Friday, 24 June 2016

Open Days at Francis Close Hall, Saturday June 25 and Tuesday June 28

If you're considering studying English Literature this year or next, come to one of our Open Days and ask us all about it. We're running two more Open Days in June (Saturday 25 and Tuesday 28). Book your place here:

Humanities undergraduates share their research at our recent Humanities Student Research Conference. More here.

Come and see where and how we study, chat to current students, find out about accommodation and student life in Cheltenham, and catch a glimpse of the campus cat if you're lucky.  You can also keep up to speed by following us on Facebook and Twitter. We hope to see you soon.

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Rose Wolfe-Emery reviews 'The Handmaid's Tale' by Margaret Atwood

At first glance, ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ reads like something one might happen across in a collection of fairy tales. Picture the deviant handmaid of a wealthy lady: attractive, rebellious, perhaps overcoming social class divisions by seducing a member of the gentry. In actuality, Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale tells a completely different story.

The tale takes place in ‘Gilead’, a dystopian Republic in which the traditional division of labour in heterosexual marriage has been dismantled and is divided among women. The jobs historically associated with the female counterpart in a marriage – such as cooking, cleaning, bearing and raising children – are allocated to women according to their fertility. The singular role of a handmaid is to provide a child for a ruling-class family; if she fails to do so after three assignments, she is declared an ‘Unwoman’ and is sent away to inevitably die from radiation poisoning. The names of handmaids change depending on the household they are allocated to, reflecting their invariability from one another and lack of identity. For instance, the titular handmaid’s name is ‘Offred’, mirroring how her body and sexual agency are the property of Fred, the commander she was assigned to.

One of the most interesting aspects of this novel is the ideologies (largely based on biblical interpretations) that are used to justify such a regime. Offred regularly has flashbacks to the lessons given at ‘the Centre’, where prospective handmaids are trained. By ensuring that the desires of men are catered for, this has vastly reduced sexual assault cases in Gilead – yet just like rape, women’s autonomy is removed from the equation. The handmaids are required to dress in red habits that conceal their bodies in order to appear demure and professional, while the colour symbolises the nature of their profession. They also wear white wings on their heads, which obscure their vision and subsequently narrow their view of the world – reflecting the irrelevance of their thoughts in such a society. This novel also features distinctly Orwellian elements, the ‘Eyes’ (secret police) supposedly catching anyone who doesn’t behave according the rules of Gilead.

Atwood has insisted that the world portrayed in this novel is speculative rather than genuinely futuristic, simply questioning what would happen if “casually held attitudes about women” were taken to their logical ends. For anyone interested in feminism, I thoroughly recommend reading this thought-provoking novel because it continually highlights relevant, contemporary issues. Perhaps most significantly, it makes us more concerned about them.

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

English Literature goes mad in Activity Week and beyond

The end of the academic year overwhelms students and staff alike. It's a time not just of hard work and deadlines but also the culmination of  twelve months of effort. Look closer, though, and you'll see that much more than exams (whether sitting or marking them) and marking deadlines has been going on since May.  The Humanities Activity Week offered a packed programme of events, on and off campus. Our School was closely involved with the wonderful Cheltenham Poetry Festival and student and staff spoke, performed, improvised and read at many of its events. History students (and others) spent a day at the National Civil War Centre, and the poet Helen Moore hosted a workshop combining ecology, poetry, and activism. Others buzzed off on the Humanities field trip to Cordoba, and we have no sympathy for them whatsoever.

Katie Green speaks to current students at the Back to the Future alumni event, 11 May 2016

We were very excited, and proud, to welcome three successful Humanities alumni to our special 'Back to the Future' alumni event. Former lecturer Dr Debby Thacker created this event last year to help current students think about their career and future options. The answer to the question 'what can I do with a degree in Humanities' is 'Anything you like'. Katie Green spoke about her passion for and commitment to teaching; Jess Toogood about her media career; and James Kearle explained how his English Literature degree gave him the skills of deep analysis he's put to use in engineering management. No one experience fitted all; each had arrived at their careers through so many different turns. Jess, James and Katie were totally inspiring to the students and staff who attended.

