King’s Regiment First World War Family History Day

Museum of Liverpool Saturday September 28, 10am–4pm

On Saturday September 28th I’m going to be attending the King’s Regiment First World War Family History Day at the Museum of Liverpool. This is a free family history event to help people with their search into relatives who served in the First World War and includes talks by First World War historical experts, performances and roleplayers and arts and crafts for younger visitors.

Visitors can gain access to a research database, which contains the biographical details of over 76,000 men who served in the King’s Regiment during the First World War. If you are researching your family history there will be experts on hand who can help with The King’s Regiment, including Pals and Territorials, local men who signed up with other units, and access to local and national research resources. There will also be music performed by The Liverpool Welsh Choral and the chance to meet a King’s Regiment ‘Tommy’ and see what his life in a trench was like, learn about the embroidered postcards he sent home, and to make your own postcard.

War in the Twentieth Century

I’ll be talking about this year’s Continuing Education “War in the Twentieth Century” series and about a photography project I’m setting up (more on that soon). If you’re interested in family history and want to get some context for the lives of your ancestors the courses in the war series, on the history, literature, art, and culture of the period, should be a great help. More information about these courses is here: War in the Twentieth Century.

Side by Side Project

I will also be promoting a new project based on collecting photographs of participants in WW1 and their descendants. For more about that, please visit the Side by Side project website.

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Read the Shortlist

man booker prize image

Have you always promised yourself you would read the Man Booker Prize shortlist? Now’s the time!

Join our friendly 10 week course to compare and contrast the reads and put the judges’ opinions to the test. The 2013 list includes:

We Need New Names – NoViolet Bulawayo

The Luminaries – Eleanor Catton

Harvest – Jim Crace

The Lowland – Jhumpa Lahiri

A Tale for the Time Being – Ruth L. Ozeki

The Testament of Mary – Colm Toibin
Every Thursday starting from September 26th 2013 until November 28th 2013 at 1400 – 1600

Presented by: Hana Leaper at the University of Liverpool

Cost: £82, Concessions: £57/£41
Code: 17888 Credits: 0

To book a place and register, telephone 0151 794 6900, Post an enquiry, or Drop in to the Continuing Education Reception, 126 Mount Pleasant, Liverpool,

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Searching for Richard III

richard_III_AFollowing the discovery of the body of Richard III in 2012, we have put together a lecture series in Liverpool looking at various aspects of Richard and his cultural legacy. Archaeology, Art History, English and History departments join the search for the real Richard III in a series of linked evening lectures. These talks will investigate the scientific and historic evidence that helps us to understand how this picture of the king was formed and will enable us to better judge how accurate the picture might be. If you choose to attend all four Richard III lectures then you will pay a discounted rate of £30.


Richard III: reign and reputation
Lecture: Monday 14 October 6.15 – 8pm, University of Liverpool
With Dr Martin Heale
This lecture will assess the brief reign of Richard III and consider how historians have sought to understand and evaluate this most controversial – and topical – of English kings.
CRN 17617

Life in the age of Richard III: a bioarchaeological perspective
Lecture: Monday 28 October 6.15 – 8pm, University of Liverpool
With Shirley Curtis-Summers
Using scientific evidence from the skeletal remains of Richard III, this lecture will build a picture of past lifeways in the middle ages. Key case studies will be presented in bioarchaeology (how we identify and recreate evidence of diet, health, trauma and pathology). We will analyse the skeletal trauma from Richard III and the Battle of Towton skeletons, investigate monastic dieting and fasting practices, and consider diet and disease from the medieval perspective.
Note that images of human remains will be shown in this lecture.
CRN 18025

Richard III: Shakespeare’s villain
Lecture: Monday 11 November 6.15 – 8pm, University of Liverpool
With Andrea Young
As part of our Searching for Richard III series, this session will explore the historical, literary and dramatic influences on which Shakespeare drew to create one of his greatest anti-heroes.
CRN 17885

