Tag Archives: english literature

English literature lecturer announced as editor for critical response series

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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. 

International Poetry Competition awards celebration

Copy of International Poetry 38 smallAfter the success of its inaugural International Poetry Competition, which attracted nearly 900 entries from all over the world, the Oxford Brookes Poetry Centre hosted an awards evening on Friday 19 February. The celebration featured terrific readings from three of the winning poets (pictured below): Siobhan Campbell, winner of the Open category, Marie-Aline Roemer, winner of the English as a Second Language (ESL) category, and Hanne Busck-Nielsen, Special Commendation in the ESL category, as well as video recordings from the other winning poets, Claire Askew (Open) and Armel Dagorn (ESL). Competition judge, Hannah Lowe, was extremely impressed by the very high standard of the submissions. She said,

“All of the poems I shortlisted had a sense of real urgency about them, of needing to be written and a quality of testimony to experience.”

Copy of International Poetry 14 small The event was attended by an enthusiastic audience, who also very much enjoyed Hannah’s reading from her acclaimed first collection, Chick, and her upcoming collection Chan, which will be published by Bloodaxe in June of this year. There were also wonderful readings of their work by three local young poets mentored by Kate Clanchy at Oxford Spires Academy: Tarzina Khatun, Rukiya Khatun, and Asima Qayyum.

All of the winning poems are available to read on the Poetry Centre website, as well as additional photographs of the event. The awards ceremony was livestreamed and recorded, and can be viewed on the Brookes website (fast forward to 14:30 to view the opening).

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Dr Niall Munro, Director of the Poetry Centre, also announced the date of the next International Poetry Competition: it will be open for entries from Friday 29 April to Wednesday 31 August.

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To find out more about the opportunities that you can gain from studying English or Creative writing here at Oxford Brookes, follow the links to our undergraduate and postgraduate
course pages.


Photography: Frank Dumbleton

Student theatre company presents debut performance in aid of Oxford’s Terrence Higgins Trust


Olivia Stone is a current second year English Literature and Drama student who has set up her own theatre company alongside fellow English student, Rachael Head. Stones Theatre Company is currently presenting their debut production, Elegies for Angels, Punks and Raging Queens. They are the only company in the UK with the rights to perform Elegies for Angels, Punks and Raging Queens – a challenging piece which presents thought-provoking stories about how it was to live with HIV and die of AIDS in the 1980’s in America.

The cast are predominantly formed from Oxford Brookes students, with many from the drama department – although some actors who have attended drama school and some who are primarily based within the film industry are taking part. Olivia says that “it has always been my ambition to pursue becoming a theatre director and decided there’s no time like the present! Using the Oxford Brookes ‘black box’ rehearsal space has been a fantastic help as it is on campus and the facilities have added a real professionalism to our process”.

I am an extremely proud director and I feel we’ve created a dynamic, important piece of theatre with actors who were a joy to work alongside and the audiences have loved it so far! I look forward to seeing you there!

Olivia Stone

Stones Theatre Company will be donating 75% of their profits to Oxford’s Terrence Higgins Trust (THT), who provide invaluable support and information to the community about HIV and AIDS, a disease which is still ever present in our society. Olivia comments that “we found out last week that government funding for THT in the new financial year will be cut which is devastating. It makes our production that much more poignant and important, with its evidence that stigma is certainly still present over 30 years after the epidemic”.

Stones Theatre Company have prepared a polished and engaging production which additionally highlights important issues. I’m delighted to see so many Brookes Drama students involved, led by Olivia Stone and Rachael Head

Senior lecturer in Drama, Dr Eleanor Lowe

Tuesday 1 December is National AIDS Day, so Olivia and Stones Theatre company are encouraging everyone to wear a red ribbon to stand up against the stigma of AIDS. The cast will also be wearing these ribbons throughout tonight’s performance.

Stones Theatre Company will be performing Elegies for Angels, Punks and Raging Queens at Modern Art Oxford at 7.30, Tuesday 3 December, and on Thursday 3 December there will be a gala performance at Oxford Town Hall. Tickets can be bought here:

Boxing John Clare: Literature professor in new film about the poet


A film about England’s most significant poet of the natural world, John Clare (1793-1864), featuring an Oxford Brookes academic, is released in cinemas this week.

The 83 minute feature By Our Selves is the culmination of a collaborative art and performance project led by award-winning filmmaker and artist Andrew Kötting (Gallivant, This Filthy Earth, Ivul). It was filmed in part, on the University’s Headington Campus and features Oxford Brookes Professor of English Literature Simon Kövesi.

What Andrew has made out of all of this creative, collaborative chaos is magnificent. The way he folds Toby and Freddie Jones into one another as Clare – young and old – is incredibly moving.

