Friday, 31 October 2014

Degree Plus Internship: Editing a Renaissance Play

I'm delighted to announce that three students have just begun their Degree Plus Internship: 'Editing a Renaissance Play for a Twenty-First-Century Audience'.

The successful candidates are Hannah Lickiss, a final year English Literature student; Abigail Penny, a second year English Literature and Creative Writing student; and Chloe Phillips, a final year English Literature and English Language student.

Our student editors have just finished reading James Shirley's The Young Admiral in the original 1637 quarto edition (see below).

Now, they are absorbing the complex set of editorial guidelines which are used by scholars who are working on the Complete Works of James Shirley, to be published by Oxford University Press in 2016.
The next step will be to transform their chosen scene into a modern textual edition, aimed at the intelligent undergraduate, and underpinned by best-practice editing principles. 

By the end of this internship our editors will have a unique glimpse into the world of textual editing.
So, do look out for their posts over the next few months as they have promised to report on their editing odyssey!

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Black History Month, Part Three.

In my previous blog post on Black History Month, I discussed teaching black British and postcolonial literature, and using this as an opportunity to explore elements of black histories in Britain and globally.  I also suggested that ‘texts studied such as the slave narrative connect in very specific ways to topics treated during Black History Month.’   Let us look a little further into this idea.  

We examine black British and postcolonial experiences on other modules that I teach, as part of our exploration of the multiplicity of literature and identity. On my third-year module, HM6308 ‘Make It New’, which examines 20TH and 21ST Century British Literature, we study a 2003 novel written by the Scottish author James Robertson, called Joseph Knight. This novel treats the topic of slavery and Scotland’s historical role in imperialism and slavery in the Caribbean. Joseph Knight is based on the real historical figure, the slave Joseph Knight  - see The Woyingi Blog,  

For more detail on Robertson’s novel, read the Guardian review of Robertson’s novel, written by this year’s Booker Prize nominee, the author Ali Smith:  She argues that:  ‘Robertson handles the mystery of who Joseph Knight really is with a subtle panache. Knight's presence and absence are both melancholy sorts of escape; and the novel is full of people hopelessly enslaved: slaves, colliers, spinners, women - and, more than anybody, the imperialists themselves.’  

The section called ‘History of Slavery’ on the Black History Month website also contains information about slavery which provides an interesting context to novels such as Robertson's.  Here, it states that: ‘Scots proudly played their part in the abolition of the trade. But for a time we misted over our role as perpetrators of this barbarism. Many of Scottish industries, schools and churches were founded from the profits of African slavery.’ 

These questions of race and narration deepen our study of literature, and further our understanding of its resonances and relevance during black History month and beyond.

© Dr Charlotte Beyer

Friday, 24 October 2014

Come and meet us at the Open Day, Saturday 25 October

Do please come and visit us on Saturday 25 October at Francis Close Hall. All the details, and how to book a place, are here:; but a booking's not necessary - just bring yourselves along. Share a coffee and chocolate chip cookie with us and find out what it's like to immerse yourself in English Literature in Cheltenham.

Gather in the Chapel....

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Chloe Phillips reviews 'She Stoops to Conquer' from a student perspective.

Northern Broadsides is a company I had not come across before. However I was completely won over by their performance of She Stoops to Conquer. I thought this was a really successful staging of this fun loving, comic masterpiece just as Oliver Goldsmith originally intended.

The over-dramatization of the characters, especially the animal print costumes and the use of a transvestite maid, shows the brilliant silliness that cannot simply be portrayed through the text alone. The multiple characterisations of the actors, such as the shy yet blundering Marlow who somehow manages by the end of the play to have engaged himself to Kate Hardcastle was really effective.
Likewise, Kate’s effortless transformation from the well educated daughter of Squire Hardcastle to the lower class barmaid clearly and comically accomplished laugh-out-loud moments from the audience: just the sort of ‘laughing comedy’ which Goldsmith was attempting to achieve.
The traditional characters of the fool, the hero and heroine, the mother and the characters of the sub plots were kept and played to perfection - especially Tony Lumpkin (pictured) who stole the show for most of the students!
Now I'm looking forward to 'The White Devil' at Stratford in November!

Monday, 20 October 2014

Laurie Lee celebrated at the Cheltenham Literature Festival

The University of Gloucestershire sponsored lots of Festival events this year. One event in particular goes back a long way for us. The School of Humanities sponsors the annual Laurie Lee Memorial Lecture, which in the past has been given by Paula Byrne and Robert Macfarlane. This year, instead of a formal lecture, three poets gathered for a special celebration of Laurie Lee's life and work, introduced by Professor Shelley Saguaro. The poets P.J.Kavanagh and Brian Patten knew Lee personally and shared their memories of the poet, Patten reading out part of a moving memoir. Nature writer Tim Dee talked about Lee's influence on his work as a writer, photographer, birdwatcher and, in a sense, memorialist of landscape (read Kathleen Jamie's review of Dee's work here.)