Richard III: Portraying the King
Lecture: Monday 25 November 6.15 – 8pm, University of Liverpool
With Dr Suzanne May
One of the Walker Art Gallery’s most important paintings is ‘David Garrick as Richard III’. This lecture tells how William Hogarth’s 1745 portrait reconciles Shakespearean historicism and dramatic licence with artistic ambition and celebrity portraiture.
CRN 15667

For more information on Continuing Education at Liverpool, and for information on how to sign up, please visit

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Owning Jane Austen

Another day, another Jane Austen news story. Two hundred years after the publication of Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen can still make headlines. This summer has seen the successful campaign to put Austen on a ten pound note followed by a scarcely believable misogynist backlash. And then there is dispute over the sale of a ring that she once owned. Does it matter if American singer, Kelly Clarkson, gets to take the ring home or should it be saved for the British nation? Whatever happens to the ring, Austen‘s ‘image’ will be appearing on the ten pound note in 2017. Given her acute understanding of the significance of money and the precarious nature of her own financial status for most of her life, this mark of recognition seems both apt and (appropriately) ironic.

Cassandra Austen (1773-1845). Portrait of Jane Austen (c. 1810). Watercolor and pencil. National Portrait Gallery, London: NPG 3630

Cassandra Austen (1773-1845). Portrait of Jane Austen (c. 1810). Watercolor and pencil. National Portrait Gallery, London: NPG 3630

The Jane Austen who will appear on the notes is a version of the memoir portrait by James Andrews, itself an adaptation of Cassandra Austen’s watercolour sketch of her younger sister. This will be combined with two background images, one of Austen writing and the other of Godmersham, her brother Edward’s home. Edward Austen-Knight, was fortunate to acquire his money by means of his adoption by the childless Knights. Jane Austen was merely a visitor at his house in Kent. She joked in a letter: ‘Kent is the only place for happiness, Everybody is rich there.’ Opinions on the likeness of Cassandra’s sketch are contradictory but so too are descriptions of the author’s appearance. Until relatively recently Cassandra’s work has been the standard vision of Austen but in 2011 the case for another image has been put by Paula Byrne, who champions a more formal portrait as an accurate representation of Jane Austen as accomplished author. She reiterates this in her audaciously titled biography, The Real Jane Austen, published earlier this year.

Jane Austen

The Real Jane Austen, written in the form of a series of essays, each taking a particular artefact as the basis for a meditation on some aspect of Austen’s life or cultural context, is a highly enjoyable and engaging read. And Byrne’s Austen is a woman for our times, even as she is presented as a woman absolutely of her own. Austen likes to act, dance, walk, visit the theatre, travel, sea-bathe, and keep up with fashion. Whilst Byrne acknowledges the work of previous Austen scholars in her biography, it is undoubtedly a revisionist work. I was surprised to find that the only specific reference to Claire Tomalin’s celebrated 1997 study was in a critical footnote. Despite the fact that both Tomalin and Byrne argue the case against seeing Austen’s life as one of quiet obscurity, the character of the author and the tenor of her life are contested. Tomalin’s work is a much more melancholy affair. It emphasises the humiliating dependency of the Austen women on their male relatives, particularly after the death of Jane’s father when Jane, her sister and her mother lacked a place to call home. And it relates this unsettled period to a lack of productivity in the writer. Byrne argues against this. Despite a postscript which ends with an image of Austen laughing, as a cradle to the grave biography, Tomalin’s work pays close attention to the illness which caused Austen’s death at the age of 41. By contrast, Byrne does not dwell on this and concludes with an appealing vignette of Jane looking out to sea. This image, another sketch by Cassandra, showing bonnet and back rather than face, necessarily maintains the enigma of Austen’s appearance. Readers see her as they will.

For me, Jane Austen is the writer who first made school English lessons interesting. At the age of fourteen I started reading Northanger Abbey, the first of our ‘O’ level texts. How wonderful it was to read a novel about a fifteen year old heroine, neither beautiful nor rich, often misunderstood or misinterpreted, who had problems both with a young man that she fancied and a young man that she didn’t; and who also had to work out who her best friend should be. The etiquette of the school disco was not quite that of the Assembly Rooms but Austen would have understood the agonies of ‘the slowie’. And better still, she would have written about that ordeal in gloriously sarky prose. I started reading Austen at exactly the right age but have returned to her razor sharp romances both as books and in their many adaptations and each time I have seen something afresh. I am looking forward to re-reading her major novels and re-viewing her twenty-first century appeal.

