Birkbeck 19 Century Reading Group 2017-18

Please see details below of the Birkbeck 19 Century Reading Group 2017-18

October 3rd: Middlemarch (Eliot) Room 106, 43 Gordon Square

November 7th: Portrait of a Lady (James) Room 106, 43 Gordon Square

December 5th: Little Women (Alcott) Room 106, 43 Gordon Square

January 9th: The Woodlanders (Hardy) Room 106, 43 Gordon Square

February 6th: Ruth (Gaskell) Room 106, 43 Gordon Square

March 6th: Valentine Vox, the Ventriloquist: His Life and Adventures (Henry Cockton) Room 106, 43 Gordon Square

April 10th: New Grub Street (Gissing) Room 106, 43 Gordon Square

May 1st: Charlotte Mew poems and short stories Room 106, 43 Gordon Square

June 5th: The Way We Live Now (Trollope) Room 106, 43 Gordon Square

July 3rd: Anna Karenina (Tolstoy) Room 106, 43 Gordon Square

For further information please email


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Funding – Venice Art Biennale 2017: Steward-Research Fellowships – deadline 31 May 2017


Venice Art Biennale 2017: Steward-Research Fellowships

29 October – 26 November 2017  

The School of Arts at Birkbeck is delighted to announce an exciting opportunity to all its students. We are inviting applications for two Steward-Research Fellowships at the Venice Art Biennale 2017, running from 29 October until 26 November. These are part funded by the British Council, and by the School of Arts. The successful candidates will be responsible for making their own travel, accommodation and insurance arrangements, but will be given a grant of £1600 for the month towards these and other expenses.

We are inviting applications from all current students in the School of Arts, from Certificate level through to PhD, and from across the Departments of English and Humanities, History of Art, Cultures and Languages, and Film, Media and Cultural Studies.

However, applicants must be able to state on their application form that they would NOT have to miss any taught components of their programme of study, by taking up a Fellowship from late October through to late November 2017. This does mean that the majority of students on undergraduate and taught postgraduate degrees will be ineligible. We envisage this opportunity being most suitable for MPhil/PhD students as a result. However, we do anticipate continuing this relationship with the British Council in future years, and hope to make future tours available in the vacation periods, and summer term.

The successful candidates will work four days per week as an invigilator in the British Pavilion. Their remaining time will be used for study and research around the biennale theme, Viva Arte Viva. Students may wish to use this opportunity to contribute to an existing project or a dissertation – but there is no obligation to do so.

For full information about the fellowships, criteria and the application form, please see the website:

The deadline for applications is 5pm on 31 May 2017.

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Marina Warner Workshops: Arabic Poetry and Stories Translation Workshops – May-June 2017

Arabic Poetry and Stories Translation Workshops

‘It was and it was not…’: Translation in Action

(from Arabic into English)

May 11, May 25, June 6, June 27** 2017

**Please note the workshop on the 27th June will now take place in 

Room S118 , Paul Webley Wing (Senate House North Block) SOAS.

Professor Marina Warner (Birkbeck)

Professor Wen-chin Ouyang (SOAS)

In conjunction with the Contemporary Poetics Research Centre, Birkbeck. Directed by Steve Willey.



Workshop Topics and Dates

Workshop 1: May 11 The writer Hanan al- Shaykh will discuss her work with translator Catherine Cobham.

Topic: The Wiles of Women. Poetry and Stories from The 1001 Nights (2:30 to 5:30 pm, SOAS, B104)

Public reading. 6.30-8.00 pm (SOAS B104)

Workshop 2: May 25 The writer Hoda Barakat will discuss her work; with translator Marilyn Booth, Khalid bin Abdullah Al Saud Professor in the Study of the Contemporary Arab World, Oxford.

Topic: Mad Love. Nizami, The Seven Pavilions: The Tale of Leila and Majnun.   (2:30 to 5:30 pm, SOAS, SWLT)

Public reading, 6.30-8.00pm (SOAS SWLT)

Workshop 3: June 6 Writers tbc,  with Julia Bray, Laudian Professor, Oxford, and editor of Ibn Sai, The Consorts of the Caliphs.

Topic: Singing Girls. Poetry, stories, satire and elegy in the songs of the Abbasid qiyan (Birkbeck , Room 102, 30 Russell Square)

Workshop 4: June 27  The poets Tamim al=Barghouti and Yousif al-Qasmiyeh will read their work and discuss it.

