Dissertation Corner: Tia Clifford on Fairy Tales for Feminists

Recent graduate Tia Clifford sums up some of her dissertation ideas for us in this blogpost.

Fairy-tales: the term itself is attributed to Madame D’Aulnoy, a French writer who coined the term conte de fée in the 17th century (Zipes, P. 222- B).

Engraving of woman with arms folded
Dorothea Viehmann: a German storyteller and source for many tales collected and published by the Brothers Grimm

Oral fairy-tales, I contended in my dissertation, were often likely to have been told by women. Noticeably, Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm were given the title of “dignified scholars” after the publication of Children’s and Household Tales, their first revised fairy-tale collection for mass consumption in 1812; however, the lexis originally surrounding fairy-tales, prior to their appropriation by male writers, tended to be negatively gendered as “domestic art”, “women’s art” or “old wives’ tales” (Maria Tatar, P. XVI). I suggested that fairy-tales were initially a form of female rebellion against the patriarchal society oppressing women. Some fairy-tales acted as proto-feminist critiques of patriarchy, but they can also be viewed as survival manuals or as warnings by women for women regarding the dangers of a male-dominated society. In “Little Red Riding Hood”, for example, young girls learn that men are not always what they seem and that deviating from the socially accepted path will lead to danger. Continue reading “Dissertation Corner: Tia Clifford on Fairy Tales for Feminists”

The Top 10 Books Studied on English Literature! (According to a recent graduate) by Adam Kirkbride (he/him)

As we begin a new semester, and as some of us begin a new path in life as a university student, Adam Kirkbride reflects on his recent undergraduate studies and the books that inspired him:

This semester I began my MA in Contemporary Literature at York St John University, where I also studied for my BA in English Literature. I’ll be completing my MA on a part-time basis, so by the time I hand in my MA dissertation, I will have been at YSJ for five years.

So, I felt now was a good time to stop and reflect on my previous studies, and I’m writingToni Morrison author this down because it will help me to remember what I have learned in the years to come. Over the past three years the texts that I studied have helped to shape my views on literature, politics, representation and so much more. Reading is, in my opinion, the best way to educate or entertain yourself in an age of turmoil. And if I get to the end of writing this post without developing an overwhelming desire to read all of these books again, then I will be shocked!

The freedom and independence to pick and choose texts, topics, and modules on my degree was by far the feature that I enjoyed most. I rarely came across a text I disliked, and not once did I have to write about a text which truly bored me with no redeeming factors. Creativity and the study of literature go hand in hand, so it is important when reading to engage with texts that pique your interest and inspire originality. These ten books have nurtured my head and my heart throughout my degree, and I know that I am a better person for having read them. I can only hope that the texts I will read over the next two years will have the same impact on me. Continue reading “The Top 10 Books Studied on English Literature! (According to a recent graduate) by Adam Kirkbride (he/him)”

Student Blog Post: Megan Sales discusses Morality in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein

woman in red sweater holding red bookI am currently conducting research for my dissertation project which aims to explore representations of the mind and soul within texts written during the long eighteenth-century. 

John Locke’s very influential text ‘An Essay Concerning Humane Understanding’ explores the concept that the mind is formed through experience – nothing is innate. Continue reading “Student Blog Post: Megan Sales discusses Morality in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein”

Rainbows of Hope: Brooke Williamson reflects on The Masked Singer

As we are now able to meet with friends, sit in a café, or go to a film, Brooke Williamson looks back on her “comfort viewing” at the beginning of the year when we were at the height of a lockdown. It seems a fitting reflection in Pride season and when we are still thanking our NHS for their work in a difficult time. Here’s to rainbows and hope!

masked singer contestants dressed as dragon, chicken, clock, packet of fries etc.
The Masked Singer Season 2 (c) ITV

During lockdown it was easy to be a victim of Saturday night television, and I for one know, having been completely sucked into ITV’s primetime The Masked Singer UK back in February. The idea of the show, for those who escaped the tension and suspense, was that 12 celebrities transformed themselves by hiding their identity behind a creature or animal and performed songs, whilst battling it out to retain their mask – and consequently, keep their identity a secret. From the photograph of this series’ contestants there was one character, in particular, that caught my attention. This was the Dragon, who was later unmasked as Sue Perkins of The Great British Bake-Off. Continue reading “Rainbows of Hope: Brooke Williamson reflects on The Masked Singer”

Comfort Read: Anna Sewell’s Black Beauty (1877) by Megan Sales

In the latest in our Comfort Reads series, second year student Megan Sales reflects on a childhood favourite… 

Re-reading one of my favourite childhood books wasn’t something I considered until my younger sister recently returned my copy of Anna Sewell’s Black Beauty (1877). It sparked memories of the me being so excited when I opened the book one Christmas Day that I raced upstairs to read it, unable to wait. When my sister returned the book, I opened it smiling, reminiscing, and re-read the whole book by the next day. Continue reading “Comfort Read: Anna Sewell’s Black Beauty (1877) by Megan Sales”

Blog Post: Reflecting on “A Sculpture for Mary Wollstonecraft” by Megan Sales

In a recent lecture and seminar for our module Revolution and Response, we discussed Mary Wollstonecraft’s text The Rights of Woman (1792). Two important points were raised to do with the context of this work; the first is that the concept of gender, as we understand it today, did not exist when Wollstonecraft was writing and the second being that feminism did not exist as a term then either. Wollstonecraft is considered by many to be the mother of feminism and even though the term did not exist during her time, her views on gender equality were pioneering. She discussed how women are satirised by male writers for being ignorant while these same men denied women access to education. Furthermore, she discusses how women are objectified and are led to believe that their only worth lies in their beauty and ability to please men.

