European Literature in Translation: The first 25 years

European Literature in Translation: The first 25 years

By Margaret Farnworth, Continuing Education student

On a warm October morning in 1993 a group of eighteen or twenty of us crammed into a stuffy room in the Modern Languages building for the first session of a twenty-week course in “European Literature in Translation”. No one could possibly have realised that this was the start of a course which would still be running in 2017 and about to enter its twenty-fifth season.
Over the years we have been taught by five tutors, and have diversified from French literature to European Literature generally. Students have come and gone with many attending for a decade or more, and the enthusiasm and commitment of tutors and students alike remain undiminished. We have tackled works originally written in many languages, ranging from French and Italian to Russian and Scandinavian and have studied novels, plays, short stories and memoirs.

What’s the attraction of this course? Why do people sign up and in many cases stick with it for years? What do they get out of it?

Although many of those who attend are retired, and already have degrees and professional qualifications, some still find writing essays for assessment a welcome challenge. Others prefer to forego that pleasure, but will happily volunteer to prepare talks and presentations on topics of particular interest. Some enrol to follow up an interest in literature dating back to school days but side-lined through their working lives. Others are retired teachers or academics specialising in English or in modern languages who are looking to extend their existing knowledge. People who have never read outside English and American literature welcome the chance to explore a wider range of texts. Some enrol through personal recommendation from friends. As one member wrote – There is no better way of exploring ideas, thought and life than through literature.

The class provides what one student describes as a warm, welcoming, fun and stimulating environment in which to read and discuss texts. It’s important that we are led by a qualified tutor to direct our study, so that we are most definitely not a book group. But group discussion is a big part of the class, although no one is forced to contribute and if you just want to listen that’s fine. Cross-fertilisation of ideas is important, and people benefit from insights they would not necessarily have discovered for themselves. Because most members have decades of life experience, they bring a fascinating array of knowledge to the discussion. Over the years, historians, artists, actors, academics and others have shared their expertise – and for several years a retired GP provided wonderful insights into the ailments of the characters we read about. We have always placed a strong emphasis on studying the works we study in their historical, social and political context, and where possible we look at clips of stage and film versions. As one member commented – Every week I leave the class feeling stimulated.

Over time we have become more than just an adult education class. Theatre and film trips take place if there’s a local performance of a text we’re studying. Weekly coffee breaks and end-of-term lunches provide a chance to chat. Friendships have developed and people meet informally out of class. Last year we had an innovation – an informal, twice-monthly reading group in a local cafe, intended to keep us in touch over the long summer break. We hope this will become a regular feature.
In October we plan to mark the anniversary of the Russian Revolution by reading some works from the Soviet period; I can promise anyone who decides to join us a lively, stimulating and enjoyable course.

And finally – a big thank you to the staff of Continuing Education who made all this happen.
European Literature will return for its 25th year this Autumn – if you would like to enrol email us at and we will send you the details when they are ready.

An Introduction to Oceanography

With Hannah Whitby


The more we learn about oceanography, the more questions we have. I love oceanography because it is one of the only truly unknown frontiers we have left. There is still so much to learn and so much to explore. Science is continually advancing at a magnificent pace, but it is surprising how little we really know about what happens in our own oceans.

The life of an oceanographer is varied and often involves lots of travelling and field work. We are driven by a desire to discover and to understand. We collect information, perform experiments, analyse masses of data and model theoretical scenarios to work out anything and everything we can, such as: where do water masses sink? Why do icebergs travel at 90◦ to the wind? Why do some regions of the ocean have plenty of sunlight and nutrients, but hardly anything grows?

Oceanography brings together experts from all disciplines, from ecology and chemistry, to computing and engineering. Around 40% of the world’s population live within 100km of the sea; the oceans support 20% of our global protein source. We rely on the oceans heavily, from energy and fisheries to transport and ecotourism. Understanding more about tsunamis, tropical cyclones and oil spills will help to prevent, or recover, from major disasters more effectively. The oceans are a potentially infinite source of energy, food and wealth – but we must also learn how to manage them effectively, exploiting their riches sustainably.


Every bit of research helps us to piece together the bigger picture. To understand the biology, we need to understand the chemistry and the physics. Everything in the ocean is linked; temperature, oxygen, sediments, currents, life. How hot is the water from a hydrothermal vent? What causes coral reef bleaching? How long do turtles live? How old is Pacific bottom water? Many questions have been answered; others are the topics of current oceanographic research; many, many more remain to be asked.

