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.

Guest talk from Prof. Andrew Goatly

 

On Thursday, Andrew Goatly, honorary professor at Lingnan University, gave an invited speech entitled Grammar and the human nature relationship in environmental discourse and poetry for English Language and Linguistics students.

The talk was delivered with passion and clarity; yet also gave a highly technical, linguistic overview, which highlighted role of language in building our somewhat arrogant relationship with the environment, and how we use it to escape agency in the destruction of the world around us.

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Social Media Intern

https://futureplan.glos.ac.uk/students/jobs/detail/279589/

Above is the link to an opportunity for students in our School, including one from English Literature. I do hope the link works okay; you should be able to find it on there anyway. Basically, every year we look for someone to help out with our online presence by twetting, tittering or blagging (oh, and taking photos) whenever an event comes up. This can be anything from Open Days to one-off lectures. You get some training, work experience and a tablet.

If you are more up to date with this sort of language than I am, then this might be for you.

Paul