The Institute of English Studies

History of the book, manuscript and print studies and textual scholarship research

Call for Papers: The Book as World, The World as Book

On 20 April 2018, the Warburg Institute (in conjunction with the Cervantes Institute) will host an event on books and readers in the Spanish-speaking world, with the theme ‘The Book as World, the World as Book’.

The day will culminate in a conversation between Alberto Manguel, Director of the National Library of Argentina, and Bill Sherman, Director of the Warburg. There will also be lectures by Sherman and Roberto Casazza, Head of Research at the National Library of Argentina. In the afternoon, we would like to feature short papers from postgraduates or early career researchers.

If you are interested in offering a paper or in attending the workshop and lecture, please contact Morgan Ring (



Call for Papers: George Gissing’s Odd Women

Recent scholarship, particularly George Gissing and the Woman Question: Convention and Dissent (2013), edited by Christine Huguet and Simon James, has opened up new ways of thinking about Gissing’s depiction of women. 2018 celebrates the 125th anniversary of The Odd Women (1893), a novel that treats so many issues central to the nineteenth century, including marriage, professionalism, inheritance, and class. In celebration, and to mark both the protest movements of 1968 and the women’s suffrage of 1918, we invite contributions for proposed panels on Gissing and his writing in the Annual Literary London Society Conference, held on 28-29 June 2018, at the Institute of English Studies in the University of London. Papers may explore any work of Gissing’s but they must speak to the conference’s focus: “Conflict and Resolution.”

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Call for Papers: The Book as Cure: Bibliotherapy and Literary Caregiving from the First World War to the Present

This one-day event, part of the annual programme of the History of Books and Reading (HOBAR) research collaboration at The Open University, explores in the centenary year of the war’s end the legacy of wartime bibliotherapy. It brings together early career researchers and advanced scholars with practitioners, policy makers, charities, and representatives from the culture and heritage industries to foster an interdisciplinary dialogue about the curative power of reading during and after the war. How is that curative power understood now? How was it understood in 1914? How has it been managed since in the voluntary sector and in institutions? In what ways does the legacy of First World War bibliotherapy remain active in contemporary policy-making in the charity sector, and in work with veterans and settled refugees?

Led by three members of The Open University’s Department of English & Creative Writing, Siobhan Campbell, Sara Haslam, and Edmund King, this event will contribute to and shape understanding of the therapeutic importance of books across disciplines and help to generate further focused research in the Humanities and beyond.

Proposals of 300 words for 20-minute papers by Friday, 4 May 2018 are welcomed from PhD students, ECRs and established scholars working in the field. There will be a dedicated PhD/ECR panel during the day. Topics include: the healing book; creative and expressive writing interventions; reading, writing and trauma; authorbased studies on literary caregiving of any type; hospital, prison, and asylum reading/libraries and mental health/wellness; curating generative archives; documenting resilience and identifying outcomes.

Please send proposal and enquiries to the conference organisers:

Dr Siobhán Campbell,;

Dr Sara Haslam,;

Dr Edmund King,


Call for Papers

Call for Papers: Heresy Conference

Third Conference of the International Society for Heresy Studies with the Queen Mary Centre for Religion and Literature

Friday 15 – Saturday 16 June 2018


Following two successful New York City conferences in 2014 and 2016, the International Society for Heresy Studies announces a Call for Papers for its third biennial conference to be hosted by the Institute of English Studies at Senate House in London. The conference theme will broadly focus on how borders between heresy and orthodoxy are created, maintained, and imagined. Although we interpret “heresy” primarily within a religious context, we also interpret it broadly enough to include the “heretical” in politics, art, philosophy, and literature.  The study of borders—a popular theme in academic conferences in recent years—feels even more urgent in the current time of rising nationalism and political promises to ban immigration and erect walls based on imagined boundaries. Borders are, of course, more than lines drawn across maps and between religions; rather, they are blurry spaces of ambiguity and reversibility where identities are constructed and deconstructed. Concepts of separation, threshold, and border have occupied theologians, philosophers, historians, and artists since ancient times and remain dynamic elements in the work of many theorists and creative artists today. The reexamination of borders can demonstrate not only how we have constructed the heretical other, but also can reveal the fragility and arbitrary nature of our own orthodoxies.

