Archive of English and Modern Languages stories

Oxford Brookes International Poetry Competition – a second year of success

1-Poetry comp - vineThe Oxford Brookes Poetry Centre‘s second International Poetry Competition has been highly successful, receiving more entries from more poets than in 2015. The competition, which seeks to celebrate the great diversity of poetry being written in English all over the world, attracted close to 1000 entries from over 450 different poets and was truly international, with entries from over 30 countries including: Argentina, Canada, China, India, Iran, New Zealand, Nigeria, Pakistan, Russia, Singapore, South Africa, St Lucia, Taiwan, Turkey, and Uganda.

Winners of the top prizes of £1000 in each of the two categories: ESL (open to all poets over 18 years of age who speak English as Second Language), and Open (open to all poets over 18 years of age) and shortlisted poems will be announced in October. Our judge this year is the award-winning poet Daljit Nagra, the first poet to win the Forward Prize for both his first collection of poetry, Look, We Have Coming to Dover!, in 2007, and for its title poem in 2004, Daljit was also selected as a ‘New Generation Poet’ by the Poetry Book Society in 2014 and is Radio 4’s first ever Poet-in-Residence from October 2015-October 2017.

The awards evening, featuring readings from the winning poets and Daljit Nagra himself, will be held on Friday 25 November, and all are welcome to attend. Watch this space for more details. You can read about last year’s winners on the Poetry Centre website.

‘The Mindspace: an interactive play’ to be performed at Oxford Brookes


Following an immensely successful run at the Edinburgh Fringe festival, Oxford Brookes University drama partners and in-house theatre company, Re:Conception Theatre, will be bringing their play The Mindspace to Oxford.  Featuring a cast of former and current Oxford Brookes students, audiences are invited to step into a world where active exploration of the human mind is possible.

An original piece, the idea for the performance was first devised by PhD student Russell Anderson who also directs. Working with second and third-year students over the course of a year and a half, Russell’s ideas were developed into a full length performance where the audience has complete control over the narrative via conversation and interaction with the actors. Taking the role of investors in a new technology that allows direct interaction with the mind, audiences are challenged to try and heal the damaged mind they find themselves in.

Describing their run at the Edinburgh fringe, Russell commented: “The audience response we had was incredible – far beyond what we dared to anticipate. People are really investing themselves in the story, characters and interactivity, and with several describing it as their best ever theatrical experience; it feels like we’ve tapped into something important.”

The play was also well received by critics with Broadway Baby calling it “Innovative and original … an exciting, individual, and entertaining experience,” and promises to be a truly interesting experience.

Re:Conception Theatre will be performing The Mindspace at the Oxford Brookes University’s Union Hall at 7.30pm from Wednesday 7 through to Saturday 10 September.

Tickets can be bought online. Further information is available on the Re:Conception Theatre Facebook page.

Oxford Brookes academic to co-curate crowdfunded rural arts project.

Wadhurst News

Simon Kövesi, Professor of English Literature in the Department of English and Modern Languages, is part of the team curating a major cultural event in the village of Wadhurst, East Sussex across summer 2017. It will explore the nature of the countryside and the sometimes dark secrets hidden within it using film, visual arts and storytelling. Professor Kövesi will be working alongside Julian Rowe and Terry Park, and the project’s lead artist, film maker Professor Andrew Kötting.

The event ‘Through a Dark Glass’ is an intriguing arts project that will take place in an area of outstanding natural beauty. It will feature early career artists who have been chosen for their existing interest in rurality, myth, magic and the public realm. Their practices all explore the relationship between a pastoral ideal of landscape and a more unsettling notion of the countryside as a site of the hidden, the uncanny, the archaeological, and the mythic.

It will see Professor Kövesi working with film maker Andrew Kötting again, after their collaboration on the feature film By Our Selves (2015), some of which was filmed at Brookes.

‘Working with Andrew on that film was magical,’ says Simon. ‘Everything Andrew makes is unique and it is a privilege to work with him. Then again he is also annoying, challenging, and rude (which I like). But it is his commitment to unexplored and unacknowledged corners, cultures and stories of England that really drives him on, in his own seriously absurd way. Add the fact that I grew up in Sidcup in Kent – not that far from Wadhurst really – together with the riches all the other glorious artists will bring to the project – and the prospect of all of us responding to the kooky and historically-rich beauty of Wadhurst itself – well, I had to get involved. There’s also a possibility that Oxford Brookes student writers will get involved, which is really exciting.’

