Tag: writing

‘Close reading, codes and interpretation’ – booking open and line-up confirmed

Booking to our one-day symposium on ‘Close reading, codes and interpretation’, hosted by the Language & Communication is now open.

book message cloud shape Book here.

When? 9 am-7 pm, Tuesday 13th June 2017
Where?
Room H116, Middlesex University, Hendon Campus, London, NW4 4BT

In some reckonings, ‘close reading’ is now around 90 years old, having been inaugurated in I. A. Richards’ Principles of Literary Criticism (1926) and Practical Criticism (1929). The close reading of texts has become arguably the central activity of the humanities and close reading is carried out across different levels of education and through a number of disciplines. As its practitioners recognize, procedures of close reading can become ossified into routine practices of code identification rather than active interpretation.

This day symposium seeks to ask what ‘close reading’ is like now, how it is exercised in education in different contexts and how it might differ from or resemble ‘codes’ of reading. It features papers by teachers in Higher Education, Further Education and Secondary Education, including:

  • BARBARA BLEIMAN (English and Media Centre): ‘Close reading in Secondary English –  practices, problems and solutions’
  • BILLY CLARK (Middlesex University): ‘Pragmatic inference and reading processes’
  • PAUL COBLEY (Middlesex University): ‘The magic of codes: semiotics and close reading’
  • LOUISA ENSTONE (Darrickwood School): ‘Is it time to stop pee-ing? A grassroots study into teaching reading and essay writing at Secondary’
  • MARCELLO GIOVANELLI (Aston University) and JESS MASON (Sheffield Hallam University): ‘Whose close reading?: emphasis, attention and cognition in the literature classroom’
  • ANDREA MACRAE (Oxford Brookes University): ‘Close reading as process and product’
  • JON ORMAN (University of Hong Kong): ‘Thick description and/as close reading: some language-philosophical reflections’
  • ADRIAN PABLÉ (University of Hong Kong): ‘Interpretation, radical indeterminacy and close reading’
  • STEFAN PETO (Simon Langton Grammar School for Boys): ‘Close reading at the chalk-face: strategies and observations in Key Stage 3’
  • JOHAN SIEBERS (Middlesex University): ‘Only the furthest distance would be closeness – semantic anarchism, close reading and academic practice’what-reading

Cost: £10 flat fee (includes lunch and refreshments)

For further details, please email Billy Clark b.clark@mdx.ac.uk or Paul Cobley p.cobley@mdx.ac.uk

Close reading, codes and interpretation: Speakers and room confirmed

Our Language & Communication research cluster warmly invites you the one-day symposium on ‘Close reading, codes and interpretation’. Room number and speakers have now been confirmed

When? 9 am-7 pm, Tuesday 13th June 2017

Where? Room H116, Middlesex University, Hendon Campus, London, NW4 4BTmdxIn some reckonings, ‘close reading’ is now around 90 years old, having been inaugurated in I. A. Richards’ Principles of Literary Criticism (1926) and Practical Criticism (1929). The close reading of texts has become arguably the central activity of the humanities and close reading is carried out across different levels of education and through a number of disciplines. As its practitioners recognize, procedures of close reading can become ossified into routine practices of code identification rather than active interpretation.

This day symposium seeks to ask what ‘close reading’ is like now, how it is exercised in education in different contexts and how it might differ from or resemble ‘codes’ of reading. It features talks by experts in education, including school teachers and university academics. Our speakers are:

  • Barbara Bleiman (English and Media Centre)
  • Billy Clark (Middlesex University)
  • Paul Cobley (Middlesex University)
  • Louisa Enstone (Darrick Wood School)
  • Marcello Giovanelli (Aston University) and Jess Mason (Sheffield Hallam University)
  • Andrea Macrae (Oxford Brookes University)
  • Jon Orman (University of Hong Kong)
  • Adrian Pablé (University of Hong Kong)
  • Stefan Peto (Simon Langton Grammar School for Boys)
  • Johan Siebers (Middlesex University)

Cost: £10 flat fee (includes lunch and refreshments).

