In profile: Janine Bradbury

Dr Janine Bradbury, Lecturer in English Literature

What are your research interests?

 

Broadly speaking, I’m very interested in issues of race, gender, and performativity in African American literature and American popular culture. My teaching and research spans a diverse range of topics including passing-for-white novels; drag; American professional wrestling; Black hair, beauty, and stylisation; critical race theory, and Afrofuturism.

 

What was your last publication about?

 

I’m putting the finishing touches to a book chapter about an American pro-wrestler named ‘Goldust’ who, back in the mid-1990s, toyed with androgyny and drag in his in-ring performances. Gold, glitter, and camp are three of my favourite things.

 

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What are you currently working on?

 

I’m currently reworking my doctoral research on literary passing into various forms, and I’m drafting an article on the performer/actress Grace Jones.

 

Which modules are you teaching on this year? (UG & MA level)

 

Writing for Academic Success, Reading Texts 1, Literature at Work, American Literature, Space and Place, Gender and Sexualities, and American Literature in the Twentieth Century. I supervise undergraduate and MA dissertations (including several on African American women’s writing). I also contribute to modules on our MA in Contemporary Literature.

 

Is there a topic or text you especially enjoy teaching?

 

I obviously love teaching things related to my research interests, especially where there is scope for interdisciplinary learning and teaching (film clips, music, advertising, as well as literature). Highlights of the semester include lectures and seminars on Jennie Livingston’s documentary Paris is Burning (1991), the Harlem Renaissance, and Sapphire’s Push (1996). But I especially love working with our first year students on their writing skills – their energy and enthusiasm is infectious.

 

 

What do you read for pleasure, when you’re not researching?

 

I’m a big fan of contemporary American crime thrillers and I really like Attica Locke’s novels (The Cutting Season is my favourite, and I’m halfway through Pleasantville – she’s also a writer for the TV series Empire).  At the risk of sounding like I’m plugging it, the last book I devoured in one sitting was written by my wonderful colleague, Naomi Booth. It’s called The Lost Art of Sinking and I was utterly absorbed by it. I love sports writing and commentary –specifically anything to do with pro-wrestling. I adore books as objects and collect first and rare editions. I like books about art (books about Jean-Michel Basquiat, Kara Walker, Ellen Gallagher, and Lorna Simpson are on the coffee table at home). I also really enjoy podcasts (RuPaul has a great show, I was engrossed by Serial), audiobooks, and American TV boxsets (The Walking Dead, Mad Men, etc.).

“Ezra Nazi?” Prof. Matthew Feldman 27 April

 

Our Talking Literature, Talking Theory programme continues on Wednesday 27th April, when we welcome Professor Matthew Feldman, Professor in Contemporary History and co-director of the Centre for Fascist, Anti-Fascist and Post-Fascist Studies at Teesside University. Matthew is an expert on fascist ideology and the contemporary far-right in Europe and the USA.He has written widely on these subjects, as well as on the interaction between politics and faith in the modern world.

 

Matthew will be discussing Ezra Pound from first to second generation fascism in the seminar. His lecture, ‘Ezra Nazi? Reassessing Pound’s fascist politics, 1933-1958′  will present an empirical reassessment of Pound’s fascism.

 

The programme for the afternoon is as follows:

1330-1500: Seminar, DG/119. Preparatory reading to follow shortly. All are welcome to this event – all undergraduates students, postgraduates and staff.

1500-1530: Refreshments, DG/080 (foyer)

1530-1700: Lecture, DG/125 All are welcome to this event – all undergraduate students, postgraduates and staff.

 

We hope you can make some or all of these two events. For more information please email s.lawsonwelsh@yorksj.ac.uk

Cityscapes: Media Textualities and Urban Visions. Registration now open!

YorkMinster 

Saturday 23rd April, 8.30am – 6pm

 

York St John University is hosting a one day conference exploring representations of the city and urban spaces in literature and media, organised by Dr Kaley Kramer and Dr Anne-Marie Evans. Drawing on the recognition of York as a UNESCO City of Media Arts and a member of the Creative Cities Network, this one day conference will provide a space for ongoing discussions about the representation of cities in literature and narrative arts, media, theory, and practice.

