young regional writers. His play No Tram to Lime Street (1958) is published in print, the script containing Scouse words, slang, sayings and abbreviations. Before The Beatles’s rise to fame, a number of TV texts were set in a fictional Liverpool, including Owen’s ‘Liverpool Trilogy’. Here I argue that Owen’s writing of the script for A Hard Day’s Night, with the Scouse idiom clearly marked by local words, slang and abbreviations (such as ‘go ‘ed’) popularised the linguistically distinctive Liverpool voice, and helped synthesise a modern mythology of Scouse and Liverpool exceptionalism that endured throughout the century. It is argued that the distinctive linguistic signifiers emphasised in popular representations of Scouse derive from colonial oppression, and therefore the portrayal of otherness in such representations masks historical fact through processes of Barthesian mythologization.

Screenwriting our English Queens in the 1930s and 1940s (Alexis Weedon)

Alexis Weedon is Professor of Publishing at the University of Bedfordshire. She researches in the intersection of book history, new media and film. This paper comes from current research into the origins of transmedia storytelling for a book. Her books include Victorian Publishing: The Economics of Book Production for a Mass Market (2003), and Elinor Glyn as Novelist, Moviemaker, Glamour Icon and Businesswoman (2014). alexis.weedon@beds.ac.uk

ELIZABETH Send out your thoughts as I send out my men,
To earn a world for England! – paying first
The toll of the pioneer.
(Dane, ‘Will Shakespeare’ 1921)

In this paper I propose that non-canonical, professional novelists were able to grasp the potential of film as a medium because of their need to adapt to the market. These writers embraced movies as a means of popular storytelling and reshaped their acting and journalistic skills to make themselves useful to the film industry.

My focus is on historical fiction. Recent screen adaptations of the lives of Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria have their origins in earlier works which trace back to the first world war. I have selected some novelists and screenwriters who took advantage of royalist sentiment and nationalist identity, reinterpreting the lives of these British women monarchs to cast light on the social concerns of their age. I will show how these authors’ worked on their scripts and with their producers and audiences to reconceptualize England, influence the re-formation of national identity, challenge imperialism and defend a nation at war. I will how their working practice connected fiction and screen writing, novel and play publication, reading and performance. Specifically I will distinguish between collaborative writing and co-authorship, and critique current emphasis on originality and the detection of copied text by suggesting that it inhibits creativity and reinterpretation of our heritage.

The writers will include the early twentieth century authors and scriptwriters: AEW Mason, Clemence Dane, Hugh Walpole and their legacy in the work of Tom Stoppard, Lee Hall and Shrabani Basu. It will include the plays and films of ‘Victoria and Abdul’ (2017), Elizabeth (1998 + 2007), ‘Shakespeare in Love’ (1998) ‘Til Time Shall End’ (1958) ‘Fire over England’ (1937) and ‘Will Shakespeare’ (1921).

Sun 4:00 pm – 5:15 pm

Creative Imitation in the Classroom

Thomas Karshan 2MCRh

‘If so large a part of creation is really criticism, is not a large part of what is called “critical writing” really creative?’, asked T. S. Eliot in ‘The Function of Criticism’. The last decade or so has seen a steady erosion of any sharp distinction between the ‘creative’ and the ‘critical’, and of the borders marked out by each of these not wholly satisfactory terms: partly because of dissatisfaction with existing protocols of academic critical writing; partly because of an interest in the critical force of ‘creative writing’; and partly because the rapid expansion of creative writing in universities raises fundamental questions about its relationship with criticism and scholarship.

In response to this, the Institute of English Studies and the University of East Anglia have begun a collaboration ‘On the Creative-Critical’ which encompasses a series of conferences and workshops: a summit ‘On the Creative-Critical’ took place at UEA on June 1, 2019, following a sequence of workshops at IES.

IES and UEA are offering two interlinked workshops on aspects of creative-critical writing and teaching for English Shared Futures 2020:

2. Creative Imitation in the Classroom

This session is focussed on the emerging revival in university teaching of early modern and modernist practices of imitation and parody. This teaching practice offers an alternative to the discussion plus essay model of literature teaching, and one which benefits students both in their understanding of literature and in their development as critical and creative writers. Organised by a Renaissance scholar (Dr Hannah Crawforth (KCL)) and a modernist (Dr Thomas Karshan (UEA), the session will also address the history of the teaching of literature and how certain Renaissance practices of imitation survived until the modern period and were even embraced by modernists, before being eclipsed by the analytic essay’s emergence as the norm of critical discourse in the period between the two world wars. This session will build on the panel on imitative pedagogy that took place at ESF 2017; but where that was a panel of three papers and a short discussion to follow, this will be a workshop in which participants will be actively involved in the pedagogical practice.

The session will begin with two short (10-minute) position pieces to set out the stakes of our discussion; articulate our respective modern and early modern viewpoints; and ask of the participants some key questions. We will then offer samples of teaching materials that we have each used with some success and ask participants in the workshop to spend 25 minutes trying their hand at one or more exercises. Crawforth will offer materials from a single-author third-year undergraduate module on ‘Reading Paradise Lost,’ inviting participants to consider how individual literary style is constructed, and how deconstructing Milton’s writing can allow us to rethink our understanding of the poet’s relationship to his text. Karshan will offer materials from his creative-critical MA module on Ludic Literature, giving participants a chance at re-writing various source materials through the prism of various of Beerbohm’s and Joyce’s parodies of various individual styles.

We will then have an open discussion of 30 minutes in which participants in the workshop will discuss their experience of working through these exercises and comment on a series of questions:

  • What can imitation and parody teach us about an author or style that is distinct from what we can learn from description, comparison, contextualisation, and analysis?
  • What does it teach us to remake a text for ourselves, in our own language, our own moment? How does the early modern concept of imitatio speak to us today?
  • What do we learn about one style when it is mixed with or transposed into another?
  • How can imitation help students to develop as creative writers as well as readers?
  • Can imitation and parody serve to foster a more inclusive classroom?

