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Research Events

The School of English hosts research events through its four research groups, Medieval and Renaissance, 18th century, Romantic and Victorian, Modern and Contemporary and Creative Writing.

Events are open to members of the School and to the public and are usually free of charge unless otherwise stated. For further information, please contact the School of English office, telephone 01334 462666.

Unless another venue is specified, events take place in the Lawson Lecture Room, Kennedy Hall.

Events, Semester 2, 2017/18

Wednesday 14 February - 1pm [Byre Conference Room]

C19c Brown paper-bag research seminar series 2017-18
Sharing a 19th-Century Object and/or Concept - Andy Murphy (School of English)

Concepts: Literacy, education and politics In his seminal statement of the modernist theory of nationalism (Nations and Nationalism, 1983), Ernest Gellner tied the rise of nationalism to the context of industrialisation in the nineteenth century, arguing that the systematisation required by industrialising societies demanded standardised forms of knowledge that could only be provided at the level of the state. To provide such knowledge, governments needed to set up formal educational systems. In Gellner's view, these systems served ultimately to create a homogenised culture, in the process calling into being a recognisable form of national identity. While Gellner's model is compelling, the effects of the wider availability of education and the spread of literacy in the nineteenth century were, it might be argued, neither quite so uniform nor so predictable. Andy has taken up this issue in two separate research projects. He has looked at working-class readers' encounters with Shakespeare in the nineteenth century and has registered the ways in which, for many of these readers, Shakespeare's work served as a source of inspiration for programmes of radical political activism. He has also looked at the impact of the rise of literacy in Ireland in the same period. Here, an examination of the schoolbooks used in the educational system would appear to provide support for Gellner's thesis, since they are geared towards inculcating a strongly British identity, at the expense of any distinctive Irishness. Yet this very process in itself prompted a significant counter movement in Ireland which, in 1916, culminated in a separatist uprising in Dublin. In the Irish instance, then, late nineteenth century/early twentieth century nationalism can be said to be produced in reaction against the process that Gellner identifies as the standard mechanism of nationalism. For Andy's session, then, he would like to explore the complex implications of the expansion of education and the rise of literacy across the span of the nineteenth century.

Wednesday 14 February - 2.15pm

Aspects of the Early Modern Fantastic in Shakespeare's The Tempest - Dr R. W. Maslen (University of Glasgow)

The origin of the fantasy genre is sometimes traced to the founding of the Ballantine Adult Fantasy series in the 1960s, or the Decadent movement of the 1890s, or the Romantic backlash against the Enlightenment at the end of the eighteenth century. I'd like to suggest instead that fantasy began to evolve along the lines of the modern genre in the Reformation, at the point when several major strands of Christianity came into conflict and competing apologists for these strands began to accuse one another of fantasising about religion. The Reformation famously prompted polemicists like More and Tyndale to accuse one another of being 'poets' or irresponsible inventors of alternative gods and artificial secondary universes, to the everlasting detriment of their readers. The anti-poetic bias led Sir Philip Sidney to defend poetry as the inventor of ideal secondary worlds, not corrupting ones, and he supported his views by reference both to the classical writers whose work could readily be accepted by scholars as responsible inventions and to the scholarly Catholic 'poet' Thomas More, creator of Utopia. In my paper I shall argue that The Tempest is one of a succession of Shakespeare's works in which he builds on the contemporary defence of the poetic imagination, as fronted by Sidney, and that its status as a taproot text for modern fantasy and science fiction is a natural consequence of what it has to tell us about what could be described as the early modern fantastic.

Wednesday 21 February - 5.15pm
Healing the Mind: 'Writing Takes the Ache Away' - Professor Kay Redfield Jamison (Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine)

It will focus on mania, the most ancient of madnesses; healing minds at war, the power of words: psychotherapy, WHR Rivers and Siegfried Sassoon; and, most particularly, it will focus on Robert Lowell and the importance of writing in healing his mind in the wake of repeated attacks of mania.

Thursday 1 March - 5.15pm [CANCELLED]
Writing 1859 - Professor Gail Marshall (University of Reading)

I'll examine the processes, possibilities, and difficulties of writing a book about a year, and my decision to use George Eliot's life at that time to structure the narrative. I'll analyse some of the things I've discovered and offer thoughts about what the process has taught me, both about the Victorians, and scholarly approaches to the period.

