“Fantastic Thresholds” at Richmond University: A review
Submitted by Dr Jon Mackley
On 16 November 2012 Phillippa Bennett and Jon Mackley took a group of English students to the Kensington Campus of Richmond University, the American International University in London, for a one-day symposium entitled “Fantastic Thresholds”. The Plenary lecture was delivered by Andrew Butler from Canterbury Christchurch University: his discussion established a theoretical framework for the day. Then two papers were presented: the first by Jon Mackley (Northampton) was a literary study of a little-known Gothic novel. The second by Matthew Sangster (Richmond) was a study of reading patterns of fantasy novels. After lunch, students from the two universities presented a series of papers and presentations on a wide range of subjects. The speakers were John Brimblecombe and Matthew Vernall from Northampton and Lillian Young, Larry Sanders, Stephanie Buehler and Shannon Fane-Hervey from Richmond. The day ended with a round-table discussion considering questions such as where fantasy ‘begins’ and what role fantasy plays in mass culture.
Review by John Brimblecombe:
Joint Honours English Literature / Creative Writing, year 2
“I attended the Symposium on the 16th November and cannot express how much I got out of the day. Even though I am not enrolled on either module I have had a lifelong interest in both genres and was looking forward to finding out more of the theory and academic discussion around them. I was invited to deliver a short presentation of about 15 minutes to the symposium, an opportunity which I took with relish.
As an adult tutor I normally deliver a hands on session in practical subjects, so it was a challenge to deliver the passion which I have for the subject through a Powerpoint presentation. The experience into researching and delivering a presentation to this academic level was both challenging and fun and I was proud of my finished product. Although it was daunting standing up before a group of total strangers, including experts on the genre, it was also exciting and I felt my confidence grow as the presentation began. I was probably more surprised that I was able to answer ad hoc questions competently. This experience has moved the boundaries of my own personal fear and as my goal is to eventually lecture within a university environment, it gave me a first-hand insight on what it is like the other side of the desk and cemented my career decision. Overall the day was a superb opportunity to meet students and lecturers from not only another university, but also a different country. The guest lecturer was interesting and despite not taking either module, I gained a lot of knowledge around the theories of the genre which I have been able to apply in other contexts. Thanks goes to Phillippa and Jon and the staff and students at Richmond for a brilliant day.”