Wednesday, 19 June 2013

POWS Prize Update

Firstly, apologies for my week-long absence. I ended up on a total vacation from work. It was much needed and I'm ready to bounce back now. 

Last week was still an eventful one. I heard back about the POWS Prize, and unfortunately I was not successful. Despite this, I was invited to present my work at the POWS conference (which, sadly, I will be unable to attend due to other commitments and financial constraints), and I was also given some excellent feedback: 

This is a very good piece of work, but it doesn't make a strong enough psychological contribution for this particular prize..
Well done on an excellent piece of work.

I was very happy with the feedback as I expected that to be the likely outcome; I knew that my knowledge of psychological research would be what let my paper down. It's still a huge achievement to be shortlisted for such a prestigious prize. 

I'd like to thank the POWS panel for looking at my work so favourably, and hope to enter another paper for the award in the future.


Sunday, 9 June 2013

Great Brontë News!

Fantastic news reported by The Guardian today; a single-page homework essay by a young Charlotte Brontë has been bought by the Brontë Society, and will be going 'home' to the Brontë Parsonage Museum in Haworth, West Yorkshire.

The Brontë Society paid £50,000 for the piece of homework which was written for the French teacher Charlotte was in love with. Funds were raised through donations from Society members, as well as £20,000 from the V&A purchase grant fund. The document was previously held in a private library. You can read the Guardian article here.

The Brontë museum in Haworth is somewhere I try and visit each year, because it's a beautiful place and because I count the Brontë sisters amongst my favourite writers. I look forward to seeing the new acquisition when it goes on display.


CWWA Book Club Minaret Podcast

As I've previously blogged, on the 29th of May I attended the CWWA Book Club for their discussion on Leila Aboulela's Minaret. You can read my short post about attending here, and my (rather long) book review here

You can now listen to the podcast made of the discussion by visiting the CWWA Book Club site (here). I found it fantastic to be able to listen back to the session; it wasn't too cringe-worthy to hear my own voice! 

If you don't know what I sound like, I first speak at 2 minutes 28 seconds (with a comment regarding the superfluous nature of the novel jumping back and forth in time), again at 3:24, and a number of other times including 10:15, 15:18 and from 16:00 to 16:30.

The session was great fun, and I hope you take the time to enjoy listening to the podcast. 


Thursday, 6 June 2013

neo-Victorian Villainy Symposium report

Apologies that this has taken so long to appear. I was quite unwell for a few days of this and last week. Many thanks again to Ben Poore for organising such a brilliant conference. 
The Neo-Victorian Villainy conference was accompanied by a regularly updated Facebook page which heightened one’s expectations ahead of the event. By the time Saturday 25th May arrived, I was very excited to travel to York for the one-day symposium. The venue was fabulous; the new facilities of the Department of Theatre, Film and Television at the University of York were perfect for such a multi-media interdisciplinary conference.

In the state-of-the-art Holbeck Theatre, organiser Dr Ben Poore introduced the day and opened proceedings with his brief provocation on the theme for the day. His hilarious introduction was a well-delivered and perfect opener for the near two dozen attendees. After opening with references to ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ the musical, the short paper interestingly compared the darkness within the psyche, as seen in Stevenson’s ‘The Strange Case of Jekyll and Hyde’, with the ‘melting down’ of the modern celebrity; Ben commented that the unfortunate contemporary celebrity is forced to expose their ‘darkness’ in the glare of the flashbulbs, where it is intensified. A closing remark was that we are not free of what we class as Victorian.

Following the initial remarks, delegates were faced with the unenviable option of two panels. Panel A was titled ‘Looking Back at the Victorians’ and featured papers on BBC Dickens adaptations, the Nineteenth-Century stage, and the 1959 film adaptation of The 39 Steps. Panel B was titled ‘Reinventing the Monstrous’ and included papers on Gothic creatures, Mister Creecher, and The Grand Guignol (and beyond). I chose Panel B in order to hear Vanessa Gerhards deliver her paper, ‘From Gothic Ghoul to Harmless Harbinger – Representations of the Archetypal Gothic Creature in Contemporary Media’. 