To create ‘Through a Dark Glass’, the curators need help – both in terms of funding, and from people who want to join in with creating the work. The smallest contributions will be enormously appreciated, as well as being crucial in making sure arts projects like this actually happen. Click here to see how you can get involved.

The ‘Through a Dark Glass’ event will take place on Midsummer’s day in 2017, and will exhibit in Wadhurst across the summer.

Find out more about news and events in the Department of English and Modern Languages here.

First Year Students receive Ede and Ravenscroft Prize


Five students from across the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences have received prizes for outstanding academic achievement in their first year of studies. The prizes of £500 are donated by Ede and Ravenscroft and are awarded to one student in each department who has achieved the highest grade point average over their first year.

The winners are:

Miriam Manco, Applied Languages, Department of English and Modern Languages

Charlotte Reece, Primary Teacher Education, School of Education

Tatiana Sollis, History of Art, Department of History, Philosophy and Religion

Max Jones, Geography, Department of Social Sciences

Tiffany Heppell, LLB Law, School of Law

Winner Tatiana Sollis commented ‘‘I feel very honoured to have received this prize. I will use this prize to motivate me for the rest of my studies and I will put my winnings towards a trip to New York to visit the Museum of Modern Art next summer, which we studied this year and fired my artistic imagination.”

The English and Modern Languages winner Miriam Manco said “It was such an honour to win the Ede and Ravenscroft prize 2016. The department is a community I feel very close to and has been incredibly engaging. Winning this prize was great and has given me impetus to do even better in the years to come.”

Social Sciences winner Max Jones added ‘’I feel extremely happy to be recognised for all of the hard work I have put in to my Geography course this year. I would also like to thank the lecturers for all of their help and support in guiding me through the first year of university.”

 ‘Congratulations to all of the Ede and Ravenscroft prize winners!’

Dave Ellis, Dean of Student Experience, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences.

Oxford Brookes Academic Co-Curates Japanese Colour Cinema Retrospective

Japanese film festival Italy

Dr Alexander Jacoby, senior lecturer for the undergraduate Japanese Studies programme,  has co-curated the concluding instalment of a two-year programme of Japanese colour cinema at the Cinema Ritrovato Film Festival in Bologna, Italy. The programme, organised in collaboration with the National Film Center, Tokyo, offered a broad variety of early Japanese colour films, from pre-war experimentation to the colour masterpieces of the late 1950’s.

The widespread use of colour in commercial film began in the post-war years; however experiments with colour process had been undertaken in the 1930’s. The earliest film chosen by Dr Jacoby and his co-curator, Johan Nordström, was a new restoration of ‘Senninbari’ (1937) which used a pioneering two-strip colour process.

The rest of the programme explored various manifestations of colour cinema in the 1950s, spanning seven years from the first commercial full-length feature film in colour, Keisuke Kinoshita’s ‘Karumen kokyo ni kaeru’ (Carmen Comes Home, 1951), to the same director’s flamboyant historical fable, ‘Narayama bushiko’ (The Ballad of Narayama, 1958), with its colour schemes inspired by traditional theatre and arts.

The films screened illustrated various colour processes including the imported Eastmancolor and the indigenous Fujicolor and Konicolor formats. At the festival there was a particular focus on Konicolor which featured in three of the films included in the programme and was able vividly to reproduce a broad range of colours and shades. The programme also highlighted the varied artistic uses made of colour film in Japan. The chosen films exemplified different facets of the artistic potential of the emerging medium as it was embraced by the Japanese film industry.

Organised in collaboration with the National Film Center, Tokyo, Dr Jacoby acknowledges the participation of the assistant curator Masaki Daibo and the National Film Centre, Tokyo. Dr Jacoby would also like to acknowledge his friend and co-curator Johan Nordström.

Leading Humanities and Social Sciences academics recognised in new research excellence awards

REX_2016The Research Excellence Awards are a new initiative introduced by the University as part of Oxford Brookes’ commitment to supporting research-active academics.