Laurie Lee is a writer we claim as our own, and we've celebrated the centenary of his birth in many ways. Poet and Creative Writing Lecturer Angela France, who knew Laurie Lee in his final years, hosted an evening of Lee's poetry at the prestigious Cheltenham Poetry Festival in March (and here); Angela was also on the panel of judges for the Literature Festival's Schools' Creative Writing Competition , in which Cider with Rosie made an appearance.

Photos & Links: Chelt Fest 2014:
Angela France photo courtesy of Western Daily Press.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Dr Rebecca Bailey reports on a very lively theatre trip to see 'She Stoops to Conquer' at Cheltenham Everyman Theatre.

Theatre enthusiasts from across the English course enjoyed a wonderful evening at the Cheltenham Everyman last week when Northern Broadsides gave a sparkling performance of Oliver Goldsmith's exuberant comedy, 'She Stoops to Conquer'.  

Tony Lumpkin, played by Jon Trenchard, stole the show with an irrepressible eighteenth-century zaniness - creating the outrageous 'mistakes of the night' before deftly offering resolution. The costumes were fabulous, embodied by Mrs Hardcastle's wild orange wig and ludicrous leopard print Georgian gown, which perfectly matched Gilly Tomkin's brilliant portrayal of an outlandish, overly-protective mother. Equally impressive were the musical interludes which deftly enhanced the performance and added to the jollity of the occasion. 

Many thanks to Sally-ann Rhodes at the Everyman for being so patient and helpful in arranging this event which whetted the theatrical appetites of over twenty five students. Personally, I think this is quite possibly one of the best performances we have seen at the Everyman. 

Undoubtedly, it's a huge boon for an English Literature department to have such excellent live theatre right on our doorstep. I am sure that this performance of She Stoops to Conquer will prove central to our discussion of this text, next semester, on HM5305: Staging the Cultural Moment.

Student Writing Competition: Commemorating the Great War

An announcement from the Chaplaincy.

To commemorate the 100 year anniversary of the start of the First World War, and the 70th anniversary of the D-Day Landings, The University of Gloucestershire is holding a special competition.

We would like you to produce a poem, short story, illustration, painting or piece of digital media which you feel perfectly encapsulates the importance of this joint anniversary.

All submissions will be displayed in the chapel at FCH from 11th November 2014.

The same day we will be hosting a Remembrance Day concert from 5.30pm at the chapel.

A prize will be awarded for the winning entry.

Please send your entries to:

Rev. Bruce Goodwin, Chapel, FCH Campus

Or email them to:



Monday, 13 October 2014

Black History Month, Part Two

I ended my last post on Black History Month by suggesting that this annual event represents, ‘a call for us to engage with the diversity of 21st Century British culture, and to recognise the past contributions made by blacks and diasporic groups to the history of our country.’

On the second-year module HM5304 ‘After Windrush’ which I devised and also teach, we explore a range of post-1945 Caribbean, black British and postcolonial literary works. We make links to the legacies of slavery through the literature that we study on the module. We also investigate other historical and cultural issues such as migration, education, sexuality, politics, and depictions of childhood. 

One of the Black History Month events in Cheltenham next week - the screening of the recent acclaimed film ‘Twelve Years a Slave’ - resonates with the material on slavery that we are studying.  Reading Fred D’Aguiar’s novel The Longest Memory as part of the module syllabus gives us an insight into the history of slavery and its present-day depiction. On HM5301, the 19th Century American literature module, we also study the slave narrative. 

Watching ‘Twelve Years a Slave’ will contribute to our understanding of how contemporary artists and authors portray black histories and traumas such as slavery. Texts that we study, such as the slave narrative, resonate and connect in very specific ways with topics treated during Black History Month. 

See the section called ‘History of Slavery’ on the Black History Month website for information about slavery.

© Dr Charlotte Beyer

Friday, 10 October 2014

Brave New Worlds at the Cheltenham Literature Festival

'Brave New Worlds' is one of several structuring themes of Cheltenham Festival 2014.  Readers and writers explore how 'new' worlds are projected and represented, with topics ranging from digital technology, democracy, futures, nature, the environment and architecture to dystopian writing. There's even a little 'new world' garden in Imperial Square.

Aldous Huxley's futurist novel Brave New World still has the power to shock and unsettle. His most recent biographer, Nicholas Murray, spoke to a capacity crowd in the Salon this morning at a university-sponsored event, introduced by Professor Shelley Saguaro.  Aldous Huxley: An English Intellectual was published in 2002, reissued this year, and has never gone out of print; Nicholas Murray used the occasion to reconsider Huxley's ideas in a twenty-first century context. He revealed Huxley as a thoroughly Victorian intellectual in some ways, who inherited his grandfather Thomas Huxley's liberal and scientific thinking.  More personal details were just as interesting, though. I hadn't realised how bad Huxley's eyesight was (an eye infection picked up at school almost blinded him) and I wondered whether it might have contributed to Brave New World's strangely compressed visuality. Perhaps I should have asked Nicholas Murray, but the other questions were less niche.

