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Engaging the Public with 21st Century Literature

Research carried out by academics from the Lincoln School of Humanities has resulted in the creation of two open access journals aimed at engaging the public with 21st-century literature.

Through the open access online magazine, Alluvium, public audiences are invited to experience 21st-century literary criticism first hand, and to participate in accessible discussions with internationally leading scholars.

The English department has a leading reputation for hosting internationally significant conferences in the field, attracting scholars, publishers, critics and journalists, as well as members of the public.

High-profile public events have included readings by Will Self, Carol Ann Duffy, Geoff Dyer, Don Paterson, Iain Sinclair, China Miéville, Maggie Gee and Adam Roberts.

Dr Siân Adiseshiah’s interest in shaping critical opinion of 21st-century literature and drama – particularly through consideration of contemporary drama’s representation of important issues and events – has involved a dialogue with teachers, pupils and the wider public around understanding and engaging with both the medium of drama and the wider issues represented.

She has a substantial reputation in contemporary theatre through her monograph, Churchill’s Socialism: Political Resistance in the Plays of Caryl Churchill (2009), and many articles in peer-reviewed international journals.

With colleagues in Performing Arts, Dr Adiseshiah has also co-organised some of the annual festivals on contemporary playwrights, with performances in the Lincoln Performing Arts Centre followed by post-show discussions.

Lincoln’s strong research in this field has been centred around creating a dialogue with the public, with a specific focus on schools and young people.

"Who decides what is 'good' contemporary literature? That's the basis of our research: What makes the canon of contemporary literature that we value?"

Dr Martin Eve's research on Thomas Pynchon is a good example of this dialogue, with his annual 'Pynchon in Public Day' event, in which fans of the novelist come together to discuss Pynchon's work. Pynchon in Public Day has been covered by the Guardian, the New York Daily News and the LA Times, among others.

Further to this, Dr Eve and Dr Caroline Edwards have embraced the public dissemination of research in the creation of two new, free-to-access journals, Alluvium and Orbit: Writing Around Pynchon, which have rapidly established global readerships beyond Higher Education.

The department's excellence in this area was recognised when Dr Eve was called to speak to the House of Commons Select Committee Inquiry into Open Access in 2013. There are also early signs of a transformation of the field of scholarly communication in Eve and Edwards' Open Library of Humanities project.

Developed out of the three academics’ published research, Alluvium shows early signs of transforming the relationship between higher and secondary education, where the need for concise, accessible information is changing both teaching practice and students’ approaches to 21st-century literature.

Shaping the next generation of researchers is also a crucial part of Lincoln’s practice, with the University having launching the world’s first MA in 21st-Century Literature in 2011.