 

The event is FREE for YSJ students, and you can access the conference programme on the blog here: https://blog.yorksj.ac.uk/cityscapesconference2016/conference-programme/

 

If you would like to attend and book a place, please register here: http://store.yorksj.ac.uk/browse/extra_info.asp?compid=1&modid=2&deptid=7&catid=6&prodid=428

 

If you have any questions, please email Dr Anne-Marie Evans (a.evans@yorksj.ac.uk) or Dr Kaley Kramer (k.kramer@yorksj.ac.uk )

In Profile: Julie Raby

Julie Raby, Head of Department: Humanities

Julie Raby

What are your research interests?
Contemporary Shakespeare performance, Contemporary Theatre, and Blended Learning strategies.

What was your last publication about?
A review of the RSC’s Henry IV plays.

What are you currently working on?
I’m writing about the RSC from 2008 to 2014. I am looking at the RSC in a contemporary theatre context. It is very exciting because it means that I can go and see lots of performances.

Which modules are you teaching on this year? (UG & MA level)
Shakespeare: Perspectives (a lecture this year), Media Geographies, MA – British Literature, Scriptwriting, and the postgraduate qualification PCAP. I did a lecture on Reading Texts 1.

Is there a topic or text you especially enjoy teaching?
I love teaching. I love teaching Shakespeare. I love to teach Shakespeare so that it is relevant to today. I enjoy bringing actors into the classroom to talk about their work, and work with students on the text.

I am very interested in looking at the relationship between technology enhanced learning, the classroom and field trips. I particularly enjoy taking students on trips to the theatre.

I like reading texts from all periods and in the past I have taught on Romanticism, Gothic and Horror, and several Media modules.

My favourite novel is Mrs Dalloway.

 

What are your wider interests beyond teaching and research?

Going to the theatre and Art Galleries. I enjoy writing my blog, Between the Acts. I spend most of my holidays either in a theatre or in a library writing about Shakespeare. It’s Sunday and I’m writing this in the British Library before going to the National Theatre to see As You Like It.

I also try to swim half a mile on weekdays and I’ve swum a mile across Lake Windermere and Salford Quays.

I love the countryside and like walking my dog, Shankly, with my husband when I get chance. We also have two ferrets called Beatrice and Benedick.

Scarborough Writing trip

By Rachel Louise Atkin

 

Gothic fiction is actually pretty great. In YSJ Creative Writing society we talk about it a lot, as many of the novels in the genre make up a lot of our favourite books. We like to see Gothic fiction as something to do with the supernatural, contamination and Victorian repression, and with two of the committee members studying the ‘Gothic and Horror’ module, it has become a genre we are confident talking about and exploring.

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In February we took a day trip to Scarborough with the University of York’s own creative writing society, the Inklings. Initially, we went for inspiration (or really an excuse for a day out), but we ended up taking more away from the trip than we hoped we would.

The weather was overcast and windy without raining, making it perfect kite-flying weather. We ran around for a while on the beach first, writing our names in the sand and dipping our toes into the water which was way too cold to swim in. Far behind us was the seafront, revealing a stack of homes and winding streets which run all the way up a steep hill to Scarborough castle at the peak. The castle looks across the whole beach like it’s staged for a photograph, but it has been there since the 12th century and was used through the English Civil War. It’s open to visitors during the day, and once it closes it’s nice to have a stroll outside its deserted walls.

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A trip to the sea wouldn’t be complete without arcades, and so we spent a little of our time getting frustrated at 2p machines and getting our fortunes told. Stopping for lunch, we swapped writing tips with the Inklings. We discussed how we generate and organize our ideas, as well as sharing our favourite books with each other. Poems were written and read out using the sounds of the shore as inspiration.

Moving further along the literary trail, the five of us from YSJ headed to Waterstones (inevitably). After purchasing some books we began climbing the hill towards the castle and St. Mary’s Church which is home to the grave of Anne Brontë. It was here where we started making connections with Scarborough and the Gothic. We stood amongst the graves and looked down at the water lapping against the sand, hearing the whistling of wind through the branches above us. It was easy to see how people like Bram Stoker and Emily Brontë had become inspired by landscapes similar to this one.

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Walking up to the castle and finding it closed, we sat on a bench at the bottom of the cliffs and looked out to the sea, sharing story ideas and brainstorming ideas. The five of us didn’t really want to leave this spot. Though it was cold and I could hardly hold my pen, the atmosphere was like a machine for generating ideas between us. We were desperate to get indoors so we could write down everything we’d experienced.