Vanessa Gerhards spoke about the progression of the Victorian ghost, popular in ghost stories and séances during the period, to the haunted house and ghost as shown in film today, which still resembles the Victorian ghost strongly. Vanessa took us on a tour of the evolution of the ghost through film and television, before doing the same with the figure of the vampire. We heard how the Victorian Gothic vampire was a seducing aristocrat, whereas the modern vampire is both emotionalised and humanised, with love as a new motivation for the vampire.

Following this fascinating paper, Chloe Buckley presented a paper regarding Chris Priestley’s 2011 novel Mister Creecher, which combines the legend of Frankenstein and his monster with the childhood of the Dickens archetypcal villain, Bill Sykes. Having not read the book, Chloe’s paper inspired me to go out and get a copy. She discussed the making of a monster, and how the book charts the moral decline of Sykes from street urchin to true monster. The paper was particularly interesting for those of us who were unfamiliar with the book, and I believe it’s fair to say that more than my own appetite was sufficiently whet!

The final paper of the panel came from Will Nelson, and he delivered a paper on the Grand Guignol. I must admit, I knew very little about Le Théâtre du Grand-Guignol, so I found the paper especially interesting. The illuminating paper charted the movement of horror from highbrow Victorian entertainment, to the low brow view of it today. It has definitely inspired me to read more on the subject of the history of this fascinating theatre and its productions.  

After the first Panel, the fantastic first keynote was presented by Dr Guy Barefoot on the subject of ‘Hollywood’s image of melodramatic villainy (just) after the Victorians’. Dr Barefoot gave a fantastic paper on the Hollywood villain in the early part of the Twentieth century. His animated delivery was particularly appreciated after a long morning session! It was very interesting to see how the traditional Victorian villain was so rife in early Hollywood productions, and how this character has clearly transferred to the modern screen too. I especially liked the discussion of Professor Moriarty, from his initial drawn depiction in the Victorian press, to his Hollywood representation.

Lunch was served in the foyer, and was very enjoyable indeed. Afterwards, the conference took a very different direction, and certainly a very unique one! Delegates were treated to a performance by York University students of extracts from Michael Punter's neo-Victorian play Summerland. The performance was outstanding, and the play itself was intriguing. The thrill and suspense of the Victorian séance was vividly brought back to life. Following the dramatisation, Ben Poore interviewed playwright Michael Punter, adding a further dimension of understanding to the fantastic play. 

The interview was followed by a second interview, this time with young playwright Laura Turner regarding her recent adaptations of Jane Eyre and The Hound of the Baskervilles. As an Undergraduate with an interest in creative writing, I found Laura absolutely inspirational; her achievements so far in her career are fantastically impressive. The interview with her regarding Victorian adaptations was very interesting, especially in the context of a day examining neo-Victorian texts. The creative plenary session was concluded by Ben Poore reading a paper on 'Writing the neo-Victorian Villain' by author Anne Featherstone, who unfortunately was unable to attend the conference in person, which was a shame as the paper was entertaining and engaging.

The second keynote was given by Professor Eckart Voigts, on Nell Leyshon's The Colour of Milk. In a brilliant twist, similar to that of the novel in discussion, the author herself was connected live via Skype and listened to the paper before engaging in an interview, and question and answer session with the audience. Listening to the author's comments on her own book and hearing her perspective was probably my highlight of the day. Professor Voigts's paper certainly inspired me to read the book for myself. His paper discussed the language and grammar choices of the book, which sound very interesting. Comparisons drawn to Alias Grace (Atwood) and Affinity (Waters) made the book sound even more appealing. I was fascinated by Nell Leyshon's explanation of how she 'found' her narrator's voice and its biblical language inspiration. 

The final panel of the day again gave delegates two options. Panel C was titled 'The Pull of the Past: Victorian Villains Abroad', whilst Panel D was titled 'Neo-Victorian Women Going Rogue'. My own paper was the first in Panel D, so despite being very interested in one of the Panel C papers, I was unable to listen to it. I delivered my paper titled ''Come on, you little bitch,' she said to me, 'sing out!'' - Villainous doctors and cruel [neo-]Victorian nurses. I felt my paper went well, especially because when writing it I was overwhelmed with the amount of material on the villainous asylum doctor in Victorian and neo-Victorian fiction. It was certainly difficult to condense into a twenty-minute paper!

