Monday 31 January 2011

Dave Haslem/ Frank Cottrell Boyce

Royal Exchange, Tuesday 8th Feb 2011

Info here:

Dave Haslem in-conversation with Frank Cottrell Boyce who wrote the screenplays for Butterfly Kiss, and Twenty Four Hour Party People among other films, and wrote a novel based on his own screenplay -
Millions - which won the 2004 Carnegie Medal. Plus a book signing, wine, music, and books for sale.

EAS Research Seminar, Wednesday

This term's first EAS research seminar will take place this Wednesday, February 2.  We will welcome Vincent Quinn (Sussex), who will be discussing 'Sexual Citizenship and the Erotics of Conduct' at 5pm in Samuel Alexander A113.  All Welcome.

Sunday 30 January 2011

Centre for Interdisciplinary Study in the Arts - talks, masterclasses, lectures

CIDRA has many events happening in February:

Kinesthetic Empathy Across the Disciplines (panel discussion)
Thursday, 3 February, 5-7pm. Room A7, Samuel Alexander Building.

The Public Commemoration of the Past Symposium
Wednesday, 9 February, 12noon- 6pm. Room A7, Samuel Alexander Building.

Interiors Lecture Series. Charles Rice, Kingston University: ‘Interior/Urban c.1974’.
Tuesday, 15 February, 5pm. Casken Theatre, Martin Harris Centre.

Charles Rice Postgraduate Masterclass (with Simon Guy and Mark Crinson)
Wednesday, 16th February, 10-12noon. Room 4.214 University Place.

A full list of events is in the SAHC newsletter and on the CIDRA website:

Liverpool Centre for Medieval and Renaissance Studies - talks

Dear colleagues and friends of LCMRS,

Just a brief reminder of our first LCMRS Research Seminar this semester.

We are delighted to welcome Professor Lindy Grant from the University of Reading. Professor Grant will speak on 'The Westminster Sanctuary Pavement and the coronation'. The lecture will be of great interest to republicans and royalists alike! We will convene, as usual, in the Boardroom, School of History, 9 Abercromby Square, Liverpool, on Tuesday, 1 February @ 5pm

Simon Maclean (St Andrews) will speak to us on Tuesday, 22 February 2011, 5pm, Boardroom, School of History, on 'Otto and his sisters: royal women and dynastic hegemony in the mid tenth century' (please note the change of title).

Hope to see you there. With all best wishes,
Harald E. Braun, Director LCMRS

Responses to Student Feedback - Pox and Plague (Noelle Gallagher)

Response to feedback for English 31051

Dear all,

I’ve now had a chance to look at your EAS student feedback forms for English 31051, and am pleased to have the opportunity to offer a few words in response.

I was pleased to discover that you unanimously found the feedback you received—both in my written responses to your presentations and essays, and in our one-on-one post-essay meetings—to be helpful and constructive. I was also happy to learn that many of you felt that the course challenged your reading skills; many of you also found the presentations and the seminar discussion materials useful, and I will pass on to Michael Powell your compliments on our class visit to Chetham’s Library.

The thorn, alas, in all of our sides this term was Blackboard: many of you expressed the view that—to quote one responded—“Blackboard was rubbish”—and I assure you, I share your frustrations!  I am considering other possible ways of disseminating study materials in the event of similar “technical difficulties” next year.

In regards to other possibilities for change and improvement, several of you expressed a desire for more background in Restoration and eighteenth-century cultural history.  This is a terrific point, and I plan to address it next year by assigning some historical background reading for the first week of the module.  A number of you also suggested weighting the reading more evenly between weeks: this too is a very good idea, and I’ll keep it in mind when I am putting together next year’s syllabus.

I’ve not reflected here on feedback that seemed to reflect the views of only one person—but many of these individual comments, too, were valid, and I’m grateful to you all for taking such time and care to fill out these forms.  They really are enormously useful in developing the course, and in improving my pedagogy.