Registration opens soon.

For further details in the meantime, please email Paul Cobley p.cobley@mdx.ac.uk

Last date to register for free teachers conference

illc_2016_speakers_mosaic

Our free conference for English teachers (mentioned in our previous post) is just under three weeks away. The last date to register is next Monday, 31st October.

This will be a really fun and useful event. Teachers always respond positively to the opportunity to step outside the classroom to exchange ideas,  to hear about current research, and to consider how to apply some of these ideas in class. Some of the sessions will focus on developing specific resources and activities for class.

This year, the conference takes place the day before the NATE (National Association for the Teaching of English) post-16 conference, New Directions in Post-16 English, which is also being hosted at Middlesex.

If you can spare two days, why not come to both? If you’re already coming to one, maybe you could take an extra day to attend the other event.

You can find out more and book for the Integrating English conference here:

Fourth Integrating English Conference for Teachers

and for New Directions in Post-16 English here:

New Directions in Post-16 English

There is also a blog for the Post-16 conference here:

Post-16 conference blog

Hope some more teachers out there can join us.

Contact me if you have any questions about this.

Thinking About English

ba-english-middlesex

Our BA English programme at Middlesex takes a broad and inclusive view of English, encompassing all of the very wide range of activities which have been thoughts of as part of the subject and not assuming sharp boundaries within or at the edge of English.

There are several different things which helped to encourage us in this direction. For me, it began in discussion with students who seemed more open to this inclusive approach. Some of them approached me and asked why our programme didn’t seem to have much ‘lang-lit’ work (‘like we did at school’).

Thinking about this led to work exploring the current situation at school and at university with Andrea Macrae and Marcello Giovanelli. We worked on two research projects funded by the Higher Education Academy. These involved discussion with staff and students at schools and in universities, a workshop at Middlesex exploring these topics, and we produced two reports based on this (available via the Integrating English site).

Andrea, Marcello and I then set up the Integrating English project, which aims to promote this broad, inclusive view of English, and to help teachers and students at school by providing access to research ideas and other resources. We organise conferences for teachers (the fourth conference takes place at Middlesex on the 11th of November, the day before we host the National Association for the Teaching of English post-16 conference). We also run a website for the AQA awarding body called The Definite Article, where we publish digests of research papers and other resources.

This academic year is a very exciting one for us as we have launched our new degree which reflects this thinking about English. It’s very early to judge things but we have had a great time working with our new students so far and we’re looking forward to exploring ideas about English with them.

We’ll post more thoughts and resources on our thinking about English here, including some from events where we discuss this (Andrea, Marcello and I have been invited to give three presentations on our view of English this year). To start with, here are the slides from the presentation I gave at the Futures for English Studies seminar at the Open University in September:

Billy’s presentation at Futures for English Studies, Open University, September 2016

We’d love to carry on the discussion here so please comment or get in touch if you’d like to join in.

 

 

 

Marlowe, Shakespeare, Authors and Speech Recognition

marlowe_wee

The news that Marlowe is to be credited as a co-author for some of Shakespeare’s plays is big news, of course. It’s fascinating to think about how long debates have been going on about authorship of Shakespeare’s and other plays (e.g. Arden of Faversham, which is now being credited partly to Shakespeare). It seems we really do care about who produced the plays and not just about the plays themselves, even though there are, of course, lots of different views about the relative importance of texts, authors, contexts, readers, etc.

I’m also a bit amazed that linguistic evidence has been used to determine this, as there was a time when it seemed to be largely overlooked, despite what looked to me like some fairly clear evidence it provided, e.g. in the work of Jonathan Hope

Meanwhile, linguists are most excited about the news that an automated speech recognition system has achieved parity with human transcribers. I find this far more amazing. I remember John Wells explaining some of the difficulties which made it seem very unlikely that machines could ever come close to humans in this. It is amazing that they can now perform so well. Here’s Geoff Pullum commenting on it in response to the Language Log post:

geoffpullum_comment

I think my favourite speculation on who wrote Shakespeare’s plays was a story in 2000AD in which the plays were written by a time-travelling scholar from the future who travelled back in time to find out who wrote them, panicked when there was no sign of Shakespeare in Elizabethan England, and wrote them himself to make sure future generations wouldn’t miss out

 

 

 

 

Writing, Speaking, Acting, Smiling, . . .