This year I will teach a brand new course with Continuing Education that aims to describe our journey of ocean exploration, from the early days to current cutting-edge research. The course will discuss the life of an oceanographer, the main questions that have been asked over the years, and how we go about finding the answers.

Hannah will be teaching a brand new course this October Introduction to Oceanography for 5 weeks from Wednesday 7 October. If you would like to read more about this course please click here Introduction to Oceanography

The History of Continuing Education at the University of Liverpool

By Dr Anna Pilz


In May 2015, I was invited to give a talk as part of Continuing Education’s Lecture Series on the history of the Centre for Lifelong Learning and Continuing Education at the University of Liverpool. It was a great pleasure to return to my alma mater and meet some of my former colleagues and students. During my doctorate at Liverpool, I was fortunate to offer four courses on Irish literature and culture for their Continuing Education programme. It was one of the most enjoyable experiences during my degree. It offered me the opportunity to gain vital experiences in curriculum design and teaching. More importantly, however, I enjoyed the discussions I had with the students on Irish writers, historical events and representations of Irish culture. It was a particular pleasure to encounter a variety of class members who joined the courses for different reasons: either because of a personal interest due their own Irish heritage; in an effort to socialise with others who share similar interests; in order to test the ground of learning in a Higher Education environment for possible future enrolment on degree programmes; or simply in pursuit of knowledge and exchange of ideas. It was precisely this diversity in motivation as well as an eagerness to engage with new and often challenging concepts among the participants that made these classes such a joyful and rewarding experience. As so often, the best ideas and thoughts are stimulated through debate.

CE_176When I was approached to write a brief history of Continuing Education at Liverpool, I jumped at the chance to delve into the rich archive of the Centre for Lifelong Learning. It was an exciting opportunity to find out more about the developments of adult education, how it evolved and adapted to the changing social, economic, and political contexts from the late nineteenth century to the present in the city of Liverpool. I was struck in particular how the programme and the vision for adult education was driven by the people dedicated to offer a diverse syllabus and broadening the programme to cater toward an ever-increasing demand.

The challenges faced in the past were similar to today, relating to issues of finances, administrative structures, teaching materials, appropriate teaching spaces, recruitment and wider changes in the academy. The history of adult education at Liverpool indicates that such challenges can be overcome. Three things struck me in particular. Firstly, I found that throughout the twentieth- and twenty-first centuries, CE was always at the forefront in responding to external changes. Secondly, since the 1960s, it engaged in developing a research-led vision for the Centre and its varying strands and duties by bringing in international scholars with a research interest in adult education, funding researchers based at Liverpool as well as sending out its staff to international conferences. Thirdly, it struck me how widening participation and community engagement was always a focus of adult education in Liverpool with collaborations between the Centre and local institutions, such as the Blue Coat, the Walker Art Gallery and the Philharmonic Hall. In this ambition, it seems to me that the Centre for Lifelong Learning is really at the heart of what one major concern within the academy: to reach out and transfer knowledge to the wider community.

The Centre’s archive holds a wealth of material, including student enrolment lists, syllabi, correspondence and annual reports with particularly rich materials for the period of World War Two. These highlight the fast-pacing socio-economic and political changes Liverpool and Merseyside and their impact on adult education. Thanks to the dedication of the people to face these challenges head-on, the Centre for Lifelong Learning is thriving today enabling me to be part of and contribute to CE’s adult education programme which offered a unique experience to me as an Early Career Researcher. I can only hope that the archive will attract an enthusiastic student to embark on a full study of the Centre for Lifelong Learning at Liverpool. As one of the few Centres left dedicated to adult and further education, its archive merits such a study and will shed light on the importance of adult education.

For our current programme click here 2015/16 Programme
You can read a copy of Anna Pilz Continuing Education at the University of Liverpool here History of Continuing Education

Anti-Art by Ed Bruce


It’s interesting, but is it art?’ A familiar question, often heard being asked loudly in art galleries. But who is in charge of deciding what is art and what is not? Is there a council, an academy? Do we ‘know’ the rules of art, and if something doesn’t fit the art category can we definitely say it isn’t art? Throughout the history of art there certainly were attempts to formalise art and write a set of rules, for example the Royal Academy under Joshua Reynolds. Academic painting dominated the 19th century, but when the rules of art were broken by artists whose work did not conform, the French Academy of Fine Arts held a Salon of the Rejected to show how correct the Academy was in not accepting these ‘inferior’ paintings. These ‘Impressionists’, as they became known, cared about art, not ‘Art’ and begun a revolution that is still felt today.