Best of luck to you all in your final semester at Manchester, and in the future,

Thursday 27 January 2011

Storytelling, Kafka and Music

Are you interested in Storytelling, Kabbalah, Music and Poetry?
If so please reserve your seat for Professor Rodger Kamenetz talk and booksigning on Saturday evening, February 26th, 6pm at Menorah Synagogue.
Menorah Synagogue 198 Altrincham Road Manchester M22 4RZ. Tel. 0161-428 7746
The event features Professor Kamenetz and his new book 'Burnt Books' about the stories of Kafka and the Hasidic tales of Rabbi Nachman:
(a little animation link from his website about the latest book)
Please email me back as soon as possible if you wish to reserve any tickets.
Cheques should not be made out to me but to 'Cheshire Reform Congregation'
Please email to reserve your ticket.
Please feel free to forward this email to anyone else you think might be interested.
Dr. Elliot Cohen

Wednesday 26 January 2011

Launch of African Writing Journal

The first issue of the journal AFRICAN WRITING in partnership with the University of Manchester is being launched on Wednesday 2nd February 3.30 to 4.50 pm, Main Arts Lecture Theatre, Samuel Alexander Building.

Scheduled readers and speakers include:
Chuma Nwokolo, editor
Ovo Adagha, poet and contributing editor
Ret'sepile Makamane, short story author
Geoff Ryman on African graphic novels-

All interested staff and students are invited. Admission is free.

Colm Tóibín is our new Professor of Creative Writing

Colm Tóibín is the new Professor of Creative Writing in the Centre for New Writing, replacing Martin Amis from September,

Teaching starts on Monday! Reading Lists

Remember, initial reading lists for all courses are here:

You should also check the Blackboard site for each individual course for initial readings, more detailed bibliographies and recommended reading, and a schedule of study. 

Junk the Jargon - Grand Final

Junk the Jargon is the University-wide competition for early career researchers, competing together to communicate their work to the public. They may be the next Brian Cox, Simon Schama or Robert MacFarlane...

The competition challenges researchers to present their research in a clear, interesting and entertaining way to a non-specialist audience.
Grand Final - 10 February 2011, 3:30 - 5:00pm, Renold Building C16, The University of Manchester. Everyone welcome - bring your work-mates, bring your friends, bring your family! Take part in the audience vote!


Jo Shapcott wins the Costa Book of the Year Prize for her poetry collection Of Mutability (echoing Shelley, presumably...):

Derek Walcott wins the T.S. Eliot poetry prize for White Egrets: 

Whilst in this vein, a reminder of the prizes for undergraduates at all levels: 

Undergraduate Prizes in English and American Studies 

English Literature
Level 1

Stella Brook Prize  
Two £50 book tokens awarded for work in medieval studies. Usually awarded to the two best-performed students in the Level 1 medieval studies course (currently, Mapping the Medieval).

John Jump Prize
Two awards of £75 each, for work in any field of literature.

George Gissing Memorial Prize  
Two awards of £50 each, given to students in English Literature or to a joint honours student taking English.

Henry Charles Duffin Prize  
An award of £10.

The five awards in total offered by the John Jump, George Gissing Memorial and Henry Charles Duffin prize funds are usually given to the five highest-ranked students in the Level 1 courses, excluding that in medieval studies.

Level 2
Shakespeare Scholarship  
Two awards of £150 each for the two best-performed English Literature students at Level 2.  

John and Edith Lang Scholarship  
Originally awarded to encourage the study of History and English Literature, two awards of £100 each are given to the highest-ranked students in courses in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century literature (currently Reading the 19th Century and Writing the 18th Century).

Thomas Maguire Prize Two £100 book tokens for the highest-ranked students in Level 2 courses in medieval studies.

Shakespeare Prize  
Two awards of £50 each to the highest-placed English Literature students in a course on Shakespeare.

Early English Text Society Prize  
A volume published by the Early English Text Society, awarded to the third-highest ranked student in a medieval studies course (after the winners of the Thomas Maguire prize).

Level 3
De Quincey Essay Prize  
Two awards of £100 each, given to the writers of the two best Long Essays in English.

Samuel James Woodall Prize  
Two awards of £200 for the highest ranked English Literature students at Level 3.

G.L. Brook Prize £100 to the best student in medieval literature courses.

Arwid Johansson Exhibition One £100 book token to the next-best student in medieval literature courses.

Mary Katherine Slater Prize
One award of £50 to a student who has achieved a 2.1 or better despite difficult circumstances.