Prof Simon Kovesi, Head of Department of English and Modern Languages, Oxford Brookes University

By Our Selves, which has been given a four-star rating by Time Out magazine, follows Clare’s desperate escape from an asylum in Epping Forest in the summer of 1841 to his home 80 miles away in Helpston, Cambridgeshire.

Simon, who has a long-standing research interest in Clare, appears in By Our Selves as an academic/boxer, fighting a straw bear. Simon explains how this came about: “Andrew Kötting and Iain Sinclair presented early rushes of their film at a conference I ran at Brookes last year. By way of thanks, I sent them some books and articles, all about Clare in 1841 and his obsession at that time with Byron and boxing. A few months after that, I ended up being filmed in a boxing gown, covered in plastic flowers, fighting a bear.

by-our-selves-3“My bit aside, Andrew’s film conveys a rich sense of Clare’s tactile understanding of the natural world, and the brutal qualities of the countless intrusions of modernity into the landscape, against which Clare was the first poet to protest.

“The mysterious relationship Clare has with the straw bear – played by the director – is Beckettian in its absurdity yet somehow speaks to Clare’s persistent desire for community and love – with animals, nature, and women. The bear also embodies Clare’s blank loneliness in 1841. When the bear danced at Brookes, and sprayed straw all over our new lecture theatre, I thought Clare might want to punch it as a boxer. So that’s what I end up doing in the film. What Andrew has made out of all of this creative, collaborative chaos is magnificent. The way he folds Toby and Freddie Jones into one another as Clare – young and old – is incredibly moving.”

By Our Selves stars Toby Jones (Harry Potter, Hunger Games, Berberian Sound Studio, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy) and his father Freddie Jones (The Elephant Man, Dune, Wild at Heart) as Clare at various stages of life; Freddie Jones last played Clare in a 1970 BBC TV drama-documentary about the poet.

by-our-selves-2The poet’s long-lost love Mary Joyce is played by poet and performance artist MacGillivray and music is by sound artist Jem Finer (formerly of The Pogues), with the dancing and drumming of David Aylward (drummer in Blurt). The film features graphic novelist Alan Moore (Watchmen, V for Vendetta) and writer Iain Sinclair (London Orbital, Ghost Milk), whose book about Clare, Edge of the Orison (2005), was the inspiration for the film. All of these contributors have written pieces for a fully-illustrated book of the film, By Our Selves (badbloodsibyl, 2015), which is launched at the Bloomsbury Festival in London on 23 October.

At the FID documentary festival in Marseille in July, By Our Selves received the ‘Mention Speciale’ in the international documentary competition. It is officially released by Soda Pictures on Friday 2 October. Cinema listings can be found on the Soda Pictures website.

The trailer for the film can be viewed below.

Information about courses in English Literature, Drama, Languages and Postgraduate Creative Writing and English can be found on the Department of English and Modern Languages webpages.

A picture book worth a thousand words

DSC_0015Mathew Tobin, Senior Lecturer in English and Children’s Literature at Oxford Brookes University’s School of Education recently spoke at The Guardian’s ‘Reading for Pleasure’ conference.

Mat, who has 16 years’ experience of teaching in primary schools, led a workshop on ‘Literature into Literacy’ and presented inspirational ways to teach based around picture books. He spoke passionately about the wealth of resources that picture books can offer to inspire critical thinking, drama and cross-curricular planning, and used his own enthusiasm for the subject to engage his audience in how a novel can bring meaningful context to teaching.

Using the example of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, Mat described how he has taught across all subjects using ideas from the book, including one activity involving turning the school classroom into the Great Hall from Hogwarts with a sleepover!

In his workshop, Mat gave teachers an image from a book called Flotsam by David Wiesner and encouraged them to write around anything they could see or infer from the image. Teachers fedback in groups, showing the wealth of creative discussion that can come from just one image in a book and the level of conversation you can have with children around it.

Mat is also keen on dispelling the idea that picture books are just for younger children and beginner readers, particularly when he teaches PGCE students. To support his love of picture books, Mat has created a Padlet (an online resource) on using picture books from foundation stage to year 6 with ideas around how these books can be used within the classroom.

Speaking about his participation in the event, Mat said:

‘Being able to take the initiatives that I had trialed in programme modules and the Centre for Educational Consultancy and Development ( CECD ) Partnership seminars to the Guardian Education Centre in London was both exhilarating and enriching. With a focus on planning for successful learning across the curriculum through the use of quality literature, delivering my workshop to a range of professionals (teachers, lecturers, independent specialists) meant that as well as being able to support future teaching, my own pedagogical beliefs were challenged and celebrated. Working in this capacity in which I was able to build up a broader network of like-minded academics, authors and illustrators, all under the Oxford Brookes banner, meant that this great opportunity – and hopefully further ones – allowed me to gain stature and voice in celebrating the power of children’s literature in education’ 

In Our Time: Reader in English explores the life and work of Fanny Burney

Fanny Burney

Dr Nicole Pohl, Reader in English, has appeared for the second time on BBC Radio 4, In Our Time, discussing the life and work of the eighteenth-century novelist, playwright and diarist Fanny Burney. The programme aired on Thursday 23 April at 9am, you can listen to it on catch up here.