The day rounded off when both universities sat together in a pub and discussed everything they’d enjoyed about the day. 90% of people sat with notebooks and were scribbling things down about graves, trees, ruins and haunted mansions. It seemed quite funny that although we’d joked about going to a place like Scarborough for inspiration, we all came out of there with something we were completely itching to write about.

It’s amazing how we manage to find literary connections everywhere. Scarborough seems underrated compared to its neighbour Whitby, but I found its seclusion and uniqueness to be something akin to the isolation and individual feel to books of the Gothic genre. We hope to recreate the experience by heading out on more day-trips, and hopefully uncover more of the hidden literary world as we go.

Visiting speaker: Veronica Barnsley (Sheffield) 16 March

The Literature and Creative Writing programmes’ research series continues with a seminar and lecture by Dr Veronica Barnsley from the University of Sheffield, who will be discussing the status of disaster studies and the concept of the Bildung in postcolonial criticism.

This includes a lecture at 15:30 in De Grey 124, entitled

Chasing the Postcolonial Child: Indra Sinha’s Animal’s People

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Image: Animal by Eleanor Stride http://www.indrasinha.com/books-2/animals-people/animal-by-eleanor-stride/

Undergraduates and postgraduates are particularly welcome to attend. For more information, please contact a.beaumont@yorksj.ac.uk.

“Just Do It!” Sophie Nicholls Guest Lecture For Our ‘Contemporary Writing’ Module

By Heloise Pearson-Child (English Literature yr 1)

Have you ever been inspired to go out and help others? To write that book? To meet those people? To do that charity idea? Well after spending just 40 minutes with Sophie Nicholls, a poet whose writing has raised awareness to the plight and strength of refugees, I saw an entire class of Literature students absolutely alive with encouragement. Never since the Viral Motivational Speech by Shia LaBeouf have a group of people been so ready to ‘Just Do It’. But why wouldn’t they be? Sophie Nicholls is living proof the power literature still holds in our world. During a time of rapid technological change and internet everything, words upon a page are as vital to society as they have ever been, as proven by Sophie Nicholls’ book of poetry, Refugee.

How often have we seen refugees as a group of victims? How often have we pitied them? Let’s face it, we all have, and that’s our biggest mistake. We see refugees as a collective group. As Victims. But worst of all, we simply ‘see’. We never take part, try to get to know their stories, or even actively try to change the situation. Yes we all can comment on a quote by David Cameron. We can all share that post about raising awareness. But we could be doing so much more!

Sophie’s poetry does more than these posts could ever do, because she brings us into the lives of the refugees. The group of people become individuals, each with their own inspiring and tragic story of survival, strength and cruel misfortune at the hands of others. Those ‘victims’ become strong, independent human beings, who deserve not our pity, but our help and kindness. They deserve a place to belong. They deserve a home. A community. A job. And basic human rights. They need us not to just see, they need us to talk about them, write about them, raise awareness about them. Writing is one of humanity’s greatest tools. It’s the permanent engraving of our own language, which allows us to tell and order our own stories that couldn’t be told without it. For refugees it can help them conquer the torture and torment they faced. For readers it gives us a connection to those suffering. It breaks down the boundary and makes their plight personal. And for a country, it can be spark that lights the fire of change.

So why not become that change? Well after seeing the way my seminar group reacted to Sophie’s lecture, we might just be. To see a group of students discuss the issues of politics and humanities in a way that would floor politicians has raised awareness of the power we all have. We all could be those people writing books and getting the word of the suffering out. We all could be that activist helping refugees write about the trauma, and just simply being a friend to them. We all can be that voice to tell government and law makers how we feel about the degradation of others.

Why let media control our lives, when we can control media! Sure we can’t control the news, but we can make news. Instead of sharing the photograph about refugees, be the person in the photograph, talking and helping refugees. Instead of commenting on the disgraceful quote by yet another prime minister, be the person in the quote. Be the inspiration that appears on people newsfeeds and encourages them to ‘Just Do It’! Finally, instead of liking some post about a shocking new book, art, news story etc. Be the one making that post. Write a controversial book. Do eye-opening graffiti that’ll annoy a community. Be the protester on the news. Be the blogger that doesn’t believe in the government. We can all be Sophie Nicholls; we all have our talents and strengths. So instead of sitting on our sofas, listening to everyone else and giving away useless pity; let’s be the leader of a change. One that sees humans not a swarm. Strength instead of weakness. And people with real stories that deserve our respect.