American Studies

(All for Level 3 students)

A. and M. Kaiser Prize  
£500 for the best dissertation in American History.

Jesse Davis Kandel Prize  
One award of £50 to a student with either an outstanding dissertation in American studies, or an outstanding degree result in American Studies.

Denis Welland Prize  
A £50 book token, for exceptional achievement in American courses.

Fay Mitchell Memorial Prize  
One £50 book token to the best student in American Studies, donated, in memory of their daughter Fay Mitchell, by her parents. Fay was a student in EAS. Recipients of this prize are encouraged to pass on their thanks to the family, whose address can be had from the Assessment Co-Ordinator in EAS.

Friday 21 January 2011

Responses to Student Feedback - Cities of Dreadful Delight (Natalie Zacek)

On the whole, responses to this module were very positive. Students found the lectures stimulating, informative, and well-organised, and benefitted from the use of handouts for each lecture. Several students mentioned that they had enjoyed looking at overlapping concepts (race; class; ethnicity; poverty) and juxtaposing diverse case studies with one another, although a couple of students would have liked a more interactive style in the lectures. The readings were universally popular, seen as varied, interesting, and easily available. The majority of students also felt that the seminars were worthwhile, that challenging material was explained in a helpful manner, and the group discussions were engaging, although a few expressed concern about the non-participation of some classmates, and thought that this problem could be addressed by the distribution ahead of time of questions for discussion, an idea that I’m quite happy to consider for next year.
Feedback was viewed quite positively; most students saw it as substantive and constructive in relation to written work, though some stated that it could have been somewhat clearer or more concise. A number of respondents expressed that they were pleased with how rapidly they gained a response to e-mail queries. Nearly all of the students seemed satisfied with the module’s learning resources, including Blackboard, JSTOR, Google Scholar, and other online databases, as well as various hard-copy resources in the JRUL.
The only element of the course with which there was some dissatisfaction was the assessed essay. Although I didn’t disaggregate the returns from the AMER and HIST codes, my sense on reading the comments was that, while the AMER students really enjoyed the less traditional nature of the assignment (an annotated discography of music related to themes in urban history) and found it an interesting and innovative project which encouraged them to use different types of sources in historical analysis, some of the HIST students felt that the project was too different from the sorts of questions to which they were accustomed on HIST modules, and were concerned that they would receive a Level 3 mark for an assignment structured in an unfamiliar way. While I understand their concerns, I intend to retain this assignment for the future: the majority of students, year on year, perform well on it, many students have told me that they really enjoyed it, and the external examiner has specifically praised it. However, I will continue to emphasise to students, as I did in this and the previous year, that, if they really feel uncomfortable with this assignment, they are welcome to select a previously unused question from the list of non-assessed essay questions, and use that instead for the assessed essay.

Wednesday 19 January 2011

Sell your books

Register for the Book Fair being held by the Students' Union on 7-9 February

Students are being encouraged to recycle their unwanted text books at a special book fair to be held in February. The event, organised by the Students' Union, will be taking place between 7 and 9 February in Academy 2. All you have to do is register the books that you want to sell at: UMSU Book Fair

You should then hand them in at the Union between 2 and 4 February.

The event started last year in the Faculty of Humanities and proved a huge success with more than £10,000 changing hands. The books are sold at about two-thirds of their RRP and all of the money made is returned to the original owner, with the Students' Union taking no cut in the proceeds.

For any more information, please contact Mo Saqib, Humanities Faculty Officer, at:

Tuesday 18 January 2011

RSC Shakespeare Essay Prize (deadline looming)

The Royal Shakespeare Company is running a student essay prize. The theme is 'Why is Shakespeare relevant today?'. Ages 18-25, cash and other prizes. If you would like advice on entering please contact The deadline is the 31 January. Details:

Responses to Student Feedback - British Romanticism (Alan Rawes)


Most students reported that their attendance was good. Students found the course challenging in ‘good’, ‘interesting’, ‘engaging’ and ‘inspiring’ ways. Many thought that the seminar discussions particularly helped their learning and development, describing class discussions as ‘useful’, ‘brilliant’, ‘organic and fun’. A large number of students also liked the focus on close-reading skills and essay writing techniques.