Fanny Burney’s first novel Evelina, was published anonymously and caused a sensation, attracting the admiration of many eminent contemporaries. In addition to four successful novels, Burney, also known as Frances D’Arblay or Frances Burney, wrote eight plays, mostly unperformed, and a multitude of journals and letters which document to Burney’s sharp wit and literary talent.

Her writings are invaluable to any eighteenth century scholar as they document her early life at home with her father, the renowned musical scholar Dr Charles Burney, her entry into fashionable society after the publication of Evelina, her encounter with the circle of French refugees at Juniper Hall, including the infamous Mme de Stael and Burney’s future husband Alexandre d’Arblay, and her time as the assistant keeper of the robes to the Queen during the time of King George III’s mental illness. Burney also reported on the Battle of Waterloo during her stay in Brussels, where she helped to nurse the injured. Her account of her own mastectomy without anesthetics is one of the earliest reports on an operation of this kind, describing in detail the procedure and ‘the glitter of polished Steel’.

In an era when very few women published their work Fanny Burney achieved extraordinary success. Her admirers included Dr Johnson, Edmund Burke and Virginia Woolf, who later called her ‘the mother of English fiction’.

Hannah Lowe, Teaching Fellow in Creative Writing, selected as a Next Generation Poet 2014

Hannah Portrait

The Department of English and Modern Languages and the Poetry Centre are delighted with today’s news that Hannah Lowe, recently appointed as Teaching Fellow in Creative Writing, has been named as one of the twenty Next Generation Poets 2014.

Compiled once every ten years, the list of poets will, according to the Poetry Book Society, organisers of the initiative, ‘dominate the poetry landscape of the coming decade’. Previous lists from 1994 (run by the Poetry Society) and 2004 (run by the Poetry Book Society) featured poets who have subsequently done just that, such as Simon Armitage, Carol Ann Duffy, Don Paterson, Kathleen Jamie, and Alice Oswald. The 2004 list also had Brookes connections, with both Patience Agbabi and Tobias Hill appearing on it.

Reflecting on the news, Hannah said: ‘I’m absolutely delighted to be included on this Next Generation list, and to have this kind of support and endorsement. It’s wonderful to be among so many poets I admire and to follow-on from the wonderful poets named in previous lists, many of whom inspired me to write.’

Hannah’s collection, Chick, was published by Bloodaxe Books in 2013, and shortlisted for the Forward Best First Collection Prize, as well as the Fenton Aldeburgh First Collection Prize and The Seamus Heaney Centre Prize for Poetry 2014.

The Next Generation Poets be appearing in an extensive programme of twenty-three events across the country involving past and current poets, and culminating in a celebration at Southbank Centre’s Queen Elizabeth Hall on 15th March 2015, to which all the poets will be invited.

To coincide with the promotion of the twenty Next Generation Poets 2014, the Institute of English Studies (IES) and Oxford Brookes Poetry Centre will be running an academic conference at the IES in March 2015. Designed to reflect upon the New and Next Generation initiatives from 1994, 2004 and 2014, the conference will examine the relationship between poetry and the public, what the lists can tell us about the state and direction of British poetry and poetry publishing over the past 20 years, and what the long-term effect of these lists might be.

Oxford Youth Ambassador for Poetry to read with the Poet Laureate


Azfa Awad, Oxford Youth Ambassador for Poetry, will share a stage with Poet Laureate, Carol Ann Duffy, at this year’s MCS Arts Festival Oxford on Thursday 3 July from 7.30-9.30pm.

In her role as Youth Ambassador, Azfa, who is currently working on her first poetry collection entitled Beautiful Broken Homes, has been inspiring young people across the city to read and write poetry. She has taken part in a number of events throughout Oxford, such as the Oxford Human Rights Festival in February and Brookes’s own OutBurst Festival in May.

Azfa won the prestigious national Tower Poetry Prize for her poem, ‘Origins’ in 2013, and was Poet-in-Residence at Oxford’s Christmas Light Festival. In November 2013, Azfa was invited to meet the Queen and Prince Philip when she attended a Contemporary British Poetry Reception at Buckingham Palace.

Azfa’s role as Oxford Youth Ambassador for Poetry is co-sponsored by Oxford Brookes University and Oxford City Council. Brookes Poetry Centre’s Senior Research Fellow in Creative Writing, Kate Clanchy, was instrumental in establishing the Youth Ambassador role.