Thursday 8th March - 5pm
Feminist Digital Humanities - Dr Liz Losh (William and Mary)

This talk previews the forthcoming Bodies of Information volume from the Debates in the Digital Humanities series about feminist digital humanities. It describes how feminist digital humanities encompasses much more than women’s digital history or supporting more digital humanities projects directed by women – although these initiatives may be important. For example, feminist digital humanities may question the binaries at the heart of digital markup languages. This volume also looks at feminist hackerspaces, DH projects that respond to online misogyny and racism, hashtag syllabi, and other projects that emphasize the material, embodied, affective, labor-intensive, and situated character of humanities computing. Using the perspectives of feminist science and technology studies (STS), it questions the neutrality, universality, and transparency that are often assumed to be at the core of global DH efforts.

Tuesday 13th March - 5pm
Fake News and Real Media Literacy - Dr Liz Losh (William and Mary)

The term "fake news" dates back to the 1940s, when post-war commentators expressed concerns about doctored images and government propaganda. It describes a range of pseudo-journalistic genres that are often designed to do much more than merely deceive. Rhetorical purposes for fake news can include stimulating satiric amusement about corrupt institutions, generating furor in calls for information warfare, or reinforcing anomie when claims of neutrality are asserted for pursuing so-called "alternative facts." In recent years fake news has deployed new digital technologies that use photorealistic 3D simulation, artificial intelligence, machine learning, and predictive algorithms to undermine basic truth claims. This talk discusses ways to get beyond contemporary moral panics to understand how fake news has become part of the epistemological landscape of everyday life and why the digital humanities must address the presence of fake news.

Wednesday 4 April - 5.15pm
The Good News about Pox: Venereal Disease and Masculinity in the Eighteenth-Century Imagination - Dr Noelle Gallagher (University of Manchester)

In this paper, I explore the fleeting "fashion" for male venereal disease in Restoration and eighteenth-century imaginative culture. Surveying a wide range of literature and graphic art from the period, I argue that venereal disease was coded as a predominantly male phenomenon, and that it was simultaneously championed as a badge of male virility and condemned as a symbol of male vice.

Thursday 5 April - 5.15pm
Time's Witnesses: Women's Voices from the Holocaust - Professor Jakob Lothe (University of Oslo)

In this lecture, Jakob Lothe will present and discuss Time's Witnesses: Women's Voices from the Holocaust (2017). The book, edited by Lothe, is the history and words of ten Jewish women who survived the Nazi concentration and extermination camps during World War Two. These are women who lived through an unimaginable time, yet are still prepared to remember, so that the world does not forget. The women tell of a time of degradation, deprivation, starvation and hopelessness, but each one, with incredible strength of spirit survived and extraordinarily share a common desire for resolution and a hope that by sharing their experiences these horrific moments in history will never be repeated. Noting that Time's Witnesses is not a comfortable book to read, Lothe finds it is one that needs to be experienced if we are to learn.

Monday 9 April - 5.15pm
George Jack Memorial Lecture
How Not to Make Babies - Professor Rachel Bowlby (UCL)

Since the birth of the first 'test tube baby' in 1978, reproductive technologies have featured in many kinds of public and private contestation. Given new scientific possibilities for meddling or enabling, what are the right and wrong ways to bring a new baby into this world? This lecture looks back at debates in the 1940s about the social and ethical implications of the first reproductive technology: sperm donation.

Wednesday 11 April - 5.15pm
From the 'Gothic' to the 'Medieval': Romanticism, Architecture, History, 1800—1840 - Professor Dale Townshend (Manchester Metropolitan University)

British culture of the early nineteenth century attests to a far-reaching 'reinvention' of the Middle Ages, from the benighted, Catholic pasts of 'Gothic' romance to the splendid 'medieval' pasts of the Victorian period.  In this paper, I want to trace and account for this transition across at least three interrelated fields: in reappraisals of the national past in the Romantic aesthetics of William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Walter Scott; in the shifting perceptions of Gothic architecture and the nature of the past that it was thought to embody in the work of A. W. N. Pugin and John Ruskin; and in historiographic reconfigurations of what earlier periods had tended pejoratively to refer to as the 'Dark Ages' in the writings of John Lingard, William Cobbett, Samuel Roffey Maitland and others.  Drawing the history of aesthetics, architecture and historiography into dialogue with one another, the paper provides a revisionist reading of the genesis of what cultural historians have long identified as the 'medievalism' of the Romantic and Victorian periods.

