Reading groups

The Centre is host to a number of reading and discussion groups.

Poetry and Poetics

Poetry and Poetics

Poetry and Poetics is a reading group open to all students and staff with an interest in all things poetic. We examine a variety of texts, both poetic and critical, from a range of times and places and consider such recurrent questions as the function of poetic form, poetry’s relation to history and the role of the individual poet. Meetings alternate between an open discussion of a selection of poems alongside a theoretical piece, and a staff-led presentation on a particular theme or issue within the study of poetry. The aim is for a conversation to emerge among readings of poetry, critical work, and an open network of outside concerns.

Seminars are hosted in the Berrick Saul Building (BS/007) on the Heslington West Campus of the University of York and begin at 6pm, unless stated otherwise. Interested staff and students from other universities are welcome to attend.

For more information and copies of readings please contact Stephen Grace ( or Jack Quin (

Past Events

Thursday 18th May: The next meeting of the Poetry and Poetics reading group will take place at 3.00pm in BS/008 on Thursday 18th May when Professor Kenneth Haynes will give a talk on ‘Ezra Pound, Poetry, and Knowledge’.

Kenneth Haynes is Professor of Comparative Literature and Classics at Brown University. He is the author of English Literature and Ancient Languages (Oxford, 2003) and co-editor of The Oxford History of Literary Translation in English , vol. 4: 1790–1900 (Oxford, 2006) and an historical anthology of English translations of Horace (with D. S. Carne-Ross). He is also the editor of Geoffrey Hill, Collected Critical Writings (Oxford, 2008) and Broken Hierarchies: Poems 1952-2012 (Oxford, 2013)

Tuesday 9th May:  Dr. Kenneth Clarke will be giving a talk on Petrarch.

Laying it Out for the Reader: Petrarch and His Poems

Petrarch’s Canzoniere is one of the most important and influential collections of lyric verse, not just in Italy but all over Europe. We are remarkably fortune to have manuscript material written and closely supervised by Petrarch himself, offering us valuable information about how the Petrarch wished his poems to appear on the page. Such privileged access to the “visual poetics” of a medieval author is rare. In this seminar we shall look at some pages from the autograph and discuss how layout and meaning lie side by side.'

Dr Clarke joined the department in 2012 as Anniversary Research Lecturer from Pembroke College, Cambridge, where he was the Keith Sykes Research Fellow in Italian Studies. He has published a monograph on the Italian sources in Chaucer with OUP, as well as articles on Boccaccio and Dante, and teaches undergraduate and MA modules on Dante in the department of English and Related Literature.

Monday 23rd January: Adam Crothers will lead a discussion, ‘Rhyme and Reaction’:

‘Plenty of contemporary poetry in English rhymes: it's harder to name with confidence a poet who has never deployed rhyme than to name a poet who has done it often. (Such is the nature of the language, and of the human impulse to detect likeness.) And yet the air of stigma can still seem to hang around the device, particularly with relation to the idea that poetry ought to be socially progressive: the conflation of poetic form with political belief (where traditional equals conservative, and so on) has not yet died of its own tediousness, and rhyme has been seen as dealing in fixed certainties wholly inappropriate to a chaotic world. This session will consider some poems in which rhyme can be interpreted as having a destabilising rather than a reinforcing effect, as promoting uncertainty and self-critique over smug structural integrity; but will also, in the interests of not engaging in easy polemical cherry-picking, look at texts that might be incompatible with this idea.’

Adam Crothers was born in Belfast and works in a library in Cambridge. He studied at Girton College, where he wrote a doctoral dissertation about rhyme in contemporary poetry; his first collection of poems, Several Deer, was published by Carcanet in 2016, and was described in Poetry London as 'a highly charged, word-drunk ride across time, art and idiomatic expression'.

Monday 30th January: Professor Derek Attridge will lead a discussion on ‘Tracking Poetic Performance from Homer to Shakespeare’:

‘In this seminar I plan to talk about the book I am currently completing, which examines the role of performance (understood in the widest possible sense) in western poetry from Homeric epic to Renaissance lyric. One of the questions I'm addressing is: Does a focus on performance enable one to trace, across two-and-a-half millennia, a verbal cultural practice that relies neither on melodic composition nor dramatic representation, and that later ages came to call "poetry"?’

Derek Attridge came to York from Rutgers University in the USA in 1998 as Leverhulme Research Professor, and in 2003 became Professor of English. Professor Attridge was born in South Africa, where he first attended university, and some of his recent work is concerned with South African literature, including the Cambridge History of South African Literature (co-edited with David Attwell) and a study of the novels of J. M. Coetzee. He has a long-standing involvement in literary theory, and in particular the work of Jacques Derrida; his book The Singularity of Literature will be reissued in 2017 in the Routledge Classics series. He is also well-known as a Joyce scholar, having published several works on this author and served for many years as a Trustee of the International James Joyce Foundation. Another interest is poetic form, reflected in a number of books on versification and his 2013 collection of essays, Moving Words: Forms of English Poetry. He has held fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Camargo Foundation and the Leverhulme Trust, and is a Fellow of the British Academy.

