“Returning” by Andrea Woodward

A white woman with long blond hair smiles at the camera
(c) Andrea Woodward

Andrea Woodward is a York St John English Literature PhD candidate. Andrea, who started her HE journey at 30, could have taken a very different path in life. Here she reflects on her experiences as a returning student, recalling the day as an undergraduate when she thought she would give it all up – and why she didn’t!

I first came to York St John as an undergraduate student in English Literature in 2006. I was 30 years old.

As a mature student who’d spent 15 years out of full-time education, I quickly felt overwhelmed and more than a bit out of place. Those classmates who’d arrived fresh out of college seemed to radiate knowledge in seminars, knowledge that my first essay results suggested to me I didn’t have. After several weeks into the first semester, I felt it would be for the best if I withdrew from the course, believing that I’d never succeed. Continue reading ““Returning” by Andrea Woodward”

New Event: research seminar on Speculative Worldbuilding & Hope

Please join us in person for a special lunchtime research seminar at 1pm on 8 June 2022 in QS/111.

 

Futuristic Worldbuilding: Speculation and Hope in Contemporary Turkey

Assoc Prof Dr Emrah Atasoy, Visiting Postdoctoral Researcher at University of Oxford.

This talk will introduce scholarship on speculative fiction in Turkey and give a contextual survey of the tradition of entangled futurities and speculative worldbuilding in contemporary Turkey. Discussion of the selected primary text will reveal the portrayal of hope, environmental breakdown, and speculation in the Anthropocene.

This interdisciplinary event will be of interest across the humanities and social sciences, including sociology, history, geography, and politics/IR.

Hope to see you all there!

Making Time to Take Time For Yourself by Lily Baldanza

Lily Baldanza is a final year undergraduate student who was writing on Daphne Du Maurier’s Revolutionary Women for her dissertation (now submitted). She took a break from her research to tell us about the importance of taking time to focus on wellbeing. These are self-care tips. If you feel that you need wellbeing or mental health support, please contact our lovely Wellbeing team here

Pink water lilies and green lily pads on a po

Lily Days.

With my dissertation date in very short sight and my last two undergraduate assessments in a month’s time, it is more important than ever to give myself time off. Time off from my laptop, time off from my set texts and time off from the stress and worry of being a university student. However, with deadlines approaching and having commitments to part time work, finding the time can seem daunting. It’s why one day every week I give myself a ‘me’ day: a ‘lily’ day. I get ready to have a day doing whatever I want to do, and whatever my body needs. This is a day where I take pleasure in doing things that I enjoy. Continue reading “Making Time to Take Time For Yourself by Lily Baldanza”

YSJ Lit Interview: Words Matter Prize Winner Katie Godfrey

Adam Kirkbride interviews Katie Godfrey the 2021 York St John Literature Words Matter Prize Winner. The Words Matter prize is given annually to the first year student with the highest marks across all modules. The prize represents our programme motto Words Matter, as a way of centring our philosophy that books and literature play a hugely important role in the world we all live in.

Book about studying literature at university on a table with a cup of teaKatie, what does this award mean to you?

As somebody who entered university after a large gap in education, and with very little confidence, this award has made the world of difference to me in terms of boosting my self-confidence and self-belief and reassuring me that my efforts are not wasted! 

 

What was it like completing your first year of study during the Pandemic? 

While this is probably not the anticipated response, I actually feel that the remote study during the pandemic enabled me to be more productive. I had already been working from home due to lockdown restrictions, so it was a pretty smooth transition for me. I also commute to university, so having the lectures and seminars online enabled me to save over three hours per day of travel, freeing up my time for reading and studying. Continue reading “YSJ Lit Interview: Words Matter Prize Winner Katie Godfrey”

International Women’s Day 2022

 

#BreakTheBias

Happy International Women’s Day! 

This year’s campaign theme is #BreakTheBias – find out more at the IWD website

 

To mark IWD, Dr Anne-Marie Evans is hosting an online event on Thursday 10th March with acclaimed playwright Ade Solanke. Ade will be talking about her play Phillis in London. The play explores the life of Phillis Wheatley – an enslaved woman – who was famously the first African-American woman to publish a book of poetry, and only the second American woman to do so. Find out more and book a ticket here.

