National Poetry Day

Written by Stephanie Gaddum

The College of Humanities along with Arts and Culture Exeter, will be running events on Thursday 1st October to celebrate National Poetry Day virtually. The day encourages all to enjoy, discover and share poetry, this years’ theme is Vision.

Following from the successful 2019 Places of Poetry project, there will be a digital book launch of all of the poems. The Places of Poetry anthology digital book launch will take place 7-8:30pm on Zoom this Thursday. This is a volume of selected verse from around England and Wales from last year’s hugely popular Places of Poetry project. You can find out more about this online event here: https://poetrysociety.org.uk/event/places-of-poetry-digital-book-launch/.

The Places of Poetry project has engaged people of all ages and abilities to write about place, heritage and identity and then ‘pin’ their poems onto a distinctive digital map, where everyone can read them.

The digital map encourages people to think about the environment and history around them. The map consists of two layers: an artistic map, based on decorative seventeenth-century county maps, and a second layer of Ordnance Survey data, allowing users to zoom in to a high level of detail. You can view this map here: www.placesofpoetry.org.uk. For more information on the Places of Poetry project read our article: https://humanities.exeter.ac.uk/newsandevents/news/articles/britainmappedinversebymaj.html

Academic colleagues from the Modern Languages and Cultures department have shared videos of them reciting their favourite poems in a range of different languages which can be found by logging into flipgrid: https://flipgrid.com/8b298360

Additionally University of Exeter English professor Dr Simon Rennie is relaunching his popular monthly student poetry evening, Inn Verse on National Poetry Day (1st October 6pm on Zoom) as a digital event. Register for this event here: https://www.artsandcultureexeter.co.uk/events/4JgwLiizId1ld3BZJHtxVP

Arts and Culture Exeter are also hosting a series of events which can be viewed here: https://www.artsandcultureexeter.co.uk/events

Studying from home

Written by Hannah BA English and Creative Writing student

An endless supply of tea, easy access to peanut butter toast and the option to work in your pyjamas; studying from home can be great, especially when it means avoiding a soggy commute to the library and helping to reduce carbon emissions. An endless supply of tea, easy access to peanut butter toast and the option to work in your pyjamas; studying from home can be great, especially when it means avoiding a soggy commute to the library and helping to reduce carbon emissions.

However, speaking from experience, it can come with procrastination pitfalls; Netflix, sleeping and baking to name a few. If you are used to studying with friends home working can also feel a little dull and lonely. That said, when you’ve got a 3,000-word essay to write there’s no better place to get it down. Not convinced? I have nine tried and tested tips guaranteed to help you get the most out of studying at home.

1. Set up a separate study space – Keeping your work and relaxation areas separate can help you switch off at the end of the day. Try and set yourself up somewhere quiet, away from other people and distractions – ideally not in bed as this may cause your brain to associate bed with study not sleep!

2. Wear whatever works for you – A plethora of articles dedicated to home working claim that wearing workwear at home may boost your productivity. I can see the logic and if that works for you go for it! Personally, I like to be comfy when I study and relish the chance to wear outlandish, uncoordinated and oversized clothing.

3. Log out – Make it harder to procrastinate by logging out of your social media accounts and removing the sites from your bookmark toolbar.

4. Work out when you are most productive – I’m not a morning person, the alarm clock is my nemesis. Evenings, however, are when I find myself most inspired. I therefore plan my study schedule around this ebb and flow of productivity by setting myself easier tasks in the morning and harder stuff later in the day. If you are an early bird, make sure you maximise your most productive period by eating your frogs* straight after breakfast.


*In the words of Mark Twain: ‘If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.’

 

 

5. Take a walk – Because studying at home eliminates our commute it can mean we can spend less time exercising and being active. I combat this by getting out at lunchtime for a run or a walk – I find it really helps me to stay motivated and energised.

 

 

 

 

 

6. Give yourself screen breaks – Sitting in the same position and staring at a screen for too long can leave us feeling tense, tired and sluggish. Extend how long you can be productive for by getting up regularly from your desk for 5-10-minute breaks. (Don’t tell anyone but I find a burst of bad dad dancing helps to get the creative juices moving).

7. Reward yourself – Avoid the guilt inducing hole of Netflix binging by setting targets and rewarding yourself with an episode of your favourite show when you meet them. Be strict though, get back to work once you’ve had your allotted time out.