The first workshop is Real Criticism

Sun 4:00 pm – 5:15 pm

Creativity and Literature in the English and Italian Classroom


“Englishes Literatures”: teaching new literatures in English language in Italian Secondary Schools (Isabella Marinaro)

The spread of English worldwide, both as a consequence of postcolonialism and as a lingua franca, has brought to a multifaceted English, for its linguistic varieties as well as for its forms of hybridations with local languages. For this reason I think that, by now, it would be more suitable to speak of English literature in the plural forms, regarding the language, and regarding literature. In a world where English is daily spoken by about 1,132,000,000 people, as a first and second language (Crystal 2003; Ethnologue), it would not be appropriate to speak of “English” as if it were a unique language. Moreover, if we consider that in all the English-speaking countries there is a literary production, often reflecting local linguistic features, it would be even less appropriate to speak of one English literature only. We increasingly speak about “global English”, a reality which pinpoints a crisis of terminology: actually, the distinctions between ‘native speaker’, ‘second language speaker’, and ‘foreign-language user’ have become blurred (Graddol 2006). In a similar panorama, it seems definitely inappropriate to speak of one English literature, but we should rather consider the two terms in the plural forms.

When teaching English at school, it is inevitable to wonder how realistic and also ethically right is to propose the usual syllabuses of English literature without opening to a wider perspective of the spreading of English worldwide, thus to the various realities of English speaking literatures, with their peculiarities concerning themes, frames of mind, linguistic features.

In Italian schools the study of English is compulsory from the primary school to the end of the secondary school, therefore for about 13 years. In the last three years of secondary schools, English is studied also through the means of literature. The syllabus usually proposed is basically about English – meaning British – literature with some very rare examples of American authors.

My research aims at providing a different view of English literature as a school subject, more faithful to the present day situation of a worldwide spread English. This approach might open students’ minds to a more realistic view of English, namely to a language so widely spoken and hybridated, and to a wider range of literary examples and topics. Thus we should start from acknowledging the multiplicity of English worldwide, and to introduce students to the so-called “new Englishes”.

Given the low number of hours scheduled to the study of English in class, and the inevitable work of tackling the ordinary syllabus, it would be possible to analyse some examples of new English literatures through the medium of intertextuality, both from a linguistic point of view, and for the themes dealt in the texts chosen.

In other words, teachers can start from a traditional author, or excerpt, to pass to a new English example thanks to a comparative approach. In this phase the contribution of stylistics, as an approach to analyse the language, and as a process of awareness of it, would be extremely profitable. My proposal is to compare texts by canonical authors with ones from the universe of “new English” literature, and, through activities in class, to find out possible and meaningful interlinks between the two texts, starting from their style, their peculiarities, their deviances.

My case studies are still a work in progress, but I am going to provide two examples: Ha Jin vs. James Joyce, and Nayyirah Waheed vs. Charles Dickens. The first couple may be exploited for the “creative” use of the language, while the second for being target-oriented texts, with a consequent reflection on the different ways of spreading the literary message, namely Instagram and 19th cent. magazines.

Teaching figurative language to students: The British National Curriculum and its misconceptions (Kimberley Pager-McClymont)
“Emotions are the core of Literature. Every character, every story written has a purpose: to create a reaction” (Brown: 1962, p.122). Communicating emotion in a way that conveys universal understanding is a challenge: do we all feel the same spectrum of emotions? This is why figurative language is overly used in literature, as it allows authors to convey emotions in a clear, objective way.

“Verbal narration […] draws on figurative language, particularly metaphors. Often on the page what is internal to a character comes out in metaphorical language” (Abbott: 2008, p. 118). Figurative language can take shape in varied ways and has a multitude of usage, all with different impacts. The term “metaphor” is often used as a general term to refer broadly to figurative language and other techniques. All figurative language techniques have a similar purpose: to convey meaning through visualisation. Yet, not all figurative language techniques are created equal to fulfil this purpose, and different techniques can be extremely specific, such as personification or anthropomorphism. Despite this fact, most imagery techniques are defined in similar terms, despite their varied outcome.

Certain imagery techniques are required knowledge by the British National Curriculum for GSCE and A Level students. Yet the British National Curriculum and exam boards have failed to accurately defined those techniques for students and teachers, as it is the case, for example, for pathetic fallacy, personification or anthropomorphism. After taking a survey of English teachers to sense what they thought pathetic fallacy was and what texts features this technique, I retrieved data pointing out at the misconceptions between pathetic fallacy, personification and anthropomorphism. It is therefore obvious that updated definitions are needed to identify those techniques clearly and point out why and how they are used, but also to consider their impact.
In this paper, I will highlight the different levels of figurative language, focusing mainly on literary techniques such as pathetic fallacy, personification and anthropomorphism. I will offer a systematic definition for each of those technique as well as presenting resources to better teach students what they are.

Abbott, H. P. (2008). The Cambridge Introduction to Narrative (2nd ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Brown, C. (1962) ‘Towards a Definition of Romanticism’, in Burnshaw, Stanley (ed.), Varieties of Literary Experience, New York: New York University Press.
Department for Education, (2013) GCSE English Subject Content and Assessment Objectives [accessed October 4th 2019] https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/254498/GCSE_English_literature.pdf

Teaching figurative language to students: The British National Curriculum and its misconceptions (Kimberley Pager-McClymont)

Kimberley is a third-year PhD candidate in Linguistics (Stylistics) at the University of Huddersfield and a secondary school English teacher. She focuses on the impact of figurative language in texts, particularly how it impacts communicating emotions in narratives and how it contributes to characterisation overall. Her PhD thesis is centred around pathetic fallacy, a specific type of metaphor without a linguistics model.

