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The Community & Outreach

English Literature staff in the Department of Humanities engage with  local (and national) communities in a number of ways, all directly linked to our diverse areas of research expertise. See below for more information on a selection of our outreach and community engagement work.

 

Fashionable Diseases (2013-16)

'Fashionable Diseases: Medicine, Literature and Culture, ca. 1660-1832' is a three-year, Leverhulme-funded research project at the Universities of Northumbria and Newcastle. Professor Clark Lawlor, Professor Allan Ingram, Dr Leigh Wetherall Dickson and Dr Anita O'Connell are the project’s Northumbria academics. Through a series of public workshops, a major international conference and several publications, the research team is exploring how certain painful and debilitating illnesses such as melancholy, consumption and even biliousness, rose to the height of fashion in the eighteenth century. The project aims to demonstrate the crucial role of narratives, representations and labelling in determining how people, both then and now, imagine and experience disease.

The project aims to engage with a wider audience than the academic in a variety of ways: our project website enables interaction via our latest tweets, facebook entries, blogs and discussion in our forum.

Although the project only officially started in June 2013, the team has been busy since the news of the award in the summer of 2012. Professor Lawlor has had interviews with various newspapers and radio stations, including the Independent ('Britain's sick history: how did society's most famous diseases really catch on?', 11 July 2012), the Newcastle Journal ('How Romantics and Poets can help Medicine', 25 July 2012) and BBC Radio 4 (on the Today programme talking about literature and illness with John Humphrys and Vivienne Parry –  8.55 am, Friday June 7th, 2013). The project has also received coverage from a wide variety of media, including the Mail Online and The Times of India. In the run-up to the project in February 2013, Dr Leigh Wetherall-Dickson organised an interdisciplinary and public engagement event, 'Listen Here', that brought together academics, practitioners and patients to discuss public representations of mental illness. Professors Ingram, Lawlor and Dr Wetherall Dickson have also given a public lecture on the subject of 'The Practical and not-so-practical art of Fashionable Melancholia: From Black Bile to Hamlet', Thursday 28th February, 5.30pm, University of Durham Palace Green Library –in conjunction with the Practical Art of Medicine exhibition.

 

The First World War in the Classroom (2013-2014)

With the centenary years of the First World War approaching, Dr Ann-Marie Einhaus, Lecturer in Modern and Contemporary Literature in the department, has teamed up with her colleague Dr Catriona Pennell in the Department of History at the University of Exeter to investigate how First World War literature and history are being taught in English secondary-school classrooms today. The project is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), and centres on a nationwide online survey open between June and September 2013. It aims to give teachers a voice and the opportunity to reflect and exchange ideas on how to teach the war to young people a century after it happened, and it also seeks to improve communication between researchers and teachers. 'The First World War in the Classroom' started with a free workshop, held in London on 18th and 19th February 2013, generously funded by Northumbria University, the University of Exeter, the Higher Education Academy, the Royal Historical Society and the AHRC, and continues with three regional focus groups in London, Exeter and Newcastle on 10th and 17th August 2013. To find out more and get involved, please visit the project website.

 

Collaboration with the Laurence Sterne Trust (Ongoing)

The Laurence Sterne Trust at Shandy Hall has been a longstanding partner of Northumbria's English department, which began with an AHRC-funded collaborative doctoral award in 2009. Collaborative student Helen Williams was academic consultant for the Precious Cargo exhibition (May-Oct 2012). The project was part of the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad programme, Stories of the World, led by Arts Council England with the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games. Part of the exhibition was based on Helen Williams and Richard Terry's research on eighteenth-century letters and Sterne's distinctive literary style. This aspect of the exhibition was then developed as a schools workshop which was delivered by academics at Northumbria and staff at Shandy Hall across the North East and Yorkshire. The project is accompanied by an online gallery of the pupils' work, Dear Sterne.

Most recently, academics from Northumbria worked closely with the Laurence Sterne Trust to secure Heritage Lottery Funding for a project designed with local historians, entitled The Good Humour Club. It comprises an exhibition, a webapp, and an educational entertainment programme. PhD students Ashleigh Blackwood and Danielle McDonnell helped research the club and provide materials for the exhibition and website. Helen Williams is 'academic in residence' for this project, which runs until May 2014.

The English department also work in partnership with National Trust property Seaton Delaval Hall, helping underpin interpretation of the heritage site with literary scholarship. Together with the Society of Antiquarians of Newcastle upon Tyne and theatre company HC Productions they are planning an eighteenth-century theatrical performance and education programme.


 

Litpop - Literature and Popular Music (Ongoing)

Since 2011, Adam Hansen  has been involved in a range of activities as part of the Litpop project.  This project encourages people to think in new ways about the relations between writing and popular music.  Activities have included a monthly Litpop bookclub at The Sage Gateshead (from Summer 2013 the bookclub will be held at Newcastle City Library), one-off bookclubs as part of the Darlington Arts Festival (in 2013), public talks at The Sage Gateshead (in 2012 and 2013) and at The Literary and Philosophical Society in 2011 (available as a podcast), and a workshop for writers and musicians at the Star & Shadow Cinema in 2013.  These activities helped create and interpret new forms of cultural understanding, and supported innovative forms of expression. As one workshop participant put it: 'It has inspired me to come at my creative endeavours differently'.

 

Before Depression (2006-2009)

'Before Depression' was a three-year research project funded between 2006 and 2009 by the Leverhulme Trust. It was led by Professor Allan Ingram, Professor of English at Northumbria University. Professor Richard Terry, Professor Clark Lawlor, Dr Leigh Wetherall-Dickson and Professor Stuart Sim were the other members of the core team. Three doctoral students were also attached to the project, Dr Diane Buie, Dr Pauline Harrison and Dr Charlotte Holden.

The aim of the project was to explore the different expressions, representations and manifestations of what we now call depression during the crucial period of the eighteenth century. One particular intention was to bring issues of depression and its history to a wider public audience, rather than to remain an exclusively academic project. Two series of public lectures took place during 2007-8 and 2008-9, a total of twenty lectures, with guest speakers from Britain, Europe and North America. These discussed different aspects of the understanding and experience of depression during the period, and looked at its representation by writers and artists. All of these lectures are available as podcasts on the project website. An exhibition of art was also organised at the Shipley Gallery in Gateshead during the summer of 2008. This consisted of visual representations of depression, and of notable depressives of the period, by a wide range of artists, including Hogarth, Reynolds, Wright, Romney, Blake, Rowlandson, Goya, Constable, John Martin and Luke Clennell. This attracted over 8000 visitors, including school groups, and produced a wealth of positive comments in the gallery visitors’ book.

Events broadly related to 'Before Depression' continue to be held, such as the one-day public workshop 'Stigma, Narrative and Mental Illness', organised by Dr Leigh Wetherall-Dickson, which took place in February 2012.