Jessica Toogood

Natalie Morris of Future Plan was also on hand to speak about the University's career and development support.

And to cap off the year, we celebrated student achievements at the University Festival ....but that's another post.

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Alchemy: A Creative Experiment is at the Wilson Gallery, Cheltenham, TONIGHT

Sound and words bridge Shakespeare's world with our own. A stand-up comedian suffers an existential experience. Pictures are installed and some may move. A film called The Battle of Five Spices is shown. It can only be Alchemy: A Creative Experiment. Humanities and Media students take over the Wilson Gallery from 7:30 (not 7:00) TONIGHT. FREE. Book your place by clicking here.

Humanities Student Research Conference programme is now live

The final programme for our Humanities Student Research Conference has gone live:

Thursday 9 June 2016
11:00 - 3:00
Francis Close Hall TC002

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Second week of the University Festival is Humanities week

The University Festival got under way last week, with loads of events scheduled across the University of Gloucestershire. This week, however, belongs to us.  Alchemy: A Creative Experiment, in which Humanities and Media students join forces, will set the house on fire at our gala champagne event at Cheltenham's prestigious Wilson Gallery on Wednesday 8 June at 7:30pm. This free public event is for the community too and is being publicised widely across the county’s media. What happens when song, folk music, poetry, film and radio collide? You'll find out tomorrow evening at the Wilson.
Book your ticket here.

Creative Writers are rioting, as always. Students and staff have put together a stellar event of guest readings and student work in Writers' Research Riot on Wednesday 8 June.  Alan Bilton, Joanna Campbell and Anna Lewis are three of the writers joining students for a panel discussion at Francis Close Hall at 3:00, and the mayhem moves to the Frog and Fiddle from 8:00pm. Details at the UoG Creative Writing blog.

The Humanities Student Research Conference should also be in your diaries for Thursday 9 June, FCH TC002, 11:00. The programme is being finalised and ranges from the death industry to slow food, J.G. Ballard and Gloucestershire protest.  Delegates will be plied with food and drink and we Humanities people never turn down a chance to argue and debate. 

We rule.

The full University Festival programme is here.

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Helen Rawlings reviews 'The Revenant' by Michael Punke

After several months of assignment writing and exam revision, summer is finally upon us (pardon the rain) with a much deserved break for all. Most excitingly, this has given me time to get round to some summer reading – for pure unadulterated pleasure. My first choice has been Michael Punke’s 2002 novel The Revenant, which is loosely based upon real life events. In all honesty, I chose this book because of the hype surrounding Hollywood’s film adaptation that recently landed Leonardo Di Caprio his long-awaited Oscar. I digress; basically, I wanted to see what all the fuss was about, and what better way than to read the book?

Cast back to 1823 American mountain terrain: the dramatic setting in which fur hunter Hugh Glass pursues his ultimate quest for revenge. Mauled almost to death by a grizzly bear (some scenes are pretty gruesome so I would not recommend reading after a big lunch!) Glass is left for dead by his comrades from 'The Rocky Mountain Fur Company'. Two of these comrades steal his gun, which we later discover he really, really wants back. Overall, this was an enjoyable read – it was fascinating to learn about these frontiersmen in the early 1800s. The Revenant is a page turner and Punke effectively builds up tension as Glass battles a long and bloody road to revenge.

A series of dramas and trials face Glass as he battles native Indians and savage wildlife in his adventure of survival and bravery. I would definitely recommend this book – the historical aspects are interesting and there is lots of other reading on Glass and the frontiersman. For me, only one thing was wrong with the book – the ending. I don’t know what I was expecting exactly, but the act of revenge itself in comparison to the build-up felt slightly rushed and inconclusive. Regardless, this is a well-written book and an entertaining read.  I would be interested to see the movie now, and how Hollywood has destroyed it… Cynical, me?

Happy reading everyone.