Research Seminars and Workshops


Pro Vice Chancellor - Research & Scholarship: Professor Peter Childs
Director of Graduate School: Professor Máirtín Mac an Ghaill

Research seminars and workshops begin at 4.30pm or 5.00pm (unless stated otherwise) and are intended to last for approximately one hour.

All members of staff and postgraduate research students are welcome to attend.



Wednesday 10 January 2018 at 4.30 pm
Room CH116
Re-constructing narratives of widening participation in higher education in England and the possibility of institutional practices
Dr Iain Jones
This paper extends previous work that analysed and interpreted widening participation into or within higher education. It addresses what was beyond the scope of Doyle and Griffin (2012) by considering the re-framing of widening participation policies, practices and strategies within Universities. This gap is addressed by building on earlier work of Stevenson, Clegg and Lefever (2010) and their argument that discourses and narratives of widening participation are contradictory and contested. The paper reports on how tensions and debates in the framing of policy, between the establishment of OFFA and the publication of the National strategy for access and student success in higher education (BIS, 2014), were constructed in narratives within policy texts and fifteen interviews with national and institutional policy actors. These suggest widening participation and transition are not simply ‘problems’ to be managed but a set of recurring and complex dilemmas to be problematized.

The different narratives of widening participation, that national and institutional policy actors constructed, embodied various notions of transition, of their organisation and their own places within organisational stories. In the paper an explanatory typology, derived from a re-construction of ‘restricted’ and ‘reformist’ narratives and ‘extended’ metanarratives, is presented. By enhancing research on the complexities of policy and practice, the ‘extended’ metanarratives within the typology are not a compromise or comparison between ‘restricted’ and ‘reformist’ narratives. Nor is the typology designed to reduce complexities to distinct and static categories. Instead, by interpreting struggles between narratives, ‘extended’ metanarratives may offer a starting point in a re-casting of policy and practice. In addition, the typology outlines the basis for further research on widening participation and conditions of possibility that may shape its various national and institutional forms.

Iain Jones is a Senior Lecturer in Education Studies at Newman University.


Monday 22 January 2018 at 4.30 pm
Room CH116
Ethics in Research
Dr Lorayne Woodfield
This workshop explains Newman practice, including if and when students need to seek research ethics approval for their work.

Lorayne Woodfield is a Senior Lecturer in Physical Education and Sports Studies at Newman University, and Chair of its Research Ethics Committee.


Thursday 25 January 2018 at 5.00 pm Newman Humanities Research Seminar Series
Room DW112
Facing the Gorgon: Tony Harrison and War
Dr Agata Handley
Jean Baudrillard famously declared that Gulf War did not take place. It was consumed through images in the media, which were brought into our homes - "attacking" us, as consumers, invading our space often without our consent (Judith Butler); but at the same time, leaving a sense of war as something very distant. Tony Harrison has written two key texts reflecting the Gulf War: a film/poem, The Face of the Gorgon (1992) and the poem A Cold Coming (1991). The Face of the Gorgon has been described as a verse-documentary; it depicts some of the darkest moments of the twentieth century, from World War I, through Hiroshima, to the first Gulf War. Its force lies partly in the fact that it was created for the medium of television. In appealing to a mass audience, it draws attention to the way that images of war are produced and consumed in the media; and to the silence surrounding the suffering of the individual, lost in the crowd of anonymous casualties. The film/poem confronts the force of the "Gorgon" with the force of art (Thomas A. Vogler), to ask if art can work as a redeeming force; and to examine the moral obligation of the artist, to remain vigilant in the face of social and political change.

A Cold Coming was written as a response to a photograph of atrocity. The image in question is Kenneth Jarecke’s famous photograph of an Iraqi soldier, one victim of the allied bombing of Iraqi troops as they fled north from Kuwait city. Harrison "animates" the corpse, in an attempt to give voice to the soldier - the "complete witness" (Primo Levi) of war atrocities - enabling him to speak from the realm of the dead, by the formal device of prosopopeia. In these texts, Harrison uses different media, merging image, film and words, to address the question of the role of poetry in "today’s world of polyphonic communication" (Judith Butler). His work can be seen in part as a form of "convergence culture" (Henry Jenkins), where the collision of old and new media gives rise to new, hybrid modes of expression. Nietzsche stated that "Art forces us to gaze into the horror of existence, yet without being turned to stone by the vision". In Harrison’s work, the "Gorgon" refers to modern warfare; his poetic response works as a "mirror," offering us an indirect gaze to witness atrocity, without ourselves being "turned to stone". The presentation will analyse how Harrison has used multimedia or cross-cultural forms, to lead us to "face the Gorgon". It will draw on the work of Emmanuel Levinas, Judith Butler and Primo Levi, to examine how the "Face" of the Other is addressed in Harrison’s work, raising the question of our moral responsibility for others, when their suffering is brought into our homes by the media. Do these images, in fact, "solicit" us?