You can also celebrate IWD2022 by calling into the Fountains Learning Centre to see their YSJ Women display, which  explores resources from our archives that provide a glimpse into the changing lives of female students over the years. 

English Literature Research Showcase Returns

The English Literature Programme are hosting their annual Research Showcase on Monday 14th March at 5.30pm.
 
Join the English Literature team for the first on-campus Research Showcase in two years! Staff will give short presentations on their latest research and talk about the projects they’re working on at the moment, from Hamlet to eighteenth-century print, and from music venues to architects in prose fiction to Brontë contagions, 
 
There are pre-event drinks if you’re attending in person, or you can attend online: just indicate your preference when you book.
 
Find out more and book your ticket here.
 
We look forward to seeing you!

Setting Goals and Writing: Workshop Opportunities

Study Development are running two workshop strands this semester. 

If you’d like some guidance on reflective writing, head to CD/006 on Thursday 10th March, 5-6.30 pm. There is also an online session on Thursday 31st March, 5-6.30 pm.

For help setting your goals, there are online sessions every Monday from 28th February to 28th March from 9.30-10 am. Goal setting and writing retreats are on Monday lunchtimes (times and rooms at the link below). For some structured writing time, you can join online every Friday lunchtime.

For more detail, click here.

Careers in Literature 2022

Please see below for a brilliant opportunity to find out more about careers opportunities for students from the Royal Society of Literature!


 

Images of contributors to Careers in Literature 2022

FREE for all. Feb 1 2022.

Our annual event, chaired by RSL Fellow Edmund Gordon, explores the varied working lives of those in the literature sector, and how to get started in your own career in words. During this 90-minute Zoom webinar, each panellist will speak about their own work, followed by an opportunity for you to ask questions to people who have been there and done it.

This year, we will hear from: a renowned literary agent; a Literature Officer at Creative Scotland; a T.S. Eliot Prize-winning poet and Professor of Creative Writing; and the Programme Manager from Manchester Poetry Library. We hope their journeys will inspire you as you embark on your own career in literature.

Book Online 

Martin Kratz is Programme Manager at Manchester Poetry Library at Manchester Metropolitan University. His work includes developing their collection through events programming and he is particularly passionate about their collection of poetry in Manchester’s community languages and poetry in recording. After completing his MA Creative Writing and PhD at Manchester Metropolitan, Martin worked on Manchester’s successful bid to become a UNESCO City of Literature. He was co-editor of Penned in the Margin’s Mount London and the author of a poetry pamphlet, A Skeleton’s Progress. His translations of the poetry of Nelly Sachs and Jusuf Naoum appeared in The Heart of a Stranger: An Anthology of Exile Literature.

Sinéad Morrissey FRSL is the author of six poetry collections and was appointed Belfast’s inaugural Poet Laureate. Her accolades include first prize in the UK National Poetry Competition, a Lannan Literary Fellowship and the E M Forster Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Her collections Through the Square Window and Parallax received the Irish Times Poetry Prize. Sinéad won the T.S. Eliot Prize in 2013 and The Forward Prize for Best Collection in 2017. In 2020, she received the European Poet of Freedom Award for her collection On Balance, translated into Polish by Magdalena Heydel. She is currently Professor of Creative Writing at Newcastle University.

Emma Paterson joined literary agency Aitken Alexander Associates in 2018 after eight years at Rogers, Coleridge & White and The Wylie Agency. Emma became a member of the Booker Prize Foundation Advisory Committee and was made a Director of Aitken Alexander in 2020. She was recently included in British Vogue’s list of 25 influential women shaping 2021 and beyond.

Katalina Watt’s work was longlisted for Penguin Write Now 2020 and has been published in Haunted Voices, Unspeakable, and Extra Teeth among others. In 2021 she received a Writers Grant from Ladies of Horror Fiction and has appeared at festivals and literary events including Edinburgh International Book Festival, Cymera, and FIYAHCON. Katalina is Literature Officer at Creative Scotland and Audio Director for khōréō, a speculative fiction magazine for immigrant and diaspora authors.