Following my paper, Sarah Artt gave a paper on the post-feminist tart in the BBC drama Ripper Street. As an avid watcher of the programme, I thoroughly enjoyed hearing the application of post-feminist theory on the figure of the prostitute. I have to admit, it has definitely altered how I will view the programme in future! It was enjoyable to listen to such an interesting paper following my own, as I calmed down from those presenting nerves!

The third and final paper of the panel was presented by Antonija Primorac, and was titled 'Adapting Victorian Villainy Today: Gender, melodramatic mode and the question of agency'. Again, the paper proved to be thoroughly interesting and applied some intriguing theory to the adaptation of the Victorian villain. This paper, along with the previous one, went together incredibly well - a credit to the organisation of the conference. The questions following the papers raised interesting discussion and could have gone on for a lot longer than the allotted time, but we had a final keynote to attend. 

The final keynote of the day was given by Professor Richard Hand, and discussed Joseph Conrad, adaptation and neo-Victorian villainy. Having previously studied Conrad, it was very interesting to hear about neo-Victorian adaptations of his work and the villains within them. It was also nice to hear a discussion about adaptations other than the most commonly referred to Apocalypse Now

Following the keynote, there was a wine reception, and later almost all of the delegates made their way to the centre of York for a delicious meal at the Meltons Too bistro. 

All in all, the conference was simply fantastic and an especially inspiring day from my perspective as an Undergraduate, relatively new to the field of neo-Victorianism. I have also spent a lot of time recently going through Victorian texts, so it was brilliant to have my eyes opened to a number of neo-Victorian sources, authors and texts. The symposium was very well organised and the creative plenary was a great touch. I had such a good time meeting some wonderful people and hearing some enlightening papers. 

Roll on the next conference!


Women's Prize for Fiction & Children's Laureate

Well, it certainly has been a week of announcements! On June 4th (Tuesday) it was revealed that the fabulous Malorie Blackman has been chosen to be the next Waterstones Children's Laureate, replacing Julia Donaldson (of Gruffalo fame) in the role until 2015. 

Next week I will be volunteering at the Hull Children's Book Award, helping to lead discussions with young people so that they can ultimately vote and choose the book they deem most worthy of the award, so I will definitely be asking their opinion on the new Laureate! I'm sure many of the young readers will be familiar with Malorie's Noughts & Crosses (2002) series of books; the first novel of the series happened to be one of the books handed out here in the UK as part of the 2013 World Book Night.

AM Homes with her "Bessie"

The other big literary news of the week came yesterday (Wednesday 5th June), when the winner of the 2013 Women's Prize for Fiction was announced at London's Royal Festival Hall. The winner was American author A.M. Homes for her novel May We Be Forgiven (2013), described by the Chair of judges (Miranda Richardson) as being "an American dream for our time".

Other books nominated for the prize this year include Hilary Mantel's Man Booker Prize winning Bring Up the Bodies (2012), Barbara Kingsolver's Flight Behaviour (2012), and Zadie Smith's NW (2012), so it was definitely fierce competition! I think it's brilliant to see how many female authors are producing such high calibre literature, and awards such as the Women's Prize for Fiction are fantastic in the way they honour this.

I'm yet to read the winning book, but it was on my radar as it is part of the Waterstones Book Club. I think I'll definitely be giving it a read now!


Monday, 3 June 2013

What's the Point?

Whilst writing content for this site (including the 'why keep reading' section), I thought I would write a little, post on why this blog exists and, basically, what the point of it is. 

This blog has a few purposes. I want to be able to present my research and I want to connect with Academics around the world. I want to have somewhere to vent all of the 'work'-related thoughts that are spinning round in my head. I also want somewhere to keep all my work in a nice and neat fashion. I already have a personal blog, but the people who read that probably don't want to hear endless book reviews or discussions about neo-Victorian asylums! You, dear reader, get that here instead.