Thursday 1st December 2016: Tim Lawrence will lead a discussion of Samuel Beckett's poetics. In the first part of the event, Dr. Lawrence will deliver a paper in progress, '"Unspeakable home": Nationalist poetics and Samuel Beckett's states of silence', before we open the conversation up to further readings. The texts selected, written in English and in French, form some of the least discussed parts in Beckett's body of work. The homage to Jack Yeats may be considered a piece of critical writing, yet it strives towards the inscrutable and adopts a poetic form; 'neither' was written in anticipation of a response through musical composition; while the 'mirlitonnades' are brief fragments, doggerel verse, written on whatever scraps (such as beer mats) came to hand. We hope to begin to uncover the 'something or nothing' that lurks behind these texts' beguiling liminality in relation to the question of silence and its place in particular discourses around poetics and the national. Please contact Stephen for copies of the readings. 

Tim Lawrence received his PhD from York in 2016, where he is currently an associate tutor with the Department of English and Related Literature. His thesis considers often marginalised pieces of Beckett's fiction, poetry and criticism in the light of philosophical anxieties regarding visual representation. Recent articles have been published in Journal of Beckett Studies and Samuel Beckett Today/Aujourd'hui, while he has written reviews for outlets including Eborakon on studies of Berryman, Coleridge, Kafka and Wittgenstein.

Monday 16th May 2016: ‘False Sails and Epitaphs': a discussion of Anne Carson's Economy of the Unlost'. Professor Hugh Haughton will lead a discussion of a selection of essays from Anne Carson's 1999 book Economy of the Unlost in which she discusses ideas of poetic economy in the writing of the fifth century Greek poet Simonides of Keos and the twentieth-century Romanian-born poet Paul Celan. Readings are attached.

Anne Carson is a Canadian poet, translator and scholar.  A winner of the T. S. Eliot Prize in 2001 and a two-time winner of  the Griffin Poetry Prize in 2001 and 2014, her poetry collections include Autobiography of Red (1998), Men in the Off Hours and The Beauty of the Husband (both 2001), and Red Doc> (2013). 

Hugh Haughton has research interests in modern and contemporary poetry, psycho-analysis and the literature of nonsense. He is the editor of The Chatto Book of Nonsense Poetry (1988), Second World War Poems (2004), and the author of The Poetry of Derek Mahon (2007)

"Erudite and entertaining, effortlessly able to play across a range of associations, the book traces a number of similarities in artistic approach between two writers who would seem, on the face of it, to have inhabited very different worlds . . . Economy of the Unlost is a beguiling piece of work, both scholarly and persuasive."--Elizabeth Lowry, London Review of Books

Tuesday 23rd February 2016: The second meeting of the Poetry and Poetics reading group will be at 6pm in BS/008 when Dr. James Williams will give a presentation on ‘Alice Goodman and the Art of the Libretto: Three Arias’: 

‘Alice Goodman is the greatest librettist in English of the 20th century, notwithstanding the claims of W. H. Auden, Myfanwy Piper and others. Her most celebrated works are the operas Nixon in China and The Death of Klinghoffer (with the composer John Adams and the director Peter Sellars); she is also the author of a translation of The Magic Flute. This talk assumes no prior knowledge of Goodman's work, of libretti, or of opera. It sets out to justify and unpack the claim in my first sentence, as well as to serve as an introduction to the libretto as a literary form, its possibilities and complexities. The talk comes out of my ongoing work on an introduction to Goodman's libretti, to be published by New York Review Books in 2017. It will be illustrated with clips from the operas to show the texts in performance, and will focus on three arias and their surrounding contexts, from NixonKlinghoffer, and Flute respectively.'

James Williams is a Lecturer in the Department of English and Related Literature. He is co-editor, with Matthew Bevis, of Edward Lear and the Play of Poetry (OUP, 2016) and his monograph on Lear is forthcoming in the ‘Writers and Their Work’ series (Northcote House). The author of articles and chapters on Lewis Carroll, Alfred Tennyson, Samuel Beckett, Victorian comic verse, and literary parody, he is currently writing the introduction to the libretti of Alice Goodman (Nixon in China, The Death of Klinghoffer, and The Magic Flute) to be published by New York Review Books in 2017, and tentatively embarking on a new book on the afterlife of Augustan poetics in the nineteenth century.

Tuesday 26th January 2016: The next meeting of the Poetry and Poetics reading group will take place in BS/008 at 6pm, when we will be looking at the aubade. Readings will focus on Jorie Graham’s 1997 collection The Errancy, read alongside Fiona Greene’s article ‘“The Pitch of the Dawn”: Reading Lyric in Jorie Graham’s Aubades’ (2012) and a selection of other examples of the form.

