Literature in Brighton, Katy Shaw is an expert in the literature of the Miners' Strike
Brighton has long been famous for its thriving literary culture, part of a diverse and carnivalesque creative scene that has developed over two centuries. It is the backdrop for texts as diverse as Dickens' Dombey and Son, Graham Greene's Brighton Rock, Julie Burchill's Sugar Rush and the novels of best-selling thriller writer Peter James – a regular visitor to the department, and in whose name an annual prize is given to the best Literature student. From the University of Brighton itself, student Louise Rennison has become famous for her writing for teenagers, while the world-renowned collage novel Woman's World was produced by Graham Rawle.
Literary culture is equally central to the courses in the College of Arts and Humanities at the University of Brighton, where a sense of the production and meanings of texts, history, writing and culture are integral to degrees which emphasise the intersection of theory and practice, literary analysis with literary writing. Our literature staff are embedded in the literary and research community in Brighton, and offer several degree programmes in English literature, either as a single subject or as part of a subject combination. English Literature at Brighton is a dynamic and exciting subject combining the best of a traditional Literature degree – concentration on close reading, genre, periodisation, theory and analysis – with a cutting-edge pedagogic and practical emphasis on writing and literature as practice. Our writers-in-residence are integral to the learning and cultural experience students share here – both in the classroom and through outside events such as salons and masterclasses.
Students develop their understanding and practice of writing and texts through a range of core and optional modules, which share the aims of challenging conceptions, testing ideas, and providing students with analytical, literary and expressive skills for life. At Brighton the political, modernist, post-colonial, non-canonical and creative interests of our staff intersect with a context and awareness of how older texts speak and have spoken differently over time. Options for literature students include creative writing, journalism, writing and social purpose, Brighton rocks, studying travel writing, queer writing, American literature 1850-1945, (re)viewing Shakespeare, postcolonial Literatures, Victorian sexualities, apocalypse, utopia and dystopia and gothic. Core and option modules provide opportunities for diverse assessments in different types of writing and expression. From the traditional academic essay to imitative poetry, from journals to writing reviews, from seminar presentations to leading seminar discussions, from writing a novel to writing sudden fiction, from producing an edited book to writing and producing a short film – these opportunities for students to develop, enhance and practice their writing and expressive talents are central to a Literature degree at Brighton. Students also have the opportunity of a creative placement, either through a taught module or as part of our numerous volunteering opportunities offered by partners in Brighton.
Our literature staff in Brighton have been regularly nominated for awards in the Excellence in Teaching Scheme, and have a strong record of publication and research. We start from a belief in the autonomous, active student and our teaching philosophy and practice evolves from this - delivered through a mixture of lectures, workshops and seminars, with an emphasis on dialogue between staff and students, enhanced by tutorials and electronic debate.
The act of contextualising is an opening of doors on to other contexts, an opening out that returns us to the text in an adventure that never finishes.... the making of meaning needs to be understood as a process that happens between the text and the reader, that meaning is socially and culturally produced, changing and various and multiple. The writer needs to be understood as a product as well as a producer and texts need to be understood as interventions in social processes
Richard Jacobs, Principal Lecturer in English Literature at Brighton, A Beginner’s Guide to Critical Reading: an Anthology of Literary Texts, Routledge 2001, pp4-5. For fuller text see: Literature Study Post-16, ITE English http://www.ite.org.uk/ite_topics/teaching_lit_post16/006.html