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Call for Papers: Literature and Aesthetics

Contestations: Literature & Aesthetics

Regent’s University London

11 – 12 July 2018

Keynote speakers: Prof Peter Lamarque, University of York, UK
Dr Jukka Mikkonen, University of Tampere, Finland


That literature is an art form is scarcely a matter of debate. How it generates an aesthetic response as an art form is a different matter and surprisingly this is not a prominent one in modern literary studies. In fact, there is a marked reluctance by literary critics and philosophers to accept that aesthetics is pertinent to literary criticism (Lamarque 2007: 27). The rejection of aesthetics in favour of a critically theoretical approach include its ‘collusions with the discourses of power’ (Kermode quoted in Lamarque 2007: 28); and its investment in ideas of universality and sensibility which are shown to be embedded deeply into a Western institutionalised mode of valuing literature. We suggest that the limitations of that discussion among scholars and students leads to a slippage into multifarious congruent issues around literature (such as structure and style, genre, or semantic and syntactic forms) that, while frequently important and significant in themselves and in other discourses, fill in for an absence of a core aesthetic debate. Of course, critics discuss and highlight aesthetic features of various textual forms all the time but, arguably, in the service of local or congruent phenomenon rather than consciously and deliberatively as part of a debate over the aesthetic features and functions of literature.

The goal of this conference is to reconsider the significance of the aesthetic dimension of literature in critical discourse, in public discussion, and in the classroom to bring out ‘contestations’ rather than restate a fundamental contest.

Themes that the conference will hope to cover, but will not be limited to, include:

  • What are the ‘politics of aesthetics’ (Rancière) in literary studies?
  • Affect theory and the literary aesthetic.
  • Literature, aesthetic pleasure and judgement.
  • Aesthetics and canon formation.
  • Literature within the ‘philosophy of art’.
  • The distinctiveness of literature as an art form.
  • What are literary works and for what are they valued?
  • What merits aesthetic attention in literary appreciation?
  • Imbrications of critical theory and aesthetic appreciation.

Please send abstracts of 250 words to and including institutional affiliation, contact details and a short bio (150 words).

Deadline for abstracts: Thursday 29 March 2018

IES Winter Reads: A Midway Round-Up

Over the winter months, the Institute of English Studies asked our staff and research fellows about their favourite winter reads.

From the classic Dickens to a classic reinterpretation in the form of Margaret Atwood’s Hag-Seed, we’ve had a fantastic selection of answers that have kept us going during these long winter evenings. Although the cold months are still with us, here’s our answers so far:



Charles Dickens, Bleak House 

Dickens is my master of seasonal conjuring. The first paragraph of Bleak House, published between 1852 and 53, is as evocative of the onset of winter as anything I have ever read:

LONDON. Michaelmas Term lately over, and the Lord Chancellor sitting in Lincoln’s Inn Hall. Implacable November weather. As much mud in the streets as if the waters had but newly retired from the face of the earth, and it would not be wonderful to meet a Megalosaurus, forty feet long or so, waddling like an elephantine lizard up Holborn Hill. Smoke lowering down from chimney-pots, making a soft black drizzle, with flakes of soot in it as big as full-grown snow-flakes — gone into mourning, one might imagine, for the death of the sun. Dogs, undistinguishable in mire. Horses, scarcely better; splashed to their very blinkers.” – Cynthia Johnston (Lecturer in Book History and Communications)



Dorothy L. Sayers, The Nine Tailors

The start – a car accident in a dyke in the drear fenlands of Cambridgeshire on a snowy New Year’s Eve. The protagonists – Lord Peter Wimsey (plus manservant) and assorted vicars, young gals, locals, petty criminals. The plot – intricate. The crime – theft of emeralds. The resolution – murder by bells. The book – Dorothy L. Sayers, The Nine Tailors (London: Victor Gollancz, 1934).” – Susan Powell (Visiting Research Fellow) ⠀




