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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Bob Dylan, Nobel Laureate: Yah-Boo!

John Hughes is Professor of Nineteenth-Century Literature at the University of Gloucestershire, and is the author of Invisible Now: Bob Dylan in the 1960s (Ashgate, 2013).

 

Bob Dylan’s elevation to Nobel Prize winner is something that has been in the wind for a while you can say, since every year his name is mooted as a candidate, a kind of standing reproach for some to the literary elitism of the Nobel committee. However, as so often with Dylan, the actuality of the prize has been divisive, testifying to his continuing power to stoke controversy over the value of what he does: specifically the literary quality, or even literary status, of his work.  On the one hand, poets and writers throng to celebrate the award, and Seamus Perry, Chair of the Oxford English Faculty, makes an enthusiastic claim (with which I find it hard to disagree): that ‘Dylan winning the Nobel was always the thing you thought should happen in a reasonable world but still seemed unimaginable in this one’. On the other hand, the briefest glance at the internet or social media shows how actually how totally unimaginable it appears to so many people in fact that it should have been awarded in this world. Above all, the award has just irritated so many people who appear bamboozled by it, leading novelist Irving Welsh to claim in an oft-repeated tweet, that it was a ‘nostalgia award’ wrenched from ‘senile, gibbering hippies’. 

Continue reading “Bob Dylan, Nobel Laureate: Yah-Boo!”

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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Cheltenham Literature Festival 2016 starts today

The 2016 Cheltenham Festival of Literature begins today and runs until October 16. This year’s programme is outstanding. The festival’s theme is ‘America Uncovered’, and speakers include Sarah Churchwell, Reginald D. Hunter and P.J O’Rourke. History students already know that their Course Leader Dr Christian O’Connell is taking part in a session on New Orleans’s music and culture on 12 October. Other highlights include appearances by novelists Ian McEwan, Eimear McBride, Lionel Shriver, Sarah Perry, Etgar Keret, and Val McDermid; travel writers Colin Thubron and Sara Wheeler; poets John Agard and Lemn Sisay; historian Mary Beard; director Oliver Stone; and many panel discussions on international literature, history, music and politics. Over 200 events are scheduled, plus a full programme for children. And that’s just the official business. Cheltenham is a wonderful place to be during festival fortnight. We look forward to a week packed with books, coffee, music, and talk.

New events have been added this week. You can find out what’s on day by day.

Are you planning to go to any events, or are you working as a Festival volunteer? Please send us a review. We’d love to publish your writing on the English Literature blog.

Facebook site (not affiliated with the University of Gloucestershire).

Image: CLF 2016 brochure.

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

How to land a book deal worth millions

You know how we’re always saying that nobody gets rich through writing fiction? Well, once in a while someone does. This year, that someone is publishing sensation Chloé J. Esposito. If this is the first time you’ve heard of her, rest assured it won’t be the last. Chloé has just sold the rights to her erotic thriller trilogy, Mad, Bad, and Dangerous to Know, in a deal that’s already worth over £2million. In addition to that, Universal have bought the film rights and there’s already speculation that Jennifer Lawrence or Emma Stone might play the protagonist. All this and the first book won’t even be released until next summer.

So how do you land a multi-million-pound book deal? Damned if I know. But Chloé does, and she’s coming to the University to share her whirlwind experience with University of Gloucestershire students. This is an extraordinary opportunity to hear first-hand one of the most sensational stories the publishing world has known in recent years, and it’s a rare chance to meet a global superstar writer before she’s insanely famous. Chloé will be talking at Francis Close Hall Campus, in TC001, at 6:30pm on Tuesday 4th October. The event is free and everyone is welcome.
You can read more about our guest here, and don’t forget to book the date!

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.

Goodbye 2015-16: Humanities round-up

The new academic year is not far away. Meanwhile, in the quiet of August we can look back at a very, very busy period from May to July.  First, our Back to the Future alumni supper brought together successful alumni and current students. The English Literature and Creative Writing courses had a high profile at the Cheltenham Poetry Festival Professor John Hughes and Dr Paul Innes spoke (respectively) to the public on the songs of Dylan and Shakespeare’s history plays.
Next up, the School of Humanities contributed three major events to the University Festival. Creative Writers rioted (as usual) with original work, guest speakers, and a conference dinner, all part of the Creative Writers Riot LINK organised by Lania Knight and students.
On June 8, the schools of Humanities and Media joined forces for their first ever creative collaboration:  Alchemy: a Creative Experiment.  What would happen, we asked ourselves, if an English Literature student got together with a songwriter? An historian with a film-maker? A Creative Writer with a Radio Production student?  The student alchemists who joined the project took the creative risks such a project entails; and we found gold. Members of the public, students and staff gathered at Cheltenham’s Wilson Gallery on June 8 for a gala evening (with champagne).  Ben Cipolla won the Grand prize of £250, but all the alchemists won £50. These artists produced some staggering work, and you’ll be able to find out more about the event in September (there are some photos on the English Literature Flickr gallery). Very special thanks go to Melody Grace, BA Hons English Literature (class of 2016), for reporting and photographing the event.
And the very next morning, the Humanities Student Research Conference presented and celebrated undergraduate research from levels 5 and 6 (photos here). It was truly inspiring to be part of this conference and to hear about work of such high calibre, as you can see from the programme.  My thanks to all the students who took part, with very special thanks, and all good wishes, to our new graduates. 

I wish all new and returning students a fabulous summer. See you in September 2016. 

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.