Anglo-German Encounters with Drama and Poetry

This post was contributed by Catherine Angerson, a PhD student in the Department of Cultures and Languages. Here, Catherine reports on the Royal Society of Edinburgh Susan Manning Symposium on ‘Anglo-German Encounters with Drama and Poetry, 1760–1835’ held at the University of Edinburgh on 13–14 June.

Speakers travelled from Germany, Iceland, England and Belgium to join colleagues at the University of Edinburgh for a fascinating two-day discussion of reciprocal contacts between British and German dramatic and poetic literature in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. The event took place the week before the referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union and so I and the other participants were conscious of the contemporary relevance of our historical topic.

The topicality of satirical dramas

A sepia tone image of The Scott Monument in Edinburgh, taken in 1845 by David Octavius Hill and Robert Adamson

The Scott Monument, Edinburgh, photograph by David Octavius Hill and Robert Adamson, 1845

The symposium began with two papers about the translation and adaptation of English plays for the German stage. Sonja Fielitz (Marburg) introduced the audience to German translations of Henry Fielding’s dramas for the Mannheim theatre. The success of satirical dramas depended on their topicality, and if translated literally, jokes and puns would have been lost on a new audience. Johannes Birgfeld’s (Saarland) paper on August von Kotzebue’s translations of English comedies showed that plays were translated in order to meet an increasing demand for new dramas for dozens of new theatres that opened all over the German-speaking world from the 1770s onwards and for almanacs of plays that families could perform at home.

Plays, especially melodramas, could be adapted or reimagined for a new domestic audience by changing the names, setting or topical references. Barry Murnane (Oxford) demonstrated that English dramatic adaptations of German Schauerliteratur (Gothic fiction), on the other hand, were deliberately menacing and foreign, presenting Germans as the dangerous ‘other’.

German poetry and drama in late eighteenth-century Scotland

The second panel focused on literary relations between Scotland and Germany. Scottish authors began to look to Germany for new dramatic and poetic sources that would help to revitalise and inspire what they felt to be a dormant national literature. Lucy Linforth (Edinburgh) showed that Walter Scott was aware of traces of the Scottish ballad Sweet William’s Ghost in Bürger’s ballad Lenore and that he used his knowledge of the Scottish ballad when he created his own translation of the German poem. Michael Wood (Edinburgh) examined the positive reception of German drama by Henry Mackenzie and Walter Scott in the 1780s and 1790s within the philosophical context of the Scottish Enlightenment. Lessing’s application of his theory of ‘Mitleid’ in dramas such as Emilia Galotti is closely allied with the role of ‘sympathy’ in Scottish moral sense philosophy and the sentimental novel.

The politics of Anglo-German cultural exchange

Phd student Catherine Angerson

Catherine Angerson

My own paper, which was part of a panel on ‘the politics of cultural exchange’, examined reviews of German poetry and drama in the Monthly Review. I linked the growing interest in German literature in Britain in the second half of the eighteenth century to the intellectual culture of ‘rational’ Dissent and the networks of literary groups and families (such as the Aikin-Barbauld circle in Norwich and London) that allowed liberal-minded Dissenters to dominate the publication and writing of literary reviews during the period of study. I argued that ideas found in German literature were appropriated by the reviewers in support of their own religious, aesthetic or political aims and that the reviews contributed to some of the wider debates that played out in the pages of literary journals, particularly between proponents and opponents of political and religious reform in the decade following the French Revolution. New research presented at this event is revealing national and regional differences in the history of Anglo-German cultural exchange that have not been explored before.

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‘Geography, Open Innovation, Diversity and Entrepreneurship’: 19th Uddevalla Symposium at Birkbeck

This post was contributed by James Fisk, graduate administrator at the School of Business, Economics and Informatics. Here, James reports from the 19th Uddevalla Symposium, held at Birkbeck from 30 June to 2 July 2016.

Delegates network at the 19th Uddevalla Symposium held at Birkbeck this summer

Delegates network at the 19th Uddevalla Symposium held at Birkbeck this summer

“Silicon Valley is a mind-set, not a location” Reid Hoffman, co-founder of LinkedIn, once said. Indeed, his emphasis on ethos over geography is an interesting one, but successful entrepreneurial ecosystems, in an age of innovation increasingly dominated by monoliths such as Google and Microsoft, can be far more challenging and problematic than his assertion suggests. Can, and should, an innovation system such as Silicon Valley be replicated elsewhere?

This was just one of many questions up for discussion as Birkbeck hosted the 19th Uddevalla Symposium between the 30th June and 2nd July, the first time the symposium has been held in the UK. The three-day symposium which looks to bring together cutting edge research from leading academics, researchers and practitioners invited attendees to consider this year’s themes of ‘Geography, Open Innovation, Diversity and Entrepreneurship’.