Margaret Atwood, Hag-Seed

I’d recommend Margaret Atwood’s novel Hag-Seed: The Tempest Retold for winter entertainment. Atwood gives a new twist to Shakespeare, reimagining his themes and characters for a performance of The Tempest in a men’s prison in Canada, where magic, monsters, and spirits are now wittily transformed by digital technology. Characteristically, behind the theatrical spectacle Atwood encourages us to think about the value of liberal arts education in prisons and about prisoners’ human rights.” – Coral Howells (Senior Research Fellow)⠀


One book I’ve recently enjoyed reading was Margaret Atwood’s Hag-Seed.  Time and time again I found myself laughing out loud. I hadn’t thought something she’d written could be so funny and cheering. The sheer cleverness of plotting was a delight” – Jane Roberts (Senior Research Fellow)⠀



Charles Dickens, The Signalman

Winter is the season for ghost stories, so I’d choose Dickens’ dark, unsettling The Signalman, or one of M.R. James’ even more disquieting tales. Nan Shepherd’s The Living Mountain, first published in 1977 but now enjoying a renaissance, is a lyrical, very personal account of the Cairngorms throughout the year, but her chapter on ‘Frost and Snow is especially evocative of the endlessly changing winter conditions in Scotland’s mountains.” – Alan McNee (Postdoctoral Visiting Research Fellows) ⠀



Susan Cooper, The Dark is Rising

Every winter I turn to Susan Cooper’s ice-cold children’s fantasy, The Dark is Rising for its heady combination of snowy magic and icy menace. Set between the Winter Solstice and Twelfth Night, it is a novel about change, transition, and growing up, poised between the safe warm spaces of childhood and a snow-filled landscape, full of unknown dangers, but full too of magical possibility.” – Susan Cahill (Visiting Research Fellow)⠀

Call for Papers: Decadence, Magic(k), and the Occult

Decadence, Magic(k), and the Occult

Goldsmiths, University of London, 19-20 July 2018 

Keynote speaker: Professor Patricia Pulham (University of Surrey)


Nineteenth-century Decadence coincided with a resurgence of esotericism, alternative religions, and a belief in magic as a rejection of secularism and science. Until now, this intersection has been most richly considered in relation to Catholicism. Most well-known is Huysmans’s tetralogy, which traces Durtal’s movement from the Black Mass to the monastery. However, Decadent literature has a much more complicated relationship with mystical, supernatural, and magical realms, one which extends beyond a simple rejection of Christian faith and has a legacy reaching beyond the long nineteenth century.

This two-day interdisciplinary conference is organized by the Decadence Research Unit at Goldsmiths. Our aim is to investigate the role of occultism and magic(k) in the Decadent literary and artistic tradition through a consideration of the relationship between Decadence and the esoteric revival of the fin de siècle, providing an opportunity to re-examine the Occult roots of Decadence and explore the wide range of artistic responses to the blurred boundaries between Decadence, mysticism, ritual, and the Dark Arts. Is the meeting of practical magic and literary esotericism indicative of a symbiotic relationship between Decadence and the Occult, or does it represent merely another aspect of the Decadent rejection of mainstream ideologies?

We welcome proposals on any aspect of Decadence from any era, in relation to magic(k) and the Occult.  Papers (about 20 mins in length) might include discussion of, but are not limited to:

Occult/Decadent poets: Charles Baudelaire, Remy de Gourmont, Arthur Rimbaud, Jean Lorrain

Occult/Decadent artists: Henry de Groux, Jean Deville, Fernand Khnopff, Felicien Rops

Great beasts: Aleister Crowley, Joséphin Péladan, W. B. Yeats

Salons and sects: the Salon de la Rose+Croix, the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn

Satanic and occult feminism: Berthe de Courrière, Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, Althea Gyles


  • Big ‘Isms’: Spiritualism, Rosicrucianism, Neo-Paganism, Symbolism
  • Freemasonry, Theosophy, and New Age Spirituality
  • Aesthetic esotericism and Decadent occulture
  • Geomancy and liminal spatiality
  • Poetry and ritual magic(k)
  • Occlusion and the ocular
  • Music and mysticism
  • Rituals and rivalries
  • Incubi and succubi


Abstracts of 500 words plus brief biography should be sent to: by 31st March 2018

‘Something for my native town’ conference, November 2017

This post first appeared on the Blackburn Museum and Art Gallery blog from Art Curator Stephanie Seville. 