Agata Handley is Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Philology at the University of Lódz, Poland.


Thursday 8 February 2018 at 5.00 pm Newman Humanities Research Seminar Series
Room DW112
'The rain is saying…': Rain as theology
Dr Richard Goode
In the modern (post-)industrial world we have a complex and, at times, contradictory attitude to rain. While its ecological necessity is appreciated, it is more generally seen as a rather annoying inconvenience that is grudgingly tolerated and, if possible, avoided. The ancient Israelites had a very different (although just as complex) view of rain. Later Jewish and Christian theological traditions tend to read biblical references to it as spiritual metaphors. However, this type of reading overlooks the physicality of rain within ancient Hebrew culture, its sacred texts and later traditions.

This paper will explore how rain was used to conceptualise the relationship between the Israelite peoples, their land and their God, and the challenge that this might pose for us today.

Richard Goode is a Lecturer in theology at Newman University.


Wednesday 14 February 2018 at 4.30 pm
Room CH116
Subject TBA
Dr Carissa Sharp & Dr Stephen Jones


Wednesday 21 February 2018 at 4.30 pm
Room CH116
Subject TBA
Dr Helen Lees


Thursday 1 March 2018 at 5.00 pm Newman Humanities Research Seminar Series
Room DW112 (TBC)
Religious Talk Online: the Evangelical Discourse of Christians, Muslims, and Atheists
Dr Stephen Pihlaja


Wednesday 7 March 2018 at 4.30 pm
Room CH116 (TBC)
Breaking the Ice: Developments in the Regulation of Polar Navigation
Professor Scott Davidson
The reduction in sea ice in the Arctic as a result of global warming has increased the potential for commercial navigation through the Northwest Passage (NWP). This creates new frontiers both physically and in the law of the sea by opening up to navigation areas that were previously considered impassable by the vast majority of vessels. The reasons why such navigation may be desirable include: reduction of passage times between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans; transportation of exploited mineral resources extracted from the coastal states’ littoral areas; marine scientific and hydrographical research; fishing and destination tourism.

The focus of this seminar is on the extent of navigational freedoms and the minimisation of risk to people and the environment in the exercise of such freedoms. The main risks connected with a more extensive use of the NWP routes for navigation include: environmental damage, particularly to highly sensitive ecosystems; negative impacts on indigenous communities (so-called ‘extinction tourism’); and dangers to both seafarers and seaborne passengers.

Scott Davidson is Vice Chancellor of Newman University.


Thursday 15 March 2018 at 5.00 pm Newman Humanities Research Seminar Series
Room DW112 (TBC)
Subject TBA
Professor Sarah Knight


Wednesday 21 March 2018 at 4.30 pm
Room CH116 (TBC)
Subject and speaker TBA


Thursday 26 April 2018 at 5.00 pm Newman Humanities Research Seminar Series
Room DW112 (TBC)
'Honour widows, which are widows indeed': Desolate, deviant and petitioning widows during the Civil Wars and Interregnum
Dr Hannah Worthen
During the Civil Wars, 1642-1651, thousands of women lost their husbands to the wars as a consequence of combat and disease. The resulting welfare burden was acknowledged by Parliament and they allowed the widows of their own soldiers to receive pensions for their financial relief. Another outcome was that widows, both real and imagined, became part of the political discourse surrounding the wars. They were invoked in sermons and speeches as a metaphor for the losses that the country and the church had suffered. Furthermore, the producers of popular print stirred up popular fears of women left ungoverned when their husbands died in war. Thus, both the desolate and suffering widow, and the deviant and dangerous widow, existed within the contemporary imagination. This, in turn, shaped how widows were able to fashion themselves when they sought financial relief for themselves and their children.

This paper will consider why the desolate and deviant widow became an important dichotomy during this period. It will also show how petitioning widows drew upon these representations in their own narratives. It will consider how Biblical and religious teaching intersected with legal and social prescriptions on the nature of widowhood and explore the impact of the Protestant Reformation on welfare and charity directed towards widows. The second part of the paper will turn to the ways in which widows used these ideas when they presented petitions for relief. By presenting evidence from a range of widows of various social statuses and differing allegiances, this paper will show how the representation of widowhood was a unifying narrative that many women were able to draw upon and turn to their advantage.