We had a great time with new students at our Welcome events last week.

As ever, we explained that classroom work often begins with examples or questions and we encouraged students to look for their own questions and examples to discuss.

One thing we looked at was Lydia Davis’s short story Example of the Continuing Past Tense in a Hotel Room which, in its entirety, reads ‘Your housekeeper has been Shelly’. At first, we presented it without telling the students what it was or where it came from and then we revealed that this was a complete short story and who wrote it. This led to a wide range of questions about writing, authors, interpretation and value, among other things.

Here is an interesting piece on Lydia Davis which discusses some of her writing practices:

Long Story Short — Lydia Davis’s radical fiction — New Yorker

At today’s open day, we looked at a different example: Eimear McBride’s novel A Girl Is A Half-formed Thing. I have been doing some work on this recently and have been referring to it to illustrate the connectedness of a wide range of questions and approaches within English.

Here is Eimear McBride talking about how she came to write the novel:

Eimear McBride — How I Wrote A Girl Is A Half-formed Thing — Guardian

There are some fascinating ideas here about how she found her way to the book, including the role that her experience in drama school played:

‘What I did know, as a result of three years’ drama school, was how to make people.’

On a different topic, here is some excellent linguistic analysis from Ye Tian, analysing disfluency, smiling and laughter in the first debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump:

Ye Tian on disfluency and smiling in the first debate between Clinton and Trump

clintontrumpsmile

Ye showed great stamina in going through this and analysing it so carefully. Again, it raises lots of interesting questions, including about how ‘disfluencies’ work and are interpreted, about the nature and functions of smiles and laughter, and about degrees of self-awareness in communicative interaction

Finally, here’s a piece by me for The Definite Article which summarises a research paper by Adrian Pilkington and suggests ways of applying ideas from pragmatics in exploring literary and other texts:

Billy Clark on implicature and poetic effects

We’re looking forward to discussing these and other questions and examples in class.

 

 

Futures for English Studies

futuresforenglishstudies

We’re  looking forward to meeting our new first year BA English students tomorrow. We’ll be posting thoughts here from our work together on the BA English programme, things we have discussed in class, and anything relevant to the programme.

Last week, I went to a very enjoyable and interesting event at the Open University. It was an event to celebrate the publication of the book Futures for English Studies edited by Ann Hewings, Lynda Prescott and Philip Seargeant, all of whom work at the Open University.

It’s an excellent collection, exploring a range of ideas about the past, present and future of English, and there was lots of interesting discussion at the event.

I spoke there about our view of English as a broad and inclusive subject, covering work on language, literature and writing (and other things, including a wide range of genres and types of texts).

Andrew Cowan, Head of Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia, spoke about the rise of creative writing in the US and the UK, about differing views of the connections between writing and other subjects (particularly literary studies), and about differing views of the relationships between creative and critical work.

Matt Hayler, from the University of Birmingham, spoke about ‘digital humanities’ and about ‘digital cultures’, exploring different ways of thinking about each and future research directions.

These were followed by a roundtable discussion with a large number of speakers.

I was asked some very good questions after my talk, including some useful thoughts about our BA English programme.

Lots of interesting and useful points were made in the discussion and they suggested lots to think about with regard to the nature of English, how subjects interact in general, how communicative (including reading and writing) practices are changing, and lots more.

Two things which I thought were particularly interesting were that it provided evidence for two things I have been thinking for a while now:

  • that there is lots of positivity about English at the moment, confirming my view that this is an exciting time for the subject and a great time to be studying English
  • that there is a growing interest in seeing English as a broad and inclusive subject (and less interest in establishing boundaries)

I’m delighted to see more evidence for both of these!