The Institute of English Studies
History of the book, manuscript and print studies and textual scholarship research
In my early teens a friend of my father’s, a GP and historian manqué, lent me a copy of Hans Zissner’s Rats, Lice and History and got me hooked on plagues…
A couple of weeks ago I was asked to list a few of my favourite things. No, not raindrops on roses, whiskers on kittens, bright copper kettles, nor even warm woollen mittens. Brown paper packages tied up with strings come close to the mark, although the packages were...
When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, I thought I would have to place my PhD research on hold. The stakes for me were high: only a few months before in October 2019 I had upended my life and moved cities in order to be within walking distance of the University of Reading Special Collections…
In the academic year of 1982/83, students and lecturers of evening and day-time literature classes – organized by what was then the University of London’s Extra-Mural Department – founded a Literature Association which they named ‘ULEMLA’.
The coronavirus crisis has ushered in its own language. Covid-secure, social distancing, the R rate. These phrases have now become familiar. Some of this language is new but Covid-19 has also revived older words.
Italian literature and pandemics: Re-reading the Italian classics during COVID-19. Part 2: Giovanni Boccaccio’s Decameron
Like Alessandro Manzoni’s I promessi sposi/The Betrothed, Giovanni Boccaccio’s Decameron (ca. 1349-1353) is set during a pandemic: the Black Death of 1348-49, which killed at least 50% of the Italian population.
Italian literature has long had a familiarity with pandemics. The first major Italian novel, Alessandro Manzoni’s I promessi sposi/The Betrothed was published in 1840 and is set during the plague epidemic of 1629-31 (you can read an 1844 English translation here: vol 1 and vol. 2).
Throughout the lockdown I have been thinking about the ways in which I spend my time; am I productive enough, what do I do to wind-down, do I wind-down enough, and how do I compare with others?
At the start of the current pandemic lockdown I started an umpteenth re-reading of Middlemarch. I will be writing briefly on the novel for our new MA, but this choice of reading was as much for my own sanity as for reasons of work..
At rare off-duty times during lockdown, two moments from novels have repeatedly come to mind. One is Arthur Clennam’s imprisonment in the Marshalsea towards the close of Charles Dickens’s Little Dorrit: ‘None of us clearly know to whom or to what we are indebted … until some marked stop in the whirling wheel of life brings the right perception with it