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Hallgarth House, Department of English Studies, 77, Hallgarth Street, Durham, DH1 3AY

Hallgarth House

A Newsletter of the Department of English Studies Volume 1, Issue 1 (September 2012)



his is the first issue of a new departmental newsletter designed, written and edited by Durham English Studies alumni, for Durham English Studies alumni. Hopefully, if readers are not put off by the editor’s appropriation and mangling of the Gettysburg address as an opener, this will be a periodical that will help foster dialogue and mutually beneficial interaction between Durham’s past and present students of great literature in English. We aim to publish news articles originating from the department’s activities (see in this issue Professor Stephen Regan’s report of his time at Harvard last year, and the overview of webbased developments in English Studies research at Durham) and articles about our alumni and their experiences beyond the ivory tower. We are keen to hear from all alumni to tell us their news and submit contributions for possible inclusion in future issues. We hope you enjoy reading and participating in this new venture and that it may, at the very least, stir up some positive memories and emotions, and at best, inspire you to read more books and pen a few memorable memoirs. Many thanks to our contributors to this issue: Stephen Regan, Neil Cartlidge, Dan O’Connor, Alistair Brown, and John Nash. Mike Huxtable (Editor)

INSIDE THIS ISSUE A Year at Harvard ....................2 Our Changing Department ......4 Return of the Alumni ...............6 An Alumnus in the Spotlight ...8


 By post: The Editor, Hallgarth House: A Newsletter of the Department of English Studies, Department of English Studies, Hallgarth House, 77 Hallgarth Street, Durham City, DH1 3AY


H Prof. Stephen Regan at Basil Bunting's grave, Brigflatts. Photo by John Rice. Stephen’s main teaching and research interests are modern poetry, modern Irish literature and literary theory. He spent the academic year 2011/12 on research leave at Harvard University in Cambridge Massachusetts researching the poet Robert Lowell.

Robert Lowell’s Collected Poems, published by Faber and Faber in 2003.


arvard University has one of the finest collections of literary manuscripts and rare books anywhere in the world. The Houghton Library, one of several magnificent libraries at Harvard, is a treasure house of manuscripts and early editions of works by John Keats, T.S. Eliot, Wallace Stevens, and others. It also houses the largest archive of materials relating to the life and work of one of my favourite American poets, Robert Lowell (1917-77).

“...he seemed to express the yearning and despair of an entire generation….”

I was fortunate in being able to spend a year at Harvard as a Visiting Scholar in the Department of English (2011-12), and one of my projects was to write a study of Lowell’s place in the history of American elegy. As well as being the most accomplished practitioner of so-called ‘confessional poetry’, Lowell was a major elegist who was able to modulate private grief so keenly in poems like ‘The Quaker Graveyard at Nantucket’ and ‘For the Union Dead’ that he seemed to express the yearning and despair of an entire generation.

“My walk always took me past 91 Revere Street, where Lowell grew up in the 1920s.” Every Saturday, I walked from Harvard Yard, over the Charles River at Cambridge, down the lovely old cobbled streets of Beacon Hill and out on to Boston Common. My walk always took me past 91 Revere Street, where Lowell grew up in the 1920s. His mother, who took great pride in being a member of the so-called Boston Brahmin elite, looked askance at the growing Irish and Italian communities at the edge of her respectable neighbourhood. Lowell, however, was quick to dissociate himself from the sham ideals of a decaying Puritan gentility, and some of his best poems are a searing account of a modern America that has lost its way. ‘For the Union Dead’ pays tribute to Colonel Robert Shaw, who led the 54th Regiment of the Massachusetts Infantry, the first black infantry to fight in the Civil War, into a desperate but courageous battle in South Carolina in 1863. The poem was inspired by Augustus SaintGaudens’ bronze monument on Boston Common, where Lowell first read the work in public during the Boston Arts Festival in June 1960. (Continued on page 7.)

Acorn Street, Beacon Hill. Photo by Stephen Regan.

Designed by Augustus Saint-Gaudens, the bronze “Shaw Memorial” to Robert Gould Shaw and the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment was unveiled on Memorial Day, 1897. Photo by Stephen Regan.


“We hope it is readable, interesting and keeps you – OUR CHANGING DEPARTMENT


he Department of English Studies is increasingly using social media to share its latest research insights and activities.

It’s primary research resource called “READ” (Research in English At Durham, ) features reports about the Department's latest publications and activities, and expert comment on literature in the news. We hope it is readable, interesting and keeps you – and anyone interested in what research in English is like – up-to date with our work. Do take a look and let us know what you think. Recent topics on the blog include:  

Dr Samuel Thomas on Thomas Pynchon’s digital ebooks News about Professor Pamela Clemit’s collaboration on New York Public Library’s iPad app A review of Toni Morrison’s Home by Dr Jennifer Terry

Our PhD students contribute regularly. One has provided a piece on what G.K. Chesterton would have made of the Leveson enquiry, another has written on “dark tourism” and Northern Irish poetry. Durham Postgraduates have been running their own fully refereed journal, Postgraduate English, since 2000 (it was the first online postgraduate journal in the UK) which can be found at postgraduate.english/ .


and anyone interested in what research in English is like – up-to date with our work.”