Topic: Islamic Sicily or Siculo-Arab Literature: poems of Ibn Hamdis and others, and fables from Ibn Zafer, Solwan or the Waters of Comfort (Birkbeck, Room 102, 30 Russell Square)

**Please note the workshop on the 27th June will now take place in 

Room S118 , Paul Webley Wing (Senate House North Block) SOAS.

Final workshop in September/October will showcase the work completed over the summer.


16 places for CHASE PhD students; 10 places reserved for independent translators and scholars, for a total of 20 for each workshop.


A: The workshops proposed will adapt methods used for bringing Greek tragedy to an Anglophone reader and apply them to Arabic literature.

With the help of scholars of Arabic literature, who are interested in the wider transmission and enjoyment of their subject, students will work alongside poets, dramatists, translation theorists, and writers of fiction, in order to revision (‘awaken’) Arabic literary texts for contemporary readers/audiences.

It has become customary, for example, for a poet with no Greek or Anglo-Saxon to re-inhabit a myth or a legend and bring it to vigorous new life– famous examples include Seamus Heaney’s Beowulf, Simon Armitage’s King Arthur, and the inspired contemporary revoicings of Ovid by Timberlake Wertenbaker and Kate Tempest. By contrast, the riches of classical and traditional literature in Arabic have in some sense been kept from those who cannot read or understand the language. The complexities of Arabic prosody and the vast range of genres and expressions of the Arabic and Persian narrative and poetic corpus seem to preclude access to all but scholars. Workshop participants will explore means and ways to make this literature accessible beyond the specialist circle.

The joint workshops themselves will examine how stories, motifs, characters, images travel across borders and migrate into new host cultures, moving into different languages, different genres, and on to different registers.

B: The workshops also set out to investigate collaborative exploration and discussion for translation/literary recreation in itself. Can the workshop model be a stimulus to the making of fresh, vigorous reawakened material from unfamiliar contexts and languages the writer-translator does not always know? The group sessions will provide the scope to be innovative about participation and collaboration for literary creativity.

Translators of the writers taking part will be present to discuss their task. However the project differs from strict translation, as applies to the work of contemporary Arabic novelists. The workshops are focusing on canonical/ancient/medieval/traditional material and its varying expressions because in this era of hostility to cultures associated with Islam, it is more important than ever to explore the riches of their vast literature and to understand the mutual entanglement of literary traditions.

These workshops will continue the project Stories in Transit, which undertakes nourishing storytelling and creativity in refugee communities. The project began in Oxford in May 2016 and Palermo in September 2016 and May 2017, and is a collaboration between Birkbeck, the University of Palermo, and the NGO Bibliothèques sans Frontières.

The material will include songs and squibs by medieval women poets, romances from Persia, the lyric poetry in Tales of the 1001 Nights, animal and other fables from Solwan, or The Waters of Comfort by Ibn Zafer from Sicily, written in the l2th century, or materials participants themselves propose.

Participants will attend all four workshops at which the visiting speaker and translator will address a text or group of texts; a general discussion about them will follow, leading to a choice of subject to develop work on over the summer and a reunion in the autumn to review the fruits of the workshop.  These will not aim to give faithful versions of the originals, but transpose them, sometimes even into a different form – eg poem to drama, story to song – the reawaken them and communicate them to readers and audiences today.


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The Gaskell Journal Joan Leach Memorial Graduate Student Essay Prize 2018 – deadline 1 Feb 2018

The Gaskell Journal

Joan Leach Memorial Graduate Student

Essay Prize 2018

Deadline for submissions: 1st February 2018

The Gaskell Journal runs a biennial Graduate Student Essay Prize in honour of Joan Leach MBE, founder of the Gaskell Society.


The essay competition is open to all graduate students currently registered for an MA or PhD in Victorian Studies. Entries are invited that offer an original contribution to the field of Gaskell studies, whether by reading her works in relation to Victorian cultural, religious, aesthetic and scientific contexts, or through innovative close readings enlightened by critical theory, or a comparative study connecting Gaskell’s with another author’s work.  Essays will be shortlisted by the Gaskell Journal Editorial Board, with the final judgment being made by a leading scholar in Gaskell studies.


The winning essay will be published in the Gaskell Journal (subject to appropriate revisions), and its author will receive £200 from the Gaskell Society, and a complimentary copy of the Journal. High quality runners-up will also be considered for publication.


Essays should be 6000-7000 words, and not under consideration for publication elsewhere. Please see the Gaskell Journal website for the stylesheet (MHRA with endnotes), and for the form to submit with your anonymised essay:

Please submit these directly to the Editor Dr Rebecca Styler by/on 1st February 2018, who can also answer any inquiries.

