Cheltenham Poetry Festival 2018 starts this week!

The University of Gloucestershire is proud to sponsor this year’s prestigious Cheltenham Poetry Festival. There is so much for everyone. The Festival kicks off on Wednesday 18 April at 8:00pm at the Bottle of Sauce and The Railway with Barroom Bards, an evening of crapulent poetry presided over by the gods of wine and Dr Mike Johnstone, not necessarily in that order. Read all about this year’s events over at the Creative Writing blog.

The full festival programme is here.

BRB 2018

International Women’s Day, 8 March 2018

History at the University of Gloucestershire

With worldwide movements in support of the #MeToo and #TimesUp campaigns against sexual harassment and abuse, on-going debates about ways to reduce the gender pay gap in #PressforProgress, and the centenary of women’s parliamentary franchise in the UK, what better year to celebrate International Women’s Day.

IWDThe United Nation’s established 8 March as International Women’s Day in 1975, but the origins of marking the date go back much further. The origins of IWD can be found in early twentieth-century labour movements and were marked by events in New York and Copenhagen before the day became firmly established in the Soviet calendar after 1917, where it was eventually recognised as a public holiday.

In 2018, the United Nations theme for IWD is ‘Time is Now’, focusing on transforming women’s lives in both urban and rural environments. We can also take the opportunity to remember the achievements of those activists who have…

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From Hilary Weeks: Undergraduate student researchers take centre stage on Dissertation Day On 24 January

winning posterOn 24 January the School of Liberal and Performing Arts’s first Dissertation Day brought together third year students from across the courses to present their work in progress, to share expertise and ideas, to engage students and members of the public in discussion, and to show first and second year students (for whom the Dissertation may seem a long way off) what it means to study and research independently.

The marvellous School House Cafe https://schoolhousecafe.co.uk/  (on Twitter:  @shccheltenham) provided the venue, along with coffee and lovely cakes.  People dropped in, or stayed for one of the two sessions.  It was a truly interdisciplinary event, as several visitors remarked; researchers had drawn on a really impressive range of sources and methodologies.  Moreover, so many students revealed formidable skills in art and design  – even in music – as well as subject-specific ones.  Creative Writing students showcased original material alongside their research resources. I was especially delighted to see that a number of students had created original artwork, including hand-lettering, painting and collage.

It would take too long to summarise all the presentations, and it wouldn’t be fair to single any out, but they’re listed on the programme.

Every student I spoke to said that creating the poster helped them to clarify and order their ideas, and thus had a direct impact on the writing and researching process. Anne Johnston told me that when she made the poster, her complex and sometimes disparate ideas just ‘fell into place’.

Many, many thanks go to Arran Stibbe and Vicky Lethbridge for organising the event; Charlotte Dover for publicity; Joel Bayliss for photography; everyone who helped out on the day; and to Jane Cantwell, Head of School, for her generous sponsorship of the event and judging of the posters. Most of all, we thank the students who presented their work, and the students and members of the public who came to support the event.

On the Road with English at UoG

Students on our third year Modern and Contemporary American Literature module will be speeding into the new semester via an exploration of Jack Kerouac’s classic work of Beat literature On the Road. Legend has it that the author typed the book on a continuous sheet of typewriter paper stuck together so he would not have to pause in the composition of his ‘spontaneous prose’. Here’s an example from the book:

the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live with, mad to talk, made to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars…

 

Trip to the American Museum

Here’s a quick look back to 2017, when students on our 19th Century American Literature module had the chance to visit the American Museum near Bath. The texts we’d covered at that point included Native American Literature and short stories by Nathaniel Hawthorne, so it was great to see some Native American weaving and beadwork, as well as a tavern from Massachusetts that had been reconstructed in the museum’s basement (complete with an open fire and beds to sleep three).  There were also some parallels that could be drawn between the museum’s folk art collection and the ‘folk’ aspects of Hawthorne’s short story ‘Young Goodman Brown’ that we’d been studying. In addition to the displays and exhibits relating to the 19th century and earlier, we saw an exhibition of elegant Jazz Age dresses and photographs which was great for those students planning to take our 20th century American literature module next year!

