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Durham University

Department of English Studies

Event Archive

This is an archive of past events within the Department of English Studies. Please see our current events for forthcoming activities.

Some of our public events are recorded and are available as podcasts via our Research English At Durham blog.

Easter Lectures Day

3rd May 2014, 10:00 to 16:45, Elvet Riverside 140

Undergraduates are invited to attend the Department of English Studies’ annual Easter Lectures Day.

Current doctoral students will deliver lectures on six of the core BA English Literature modules, with the aim of offering fresh, rigorous interrogations of the texts and theories with which undergraduates will be engaging in their upcoming exams.

Lectures will be 40-45 mins long, with an opportunity for attendees to provide feedback.

10 AM Dr. Avishek Parui, ‘Masculinity, Mimicry and the Crisis of Agency in the Colonial Contact-zone: A Study of George Orwell’s “Shooting an Elephant”’


Avishek’s lecture will correspond closely to the Theory and Function of Literary Criticism Module, in particular to Postcolonial theory and Gender and the Body. Involving reflections on Homi Bhabha’s concept of mimicry in the colonial contact-zone, this lecture will engage with the history of twentieth-century British imperial masculinity as it was produced and perpetuated for colonial control. The literary theory corresponding to colonial and gendered experience and expectations will be interrogated in relation to George Orwell’s essay ‘Shooting an Elephant’, exploring the ways in which the politics of masculinity and masculine performance meant to mimic and conform to the machinery of imperialism.

Dr Avishek Parui finished his PhD in December 2013, having written his thesis on biopolitical panic, masculinity and existentialist crisis in literature from 1900 to 9/11. He taught Introduction to the Novel in the English Department at Durham University in the years 2011/12 and 2012/13 and Theory and Practice of Literary Criticism in the year 2013/14. 

11 AM Siobhan Harper, ‘Women, Science, and the Body in Mid-Victorian Literary Culture

CORRESPONDING MODULE: Victorian Literature

Drawing on texts such as Charlotte Brontë’s Villette, Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South, and George Eliot’s Middlemarch, Siobhan’s lecture will aim to explore a number of areas within the Victorian Literature module, particularly realism and the novel, and science and Victorian literary culture. This lecture will explore key issues relating to science, medicine, the body, and the culture surrounding literature and science, and will use close readings of passages from these novels to illustrate these issues.

Siobhan’s PhD thesis centres on the healthy body within the novels of Elizabeth Gaskell, George Eliot, and Charlotte Brontë, exploring the Victorian concept of health and the healthy body, the various representations of this that are present in the fiction of the mid-nineteenth century, and contemporary discourse on health in that same period.

12 PM Anne-Marie Dunn, ‘Text Within Text’

CORRESPONDING MODULE: Introduction to the Novel

Professor Thomas C Foster states, “There is no such thing as a wholly original work of literature.” The advent and rise of the now established ‘novel’ presented what seemed to be a unique approach which challenged and flouted previous traditional formal conventions. In structure, content and style, the novel and its underpinning realistic philosophy appeared to be entirely ‘new’. But just how ‘new’ can any literary movement or individual work actually be? And what part does a writer’s use of an already existing work of fiction play in the development of realism and realistic literature? Using a selection of the module’s key works as reference points, Anne-Marie’s lecture will consider the ways in which a writer can include another text in his work, how these texts are presented and used, and how the inclusion of textual elements impacts upon nineteenth century readers and modern readers.

With over 15 years of teaching experience, Anne-Marie is furthering her academic qualifications with a PhD which focuses on the novels of Thomas Hardy. In her second year Anne-Marie is working on the concept of reading and how it appears in the novels. Her research involves locating the reader in Hardy's texts as well as determining an approach to the universe through Hardy's use of allusion.


2 PM Nicoletta Asciuto, ‘Hesiod’s Works and Days. Myth, Realism and Every Man’

CORRESPONDING MODULE: Classical and Biblical Background to English Literature.

Hesiod’s Works and Days is exemplary of a literary genre which is not taken much into consideration in the Classical module, didactic poetry, which will be useful for undergraduates as a ‘recap’ of some of the most important issues mentioned during the course, as well as to bridge the divide between the Biblical and the Classical halves of this module: Hesiod of Works and Days has been often compared to Biblical prophets Isaiah and Amos, and to the Biblical sections of Ecclesiastes and Proverbs, in spite of its apparent references to pagan mythology. This lecture will contextualize Hesiod’s works, and offer students a comparison between Homer’s prologues to the Iliad and Odyssey and Hesiod’s to Works and Days, investigating what has changed from the epic prologue to Hesiod’s more didactic one. Ultimately, it will consider how the latter’s importance for Western literature is not only due to his mythological tales, but also to his use of realism, and of first-person narration.

Nicoletta is a PhD candidate focussing on T. S. Eliot's use of light and dark imagery in his poetry. She is an experienced teacher of Latin and Ancient Greek and was a tutor for the module Classical and Biblical Background to English Literature in year 2012-13, and is now a tutor for Introduction to the Novel. 

3 PM Amy Smith, ‘Dramatising the speaking voice: John Donne and George Herbert’ 

CORRESPONDING MODULE: Introduction to Poetry

Amy’s lecture will provide an overview of the key poetic techniques used by Donne and Herbert to dramatise the speaking voice, ranging from their creation of striking opening statements to the use of direct address and dialogue. This theme will be explored through a range of close readings which identify points of interest in relation to tone, diction, imagery, rhythm and form in order to assist the students in their preparations for section A of the Introduction to Poetry examination. This lecture will elucidate the connections between content and technique, pointing out how the sound contributes to the poem’s sense. Discussion will draw on aspects of the speakers’ emotional and psychological engagement with questions of love, faith and despair, and the poets’ desire to achieve, through art, a reciprocal relationship with God.

Amy is currently a third year PhD candidate at Durham University, researching Northern Irish poetry and the Second World War, and is funded by a Friedrich von Hugel bursary. She has been a tutor on the Introduction to Poetry course since 2012.

4 PM Anum Dada, ‘The Saracen ‘Other’ in Middle English Romance’


The re-iterating theme that defines the majority of Middle English romances is adventure and the need for the knight to prove himself with chivalric acts, which at times takes on a distinctly nationalistic undertone. The appearance of Saracens is a common topos of this genre. As most of these romances were written during or immediately after the long Crusade against the Muslims in the Near East, the inclusion of Saracens in the romance was therefore a manifestation of what was viewed as a threat to Christianity. While the Saracen men are demonised, however, the Saracen women are depicted as strong characters who not only help the knightly heroes, but betray their own families. The heroes of the romance are in essence transformed into Christ-knight figures for whom the Saracen women, such as Floris in Beues of Hamtoun, convert to Christianity. Anum’s lecture will consider this two-fold depiction of Saracens and the way in which it reflects the Christian Crusading strategy: to either defeat the Muslims in combat, or convert them.

Anum’s MA dissertation at Durham University looked at Saracen women in Middle English romances. Her current research builds on her MA dissertation and looks at the representation of Saracen women in Middle English romances and what this reveals about Muslim-Crusader interaction and cultural exchange.

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