Creativity in the English Curriculum: Colloquies on Stage (Lorna Smith)

The purpose of this paper is to present how English teaching professionals perceive and experience creativity, and how they interpret, make sense of and respond to the policy and guidance around creativity in English teaching in England. Part of a larger project exploring the impact that the current national curriculum (sic) (DfE, 2014) has had on creativity in school English at secondary level – controversially, the curriculum makes no mention of the term ‘creativity’ (nor any word with the ‘create’ root) – the paper is drawn from research data collected in 2016-17 through a series of interviews (or ‘colloquies’).

The paper is presented in script form. I wish to invite members of the audience to volunteer to voice the parts, thereby bringing to life the colloquists’ experiences and views.

The challenge of defining creativity

‘Creativity’ is a difficult concept to describe: its meaning is eclectic and elusive, ‘slippery’ (Blamires and Peterson, 2014: 149) and confusing (Craft, 2005). This is particularly so in the field of English education: the literature suggests that creativity has developed over the past century from a concept involving an imaginative and aesthetic response to literature, to one that promotes personal growth through immersion in language and literature, to one that involves collaboration, communication and problem-solving (Smith, 2018).

A ‘creative’ approach to research

My research uses a hermeneutic methodology. Like English, hermeneutics has ‘human communication, language and discourse at its centre’ (Gardner, 2010: 39). It is a creative paradigm, actively involving imagination, reflecting and risk-taking through the process of interpreting and forming ideas.

Seeking to discover their understanding of creativity (or ‘creativities’ (McCallum, 2012: 20)) and how this shapes their practice within the present curriculum, I interviewed 11 ‘experts’ in secondary English – a ‘theory-based’ sample (Patton, 1990 in Miles and Huberman, 1994: 28) including writers, academics, teacher educators, Head Teachers, Heads of Department and recently-qualified teachers. The colloquists were invited to respond freely to quotations taken from the literature offering a provocative range of stances on education, creativity, the English curriculum and writing pedagogy.

The paper is presented in a script format because it is appropriate that a study on the topic of creativity is ‘creatively’ handled. It also enables me to combine the individual colloquies into a unified whole in a manner befitting a hermeneutic approach, allowing the colloquists to ‘speak to’ each other and so engage in a conversation, or ‘unrehearsed intellectual adventure’ (Oakeshott, 1959: 11). Further, given that the script includes stage directions indicating intonation, pace, pauses, etc., it potentially offers a ‘truer’ representation of the colloquies.

The script was developed using a three-stage hermeneutic approach (Kinsella and Bidinosti, 2016), the colloquists’ words retained verbatim as far as possible. Casting myself in researcher role, my persona introduces, interprets and synthesises ideas, demonstrating how meaning can be made from the voices captured in the original colloquies.


The script demonstrates that English teachers feel that creativity is fundamental to their role. Despite a challenging climate (where – as one colloquist argues – the absence of ‘creativity’ in the national curriculum suggests an attempt to silence the debate), they wish to teach in a creative manner and open up opportunities for creative learning. There is consensus that the most important factor in whether students receive a creative English education is the agency of their teacher. That some of the younger teachers feel this as strongly as experienced colleagues – and practice accordingly – provides grounds for optimism: they are bearing the torch and represent something on which to build when we move to a more enlightened curriculum.

Blamires, M and Peterson, A (2014) Can creativity be assessed? Towards an evidence-informed framework for assessing and planning progress in creativity in Cambridge Journal of Education, 44:2, 147-162, DOI: 10.1080/0305764X.2013.860081
Craft, A (2005) Creativity and Possibility in the Early Years available online at: https://tactyc.org.uk/pdfs/Reflection-craft.pdf [last accessed 28.02.19]
DfE (2014) The national curriculum in England: English programmes of study available online at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/national-curriculum-in-england-english-programmes-of-study [last accessed 08.10.19]
Gardner, P (2010) Hermeneutics, History and Memory. London: Routledge.
Kinsella, E.A. & Bidinosti, S. (2016) ‘I now have a visual image in my mind and it is something I will never forget’: an analysis of an arts-informed approach to health professions ethics education Adv in Health Sci Educ (2016) 21: 303. https://doi-org.bris.idm.oclc.org/10.1007/s10459-015-9628-7 [last accessed 12.06.18]
McCallum, A (2012) Creativity and Learning in Secondary English Abingdon: Routledge
Miles, M and Huberman, M (1994, 2nd ed) Research Design and Management (Chp 2) Qualitative Data Analysis: An expanded sourcebook. London: Sage pp16-39
Oakeshott, M (1959) The Voice of Poetry in the Conversation of Mankind: An Essay London: Bowes and Bowes
Smith, L (2018) ‘We’re Not Building Worker Bees.’ What Has Happened to Creative Practice in England Since the Dartmouth Conference of 1966?, Changing English, 26:1, 48-62, DOI: 10.1080/1358684X.2018.1532786

Sun 4:00 pm – 5:15 pm

Famine Literature: Remembering and Forgetting

Ayesha MukherjeeMCRf

This panel explores the impact of famine on literature, and the impact of famine literature on culture. Whether through the disastrous famines of India and Ireland, or the more managed extent of the Lancashire Cotton Famine, accounts, narratives, and figurings of dearth reflect and generate profound expressions of human extremity, and often bequeath complex cultural legacies. The extent to which famine history is remembered or forgotten maintains a complex relationship with contemporary literature, as modes of production and publication are subject to subsequent cultural forces, and education and ideology cultivate or lead to neglect of historiographies. We may question the authenticity of memory, or the consciousness of forgetting, but looking back at famine and famine writing remains continually illuminating in its different ways of representing the plight of ordinary people through some of the most extreme periods of human suffering. These papers track these themes through very different histories and geographies.

Remembering and Forgetting the Famine in Irish Literature (Melissa Fegan)

Melissa Fegan is an Associate Professor at the University of Chester. Her publications include Literature and the Irish Famine 1845-1919 (OUP, 2002), and book chapters and journal articles on representations of the Famine in literature from the 1840s to the present day.