In case you were wondering, I'll be posting a whole bunch of things. There'll be updates about my career, including my time at University, conferences I attend and speak at, and my essays and papers. There'll be book reviews and updates from the 'extra curricular' activities I participate in. There'll be (relevant) film reviews and any other random things that I think relate to Literature/Academia/my areas of interest.

So that is my reasoning behind this blog and website!
I hope you continue to read. 
Since this site was 'officially' launched two weeks ago I've had some 620 views, which I am beyond delighted about. 
Thank you so very much to anyone who has taken the time to read this website. 


The Great Gatsby (2013)

This blog isn't just about heavy Academic stuff. It's summer and so things should be more fun and relaxed, right? With that in mind, expect some more varied posts popping up here and there.  

Well... I finally got around to seeing the so-called 'film of the summer'. Yesterday (Sunday 2nd June) I caught an afternoon showing of Baz Luhrmann's The Great Gatsby. I should mention, I saw the film in 2D; it was filmed in 3D and available in that format, but, quite frankly, I object to paying out such a premium to see a romantic drama in 3D! 

The film has had so much hype. As an avid follower of fashion, I am only too aware that the film uses pieces adapted from both Miu Miu and Prada. As well as taking over the world of fashion, the film taken over the public gaze in a number of ways; Tiffany & Co. released a special Gatsby inspired collection after having provided many of the film's jewels, and both Harrods and London's Oxford Circus tube station featured a heavy amount of promotional advertisements.

File:TheGreatGatsby2012Poster.jpgBearing all this in mind, I was absolutely fascinated with the film which my friends had said was amazing 'for the party scenes and the opening', and which had been given a Rotten Tomatoes score of just 51% (based on reviews by 213 critics); for those of you who aren't familiar with the site, 100% is the best, so 51% is definitely not a good score. Sure, the most amazing films aren't always those which are popular with critics, but I was pretty sceptical that everyone I knew could only recommend tiny fragments of the film, and the fashion, of course. 

So, the film. Firstly I need to point out that I haven't read the book for some time, but I have ordered a new copy. I was impressed with the visuals; I am that kind of a film-goer, I enjoy looking at pretty films. The party scenes were impressive, so my friends were quite correct with that. It was an enjoyable film, but did feel a little long during some of the slower parts. As a love story it is really quite beautiful and heartbreaking, but... and here come the buts... it is not the wondrous Great Gatsby book I fell in love with the first time I read it.

I felt that the film lacked something, and I spent most of the 143 minutes trying to figure out what that 'something' was. Sure, the decadence of the early 1920s was very much present, but the whole idea of the novel being a cautionary tale against the rise of the rich, I felt, was missing or at least lacking. It started to be woven in towards the end, but probably too late. I also felt that the film was perhaps a little too wrapped up in being pretty and delivering knock-out visual aesthetics; the narrative seemed to come secondary to the cinematography. I loved the costumes, hair and make-up, but felt that post-production graphics went into overkill - another aspect which detracted from my enjoyment of the story.

I was pretty happy with the cast, especially Carey Mulligan as Daisy Buchanan, though that was largely because of both her beauty and fragility. I did feel that a lot of the time Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio) was a little too much on the fragile side, and lacked the self-assurance I always picked up on in the novel. Despite this, I thought it was an excellent performance.

Overall, I think that what was glaringly obvious was that it was a Baz Luhrmann film; and that isn't necessarily a good thing. Don't get me wrong, I love [nearly] all of his other films, but when you're sat pointing out things that clearly make it one of his films, and it reaches the point of detracting from what you're, just no. Largely, I'm talking about the rapid aerial shots and zooming, the dancing scenes, and the party scenes in particular, which absolutely screamed Moulin Rouge! (2001). Even the portrayal of Nick Carraway by Tobey Maguire seemed a little too reminiscent of Ewan McGregor's character, Christian, in Moulin Rouge! for my liking. 

So, yes I enjoyed the film. It was a nice piece of visual entertainment. No, it certainly is not better than the book. Yes, it appealed to my love of all things Art Deco and 1920s. No, it is not something I'd recommend to the die-hard F.Scott Fitzgerald fan. Yes, it is something I'd watch again and recommend as a good bit of summertime viewing. 