Today I watched a group of students become inspired to make a change. But who will inspire the students to follow? It could be you.

In Profile: Dr Fraser Mann

Fraser 2015

What are your research interests?

Twentieth-century American fiction, masculinities, war representation, creative non-fiction/memoir

 

What was your last publication about?

Norman Mailer’s Armies of the Night and its use of ambiguity. It’s a piece of participatory journalism that foregrounds Mailer’s subjective response to the Vietnam protests in 1968.

 

What are you currently working on?

An edited collection provisionally titled Music, Memoir, Memory with YSJ colleague Rob Edgar. It’s a look at the narratives involved in writing about music and the current trend for nostalgia and memorialisation. Plus, I’m starting the process of turning my PhD thesis into a monograph.

 

Which modules are you teaching on this year?

At UG level I’m teaching on Reading Texts I, Forms of Narrative, American Literature Space & Place, Contemporary Writing, Gender & Writing, and American Literature in the Twentieth Century. On the MA I teach on Critical Perspectives on Contemporary Literature, and Contemporary American Literature.

 

Is there a topic or text you especially enjoy teaching?

Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried. It is genuinely the most moving novel I have ever read. Simultaneously, it’s a slippery devil full of postmodern trickery!

 

What do you read for pleasure, when you’re not researching?

Anything to do with music, especially the American underground or electronic music. I also wait for any new John Irving novels with insane levels of excitement.

 


 

Follow Fraser on Twitter: @FraserYSJ

In Profile: Dr Sarah Lawson Welsh

 SLW

What are your research interests?

 

Postcolonial, Caribbean and Black British literatures and cultures. My research into Anglophone Caribbean literatures and cultures covers many things: sugar, tourism, sexuality, myth, writing, gender, food, history, race, orality, language, migrancy and diaspora. Caribbean literature is often neglected and my research has focused on recuperating less well known archives of writing and on making Caribbean literature more accessible (see for more detail, The Routledge Reader in Caribbean Literature). Not only is  Caribbean literature a deeply historical literature which demands to be read in its cultural, economic and historical contexts but in its contemporary forms it is also richly diverse, exciting and ground-breaking, as Marlon James’ 2015 Booker prize winning novel, A Brief History of Seven Killings attests.

 

What was your last publication about?

 

My last publication was a chapter surveying Black British poetry since 1945 for the newly published Cambridge Companion to Post 1945 Poetry, edited by Ed Larrissy (CUP). It was a tough chapter to write as there are so many exciting poets around, including Patience Agbabi, Jackie Kay, Dorothea Smartt, Grace Nichols, Karen Mcarthy-Woolf, Daljit Nagra, John Agard, Dean Atta – but I also needed to historicize the contemporary scene and show how there have been shifts between different generations of poets and the terms used to examine and to categorise their work.

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What are you currently working on?

 

Currently, I am writing a monograph called Food, Text and Culture in the Anglophone Caribbean which examines Caribbean food cultures and the ways in which food, text and culture are linked in the Anglophone Caribbean and its diasporas. It’s great fun as I get to explore food histories and foodways and look at texts as varied as cookbooks and literary texts. I’ve published on British entrepreneur, Levi Roots too though I’m not sure he’d enjoy my critique!

You can access another recent article by myself on food in Caribbean writing here.

 

 

Which modules are you teaching on this year? (UG & MA level)

 

Canonicity: Making and Breaking the Canon, Cultures of Childhood, Gender & Writing, postcolonial Literature (MA), Writing the Caribbean.

 

Is there a topic or text you especially enjoy teaching?

 

Anything which demands further research into cultural and historical context; anything Caribbean! A text which combines the two is Matthew Lewis’ Journal of a West Indian Proprietor , published posthumously in 1834. Mathew ‘ Monk’ Lewis is well known to many of us as an English  Gothic novelist but he also inherited two sugar plantations in Jamaica and these journals are a record of his two visits there in 1815-16 and in 1817. He died on the journey back to England and these unfinished entries are fascinating reading both for what he does say about life on a slave plantation and what he doesn’t. It’s not entirely certain, even at the end, where he stands in relation to slavery. …

 

What do you read for pleasure, when you’re not researching? What are your hobbies?