8. Let the people you live with know when you are studying – Tell partners, parents or friends when you are studying so they know when not to disturb you. Telling someone I plan to work also makes me feel more accountable and committed to getting my work done when I say I will.

9. Celebrate small milestones – Don’t wait till the hand in to celebrate, keep yourself motivated by setting and celebrating small milestones with chocolate* (*insert snack of choice).


10. Bonus point – Do the above and you’ll also benefit from the smugness that comes from watching gales whip away umbrellas while you drink tea and power through assignments.

Tips for Navigating the Start of a Thesis/Dissertation

Written by Asma PHD English student

All Readings Matter

At the initial stages when you are doing a literature review, it can be significantly difficult to be reading and not really knowing what to do with all the books and articles you are going through. I had this same experience at the start of my PhD, and every time I found myself following threads of information to other books and articles that did not even seem relevant at the time. What I find now, however, is that everything I read contributed to my understanding of my thesis as a whole.

Note Taking and Keeping Track of References

I think it is really important to keep track of all the resources you check, as it gets difficult to remember everything you read after a couple of years into your PhD. I mostly just use a Word document and copy/paste all titles in there, so it is easy to get back to it later. I have highlighted relevant sections and added notes into the articles I read in PDF form, and that was super helpful when I started drafting my chapters. I have also used a Word document to write down whatever ideas sounded relevant to my chapter from the books I read, and whenever a similar idea emerged in another book/article, I would go back to that section on the Word document and write it under the previous one. This way of taking notes allowed me to have threads of similar ideas and different topics that a chapter could include. Some of these do not necessarily end up in the final draft of the chapter, but I later move them to another Word document of ‘leftover’ ideas that could work better in the next chapter.

Chapter Outlines and Starting Drafts

When writing the actual literature review, I tended to write prose rather than put things into bullet points whenever I could. I had chunks of prose and paragraphs from the note-taking stage that I used as starting points for my chapter drafting. Based on the threads of ideas that emerged in the literature I reviewed, I put initial chapter plans that would guide my drafting. It was never possible to stick to those outlines as they are, but they gave me a sense of direction when I started writing up. I added sections and titles and got rid of others when they did not work. In addition to this, I kept reminding myself that the resources I use for one chapter might not be used ever again in my thesis, so I did the works cited section for each chapter at the stage of drafting. This was honestly one of the best things I did throughout my writing up. When I finished drafting a chapter, I was not worried about remembering all the articles/books I referred to or having to spend a long time going through the chapters and writing down my references.

All Writing and Notes Matter

All in all, it is worth mentioning that I just wrote down ideas no matter how silly or irrelevant they sounded at first. Some of those later proved to be the start of a good comparison, for example, with another author’s ideas. They could provide ground for criticism as well, or they could just be there to encourage you as you see the page has some writing on it and it just helps you go on writing down more relevant stuff.

“There is no escape.” Horace Walpole and the terrifying rise of the Gothic

Originally posted on the OUPblog, from Oxford University Press

Professor Nick Groom

This year is the 250th anniversary of Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto, first published on Christmas Eve 1764 as a seasonal ghost story. The Castle of Otranto is often dubbed the “first Gothic novel” due to Walpole describing it as a “Gothic story,” but for him the Gothic meant very different things from what it might do today. While the Gothic was certainly associated with the supernatural, it was predominantly a theory of English progress rooted in Anglo-Saxon and medieval history — effectively the cultural wing of parliamentarian politics and Protestant theology. The genre of the “Gothic novel,” with all its dire associations of uncanny horror, would not come into being for at least another century. Instead, the writing that followed in the wake of Otranto was known as the German School, the ‘Terrorist System of Writing’, or even hobgobliana.

Reading Otranto today, however, it is almost impossible to forget what 250 years of Gothickry have bequeathed to our culture in literature, architecture, film, music, and fashion: everything from the great Gothic Revival design of the Palace of Westminster to none-more-black clothes for sale on Camden Town High Street and the eerie music of Nick Cave, Jordan Reyne, and Fields of the Nephilim.