Edmund Gordon is the author of The Invention of Angela Carter, which won a Somerset Maugham Award, the Slightly Foxed Best First Biography Prize and an RSL Jerwood Award for Non-Fiction, and was a finalist for the National Book Critics’ Circle Award. His essays and reviews have appeared in a wide variety of publications, including the Financial Times, the Guardian, Independent and New Statesman. He teaches literature and creative writing at King’s College London and is a regular contributor to The Sunday Times, TLS and the London Review of Books.

Founded in 1820, the RSL acts as a voice for the value of literature, honouring and supporting emerging and established writers whilst creating a bridge between authors and audiences to engage as many people as possible with the breadth of UK literature.

In partnership with

 

The 2021 Words Matter Lecture reviewed by Adam Kirkbride: Dr Saffron Vickers Walkling on Hamlet.

Adam Kirkbride, postgraduate student on our MA in Contemporary Literature, reflects on our annual departmental Words Matter Lecture. There is a link to the lecture recording at the bottom of this post.

Since coming to York St John, the Words Matter lecture has been something that I look forward to every year without fail. For those who may not be aware, the Words Matter lecture is a staple of the autumn term, an evening of wine, literature, and inspiration where we watch one of the English Literature team deliver a lecture on their current area of research.

People holidaying in Tiananmen Square
Beijing 1993 (c) Saffron Vickers Walkling

This year’s Words Matter lecture was delivered by Dr Saffron Vickers Walkling on the topic of “Hamlet and the Legacy of 1989”. I must confess that before this lecture I was something of a Hamlet-phobe (as Dr Vickers Walkling pointed out, “Hamlet talks about revenging his father for nearly four hours”). Nevertheless, through the magic of the Words Matter lecture, I emerged from the lecture theatre with a newfound appreciation for Shakespeare’s moodiest protagonist.

Dr Vickers Walkling’s interest in political adaptations of Hamlet began in Japan in 1995, when they watched a modern dress, Mandarin Chinese appropriation of Hamlet. This appropriation, first performed five years prior in a period of major political events and economic change, was the beginning of a fascination with politically charged, iconoclastic adaptations of Shakespeare’s most famous play. Across the course of the lecture, Dr Vickers Walkling discussed three adaptations of Hamlet, Lin Zhaohua’s Mandarin Chinese appropriation (1990/1995), Jan Klata’s “H.” (2004/2006), and Sulayman Al Bassam’s “The Al-Hamlet Summit” (2002/2004). Continue reading “The 2021 Words Matter Lecture reviewed by Adam Kirkbride: Dr Saffron Vickers Walkling on Hamlet.”

Staged readings of Maryland at 6.30, 8.30 on Friday 26 November

RL-Maryland-eFlyer

Maryland written in white on a black background

Please see the attached e-Flyer for Lucy Kirkwood’s new 30-minute play, Maryland, written in the wake of the murders of Sabina Nessa and Sarah Everard. There will be script-in-hand performances at 6:30pm and 8:30pm on Friday 26th November at the Friargate Theatre in York, which is co-produced by Professor Gweno Williams. Gweno taught English Literature for many years at York St John University and put on several productions, including a Mystery Play, with our students. For more information about the play, including how to book, please refer to the eFlyer.

The York production is featured in The Guardian here:  Rage, Fury and Noise.

Top Ten Books Read at YSJU – by Charlotte Crawshaw, Class of 2020

I completed my BA in English Literature last year. I was one of the sub-editors for Words Matter during my time at the university, with my undergraduate graduation just around the corner (finally!), it feels like a great time to reflect on my time studying at York St John.

Since finishing my BA at York St John University I have completed an MA in Eighteenth-Century Studies at the University of York and I now work as a Research Intern with Elizabeth Montagu Correspondence Online. The texts that I studied during my three years of studying at YSJ had so much influence over the course I have taken after completing my degree, including my current job.