And the oppulence... oh my! The oppulence. Someone dress me in a flapper dress and get me to Tiffany & Co. now with an unlimited amount of cash!



Sunday, 2 June 2013

New content

You can now read two of my essays via this page (the essays and papers section of the site). I have uploaded my POWS Undergraduate Prize 2013 submission paper, titled "Staying here will be good for you" - Amalie Skram and the [un]willing Female Psychiatric Patient. You can also read an essay submitted as part of my Undergraduate degree, for a module on the Gothic. This essay  is titled: The Role of Comedy in Jane Austen's Gothic-Parody Northanger Abbey

I warmly welcome any feedback on these papers and hope to upload more work soon. I am also working on my conference review for the neo-Victorian Villainy conference, and that should be ready shortly. 


Thursday, 30 May 2013


Wow! What a busy period. I sent off my POWS Prize submission a couple of weeks ago and then began work on my paper for the neo-Victorian Villainy Symposium, which was last weekend. The symposium was fantastic, and really inspired me to spend a little more time looking at the neo-Victorian texts that I tend to ignore in favour of Victorian ones! 

I've added some more content to this site, and will be uploading my POWS Prize paper shortly. I will also edit and upload my papers from the Villainy symposium and the Victorian Asylum conference from way back in 2011. 

Finally, I'm preparing to send off two abstracts for conferences which sound absolutely brilliant. 

Then I have a month to do some relaxing and reading, which will be my semblance of a Summer break!

I hope the weather perks up a little and that you all enjoy the beginning of the Summer.


Minaret (2005) - Leila Aboulela

Minaret by Leila Aboulela is not my usual kind of novel. I was introduced to it by the CWWA Book Group, who chose it as their second book. I found the book enjoyable, though in parts it was frustrating; the central character’s passive approach to her life is somewhat irritating. She is a strong woman in the sense of carrying on with her life despite great upheaval and emotional problems, but yet she is very willing to go along with whatever direction she is pushed in by others; be it her family, friends, employer or romantic partner. 

Set during a twenty year period, Minaret follows Najwa from her life as a privileged member of the [unwittingly] corrupt upper class of the Sudan, to her gradual social and economic descent after her family’s downfall. Presented as a fragmented narrative, moving between 1984-5, 1989-90, 1991 and 2003-4 in a non-linear pattern, the novel also charts Najwa’s spiritual awakening and exploration of life through the frame of Islam. 

The movement back and forth in time is something that, I feel, detracts from the novel. The initial juxtaposition between Najwa going for a job as a domestic servant, and her privileged life in Khartoum is very powerful, but after that the fractured narrative seems to serve little purpose. Noticably, Najwa's writing style alters as she develops as a woman. She is initially is a teenager, greatly preoccupied with popstars and Western films, but as the novel develops and she matures, the writing style alters to reflect this; as Najwa experiences her religious awakening, she begins to write in a more eloquent and refined way. 

Identity, its concept and meaning, is the central theme of Minaret. Najwa is forced to examine her own identity as a Sudanese woman when she finds herself in exile in London. Constantly reminded that she is a ‘modern’ woman, Najwa is increasing drawn towards the Islamic identity she has previously shunned. Ultimately, the discipline and security of the religion that Najwa has skirted around for her entire life is what she finds salvation in, following her twin brother’s imprisonment for the violent assault of a policeman during his arrest for drugs-related offences, and her mother’s death from Leukaemia.

The narrative, through Najwa’s self-discovery, questions whether one’s identity lies in one’s origins (e.g. Najwa’s Sudanese origins) or one’s religion. Najwa slowly falls in love with the younger brother of the woman she acts as a domestic servant to when the novel moves forward to 2003. This young man (Tamer) strongly identifies as a Muslim; his family refer to him as being devout. For him, identity is found in religion 
because it has been more of a constant in his life than any sense of belonging or a ‘home’; the family spent time in various countries including those in the Middle East and Sudan itself.