And the cinema has been instrumental in spreading this unholy word. Despite being rooted in the history of the barbarian tribes who sacked Rome and the thousand-year epoch of the Dark Ages, the Gothic was also a state-of-the-art movement. Technology drove the Gothic dream, enabling, for instance, the towering spires and colossal naves of medieval cathedrals, or enlisting in nineteenth-century art and literature the latest scientific developments in anatomy and galvanism (Frankenstein), the circulation of the blood and infection (The Vampyre), or drug use and psychology (Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde).

The moving image on the cinema screen therefore had an immediate and compelling appeal. The very experience of cinema was phantasmagoric — kaleidoscopic images projected in a darkened room, accompanied by often wild, expressionist music. The hallucinatory visions of Henry Fuseli and Gustave Doré arose and, like revenants, came to life.

The Nightmare by Henry Fuseli, 1781. Public Domain via Wikiart

The Nightmare by Henry Fuseli, 1781. Public Domain via Wikiart

Camera tricks, special effects, fantastical scenery, and monstrous figures combined in a new visual style, most notably in Robert Wiene’s The Cabinet of Dr Caligari (1920) and F. W. Murnau’s Nosferatu: A Symphony of Terror (1922). Murnau’s Nosferatu, the first vampire film, fed parasitically on Bram Stoker’s Dracula; it was rumored that Max Schreck, who played the nightmarish Count Orlok, was indeed a vampire himself. The horror film had arrived.

Cabinet of Dr Caligari Lobby Card (1920). Goldwyn Distributing Company. Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

Cabinet of Dr Caligari Lobby Card (1920). Goldwyn Distributing Company. Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

Mid-century Hollywood movie stars such as Bela Lugosi, who first played Dracula in 1931, and Boris Karloff, who played Frankenstein’s monster in the same year, made these roles iconic. Lugosi played Dracula as a baleful East European, deliberately melodramatic; Karloff was menacing in a different way: mute, brutal, and alien. Both embodied the threat of the “other”: communist Russia, as conjured up by the cinema. Frankenstein’s monster is animated by the new cinematic energy of electricity and light, while in Dracula the Count’s life and death are endlessly replayed on the screen in an immortal and diabolical loop.

It was in Britain, however, that horror films really took the cinema-going public by the throat. Britain was made for the Gothic cinema: British film-makers such as Hammer House of Horror could draw on the nation’s rich literary heritage, its crumbling ecclesiastical remains and ruins, the dark and stormy weather, and its own homegrown movie stars such as Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee. Lee in particular radiated a feral sexuality, enabling Hammer Horror to mix a heady cocktail of sex and violence on the screen. It was irresistible.

The slasher movies that have dominated international cinema since Hammer through franchises such as Hellraiser and Saw are more sensationalist melodrama than Gothic, but Gothic film does thrive and continues to create profound unease in audiences: The Exorcist, the Alien films, Blade Runner, The Blair Witch Project, and more overtly literary pictures such as Bram Stoker’s Dracula are all contemporary classics — as is Buffy the Vampire Slayer on TV.

And despite the hi-tech nature of film-making, the profound shift in the meaning of Gothic, and the gulf of 250 years, the pulse of The Castle of Otranto still beats in these films. The action of Otranto takes place predominantly in the dark in a suffocatingly claustrophobic castle and in secret underground passages. Inexplicable events plague the plot, and the dead — embodying the inescapable crimes of the past — haunt the characters like avenging revenants. Otranto is a novel of passion and terror, of human identity at the edge of sanity. In that sense, Horace Walpole did indeed set down the template of the Gothic. The Gothic may have mutated since 1764, it may now go under many different guises, but it is still with us today. And there is no escape.


Professor Nick Groom is Professor of English at the University of Exeter. His new edition of The Castle of Otranto for Oxford University Press will be launched at the British Library on 6 December. You can now listen to a complete audio guide of Professor Nick Groom’s interview with Oxford University Press.

Professor Groom will also be speaking about The Castle of Otranto at Horace Walpole’s former residence, Strawberry Hill on the 19 December 2014 from 7pm to celebrate the 250th Anniversary of The Castle of Otranto, taking place on the 24 December.

