words matter review: house of leaves

By Adam Cummins

‘This is not for you.’

So begins 2000’s House of Leaves. Why do I give the year and not the author? Because the author of House of Leaves is deliberately hard to find, much like the text itself. Where does the text begin and end? Who writes, and who reads? House of leaves is ergodic literature at its finest, and it might just be the most disturbing thing you’ll ever read. Continue reading “words matter review: house of leaves”

a literary experience; or, the summertime epiphanies of a final year english literature student

By Tia Byer

For Emma Stone in Easy A, it seems to be “always the way” that there is a connection between the literature we study in class and the way it resonates in real life. I have often mused upon this myself. But during the last two years of my undergraduate degree in literature, I have never fully grasped the true meaning behind this notion. All that was about to change. This summer I actually had one of those experiences.

Continue reading “a literary experience; or, the summertime epiphanies of a final year english literature student”

Mad Alice Records – Call For Writers!

Mad Alice Records are a York-based, non-genre specific record label. We work with artists to provide marketing – from written content, to social media sites and photography – and production services (For instance, Elsie Franklin’s EP). The company was founded in 2016 by Masters Music Production student Aidan Laycock, and we’ve grown exponentially ever since.

Since I started working at Mad Alice Records, I’ve had the opportunity to interview upcoming artists such as Joshua Burnell and Love Zombies, as well as world-renowned sculptor and Pollination Project visitor Wolfgang Buttress. I’ve also had the chance to write film reviews in our monthly E-magazine, see: Suicide Squad, Sausage Party, Split (coincidental alliteration, I assure you).

I’ve been able to review tonnes of albums, EP’s and tracks and found some new favourites. I also started ‘O.C. Sundays’, Original Content Sundays, in which anything goes (See: The History of the Mountain Goats, Political Music). My position at Mad Alice Records has opened connections with great people around York, as well as evoking interest in job interviews and providing hands on experience with writing for a record label.

We recently decided to open our written content to submissions, meaning that you can write for our website or E-Magazine – covering a range of music based topics! Writing is voluntary, but comes with great perks, including: Free gigs, exclusive music and a great opportunity to be published by an independent company!marecords

To get involved, drop us an email at Writers@MadAliceRecords.co.uk

  • Zoe Buckton, Marketing Manager

Opportunities in Creative Writing and English Literature at YSJ

The English Literature and Creative Writing departments offer more than you may realise. There are secret perks hidden in the nooks and crannies of the offices – including a bookshelf full of freebies!  There are places you can get your work published you might not of thought of, so in this blog post I aim to enlighten and surprise – have a read to find out what’s available to you!

Point Zero – A blog that this may appear on. Run by Tutor Adam Stock, the English Lit blog is a space for students to blog about their interests. You’ll find most of my posts revolve around sex with robots. Nothing is off-limits! http://blog.yorksj.ac.uk/englishlit/

Contact: a.stock@yorksj.ac.uk

Extra Lectures – Interested in a lecture but you’re not in the module? Email a tutor! Most tutors are more than happy to let you sit in on a lecture!

LGBT history month – LGBT History Month offers tonnes of events, 50 during February this year – to be exact, and a lot of them revolve around reading. From reading groups to pub poetry readings, don’t be afraid to tag along and talk gay writing! https://www.yorksj.ac.uk/events-calendar/events/lgbt-history-month-/

The Literary Festival – York holds an amazing Literary Festival. Including the likes of Sue Perkins and Mark Gatiss, the upcoming Literary festival has a whole host of events enabling networking, learning and open mic readings. https://www.yorksj.ac.uk/events-calendar/events/festivals/event-title-28032-en.html?timestamp=1490783160&ref=ecal&

Beyond The Walls – If you came to an open days, you may well have been handed a copy of the Beyond The Walls anthology. Run by students for students, the anthology is taking submissions until the 25th of February. Entry is free! https://www.facebook.com/BeyondtheWalls2017/?hc_ref=SEARCH&fref=nf

Student Showcase – An opportunity for students to give readings of their work to a wider, public audience! Currently taking submissions until the 28th of February, entry is free. https://www.facebook.com/YSJshowcase17/?hc_ref=SEARCH&fref=nf

Writing Workshops – Although not specifically for English Lit and Creative Writing students, keep an eye out around Holgate for leaflets on extra-curricular seminars on essential academic writing skills! An upcoming timetable of which can be found here: https://www.yorksj.ac.uk/media/content-assets/student-services/documents/Workshops-16-17-sem-2-programme-v2.pdf

Black History Month – Black History Month is developed mainly by the English Literature team. Frequently involving projects developed by students, and visiting authors, the month is inspiring and enriching – don’t miss it this October!