The aubade, or dawn song, is a type of a valediction poem set specifically in the morning to depict the parting of lovers. However, if Susan Stewart writes that lyric poetry is specifically related to night time – that poetry emerges from darkness and solitude to glean the outlines of others – the aubade is also a sub-genre of poetry that helps to define the limits of lyric poetry as a whole.  As the dawn makes the outlines of the lover visible, the aubade moves from the nocturnal first-person lyric speaker to the lyric address or dialogue in the morning. What is more, the genre formally negotiates both spatial and temporal thresholds. The speaker of John Donne’s ‘The Good-Morrow’ tries to make ‘one little room an everywhere’, aware of the intruding outside world outside the walls of the bedroom, walls that also stand for the formal organisation presented by Donne’s stanzas. But the post-coital leisure also presents an enwrapped and mutually absorbed moment outside of time that tries to stall the resumption of both everyday business and busy-ness – the scheduled, repetitive routines of the external community.

Tuesday 10th November 2015: The next meeting of the Poetry and Poetics reading group will take place on 10th November at 2.15pm in D/L/144 when the Irish poet Caitriona O'Reilly will be leading a discussion on poetry and nature writing. Caitriona is the author of three full length collections of poetry -The Nowhere Birds (2001), which won the Rooney Prize for Irish Literature, The Sea Cabinet (2006), a Poetry Book Society Recommendation and shortlisted for the Irish Times Poetry Prize, and Geis, published earlier this year.  She will also be giving a reading, hosted by the Writers-at-York series, at 6pm, in The Treehouse. 

Tuesday 20th October 2015: Emeritus Professor A.D. Moody will give a presentation on 'Ezra Pound and the Politics of the Cantos': 'Ezra Pound once said that his Cantos were “Political”, “Political”, he went on, “ in the way Dante’s Divine Comedy and Shakespeare’s histories are political”. He might have said as well that the politics were concerned with getting his economic ideas into action. In this paper I am interested in the implications for poetry, for what poetry might be and how it might function, with specific reference to Pound’s Cantos. The middle cantos, 31-71, and the Pisan Cantos, would be the likely ones to consider. How can poetry be “political” without ceasing to be “poetic”?'

A. David Moody is Emeritus Professor at the University of York. He is the author of the 3-volume critical biography of Ezra Pound, Ezra Pound: Poet. A Portrait of the Man & His Work (Oxford University Press). Volume 1 was published in 2007, volume 2 in 2014, and volume 3 will be published in October 2015.

Tuesday 27th January 2015: Professor Matt Campbell (University of York) will give a presentation on ‘The Irish Longing for Rhyme’:

‘Why is it, no matter how difficult they make it for themselves, no matter how for long decades of British and American poetry following free verse and experimentation, why in this day and age when all the formal accoutrements of so many art forms have gone through the mill of modernism and its various postisms, do so many Irish poets still long for rhyme?’

Professor Campbell is the author of Irish Poetry Under The Union, 1801-1924 (2013) and Rhythm and Will in Victorian Poetry (1999), and editor of The Cambridge Companion to Contemporary Irish Poetry (2003).

Tuesday 24th February2015: We will be looking at T. S. Eliot's landmark poem 'The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock', first published one hundred years ago, alongside John Berryman's essay 'Prufrock's Dilemma' (1960) and a selection from his sequence The Dream Songs (1969).

Tuesday 10th March 2015: Professor Francis O’Gorman from the University of Leeds will be giving a paper on ‘Swinburne and the Boers’:

'Algernon Charles Swinburne’s involvement in the Second Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902) has seemed to more than a century of readers evidence of his final betrayal of earlier liberal ideals. This paper argues that was not the case and explores the real issues at stake.'

Francis O'Gorman is Professor of Victorian Literature at the University of Leeds. He is the author of John Ruskin (1999), and editor of The Cambridge Companion to Victorian Culture (2010), Victorian Literature and Finance (2007), and the forthcoming Cambridge Companion to John Ruskin (2016). His work on Swinburne includes several articles and a substantial new edition of the selected plays, prose, poetry, and fiction, entitled Oxford Twenty-first Century Authors: Algernon Charles Swinburne (forthcoming 2015).

Friday 8th May 2015: The Poetry and Poetics reading group, Modern School and Writers at York are jointly hosting a special event with the award-winning American poet Spencer Reece. Spencer Reece is the author of The Clerk's Tale (2004), winner of the Katherine Bakeless Nason Prize for poetry, and The Road to Emmaus (2013), which has been shortlisted for the 2015 Griffith Poetry Prize.  