 

I make myself read a novel for pleasure every Christmas day when everyone else is sleeping off dinner! I also teach new texts every year in order to keep ahead of contemporary writing and shake my teaching up a bit. Besides this, I love reading about vintage finds, upcycling furniture, crafting, gardening – all the things I do with abandon when I’m not working.

MA programme theatre trip review: Pomona, Manchester Exchange Theatre

By Chloe Ashbridge, Ellie Booth & Becca Hall

 

As part of the ‘State of the Art: British Literature’ module on York St John’s MA in Contemporary Literature, students were asked to read Alistair McDowall’s play Pomona, which premiered at the Orange Tree Theatre in London in 2014. On Saturday 14th November 2015 a group of students visited Manchester on a guided tour of the urban wasteland that lends the play its name, to hear McDowall in conversation with Dr Rachel Clements from the University of Manchester, and to watch the play itself. Here they discuss the experience.

 

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Pomona Metrolink Station (4)” by Rept0n1xOwn work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons.

 

Pomona is a ‘grassy limbo’ that buffers Salford and Manchester. On one side of the canal is the Bridgewater Canal while on the other, creating the island and speaking of its past purpose as an industrial dockyard, is the Manchester Ship Canal. As we walked out onto Pomona the only other human present was a dog walker in the distance. This view of tangled vegetation and distant people captured the island’s edgeland feel. As we walked around the island, Dr Alex Beaumont, the coordinator of the State of the Art module, discussed the history of the island and its uncertain future. The discussion turned to psychogeography and how poverty has been hidden in Manchester, both now and throughout history. The increasing sense of alienation and separation felt while traversing the urban countryside of Pomona anticipated the mood of the play, which we were due to see later in the day.

Following the visit to the island of Pomona we attended a discussion of the play with the playwright Alistair McDowall, hosted by Dr Rachael Clements from the University of Manchester. The talk took place in the main theatre of the Royal Exchange, with Clements and McDowall on the stage where the play would be performed. Throughout the talk McDowall emphasised his discomfort with being labelled as a ‘northern writer’, which in his opinion suggests that a writer from the south of England is the norm, whilst a writer from northern England is considered ‘other’. He further stressed that whilst Pomona is set in the city of Manchester and on the island of Pomona it is not actually about either. McDowall described how the play is primarily an expression of his own anxieties and fears, a fact which was demonstrated in the talk with McDowall’s self-confessed unease with talking in front of an audience.

In an interesting exchange, Clements asked McDowall whether it was problematic that such a dark play should index its theme of evil to the representation of sex workers. McDowall’s critical self-awareness as a writer was captured in this moment, as he pointed to his insistence that ‘the actors playing Ollie and Fay should not at any point be wearing sexually suggestive or revealing clothing, despite their employment’. However, despite his strong opinions on the text and precise author’s note, McDowall was aware of the criticisms that these characters could attract and suggested that, in order to succeed as a playwright, one must be willing to grant some control over the text to the director, the producer and the audience.

It was hugely beneficial to have the opportunity to watch Pomona at the Royal Exchange Theatre following our visit to the island earlier in the day. The concept of ‘liveness’, which we had been discussing on the module with Julie Raby, was foregrounded early on, as upon entering the theatre the actors were stood between the aisles and sat in reserved seats amongst the audience. Zeppo, the play’s most omniscient presence, was already on the stage, donning only a khaki parka jacket and white underpants, and eating chicken Mcnuggets as the audience filed in. Due to this staging it felt as though the play had already started, and because it was hard to distinguish between actor and audience member, the performance quickly became an immersive experience that threw the audience into McDowall’s dystopian vision even before they took their seats. The architecture of the Royal Exchange Theatre complemented the immersive quality of the production, as the heptagonal theatre-in-the-round replicated the stark atmosphere created by some urban spaces. The history of the Royal Exchange was also significant as the building had previously been a stock exchange – the trading board still displayed the final day’s trading – which corresponded with the play’s themes of capitalism and the buying and selling of the human body.

The trip was ultimately a brilliant day out that increased our understanding of the themes, ideas, and setting of Pomona and enriched the experience of the Contemporary Literature MA.

In profile: Dr Alex Beaumont

 

Every few weeks we’ll be getting to know more about a member of the @YSJLit programme team by speaking to them about their research and teaching. First up is lecturer Dr Alex Beaumont

 

Alex

 

 

What are your research interests?