The Famine has been identified by Oona Frawley as a ‘memory crux’, a catastrophic event which as the initiator of major cultural change is endlessly returned to, and which raises ‘intensely problematic’ questions about the relationship to the past. This paper will examine the ways in which the Famine functions as a ‘memory crux’ in Irish literature, a primal catastrophe the memory of which is revived at other moments of crisis and change. Historical fiction set during the Famine emerges in response to the Land War, the campaign for women’s rights, the Easter Rising, the War of Independence, the Civil War, the foundation of the Republic, the Troubles, the rise and fall of the Celtic Tiger, or new waves of immigration and emigration. New ways of thinking about the Famine also provoke a return, as in the literary responses inspired by histories such as Woodham-Smith’s The Great Hunger, Edwards and Williams’s The Great Famine, and the explosion of new scholarship that coincided with the 150th anniversary in the 1990s. For Emily Lawless in 1888, the Famine was ‘a black stream, all but entirely blotting out and effacing the past’; for William Barry in 1901, it meant that ‘[t]he past […] had no future’. The new future born from the wreckage of the Famine is endlessly changing yet uncannily familiar: ‘The past comes back transformed only to startle us with its steadfastness’, muses the protagonist of Banville’s Birchwood (1973), ‘It is our fractured vision which has transformed it’. The memory of the Famine, refracted through literature, transforms not only our vision of the past, but of the present and future also.

A Forgotten Literature: Lancashire Cotton Famine Poetry and the Canon (Simon Rennie)

Simon Rennie is Senior Lecturer in Victorian Poetry at the University of Exeter. His publications include The Poetry of Ernest Jones: Myth, Song, and the ‘Mighty Mind’ (Routledge 2015), and journal articles on the subject of Chartist and working-class poetry of the nineteenth century. He is currently Principal Investigator on the AHRC-funded Poetry of the Lancashire Cotton Famine 1861-65 project.

This paper investigates the reasons for a century-and-a-half of neglect of a body of work which provides a significant perspective on a major historical event. During the Lancashire Cotton Famine of 1861-65 hundreds of poems written often by ordinary Lancastrians were printed in local newspapers in the region in response to the economic crisis largely caused by the Union blockade of Southern cotton exports during the American Civil War. These poems have only just been recovered by an AHRC-funded research project and have now begun to be uploaded onto a publically accessible database. Examples from this body of work in standard English and Lancashire dialect will be used to demonstrate the extent to which, whilst there is a strong regional identity associated with this literature, it also displays profound knowledge of national and global political concerns, and therefore deserves to be considered as part of the popular response to the fallout of the American Civil War. These works can be seen to cement a Lancastrian identity by redefining its relationship with the metropole, the south of England, and the North and Southern regions of the USA, but they also illustrate a growing awareness of the importance of the region as the economic base of Britain’s trade dominance and imperial mission. Exploring political, literary and scholarly avenues, this paper examines the reasons for, and the implications of, the exclusion of these contemporary voices from popular and scholarly histories of the crisis.

Famine Tales from India and Britain (Ayesha Mukherjee)

Ayesha Mukherjee is Associate Professor of Early Modern Literature and Culture at the University of Exeter. Her publications include Penury into Plenty: Dearth and the Making of Knowledge in Early Modern England (Routledge, 2015) and A Cultural History of Famine (Routledge, 2019). She is Principal Investigator on the AHRC-funded projects Famine and Dearth in India and Britain, 1550-1800, and Famine Tales from India and Britain.  

This paper will examine the processes of memory and memorialisation at work in contemporary attempts to reconstruct and narrate stories of famines from sixteenth- to eighteenth-century India and Britain. The famine chronologies of the two countries in the early modern period are uncannily parallel, and this period also marks a time when both nations faced some of the worst famines in their history. Yet, many of these pre-colonial famines have long been neglected in scholarly discourse and popular imagination alike. This paper draws upon the research of two AHRC-funded projects – the first of which recovered sources, in around 10 languages, which enable us to examine the connected cultural histories of famine and dearth in India and Britain, 1550-1800; and the second, current project, which enables the retelling of some of these past events through both traditional and modern media of Indian scroll painting and graphic art, with accompanying songs and performances. Narrative processes of early modern famine literature itself frequently relied on memories and reconfigurations of past famines. The paper will first discuss such remembering in the interactive contexts of early modern Britain and Mughal India, and then analyse the processes of revisiting and retelling early modern stories of famine by two groups of artists who live and work in the current contexts of rural and urban India.

Sun 4:00 pm – 5:15 pm

Interdisciplinary methodologies in the English classroom


Mixed Methodologies: Erasure Poetry as a Pedagogical Tool in the English Literature Classroom (Aimee Merrydew (Keele))

TBC (history and literature pedagogy) (Debbie Parker-Kinch (Portsmouth))

TBC (using theatre practice in English classrooms) (Nora Williams (Bristol))

Sun 4:00 pm – 5:15 pm

Early Career Academics, ECAs

Peculiar Places: Explorations of Gothic Regional Differences

Alicia EdwardsMCRo

Though, since its inception in the eighteenth century, the Gothic, as William Hughes has argued, “has enjoyed an intimacy with the geographically provincial and the culturally peripheral”, this is an aspect of the mode that “academic criticism has to date hardly acknowledged”. This interdisciplinary panel thus combines socio-historical and quantitative research methods to respond to this gap in scholarly discourse, the three papers that comprise it variously comparing London as a Gothic ‘core’ with other ‘peripheries’ across the British Isles.

Maternal or murderous: The North/South Divide in the Practice of Baby Farming (Catherine Elkin)
This paper will present an exploration of the regional differences of baby farming in nineteenth- and early-twentieth century England. A baby farmer was a woman who reared the children of others for payment (either a weekly or lump sum), and most bore this work honestly, providing essential childcare for single mothers. However, a minority turned to criminal ends, neglecting, and even murdering, their charges in the interest of maximising profit. The majority of research on English baby farming, however, primarily focuses on the area of London and the surrounding districts. No scholar, as yet, undertaken a comprehensive study of the metropolis with city of Manchester. This paper will thus address the imbalance and examine this darker cultural history, comparing results with that of London. It will explore these regional differences, shedding light on both a criminal system involving the systematic neglect of infants and a genuine method of fostering and adoption, hoping to separate the two.