Najwa clearly initially identifies as a Sudanese woman, but her displacement in London and the break-down of her familial unit pushes her towards re-identifying as a Muslim woman. Najwa’s shame at her father’s trial for corruption causes her to avoid any contact with the London Sudanese community, further alienating her from her Sudanese identity. She has moments of clearly being lost between these two identities, including when she reluctantly agrees to sleep with her boyfriend, Anwar, which leads her to a brief personal crisis.

Anwar represents both consistency and great disruption in Najwa’s life. They initially meet in Sudan and engage in a respectable relationship. Anwar hurts Najwa deeply by referring to her father by name in a political speech at the Khartoum University they both attend. Their paths cross again when Anwar is also exiled to London following a military coup. He has also experienced a fall from grace after the decline of the political party he worked for. 

Ultimately, Najwa chooses to turn to religion and, in doing so, turns her back on Anwar. Despite being presented as somewhat of an antagonist in Najwa’s life, the novel ends with Najwa experiencing yet another period of tumult and change, whilst we learn that Anwar has settled down and been able to return to Sudan.

Aside from identity, a principal theme is duty. Najwa’s life is constantly steered by both her sense of duty and the imposition of her duties by other people. As a young woman in Sudan, she is reminded of her duties towards her parents and as a Muslim woman; despite not being devout, she fulfils the role expected of her. Later in life, Najwa takes on the role of domestic servant, and dutifully attends classes at her local mosque. 

Throughout her life she clearly envies those with a clear sense of duty; she is more aware of their servants than anyone else whilst living in Khartoum, and tells the reader outright that she feels jealousy towards the girls who are devout enough to pray at University, although she only seems to accept and acknowledge this jealousy when looking on the situation with hindsight. As the book reaches its resolution, Najwa succumbs to her duty as a Muslim and chooses to go on a religious pilgrimage over being with her new love, Tamer.

Associated with these themes of identity and duty is the hugely significant side plot of Najwa’s decision to wear the hijab, or Islamic headscarf. Najwa initially dresses in a way appropriate for a woman of her faith, class and Sudanese origins, but the pressure to be a modernised and indeed Westernised woman overcome this, and she yearns for nights at the American Club of Khartoum where she can dress like the other young people there. Najwa is influenced by the Western pop stars she listens to, and her family holidays to London.

When she moves to London, Najwa makes the natural progression away from the constraints of the Islamic Sudanese society and towards the free lifestyle that living in London brings. As her life begins to unravel, Najwa yearns for the anonymity and protection brought by being veiled. She presents her newly veiled and modestly dressed self to Anwar as a way of severing their relationship for good; Najwa shows Anwar that she has chosen a religious existence over him. Anwar is very clear in expression his opinion on the ‘backward’ nature of the Islamic doctrine and its treatment of women.

Najwa describes a particularly distressing scene in which she is fearful on her way home from the mosque because of wearing her hijab, and the racial abuse she incurs as a result. Despite this, she is clearly more comfortable with her new modest attire. Her narrative is littered with references to beauty, in both herself and the women around her. In her youth she considers herself and her mother beautiful. After her religious conversion, she takes great delight in seeing her friends from the mosque when they are not wearing their veils. This again relates to the issue of identity. Najwa initially self-identifies as beautiful, but later is more open to seeing beauty in others.

Minaret is exceptionally detailed and maintains high verisimilitude in its depiction of the Muslim religion, informed by the writer’s own religious experiences in Sudan and the UK. Various aspects of the daily practices of Muslims are presented in an accessible but non-patronising way. The representations are both detailed and convincing, especially to the uninitiated. Najwa attends the mosque on a daily basis for prayer, and also attends classes for women there. Her ultimate goal is to go on religious pilgrimage to Mecca. One could argue that Najwa is rewarded, in a religious sense, by finally being able to go on pilgrimage when she agrees to end her relationship with Tamer; her trip is funded by the money his family gives her to leave them alone. 

Despite descriptions of the day-to-day experience of being a Muslim, there is a lacking in descriptions regarding being a Muslim in London, and interactions with Western people whilst Najwa undertakes her exploration of faith; the only interactions with white Western people are negative, with the exception of one white Islamic convert. 