One of my favourite things about the texts that I studied during my degree was their diversity; I had the freedom to write about texts that interested me, as well as read texts I would have never even thought about before. I studied authors I’d never heard of before,  and forms of texts I’d never even imagined.

These top ten were so difficult to choose – over my three years at YSJ I studied so many different texts –  but I decided to go for those that left a lasting impact on my view of English Literature.

10. Charlotte Brontë, Shirley (1849)       

 I had always been a fan of Charlotte Brontë,  and growing up not far from her hometown I read a lot of the classic Brontë novels. I read Shirley as part of the “Sick Novels: Literature and Disease” module in my second year. It is a beautifully written novel with classic Brontë twists. It’s a great intersection between romance and something new; Brontë delves into the issues of women’s health and illness whilst drawing on many cultural anxieties about ‘punishment ‘ for certain behaviour choices. Brontë’s inclusion of these anxieties is what intrigued me the most in this novel.

9.  William Wordsworth, “Composed upon Westminster Bridge (1802)

 “Composed upon Westminster Bridge” was a poem we studied in second year, in the “Revolution and Response: British Literature 1740-1840”. The speaker of the poem is pondering on the views of London from Westminster Bridge, considering both its beauty and its power. Wordsworth’s vivid and detailed exploration of the city below is beautiful.  He draws upon ideas of community versus individuality, as well as nature versus industrialisation, and it is a poem which really stayed with me after reading it. Wordsworth also explores the impermanence of things – the city that the speaker is looking down upon in particular – creating a sense of reassurance for the reader.

8. Daniel Defoe, A Journal of the Plague Year (1772)

 A Journal of the Plague Year was one of my first encounters with a piece of fiction that was presented as non-fiction. Of course, the events which unfold in this text are the events which occurred in 1665 during the plague. Defoe’s text tells the story with the voice of a man surviving through the bubonic plague outbreak in London, told in loosely chronological order, with incredibly specific details of neighbourhoods and individual houses. The legitimacy of Defoe’s account was speculated about for some time, until it was accepted in 1780 as a piece of fiction. This text stuck with me after studying it as it opened up a whole new genre of literature. It played quite a large role in my desire to study eighteenth-century literature.

7. Stephen King, Cujo (1981)

One of the more contemporary novels on this list, Stephen King’s Cujo is a classic thriller / psychological horror. Similar any Stephen King novel, it is a slow burner to begin with, with the threat looming in the background for a while before it strikes. I’d always been a huge King fan before beginning my degree, so I was thrilled to be studying this in the second year module “Sick Novels: Literature and Disease”. Cujo differs from other novels by King, as rather than a supernatural threat, such as Carrie’s telekinesis or Pennywise, the threat here (a rabid dog) is real, although exaggerated.

6. Charlotte Perkins Gilman, The Yellow Wallpaper (1892)

This short story was a key text for the study and understanding of feminism and attitudes towards female mental health in the late nineteenth century. The short story follows an unnamed woman and her inner narrative as she describes the room her husband has locked her in, in order to aid her nervous disposition and “temporary nervous depression”. Gilman draws on the discourse of women’s subordination to their husbands, as well as the ignorance of the struggles of mental illness in women, often dismissed as hysteria. This is another text I think about often:  Gilman’s writing style is beautiful, in stark contrast to the content. 

5. John Milton, Paradise Lost (1667)

I’ll be perfectly honest, when I first read Paradise Lost I did not quite get it. It seemed convoluted, unnecessarily long and generally confusing. It was one of the first texts we studied, alongside texts such as The Metamorphoses and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. I remember going home after my seminar on Paradise Lost and rereading it again. It was after this that I realised how much I enjoyed it. This epic poem concerns the Fall of Man, and conjures images of Satan, Beelzebub and Hell. The character of Satan is charming and charismatic, rather than evil and aggressive as he is usually portrayed in popular culture. The reason this text is in my top ten is because of how it turns a traditional story on its head, but also for the controversy it caused after its publication.

4. Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita (1995)

Another contemporary novel, Lolita follows the narrative story of a middle-aged literature professor “Humbert Humbert” and his gradually increasing sexual obsession with a twelve-year-old girl. Being narrated by the aggressor of the novel himself creates an unreliability to the story itself. The reader has to work out what is true and what is not, between Humbert’s manipulation of the young girl. Although difficult to read in many ways, Nabokov’s narrative style is unlike other authors’, and this was truly a great text to really read between the lines.

3. Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar (1963)

The Bell Jar quickly became one of my favourite texts – ever. Plath’s semi-autobiographical novel follows the narration of Esther Greenwood and her descent into mental illness, along with her attempts of recovery which ultimately reflect Plath’s own struggles. Through this narrative Plath was able to express and explore her own struggles, as well as bring issues of women’s mental health to light. The Bell Jar is an incredibly emotional, thought-provoking novel which is why it’s so high on my list.

2. Gillian Flynn, Gone Girl (2012)

Gone Girl was a text we studied on the “Gender & Sexualities” module in third year. It was a popular choice due to the film adaptation in 2014 and is the most contemporary of my entire list. The unreliable narration from both Nick and Amy creates an immense amount of suspense and really makes the reader question who is telling the truth (most likely, neither). Neither Amy nor Nick is the ‘perfect’ protagonist:  both are flawed and even borderline psychopathic at points, Flynn creates a great chemistry between the two whilst also setting out a new concept – the “Cool Girl” in contemporary feminism.

1. Jonathan Swift, “A Beautiful Nymph Going to Bed” (1731)

If someone were to ask me what satire was in the eighteenth century, I would direct them towards this poem. Swift is unrelenting, brutal, and savagely satirical in this poem – and many other poems which follow later. The poem follows Corinna as she undresses in her dressing room and transforms from a beautiful young woman to an old worn-down shell of a woman. It has been argued that Swift is simply admiring the strength and determination of the woman to continue working despite her declining health, however it is more commonly accepted to be a scathing criticism of the deceptive nature of this woman – and perhaps all woman who engage in cosmetics to alter their appearance. This poem makes its mark on a reader, which earns it the top spot in my list since it began an interest in the study of the eighteenth century and satire which influenced much of my academic career from there on.

 

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)”

Event: Words Matter Lecture 2021

man holding wind instrumentWe warmly invite you to join us for the Annual Words Matter English Literature lecture – it is free and open to students, staff, alumni, and members of the public!

Hamlet is, according to UNESCO, the most famous and most translated play in the world. This year, Dr Saffron Vickers Walkling introduces three contemporary global productions of Hamlet and explores how they appropriate Shakespeare’s play to speak to a seismic moment in history: 1989, the year that saw the ending of the Cold War. Lin Zhaohu’s Hamlet (1990/1995) from late communist China and Jan Klata’s H. (2004/2006) from post-communist Poland both hark back to the legacy of that moment of history, particularly its economic legacy. Additionally, Dr Vickers Walkling explores Sulayman Al Bassam’s The Al-Hamlet Summit (2002/2004) which is set in a non-specific country in the Arab world, over two decades later, as the West turned its gaze from the Cold War to the “War on Terror”. In true Hamlet style, each production holds “a mirror up” to their respective local tensions and ideological shifts in a rapidly changing world, and whilst viewed together combine to reflect the splintering and reconfiguring new world orders. Please do join us for what promises to be a fascinating discussion of Shakespeare’s most famous play.

To read more and book a place, click here

 

The Winner of the YSJ Big Summer Read 2021 is…

Ocean Vuong’s On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous (2019)

Find out more about this award-winning book from the acclaimed poet Ocean Vuong and listen to a sample here.

Over the Summer months we’ll be posting updates and links to materials both here on our blog and via Twitter (#YSJBigSummerRead2021).

Copies of the book are available in our campus library and regional libraries, and an audiobook is also available via Overdrive and other audiobook suppliers.

Reading together brings us together. We’d love for you to join in – whether you are a past, present, or prospective student, a member of staff, or part of our extended community – read the book and share your reflections using the hashtag above.

More to follow…in the meantime, here is an interview with the author on the key themes and ideas in the novel. Enjoy!