Students felt their studies were supported by a range of helpful resources, including the course textbook, JSTOR and the library’s substantial holdings in Romanticism. Many students on the course also particularly appreciated the tutor’s feedback on their essays, both written and in seminars, finding it ‘constructive’, ‘very useful’, ‘extremely helpful’. The course involved a seminar devoted to essay writing as part of the feedback on coursework essays. Students found this session very helpful, though some thought such a session should come before the essay submission date. I will certainly consider this suggestion in future.

A number of students commented on the fact that there were problems with the Blackboard provision for this course this year. This was regrettable, but was eventually sorted out and I don’t anticipate similar problems in the future.  Finally, a few students felt that that they would have liked more structure to the course, with a list of texts set by the tutor available in advance. However, the course actively encourages students to be involved in the choice of texts studied, allowing them to follow their own interests as these develop over the course. I would hope to hold on to this feature of the course in future years.

Responses to Student Feedback - Chaucer (David Matthews)

ENGL 30081 Medieval Romance

This course has now run several times, with some slight adjustments each time. One relatively large change this year was the introduction of comprehensive student presentations in the four weeks after reading week. The make-up of the course was then: six weeks of regular seminars on canonical texts; four weeks of student presentations on less-well known texts; one week in the John Rylands library looking at manuscripts and early printed books; one week of exam revision.

The students were told that their presentations were to be revised, then used as the basis for the second of two essays in their exams. This was also an innovation this year, introduced following feedback from the previous year's cohort.

It is clear from feedback that in the main, the balance of sessions presented above was appreciated. The sessions in the first half of the course were led by me, and focused on a small number of texts for several weeks. This seems to have been successful, with one student remarking, "The tutor was very helpful, always speaking clearly and carefully."

Some students - a minority - felt that the weeks of student presentations put the burden back on them when they would have liked to have seen more direction from me. Some felt that individual presentations went on too long; I think that in future some more explicit direction might work, but I also feel that the students will appreciate the work they have done in the presentations rather more, when they have done the exam and re-used their presentations. At the same time, some students recorded their appreciation of the independence allowed them in this regard: "it was helpful to produce something individually to develop independent learning skills." As another said, "normally I'd be pretty afraid of doing a presentation, but the atmosphere was both encouraging and positive, and made me much more confident about giving information."

Otherwise, feedback suggests that the balance of the canonical and the unfamiliar in the course is about right, and that it works well as an introduction to a major genre of medieval writing. Several students record appreciation of an introduction to "texts I hadn't previously experienced," and of which they were able "to gain a greater understanding." The texts are unfamiliar to most students when they start, but for the majority, this is a strength: "It was fun to explore the Middle English conventions of Romance and how certain texts played with and twisted these conventions. The seminars were really useful when exploring these." Another wrote, "I have always found working with primary texts in Middle English difficult[,] however this course has given me a lot more confidence and skill in this area."

I use an on-line text resource, TEAMS (Consortium for the Teaching of the Middle Ages). This enables me to teach texts that are not otherwise easily available. Many of the students recorded their impression of the usefulness of this website.

This course will not run again in the immediate future, but I feel that I have the essentials of it right here, ready for when it does run again.

- David Matthews
Course Unit Director

Responses to Student Feedback - Academic Development (David Matthews)

ENGL/AMER 10171 Academic Development, Semester 1, 2010-11

This module featured a substantially revamped lecture series for the first time this year, and it is evident from student feedback that some further work needs to be done on the shape of the lectures. Much of this feedback was inaccurate - one complaint that lectures were not relevant to single honours students as the majority of lecturers were from American Studies was very wide of the mark, for example (three lecturers were from American Studies). Nevertheless, some of the student suggestions have given a good idea of the way to go in tailoring the lectures for next year's running of the module.

However, if responses to the lectures were occasionally disappointed, and disappointing, the response to seminars was overwhelmingly very favourable. One student writes, "I think I have become better at carrying out a closer analysis of a text. I find myself thinking more deeply and making more links..." Another says that a positive thing was: "Having my seminar led by an engaging and interesting person who has pushed me to think," while another says "My seminar leader's insight was often inspiring." Still another (from a different group) remarks: "The seminars were great to open up to different readings." On feedback to written work, one student writes, "I found the feedback excellent; constructive and helpful." These selected remarks are typical of dozens of responses across the whole cohort, reflecting a widespread sense of satisfaction with the seminars and all the seminar leaders. This has translated into a general satisfaction with the course. "The course has tested my way of interpreting texts," one student writes, "as I have encountered the views of others and their approaches to reading, which has forced me to assess my own responses." Another student referred to "A complete overhaul of my attitudes of possible prejudices towards reading."