The CWWA Book Club posed the following question, which I would like to briefly discuss: Leila Aboulela has sometimes been described as a ‘halal novelist’, or a writer who stays within religiously permissible topics. Would you agree with this definition? I would absolutely agree with this. Najwa's story is one of religious awakening and discovery, and shows Islam to be both a natural choice for her, and the 'right' choice. Through her exploration of Islam, Najwa finds fulfilment in her life. She appears to view her religious pilgrimage as a chance to be reborn and cleansed of all previous sins, including those of her family. 

To conclude, Minaret is an interesting text, particularly for the way it presents the daily experience of being a woman belonging to the Islamic faith. The narrative is interesting as it shows Najwa fall from grace and begin to build a new life for herself, albeit one far from her privileged existence in the Sudan. I found Najwa to be a frustrating character in the way she is so passive and allows her life to be shaped by those in it, rather than by taking an active stance herself. I enjoyed the text as a whole, but dislike the fractured narrative. I would definitely be interested to read the other novel by Leila Aboulela, and someone at the CWWA Book Club recommended it. The Book Club provided some fascinating discussion on the text, and it was brilliant to hear other people's opinion on Najwa's story.

If you have read Minaret, I would love to discuss it with you


CWWA Book Group - Minaret

Yesterday I travelled to Leeds for the second meeting of the CWWA Book Club, where we discussed the book Minaret (2005) by Leila Aboulela. My journey was pretty frustrating and difficult, but I made it to the Leeds Met University Library and thoroughly enjoyed the Book Club. 

The discussion was fantastic, which was perfect as it was my first book club experience. The discussion was also recorded and will go online as a podcast; I'll post a link to it when it becomes available. I now need to finish off my notes on Minaret and then these will be added to the 'Book Review' section of the website. 

Thank you to everyone who attended the the CWWA Book Club; you all made it a very interesting evening, and well worth the trip to Leeds!


Sunday, 26 May 2013

neo-Victorian Villainy Symposium

Yesterday (Saturday 25th) I attended the utterly fantastic neo-Victorian Villainy Symposium at the University of York. The conference was brilliant and I shall be writing up a more comprehensive report as soon as I can.

My own paper went well, and I was lucky enough to be part of a very enjoyable panel.


Wednesday, 22 May 2013

University of Hull Annual Victorian Lecture 2013

On Thursday 16th May, I had the pleasure of attending the University of Hull Centre for Victorian Studies's Annual Victorian Lecture. The lecture was titled 'Victorian Studies in the Context of World Literatures and Globalization Studies' and was delivered by Professor Regenia Gagnier (University of Exeter), and was absolutely enthralling from beginning to end. 

Professor Gagnier discussed the filtration of British Victorian literature throughout the world, and provided interesting statistics on the most commonly translated British Victorian authors. Her engaging lecture was informed by her current research into the global circulation of Victorian literature, focusing on literature of the decadence movement. 

I have recently been very much cocooned with my studies, focusing on literature by Victorian women writers with a 'psychiatric' focus, a rather niche area, so it was particularly nice to hear about the aspects of Victorian studies which have transcended the globe. 

Unfortunately, I forgot my notepad, so my memories of the lecture are all I have to base this blog report on; my bad! I absolutely recommend to anyone the Annual Victorian Lecture held at the University of Hull. Previous lectures have been given by Elaine Showalter and Margaret Stetz. I hope to report to you again from next year's lecture.


Tuesday, 21 May 2013


Firstly, thank you very much for taking the time to read my blog. If you're unsure what you're doing here, I recommend reading the 'About' section, which you can access via the menu bar (to the left) or by clicking here.

Well! It has been a busy old time of late. As you can see, this website is now up and running, for which I have my wonderful designer extraordinaire (Hannah) to thank. You can contact her via her website, which I highly recommend doing if you require designing services or the like. The website has a few tweaks left to go, so please keep checking back.

Now for a brief update. It is that deadline-laden time of year, hence the blog being a little bare bones at the moment. Soon enough it will be summer, and then hopefully things will change. My summer will be spent completing a couple of pieces of work I have outstanding, preparing research for my dissertation, and then I have a conference paper to deliver in July. I also have plenty of planning to do for the next Academic year.