Professor Gary Browning, Associate Dean Research and Knowledge Exchange, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, explains: “The Research Excellence awards are a timely and positive initiative, allowing some of our most successful researchers to press forward in their research. We are delighted that researchers across the Faculty have been recognised for their outstanding research projects, notably monographs and impact case studies. I am sure that the outputs they produce will be excellent.”

Following a recent application period, the winners of the inaugural Research Excellence Awards from the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences were as follows:

School of Education

Professor Graham Butt

Department of English and Modern Languages

Dr Simon White

Dr Dinah Roe

Department of History, Philosophy and Religion

Professor Roger Griffin

Professor Anne-Marie Kilday

School of Law

Dr Simon Cooper

Department of Social Sciences

Professor Tina Miller

Professor Anna Nekaris

Researchers were able to apply for one of two levels of award worth either £10,000 or £20,000 which would contribute towards research leave or employment of a research assistant in supporting a project. The scheme is funded through the Central Research Fund and is intended to provide enhanced support for research excellence. It complements Quality-Related Funding at Faculty and Department levels which supports research and knowledge exchange more broadly.

The intention of the university is to continue the scheme annually as part of Oxford Brookes’ investment in research excellence and in supporting the aims of the recently revised Research and Knowledge Exchange Strategy 2016-2020.

English literature lecturer announced as editor for critical response series

magazine pics 003 news
Oxford Brookes University’s very own Reader in Early Modern Literature, Dr Katharine Craik, is one of five series editors from across the UK and USA for Beyond Criticism, a series dedicated to formal experiments in critical response. The Bee is the newly-launched online arm of this series, and supports Beyond Criticism as an online community site for students, scholars and creative practitioners, with responses and reactions to published books and shorter works of criticism posted on a monthly basis.

Beyond Criticism is interested in modes of argumentation that take up the strategies of literature itself, both through the book series and through other projects in poetry, prose, life-writing, film, music, photography, co-readings, and more. The aim of the series is to explore radical new forms that literary criticism might take in the 21st century, taking advantage of new opportunities offered by digital technology and contemporary creative practice that take us from abstract theory back to literature itself.

The other series editors are Simon Palfrey (University of Oxford, UK), Joanna Picciotto (University of California, Berkeley, USA), John Schad (University of Lancaster, UK), and Lilliana Loofbourow (University of California Berkeley, USA).

If you have a full book proposal or any short completed piece, be it textual, visual, or audial that speaks to the aims of the series, please get in touch with the series editors via

Follow The Bee on twitter to learn more.

Find out more about what’s happening in the Department of English and Modern Languages. 

From Lord Mayor to MA Creative Writing student

Jim CampbellBefore enrolling as a part-time student on the MA in Creative Writing at Oxford Brookes, Jim Campbell enjoyed a varied career; teaching English and History to high-school students in many countries, finally at the European School just outside Culham. He then chaired the leadership & public policy programmes at the University of Oxford, working predominantly with international students. However, you may recognise Jim due to his 20 years as a local councillor and a year as Lord Mayor of Oxford.

Jim’s previous writing experience stemmed from his time writing poetry as a student at Oxford University, culminating with his book ‘First Time Lightly’ being published by London’s Fortune Press. After a gap of many years Jim decided that he’d like to get published again, having spent most of his time writing reports for schools and the city council. The idea to come back to studying came from the decision to do something with his new-found spare time after stepping down from his roles as programme chair and in education mediation, and the Oxford Brookes’ MA in Creative Writing was recommended to him by a good friend.

‘I wanted to see if I could still write creatively. I didn’t particularly know if I wanted to carry on with poetry or to try other forms of writing – academic or not. I’d once tried a novel many years ago and I got nowhere. So I thought I might do other styles of writing, and luckily the first semester was quite open. The last few months I’ve been focussed on poetry again, and I’ve had two tutors who are very good published poets: Hannah Lowe and Emma Jones. That was hugely important for me, knowing that I was working with really good poets – and they got me writing. I think I’ve learnt a lot from them, and of course from my fellow students. There’s a group of us who meet maybe every 6 weeks and have some cake, coffee, and submit work beforehand and comment on it. The result is that yes, I would like to be published – and that’s what I have been working towards. In the last couple of months of my course I have had poems published in the Oxford Magazine and The Spectator. I also had a poem “highly commended” by the Poetry Book Society and included in their 2015 student anthology.

