During one of my third year modules, I was given the opportunity to attend ‘The East Midland’s Writer’s Conference 2015’ with my lecturer, Dr Paul Whickman. I would be in the student ambassador role for the majority of the day, so answering queries about doing English Lit at Derby for most of the time, but I was also able to attend the panel at which my lecturer was a speaker.
The day started with me and another ambassador, George, driving to Nottingham to set up the Derby University stall. Once we were set up, we got ready for any questions, and most of the queries were to do with people wanting to do an MA. Then I left George to man the stall on his own whilst I went to Paul’s panel. The panel was about the freedom to write; essentially a writer being able to write whatever you want without thinking that it may cause someone offence.
The panel was great and as well as Paul, there was the director of Writing East Midlands, a Chinese novelist and an Iranian poet. Paul gave a fantastic introduction, he contextualised censorship and offence. The introduction was a good mix of historical context and current issues. The Iranian poet was brilliant because he was a ‘real life’ example of someone who had faced extreme censorship and gave an insight to his first-hand experience at having to leave his country because of what he wrote. He also set a very good idea in motion and that was that censorship occurred at different levels and could be external or internal. The Chinese novelist was very clever because she talked about how the biggest censor was actually commercialisation because a writer is ultimately censored by what readers want. She also made very good points about how freedom was an illusion and the writer’s job is to work within this illusion by making the points that they want to make but staying within limits that will not offend anyone.
Attending the panel was very helpful for my third year module; ‘Taking and Making Offence; Blasphemy, Obscenity and Censorship from Milton to Rushdie’. The panel explored many issues which are central to the module, for example, is offence made or taken? I recorded my visit to conference, and in particular, to the panel in my seminar participation form which is one part of the assessment on this module. I also used some of the debate at the panel to help me answer my major assignment question. Apart from using the information I gained from the panel for both my course works (seminar participation and assignment), it was also extremely useful seeing Paul in his academic field. Sometimes, it is difficult to see the purpose (or even use- although I do not agree with this but unfortunately lots of people do see English lit as a bit of a ‘useless’ subject) of your subject when in a classroom/lecture hall setting but seeing the academic that taught on my programme in practice was a great way to consolidate my learning and in fact it helped me to see that what we learn or debate in lectures are actually issues which effect everyday living.