Penryn Press Ltd

This month we focus on the new student-run publishing house based on our Penryn campus, Penryn Press Ltd. Digital Director and second year English Literature student, Alexandra Simon-Lewis explains the initiative and tells us about their plans for the next academic year…

Penryn Press Ltd was founded in September 2013, developed and run by students of the University of Exeter. We started off as a fairly small initiative, with five company directors and a number of volunteers dedicated to transforming the vision of a writer-orientated publishing house into a reality. We are supported by the University of Exeter’s Annual Fund and this helped us develop the resources we needed to reach out into the local community and engage with our prospective readers and writers. Our aim is to publish exciting new literature that represents the fresh authorial voices of the South West region. As a student run publishing house, we are a unique initiative, with an entirely different voice. The first year was a strenuous but highly worthwhile proce

Our aim is to expand both in terms of community engagement and also the diversity of our published work. The South West and Cornwall in particular are areas rich in natural beauty and mythology, perfect environments to inspire a wealth of imaginative stories. It’s an interesting place to live and work and as such we want to engage with local communities in the hopes of not only keeping a love of literature alive, but also a strong sense of heritage. One of the projects we’re putting together is a ‘Dragon Trail’, an interactive exploration of the environment, incorporating stories from our latest book. We are also very interested in expanding to digital platforms, so as to provide the opportunity to read these stories on a variety of devices.ss and it’s clear from the recent publication of our book ‘Did You Know There Are Dragons In Cornwall?’ that there are many talented new voices that encapsulate the unique environment and cultural history of the local area. Recently, leadership has been passed onto a new board of directors and we are very motivated to follow on from the outstanding work accomplished by our predecessors.

As the Digital Director for Penryn Press, I work to develop the company to showcase the new opportunities for literature in a digital age. My aims are to produce interactive eBooks that bring to life the stories our writers create and to produce media that connects with a new generation of readers. The development within the publishing industry to incorporate new technologies has been astounding in recent years and it is my belief this trend will continue. My hope is to create eBooks with multimedia integration, so that the stories we create have the potential to include music and animation to capture your attention on every level. We are dedicated to the work we produce and hope to publish work that the reader will enjoy as much, if not more than we do.

Next year we want to develop some of the ideas we’ve been brainstorming, working to help promote the voices of a new generation. It’s going to be very exciting and challenging, but I know that everyone involved is committed to developing Penryn Press into a sustainable, long-term business venture.

Hilary Mantel reads her latest piece

Hilary Mantel (centre) flanked by Professor Nick Kaye and Professor Helen Taylor

Hilary Mantel CBE, one of the country’s most distinguished living novelists and a University of Exeter honorary graduate, read from her latest Man Booker Prize winning novel Bring Up the Bodies to a packed Alumni Auditorium last Thursday, 11 October. Bring Up the Bodies was announced as the latest winner of the prestigious literary accolade on Tuesday 16 October.

Bring Up the Bodies is the sequel to Mantel’s previous Man Booker Prize winner Wolf Hall, which is a study of Thomas Cromwell, the man who engineered the dissolution of the monasteries and the execution of Anne Boleyn. Wolf Hall won not only the Man Booker 2010 but also the inaugural Walter Scott Prize and the US National Book Critics Circle Award. Testimony to Mantel’s gifts as a great storyteller, Wolf Hall is also the biggest-selling Booker prize winner to date.

The evening was introduced by Professor Helen Taylor, the College of Humanities Fellow for Arts and Culture. Professor Taylor gave an introduction to Hilary Mantel, talking about her career in general and her recent successes. When asked what she would spend her Booker Prize money on, Hilary replied “sex, drugs & rock ‘n’ roll”, before acknowledging that there wasn’t much of this to be found in East Devon so she would pay off her mortgage instead.

Hilary read an excerpt from Bring Up the Bodies, humorously bringing the characters to life. There was time for a few questions from the packed audience, which comprised of members of the public, students and staff of the University, and members of the University Council, including Chair of Council and alumna Sarah Turvill. Hilary spoke about how her recent works are being adapted for the stage and BBC television, and how she would like to work on more big historical fiction once the Cromwell trilogy is completed.

Mantel, a former teacher and social worker, is only the third double winner of the prestigious Man Booker Prize, and was made an honorary graduate of the University in a ceremony at the Streatham Campus on July 17 2012. She moved to the westcountry in the spring of 2011.

Professor Helen Taylor said: “Hilary Mantel’s literary output is the most brilliantly original and varied of any contemporary writer. In 2011, Hilary Mantel became an honorary graduate of the University of Exeter and we in the College of Humanities are delighted to appoint her as Honorary Visiting Professor.”