 

Postwar British literature, film and television; critical, cultural and literary theory; political philosophy. My broad interest lies in the intersection of culture, politics and space, so I’m generally attracted to anything involving spatial forms of representation, especially literary geography. I started my life as a researcher working on representations of the city, architecture and spatial practice, but I’ve become increasingly interested in how provincialism and regionality interact with simplistic understandings of nationality on the one hand, and, on the other, lofty claims regarding cosmopolitan or ‘global’ forms of political action. More recently I’ve been thinking about archipelagic approaches to British literature, which seek to understand the complex interaction between state, nation and region in the literatures of the North Atlantic Archipelago (often referred to – problematically – as the ‘British Isles’).

 

What was your last publication about?

Contemporary British Fiction and the Cultural Politics of Disenfranchisement

My last publication was a monograph entitled Contemporary British Fiction and the Cultural Politics of Disenfranchisement (Palgrave Macmillan 2015). In it I trace the impact of experiments with freedom by Britain’s ‘cultural left’ during the 1980s in contemporary British fiction, and argue that the celebration of the UK’s lively urban subcultures during and after Margaret Thatcher’s period in power has contributed to a political logic which elevates disenfranchisement to the status of a political principle. Practically speaking, this meant that expressive subcultures – music subcultures in particular – were burdened with the expectation that they would develop new forms of political participation for the poor and disenfranchised, which I think is a project that they weren’t really suited to. I argue that the failure of the left to develop specifically political forms of participation during this period contributed to and even accelerated the various forms of disenfranchisement that were part of the Thatcherite – and wider neoliberal – projects. The book includes discussions of Jeanette Winterson, Hanif Kureishi, J.G. Ballard, Ian McEwan, Kazuo Ishiguro, Monica Ali, Zadie Smith and China Miéville.

 

What are you currently working on?

 

I’m currently in the early stages of a new project on the location of northern England in nationalist, four nations and archipelagic discussions of ‘British literature’. The referendum on Scottish independence has produced a lot of exciting critical work concerning devolution, constitutionality and political form within the UK, but only a few people are attending to the highly vexed question of region in this debate. I think ‘the north’ (as it’s frequently – and problematically – termed) is a particularly interesting place, because it sometimes inspires calls for regional and even national autonomy, even though, unlike Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, it lacks any immediate historical justification for such claims. And yet devolution within England has so far taken the form of handing political power to entities identified in one way or another as ‘northern’, such as the Greater Manchester Combined Authority. I’m interested in the wider implications of this development for the representation of political geography within contemporary writing, so I’m spending quite a lot of time looking at the ways in which regions within northern England are providing a basis for regional autonomy movements, and examining how this interacts with the broader literary tendency to identify northern England itself as culturally, politically, economically, geographically and even topographically distinct from ‘England proper’.

 

Which modules are you teaching on this year? (UG & MA level)

 

I teach on the undergraduate modules Writing for Academic Success; Contemporary Writing; Gender and Writing; Literary Theory; Gender, Sexualities and Contemporary Popular Culture. At MA level I teach British Literature – The State of the Art.

 

Is there a topic or text you especially enjoy teaching?

 

Although of course I enjoy teaching anything related to my area of research expertise, I particularly enjoy teaching film. On Gender, Sexualities and Contemporary Popular Culture we spend a lot of time examining the interaction between theoretical discussions and cinematic representations of gender and sexuality. This allows me to become my other self for a bit – my film studies self – and I very much enjoy being that person for a while. In terms of a favourite text: on the MA module British Literature – The State of the Art we recently discussed a comic book called Gast by the Welsh artist Carol Swain, which I think is a bit of a masterpiece. The representation of the relationship between silence and landscape in the text is fascinating, and Swain captures emotional complexity in the blank, inexpressive faces of her characters with tremendously clarity.

 

What do you read for pleasure, when you’re not researching?

 

I don’t really read for pleasure if I’m honest. Reading is work – work I love, obviously – and if I want to get through everything I feel I need to, and have a life outside work, reading for pleasure can’t really be part of the picture. There are vaguely related activities I enjoy, which don’t form part of my research activities: for example, I love playing video games – mostly because they’re fun, but also because they speak to my interest in the representation of space. So when I want to read for pleasure I’ll often seek out intelligent writing about video games on websites such as Critical Distance and Kill Screen.

