LGBTQ+ Comfort Reads: Heartstopper by Alice Oseman, reviewed by Lucy Pettigrew

Review by Lucy Pettigrew

On February 7th 2019 Alice Oseman published her first graphic novel and first part of her popular young adult webcomic Heartstopper: Volume One. The webcomic has over 50,000 subscribers online, and is also available as an ebook and in traditional print format. I’m not someone who usually picks up a graphic novel or comic over a young adult novel or a modern poetry collection, but this stunning graphic novel blew me away and I can’t wait to pick up the next volume in the series when it comes out – it’s also made me want to read more graphic novels! I will read anything Oseman publishes (it could be a book filled with the word ‘potato’ and I’d still love it).

Heartstopper is a young adult comic that stars Nick and Charlie, who are both trying to navigate life as teenagers in an all-boys grammer school in the United Kingdom. Oseman describes it as an “LGBTQ+ webcomic” as almost all of the characters are part of the community.

The plot of the story is stunning and heart-warming – I quickly became attached to the characters and got so invested that I didn’t put it down in between starting and finishing it. The story combined with the cute art style was a perfect combination and even though it was sad in some parts I still smiled the whole way through because of how utterly enticing it was and how well the story was told.

I couldn’t get enough of the representation either – there were so many characters that were part of the LGBTQ+ community and it felt good to have that representation handled in such a well-written way. All of Oseman’s books so far (which you should also read, they’re fantastic and showcase her talent even more!) have also included LGBTQ+ characters so I was glad that this trend continued in Heartstopper.

Overall, this graphic novel was the perfect read. It was easy to follow and combined with the plotline, art style and representation it made for a really enjoyable experience. Don’t hesitate to pick it up next time you’re in a book shop (or you can get it online!).

Heartstopper is published by Hodder Children’s Books. Check out the LGBTQ+ children and YA collection in our Schools Section of the library.

“A Key Moment of Pride”: Reflections on the 2019 Literature Research Showcase

By Adam Kirkbride

On the 28th of February, the English Literature department here at York St John held a showcase exhibiting the research done by our lecturers. The event comprised of four short presentations given by various members of the department and was thoroughly enjoyable. Here is a brief rundown of the research areas that our staff are working on.

Continue reading ““A Key Moment of Pride”: Reflections on the 2019 Literature Research Showcase”

LGBT History Month Book Display launching today/God’s Own Country screening

Our very own subject librarian, Katherine Hughes, has put together a fantastic display for #LGBTHM19. We encourage you to check it out in the main library, and also to visit the School’s Library LGBT display of children and YA books.

Here’s what Katherine says:

ILE are holding a book display during the week commencing 25th February to commemorate LGBT History Month. The display includes fiction, graphic novels, films, poetry and plays by LGBT authors, from Shakespeare’s sonnets to Sarah Waters. Highlighted texts include E. M. Forster’s ‘Maurice’, a novel of gay love in the early 20th century, written in secret and remaining unpublished until after the author’s death; and Virginia Woolf’s ‘Orlando’, the story of an Elizabethan nobleman who lives for three centuries and becomes a woman. Also included in the display is ILE’s new subscription to LGBT Magazine Archive, which chronicles more than six decades of the history and culture of the LGBT community, and is available via the ILE website under Specialist Subject Resources.

The display will be launched this evening by our special LGBT History Month film screening of God’s Own Country, a queer romance between a young farmer and a Romanian migrant worker set on a struggling farm in rural Yorkshire. The film will be screened in Fountains Lecture Theatre (FT/002) for staff and students and will be introduced by Saffron Vickers Walkling, Senior Lecturer in English Literature. The screening is free of charge – just provide your YSJ email address while booking your free ticket.

Saffron says, if you want to review your favourite LGBT texts for our Words Matter blog, please contact her via email.




The L Word: Finding Myself in Lesbian Fiction #LGBTHistoryMonth. What are your LGBT recommended reads?

On Monday 25th February, York St John Information Learning Services will be launching their LGBT History Month display. I vividly remember, at the age of about 15, finding a book called What Comes Naturally in the Women’s section of the Salisbury Bookshop. By Norwegian writer Gerd Brantenberg, it was a hilarious description of a university student in the 1960s “finding herself” and coming out as a lesbian. As I tried to figure out my own identity at that period a number of films, books and plays helped me to see who I was. The characters were often far from me in time, place and other identities – nineteenth century Americans Patience and Sarah, the confused Cypress in Sassafrass, Cypress and Indigo (a novel about an African American family in mid-twentieth century South Carolina and New York) and of course, The Colour Purple, in which Celie falls in love with Shug. Films spoke to me too, such as Hanif Kureishi and Stephen Frear’s My Beautiful Laundrette in which the characters Johnny and Omar struggled with racism, class and Thatcherism, but had no qualms about embracing each other and their sexuality.  I also got to play the delightfully ambiguous Count Orsino in an all female production of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night

So come on down to the library next Monday and have a look at Katherine Hughes’ display. Contact Katherine or Thomas Peach with your recommendations, and if you want to review your favourite LGBT texts for our Words Matter blog, contact Adam Smith or myself, Saffron Vickers Walkling. 