The input of the visiting fellows, all of them published writers, is hugely valuable. We had to read their books and they gave us assignments to do in class.I had to write suddenly in class for 15 minutes and then read it out – I wasn’t sure how I’d cope with that, and I actually liked it and I miss it when semesters are over! That was very useful for me, to get me thinking sideways and up and downwards and inside-outwards. For our major project we have to choose two of the visiting fellows to work with, and I’ve chosen two poets: Kate Clanchy and Patience Agbabi. We also hear from publishers and agents and other published writers, who give us information and advice about getting published.

The enthusiasm of the course lead, James Hawes, is great – and whatever Morag Joss, associate lecturer, says, is always worth listening to. Overall I’m very pleased with the programme. The sessions are two and a half hours where you’re never sure what’s going to happen, and you nearly always learn something new. I would absolutely recommend this programme. I’ve kept a group of friends and fellow writers for these last two years, which is a very valuable part of the course.’  


Read Jim Campbell’s student profile in full to find out more about his experience as a postgraduate student at Oxford Brookes University. 

Find out more about alumni publication successes, the creative writing fellows, and the MA Creative Writing course here.

Rachel Crowther news piece

MA Creative Writing alumna’s next two novels to be published in 2016 and 2017 by Bonnier Zaffre

Congratulations to Rachel Crowther, whose second novel, ‘Things You Do For Love’, will be published in August this year – with her third novel (as yet untitled) scheduled for publication in August 2017.

Rachel studied for the Creative Writing MA at Oxford Brookes part-time between 2009 and 2011, whilst working as a Consultant in Public Health Medicine for the NHS. While she was completing her MA, Rachel successfully entered her first novel, ‘The Partridge and the Pelican’ for the Hookline novel competition, seeing it published in April 2011. Some passages in that novel grew out of exercises undertaken for seminars within the MA

By then, Rachel was already working on her next novel. Initially conceived as a pair, her idea was that one novel would be from the point of view of Flora, the retired surgeon protagonist, and the other from the point of view of her daughters. Rachel submitted extracts from the novel with a commentary along these lines for her final assignment of the MA under the title ‘Binocular Fiction’ – the term she chose to capture the advantages of developing two slightly different, equally weighted perspectives on a story.

In the end, Rachel successfully combined the two narratives into one novel, resulting in the soon to be published ‘The Things You Do For Love’. The novel looks back over forty years of Flora’s career and marriage, and her daughters’ childhoods, examining their choices, sacrifices, secrets, disappointments and hopes.

Rachel Crowther

On her experience of writing her novel whilst studying for her MA, Rachel writes that:

‘During the MA course I workshopped several extracts from the novel, some with the course staff but also with Kate Clanchy, and a couple of scenes grew out of exercises we did in class (especially in Jim’s Novel module). That experience was helpful in that it gave me a chance to test-drive some passages in a challenging environment, and helped me answer some questions about my characters and how I was telling the story. Another hugely valuable element of the course for me was the ‘Rewriting Fiction’ module I did with Rob Pope, who went on to supervise my final piece, because those sessions really stretched us all and brought out some wonderfully innovative, creative, even mad ideas from all of us in the small group lucky enough to be taught by Rob’.

On completion of her MA in Creative Writing, Rachel spent three busy years moving house, jobs and schools, whilst taking the manuscript apart and putting it back together again several times over, with various different characters and plot lines removed, rejigged or reinstated at each stage – a process that she feels yielded a much stronger novel than she started out with.

Rachel’s manuscript was taken on by Patrick Walsh at Conville and Walsh in December 2014, and sold to Bonnier Zaffre in July 2015 as part of a two book deal.

‘The Things You Do For Love’ is coming out in August this year, and the next novel (final title to be agreed) is currently in the editing phase and provisionally scheduled for publication in August 2017.
The following is an extract provided by Rachel which she remembers workshopping during the course. Flora’s daughter Kitty is a composer, just setting out on her career and not yet sure that she believes in herself as a musician, and this passage describes the moment when she first sees what she is capable of.