‘On the border of a wild heath…’: word-embeddings for peripheral Gothic place settings (Maartje Weenink)

A quick look at the most frequent entities in my dataset of 2500 early Gothic texts, as identified through a Named Entity Tagger, shows that ‘London’ is by far the most frequent entity with 35.317 hits, compare with ‘Paris’ (10.695), and ´Rome´ (5571). Not only is London overrepresented compared to other European cities, but a comparison with 3021 entries for ´Dublin´, 2333 for ´Edinburgh´, and a shocking 29 for ´Cardiff´ might lead one to believe that the other British nations barely feature in this corpus at all. Yet, interestingly, a manual survey of the national place setting for each text ranks Scotland, Wales, and Ireland as the 5th, 6th, and 7th most used countries for early Gothic fictions.

The crucial difference, therefore, seems to be a tendency for the Gothic to characterize non-English settings as remote, wild, and savage receptacles for a barbaric Gothic tale, while more “familiar” novels set in London’s vicinity utilize a completely different vocabulary to sketch their environment. This paper will investigate this propensity using word-embeddings, which are vector representations of a query’s semantic context. The differences in word-embeddings for texts set in London/England versus the other British nations/regional settings will be investigated in order to account for this separation of Gothic British representations of place.

Locating the Invisible ‘Invisible Other’: Cores and Peripheries of Racial and/or Foreign Ghosts in Britain (Alicia Edwards)
Ghosts have become emblematic of regional identity, territorial claims and socio-culture tension within the Gothic mode. Avery F. Gordon succinctly summarises haunting as “an animated state in which a repressed or unresolved social violence is making itself known”. Scholars have documented a number of socio-cultural tensions articulated in Britain-set ghost stories including gender, class, and, more broadly, the typology spaces that suit narratives of haunting. However, issues of race and/or foreign ghosts haunting Britain’s landscape have received less critical attention.

London has notoriously been situated as the epicentre of imperial, cultural and xenophobic anxieties and trauma within the Gothic, yet its ghost stories offer few hauntings to support its ‘cosmopolitan-phobia’. Building on preliminary commentary by ghost tourism scholar Michele Hanks on the absence of racial/cultural others in Britain’s haunted heritage, this paper seeks to undertake a comparative study between London and other urban centres across Britain to interrogate the presence and absence of the racialized and/or foreign ghosts, and to question how this relates to issues of regional memory and trauma and identity.

Sun 4:00 pm – 5:15 pm

Poem Songs

JT WelschMMUe

Poems Songs has been an ongoing, occasional project over the past decade, in which I’ve been setting to music a range of twentieth-century poems as an alternative reading practice. In some cases, this means filling in the legibly song-like shapes of these verses. In others, it requires more playful reconstructions, using melodic principles and song structure to draw out latent patterns in less formal poetry. As a whole, the project has been a way to rethink performative and embodied aspects of lyric and voice, while exploring the musical coding of some well-known and less well-known poems. It has also been a means for exploring an alternative history of lyrical setting. Looking beyond more typical jazz or classical modes of interpretation to the folk practices sustained by Joni Mitchell, Kris Delmhorst, and countless traditional musicians has been helpful for revisiting questions around poetry’s audience and popular contexts.

JT Welsch is a lecturer in English and Creative Industries and director of the Centre for Modern Studies at the University of York. He has published variously on twentieth-century poetry and the contemporary poetry industry, along with collections of his own poetry. The Selling and Self- Regulation of Contemporary Poetry will be published by Anthem in April 2020.

Sun 4:00 pm – 5:15 pm

Representing female experience in comedy

Katrin KuglerMMUd

This panel focusses on how female comedians and writers use comedy to represent their experience and negotiate issues of autobiography, authenticity, genre, comedy and class. The presenters of this panel are Dr Glyn White, Lisa Moore, and Katrin Kugler, all from the University of Salford.

Representation of female experience in Fleabag (Dr Glyn White)

Senior Lecturer in Twentieth Century Literature and Culture, University of Salford

Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s Fleabag (2016-2019) appears to approach the autobiographical by having the protagonist look and talk to camera. In its taboo-breaking honesty about contemporary metropolitan female sexuality it invites the viewer in (‘You know when..’ it begins) conspiratorially. In many ways it is parallel to Miranda Hart’s sitcom Miranda (2009-2015) with its upper middle class unsuccessful small businesswoman protagonist talking to the audience, but it also sets itself up as an anti-Miranda; dramatic rather than cosy, raw rather than openly stagy, angst-ridden rather than awkward. Where Miranda closes each episode by acknowledging the cast Fleabag’s second series scrutinises its own method: how does the camera look work? Why don’t other characters notice? Is the intended recipient of the look the audience at all?

The unmuted women of stand-up comedy (Lisa Moore)

Lecturer in Performance, University of Salford

This paper discusses the emergence of a new and vibrant female comic voice in the UK. Referring in particular to comics Luisa Omielan and Tiff Stevenson the paper explores how these performers bring to the fore contemporary social, political and cultural issues through their female comedic voice(s).

Life-storying and the use of humour in autobiographical texts and performances by stand-up comedians: Sarah Millican – a case study (Katrin Kugler)

2nd year PhD student (English Literature), University of Salford

More and more popular stand-up comedians publish an autobiography after having completed several successful stand-up tours. In my PhD project, I am exploring the relationship between text and performance in autobiographical texts written by stand-up comedians. In particular, I am looking at the presentation of life-narratives and use of humour on stage and in books written by the comedians. By using the works of the British comedian Sarah Millican as an example, I will demonstrate how Millican’s life-stories are being told in the two different media, showcasing differences and similarities. On top of that, the use of humour will be illuminated in the context of literary voice and authenticity. To date, my findings show many parallels between the autobiographies written by stand-up comedians and their on-stage performances, and an interesting impact of humour on the reliability of the texts.