PS I’ll be introducing my latest favourite LGBT text God’s Own Country at 5.30 that same day in a free screening for staff and students . Book tickets here.

Smith & Waugh Talk About Satire: Literature Lecturers Launch New Podcast!

Spinning out of the ongoing ‘Satire: Births, Deaths and Legacies’ project, a new monthly podcast sees Drs Adam J Smith and Jo Waugh talk about the form, function, future and history of British satire.

Satire: Deaths, Births, Legacies

Satire is both an urgent topic and one with a long history. Journalists, and satirists themselves, regularly make the claim that “satire is dead” in a world of “fake news”, or news that seems too incredible or too unpalatable to be true. Yet satire continues to emerge, in forms both professional and amateur, elitist and popular.

Satire: Deaths, Births, Legacies looks to draw together researchers and practitioners working on projects which variously historicize, problematize, theorize, teach, and perform satire and satirical material. This project seeks to contribute meaningfully to what is becoming a national conversation about the form, function, and future of satire.

Smith & Waugh Talk About Satire

In their new podcast, Jo and Adam will be joined by a range of guests, including scholars and practitioners of satire. 

The first episode, ‘What even is satire?’, comes out today, and you can listen on the project website or via Soundcloud. Adam and Jo start by talking about the biggest question of all. What is satire? What did it used to be, and what is it now in the age of Twitter, Trump and Brexit?

Forthcoming Episodes

Keep an ear out for the monthly episodes coming out between now and July:

Episode 2. Satire and Celebrity

Jo and Adam are joined by Gráinne O’Hare (Newcastle University) and Katie Snow (University of Exeter) to talk about the relationship between satire and celebrity and consider the position of the woman as satirist and the subject of satire.

Release date: 14/3/2019


Episode 3. Satire and the Novel 

What is the difference between a satirical novel and a novel with satire in it? Adam and Jo are joined by Dr Helen Williams (Northumbria University) to talk about one of the best known satirical novels of all time: Laurence Sterne’s The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gent

Release date: 11/4/2019

Episode 4. Satire and the Image

Do you need words to do satire? If a picture can say a thousand words, how much satire can it do? Adam and Jo are joined by Wendy McGlashan (University of Aberdeen) to talk about eighteenth-century print-maker, miniaturist and satire merchant, John Kay.

Release date: 9/5/2019

Episode 5. Satire and Laughter

Should satire make us laugh? Is satire always funny? Why do we laugh at things anyway? Adam and Jo are joined by Dr Kate Davison (University of Sheffield) to talk about the social history of laughter, and the various satires of the eighteenth-century tavern keeper Ned Ward.

Release date: 6/6/2019

Episode 6. Finale: Satire and the Future 

It’s a big satirepalloza as Adam and Jo talk to both returning guests and (some very special surprise guests!) about what the future holds for satire.

Let Adam and Jo know what you think either on Twitter (@SatireNoMore) or by email ( 

Release date: 4/7/2019

LGBT History Month: School Library Display

Did you see yourself or your family reflected in the books you read as a child? Librarian Clare McCluskey-Dean contacted us recently about an exciting initiative for LGBT History Month. She has made a display of inclusive children’s and young adult books purchased by the library at York St John University in the past year or so. It will be in place throughout February, and she hopes it will evolve as people borrow the books. You can visit the display in the School Library area, on the first floor of Fountains. Please pass this on to anyone you think would be interested. Also, if you have any recommendations for other books we could buy, or ideas for future displays, she would be happy to hear those. I, for one, will be visiting to borrow some books in which I see my family reflected. Please contact her via Information Learning Services in Fountains Learning Centre:  

Scott Trust Bursary: MA Funding Applications Now Open!

Applications are now open for the Scott Trust Bursary to study one of the following MAs:

This is open to all students with a right to work in the UK who have a 2:1 or above, in any subject. The bursary covers fees and includes £6,000 living costs, as well as 6 weeks work experience at the Guardian. There is also the possibility of a 1-year full time contract with the Guardian on completion of the course.

Study Abroad #BestofYSJ18

No sooner have you arrived than we encourage you to go away! Yes, for those students who want to take advantage of our Study Abroad opportunities, there is plenty of choice. Here are links to two recent dispatches from this year’s outgoing Study Abroad students:

Study Abroad Sweden! By Rose Kirby

Study Abroad: Amsterdam! by Oscar Williams

If you would like to write about your Study Abroad experiences, either visiting us or visiting our partner institutions, please get in touch with the Blog Team.



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.