By Shirley Jones

Shirley’s course ten-week course, The Novels of Jane Austen, starts on Thursday 26th September, 2- 4pm.  She says, “If you have never read Austen before or if you are a fully paid up member of the fan-club come along to share your ideas.  We shall discuss all of Austen’s major novels as well as considering her status in contemporary culture.”  Sign up today at the University of Liverpool’s Department of Continuing Education.

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Women in Scandinavian and British Crime Fiction

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Last year in the course ‘The Female Dick: Women in Crime Fiction’, we examined female authors and female detectives in mainly American crime fiction, moving from the first women to make it in Hollywood like Leigh Brackett and Vera Caspary; to Sarah Paretsky’s and Marcia Muller’s early feminist incarnations; Janet Evanovich’s outrageously funny bounty hunter; the smart and indignant novels of Barbara Neely, and finally to Megan Abbott’s dark nostalgia.

This year, we’re taking on a new continent and examining a wide range of styles.

TV series, like The Killing, The Bridge and Wallander, have placed Scandinavian crime drama, with its haunting foreign settings, in the popular consciousness, and Nordic crime dramas have come to define a certain recognizable style: the latest series on BBC2, Top of the Lake, which is set in New Zealand, has been compared to Scandinavian crime fiction, and its director Jane Campion has cited The Girl with a Dragon Tattoo as an inspiration (although I think Twin Peaks has visited some of this ground before, albeit from a more absurd perspective, and I wonder if the Danish directors of The Killing looked to it for inspiration– especially in the scene when the mother learns of her daughter’s murder) . It is perhaps because the setting is so much a character in Scandinavian crime dramas that it will be interesting to see how the new US version of The Bridge, set on the border between Mexico and the US, will ‘translate’.

We’ll move from the exotic climes of Scandinavia to examine home grown and well-loved authors with new eyes. Over the past few years, there have been a lot of reasons to celebrate Britishness, including royal weddings and births and the Olympic games. But no where is the idea of Britishness more accessible to the world than through the genre of detective and crime fiction. Although James Bond, Sherlock Holmes and George Smiley may be the first names to mind, women, such as Agatha Christie’s elderly sleuth Miss Marple, have also made their international mark. Crime fiction, British or Scandinavian, may not be uncritical of a nation’s culture, as, for example, Steig Larsson takes on the evils of entrenched male chauvinism in Sweden, but the brilliance of some of the writers our countries have produced and exported is surely a matter of patriotic pride.

‘Women in Scandinavian and British Crime Fiction’ will run from 26 September for 10 weeks from 4-6pm.

We’ll be looking at the following texts:

Steig Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Liza Marklund’s The Bomber

Camilla Lackberg’s The Hidden Child

Sjowall and Wahloo’s The Laughing Policeman

PD James’ An Unsuitable Job for a Woman

Agatha Christie’s The Murder of Roger Ackroyd

Ruth Rendell’s Live Flesh

Dorothy L. Sayers’ Whose Body?

Margery Allingham’s Mystery Mile

Sign up today at the University of Liverpool’s Continuing Education.

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Redburn and the 9/11 Memorial: Melville’s words still ring true

A few weeks ago, while I was visiting the US (on a Liverpool-London-Detroit-New York-London- Liverpool journey), I reread Herman Melville‘s Redburn in preparation for my class this autumn, Writers in Victorian Liverpool.

Redburn, the titular character, is a young American, who because his family has fallen on hard times, decides to become a sailor on a merchant vessel from New York destined for Liverpool. As a novice who is unfamiliar with both cities and with sailing, Redburn is the best of observers, explaining not with the casual acceptance of a hardened and experienced man, but with the pain of one experiencing and questioning its cruelties for the first time. Indeed, much like Ismael’s narration in Melville’s great work Moby Dick, Redburn’s narration meanders like the ship it describes, often leaving the main thread of the narrative to recount anecdotes or offer detailed descriptions, impressions or explanations of ship life.

