One week literary extravaganza offers feast of free events

20 May 2013

From 20-24 May 2013, leading writers and academics will come together for a festival of talks, lectures and debates on different aspects of writing and authorship; organised in partnership with the University of London’s Institute of English Studies with support from the Royal Society of Literature and the Times Literary Supplement.

The third British Academy Literature Week will be a feast of free public events across London. Highlights include an exclusive Shakespeare evening at the world-famous Globe Theatre, featuring James Shapiro and Jonathan Bate. Lectures by Richard Parish and Hugh Haughton on imitations of Christ in 17th Century French literature and on modern British poets and rivers will also feature, and there will be poetry readings by Alice Oswald and Anne Stevenson as well as a special event on W.B.Yeats at the Irish Embassy.

During the week there will be a small exhibition by the paper sculptor Justin Rowe celebrating the art of books. In a digital age, when the printed word is ever threatened, Justin’s sculptures will explore the importance of not just respecting literature for literature’s sake, but showing the tactile beauty of books as art and sculptures themselves.

Professor Sir Adam Roberts, the British Academy President, said: “The UK has a rich history of cultural creativity, particularly in the field of literature. The British Academy biennial Literature Week pays homage to some of the most influential writers and academics as they journey through a variety of novels, poetry and plays which all explore the ‘what, why, and how’ of life unfolds around us. This year's Literature Week offers a brilliant and varied choice of topics and free events at a selection of venues across the capital. We hope you can once again, enjoy this celebration of literature with the British Academy.”

The British Academy Literature Week is jointly organised with the Institute of English Studies at the University of London and the Royal Society of Literature. Each evening event ends with a drinks reception at around 7.30pm. All the events are free. Booking is required for all events and exhibition viewings. Further information can be found on the website at


Literature Week 2013 events:

Yeats's Mother Tongue

Yeats’s life in Bedford Park, Bloomsbury, Ashdown Forest, Oxford, Sussex and Kent and his work for the BBC and on The Oxford Book of Modern Verse, are illustrated with readings from selected poems by Edna O’Brien, Grey Gowrie and Fiona Sampson. Professor Roy Foster FBA and Professor Warwick Gould will reflect upon Yeats’s engagement with English poetic traditions and his influence on the next generation of modern poets.

Monday 20 May 2013, 6pm
The Irish Embassy, 17 Grosvenor Place, London, SW1X 7HR

What can those who teach and study Shakespeare learn from those who perform his plays – and vice-versa?

Professor James Shapiro (Columbia University) and Professor Jonathan Bate (University of Oxford) debate with Globe director Nick Bagnall and actors from the Globe company the different ways that Shakespeare’s characters can be explored by actors and academics, how the insights of each can be valuable to the other.

Tuesday 21 May 2013, 6pm
The UnderGlobe, Shakespeare's Globe, Bankside, London SE1 9DT

Imitations of Christ in 17th-century France: Some attendant difficulties

This lecture by Professor Richard Parish (University of Oxford) will look at four interpretations of the Imitation of Christ in the French 17th century, and at certain of the difficulties with which they confront both writers and readers: first, Pierre Corneille’s translation of the devotional classic by Thomas a Kempis, and the illustrations he provided for it; second, the same writer’s martyr tragedy, Théodore, with respect to aspects of propriety and dramaturgy; third, the autobiography of Jean-Joseph Surin, the priest at the centre of the Loudun possessions, in his role as exorcist; and finally the words of Eucharistic institution, as a topic of polemical writing by Bossuet.  

Wednesday 22 May 2013, 6 – 7.15pm followed by a reception
The British Academy, 10-11 Carlton House Terrace, London SW1Y 5AH

Poetry and Rivers / Alice Oswald

Join Professor Hugh Haughton (University of York) as he looks at how poets from Spencer to Heaney, Hughes and Alice Oswald use rivers in their work in the British Academy's 2013 Warton Lecture on English Poetry. This lecture will be preceded by the poet Alice Oswald giving a selection of readings from her own work, including her celebrated collection Dart.

Wednesday 22 May 2013, 6pm
Senate House, University of London, Malet St, London, WC1E 7HU

Anne Stevenson at 80 / Where is British Poetry Today?

A discussion of the state of contemporary British poetry by a panel of distinguished poets and critics, including Anne Stevenson, Simon Armitage and Professor Stephen Regan. This event will be chaired by the poet Fiona Sampson, and preceded by Anne Stevenson giving a rare reading from her own work to mark her 80th birthday this year.

Thursday 23 May 2013, 6pm
The British Academy, 10-11 Carlton House Terrace, London SW1Y 5AH

Turning the Page

Sculptor Justin Rowe explores his love of books in this mini-exhibition at the British Academy. In a digital age, when the printed word is ever threatened, Justin’s sculptures explore the importance of not just respecting literature for literature’s sake, but showing the tactile beauty of books as art and sculptures themselves.  

Monday 20 May 2013 to Friday 24 May 2013
The British Academy, 10-11 Carlton House Terrace, London SW1Y 5AH

All events are free but require registration.




Editor’s notes:

For further information, images and interviews please contact Emily Ray, Events & Press Officer on[email protected] or 020 7969 5246.

  1. British Academy Literature Week runs from 20 May to the 24 May 2013.

  2. The British Academy for the humanities and social sciences. Established by Royal Charter in 1902. Its purpose is to inspire, recognise and support excellence and high achievement in the humanities and social sciences, throughout the UK and internationally, and to champion their role and value. For more information, please visit

  3. Follow the British Academy on Twitter @britac_news

  4. The Institute of English Studies exists to facilitate advanced study and research in English Studies in the wider academic community, national and international, as well as within the University of London . It promotes these objects by providing for academic discussion and the exchange of knowledge and ideas through its Research Seminar and Conference Programmes,publications and visiting fellowships.

  5. The Royal Society of Literature, founded by George IV in 1820, celebrates and nurtures all that is best in British literature, past and present. We organise roughly twenty-four events a year; make awards and grants to established and emerging writers; run regular Masterclasses with the Booker Prize Foundation; and campaign on issues affecting writers, such as the closure of local libraries or reductions in PLR payments.

  6. At the heart of the RSL is its Fellowship, which encompasses the most distinguished authors working in the English language. One of our aims is to build bridges between our Fellows and those who enjoy their work, so that their unique talents are shared as widely as possible.


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