Autism Awareness Week, 1-5 April 2019, Student Art Display

Artwork by Monica Marshall  and words by Benjamin Longbone

Autism is a term for a wide variety of learning difficulties. The National Autistic Society defines Autism as a lifelong developmental disability that affects how people perceive the world and interact with others. We also aim to highlight other learning difficulties that affect people such as ADHD, Dyspraxia and Dyslexia as well other conditions. Between Monday the 1st of April and Friday the 5th of April, there will be a display of student work themed around learning difficulties. The work will include written creative pieces, life experiences and art work. There will be an opportunity to add to the display as students will be able to express their own experiences by writing them down on post it notes and these experiences will be included. On Saturday the 6th of April there will also be a display in Spark (located in Piccadilly Street in York) of collected student art work.


Words Matter Blog Christmas Social: Monday, 10th December

Dear Blog Writers and Want-to-be Blog Writers,

Don’t forget our Christmas Social next Monday, 10th December, in Cordukes CD002.

If possible, could you  let me, Adam or the school office know if you are coming – just so that we can guestimate the festive refreshments!  Also, please feel free to bring along any interested friends who might want to get involved.

We’re really looking forwards to seeing you there!

Seasons Greetings to you all.

third-year dialogue day

There is still time to register to participate in the third-year dialogue morning that will take place at 1000 on Monday 11 December in HG147. Tea, coffee and Danishes will be provided, as well as a wonderful opportunity to engage with teaching staff and discuss the opportunities being made available to all third years. To register for a place, please email Alex Beaumont (

exciting news for the class of 2017

Liesl King has been organising an extra special event for the graduating class of 2017. As a farewell and celebration of a new chapter, we would like to invite you and your family members to drop in and say hello to your tutors over a glass of fizz or a cup of tea on the afternoon of your upcoming Graduation, 16th November, in De Grey foyer from 2:00pm-4:00pm.

Continue reading “exciting news for the class of 2017”

graduate internship opportunity: yorkmix

YorkMix Media have been in touch to advertise an internship as Sports, Media and Communications intern. YorkMix writes:

The role is to report on sports across York but predominantly home games for York City FC and York City Knights RLFC. You will also take responsibility for raising the profile of both teams via social media and you will produce copy for news in brief for York TV.

This is a great opportunity to gain experience of sports journalism working alongside two of York’s sports clubs while reporting for YorkMix. You will also have the opportunity to feed into the newly launched York TV. This is a part time role of 28 hours per week over 30 weeks – this is a paid internship.

Interested parties from YSJU’s 2017 graduating class are invited to contact for more information.

‘In Search of Our Mother’s Kitchens’ : Culinary Cultures at YSJ

By Jess Osborne


Anyone in York St John’s Quad South Hall on the 5th May (and possibly a few days after) will have noticed the soulful smell of fresh, exotically spiced food lingering in the curtains of the chapel: a perfect metaphor for the cultural synergy explored in the Culinary Cultures event held by Dr Sarah Lawson Welsh. The event was filled to the brim with excellent speakers whose papers and presentations all seemed to complement each other and help attendees develop a well-rounded understanding of food in literature, advertising, feminism, as well as every other facet of life. It did seem towards the end of the event that food permeated every aspect of existence, of course it would be hard not to think that when discussing the problematic masculinity of barbeque culture over the loveliest fried plantains I have ever eaten.

The day began with an eye-opening look at barbeque culture in America, focusing mostly on the one word that will pop up multiple times in this post as it did throughout the event: authenticity. You may have seen signs on restaurants claiming to deliver true flavours of their cuisine’s country of origin, or even claiming that they have the most authentic ingredients, we have all definitely been to an Italian restaurant that makes use of their mother’s/grandmother’s/any matriarch’s recipes from back home. But as the day progressed those of us in attendance began to unpack the problematic nature of these claims, making many of us simultaneously want a barbeque and not want a barbeque!culinary cultures 1