It is clear, in other words, that the module is not simply pleasing students by confirming them in their attitudes on arrival at the University of Manchester, but opening them up to new ways of thinking, which, in the majority of cases, is greatly appreciated.
Overall, this feedback provides a strong basis on which to remodel the module, in some quite straightforward ways, for its next running in 2011-12.

- David Matthews
Course Unit Director

Monday 17 January 2011

Responses to Student Feedback - Conspiracy Theories (Peter Knight)

AMER 30381            Conspiracy Theories in American Culture

The feedback on this course was on the whole very positive, and there were few recommendations for changes. In particular the students commented favourably on the interesting range of intellectually stimulating topics that covered culture, history and politics.. The availability of all the course readings on Blackboard and a course blog were well received. Some students found that amount of reading in the early weeks excessive, particularly as there are many tricky concepts to get to grips with at the start of the course, and in future iterations of this course it will be possible to spread out the readings more. The last time this course was taught the students expressed concerns about the assessment being a single coursework essay, so this time round two pieces of assessment were set, and students valued this shift.

Friday 14 January 2011

References and Careers

Many of you will be asking academic staff for references in the coming months, for jobs, internships, PGCEs, MA applications, funding applications, and the like.

We are generally more than happy to prepare these for you. These are prepared in a personal capacity and you must ensure that you have our agreement to write a reference. It may be the case that an academic cannot write for you, for a variety of reasons.

Furthermore, there are some things you should remember:

Please ensure that you make your request in good time, allowing at least two weeks for the completion of the reference (and more if possible). You should check the availability of your desired referee with regard to these deadlines.

You should consider who is best to write you a reference - sometimes your Academic Advisor, for instance, will be better placed to comment on your academic career and progress as a whole than a seminar leader that you get on with well. Better, fuller references will be the result of a positive working relationship that has been built up over some time.

Please also ensure that you furnish the member of staff with the details of the post/ position/ course, and some information about your application (ie. a CV, or the like).

If there is anything particular you would like mentioned (extra-curricular activities, dissertation topics, fine results, etc), then you should let us know these too so that we can fold them into our letters of reference and recommendation. 

For those of you looking for jobs after University, the Careers service is excellent and will support you in a variety of ways, from vacancy hunting to interview training:

Responses to Student Feeback - Resistance to Revolution (Terry Corps)

AMER30641 Resistance to Revolution: The African-American Struggle for Freedom, 1945-1974
Module Director, Dr Terry Corps

Student performance
Nearly all the responses note their own good performance in terms of attendance and participation. This is probably an accurate reflection of the almost self-selecting group who were in attendance at the final session of the module. Among them attendance was usually very good while most got well involved in the opportunities for open discussion. Although attendance was far from perfect every week, with a couple of notable exceptions it was not the same students who were missing on a regular basis. Nearly all students engaged in the two compulsory group activities assigned to them, a presentation and a debate, and those who missed usually did so for valid reasons, such as illness and problems caused by weather conditions away from Manchester towards the end of the term.

Challenges and Development of Learning
The responses under these headings (and in the suggestions for changes section of the questionnaire) seem to fall into two camps, respectively positive and negative about the delivery style of a level 3 module.

The majority responded well to the module’s largely student-centred delivery by means of presentations and group debates. They felt this challenged their deeper learning skills, forcing them to do most of the work for themselves. Most comment on the amount of reading but accept that it provided their opportunity to keep up with the subject. In particular they valued the formal debates towards the end of the term which helped them to hone their skills of constructing an argument, in part through making themselves aware of what the other side of the debate was.

A minority of 4 of the responses felt that this approach did not prepare them adequately, especially for the examination, and they said they would have preferred much more tutor input in the sessions. In part this was because they felt the presentations were not all that penetrating or informative. One response also admitted that they were forced to learn for themselves, which, I am tempted to say, is partly what any module, but especially a level 3 module, should be about. I would also add that after each presentation there were opportunities to follow up with questions and discussion and that some students made rather greater use of these than did others.