Dr Cynthia Johnston wishes to add, “This conference was a culmination of many years of work on the R.E. Hart collection, which was very little-known when I began work on it in 2012. It has been thrilling to see the collection take its place on the international stage, and to be recognised as a significant cultural asset by the Blackburn community. To see Jack Straw speaking so knowledgeably about the Hart Collection was immensely satisfying!”

On 10 November 2017, Blackburn Museum and Art Gallery in partnership with the Institute of English Studies, School of Advanced Studies, University of London, hosted a conference which focused on the manuscript and coin collections bequeathed to the museum by Robert Edward Hart in 1946. The museum’s academic partner, Dr Cynthia Johnston drew together a programme of speakers, each associated with world class research and cultural institutes, for the conference which was hosted by University Centre at Blackburn College. Each specialist presented research they had undertaken in visits to look closely at the collection since 2014.

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Call for Papers: Literature and ‘The Woman Question’

Literature and ‘The Woman Question’

A Mark Rutherford Society Symposium hosted by RIMAP
at the University of Bedfordshire

Saturday 23 June 2018


‘The Woman Question’ – encompassing not only debates over women’s suffrage, but gender equality more widely, including professional, economic, domestic, and sexual issues affecting women – was one of the most disruptive and fiercely contested issues of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. The role and position of women in society, and relations between women and men, were widely discussed by writers of the period. These included the Bedford-born novelist William Hale White (1831–1913), better known by his literary pseudonym, ‘Mark Rutherford’. In his final three novels – Miriam’s Schooling (1890), Catharine Furze (1893), and Clara Hopgood (1896) – White created and presented with great insight and sympathy a series of female characters who defy the social, sexual and political constraints placed upon them. The aim of this Symposium is to open up discussion of the wider context within which the particular qualities of this aspect of White’s work may be better understood. Papers are therefore invited on any writer or literary text dealing with the ‘Woman Question’.

Please send a title and 200-word summary of a 20-minute paper to Professor Bob Owens (, no later than 1 May 2018.



  •  Elisabeth Jay, Professor Emerita of English, Oxford Brookes University
  • Jean-Michel Yvard, Associate Professor of English, Université Angers



The Symposium will be held at the Bedford Campus of the University of Bedfordshire, Polhill Avenue, Bedford MK41 9TD. Attendance is free of charge, but registration by 1 June 2018 is essential as numbers are limited. The Symposium will open at 10.30am and close at 5.00pm. Morning and afternoon refreshments and a light lunch will be provided, costing £20 payable on the day. To register, please email, giving details of name; title; affiliation; postal and email addresses; and any dietary requirements. The Mark Rutherford Society may be able to offer modest financial assistance with travel costs of postgraduate students whose papers are accepted. If you wish to be considered for this, in addition to sending the outline of your paper, please explain briefly why you would need help with travel costs.

Call for Papers: Brigid Brophy … in Transition

“Brigid Brophy … in Transition”:

Co-Editors: Professor Richard Canning and Visiting Professor Gerri Kimber, University of Northampton, England

In 2015, I and the ECW team at the University of Northampton ran a two-day international conference to celebrate all aspects of Brigid Brophy’s literary career, as well as her leading contributions to animal rights, vegetarianism, anti-vivisectionism, humanism, feminism and her advocacy of the Public Lending Right.

Brophy (1929-1995) wrote books of all kinds in all genres. The 600-page monograph Prancing Novelist: A Defence of Fiction in the Form of a Critical Biography in Praise of Ronald Firbank (1973) may have created a genre. Her fiction career began with the short-story volume The Crown Princess (1953), followed by seven novels, each entirely unlike its predecessors. Hackenfeller’s Ape (1953) concerned the relationship between an ape at London Zoo and a Professor observing the animal’s mating rituals. The King of a Rainy Country (1956) depicted a set of Bohemians in post-war London and Venice. Flesh (1962) portrayed the erotic tutelage of an inexperienced husband by his wife.

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