Not to be outdone, Durham English Review (, an undergraduate journal, was launched in 2011. The blog will shortly start to host podcasts on poetry criticism, and a series on the “Uses of Literature,” starting with Dr Michael Mack explaining how literature can “change the way we think.” Also available is an online version of our monthly English Events newsletter, which gives comprehensive listings of literaturerelated events both within Durham and across the Northeast. If you’re in the region and would like to receive a monthly email reminder of what’s on, please visit: You can also use our Facebook page ( readdurhamenglish) and our Twitter feed ( READEnglish) to keep tabs on our current news and events. By following us on Twitter, liking us on Facebook, or subscribing to the blog you’ll be able to continue the conversation with the lecturers and tutors who taught you during your time at Durham. Alistair Brown and John Nash



O Dr Neil M. R. Cartlidge Reader in the Department of English Studies and Alumni Officer

FUTURE ALUMNI EVENTS Future alumni events and workshops are planned and we very much hope that Hallgarth House readers will wish to get involved. If you have any thoughts about becoming involved in our alumni programme, feel free to get in touch.


n the 1st of June 2012, five of the department's alumni came back to Durham (in one case virtually – via Skype) to help with providing information about careers. About 60 students attended and they responded very warmly to the opportunity to ask some "real live people" about their experiences since Durham. There was a general feeling that this kind of personal advice is very helpful, and an important complement to the more formal careers-input coming from large organisations and corporations. The event was attended by the department's liaison from the university Careers Office, Tom Davie, who said afterwards that the alumni's contributions had been "superb".

“...they responded very warmly to the opportunity to ask some "real live people" about their experiences since Durham.” The five volunteers on this occasion were Kirsten Cairns – who nobly volunteered to get up very early in the morning to talk to us from Boston, Massachusetts, about the world of opera;

From left to right: Christine Wright, Jamie Millar, Karen Johnson and Elizabeth Gould. Photo by N. Cartlidge

Christine Wright – who has recently taken early retirement from her post as headmistress of a large comprehensive school; Jamie Millar – now writing for GQ magazine; Karen Johnson – who works in television production; and Elizabeth Gould – who has worked at almost every level of the NHS. An unexpected star of the show was Kirsten's coffee cup, which – close to her camera, and projected across the internet onto the cinema-sized screen in our lecturetheatre – loomed about 6 foot tall! But this experiment in new technology showed that video-conferencing works well for events of this kind. We will looking for volunteers to help us with a similar event next year – both those willing to join us virtually, and also those prepared to make a return-visit to Durham! Neil Cartlidge



or many years, I have wondered about the fate of the old South Boston Aquarium, with which Lowell opens his great public elegy. It stands in the poem as a symbol of lost childhood pleasures, but also of dilapidated civic ideals. Already, in 1960, it was falling apart: ‘Its broken windows are boarded. / The bronze weathervane cod has lost half its scales. / The airy tanks are dry’. Having looked at old maps of the city, I decided to venture out to ‘Southie’, evading the temptations of ‘Murphy’s Law’ and countless other Irish bars, and down to the water’s edge. The old South Boston Aquarium has

“Lowell would have liked the image of a culture sliding by on ice.” gone, and in its place there is a skating rink. Lowell would have liked the image of a culture sliding by on ice. Giant finned planes glide slowly down into Logan Airport, just over the water. One of my prized possessions from my year at Harvard is a first edition of Lowell’s Life Studies (1959), which I found in the old Brattle Street Bookshop in Boston. Lowell was himself a frequent visitor at the bookshop, and I like to think that he paused by the long shelf marked ‘L’, containing dozens of books by his illustrious ancestors, James Russell Lowell and Amy Lowell, quietly anticipating his own momentous appearance there. Stephen Regan 7


E Durham c. 1953. Left to right are Geoffrey Robson (History), Peter Paterson (Music) Dan O'Connor (English), Hans Otten (from Germany, at Castle for 1 year).

Two freshly- minted Durham graduates on Palace Green


nglish at Durham 1951-4 is a distant happy memory. Despite nurturing at grammar school on Leavis and Thompson's superb Reading and Discrimination, I recall our engagement with literature and language in terms of personal discovery and enjoyment. Our student literary journal, New Durham, was cutting edge! Our then teachers amplify the 'distant' - among them, Professor Claude Abbott, a late Georgian poet, had been in the Artists' Rifles in WW1. After graduating, theology (with an MA on John Cosin's Devotions) and ordination intervened. Some years later, in the early 1960s, I had an opportunity to put my Durham studies to work in a decade as chaplain and a lecturer at St Stephen's College in Delhi University - see my 2005 Indian Penguin, Interesting Times in India. St Stephen's, estab-

“I had an opportunity to put my Durham studies to work in a decade as chaplain and a lecturer at St Stephen's College in Delhi University…” lished by the Cambridge Mission to Delhi, had uniquely high standards, cornering over half of India's Rhodes scholarships, with many alumni going into the upper reaches of public service. While my Indian colleagues had their preferred specialisms (one had done a PhD in England on Virginia Woolf, another on Eliot, another at Yale on 18c aesthetics), I enjoyed teaching a 'survey' course where Leavis came into his own as I sought to relate texts, from Chaucer to Eliot, to their historical and social context. Our teaching was all pre-theory - 20 years after Indian independence, English studies continued complacently colonial, though by 1970 we were into a period of massive turbulence in Indian universities. Some of our students went underground as Naxalites, years in advance of the radicalizing of literary studies by the unreadable non-Stephanians, Spivak and Bhabha. One of my colleagues at that time, Harish Trivedi, later wrote a postcolonial course for the OU, and two readable Stephanians, Gyan Pandey and Shahid Amin pioneered subaltern history. Two of my students, Gopalkrishna Gandhi (a grandson of the 'Mahatma') and Allan Sealy were among the first and best of a 'Stephanian' blossoming of English-language novelists, later to include Amitabh Ghosh and a dozen others. Back in Britain, English Literature was only ever an enrichment to other things. In retirement, I write on historical topics, but am hoping to make known an unknown nineteenth-century Scottish poet. Dan O'Connor

Hallgarth House Newsletter  

A Newsletter of the Department of English Studies, Durham Volume 1, Issue 1 (September 2012)

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