The Dyslexic Academic: Reading and Me (Disability History Month)

On Monday, 3rd December, the front of York St John was lit up purple for the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. For Disability History Month (22 November to 22 December) we have reblogged a post from one of my personal blogs, Saffron Muses.  I developed this from a reflection that I originally wrote in 2015 as part of my Higher Education Academy (HEA) Fellowship application, which focussed on inclusion and diversity. It is the first in a planned series of reflections on my experiences with and strategies for dyslexia and dyspraxia. I am writing from a staff perspective, but reflect on when I was an undergraduate student. If you are a student and feel that this resonates with you, too, contact the disability team
Continue reading “The Dyslexic Academic: Reading and Me (Disability History Month)”

Study abroad opportunities information session – with Danish pastries!

Study abroad opportunities
YSJ has links to universities across Europe, North America and beyond where you can spend time as part of an English Literature Single Honours or Joint Honours Degree. There are fee discounts and grants available. If you’d  like to find out more about the amazing opportunities on offer, and hear from students who have just returned from studying abroad, please come along to an info session in TU101 on 15 November at 11.30am with tutors and members of the study abroad team. Please click here to reserve a place for free coffee and Danish pastries.

If you’re unable to make the session, you can also email the Study Abroad tutor, Adam Stock (, or the Study Abroad team ( for further information. Hope to see you there!

Click here to read Rose Kirby’s experience in Sweden this semester

Study Abroad Sweden! By Rose Kirby

This is the first of this year’s dispatches from our outgoing Study Abroad students. We hope it inspires you to go on your own Study Abraod adventures. Scroll down for further information on how to apply.

Hej! It’s the first word out of everyone’s mouth here and it has made Sweden feel like a little piece of home with that one word. Travelling the world and immersing myself into its different cultures has always been a passion of mine. I leapt at the opportunity of Study Abroad, and through all the help and support I gained from my academic advisers, emailing lecturers, and the Study Abroad team, I made it through to the other side! I arrived in Sweden to study at Stockholm Universitet as an exchange student, and from the airport to my first Uber (yes they have it here -cheaper than a taxi by far) I was welcomed as an exchange student and new contributor the vibrant city of Stockholm. The transport, forward-thinking approach to economic, environmental and gender inequality issues makes Sweden safe and progressive to move to as a foreigner. The language is not the easiest to decipher but ask anyone, with a handy phrase like ‘talar du engelska snälla?’ and they’ll gladly try their best to help you out. The most rewarding experience I’ve had while here in Sweden is the experience of my subject, English Literature, from the perspective of a whole other culture! The mixing of multiple different students from all over the world, studying different degrees, all discussing and debating literature has made me enjoy and perceive my subject in a whole new light. Although I miss some occasional ‘y’alreeyt m’luv y’look like ye been drag’d through’t a ‘edge backward’ I’ve made some wonderful friends with people from all over the world, and some Brits along the way too. It’s normal to be apprehensive and worried, it’s a long way from Yorkshire, but remember everyone else is in the same boat and all you can do is embrace every moment you have to make new memories! Since coming to this country I’ve travelled to Russia (I’m not saying just go for the architecture in St Petersburg but there is that and €2 vodka), Estonia, Norway, Denmark, Finland and Germany, so keep in mind that studying is important but so is being able to see the world and especially with new friends. Embrace people different to you (they don’t drink as much as brits, but they love the outdoors and they have many national parks) and ask questions, be polite, and you can’t go wrong. Also one last thing, the North Vs South divide has been brought to Sweden, and take it from a room of Germans, Swedes, Canadians, Maltese, Belgians and Australians at a very English Halloween party (they don’t really do it over here): the North has the more preferred English accent! #YorkshireWins #YSJFamily

Tack så mycket & hej då!

P.S. You’ll learn you’re pronouncing Ikea wrong!

Study abroad opportunities
YSJ has links to universities across Europe, North America and beyond where you can spend time as part of an English Literature Single Honours or Joint Honours Degree. There are fee discounts and grants available. If you’d  like to find out more about the amazing opportunities on offer, and hear from students who have just returned from studying abroad, please come along to an info session in TU101 on 15 November at 11.30am with tutors and members of the study abroad team. Please click here to reserve a place for free coffee and Danish pastries.

If you’re unable to make the session, you can also email the Study Abroad tutor, Adam Stock (, or the Study Abroad team ( for further information. Hope to see you there!

ASK YORK: Disability and Discrimination with YSJU’s Marije Davidson

YSJU’s Equality and Diversity Adviser, Marije Davidson, will be a panellist in an upcoming radio discussion about disability and discrimination in York. The recording is open to the public, so you can attend too (and ask questions)!

Saturday 17th November – from 3:00pm
(John Cooper Studio, 41 Monkgate)

Two Rivers Community Radio will be recording their panel show ASK YORK on Saturday 17th November as part of the 2018 YORights festivals. This year we are celebrating the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

At this event, the panel will discuss disability and discrimination. We will take questions from the audience, and hope for a lively discussion.

The show is being recorded live, and will be aired on Monday 3rd December, the International day for Persons with Disabilities.

The recording starts at 3:00pm

UDHR – Article 1. All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.