Redburn does eventually go ashore, and his descriptions of New York and Liverpool  are striking. Not only their architectural changes, as the Melville Map produced as part of the Moby Dick on the Mersey Marathon shows so vividly, but also for the social differences between the two countries. Redburn is surprised that his black shipmates are treated with equality in Liverpool in a way they would not have been in New York,  but he is in turn shocked by the Liverpudlians’  dismissive treatment of a starving woman and her children.

As a sailor with very little money, Redburn spends considerable time on the docks, where merchant ships of every nationality can be found. It is in this centre for international shipping that he sees a microcosm of America:

There is something in the contemplation of the mode in which America has been settled, that, in a noble breast, should forever extinguish the prejudices of national dislikes. Settled by the people of all nations, all nations may claim her for their own. You can not spill a drop of American blood without spilling the blood of the whole world. Be he Englishman, Frenchman, German, Dane, or Scot; the European who scoffs at an American, calls his own brother Raca, and stands in danger of the judgment. We are not a narrow tribe of men, with a bigoted Hebrew nationality–whose blood has been debased in the attempt to ennoble it, by maintaining an exclusive succession among ourselves. No: our blood is as the flood of the Amazon, made up of a thousand noble currents all pouring into one. We are not a nation, so much as a world; for unless we may claim all the world for our sire, like Melchizedek, we are without father or mother.

For who was our father and our mother? Or can we point to any Romulus and Remus for our founders? Our ancestry is lost in the universal paternity; and Caesar and Alfred, St. Paul and Luther, and Homer and Shakespeare are as much ours as Washington, who is as much the world’s as our own. We are the heirs of all time, and with all nations we divide our inheritance. On this Western Hemisphere all tribes and people are forming into one federated whole; and there is a future which shall see the estranged children of Adam restored as to the old hearthstone in Eden.

Standing in lower Manhattan, overlooking the stretch of water that is home to Ellis Island and The Statue of Liberty, I felt this connection to the world, amidst the buzz of tourists and businessmen, construction workers and hawkers, restaurateurs and street vendors. It helped that one set of my grandparents crossed these waters as immigrants and arrived at Ellis Island. Diversity, Melville argues, is America’s glorious shared history, and this unification creates an uncommon ownership and solidarity. Looking over the names of the fallen at the 9/11 Memorial, names from every race and creed, I was reminded powerfully of Melville’s text.911

Writers in Victorian Liverpool will meet Wednesdays from the 25th of September, 4-6 pm. We’ll be looking at the following texts:

Redburn, Herman Melville

Bleak House, Charles Dickens

‘Queen Eleanor and Fair Rosamond’ in A Widow’s Tale and Other Stories, Margaret Oliphant  

‘Consular Experiences’ and ‘English Poverty’ in Our Old Home, Nathaniel Hawthorne

We will also be considering journal articles, diaries and poems from Victorians who lived or worked in Liverpool. Sign up today at Continuing Education.

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Waterstone’s Classics: A Chance to Dip into Literature on your Lunch Hour

Waterstone’s Liverpool One organizes a series of free talks by academics from the University of Liverpool, Liverpool John Moores University and Edge Hill University on Wednesdays from 1-2 pm. It’s a great chance to dip into a work you’ve always been curious about or to learn more about a novel or book you’ve always enjoyed (and to meet a few of the Continuing Education Lecturers who are participating).Waterstones

Wednesday 15th May: Dr Greg Lynall (University of Liverpool) on Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels.

Tuesday 21st May: Lee Rooney (University of Liverpool) on Cormac McCarthy’s The Road.

Wednesday 29th May: Dr Danny O’Connor (University of Liverpool) on T.S. Eliot’s The Wasteland.

Thursday 6th June: Dr Ben Brabon (Edge Hill University) on Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

Tuesday 11th June: Maria Shmygol (University of Liverpool) on Solzhenitsyn’s One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich.