Thankfully after all this talk of food, we actually got to eat some! Food educator Sharmini Thomas cooked up a feast of wonderfully spiced foods for us to sample over lunch, whilst patiently answering any question thrown her way. Throughout the cook-up Sharmini chatted about spices and where they come from, the origins of certain dishes, as well as some interesting Indo-Caribbean history we definitely weren’t taught in school. But most interestingly, whilst chatting, we touched back on the idea of authenticity. When someone asked about whether or not coconut should be added to rice and peas Sharmini silenced us all by reminding us those cooking would cook with what was available, if there was coconut growing nearby, it would go in, but if not the recipe would go without. This begs the question: can the authenticity of these recipes really be replicated? And even should recipes made for survival be appropriated and lay any claim to authenticity in the face of luxury?

culinary cultures 3The answer is: yes probably. It’s unfortunate, but true, that some post-colonial cultures are in danger of dying. After lunch we explored the food of Palestine. Although the promotion of Palestinian agriculture through fair-trade as a means of raising awareness was fascinating, I found myself drawn to the discussion about Joudie Kalla’s cookbook Memories From my Mother’s Kitchen as a means of preserving Palestinian culture. As a literature student I find myself looking for importance in books, primarily in fiction, but cookbooks offer an insight into life just as deep as those in fiction, and they should definitely be allowed more close readings. Food, after all, is the point that our lives revolve around, so why should books dedicated to it not have an important place in our society?


Whilst discussing recipes and cookbooks, during in one of the many coffee breaks, I noticed quite a few attendees were speaking about family recipes that have somehow never found their way onto paper and as a result are cause for argument at family gatherings. Spookily, this was perfectly mirrored in the final discussions on the nostalgia of food, and maternal inheritance in the culture of family recipes. And it is there, with everyone fondly remembering their mothers and grandmother’s kitchens, that one of the best events I have attended at YSJ came to a close. Full of food for both body and mind, we all went home remembering the lingering smells of the spices.culinary cultures 2

I would like to take this opportunity to thank Dr Sarah Lawson Welsh for organising one of the most academically fulfilling events I have attended throughout my degree. Those wanting to attend any more of these food related events should drop Sarah an email to get on the mailing list, it will definitely be worth it.

Eighteenth-Century Advice on How to Vote in a Twenty-First-Century Snap Election

By Dr Adam J Smith, lecturer in English Literature



The claim that we are living in ‘unprecedented times’ is itself becoming disconcertingly ‘precedented.’ This is perhaps to be expected when we live in a world where Britain’s Foreign Secretary hosted Have I Got News for You and the White House is occupied by the presenter of the American Apprentice.


In 2010, a coalition government seemed unprecedented. So too did the gradual corrosion of health-care services, the dismantling of the arts and culture sectors, the commercialisation of higher education, the rise of foodbanks and record levels of homelessness. Then there’s the close results of the Scottish Referendum, the heady triumph of Jeremy Corbyn, the widely-reported implosion of the Labour party and, of course, the vote for Britain to leave the European Union. Unprecedented is the new precedent.


And now, three years ahead of schedule, there will be a General Election, due to be held just six weeks after it was announced. Not only will this be a challenge for the politicians involved, faced with the unprecedented challenge of condescending three years’ worth of planning into less than the amount of time it takes to broadcast a season of Broadchurch, but this also presents an unprecedented challenge for voters.


Since we all seem to be living in a particularly demented episode of Black Mirror it might be easy to feel like there’s nothing to be done. You may feel like you never get what you vote for. You may feel frustrated and disillusioned. You may feel like it isn’t worth voting because there’s no point. If you feel this, ignore that feeling. You should feel frustrated and you should feel disillusioned, but the only way to assert your will upon government is to vote.


But why keep voting, and who should we vote for anyway? These are good questions, and (as ever) the eighteenth century has the answers.


Eighteenth-Century Guidance on How to be a Good Citizen


Cards on the table, all my research is on the relationship between citizens and the state, and on how that relationship is articulated (and effected) by literature. I work on the long eighteenth century and as part of my PhD I spent a lot of time working on a periodical called The Freeholder, written by a man named Joseph Addison.