As a poet and Anglican priest, Spencer will be speaking about his personal views on poetry and religion, focusing on the life and work of Gerard Manley Hopkins and Emily Dickinson. Spencer Reece will give a Writers at York poetry reading in the Bowland Auditorium at 6pm on the same day.

Geoffrey Hill


Geoffrey Hill

The Geoffrey Hill Reading Group meets once a term and is open to all postgraduates and staff interested in the poetry of Geoffrey Hill. During each section, we do close readings of up to five poems or sections from a longer poetic sequence by Hill, in the context of a larger topic. The poetic texts are often read alongside a critical text, either by Geoffrey Hill himself or by other writers with whom Hill enters into dialogue.

If you are interested in attending or would like to propose a topic for one of the sessions, please contact Maddy Potter (




CModS has made links with YCCSA - York Cross-disciplinary Centre for Systems Analysis - in an effort to build intellectual links across the humanities and sciences, specifically in order to investigate Complex Systems as they pertain to Modern Studies with a view to exploring World Systems and other related ideas. 
As part of this process we are participating in the YCCSA Complexity reading group.  We have built up a home and away pattern to the reading group where we visit YCCSA and explore their set reading and they then visit CModS and explore a reading set by us.
If you are interesting in finding out more about complexity studies, in exploring potential overlaps between forms of systems analysis across the supposed divide between humanities subjects and the sciences, then do join us for the next reading group meeting. You would be very welcome.

Global Literature and Culture

Global Literature and Culture

The Global Literature and Culture Postgraduate Forum provides students with the opportunity to share their research, to practice a conference paper and to receive supportive yet critical feedback.

We aim at a diverse programme and invite papers on a range of subjects that fall into the field of Global Literature and Culture, from different disciplines, such as Literature, History, Film Studies, Cultural Studies, Politics, Art History, and others. We especially welcome works-in-progress and first-time papers – so, if you have been working on an idea for a while, this is a great opportunity to present it and to receive some feedback!

If you are interested in giving a paper, please contact the organisers Lotta Schneidemesser, Melony Bethala and Richard Lukey at the following email address:

Writing Now

Writing Now

Creative Dissonance's reading group 'Writing Now', meets once a term. Here, we will discuss emergent literary and art criticism on the exigencies of writing now, in conversation with some of the the most significant auto-criticism written by contemporary novelists in recent years. . Here, we will discuss emergent literary and art criticism on the exigencies of writing now, in conversation with some of the the most significant auto-criticism written by contemporary novelists in recent years. If you would like to join us or would like further information please contact either Alexandra Kingston-Reese ( or Bryan Radley (

Spring Term 2018

Thursday 1 March: The Spring Term meeting of 'Writing Now' Reading Group will take place at 2-3pm in B/S/007, Berrick Saul Building
We will consider Amy Hungerford's "On the Period Formerly Known as the Contemporary", 10 years on from its initial publication date. Available from: All welcome.

Autumn Term 2017

Wednesday 29 November: The Autumn Term meeting of 'Writing Now' Reading Group will meet at 3-4pm, BS/007, Berrick Saul Building
Giorgio Agamben’s “What is the Contemporary?”: & Theodore Martin’s “The Currency of the Contemporary” (from Postwar | Postmodern — and After eds. Jason Gladstone, Andrew Hoberek, and Daniel Worden): All welcome.

Re-framing Violence

Re-framing Violence

The group takes an interdisciplinary focus and aims to 're-frame' the term ‘violence’. The main interest of the group regards the issues of a critical understanding and definition of violence in the contemporary politically turbulent societies and in ‘humanimal’ relations. Visual culture has a core role in this reading group, with the act of ‘reading’ being utilized also for visual material. Therefore, in each meeting a text, an image and a video are chosen and used equally to create the discussion. Every meeting has a particular theme – previous themes include: animal consumption, the ethics of photojournalism, the Vietnam War, the Holocaust and many more. Some of the themes are chosen to collide with other events or field trips, organized by the academic community of our University.

The group was established in January 2017, with the support of the Modern and Contemporary Research Cluster of the History of Art Department, and since then had regular meetings.

Everyone welcome, whatever your field of interest and research.

For more information and links to readings, email Martha Cattell: and Kyveli Lignou-Tsamantani or join our Facebook Page:

Political Forms

Political Forms

This reading group originates in the ‘Political Forms’ CModS research strand (2017-2018) and meets once per term. If you are interested in political history, critical theory and political philosophy, in the political dimensions of art and literature, or in interdisciplinary reflections on politics, then do join us.

The dates, the venues and the programme, with links to the texts when possible/appropriate, will be announced on this page.

For more information please contact Emilie Morin ( and Ruth Kelly (

Summer term meeting: Thursday 23 May, 1-2pm, in the CModS office (BS/118, Berrick Saul building).

The text selected for discussion is Gayatri Spivak's Righting Wrongs, which can be read here:

All welcome.