Writer in Residence – Royal Literary Fellow Mark Illis has been writing novels, short stories, TV and Radio dramas for around 30 years. He’s done it all, and can help you with developing your writing. If you head to a meeting, you’ll get 45 minutes of literary goodness. Check it out here: https://www.yorksj.ac.uk/student-services/learning-support/study-development/writer-in-residence/

Programme Representatives – Your elected Programme Reps are there to help – I’m one of them! Currently working with the SU to provide a book selling system in university, we are willing to voice any opinions you have about your course – let us know what you’d like to see, and stand for rep if you’d  love to help with feedback collection and course development.

The University Website – The university website hosts a tonne of resources. Indexed here are the key writing materials: https://www.facebook.com/BeyondtheWalls2017/?hc_ref=SEARCH&fref=nf

And more! – Check your emails frequently and flag up opportunities as they roll in. Thanks to the email system here at YSJ, I’m currently involved in a scriptwriting project for a suicide prevention short and will soon be heading on a trip to London to learn about literature and bees! There really is no limit to what you can achieve when you embrace the huge volume of opportunities to hand. If you want something, don’t be afraid to enquire with careers services or your tutors!

Robots in Fiction: A Watch List

By Adam Smith, Lecturer in English Literature



Our business is representation. Whether we be literary scholars, films scholars or creative writers, our business is always representation. Events happen, ideals or anxieties emerge, they get represented, and then we study (or create) the representation. First comes reality, then comes representation. Of course, if you’re half-way through a degree in English, Media or Creative writing you already know that it is never really that easy.


Thinking like this assumes that there exists a dichotomy between reality and representation, between fiction and non-fiction, between the real and the hyper-real. We should always be sceptical of any apparent binary and of this one in particular. One cause for scepticism is that it presumes a chain of influence that only goes one way: something happens and people write about it. Real world stuff becomes fictional stuff. Science becomes science fiction. But what happens when fiction starts to inform reality? What happens when what we imagine informs our lived experience? What happens when science-fiction has an impact on science? Nowhere is there a better example of that, I don’t think, than in robotics.


This was the opening premise of a lecture that I gave earlier this week on ‘2EN440: Imaginary Worlds’, a second-year optional module about science fiction. The module is taken by students on the English, Media and Creative Writing programmes who this week were reading Villiers de L’isle-Adam’s The Future Eve (1886) and watching Alex Garland’s Ex Machina (2015).


Garland’s Ex-Machina. By Source (WP:NFCC#4), Fair use, Link


Over the course of the lecture I referred to an awful lot of films and TV shows (even for me!). Subsequently a few students have asked me to recap everything I recommended, so I’ve written the list up at the bottom of this post.


Before starting your way down the list (make sure you have provisions to hand, it may take some time) let me just give you some context for these suggestions, just in case you didn’t see the lecture itself.


During the lecture, I sought to foreground the peculiar relationship between the fictional robots that saturate our popular culture and the actual robotics industry. After familiarising ourselves with the ‘pop culture’ robot in the form of the Forbidden Planet’s famous Robbie we considered the frustrated perspective of roboticist Joanna Bryson. In her controversial essay ‘Robots Should be Slaves’ Bryson argues that the robotics industry is inhibited by the misguided notion that robots are owed some sort of ethical obligation, a misconception that she blames on science fiction.


Robby the Robot

The representation of the robot as slave has been there from the very beginning. Karel Capek’s play R.U.R (1921), which stands for ‘Rossum’s Universal Robots’, is often acknowledged as the first popular use of the word ‘robot’ in the sense that we recognise it today, and here it is the Czech word for ‘slave.’ The play essentially stages a slave uprising, with factory robots rebelling against their human masters. Elsewhere literary scholar Gregory Hampton has successfully foregrounded the similarities between American Slave narratives and common robot narratives, a point rendered startlingly overt when comparing a text like Harriet Beecher Stowe’s abolitionist novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1852) with Issac Assimov’s Positronic Man (1992), later adapted into the movie The Bicentennial Man (1999).


Hampton finds such treatments of the robot (both inside and outside of fiction) profoundly disturbing. When a relationship is recognisably one of master/slave, regardless of whether the slave is human or robot, born or formed, physical or fictional, there will be harmful psychological side-effects. Hampton stresses that it doesn’t really matter if robots have feelings or not, the question is: how will engaging with robots change us, and what we consider acceptable behavior?


Does it make sense to say Boston Dynamics ‘bullied’ their robot Atlas?


In both of the texts studied by Imaginary Worlds students this week, The Future Eve and Ex Machina, this question is explored through the treatment of robots who are clearly coded as female. In fact, it is central to a series of questions raised by a huge range of science fiction texts interested in what it means to have sex with ‘female’ robots. Can you truly have sex with a robot? Where do you draw the lines of consent? How must you think of robots to want to have sex with them? And, what are the psychological effects on the participating human?