Addison too lived in ‘unprecedented times.’ The execution of Charles I by parliament, the Glorious Revolution and the Hanoverian Succession all remained in living memory and each raised serious structural, institution and existential questions. The emergence of cheap print meant that there was plenty of advice out there on how to vote, and The Freeholder offered just such advice. Published twice a week across 1715-16, Addison’s paper sought to tell property-owning gentleman (the only demographic allowed to vote at the time) what to think about when completing their ballot. Much of this advice remains extremely pertinent today, so here are three things to bear in mind as you march down to your local memorial hall on polling day.


  1. It isn’t about ‘winning’, it is about representation


From the very first issue of The Freeholder Addison refers to his vote as being his ‘remote voice’ in parliament. He writes that ‘the House of commons is the representative of men in my condition. I consider myself as one who gives my consent to every law that passes.’


Addison’s MP represents him. He needs to choose an MP whose interests and agendas closely match his own so that he can then trust this MP to vote and behave in parliament as he would himself. That MP is his ‘remote voice’, making a case in Westminster on Addison’s behalf whilst Addison is at home writing his periodicals.


Crucially, contrary to the way that it is often portrayed in the media, the party who win power during a general election cannot do whatever they want. Everything needs to be debated with everyone else that we voted for, and if they can’t get a majority vote they can’t move forward. We’ve seen a lot of this in the last year. Some people have even suggested that the main reason we’re having a snap election is because the party in power can’t get what they want with the house in its current configuration…


If you vote for a party that doesn’t win, that party doesn’t just disappear. If enough people vote for them they will be represented in the House, which means that they form part of the opposition. They offer an alternative opinion to the party in power and they’ll have to vote, on your behalf, on all these big decisions.


Vote for who best represents you so that those views can be aired in parliament. You’re choosing your own ‘voice’, so choose carefully.


  1. You’re voting for a party, not a prime-minister


In Addison’s Freeholder, the ‘happy tribe of men’ who make up a political party (a slightly loser affiliation that we know today… for now at least) are more important than the person leading them at the time. The principles of the ‘party’ will persist far longer than the individuals representing them at any given time, and this is perhaps useful to bear in mind today, given that in neither Labour or the Conservative currently have the same leader that they had going into the last general election in 2015. As Addison says in The Freeholder, all politicians are but ‘blossoms in the wind’ whilst government itself is an oak, rooted in the earth.

Again, vote for the party that best represents you and try not to get embroiled in ‘personality politics’, another twenty-first phenomenon that Addison warned us about three hundred years ago:


When a man thinks a party engaged in such measures as tend to the ruin of his country, it is certainly very laudable and virtuous action in him to make war after this manner upon the whole body. But as several casuists are of opinion, that in a battle you should discharge upon the gross of the enemy, without levelling your piece at any particular person so in his kind of combat also, I cannot think it fair to aim at any one man, and make his character the mark of your hostilities.  

The Freeholder, No. 19 (1716)


  1. Omission is a greater crime than commission


This was the big one for Addison, who explains that ‘the great crime of omission is an indifference in particular members of society.’ He explains throughout The Freeholder than it is in fact worse to not do something right than it is to do something wrong. Addison’s overarching argument is that all citizens entitled to vote have both a duty to remain politically engaged and a personal responsibility to ensure that their MP are representing their interests. Again, this is because according to Addison he has lent his own voice to his chosen MP. He wants his voice using properly. As Addison puts it:


A freeholder is one remove from legislator, and for that reason ought to stand up in the Defence of those Laws which are in some degree his own making.

The Freeholder, No. 1 (1715)


It is stated throughout the Freeholder that it is this connection between citizen and state that constitutes the greatest ‘privilege’ of living in a democratic society. It is, for Addison, what gives the governed power over those who govern and, as we all know, with great power comes great responsibility.


If a citizen chooses not to be involved in the process and turns away from the business of politics then they no longer have any stake in who represents them in government. Their views, thoughts, attitudes and opinions and lost. As Addison highlights, this is not only their loss, but the loss of anyone else who shares their outlook, who similarly would have benefited from their vote.


What about this snap election?


Quoting Addison is all very well and good but he died in 1719, so what good does it do to read his work now?