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CFP: Waste: A Symposium 21 September 17 (cfp deadline 1 May 2017)

Waste: A Symposium

Papers on Disposability, Decay, and Depletion    

A one-day event to be held at Birkbeck College, University of London, on 21 September 2017.

Confirmed keynote speakers:

  • Professor Esther Leslie (Birkbeck, University of London)
  • Dr Leo Mellor (University of Cambridge)
  • Dr Rachele Dini (UCL / University of Cambridge)

Conference overview:

This one-day interdisciplinary event will make visible the untold story of waste by exploring its representations, both material and metaphorical, within contemporary culture. Through an investigation of waste’s presence (or lack thereof) within modern life, this conference will disrupt the entrenched value judgements surrounding objects, places and people otherwise deemed redundant. By exploring how we create, classify and treat waste material this discussion will simultaneously review and challenge the ethics of human waste(-ing); the marginalisation of populations rendered disposable within a globalised socio-economic framework. Calling on related discourses from the arts, social sciences, medical humanities and beyond, this symposium will bring together a diverse mix of academics, artists and industry experts to share insights on a (waste) matter that impacts and implicates us all.

The event will be free to attend, with lunch and refreshments provided on the day and a drinks reception for attendees and speakers in the evening.

Call for papers:

Proposals are invited for twenty minute papers which will be presented in panels of three. Abstracts of up to 500 words should be submitted to: by the 1st of May 2017. Please also include a short bio (no more than 150 words), contact details, and any institutional or industry affiliation.

Possible paper topics include (but are not limited to) the following:

  • Pollution and toxicity (e.g. physical / metaphorical, environmental, social)
  • Junk, dirt and rubbish (e.g. the abject, hygiene, creation of)
  • Decomposition and decay (e.g. illness, corpses, physical ‘wasting’)
  • The temporality of waste (e.g. ‘wasting time’, aging and depletion)
  • The geography of waste (e.g. LULUs, derelict spaces, wastelands)
  • Literatures of waste (e.g. fiction about waste, recycling, printing)
  • Human waste / Wasted humans (e.g. bodily matter, biopolitics of disposability)
  • Petrocultures and industrial waste (e.g. extraction, environmental damage of)
  • Economies of waste (e.g. commodification, the cost of waste, disposal industries).

Following the conference, there will be the opportunity to submit papers for a Special Collection in the Open Library of Humanities (8000 words, peer reviewed) and Alluvium Journal (2000 words, non-peer reviewed).

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London 18th-Century Postgraduate Reading Group – 3 March 2017 3.30pm

London 18th-Century Postgraduate Reading Group, 3rd March 2017

Christopher Smart & Empiricist Devotion

All welcome at this term’s second session of the London 18th-Century Postgraduate Reading Group, 3.30-5 pm on Friday 3rd March. We will be in room 1.21 of the Franklin-Wilkins building, at King’s College London’s Waterloo Campus (map here).

Continuing with the theme ‘the everyday’ with readings put together by Ari Messer (PhD candidate, English & Humanities, Birkbeck), we will be looking at Christopher Smart’s The Hop-Garden (written 1742-43; first published 1752) – a georgic poem in blank verse about growing hops – and a chapter from Courtney Weiss Smith’s recent book that argues for an alternative view of the eighteenth-century georgic as an empirical-devotional mode. The readings are:

Christopher Smart, The Hop-Garden, in The Poetical Works of Christopher Smart, ed. Karina Williamson and Marcus Walsh (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1980-96), IV, pp. 41-65

Courtney Weiss Smith, Empiricist Devotions (London: University of Virginia Press, 2016), pp. 173-210.

Those with more time may also wish to look at a short chapter from Chris Mounsey’s book on Smart, which situates the poem as a comic, non-religious response to John Philips’s Cyder (1708):

Chris Mounsey, Christopher Smart: Clown of God (Lewisburg, Pa.: Bucknell University Press, 2001), pp. 64-80.

All the readings are available online here.

The georgic was an ‘everyday’ mode of conversing about natural subjects such as agriculture in eighteenth-century Britain, but one which has only recently been put under the lens of historical poetics. Does The Hop-Garden participate in what Weiss identifies as ‘meditative empiricism’, or is it just a funny poem about farming?