 

 

“It’s beginning to look a lot like Brideshead…” 3rd Year Trip to Castle Howard

 

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On 2 December Dr Anne-Marie Evans, Dr Jo Waugh and Dr Adam stock accompanied students taking our Writing the 20th Century module (3EN300) to Castle Howard in North Yorkshire.

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Castle Howard was an inspiration for the ancestral seat of Sebastian Flyte and the Marchmain dynasty in Evelyn Waugh’s novel Brideshead Revisited (1945). But as our guide from the Castle Howard Estate Stephen pointed out, the novel was by no means faithful to all of Castle Howard’s features or geography. Not only did Waugh transpose the location from North Yorkshire to Wiltshire in the novel, but as our guide Stephen told us, the paths which characters take around the house and grounds in the novel are fundamentally incompatible with the topography of the house as it is. Waugh did visit Castle Howard in 1937, but when he sat down to write about a Baroque house with a dome and an “artsy chapel” (as the hapless Hooper puts it) seven years later he was inventive and creative in his approach.

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Neither are the Howards the inspiration for the residents of Brideshead. Notwithstanding Waugh’s curious disavowal on the inscription page, “I am not I: thou art not he or she: they are not they”, the dubious honour of providing some of the family dysfunctions at the heart of the narrative goes to Waugh’s friends the Lygon family, whose country estate was near Malvern.

 iPhone-2015.12.02-12.10.04.041iPhone-2015.12.02-12.09.53.671Picture perfect? The way we view Castle Howard in relation to Brideshead Revisited

has been framed by the 1981 ITV series and the 2008 Miramax film

But Castle Howard does remain an important place to improve our understanding of the novel. Inside the short frame narrative the entire story is told by a process of reconstructing memories, and the sub-title of the novel, The Sacred and Profane Memories of Captain Charles Ryder alludes to the two key themes of religion and memories. Brideshead is a means of anchoring these memories to solid and material spaces. Just as Charles’ Ryder’s career as an architectural painter is spent trying to capture the majesty of stately homes before they are lost to ‘progress’ and social change, so too the fountain, the chapel and other key places around the house give Charles’ memories a real depth of perspective.iPhone-2015.12.02-13.41.08.945

Spending a day at Castle Howard was a great way to think about how novels engage with space, place and memory. We all thoroughly enjoyed walking around the house and grounds and taking a little bit of time out from the busy end-of-semester period to think about key ideas from the module from a different perspective.

 

Storify of the day

Congratulations to our Graduates!

A huge congratulations to all of our graduates this week, who all worked hard to achieve their results. It was a wonderful morning at York Minster and we’re all very proud of you.

 

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The procession leaving for the ceremony

Black History Month at York St John

@YSJBHM

Every October, Black History Month is celebrated all over the UK, and has been for the past thirty-five years. This is an opportunity for us all to acknowledge and celebrate diversity, and learn more about our shared histories and cultures. At York St John this year, academics working in Literature, History, American and Education and Theology have come together to launch the official YSJ Black History Month Twitter account. If you’re not already following is on Twitter, please do so!

The Twitter account is a celebration of black histories and cultures, and aims to highlight black achievement and accomplishment. If you follow the account, you’ll see a range of topics to explore. One of the most popular elements has been the playlist collated by lecturer in Literature (and resident DJ) Dr Fraser Mann. From ground-breaking pieces by Goldie and Massive Attack to classics from Soul II Soul and Neneh Cherry, there is a fantastic selection of music to (re)discover.

Students have been getting involved with the project as well, tweeting their favourite lines from poetry (work by Langston Hughes and Claude McKay has been particularly popular) and offering some reflections on learning about black literary history and the Harlem Renaissance. History students have noted how their study of William Cuffay and black Chartism also has a wider resonance with Black History Month.

It’s been great to see this project grow over the past few weeks as more and more followers choose to get involved with the Twitter account. We hope this continues to grow. Black History Month is hugely important for everyone. It allows to focus on a positive present and future whilst acknowledging some of the horrors of the past. We hope that @YSJBHM continues to allow our YSJ community to reflect on this and to raise awareness about these important issues.

If you have any queries about Black History Month, please contact Dr Anne-Marie Evans (a.evans@yorksj.ac.uk)