Sun 4:00 pm – 5:15 pm

Roundtable: MA Programmes and the Future of Postgraduate Literary Studies

Michael CollinsConference Room

Taught postgraduate programmes perform a crucial role in our discipline, often preparing students for research careers, as well as providing valuable opportunities for research-led teaching. For individual students, the MA or taught MPhil experience is frequently a critical stage in academic and professional development, a juncture at which research identities are refined, and where both specialisation and intellectual exploration can reap rewards. Notwithstanding these benefits of MA study, it is sometimes tempting for institutions to view taught postgraduate programmes as something of an afterthought, or for students to regard them as inconvenient hurdles on the path to doctoral research. They have rarely been at the forefront of recent discussions concerning access and inclusion. Moreover, challenges of student recruitment and debates about the viability of individual programmes too often prevent concerted discussion of what MA study contributes to our field and how it could do so more effectively.

The proposed roundtable session will seek to redress this neglect. The four confirmed speakers, each representing one of KCL’s English Literature MAs, will consider, among other issues:

  • the purpose and value of MA study, both for students and institutions
  • what academic literary studies might look like without our current levels of taught postgraduate provision
  • lessons that can be learned from other national traditions of postgraduate study, especially North American models
  • the relationship between MA study and the periodisation of our discipline
  • ways of improving access to MA study
  • the impact of international student recruitment on the nature of MA study
  • the desirability and feasibility of interdisciplinarity at postgraduate level
  • the role of the dissertation and dissertation supervisor within English Literature MAs

The panel will also draw upon the thoughts and experiences of academics from other institutions (names to be confirmed).

Dr Emrys D. Jones, Senior Lecturer in Eighteenth-Century Literature and Culture, KCL (Chair)
Dr Nick Bentley, Senior Lecturer in English Literature, Keele University
Dr Clara Jones, Senior Lecturer in Modern Literature, KCL
Professor Lucy Munro, Professor of Shakespeare and Early Modern Literature, KCL
Dr Daniel S. Smith, Lecturer in Early Modern English Literature (1500-1700), KCL

Sun 4:00 pm – 5:15 pm


Salon: Sandeep Parmar, interviewed by Nadifa Mohammed

Sandeep ParmarCarole Nash Recital Room

Welcome to our literary salon, where we ask a leading member of the profession about their life in the subject and the subject in their life, exploring their career, work, ideas and thoughts for the future in a relaxed, informal atmosphere.

Sandeep Parmar is a prize-winning poet: her work includes The Marble Orchard (2012) and Eidolon (2014), both published by Shearsman. Based at the University of Liverpool, she is also a critic of contemporary poetry and scholar of modernist literature, author of Reading Mina Loy’s Autobiographies: Myth of the Modern Woman (2013) and editions of poems by Nancy Cunard and by Hope Mirrlees. She is an AHRC/BBC Radio 3 New Generation Thinker, has published essays and reviews internationally, and is the co-director of the University of Liverpool’s Centre for New and International Writing where she teaches English Literature. She will be will be interviewed by novelist Nadifa Mohamed FRSL, author of Black Mamba Boy (2009) and The Orchard of Lost Souls (2013). She is one of Granta’s 2013 ‘Best of Young British Novelists’ and on the Africa39 list of writers aged under 40 with potential and talent to define future trends in African literature. She teaches creative writing at Royal Holloway, University of London and writes and presents frequently for the national media.

Sun 4:00 pm – 5:15 pm


Teaching the 19th century novel: Whole-text exploration and language features

Viola WiegandMMUb

This session introduces free resources to support the teaching the 19th century novel with the help of digital methods. We will demonstrate how the free CLiC web app (http://clic.bham.ac.uk/) can be used in the classroom to exploit digital methods to support the reading and analysis of narrative fiction. Amidst calls for integrating the language and literature aspects of English as a diverse subject (see e.g. Clark et al., 2014), we developed CLiC as part of a research project into linguistic devices for the creation of fictional characters. CLiC currently makes it possible to access over 150 novels and short stories along with a set of tools to search for words and phrases and identify recurrent language features. The texts are predominantly from the 19th century and include many of the classics as well as books explicitly set for GCSE and A-Level specifications (e.g. The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, A Christmas Carol, Jane Eyre, Frankenstein and many more). In this session, we will show how CLiC can be used to explore language patterns within a book for whole-text exploration, make comparisons between different texts, and find similarities across a wide range of texts. We provide examples of activities for key stages 3 to 5 (see Mahlberg et al., 2017). You can set these activities in class, for homework or use the web app for lesson planning. We will also illustrate how students can use CLiC as a tool for revision and exam preparation (see Howard, 2018; Kemp, 2018) and to complete independent work, for example for their non-exam assessment (see Mahlberg et al., 2019, a collaboration with colleagues from the University of Birmingham’s Department of Teacher Education). The use of digital methods with CLiC in the English classroom has the potential to also stimulate interest among those students who tend to resist reading 19th century literature. It is important that a tool like CLiC will not replace your work as teacher, but can support your teaching approach. Feedback from practitioners we have worked with particularly highlights the use of CLiC for “stretch and challenge purposes”, revision and lesson planning. The tool seems most helpful when teachers can incorporate it into their own ways of working. On the CLiC blog (https://blog.bham.ac.uk/clic-dickens/), practitioners publish ideas for activities and accounts of their CLiC classroom experiences. During the session you will have the opportunity to try out some examples on your laptop, tablet or phone – if you want to.


