Thursday, 28 March 2013

School of Humanities Applicant Day, 27 March

Our visitors made heroic efforts last Wednesday to get to the University of Gloucestershire through snowdrifts and Siberian breezes.  Once they got here safely, and thawed out, we had a great day of meeting, talking, and learning. We run a couple of Applicant Days each year as special information and learning events for students who have accepted a place with us but want to find out more about what we're like. The Head of Humanities, Dr Shelley Saguaro, welcomed students, parents and friends before we split into course groups for taster sessions. We try to give students a sense of what they'll experience in the classroom in their first year of study. It's quite an adjustment for students to go from the periphery of learning to its centre; social as well as academic skills are required.

The English Literature session, 'Blake's 'Jerusalem' and the Politics of Romantic Poetry' asked students to think about Blake's well-known but never-understood poem 'Jerusalem'. This hymnlike poem appears in the Preface to a much longer epic poem, Milton (composed c. 1804-11).  The second odd point is that far more people have heard the poem than read it. Hubert Parry set it to music in 1916, and it was adopted by the Suffragette movement. English (not always British) people like to sing it at various national events, from football to the Womens Institute AGM, and of course every year at the Last Night of the Proms.

But is the poem a statement of triumph, or a warning? Students noted that the poem seemed full of ironies, that it contained folkloric elements that perhaps suggested a popular mode, or an anti-style. Until lunchtime, we began a conversation that will not end, but will continue to open up inquiry indefinitely.


Student input is such an important part of the day for potential students, and we've been so lucky this year to have the help of three eloquent third-year students, Matt Butcher, Amy Hall and Mike Jordan. Amy joined Debby Thacker and Shelley for a Q & A session with parents; and after lunch, Mike  kindly took time away from writing his dissertation on Raymond Chandler's novels to speak to students and parents about the experience of studying English Literature at the University of Gloucestershire. Mike, and Matt on a previous occasion, put everyone at their ease with candid responses and personal testimony. And they are such pros to work with, for which we give them our special thanks.
As the event broke up at around 2:30, we wished everyone a safe journey home. We'll see them, we hope, in September.  Thanks to everyone who gave up their day to visit us.

Monday, 25 March 2013

'Hardy and the Inaugural': Professor John Hughes's Inaugural Lecture at the University of Gloucestershire

Stinsford Church, Dorset, burial site of Hardy's heart.

Old and new friends and colleagues gathered together last Wednesday to hear John Hughes, Professor of Nineteenth-Century English Literature, give his Inaugural Lecture. The poet and novelist Thomas Hardy, about whom John has published for many years, is fascinated by beginnings and transitional states. In his lecture 'Hardy and the Inaugural', John took up the notion of the 'inaugural' as a particular quality of lyric poetry. He remarks:

The lecture explores the idea of the inaugural as to do with transitions, turning points, transformations, and new beginnings. It links this discussion to an account of the effects of poetic language in general, and to some examples drawn from the poetry of Thomas Hardy, in particular. 

And, he might have added, from Bob Dylan. In an unexpected departure**, John drew insights from Hardy's poetry to show how Bob Dylan represented an inaugural stage of 1960s culture, a poet who shares Hardy's awareness of creative moments of transition. Dylan is as famous for the way he appears in photos as for the way he sounds; John argued persuasively that these visual representations contained what Hardy would have called poetic 'Moments of Being'. Even politicians are keen to borrow some of Dylan's aura for themselves; one of John's lecture slides, showing David and Samantha Cameron in a photo from the Huffington Post in which their body language imitated that of Dylan and Suze Rotolo on the cover of The Freewheeling Bob Dylan, brought the house down. But John was making a serious point about how the inaugural can be recuperated, morally, politically and aesthetically, so that its representations can create the illusions of transitions.

The Vice-Chancellor, Stephen Marston, introduced John, and Professor Peter Childs proposed the traditional vote of thanks afterwards.

**but we await eagerly Professor John Hughes's book Invisible Now: Bob Dylan in the 1960s, to be published by Ashgate in August 2013.

Friday, 15 March 2013

'Love and Romance in the Song of Songs, the Bible's Only Romance Poem

The Severn Forum

Love and Romance in the Song of Songs, the Bible’s only love poem’
Cheryl Exum, Professor Emerita of Biblical Studies, University of Sheffield, and Director of Sheffield Phoenix Press
Park Campus, Tiered Lecture Theatre (TC014), Thursday 21st March, 7.45.
Free to students
£3 entry (for non-students, non-members).