The opening notes lifted from the piano as slowly and carefully as if they were being thought of for the first time. Lifted and then lingered in the air, languorous but persuasive, perfectly placed. Kitty opened her eyes again, and her mouth opened too, as though she needed to see and breathe and taste the sound as well as hear it. It felt as though the song needed her complete attention to will it on – although the extraordinary truth was that Andrej and Daniel were making the sounds she could hear, evoking so precisely the music in her head. This must be like giving birth, seeing what was inside you take shape in the world.

        The rest of the audience had vanished now. There was only Kitty and the performers and the space above them in which the sound waves hovered and spread. Not even Kitty, perhaps; all that mattered of her was in the music. Andrej’s voice held a long G, closed it on a careful, not quite English diphthong, then slid gracefully onto a high E and unfurled the plaintive phrase that signified to Kitty something more than the words of the setting: something that Andrej’s impeccable breath control seemed to yield up between the notes. Kitty’s heartbeat accelerated with them, drawing out a pure thread of emotion from the interplay of words and melody. This was something she had never known before, a surge of feeling she couldn’t explain or control, bringing recognition beyond rational meaning: something that felt very much like love.

PhD studentships now available for September 2016 start!

8460 800 by 430The Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences at Oxford Brookes University is pleased to offer a number of full-time PhD Studentships across a range of subject areas for a September 2016 start.

The successful candidate will receive an annual payment of £14,000 as a stipend towards living expenses for a maximum of three years.  Home/EU fees will also be covered by the relevant Department for a maximum of three years.

The Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences spans a diverse range of disciplines that include social sciences, history, philosophy, religion, education, law, English and modern languages, and has a long tradition of producing world-class research. The REF 2014 results confirm our ‘world-leading’ and ‘internationally excellent’ research status in a range of subjects, and serve as official recognition of the expertise, dedication and passion of our academic community. We are now accepting applications for the following PhD studentships:


Department of Social Sciences

Applications are invited for a PhD Studentship in ‘Lemurs as protectors of the forest: Lemur seed dispersal, forest regeneration and local livelihoods in the littoral forest fragments of Madagascar’ The supervisory team will be led by Dr Giuseppe Donati (Primatology/Biological Anthropology), with Professor Kate Hill  (Anthropology). This proposed PhD project will examine the assumed role of lemurs’ forest regeneration and the likely value of this to local human populations.

Applications are invited for a PhD Studentship in Challenging Security Anew: Probing the Bases and Limits of Critical Security Studies. The supervisory team will be led by Dr Tina Managhan (International Relations) with Dr Doerthe Rosenow (International Relations). This proposed PhD project will explore the ontological and philosophical underpinnings of post-structuralist Critical Security Studies with the aim of furthering its critical ethos and politics.

Applications are invited for a PhD Studentship in Exploring family, care work and fatherhood in the ‘age of migration’. The supervisory team will be led by Professor Tina Miller (Sociology) with Dr Maja Cederberg (Sociology). This proposed PhD project will investigate the role of fathering and examine the emotion work involved in transnational migration, focusing on fathers who are migrants coming to the UK. In particular it will explore how men who are fathers navigate expectations of paternal care and associated emotion work across their home and host country, and how parental obligations and responsibilities are understood, maintained and practiced over time and across borders.


Department of English and Modern Languages

Applications are invited for a PhD Studentship in ‘Avant-Garde Writing, Technology and the Everyday’. The supervisory team will be led by Professor Alex Goody (Twentieth-Century Literature), with Dr Eric White (American Literature).  We are interested in proposals that examine the interactions between the avant-garde writers of modernism and its aftermath and the technological world of the twentieth century. The proposed research should aim to produce a new account of the relationship between the modernist ‘revolution of the word’ and the contingencies and externalities of living in a modern world radically reconfigured through technology (such as transport, inscription, information, communication, surveillance, prosthesis, augmentation and warfare).


Department of History, Philosophy and Religion

Applications are invited for a PhD Studentship in ‘The Art of Pre-Raphaelite Criticism’. The supervisory team will be led by Professor Christiana Payne, (History of Art) with Dr Dinah Roe (19th Century Literature). The proposed project will examine the role of contemporary criticism in the development of the Pre-Raphaelite aesthetic, with particular reference to the work of William Michael Rossetti and Frederic George Stephens.