In two ways I do sympathise with some of this criticism. Because of larger than expected numbers in the group (31 instead of 23) each presenting group had one extra person compared to previous runnings of the module. While all groups were encouraged to be disciplined in meeting a time limit, I probably allowed greater leeway than normal with this so that everyone could make their contribution – and this left less time at the end of each session for discussion and tutor summing-up. Second, a couple of the presentations were of a much less high quality than the others (and than any of those in previous years) and may well not have ‘taught’ their audience that much. If it is any consolation, while the presentations themselves were not assessed, the written assignment (derived from the presentation material) obviously was and some received quite low marks for this piece of work.

I am slightly more concerned that a couple of the 4 more critical responses noted that they did not feel they had been challenged any more than they had at level 2, nor had learned that much. Without knowing their background in the topic or the nature of delivery of their level 2 modules it is hard to comment on this. However, the majority of responses report that the module did challenge them intellectually, providing different approaches to conceptualising civil rights, offering a good range of primary source materials to learn from, and making them appreciate the value of historiography more than beforehand.

Module resources
All responses were positive about the level of resources available for the module, most commenting on the usefulness of the two required primary source texts and revealing that they had made good use of the full range of library and online materials available to them. Indeed, the evidence from the written assignments is that most students researched well for their presentations and papers, going well beyond the readings recommended in the module syllabus.

A recurring feature of the questionnaires was reference to the lack of a Blackboard site for the module. While I plead ‘not guilty’ to the comment in one response that I am not keen on that kind of thing, I concede that shortage of time at the beginning of what was a hectic semester for me meant that I did not get around to activating a site. If asked to teach the module again I would certainly make use of Blackboard to provide an electronic copy of the main module syllabus at the very least. I also take on board the idea that such a site would be a good place to disseminate materials from the group presentations, with each group uploading their Powerpoint slides. It would also be a means to facilitate easier group work in preparation of the presentations and debates.

With almost no exception the questionnaires were positive about the range of feedback provided, both in writing on written assignments and orally in response to group presentations. Those that commented were similarly positive about the usefulness of email communications.

Wednesday 12 January 2011

Responses to Student Feedback - Milton (Jerome de Groot)

ENGL30541 Milton

I am really pleased with the feedback for this course, which has changed slightly this year, and it seems the students enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed teaching it (‘Most thought provoking and interesting course this semester’). The students liked my approach (‘Teaching style which encouraged excellent discussion) but also directed their own learning which was very satisfying for them.

The students who responded were very keen on the feedback that had been offered on formative piece throughout the term. ‘Definitely the best module for feedback’ said one student. In particular they were asked to feed back on the work of their peers, and this was seen to be valuable and innovative.

The presentations were seen to be useful, and the web resources were excellent. The students enjoyed the time in the John Rylands Special Collection, working on primary materials and engaging in real research (‘New interest in working with original texts’). The choice of the course – for essays, research, presentation and class work – was seen to be a virtue. The course was challenging and stimulating (‘Significantly improved close-reading abilities’;

The fact that the class was taught in a small group was praised, as was the Milton Reading Group (‘should be made compulsory’). Many respondents thought we should have more time on Paradise Lost – I will try to work out how to do this next year.

Tuesday 11 January 2011

Responses to Student Feedback - Reading Popular Narratives (Jackie Pearson)


This year’s questionnaires were gratifyingly positive. Students ‘really enjoyed the course – my favourite so far’, ‘the most entertaining module I have taken’. They thought it was well structured, and that the ‘content was varied and fun’ and ‘the books were fantastic’. Despite the large group sizes, many students remarked that ‘class discussion was excellent’, ‘very engaging and illuminating – very well led and prompted’, and the ‘atmosphere encouraged [them] to contribute’. They commented that the course had ‘changed my way of reading popular texts’, ‘made me think about why’, ‘reminded me of the pleasures of reading’, ‘challenged my pre-conceived notions’.

The teaching on the course was generally highly rated (‘one of the best teachers’), and the tutor was considered ‘helpful and approachable’, prompt in responding to e-mails, and ‘the most welcoming door in the English corridor!’ (One student, asked to comment on what particularly helped learning and development, said ‘Probably Jackie’!) This year, partly as a response to continuing large class sizes, I tried to introduce more personal elements – one to one meetings to discuss the planning of the coursework essay, and to discuss and return the marked essay – and so many students appreciated this that I shall try to continue with this and extend it to other courses. I also introduced optional writing exercises, which a few students took advantage of and also appreciated.

