Author Archive

Hwæt! Anglo-Saxon in 1973

Probably the biggest shock to the system back in 1973 was the requirement to study Anglo-Saxon. Most of us had encountered Chaucer, since the Prologue to the Canterbury Tales plus one of the tales was a common package set at A level. I’d read the Nun’s Priest’s Tale and the Knight’s Tale. So we had… Continue reading Hwæt! Anglo-Saxon in 1973

Review: Emmeline

Emmeline, by Charlotte Smith (Walmer Classics, 978-0-6457519-0-1 paperback) A novel with the title Emmeline: The Orphan of the Castle, published in 1787, immediately suggests that the narrative will deal with a spirited and noble heroine, whose virtue will be threatened by a villainous admirer. The heroine will have a champion who will rescue her from… Continue reading Review: Emmeline

Beowulf to Virginia Woolf

Recently, I was corresponding with a friend about doing some guest lectures, and I was asked about what topics I could cover. I said, jokingly, “Beowulf to Virginia Woolf.” I wasn’t claiming expertise over a thousand years of literature, merely a kind of Jack-of-all-trades competence. It stems initially, I think, from teaching A level English… Continue reading Beowulf to Virginia Woolf

Robert Nye’s Falstaff

I recently had a chat for the International Anthony Burgess Foundations’s podcast series “99 Novels”. Each episode discusses a book that Burgess included in his survey of mid-twentieth century fiction, published as Ninety Nine Novels in 1984. In this episode, the Foundation’s Dr Graham Foster and I discuss Robert Nye’s rumbustious novel Falstaff. We also… Continue reading Robert Nye’s Falstaff

Eng Lit Life, 1973

When I started my degree, we weren’t bombarded with information in the way that freshers are now. Our only source of information was the noticeboard in the English department, which in those days was situated in one of the brutalist concrete buildings that had been built when the university expanded in the sixties. We were… Continue reading Eng Lit Life, 1973

Jonathan Coe, Middle England

Brexit is at the centre, both literally and metaphorically, of Jonathan Coe’s latest novel. The title hints at the territory it covers: geographical, since much of the action takes place in the English midlands; social, since many, but by no means all, of the characters are comfortably-off middle class; and psychological, since the sympathetic characters… Continue reading Jonathan Coe, Middle England

Piers Paul Read: A Patriot in Berlin

Piers Paul Read is something of an oddity in contemporary English fiction, in that he is probably best known for his non-fiction work, most notably Alive, the 1975 account of the aftermath of the Andes plane crash. His other non-fiction has varied between other chronicles of disaster, such as Ablaze, about the Chernobyl nuclear reactor… Continue reading Piers Paul Read: A Patriot in Berlin

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