We are delighted to announce the latest English Research Seminar, taking place in person this Wednesday 12 October between 2:30 and 4:30 on the University of Salford campus.
If you wish to attend as a member of the public, please contact Scott Thurston on S.Thurston@salford.ac.uk. We also hope to make the seminar available to online participants.
Abstracts and bios of our speakers
Phillip Tipton: Brand English: stronger together?
The discipline of English in Universities, especially outside of the Russell Group members’ club, finds itself at a crossroads. Although declining entries at A-level (and equivalent) in all English subjects has been a feature of the HE recruitment landscape for a number of years, the distribution of students among universities in the sector has become uneven, with many high-tariff institutions recruiting huge numbers of students in English (and the Humanities, more generally), both through planned expansion and a policy to relax offer conditions during confirmation. Medium- and low-tariff institutions have suffered from both ‘over-recruitment’ from their mainly Russell Group counterparts and the general contraction in the number of qualified candidates for admission to degrees in English. The situation has become more acute for some institutions who have felt it necessary to ration provision in English subjects, by either making staff in the discipline redundant, withdrawing provision in the discipline either completely or partially, or some combination of these interventions.
In this talk, I will survey some of the developments in the HE English landscape over the past year and identify some common threads present. I will argue, however, that the discourse of an ‘all-out attack on the humanities’ hides micro-level phenomena at the institutional level which academics in English disciplines are well-placed to counter. By ceding the discourse of change as an unstoppable force to those who are not in our corner, we neglect the power we have at local level to be pro-active in shaping the future of our subject. I close by considering whether ‘English’ as a brand is our strongest asset in a world in which the fragmentation of cultural consumption is an increasing feature of our students’ lives.
Phillip Tipton is a Lecturer in Linguistics and English Language at the University of Salford. He is the Programme Leader for the new BA (Hons) English Multidiscipline which offers students a bespoke pathway through the disciplines of English Literature, English Language/Linguistics. Drama and Creative Writing. His scholarship interests lie primarily within sociophonetics, cultural studies, curriculum development and quality assurance.
Jade Munslow Ong: ‘Soil: From Global Literatures and the Environment: Twenty-First Century Perspectives‘
Jade will read a section of her forthcoming co-authored book with Matthew Whittle, Global Literatures and the Environment: Twenty-First Century Perspectives (Routledge, 2023).
Chapter 1 of the book, ‘Earth’, examines representations and engagements with environmental issues associated with the earth in novels and plays from and about the Caribbean, USA, South Africa and Scotland. The chapter is divided into three subsections, allied to features of the lithosphere that humans have used, altered and extracted in pursuit of economic aims, namely: ‘Soil’, ‘Mineral and Metal’ and ‘Oil’. The order in which they appear also loosely charts the development of global capitalism, from the colonisation of foreign soil, the agricultural revolution and mercantilism of the 15th-18th centuries; to the expansion of European empires, industrial extraction of coal, minerals and metals, and urbanisation of the 19th-20th centuries; and ends with the shift to an oil-powered global economy in the C20th and C21st centuries.
In ‘Soil’, we examine four works of literature written by black Caribbean and American writers, starting with C.L.R James’ play, Toussaint Louverture: The Story of the Only Successful Slave Revolt in History (written 1934, performed 1936) and Arna Bontemps’ novel, Black Thunder, Gabriel’s Revolt: Virginia, 1800 (1936). Both represent slave rebellions – one successful, one unsuccessful – in which the exploitation of soils forms the basis for colonial power, plantation slavery, and mass food production for colonising nations, whilst at the same time providing real and symbolic means for resistance, freedom from slavery and new forms of community. We then analyse Octavia Butler’s dystopian novels, The Parable of the Sower and The Parable of the Talents, which depict a near-future in which the earth is barely habitable due to climate change, and indentured labour and then slavery returns. In the Parables, provision plots lay the seeds for saving lives and cultivating ecologically-sound communities beyond the ends of the earth, as followers of a new religion, Earthseed, eventually leave to inhabit other planets.
Jade is a Reader in English Literature at the University of Salford. She currently holds an AHRC Early-Career Research Fellowship for a project entitled South African Modernism 1880-2020, which will run until March 2024. Jade is also a BBC / AHRC New Generation Thinker (2022) and appears regularly on BBC Radio 3, including the Modernism around the World and South African writing programmes.