Clark, B., Giovanelli, M., & Macrae, A. (2014). English: Diverse but unified: Putting texts at the heart of the discipline. Teaching English, 6, 17–20.
Howard, K. (2018). What’s in a word: Exam-ready with CLiC. In: CLiC Fiction. University of Birmingham. Retrieved from https://blog.bham.ac.uk/clic-dickens/2018/03/27/whats-in-a-word-exam-ready-with-clic/
Kemp, B. (2018). Revising Frankenstein with CLiC. CLiC Fiction. University of Birmingham. Retrieved from https://blog.bham.ac.uk/clic-dickens/2018/04/05/revising-frankenstein-with-clic-dickens/
Mahlberg, M., Stockwell, P., & Wiegand, V. (2017). CLiC – Corpus Linguistics in Context: An Activity Book Version 1. Retrieved from https://birmingham.ac.uk/clic-activity-book
Mahlberg, M., Wiegand, V., Hobday, S., & Child, F. (2019). Digital methods for the English classroom. Impact: Journal of the Chartered College of Teaching, 7. Retrieved from https://impact.chartered.college/article/digital-methods-for-the-english-classroom/

Sun 4:00 pm – 5:15 pm

Technics and Poetics: Media Histories of Black Poetry

Abram FoleySeminar Room 3

This panel brings together two literary critics and a contemporary poet to consider poetry written by black poets from Africa, the Caribbean, and continental North America. The common thread that ties these presentations together is an interest in and emphasis on the media and technology of poetic expression. Taking the technics of poetics as foundational for the panel, each presentation builds on this foundation in unique ways.

Christine Okoth’s paper addresses the racialized history of print technology in relation to black ecopoetry, Abram Foley’s presentation discusses Kamau Brathwaite’s digital experiments with typography in relation to his decolonial poetics. And Petero Kalulé’s poetry reading and subsequent brief public interview situates his own poetry in relation to instruments both musical and digital. Together, these presentations undertake an initial investigation into what we are calling the media histories of black poetry.

Ecology and the Space of the Poem: Dionne Brand and Harryette Mullen (Christine Okoth)

This paper takes as its point of departure the work of black ecopoetics and explores that genre’s interest in the relationship between ecology and technologies of reading. Building on the recent work of Angela Hume and Sonya Posmentier, I ask how poetic works extend the rubric of the ecological in order to contemplate the racial foundations of textuality and poetic form. Dionne Brand’s long-lyric poem Inventory and the poems of Harryette Mullen’s collection Trimmings offer two perspectives on this question of poetics, reading, and ecology. Brand’s reference to coltan mining in the DRC in her long lyric poem Inventory, for instance, accentuates how the devices with which we read are shaped by the violent extraction of resources from places that bear the marks of colonialism and the slave trade. Mullen’s play on Steinian repetitions highlights the absenting of waste and wasting within the space of the list poem. More generally, this paper seeks to expand the rubric of the ecological, asking what happens when we consider the poem as an ecologically racialised space.

Kamau Brathwaite’s Typographic Poetics as Decolonial Practice (Abram Foley)

In a 1988 interview, the Barbadian poet, historian, and critic Kamau Brathwaite comments on the intersection of digital technology and the “nation language” of the Caribbean he had theorized in his critical work The History of the Voice (1984). When pressed to explore the contradiction that a primarily oral “nation language” might find expression on the digital screen, Brathwaite responds that “the computer has moved us away from scripture into some other dimension which is ‘writing in light’… [It] is getting as close as you can to the spoken word” (40). This paper investigates this statement alongside the development of Brathwaite’s specialized “sycorax video style” and in the context of works by media historians such as Harold Innis and Vilém Flussser to situate Brathwaite as a decolonial media theorist.

Poetry Reading and Discussion with Petero Kalulé

Petero Kalulé is a musician and poet. His writing appears online at Burning House Press, Minor Literatures, and The Island Review, among other places. Kalimba, his first book of poems, was published by Guillemot Press in 2019. Drawing on cultural influences from Cecil Taylor to cybernetics, and on instruments such as the drum and the kalimba of the book’s title, Kalulé’s first collection attunes itself to the cultural effects of medial making. For this panel, Kalulé has agreed to read a handful of poems alongside a pubic discussion—led by Foley and Okoth—of his work.

Sun 4:00 pm – 5:15 pm

Unstable environments | Porous boundaries: Re-thinking Women’s Creative Research Practice

Stanislava DikovaMMUd

Combining literary, theoretical and creative perspectives, this panel explores how feminist methods of analysis and writing are transforming the possibilities of interdisciplinary academic research in the 21st century. Whilst framed broadly by feminist thinking, the four practices under discussion are all shaped by the researchers’ innovative approaches to creating distinctive disciplinary ‘landscapes,’ which aim to go against the grain of established critical approaches. Criss-crossing diverse currents of thought, each practitioner will set out a series of provocations, informed by key ideas and themes drawn from their current research projects. The second objective of the panel is to open up a wider discussion about setting up a network of interdisciplinary researchers, who share the speakers’ dynamic and fluid approach to disrupting contemporary critical discourses.

Penny Simpson’s project ‘Narrating the agency of the migrant in a literature of ekphrasis’ investigates the role of women artist-writers in the creation of new narratives about migration. It examines the process of writing as a process of construction, created in open dialogue with other disciplines. In particular, it centres on an interpretation of ekphrasis as the slippage between text and image, a richly ambiguous space for exploration. How might a ‘literature of ekphrasis’ act as catalyst for transforming narratives of the migrant experience? This question is discussed with reference to the work of Leonora Carrington and Unica Zürn.

Dr Penny Simpson, Fixed Term Teacher and Associate Fellow, University of Essex

Stanislava Dikova’s paper ‘Writing women’s agency: citizenship and political life at mid-century’ focuses on the relationship between mid-century literature and discourses of citizenship emerging in the aftermath of the Second World War. An important yet overlooked text, Olivia Manning’s The Balkan Trilogy (1960-65) charts the pre-war and wartime experience of British expats in Romania who are forced to flee to escape the invading German armies. Its thematic preoccupation with issues such as displacement and forced migration raises important and timely questions about the role of women writers in developing post-war theories and representations of citizenship, statelessness, and human rights.