Invited by Birkbeck’s Centre for Innovation Research Management (CIMR), researchers from across the globe came together for the annual symposium, with over 50 papers up for discussion, over 150 attendees arriving from 27 countries and expertise from fields as diverse as Canadian aerospace and Swedish E-Government.

Master of Birkbeck, Professor David Latchman CBE, conducted the formal opening of the event and welcomed an array of scholars, entrepreneurs and researchers to the college. Over the following three days, attendees heard keynote speeches from leading scholars in the morning, before parallel paper sessions saw fervent debate spread across Birbeck’s Bloomsbury campus in the afternoon. With at least four parallel sessions available on each day, it was a productive and busy few days for those interested in entrepreneurship and innovation.

As the latest research from across the world was to be found at Birkbeck, the symposium offered the chance for not only sharing papers, but for formulating new ideas and cultivating collaboration across industries, disciplines and national borders.

Speaking at the event, Birkbeck Professor of Entrepreneurship Helen Lawton Smith said: “It’s a huge privilege to host this event and bring together diverse and important strands of research in one place.”

CIMR logoSo, can, and should, we look to replicate Silicon Valley? The answer is, unfortunately, not as straight forward as the question. With Keynote speeches such as Professor Wim Vanhaverbeke’s (Hasselt University) ‘Open Innovation in SMEs’ and Professor Gary Cook’s  (University of Liverpool) ‘Cities and International Entrepreneurship: Towards an Integration of International Business, Economics, Geography and Urban Economics Perspectives’ attesting to the many complex regional and international factors that make-up often delicate entrepreneurial ecosystems across the planet.

The annual symposium ended on Saturday 2nd July, with PhD candidate Tina Wallin (Jönköping International Business School) winning the best PhD candidate paper award for her paper ‘Labour Knowledge Complementarity and Firm Innovativeness’. Professor Ashish Arora (Fuqua School of Business, Duke University), Professor Suma Athreye (Brunel Business School, Brunel University) and Dr Can Huang (Institute for Intellectual Property Management, School of Management, Zhejiang University) won the best paper award for their work ‘The Paradox of Openness Revisited: Collaborative Innovation and Patenting by UK Innovators’.

Those wishing to read more can find a wealth of information on the Uddevalla symposium website, where you can find working papers, previous winning papers and keep track of upcoming events. For similar events looking at innovation and entrepreneurship, check out Birkbeck’s Centre for Innovation Management Research (CIMR) webpage.

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Strategies for university knowledge exchange

This post was contributed by James Fisk, graduate administrator at the School of Business, Economics and Informatics. Here, James reports from a workshop held Birkbeck’s Centre for Innovation Management Research (CIMR) on 29 June.

CIMR logoWhat should a successful Knowledge Exchange strategy look like? This was the question posed by CIMR (Centre for Innovation Management Research) on June 29 as they invited academics, professionals and policymakers for discussion of an issue situated at the heart of Higher Education’s changing landscape.

Knowledge Exchange, sometimes also known as Universities ‘3rd Mission’, is the process in which the exchange of ideas, research results, technology and skills between higher education institutions (HEIs), other research organisations and businesses, the public sector and the wider community takes place. It is widely regarded as the third component in a triumvirate of priorities for Higher Education, also consisting of Teaching and Research, with its aim being to reconcile the productive forces of higher education with the world outside it. Whilst a broad definition of knowledge exchange is fairly clear, understanding how it works in practice and how it should be effected, is a far more nuanced and complex challenge.

Indeed, the wide variety of panellists and attendees at the workshop provided an indication as to the breadth of the debate. The panel, comprising Kellogg College Oxford Visiting Fellow Jeremy Howell, Stanford Professor Henry Etzkowitz (also Birkbeck visiting professor), HEFCE’s Senior Policy Advisor Adrian Day, Birkbeck’s Dr Pierre Nadeau and UniversitiesUK Policy Analyst Martina Tortis, took the diversity of the sector as one of its chief considerations. In a sector comprised of markedly different institutions, the question of strategy and collaboration is one that looms large.

Of course, the most appropriate strategy would be one tied to the characteristics of the institution, one that acknowledges specific strengths, weaknesses and idiosyncratic factors in its composition. However, if there are undoubtedly aspects of knowledge exchange that resist comparison and, which cannot be translated easily, how are we to construct a strategy for moving the sector forward?