Most students commented specifically on how useful they had found the Blackboard material  – ‘brilliant’, ‘amazing use of Blackboard’. This encourages me to keep posting summaries of class discussions on Blackboard and extend this to other classes, and perhaps to expand what is available (maybe, as one student suggested, to include model essays).

Almost everyone commented appreciatively on the promptness, quantity and quality of the feedback (even when they had been disappointed with individual marks): ‘very constructive’, ‘excellent’, ‘exceptionally detailed and very helpful’, ‘very detailed and very prompt’, ‘the most extensive I have had so far ... detailed, personal and constructive’. I also, this year, gave written feedback on presentations, and that too was appreciated.

The usual criticisms – of large class sizes, and the shortage of copies of books in the library – were repeated by one or two students, but much less than in previous years; possibly the availability of Blackboard and other e-resources, and strategies like one to one meetings, have helped. One or two suggestions were made, but only by one or two students, so I will think about them but not necessarily consider them a clear mandate for change – that the 2-hour block be broken up with a coffee break; that a lecture should be added to the seminar; that the presentations should be assessed; that more theory be added. In terms of syllabus, most students were happy, though a couple hated Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (though I still think this raises interesting issues!), and one wanted a return to The Da Vinci Code (which last year’s students hated). I will give these full consideration before running the course again.

Jackie Pearson

Stachniewski Memorial Lecture, 16 February, 5pm

This year's Stachniewski Memorial Lecture will take place on the 16 February at 5pm, in the Arts Lecture Theatre, Samuel Alexander Building, University of Manchester. This lecture commemorates one of our late colleagues in Manchester English and American Studies and is held jointly each year with the UCU.

The speaker this year is Professor Kate Chedgzoy, from the University of Newcastle. Her title is  ‘Boys’ own stories: Children as poets and storytellers in Shakespeare’s England’. All welcome. Please circulate details.

Bright Club Manchester @ Nexus Art Cafe, 17 Feb

A number of experts will talk about the theme of consequences and use comedy to engage the audience in their work. There will be a compere and musicians and subjects will range from chaos theory to art to the environment.

Ewan Fernie on the Demonic

Noted Shakespearean critic Ewan Fernie speaks at Manchester cathedral on 'The Demonic in Modern Literature and Culture', on the 18th of January, 7pm. All welcome.

Responses to Student Feedback - Postcolonial Literature and Theory (Robert Spencer)

ENGL31011 – Postcolonial Literature and Theory

Students evidently found this course enjoyable and instructive. They really appreciated the opportunity to engage with unfamiliar primary texts from diverse periods and places. Moreover, they found the course challenging since it introduced them to texts, concepts and ideas that prompted them to ask difficult questions about their own preconceptions and expectations: culturally but also, occasionally, politically. The chance to read theoretical material was valued, particularly the time given over in class to detailed and, importantly, critical discussion of this material. The balance between theoretical and literary texts was considered appropriate. A great deal of material, including reading lists and secondary articles, is posted on Blackboard, which students found helpful. The feedback on essays received particularly effusive praise for being prompt, extensive, detailed and constructive.

Gratifyingly, my teaching was praised for its clarity and for my ability to encourage debate. The classes were thought to be focussed and effectively structured. Several students mentioned the size of the class and thought that this might have discouraged them from participating in the discussion. I was aware of the problem and will place greater emphasis on group work next year and perhaps on class presentations in order to encourage the quieter students to engage.

The perennial dissatisfaction with library resources is being tackled. I am aware that there are gaps in the provision when it comes to postcolonial literature and theory and am busily ordering new books. Some students would like more contact time. This year I held a weekly reading group to discuss poems, articles and so on that were relevant to the material discussed in seminars but which were not in any way part of the course. Attendance was OK and we had some good discussions. I will continue with this experiment next year.  

Several students suggested that formative feedback might be introduced earlier in the course so that they could gauge their progress. I will look into the possibility of introducing this for 2011-12.