Last Thursday (16th May) I submitted my 3,000 word essay for the BPS POWS Undergraduate Prize 2013, which I was shortlisted for earlier this year (you can read about that here). I'm very pleased with how my essay turned out. Whilst it may not have drawn upon the extent of psychological theory that a Psychology student may be privy to, I felt it met the POWS Prize brief. It certainly raised some interesting points, and I hope to explore these further in my Undergraduate dissertation, which is due for completion this time next year. 

The Annual Victorian Lecture, organised by Hull University's Victorian Studies Centre, was also last Thursday. It was a fantastic lecture, maintaining the precedent set by the Centre so far for attracting top Victorian Studies academics. A blog post focusing on the lecture is under preparation. I love the way that, each year, the Annual Lecture introduces me to a new area of research or approach to Victorian studies. It was also nice to see all the Hull University Victorianists before everyone disperses for the summer vacation. 

This coming Saturday (25th) is the neo-Victorian Villainy symposium at the University of York. I'm very excited about the event, despite having been ill for a few days, and cannot wait to give my paper titled: 'Come on, you little bitch,' she said to me, 'sing out!'' - Villainous Doctors & Cruel [neo-] Victorian Nurses. As the conference is being organised by the Department of Theatre, Film and Television, I am currently preparing a multi-media visual delight of a presentation... if I can figure out how to insert video clips into Powerpoint. 

I highly recommend that, if you are in the area, you visit the conference. The confirmed papers all sound fascinating, and it promises to be a great day. You can find out more about the event by searching for it on Facebook (search for Neo-Victorian Villainy). Obviously, I shall be reporting back from the symposium!


Book Reviews

Reading is such a big and important part of my life. It seemed only right that I should write about what I read and what thoughts develop around the subject.

This is my first post on book reviews, but it is just to give you the link to keep an eye on. At the bottom of this blog, you can see it is labelled; the label 'book reviews' will send you to a page that will be automatically updated whenever I add a new post or document on book reviews. Alternatively, you will find all my book reviews by clicking the the 'Book Review' tab on the left. I have compiled a content-type page that will detail all the different reviews I've written.

Feel free to explore this blog fully, it's comprehensive. I've tried to ensure that all aspects of my academic life are on here, but if you feel that you could do with knowing more about what happens in my literature fuelled mind or my life, then send me a quick email. I'm always open to feedback and comments, especially if you can recommend a new book to me.


Friday, 10 May 2013

Shortlisted for the POWS Undergraduate Prize 2013

A few months ago I submitted an abstract to the British Psychological Society Psychology of Women Section (POWS), for consideration for their Undergraduate Prize 2013. Psychology is an interest, not my principal field, but the literature I focus on tends to have psychiatric/psychological themes. The abstract I submitted was a (slight) reworking of the abstract from my first conference paper (given in 2011); "Staying here will be good for you": Amalie Skram and the [un]willing female psychiatric patient.

My submission was really a bit of a whim after I heard about the award via an email newsletter; I can't even remember which one! Imagine then, my surprise, when I received an email on the 11th of April to inform me that my abstract had been shortlisted. I was absolutely delighted, and even more so with the comments passed on to me from the reviewers:

I think that this could make an extremely interesting paper, but the author would have to be clear about the original findings and contributions to theory or practice in their paper. There is scope to further show how application of the interpretation of the books will be developed and if this is carried out well could be a very interesting extension of knowledge. I expect this will be a piece of value and interest.

Naturally, the shortlisting has filled me with inspiration and enthusiasm. I have been toiling over the paper ever since and hope, as the reviewers suggested, to present them with a paper which incorporates original findings and theoretical knowledge, along with interpretations of the literature. I am thrilled to have been shortlisted and, as Psychology is not my specific subject per se, I do not expect that my paper will move beyond this stage, though it goes without saying that if it were to progress I would be extremely pleased. 

The submission deadline (for a 3,000 word paper) is the 16th of May. The prize for the winning paper is awarded at the POWS Annual Conference, and comprises of £200, the opportunity to present the paper at the conference, fees and travel for the conference, and publication in the POWS Review.