Well, you need only look at the Gothic buildings that house our parliament to see that the one thing we can count on to remain unchanged, even in unprecedented times, is the mechanics of government. Addison’s advice to voters, then, remains relevant.


What would Addison want us to remember? Be engaged. Think about who best represents your thoughts, opinions, attitudes and interests and vote for them. Think more about who you want to represent you in parliament than who you foresee as the party in power. Look at the party more closely than you look at the people inside the party and remember, your vote is your voice. If you choose not to vote you have no voice, but if you vote wisely, your voice will be heard in government.


Disclosure notice: Joseph Addison was affiliated with the Whig ministry, a party opposed to the Tories.



This post originally appeared on Adam’s own blog, ‘The View from the Coffee House’, where you can find out more about his research:


Read Addison online for free at Project Guttenberg:


Register to vote:

‘Fictions can change, it’s only the facts that trap us’

By Chloe Ashbridge

After four years as an English Literature student at YSJ, last week I learned that an application I’d made for an intensely competitive PhD scholarship at the University of Nottingham had been successful. I was informed that I will be paid around £15,000 a year to conduct my research, my tuition fees will be waived, and that I can apply for further funding to help organise conferences or for research abroad. I will also be provided with opportunities to teach undergraduate seminars, and because the scholarship is provided by a Doctoral Training Partnership, I can make use of facilities and training across six universities in the Midlands. As I read the email, I scanned for ‘we regret to inform you’ that was surely contained within the response, and couldn’t quite believe it when (after the second time of reading it) I realised I had been successful.

(obligatory Robin Hood Nottingham reference)
On Target for PhD success

After finding a real passion for Literature during my undergraduate, I applied for an MA in Contemporary Literature at YSJ. Having become part of such a welcoming academic community at the University, and not being sure of which aspect of Literature I wanted to specialise in, the course offered the flexibility of studying a range of genres and theoretical approaches. After what seemed the quickest year of my academic life, I realised that the British Literature module had completely transformed my outlook on the study of fiction and, after choosing to study it further through my Dissertation, my specialisation quickly became clear. We studied a range of British writers from around the country: from the Yorkshire Moors to council estates in North-West London and back up to a care home in Scotland for good measure. The geographical focus of the module was fascinating, and my research in this area formed the basis of what is now my PhD proposal.

Upon finishing the MA with Distinction and a range of appropriate experience under my belt, it seemed too good to be true when a PhD scholarship in British Literature was advertised at a university in the Northeast for the next academic year. I eagerly began work on drafting an application, but when I applied, I wasn’t even called for an interview. At the time I felt as though I had completely overestimated my potential, and had no intention of applying for a PhD again. If I hadn’t, however, I would never have received the offer I’ve just accepted (and a second I’ve since turned down). Since last summer, I’ve been working with academics whose work I studied during my MA (who still feel so famous that I get nervous every time I email them) to develop my proposal, which admittedly, is far more exciting than my original application the previous year.

If I could go back and tell my undergraduate self that this would happen in a few years’ time, I wouldn’t believe it. My aspiration to work in academia has always been shadowed by a doubt of whether I could afford to attend conferences, to take time out of my studies to submit to journals, and support my life away from home, while still maintaining the results I need in an increasingly competitive industry. I now realise that confidence was the only thing that could get in the way of achieving my goal, so if you’re considering a similar career but don’t know where to start (believe me, I had no idea!), book that tutorial with your seminar tutor or dissertation supervisor, ask for their advice, and find out what kind of opportunities are available to you. There’s tonnes out there, but it’s a bit of a minefield if you’re encountering the world of academia for the first time! Everyone at YSJ has been through the process one way or another, and I can say from experience that they are incredibly helpful and happy to provide advice – they are there to support you after all!

I can now say that I am being funded by the AHRC to research a topic I am extremely passionate about. As I prepare for my journey from Masters to PhD student, I am reminded of the unique community I was a part of at YSJ, and of the words of Jeanette Winterson, ‘fictions can change, it’s only the facts that trap us’ that unfailingly remain true.