Afterwards it was time for me to head for the Town Hall Drawing Room and a workshop on dystopian writing. About seventy students ranging from year 10 to A/AS level joined me for a really good discussion about utopian/dystopian literature, satire, and science-fiction - a very wide-ranging session indeed. One student had asked Nicholas Murray a very probing question about gender, and we agreed that the novel remains non-committal, oblivious almost, of gender's ideological force.

What a great day. And Benjamin Zephaniah was in the green room.

Photo: Dr Debby Thacker

Thursday, 9 October 2014

From the Festival: Bethany Norris interviews a Festival organiser

Beth Norris, a second-year English Literature student, reports from the Festival.

Madeline Toy is a freelance publicist who lives in Bristol and who also is part of the Cheltenham Literature Festival programming team. I was asked to interview her at the festival and upon looking her up her LinkedIn profile was very impressive, boasting a degree, a masters degree and important publishing houses that she had worked at.

It was interesting to speak to Madeline about her different experiences as a publicist. She had previously done a degree and then a postgraduate degree in publishing. When I asked her about how she got into her current position she couldn't put enough emphasis on how important it was for her to do work experience in her chosen field.

She also brought up an interesting point on how the world of publishing is changing now with e-books and how social media effects her job. It's the kind of thing that you don't necessarily think of effecting the industry but it does actually bring good and bad points to the table. For example it's good that social media can reach fans instantly and offer a more personal touch, but at the same time it means there's a lot more competition.

Another thing that I found intriguing was that Madeline said that the benefits of being freelance meant that she could be her own boss and move away from London. She admitted a lot of publicist jobs are in London and that someone starting out should probably look there, but she didn't want to stay there and when she became freelance it allowed her to move away. It's the kind of lifestyle question that are often not thought of until later on in a career. It was good to get a perspective of someone who has been in the industry for over eight years.

Overall I think talking to Madeline has made me realise how important it is to make sure that your reputation is known if you want to get into a competitive line of work. Work experience, social media as well as education can all contribute to a professional reputation.

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

English Literature team scores at the Cheltenham Festival Literary Quiz


The Spiegeltent.

Professor Shelley Saguaro, Head of School, and Dr Debby Thacker, Subject Group Leader for Literary & Critical Studies took part in the Festival Literary Quiz, as invited guests of the Cheltenham Festival of Literature, on Tuesday night in the Spiegeltent. The question-master was James Walton, who sets the BBC Radio 4 programme The Write Stuff.  We were on a team with two avid Festival-goers and we came third out of 21 teams. For a long time, we were running a close second to the winning Sunday Times Literary editorial team, and if we had remembered the existence of Stieg Larsson, and that Anne of Green Gables was called Anne Shirley, or that Birdsong was, indeed, written in the 1990s, we would have licked them.  The last round, in which any wrong answer would have lost us all of the points for the whole round, made us extremely cautious.  We did know that Edgar Allen Poe was one of the authors on the Sgt Pepper album, but even the Sunday Times team did not risk putting the answer ‘Dupin’, as the name of Edgar Allen Poe’s detective, that late in the evening.

Can you put, in order, the deaths of PG Wodehouse, Noel Coward and John Betjeman?

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Black History Month, part one

Every year in October we celebrate Black History Month. The Black History Month website, on, gives the details of all the different initiatives which form part of Black History Month here in Britain.  For more background on Black History Month and how it came into existence, read Professor Neil Wynn’s excellent piece over on the History blog: Black History Month promotes a number of projects and events which raise awareness of - and celebrate - the contributions that black and Caribbean communities have made to British society and culture. Problems such as racism, discrimination and cultural marginalisation which blacks still encounter are also examined. In Cheltenham we also now have a series of events to celebrate Black History Month, ranging from film and music to interesting guest speakers.  Details of the events on this leaflet can be found here: This is the first time that Cheltenham has its own Black History Month events.  It is a timely acknowledgement of the significance of Black History Month:  a call for us to engage with the diversity of 21st Century British culture, and to recognise the past contributions made by blacks and diasporic groups to the history of the country.

© Dr Charlotte Beyer

Friday, 3 October 2014

Cheltenham Literature Festival has begun

Cheltenham Literature Festival, last year. Will it look even better tonight?
We've been planning for the Festival for a long time. Our students are there, interviewing people and tweeting the latest action.  Please follow us on @EnglishLitGlos, and please send us your Festival pictures.

Will Self is on.