Graduation Day

The Class of 2016 English Language and Linguistics students graduated on the 24th of November at the Cheltenham Racecourse. Despite the cold, everyone was very excited to be there. Hats flew into the air, and people caught up with each other’s news. Congratulations to Shannon O’Connor-Churchill on being awarded the English Language prize!20161124_124958

Weather-world

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Arran Stibbe has published a teaching ‘story’, Living in the Weather-World: reconnection as a path to sustainability, as part of a European Union funded Erasmus+ programme. The story uses ecolinguistics, ecocriticism, photography and embodied experience to encourage students to reconnect with the natural world around them. A third year English Language student, Jessica Iubini-Hampton, co-authored an Italian version of the story, and it will also be translated into Turkish and Slovenian. It can be downloaded here: https://intheweatherworld.wordpress.com/publications

 

EU project in Slovenia

I am back from a research visit to Slovenia as part of a European Union funded project in Environmental Education. The project gives me a chance to apply ecolinguistics to practical teacher training, with the aim of incorporating critical language awareness into environmental education in schools across Europe. It was an inspiring trip, with a chance to visit organic farms and discover traditional Slovenian ways of living. Arran.

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Jonathan Marshall writes some short articles on the origins of place-names

Jonathan published six short articles over the Summer on the etymologies of place-names along the Thames-Severn canal system. The mini-series appeared in ‘The Trow’, the official magazine of the Cotswold Canals Trust.

Anyone interested in the history of the Stroudwater Canal and the Thames and Severn Canal will notice that we have some intriguing place names along the route. Place names are fun to investigate, because they can give us some fairly good clues about the cultural heritage of an area. The study of the origins of words is called etymology, and of course that includes any word, not just place names. Almost every place name carries an older original meaning underneath its modern form, and that meaning would have been clear to people in past times. There is a linguistic richness and diversity behind each one, and sometimes it is difficult to uncover the origin of a particular place name. In England, we have place names with their origins in Old English, Old Danish, Old Norse, Cornish, Norman French, Latin, and ancient Celtic. Many of us may have wondered about the origins of the name of our home town, or of a place that we pass regularly. Modern place names could be seen as ‘linguistic fossils’, as they originated as living units of the language, coined by our distant ancestors to describe such features as their topography, geography, appearance, situation, use, ownership or some other association. Most have, over time, been pronounced differently, shortened, and generally lost the link to their original meaning.

One thing to bear in mind is that English used to sound quite different to what it does now. The consonants and vowels have both changed gradually over time. For example, we used to have a consonant, usually represented in spelling by an ‘h’, in words such as ‘hring’ (ring) and ‘hrafn’ (raven). That consonant was pronounced as a ‘voiceless velar fricative’, like the one in the German word ‘auch’ and in the Scottish pronunciation of the word ‘loch’. It slowly weakened and fell away in words such as ‘through’, ‘thought’, etc. and changed into an ‘f’ sound in ’laugh’, ‘rough’, etc. Our vowels were more like those in German and Dutch. If you imagine a Northern English pronunciation of a e i o u in ‘cast’, ‘best’, ‘seat’, ‘goat’ and ‘cup’, you will not be far off. The low vowel used in the south of England in ‘cup’ did not exist yet. Also, all sounds were pronounced, so we didn’t have for example ‘silent e’ at the end of words.

Upper Framilode

One of the place-names near the north-western end of the canal is Upper Framilode, which has the Celtic river name ‘fram’, meaning ‘fair, fine’, followed by the Old English word ‘gelad’, meaning ‘difficult crossing’. That gives us ‘difficult crossing over the fair river’. One can see how, over many generations, the pronunciation has changed from ‘framgelad’ to the modern one, as the hard ‘g’ softened and then vanished, and as the vowel in the second syllable moved back in the mouth from ‘a’ to ‘o’. The latter mutation is seen elsewhere, in words like ‘lang – long’ and ‘ald – old’, which appear in place names, too.