A Happy New Year to all our students. Opportunities ahead….

Happy New Year, and welcome back. We hope that you had a great and restorative Christmas break, trust you are rested and ready for semester two.

Next week is Future Plan Week (23 – 27 January) and there are so many opportunities to develop skills, find some new ones, and be inspired. Thirty-four events are scheduled. Here are just a few to whet your appetite:

Log in through the Future Plan Portal for full details.  Follow on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/futureplan.glos.ac.uk.

More news: the call for Student Ambassadors has gone out this week. Student Ambassadors play an essential role in University life, assisting at events, representing their courses at Open Days by talking to prospective students and their parents, and much more. It’s a rewarding job for current students, not only financially (you can earn up to £9.38 an hour), but more importantly in terms of the skills and experience that you’ll gain to help your future career, and which count towards your Gloucestershire Employability Award.

The role is suitable for students in levels 4-5. If you want to apply, or just want to learn more, go to the Future Plan Portal.

Welcome back

Induction Week begins on Monday and we look forward to meeting our new students of English Literature. Then on the following week, we greet our current students who are about to enter levels 5 and 6 (level 6!).

We love September and all the excitement that the new academic year brings. Whether you are freshmen or returning students, a very warm welcome to you all, and best wishes for a book-filled year ahead.

Romeo and Juliet

I recently saw a friend in this production of Romeo and Juliet in London (now running as part of the Camden Fringe). The relationship between the nurse and Juliet was really well done, as was Friar Lawrence’s fatherly tenderness towards the young couple. The fight choreography was excellent and the scene changes were particularly good, with some scenes artfully arranged so that they started before the last one had finished. Watch out for the annoyed servant who keeps hustling the Capulets to get a move on. In some places it felt as if the comedic elements were so successful they outdid the darker aspects of the play, but overall the production was really good, full of energy and warmth.

Rose Wolfe-Emery reviews ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ by Margaret Atwood

At first glance, ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ reads like something one might happen across in a collection of fairy tales. Picture the deviant handmaid of a wealthy lady: attractive, rebellious, perhaps overcoming social class divisions by seducing a member of the gentry. In actuality, Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale tells a completely different story.

The tale takes place in ‘Gilead’, a dystopian Republic in which the traditional division of labour in heterosexual marriage has been dismantled and is divided among women. The jobs historically associated with the female counterpart in a marriage – such as cooking, cleaning, bearing and raising children – are allocated to women according to their fertility. The singular role of a handmaid is to provide a child for a ruling-class family; if she fails to do so after three assignments, she is declared an ‘Unwoman’ and is sent away to inevitably die from radiation poisoning. The names of handmaids change depending on the household they are allocated to, reflecting their invariability from one another and lack of identity. For instance, the titular handmaid’s name is ‘Offred’, mirroring how her body and sexual agency are the property of Fred, the commander she was assigned to.

One of the most interesting aspects of this novel is the ideologies (largely based on biblical interpretations) that are used to justify such a regime. Offred regularly has flashbacks to the lessons given at ‘the Centre’, where prospective handmaids are trained. By ensuring that the desires of men are catered for, this has vastly reduced sexual assault cases in Gilead – yet just like rape, women’s autonomy is removed from the equation. The handmaids are required to dress in red habits that conceal their bodies in order to appear demure and professional, while the colour symbolises the nature of their profession. They also wear white wings on their heads, which obscure their vision and subsequently narrow their view of the world – reflecting the irrelevance of their thoughts in such a society. This novel also features distinctly Orwellian elements, the ‘Eyes’ (secret police) supposedly catching anyone who doesn’t behave according the rules of Gilead.

Atwood has insisted that the world portrayed in this novel is speculative rather than genuinely futuristic, simply questioning what would happen if “casually held attitudes about women” were taken to their logical ends. For anyone interested in feminism, I thoroughly recommend reading this thought-provoking novel because it continually highlights relevant, contemporary issues. Perhaps most significantly, it makes us more concerned about them.