Wednesday 19th June: Dr Matthew Bradley (University of Liverpool) on Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray.

Wednesday 26th June: Dr Chris Pak (University of Liverpool) on Stanislaw Lem.

Wednesday 3rd July: Steve Powell (University of Liverpool) on John Le Carre’s Smiley Trilogy.

Wednesday 10th July: Dr Diana Powell (University of Liverpool) on Walter Scott’s The Bride of Lammermoor.

Tuesday 16th July: Andy Sawyer (University of Liverpool) on the work of Saki (H.H. Monroe).

Monday 22nd July: Dr David Hering (University of Liverpool) on David Foster Wallace’s The Pale King. 

The talks are given in the Illy Cafe on the first floor.

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Seeing Liverpool through Herman Melville’s Eyes: Google Earth Map of Victorian Liverpool

Salthouse Docks, by Atkinson Grimshaw

Salthouse Docks, by Atkinson Grimshaw

Most people have experienced entering a foreign city for the first time– it’s those first moments when your senses are most perceptive. Struck by the new sights and smells, the architecture and the customs, the strange and extraordinary aspects of the city emerge.

The project ‘Mapping Melville’s Liverpool’ offers just this experience, whether you’re a native Liverpudlian or have never visited the city, by showing Liverpool through the eyes of the American author, Herman Melville, culled from his visits to the city in 1839 and 1856.

Even though I’ve lived on three continents and in several big cities, helping make the map was an exciting experience. Buildings or places I have walked by almost without noticing, like the Lyceum on Bold Street, suddenly took on new meaning, and unusual discoveries, such as the Institute for the Restoration of Drowned Persons, which was once located on Chapel Street, completely altered my view of the now-business district of the city (if you’re a fan of Our Mutual Friend you’ll find the rather gruesome description of pulling bodies out of the Mersey in exchange for a few bob similar to Dickens’ description of London).

Uncover the gems and curiosities Melville found in Victorian Liverpool and experience the raw excitement of discovering a ‘new’ city.

Places of interest include: St George’s Hall, St John’s Market, the docks, Paradise and Lord Street and sailor-friendly hotels and pubs in Victorian Liverpool

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The Chester Mystery Plays

ChesterMysteryPlay_300dpiDr. Andrea Young is running a new course to coincide with the 2013 Chester Mystery PlaysThe Chester Mystery Plays course will be led by Dr. Andrea Young, an expert in medieval drama from the University of Liverpool’s Continuing Education Programme. The course will consist of four weekly meetings beginning on Thursday May 30th (6.30pm-8pm), and will take place at Bishop Lloyds Palace, 51-53 Watergate Row South.  No knowledge of Middle English is required as modern spelling versions will be used.

Though primarily biblical, the Chester Mystery Plays contain a lot of social realism and deal directly with issues that are common to us today – corrupt authority, sexual politics, the stresses of work, family issues and more. You will be amazed how easy it is to relate to the original scripts and to appreciate the ingenuity of the staging. I hope that learning about the plays in the same city – on one of the same streets, in fact – where the words were first spoken and music played, will add a very important dimension, and whet the audience’s appetite for the live performances.

Two sessions will be devoted to Old Testament episodes and two to the New Testament. Dr. Young consulted Stephanie Dale, writer of the 2013 Chester plays, to choose which plays will be studied. The course will look at the Noah Play and the Antichrist play, and potential students can tweet @HumanumGenus to make suggestions for the other two. Each session will include a short presentation and the chance to read and analyse the original texts, looking for clues as to the staging and key themes. There will also be lots of cross references to historical records and plenty of time for discussion.

Follow Andrea Young on Twitter @HumanumGenus

For more information visit the University of Liverpool’s Continuing Education website or email:  0151 794 6900

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Talks on Scrimshaw and Herman Melville in Liverpool

Free talks on scrimshaw and on Herman Melville’s time in Liverpool are featured on the Moby Dick on the Mersey website. These are part of the marathon reading weekend May 4th-6th.

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