The London 18th-Century Postgraduate Reading Group is a student-run reading group organised in collaboration with the Centre for Enlightenment Studies at King’s and Birkbeck Eighteenth-Century Research Group. Staff and students at all London universities are very welcome. The reading group concentrates on a different theme each academic year, with an emphasis on primary texts and recent criticism. For more informations, view the reading group’s blog.

If you have any queries about the readings or the reading group, please contact Robert Stearn ( or Ari Messer (

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Medical Humanities Reading Group – 23 February 2017

The next session of the Birkbeck Medical Humanities Reading Group explores the theme of surgery.

Henry Marsh’s Do No Harm (2014) is an account of his work as a neurosurgeon in the NHS. We will also read a short extract from Samer Nashef’s The Naked Surgeon (2015), which details his experiences working as a heart surgeon.

Do No Harm is available for around £5-10 online (including postage); the extract from The Naked Surgeon is available via the Reading Group’s shared dropbox folder (for further details of how to access, please contact Heather on

We will meet on Thursday 23 February, 3-4.30pm, in Room B02, 43 Gordon Square .

Please note the date for our second reading session this term: Thursday 23 March, 3-4.30pm. It will focus on portraiture and illness and will be led by the artist Tim Wainwright, whose work is currently on exhibition as part of the Hunterian Museum’s show Transplant and Life (until Saturday 20 May 2017). More details of the reading will be circulated soon. Colleagues may also be interested in a forthcoming event at the Hunterian Museum that Tim and his collaborator John Wynne are participating in: ‘Transplant and Life – the artists in conversation’ (Thursday 23 February, 7-9pm). More information on this talk can be found on the Royal College of Surgeon’s website.

For more information please visit our website.

Please do circulate details of the group and readings to interested colleagues and postgraduate students.

Kind regards


Dr Heather Tilley

Birkbeck Wellcome Trust ISSF Fellow

Department of English and Humanities


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Writing Art: Women Writers as Art Critics in the Long Eighteenth Century – 25 February 2017

Writing Art: Women Writers as Art Critics in the Long Eighteenth Century
Saturday 25 February 2017

This one-day conference focuses on women writers as art critics in the late Georgian and early Victorian period.

Tickets: £35; Students/Friends £30 (includes lunch and refreshments)

Writing Art: Women Writers as Art Critics in the Long Eighteenth Century

Chawton House Library, 25th February 2017

Long thought to be the domain of wealthy men, art criticism and connoisseurship underwent a transformation in the late Georgian period. This one-day conference focuses on women writers as art critics in the late Georgian and early Victorian period. Bringing together leading art historians and literary scholars on women’s writing and art criticism, speakers will draw on travel writing and private letters, on diaries and on novels by major English and French authors. We will explore the role of women writers in the emerging field of art history, their contribution to an evolving language of taste, and the problems of trespassing on once-male territory. Can we find in women’s writing a distinctly female voice that engages with the making and the experience of art?

This conference is held in conjunction with the National Gallery, London—which hosts, on the 10th November 2017, a conference on women as critics of Old Master paintings in the Victorian period—and the Southampton Centre for Eighteenth-Century Studies.

10.00 – 10:30: Registration and tea/coffee

10:30: Stephen Lloyd (Knowsley Hall)

Walking tour of portraits in the Chawton House Library collection.

11:30: Susanna Avery-Quash (National Gallery, London)

‘”I shall be truly proud if we succeed both in rescuing some examples, and in introducing them into England, where already there are a chosen few who adore them”: the contribution of Lady Eastlake and her women friends to a new taste for early Italian art in Britain’.

12:15 Lunch

1:15:  Emma Barker (Open University)
‘Statues and Pictures: Germaine de Staël on art’

2:00:  Isabelle Baudino (Ecole Normale Superieure, Lyon)
‘Women travellers as art critics in Continental Europe’

2:45 Tea

3:15:  Carl Thompson (St Mary’s, Twickenham)
‘Maria Graham as art critic and connoisseur’

4:00:  Departure

To buy tickets, please visit our website or call us on
01420 541010

Funding for this conference is provided by Chawton House Library, the Women’s History Network, and the Southampton Centre for Eighteenth-Century Studies.

Registered UK Charity: 1118201


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Alice in Space: The vibrant intellectual world of Lewis Carroll – 25 Feb 2017

Alice in Space

The vibrant intellectual world of Lewis Carroll

Gillian Beer and Zoe Jaques

Sat. 25 Feb. 2017, 2.00-5.00 pm. £45.00

Stapleford Granary, Cambridge, CB22 5BP

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