The debate surrounding Maggi Hambling’s “A Sculpture for Mary Wollstonecraft” [pictured] erected in London in November 2020 has become a focal point for discussing some of these issues. Continue reading “Blog Post: Reflecting on “A Sculpture for Mary Wollstonecraft” by Megan Sales”

Blog Post: COVID 19: One Year On. How can Shakespeare’s portrayal of Time alter our perspectives? By Annie Denton

We have recently marked one year since the UK went into a national lockdown. I keep thinking about how quickly it all changed. In Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale, Time is a character, who struts upon the stage to say: “I, that please some, try all, both joy and terror Of good and bad, that makes and unfolds error, Now take upon me, in the name of Time, To use my wings. Impute it not a crime To me or my swift passage” (The Winter’s Tale 4:1). These lines stuck with me when I read the play for the module I’m taking on Shakespeare. It altered my perspective. I realised that I have it all wrong: a year passing is not a bad thing at all. Of course, I could get political and complain about how we should not be in our third national lockdown, or that I was just getting settled in at university before it was all taken away. We can be pessimistic about ‘losing a year’ of our lives, but I like Shakespeare’s personification of Time. There is nothing that resonates more than “please some, try all, both joy and terror of good and bad…” when we all consider the last 365 days. Yet, Time begs us to “impute it not a crime” that time is passing. I understood this as acceptance. Time will use its wings to fly by us, and by accepting that the passage of time is life – whether it be good or bad, joy or terror. I choose to take the perspective that Time is inevitable and will “try [us] all” and that’s okay. We can’t neglect the year we have had, choose to ignore it, or tell people we have ‘lost’ a year. We lived through it all, and hopefully, we are better people for it, and strong enough to face whatever errors Time will throw at us next.

 

Annie Denton is a second year student at York St John University taking our second year module Shakespeare: Perspectives.

How Did Lockdown Help Me Come Out As Non-Binary? by Ripley Cook for Trans Day of Visibility

In this post by one of our YSJ literature students, Ripley Cook, they explain how lockdown helped them understand their neurodiversity and their gender identity. 

nonbinary flag
The non-binary flag via Stonewall

For most of my life I can honestly say that I was never comfortable in my own body. I put it down to a lot of different reasons: how men perceived me and the sexism that came with that, basic insecurities, and the bullying I experienced because of my appearance in high school. It never occurred to me that it was more than that, at least not until lockdown. Continue reading “How Did Lockdown Help Me Come Out As Non-Binary? by Ripley Cook for Trans Day of Visibility”

Mask 4 Mask: Should we really be comparing COVID and AIDS? by Adam Kirkbride for LGBT History Month

As human beings, we have a tendency to look back at our history and compare it to what is happening in the present. This, by and large, is a fairly good thing. We get to learn from our past mistakes and exorcise the ghosts that haunt our cultural memory. However, the recent tendency to compare the COVID19 pandemic to the AIDS crisis is, I believe, a tendency that is rooted in ignorance.  Continue reading “Mask 4 Mask: Should we really be comparing COVID and AIDS? by Adam Kirkbride for LGBT History Month”

An Unexpected Surprise in Julius Caesar! by Annie Denton

cast signaturesAs a literature student, I am used to buying books second hand. The quality of the copy doesn’t necessarily matter because when we’re finished with it, it will undoubtedly have illegible scribbles in the margins and post-it notes spilling out of its edges. For this year’s Shakespeare: Perspectives module, I found an online supplier of second-hand books for the exact editions that were suggested for the reading list. I found a copy of Julius Caesar with the description “excellent condition, slight yellowing of the pages and a lovely dedication”.

 When it arrived, flicking through the pages to see the condition, I discovered a series of signatures on the inside cover. I immediately researched some of the more legible names, as they were unknown to me at the time. I discovered the names belong to the Royal Shakespeare Company cast of 2004, starring Christopher Saul as Caesar and Zubin Varla as Brutus. Continue reading “An Unexpected Surprise in Julius Caesar! by Annie Denton”

Literature in Lockdown: Does studying Literature at YSJU confirm or complicate the canon?

Literature in Lockdown is a special blog series in which our students share what they’re reading whilst face-to-face teaching is suspended at YSJU. In today’s slightly different instalment, first year student Laura Ruston reflects on the texts she’s read so far this semester, and the various ways in which they’ve confirmed or complicated her understanding of the Literary Canon.  

Continue reading “Literature in Lockdown: Does studying Literature at YSJU confirm or complicate the canon?”

Literature in Lockdown: Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life

Literature in Lockdown is a special blog series in which our students share what they’re reading whilst face-to-face teaching is suspended at YSJU. In our third post, recent YSJLit Graduate (of both our undergraduate and postgraduate Literature programmes!) Nicoletta Peddis shares her experience of reading Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life.

Continue reading “Literature in Lockdown: Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life”