Thursday 26 April - 6pm-8.30pm [Byre Studio Theatre]

Song of Granite Film Screening and Q & A with Eoghan Mac Giolla Bhríde. Hosted by Dr Peter Mackay

Song of Granite is a portrait of the life and music of Joe Heaney, acclaimed as the greatest Irish sean-nós singer of all time. One of the great Irish tradition bearers of the 20th century, Heaney was nevertheless a shadowy, ambiguous figure, about whom little was known apart from the bare facts of his life: a childhood in Carna, Connemara, the last few decades spent in New York, the remarkable recordings of his unaccompanied singing.

Song of Granite is a sketched portrait: it lingers on the absences, on what we don’t and can’t know about Heaney, as much as on what we do know. Directed by Pat Collins, this is a powerful and uncompromising mix of documentary, expressionist flourish and biographical drama: a 'subtle triumph' according to the Irish Times; Screen International calls it 'strikingly beautiful'.

This screening will be followed by a Q & A session with Eoghan Mac Giolla Bhríde, the writer of the film, and himself an accomplished singer; it is supported by the Byre Theatre and the School of English at St Andrews University, and hosted by Dr Peter Mackay.  Tickets and more information

Thursday 10 May - 8pm, Topping & Company
Don Paterson with The Poem: Lyric, Sign, Metre

The Poem: Lyric, Sign, Metre is a monumental study of how poems work. With a triple focus on music, rhythm, and meaning, Paterson turns his expert eye to the origins of poetry, to the effects it has on our brains, and to the conditions that underlie the art, from Anon to McNish and from Marlowe to Zukofsky. It is an ars poetica that is stunningly thorough, and thoroughly stunning, for readers and writers alike.

Scholar Places for this event are £4, redeemable against the book

Friday 11 May - 7pm, [The Byre Theatre]
Poetry Reading - Professor Paul Muldoon

Paul Muldoon is widely recognised as one of the most significant poets writing in English today. His numerous collections of poetry include New Weather (1973), Mules (1977), Why Brownlee Left (1980),Quoof (1983), Meeting The British (1987), Madoc: A Mystery (1990) and Moy Sand and Gravel (2002), for which he won the Pulitzer Prize. Born in 1951 in County Armagh, Northern Ireland, and educated in Armagh and at the Queen's University of Belfast, since 1987 Muldoon has lived in the United States, where he is now Howard G. B. Clark '21 Professor at Princeton University and Founding Chair of the Peter B. Lewis Center for the Arts. He is also an honorary Professor at St Andrews.

Friday 11 May - 5-7pm [Gateway Boardroom]
Centre for Poetic Innovation Universities of St Andrews & Dundee
A Reading by Catalan Poet, Francesc Parcerisas.

Followed by a round table with Robert Crawford, Anna Crowe and Peter Mackay. Chaired by Jordi Larios. For further information, contact the event organiser: Elodie Laügt,

Friday 11 May - Critical Theory and Marxism Symposium, [Watson Room]

Critical Theory and Marxism symposium, organised by Theoria and the School of English. It will feature keynote lectures by Professor Esther Leslie from Birkbeck, University of London and Dr Drew Milne from the University of Cambridge, as well as talks from colleagues in the School of English and the School of Modern Languages. Please let Anindya Raychaudhuri ( know if you would like to attend.  Critical Theory and Marxism Programme (PDF, 25 KB)

Friday 11 May - Saturday 12 May - "John Keats and Romantic Scotland" Symposium [Lawson Room]

To celebrate the bicentenary of John Keats's epic walking tour of Scotland in summer 1818, the School of English will hold a two-day symposium on Friday 11 and Saturday 12 May. Speakers include John Barnard, Jeffrey Cox, Katie Garner, Hrileena Ghosh, Nigel Leask, Meiko O'Halloran, Nicholas Roe, Fiona Stafford, Richard Marggraf Turley, Carol Kyros Walker, and Sarah Wootton.