Thursday 3 May 2018 at 5.00 pm Newman Humanities Research Seminar Series
Room DW112 (TBC)
The Victorian Railway: A sexual danger for women or a threat to patriarchal control?
Katrina Jan
The Victorian railway enabled women to be independent and to travel by themselves, as this new mode of transport offered a great reduction in time and money. Women did not need to take up overnight accommodation and nor did they require chaperonage as their journeys were much quicker, and thought to be considerably safer in the confined compartment of the railway carriage. However, as female travellers became more frequent, there was a rise in sexual attacks on the railways, which created a moral panic and threatened women’s newfound freedom. This paper will examine the Victorian railway in relation to female travellers and the way in which women were victimised as a result of the Victorian patriarchal society. I will argue the media’s exaggerated news reports and the sexual offences themselves, were because of male-controlled expectations of vulnerable femininity, which attempted to frighten women back into the gendered, feminised place of the Victorian home.

'We must get in front of these Blighters': The Birmingham Labour and Unionist press war 1919-1926
James Brennan
This paper will scrutinize the impact of the First World War, and the years of post-war readjustment, on Birmingham’s political culture. It will focus on the activities of two local political party publications established after 1918. The first is the Unionist’s Straight Forward, and the second will be Labour’s Town Crier. The Unionists were highly popular in the city before the First World War. Due to its manufacturing heritage, this political situation is referred to as Birmingham’s "exceptionalism". However, after 1918 they were challenged by a developing Labour party. By building on the work of David Thackeray, who has analysed the role of political competition in reshaping post-1918 politics, it will be argued that this press rivalry strengthened Birmingham’s political ‘exceptionalism’. Furthermore, this paper will build on the work of historians such as Geraint Thomas who have argued that local political culture adapted to the developments of post-1918 British politics.

Katrina Jan is on the MA Victorian Studies course at Newman University; James Brennan is undertaking research for an MPhil at Newman University.


Wednesday 9 May 2018 at 4.30 pm
Room CH116 (TBC)
Subject TBA
Dr Linda Enow


Thursday 24 May 2018 at 5.00 pm Newman Humanities Research Seminar Series
Room DW112 (TBC)
Hospitality to the Stranger: a Theological Reflection
David McLoughlin




27 September 2017
Ethics in Research
Dr Lorayne Woodfield
This workshop explained Newman practice, including if and when students need to seek research ethics approval for their work.


5 October 2017 Newman Humanities Research Seminar Series
Living on two sides of a piece of skin: drama and the real
Dr Kate Katafiasz
Dramatist Edward Bond makes surprising claims for the political power of drama. Because it involves pretence or mimesis it is an art form many (following Plato) have dismissed as escapist, even childish. In any case, drama is often overlooked these days in favour of what Hans-Thies Lehmann (2006) usefully terms ‘postdrama’.  Yet according to Bond, drama helps us create ‘the patterns and forms of being human’ in response to great crises of culture. Bond cites ancient Athens and Jacobean London as places where drama radically changed human reality, to inaugurate the classical world, Roman Christianity, the industrial revolution. This is he states, a process so multiple and complex that ‘only drama can do it – not technology, administration, the economy or salesmanship […] Drama itself is the form of reality’. (Bond 2012: 6; 2016: vii, viii).

This paper will be published next year in Registres, Theatre Research Journal of the Université de la Sorbonne Nouvelle, Paris 3. Its version for the Newman Humanities Research Seminar used slides, and aimed to offer an intelligible, at times performative engagement with early Poststructuralist Philosophy, in an attempt to understand how drama may provoke the profound cultural change to which Bond refers. It may be of interest to anyone interested in critical theory and especially those actively involved in any aspect of postgraduate Humanities research


19 October 2017 Newman Humanities Research Seminar Series
Ludus, lusus, il-lusion: art and/as theatricality in Roman wallpainting
Dr Clare Foster
This visual lecture attempted to connect the characteristic visual games on Roman walls with their equally characteristic preoccupation with theatrical subject-matter. It related the trick columns, windows, framed paintings, and wall textures of Roman wallpainting to other things: for example, the repetition of choruses in a visual pattern which self-referentially ‘go around’ sympotic Greek vases, or what is erroneously called ‘Roman love poetry’ but is really a riff on being Roman, ROMA being of course all the palindrome of AMOR, and not about tough soldiering at all. It suggested a coherent iconographic and linguistic system which stretches from classical Greece to imperial Rome and refers to ‘festival’, ‘holiday’ (holy-day - i.e when everyone gathers because not at work), ‘theatre’, ‘sport’, ‘games’, ‘plays’, ‘tricks’, ‘jokes’, ‘seduction’ ‘flirt’, ‘sex’ - all the pre-eminently skillful sleights of hand, eye and language denoted equally by the vocabulary of ludus and its cognates.