Robert Spencer, 11/1/11

Monday 10 January 2011

Responses to student feedback: Emerging Modernities (Jeremy Tambling)

Comments on student responses to the ‘Emerging Modernities’ course, 2010-12-22

Prof. Jeremy Tambling

  1. The comments seem very generous indeed, and I am glad students enjoyed the course. I enjoyed teaching it. 
  2. For those who say there was not enough ‘feedback’, I can only say that I have never known a course where so few students approached me for help in my office-hours, or at any other time. I have made it clear that I only respond to emails to arrange appointments or to answer brief queries, because I believe university teaching should be, in the absence of tutorials, by informal conversation, and I am happy for these to go on as long as is profitable. This group of students hardly approached me at all, though I encouraged them to do so, even for help on how to approach the essay.
  3. Though I did not use Blackboard, there was plenty of material on my website for the students to use, but I did not refer to this: it was there as back-up and as information.
  4. My regret is that students felt that they could come or not come as they chose to class. The course was designed to be taken as a whole, not as a collection of separate texts, but I thought students missed classes much too frequently for this intention really to be carried out.
  5. For the students who felt that 3 hours was too long: I am sure they are right, but this was because I had more students than I thought, producing I hour lecture plus two hours seminar. I decided to put the seminars together, and teach all for the 3 hours. This gave more contact time, and I do not think it lessened discussion. If I had the chance to, given a similar situation, it would be good to have 2 hours plus one, but (a) I am not sure this could be arranged administratively though I could and will try and (b) I am not sure that the students would come together twice a week, though it would be ideal if they could! 

Responses to student feedback: Contemporary Irish Poetry (Liam Harte)

ENGL30941 Contemporary Irish Poetry and Fiction, 2010-11
Response to Student Questionnaires

The course received an overwhelmingly positive response from students, virtually all of  whom commented on the intellectually stimulating nature of the course in terms of its content, structure, design and delivery. The teaching was judged to be of a high quality; the feedback was deemed clear, constructive and timely; the tutor was considered approachable and helpful; the lecture/seminar format was seen as enhancing learning; and the primary and secondary reading was said by most to be engaging, challenging and informative. Several students said they really liked the fact that they were required to present on a topic of their choosing at some point during the course. When asked what they would like to see changed, the great majority of students said that they were very happy with the course as it stands, with many stating that they would recommend the course to others.

The following two aspects of the course were singled out for particular praise:

1. The Blackboard course site. Students said:

·      ‘I thought the Blackboard site for this course was excellent, very well organised and useful. I’d like to see a similar standard of Blackboard site for other English courses.’
·      ‘Blackboard was the best I have encountered – organised, informative and interesting.’
·      ‘Blackboard and the library were superb. Everything I wanted or needed in relation to the course I could access.’
·      ‘Blackboard resources were fantastic.’
·      ‘The texts on Blackboard were a great foundation.’

2. The introduction of an online multiple-choice examination, which carries 30% of the overall assessment. Students welcomed this as ‘removing the process of selective revision’ and said that it was ‘a great way of encouraging students to engage with every text’. Several also liked the fact that it provided them with timely feedback prior to the written examination. While some students felt the exam revision was quite taxing, the general consensus was that it should be continued in the future.

All in all, then, the feedback received for this course was gratifyingly positive. Students have evidently had an enjoyable and stimulating learning experience.

Liam Harte
January 2011

Wednesday 5 January 2011

The Manchester Review

The Manchester Review is published by the Centre for New Writing and features new poetry and prose, interviews, and reviews. The most recent edition is here:

Figures and stuff

Unnoticed, over the Christmas Holidays the hits on the EAS blog crashed through the 10,000 barrier, so well done for reading and keeping the spirit alive (unless you're the strange people in foreign climes who keep on trying to add comments about their own specialist websites...). We've also got a whole 71 followers on Twitter ( If you've any comments or suggestions (or material to post) on how to improve, develop or expand do let us know. Forza into 2011!

Tuesday 4 January 2011

Post-Christmas Exercise: Manchester Then and Now Walking Tour

Audio downloadable tour available in MP3 format and can be played on iPods, iPhones, smart phones, MP3 Players and other devices with MP3 playing capability. It describes some of the key socio-economic developments and personalities responsible for shaping Manchester's past and present. Further details are here: Free Manchester Tour