Non-speaking participants are welcome to attend: to reserve a place, please e-mail to Dr. Katie Garner at The programme and full details are available to download here: John Keats and Romantic Scotland Programme (PDF, 28 KB)John Keats and Romantic Scotland Poster (PDF, 96 KB)

Wednesday 16 May - 1-2pm [Byre Conference Room]
C19c Brown paper-bag research seminar series 2017-18
"Sharing a 19th-Century Object and/or Concept"- Emma Sutton, School of English

Object: A photograph of Scottish writer Robert Louis Stevenson playing his flageolet in Hawaii. Emma will briefly introduce some aspects of the common but under explored practice of music-making in colonial settings. Stevenson’s example illustrates some of the research questions, pleasures and difficulties in thinking about European music globally in the nineteenth century.

Tuesday 29 May - 5.15pm

"Debt and doorways in Renaissance comedy" - Professor Lorna Hutson, Merton College, Oxford

Cultural and material histories now enjoy much greater explanatory currency, as far as English drama goes, than older formalistic studies of source, influence and genre. Linking 'debt' and 'doorways', this paper will argue for a formalistic element in Renaissance comedy's preoccupation with plots of debt, a link between the conjectural uncertainty of the time of owing, and the imaginative power of off-stage space, the space hidden behind the door. English drama, far from rejecting neoclassicism, the paper argues, embraces the imaginative power of conjectured, off-stage scenes, or scenes behind closed doors, but has to purge these of some of their libidinal and prodigal associations. The paper looks at debt and doorways in Plautus, Ariosto and Shakespeare.

Friday 22 June - 'Man of the House' Conference

'Man of the House' is an interdisciplinary conference examining the relationship between masculinity and the domestic sphere.  Opening with a keynote lecture by Professor Gill Plain, the day will include a number of panels exploring the interconnections of art, literature, history, and sociology from the nineteenth to the twentieth century, and a roundtable discussion about what masculinity means in relation to the home.

We also invite you to join us for a free evening event held at Martyrs Kirk featuring an exhibition of items from the university's Special Collections and a poetry reading by Professor Robert Crawford.

Conference fee: £10 unwaged/ £15 waged
Evening event: Free

For enquiries and to register interest in purchasing tickets, please contact the conference organisers at: Twitter: @manofthehouse18 Website: Download the poster.


Research Events Programme, Semester 2 2017-18 (Word, 269 KB)
Research Events Programme, Semester 1 2017-18 (Word, 269 KB)
Research Events Programme, Semester 2 2016/17 (Word, 269 KB)
Research Events Programme, Semester 1 2016/17 (Word, 267 KB)
Research Events Programme, Semester 2 2015/16 (Word, 77 KB)
Research Events Programme, Semester 1 2015/16 (Word, 94 KB)
Research Events Programme, Semester 2 2014/15 (Word, 90 KB)
Research Events Programme, Semester 1 2014/15 (PDF, 112 KB)
Research Events Programme, Semester 2 2013/14 (PDF, 104 KB) 
Research Events Programme, Semester 1 2013/14 (Word, 74 KB) 
Research Events Programme, Semester 2 2012/13 (Word, 90 KB) 
Research Events Programme, Semester 1 2012/13 (PDF, 57 KB)
Research Events Programme, Semester 1 2011/12 (PDF, 98 KB)  
Research Events Programme, Semester 2 2010/11 (PDF, 82 KB)  
Research Events Programme, Semester 1 2010/11 (PDF, 73 KB)  
Research Events Programme, Semester 2 2009/10 (PDF, 86 KB) 
Research Events Programme, Semester 1 2009/10 (Word, 66 KB)
Research Events Programme, Semester 2 2008/09 (PDF, 141 KB) 
Research Events Programme, Semester 1 2008/09 (PDF, 61 KB) 
Titles and Abstracts for Seminar Series 08/09 (Word, 48 KB)
Research Events Programme, Semester 2 2007/08 (PDF, 105 KB)