Dr Stanislava Dikova, Associate Fellow, University of Essex

Jessica Houlihan’s contribution ‘Writing constraint: race, gender, and modernist aesthetics’ discusses the development of a black feminist modernist aesthetic in Sarah E. Wright’s overlooked novel This Child’s Gonna Live (1969). Wright’s narrative praxis represents the complex intersections of race, gender and economics during the Depression, the material conditions of black rural life in the United States, and the spatial politics of these constraints. It argues that the novel’s claustrophobic qualities, its interiority, and its fragmentation, give textual embodiment to feelings of confinement and stasis experienced by the character of Mariah, whilst crucially exposing the hegemonic practices of white patriarchy underlying them.

Jessica Houlihan, Doctoral Researcher, University of Essex

Elaine Ewart’s ‘Writing from the edge: interdisciplinary engagement with coastal environments’ explores her work as a creative writer, situated in the emerging field of archipelagic theory. She will discuss her current practice-as-research, which focuses on coastlines and islands, places characterised by change and precariousness, on a porous and unstable border between land and sea. Drawing on ecofeminist cultural theorists such as Stacey Alaimo and Astrida Neimanis, she will explore ways in which her creative practice invokes a fluid intermingling of literary and scientific disciplines to challenge dominant cultural narratives, and ask how we, as writer-researchers, might continue creative interdisciplinary conversations and collaborations.

Dr Elaine Ewart, Associate Fellow, University of Essex

Sun 4:00 pm – 5:15 pm

We Are Place Writing

David CooperMCRm

Here are paths, offered like an open hand, towards a new way of being in the world.

Gareth Evans & Di Robson, Towards Re-Enchantment: Place and Its Meanings (2010)

It seems, broadly, good to be stopped by a place. And this is one way a place comes into being. Our attention to them makes places significant.

Tim Dee, Ground Work: Writings on Places and People (2018)

Over the past decade, place writing has been a term that has increasingly entered both creative and literary critical discourse. To date, though, the label has not been subjected to extensive scrutiny. Immediately, the questions proliferate. Some of these questions relate to the reader’s identification of place writing as a mode of literary expression. What are the cardinal characteristics of such work? Is place writing to be exclusively associated with creative non-fiction? Or is the label a generic categorisation that could also be applied to fictional and poetic and dramatic texts? Further questions inevitably relate to content. What are the dominant thematic tropes in contemporary place writing? How do writers use literary form and language to reconfigure and/or reinscribe extant understandings of place and non-place, emplacement and placelessness?

This session will explore these questions – and many others – by bringing together four major voices in contemporary place writing: high-profile writers whose richly varied creative and creative-critical practices exemplify the heterogeneity of the difficult-to-define field. The session will begin with short presentations in which Paul Evans, Rachel Lichtenstein, Minoli Salgado, and Jean Sprackland will each offer brief reflections on the role that place plays in their respective creative practices. These initial presentations will then provide the foundations for a roundtable discussion – to be chaired by David Cooper – on the nature, possibilities, and limitations of contemporary place writing. Topics to be covered will include the value of creative collaboration; the affordances of digital technologies; and the synergies, and tensions, between creative and critical practices.

This roundtable, therefore, will move towards a definition of place writing. Saliently, the roundtable – which, if possible, we would like to be recorded – will also be a launch event for the Centre for Place Writing: a new interdisciplinary research and knowledge exchange centre rooted in the Department of English at Manchester Metropolitan University.

Organiser: David Cooper
Paul Evans
Rachel Lichtenstein
Minoli Salgado
Jean Sprackland (all Manchester Metropolitan University)

Sun 4:00 pm – 5:15 pm


“Poetry’s not for you—poetry’s for everyone”: UK Poetry Library Network in conversation

Martin KratzMMUc

In 1983, Adrienne Rich described a culture in which as a poet she was always ‘destined to be a luxury, a decorative garnish on the buffet-table of the university curriculum, the ceremonial occasion, the national celebration’. With four dedicated poetry libraries situated within a 200-mile radius, does the UK at this point in time represent something different: somewhere that values poetry, that seeks to integrate it in the everyday, somewhere that poetry is central rather than marginal? While enthusiasts say ‘poetry is for everyone’, a note of insistence might be detected behind that statement. After all, it contends with a powerful voice—a voice recognisable in particular to educators at all levels—that argues to the contrary: ‘poetry is not for me’.

What is a poetry library? Is it neutral in the debate of what is considered poetry, or must it be forced to act, inevitably as another one of poetry’s gatekeepers? Are poetry libraries rising to the challenge of creating collections that reflect the diversity of communities they serve? Are they expanding curricula? Are they supporting all of poetry’s advocates? Are they going beyond luxury, ceremony and celebration? Are they being everything a poetry library could be?

Poetry libraries in the UK have acted as invaluable resources for readers and writers since the first poetry library was established in 1953. They have made the benefits and enjoyment of poetry as widely available as possible and have facilitated projects in a wide range of fields from health to education.

From 2020, the UK will be home to four poetry libraries as Manchester joins Edinburgh, London and Morpeth in hosting a library of its own. As well as comprehensive collections of poetry spanning the last two centuries, each library has unique specialisms bound up with their individual history and situation. The UK Poetry Libraries Network was first proposed in 2018 to advocate for the power of poetry libraries and to discuss the challenges they face.

The UK Poetry Libraries Network invites you to join them for a conversation about their past, present and future. This will include an introduction for those unfamiliar with the work of poetry libraries in the UK. Whether you have personal and professional experience of poetry libraries (and poetry) or not, everyone is welcome.

Maria Carnegie (Head Librarian, Scottish Poetry Library)
Becky Swain (Director, Manchester Poetry Library)
Chris McCabe (Head Librarian, National Poetry Library)
Jenny Kinnear (Senior Librarian, Northern Poetry Library)
Dr Martin Kratz (Chair, Manchester Metropolitan University)

Sun 4:00 pm – 5:15 pm