We get a disturbing contemplation of this in Ex Machina, as Domhall Gleeson’s Caleb Smith slowly discovers what Nathan Bateman has been doing with all of the robots on his island, becoming increasingly sadistic in his behaviours as he goes from having sex with the robots to torturing them, only to eventually be killed by the robot Ava in an act that lends itself very openly to a reading in which she is taking cathartic revenge on her depraved abuser. And, just like that, we’re back to slavery again: the common narrative of the megalomaniac slave master who, drunk on the power he holds over other subservient humans, becomes increasingly cruel, killing and raping his own slaves in an overflow of nihilistic and hedonistic violence.


So, what can we take from this? Well, first the idea that when it comes to robotics, for better or worse, the representation can clearly be seen to dictate the reality. Perhaps the most important question is not about whether people should or shouldn’t treat robots badly but about why it is that people feel compelled to treat them badly.


And second, you can take from it the a hugely ambitious list of things to watch, detailed below.




Further Reading


Gregory Hampton, Imagining Slaves and Robots in Literature, Film and Popular Culture (2015)

Joanna Bryson, Robots should be slaves, IN: Close engagements with artificial companions (2010)


Watch list (in the order that they appeared in the lecture)


  1. Film


The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, dir. by Garth Jennings (2005)

Prometheus, dir. by Ridley Scott (2012)

Robocop, dir. by Paul Verhoeven (1987)

Short Circuit, dir. by John Badham (1986)

I, Robot, dir. by Alex Proyas (2004)

Star Wars: The Force Awakens, dir. by J. J. Abrams (2015)

Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, dir. by George Lucas (1977)

Wall-E, dir. by Andrew Stanton (2008)

Transformers, dir. by Michael Bay (2007)

Interstellar, dir. by Christopher Nolan (2014)

The Black Hole, dir. by Gary Nelson (1979)

A.I. Artificial Intelligence, dir. by Steven Spielberg (2001)

Lost in Space, dir. by Stephen Hopkins (1998)

Aliens, dir. by James Cameron (1986)

Alien, dir. by Ridley Scott (1979)

The Day the Earth Stood Still, dir. by Robert Wise (1951)

The Terminator, dir. by James Cameron (1984)

Terminator 2: Judgement Day, dir. by James Cameron (1991)

The Forbidden Planet, dir. by Fred Wilcox (1956)

The Bicentennial Man, dir. by Chris Columbus (1999)

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016)

Terminator: Salvation, dir. by McG (2009)

Metropolis, dir. by Fritz Lang (1927)

Austen Powers, dir. by Jay Roach (1997)

Blade Runner, dir. by Ridley Scott (1982)

Ex Machina, dir. by Alex Garland (2014)

Weird Science, dir. by John Hughes (1985)

The Matrix, dir. by Lana and Lily Wachowski (1999)

Ghost in the Shell, dir. by Mamoru Oshii (1995)

Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence, dir. by Kenji Kawai (2004)

Ghost in the Shell, dir. by Rupert Sanders (2017)


  1. TV


The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (1981)

Futurama (1999-2013)

Red Dwarf (1988-)

Doctor Who (1952-)

Lost in Space (1965-68)

Humans (2015-)

Buck Rogers in the 25th Century (1979-1981)

Battlestar Galactica (2004-2009)

Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987-1994)

Star Trek: Voyager (1995-2001)

Westworld (2016-)


Kraftwerk: representing the robot community since 1978. Fair use, Link


Exchange Semester Experiences

By Vasilena Chogolyanova


I’m a second year student in English Literature and Linguistics at Malmö University, and I spent this semester (Spring 2016) at York St John. My main objective was to take practical modules, so I can get some more experience in the field of publishing. I ended up choosing “Publishing, Production and Performance” (PPP) and “Literature at Work”, which proved to be the best combination of modules. I took part of two amazing projects, the goal of which was to put together and print out pamphlets.


The aim of the Text & Contexts project in the Literature at Work module was to produce an anthology from some of the excellent work of Level 3 students in the English Literature programme. It was exiting to have the opportunity to read through their critical essays. The PPP project’s objective was to publish the first ever York Literary Review – a journal of new writing. This project took most of my time this semester, because our team had to read through over 700 submissions of poetry, fiction and non-fiction coming from all over the world for our first issue.


vasi post pic



I think that the PPP project especially provided me great insight into the life of an editor and the amount of work one has to go through. I worked very hard on both projects, but it was worth it in the end when I got the two finished pamphlets in my hands and could see my name on them. I’m so proud of my team and myself for putting together these amazing publications. I have already put them in my CV, and I believe the experience I’ve got from these two university modules is as good as doing a placement.


Studying and living in York proved to be a truly lovely experience. The university is filled with life, creativity, and amazing people. I would definitely recommend it to anyone who wants to get an immersive experience of York – the best small city in Britain – and York St John University.