Academics, professionals and policymakers come together to discuss what a successful knowledge exchange model looks like

Academics, professionals and policymakers come together to discuss what a successful knowledge exchange strategy looks like

Birkbeck’s Dr Federica Rossi, along with Marti Sagarra from the University of Girona and Eva de la Torre from the Universitat Autonoma de Madrid, offered some key insights as to how we can begin to map such diverse and varied engagement across institutions. Their application of a nonparametric technique, Ordinal Multidimensional Scaling, allowed them to not only give a holistic picture of the strategies and activities of UK higher education institutions, but crucially, to consider how knowledge exchange infrastructure correlates to the objectives, strategies and characteristics of institutions.

Talks from Rosa Fernandez (National Centre for Universities and Business) and Adrian Day (HEFCE) provided further perspective on the issue of Knowledge Exchange, as they considered how it can be made equitable and scalable in such a varied sector. Their work explored how growth in knowledge exchange is rather tied to the strategic breadth of exchange activities and commitment of resources, rather than just institutional size itself. Therefore, a small institution with a commitment to Knowledge Exchange can see sustained growth in its impact, whilst larger institutions without specific consideration for KE can experience stasis or decline in their performance.

With many more perspectives coming from a range of academics and policymakers, from discussion of the Biomedical ‘Golden Research Triangle’ of London and the South East, to a study of organisational models in British Universities, it’s clear that Knowledge Exchange has an important role to play not only in the future development of Universities, but in constructing a future for the world outside it.

You can find out about future events on the CIMR website. Those wishing to know more about knowledge exchange may find HEFCE’s guide informative.

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Birkbeck’s TRIGGER initiative explores gender inequality in Higher Education

This post was contributed by James Fisk, graduate administrator at the School of Business, Economics and Informatics.

Trigger logoOn the 28 June Birkbeck took further strides toward gender equality and equity, as the EU Project TRIGGER (Transforming Institutions by Gendering Contents and Gaining Equality in Research) invited an audience of professionals, academics and students to consider how best to inspire aspiring female professors and managers.

Indeed, gender inequality persists in higher education despite the many positive steps that have been made by the sector in recent years. The implementation and acceleration of Athena SWAN, as well as vocal support from leading academics and professionals, has raised the profile of gender inequality substantially. Yet a report published by the Equality Challenge Unit (ECU) in 2015 and looking at statistical data gleaned from the sector elucidates the enduring prevalence of gender inequality. In 2015, 77.6% of all Professors were male, whilst in SET (Science, Economics and Technology) subjects the figure was even higher at 81.8% (ECU).

How barriers can be overcome

The event ‘Aspiring female Professors/Managers – What can aspiring female professors/managers learn from those already in these positions?’ exists within this milieu and looked to develop dialogue, networking and solidarity to consider how such barriers can be overcome. As one speaker, Simona Iammarino, Professor of Economic Geography at the London School of Economics, remarked during the panel discussion:

“We need more than just small cogs; we need a holistic culture that lends and prides itself on both gender equality and equity.”

So, how to eradicate an inequality that is both historic and persistent? To those at the event the answer seemed to become clearer as experiences were shared among the audience and the panel. Many panel speakers discussed the necessity of having role models, with young and ambitious students, academics and professionals all attesting to the benefits of inspirational figures in the guise of mentors, line managers and colleagues.

As Birkbeck’s Professor of Entrepreneurship Helen Lawton Smith stated, “we need to understand that we’re all in this together and it is up to each of us create the support necessary for women to succeed in academia and professional roles”.

TRIGGER image

The TRIGGER event on 28 June 2016

Fostering organisational change

Birkbeck’s four year TRIGGER initiative was set up in January 2014 as an applied research project aiming to foster organisational change through promoting the role of women in research and academia. It complements several other initiatives introduced by Birkbeck to reduce gender inequality in STEMM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Medicine and Mathematics) subjects and managerial roles, such as ASTREA (Networking for women in professional and support roles), AURORA (Developing leadership skills for women) and Athena SWAN.

It is through such exchanges that commitments are made, not only to fighting disparity among gender pay and seniority, but also to fully comprehend the myriad dimensions of the struggle at hand. Indeed, until the persisting mechanisms of gender inequality are fully understood, they are doomed to perpetuate themselves. Discussions at the event ranged from the issue of age and its gendered role in the life of academics and professionals (see Fields Medal), to the challenges of younger women eager to assert themselves in male dominated professions.

The event itself embodied this sense of solidarity and commitment to gender equality, with networks forming around shared aspirations, experiences and struggles. If indeed institutions are to instigate a culture equipped to overcome inequality, it will be through a sharing of information, a proliferation of networks and through the support of key decision makers.

You can see a video taken of the event online, for those wishing to read more you can catch a summary of the panel responses posted to LinkedIn. You can read more about TriggeR  and upcoming events on their website. Students interested in mentoring programmes run by the college can check out Mentoring Pathways.

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