Helen Rawlings reviews ‘The Revenant’ by Michael Punke

After several months of assignment writing and exam revision, summer is finally upon us (pardon the rain) with a much deserved break for all. Most excitingly, this has given me time to get round to some summer reading – for pure unadulterated pleasure. My first choice has been Michael Punke’s 2002 novel The Revenant, which is loosely based upon real life events. In all honesty, I chose this book because of the hype surrounding Hollywood’s film adaptation that recently landed Leonardo Di Caprio his long-awaited Oscar. I digress; basically, I wanted to see what all the fuss was about, and what better way than to read the book?
Cast back to 1823 American mountain terrain: the dramatic setting in which fur hunter Hugh Glass pursues his ultimate quest for revenge. Mauled almost to death by a grizzly bear (some scenes are pretty gruesome so I would not recommend reading after a big lunch!) Glass is left for dead by his comrades from ‘The Rocky Mountain Fur Company’. Two of these comrades steal his gun, which we later discover he really, really wants back. Overall, this was an enjoyable read – it was fascinating to learn about these frontiersmen in the early 1800s. The Revenant is a page turner and Punke effectively builds up tension as Glass battles a long and bloody road to revenge.
A series of dramas and trials face Glass as he battles native Indians and savage wildlife in his adventure of survival and bravery. I would definitely recommend this book – the historical aspects are interesting and there is lots of other reading on Glass and the frontiersman. For me, only one thing was wrong with the book – the ending. I don’t know what I was expecting exactly, but the act of revenge itself in comparison to the build-up felt slightly rushed and inconclusive. Regardless, this is a well-written book and an entertaining read.  I would be interested to see the movie now, and how Hollywood has destroyed it… Cynical, me?

Happy reading everyone.

The Summer Book Club

For most literature students, books have become deeply rooted in our everyday thoughts and habits. Whether it’s mulling over a sentence on your way to work, reeling from a character death, or desperately trying to keep your eyes open at 3AM to finish a chapter, books are there. Perhaps unknowingly, we orientate our lives around them. Whether it’s for our course or just from the unbridled pleasure we get from reading, a book is never far from the hand of a literature student.

In this vein, we thought it would be a great idea to put together a special summer series of blog posts – comprising of book reviews written by literature students. We thought this would be a good way to generate discussion and keep students actively engaged in their reading material over the summer… Not to mention finding great reads for each another!

Each review should be 200+ words – email your review to me (RoseWolfe-Emery@connect.glos.ac.uk) and I’ll get it uploaded to the blog as soon as possible.

P.S. – for each review, book and/or Amazon tokens are up for grabs!

Get ready for Activity Week, 9-13 May

Our fourth Activity Week is coming up (9-13 May) and there’s a wealth of events, field trips, poetry, and workshops. Join the History team for a day out at the National Civil War Centre in Newark – a steal at just £6 including coach travel. Closer to home, the award-winning poet Helen Moore will run a workshop on ecopoetry, writing, and activism. And the Activity week coincides conveniently with the 2016 Cheltenham Poetry Festival, with talks and performances from our own Paul Innes, Nigel McLoughlin, Angela France, and Lania Knight. Meanwhile, you can find even more opportunities for training, development, and volunteering at Degree Plus [requires login].

All events are open to everyone. Check your emails for our Newsletter, arriving shortly.

Finally, don’t forget that the University Festival is coming up in June. The annual Humanities Student Research Conference, the Creative Writers’ Riot, and the ALCHEMY creative project at Cheltenham’s Wilson Gallery are some of the events lined up for June. Keep checking your emails!

Humanities Applicant Day, Thursday 10 March

If you’re joining our English Literature course in September 2016, our Applicant Day this Thursday is especially for you.

Book your place here for Thursday: Applicant Day Online Booking.

You’ll meet staff and current students, and have the chance to ask about finance, accommodation and the social aspects of student life.

Get to know our community through our English Literature Facebook Group and the UoG Humanities Forum. We’re also on Twitter: @EnglishLitGlos.

See you on Thursday! 

World Book Day, 3 March 2016

Today, read a book, or a chapter, or a poem. Pick up a paperback or read on your Kindle. Give someone else a book, or read to them, or to your cat. The pleasure, privilege and freedom of reading are all yours.
Have a wonderful World Book Day.
‘Knowing that I loved my books, he furnished me
From mine own library with volumes that
I prize above my dukedom’.
The Tempest 1.2.166-68

Applicant Day for Prospective English Literature students, Thursday 18 February

In the Special Collections/Archive Room at Francis Close Hall.

If you’re joining our English Literature course in September 2016, our Applicant Day this Thursday is especially for you.

Book your place here for Thursday, or for our next Applicant Day on 10 March: Applicant Day Online Booking.

You’ll meet staff and current students, and have the chance to ask about finance, accommodation and the social aspects of student life.

Get to know our community through our English Literature Facebook Group and the UoG Humanities Forum. We’re also on Twitter: @EnglishLitGlos.

See you on Thursday!