When you come to study English at Birkbeck, I’ll most likely give the first lecture you hear. I convene the modern half of the first-year Reading Literature module and in that lecture I’ll talk with you about what we read, where we’re reading it, who reads, why we’re reading what we’re reading, and how we’re reading it. On the BA English, I also teach the level 6 modules English Literary Modernism and Henry James & T. S. Eliot.
As a teacher, I’m always learning. I rely on you, my student, to help me help you make the most of your degree. At Birkbeck, the standard learning format is the lecture and the seminar (a class of around 15 students). I will involve you in my lectures, pausing for discussion and practical tasks. In my seminars, I will vary the learning formats, mixing ‘mini-lectures’ with work in pairs, work in groups, brainstorming at the white-board, audio and visual stimuli and plenary class discussion. My students’ feedback tells me that study-buddy groups (also known as autonomous learning groups) are an excellent way both to learn and to feel part of the learning process. In my Henry James & T. S. Eliot module, study-buddy groups have worked on the ‘scenic route’ (James’ method of constructing his novels out of scenes) and ‘objective correlatives’ (Eliot’s use and theories of imagery). In my English Literary Modernism module, I’ll introduce you to the period with a seminar on The Modernist Party. We discuss the experience of going to parties (I haven’t yet met a student who hasn’t been to one) and explore some parties in Modernist texts (Joyce’s ‘The Dead’, Woolf’s To The Lighthouse and Katherine Mansfield’s ‘The Garden Party’). Having prepared beforehand, you then role-play a Modernist figure – a writer, dancer or artist, say – at an imaginary party being held in 1922, mingling with and finding out about your fellow ‘guests’. At the end, we reflect on the exercise – some students find it exhilarating, others find it awkward. Either way, you’ll have felt something of the Modernist experience.
At graduate level, I’m the Director of the MA in Modern and Contemporary Literature and teach the MA core course Becoming Modern and option modules in Modernist Writers and the First World War, Modernist Literature and Modern Art and T. S. Eliot. As Director, I organise study skills sessions, visiting speakers, round-table discussions and film screenings, so that you have a varied learning experience. Full use is made of Moodle, Birkbeck’s virtual learning environment.
I am currently supervising PhDs on the Modernist short story; late Modernism, the First World War and the body; Mary Webb; and constructions of safety in Second World War writing. In the past, I have supervised dissertations on doubt and experience in Modernist novels and early twentieth-century trials; the Vietnam War and eco-criticism; the First World War and publishing history; and the First World War and constructions of shell-shock. I welcome proposals for research in twentieth-century literature, particularly Modernism, in any aspect of war representation and in rhetoric.