The mistake historians have made is to see these two-dimensional works as depictions of some thing, rather than as games, jokes, and tricks in and of themselves (trompe l’oeil). But if we go back to the very first wooden (later, stone) stands, or seeing-places (theatra) of ancient Greece, which were equally political gathering places - the performance of the poli-ty - it is those original converging lines of sight onto one spot - later, skene or scene - which gave rise to the idea of illusionism itself, of playing with the real. This as Vitruvius noticed, forever associated the idea of realism with the idea of looking at you looking. Skenographia is the ancient Greek word for perspective, for the illusionistic art which belonged first to the painting of the skene, and then to vase painting, public tableaux, sculpture etc. The lecture explores the extent to which this collective playing with audiences’ perceptions, in public, on holiday, or in similarly festive circumstances was an umbrella concept of art, or ‘the arts’, their culmination theatre itself, until the advent of mass culture and science established our present categories and habits of definition.


2 November 2017 Newman Humanities Research Seminar Series
The (restricted) generosity of the first Christians
Dr Tim Murray
Jesus made some outrageous statements about generosity, such as "sell your possessions and give to the poor" (Matthew 19.21) or "give to everyone who asks of you" (Luke 6.30). The radical, seemingly limitless, generosity espoused in these sayings has been problematic ever since, both for interpreters of the text and Christian communities who consider Jesus’s commands to be authoritative. This paper examined the first Christian communities, those who preserved and transmitted these commands of Jesus, identifying when, why and how they restricted their generosity. By doing so we may better comprehend how the financial practices of the first Christians related to the commands of Jesus and their social context. This in turn may be hermeneutically useful for modern Christian communities who continue to wrestle with these issues and their current complications, including globalisation, a highly politicised ‘welfare’ debate and the shadow side of discrimination legislation.


15 November 2017 
Hearing Voices: First year undergraduate Education Studies students’ experience of digital audio feedback
Dr Steve Dixon
Previous studies on digital audio feedback have highlighted how it has the potential to save academics’ time, as well as being a medium preferred by students. On a performative level, these may be important in the wider national context of lower NSS satisfaction scores for assessment and feedback than for other aspects of students’ learning experience, and with one eye on the Teaching Excellence framework. However, such studies have predominantly utilised a quantitative approach, with little research focused on the potential emotional impact of audio feedback, its affordance as a relational medium, its role in any dialogic learning process, or indeed, how its use could affect student understanding of the feedback process itself. These, it is argued, are of crucial importance in understanding the role of feedback, particularly when set in the wider discourses of an increased use of blended learning approaches that cater for the needs of a supposed new generation of digital learners, and the dehumanising effect that such learning and teaching approaches may engender.

This discussion paper reported on the findings of a year-long phenomenological study, utilising interviews with first year Education Studies students, exploring their experience of audio feedback in the context of these issues, as well as those of their learning preferences, engagement and sense of studentship.


22 November 2017
Developing Queer and Critical Pedagogies on Youth and Community Work Courses
Dr Mike Seal
Based on doctoral work I suggested that interrupting and reconstructing heteronormativity necessitates the development of pedagogical practitioners as dedicated meta-reflexives with intersubjective consciousness’s. This combines elements of Orne’s and Black’s reconceptualisting of Du Bois’ original vision of double consciousness, as a negative de-centring concept, to being a useful, and necessary, device in an increasingly liquid modernity. Developing pedagogical practitioners necessitates co-created and co-held liminal spaces that emphasise inter-subjectivity, encounter and working in the moment, the need to de-construct and reconstruct pedagogical power and knowledge, and understandings of the public and private in pedagogical space.


7 December 2017 Newman Humanities Research Seminar Series
Ancient Ghost Stories
Dr Juliette Harrisson
Ghost stories exist in several distinct forms; literary ghost stories (works of fiction transmitted through texts or other literary forms), ‘fabulates’ (folk tales understood to be fiction or heavily fictionalised, usually transmitted orally) and ‘memorates’ (stories presented as real life experiences that happened to the narrator or to someone close to them, told no more than second or third hand and usually transmitted orally). A particular challenge in the analysis of ancient ghost stories and their relationship to ancient beliefs about ghosts and the afterlife is that, since all ancient ghost stories have reached us through texts, it can be very difficult to understand the relationship of these textual stories to their possible oral origins. One way of navigating this difficulty may be through the use of comparative study setting the ancient texts alongside a modern example of an oral tradition transmitted through a textual form – ghost folklore on the internet.

This paper aimed to set out a series of categories for understanding ancient ghost stories, and to suggest approaches using comparative methods drawing on modern ghost folklore to understand ancient ghost folklore.




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