The Art Historian E.H. Gombrich wrote that ‘there really is no such thing as Art. There are only artists’. This acknowledges that artists always need a bit of breathing space in which to make work. To have a strict notion of Art stifles creativity. Consequently, artists have always sought to invent new ways to depict the world by breaking away from the hackneyed notions of ‘orthodox’ Art. There is always an impulse to break the accepted rules, to make anti-Art.


I will be teaching a five week course that will explore this urge as experienced by artists during the 20th century. The early part of the period is often seen as a golden age of experimentation: Dada, Surrealism, Primitivism and Art Brut all began as a challenge to the staid conventions of the time. At an aviation fair in Paris, artists Marcel Duchamp and Constantin Brancusi discussed ‘what art could be’ in the future.

Painting is finished. Who can do anything better than this propeller? Can you?” asked Duchamp. Could engineered objects be art if the artist declared they were? Brancusi later discovered that one of his sculptures (Bird in Space) had been declared ‘not art’ on its way through US customs and therefore subject to import duties as a machine-part. Duchamp imagined the scenario where one could display a machine-made object in an art gallery and in 1917 submitted a urinal entitled Fountain to an art exhibition in New York.

Dada, one of the most important art movements of the 20th Century, emerged during the chaos of the First World War. It employed shock tactics in its refusal to conform to the conventions of the Art establishment. After the Second World War, Jean Dubuffet turned to children’s drawings to inspire what he called his ‘raw art’. The anti-Art impulse continued throughout the Modern period, through Pop, Fluxus and Happenings, and is still with us today of course – in the works of Mike Kelly, Sarah Lucas, Martin Creed and many others who kick against art with a capital A.

Ed Bruce will be teaching Anti-Art a five week course beginning on the 5 of October, 6-8pm. If you would like to book on this course you can do so by clicking here Anti-Art

Leonora Carrinton at Tate Liverpool – Guided tour

If you would like to learn more about Leonora Carrington the Tate Liverpool are providing a special guided tour of the Leonora Carrington exhibition led by Joanna Moorhead, Carrington’s cousin and biographer.

Date: 2 May 3 – 4pm.

Venue: Leonora Carrington Exhibition, 4th Floor Gallery, Tate Liverpool

£13, £11 concessions


When Leonora Carrington eloped with Max Ernst in 1937, she took a one-way ticket out of both her country and her family. For the next 70 years she had virtually nothing to do with either: but in 2006 her cousin, journalist Joanna Moorhead, became intrigued by her story and travelled to Mexico in search of her. The two became friends, and Joanna visited her eight more times before her death in 2011. Join Joanna Moorhead at Tate Liverpool for a guided tour where she will explore the family story hidden within Carrington’s work, and describes her remarkable relationship with the black sheep who went on to become the national treasure of a country thousands of miles from the Lancashire where she was born.

Advanced Booking Essential

For more information, please see our website:

I look forward to seeing you there.

Best wishes,

Alison Jones

Programme Manager: Public & Community Learning

Tate Liverpool

Albert Dock


L3 4BB

100 Years of General Relativity: The Brilliance of Albert Einstein by Stephen Hughes



In the 19th century Michael Faraday undertook experiments to explore the relationship between electricity and magnetism. These experiments demonstrated that a magnet moving through a wire coil causes an electric current to flow through the wire and conversely an electric current flowing through a wire coil causes a magnetic compass to deviate from pointing north. These phenomena are utilised extensively today in the generation of electricity and the conversion of electricity into circular motion (an electric motor). Faraday was a great experimentalist but it was James Clerk Maxwell who extended these principles into a complete theory of electricity and magnetism. When Maxwell applied his theory to the properties of empty space (with no positive/negative charges or north/south poles present) not everything in the equations disappeared. What remained was a description of a wave propagating at a very fast speed. This is light.


In 1905 Albert Einstein published four scientific papers. One of these papers titled ‘On the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies’ outlines his theory of special relativity. Einstein was interested in Faraday’s experiments and Maxwell’s theory. Particularly the fact that it doesn’t matter if the magnet moves inside the coil or the coil moves around the magnet, as long as there is motion between the two an electric current will flow through the coil. In special relativity, Einstein uses two assumptions to establish a new foundation for physics. The original foundation leads to inconsistencies to explain this phenomenon between electricity and magnetism. In classical mechanics, as developed by Galileo Galilei and Isaac Newton, there is no speed limit. Objects can travel at any speed. This original foundation also contains a concept called universal time, which involves time flowing at the same rate for all objects. If one object is travelling very fast and another is not travelling at all then both will still agree how long it took for the minute hand of a clock to make one complete revolution, one hour.

Physics motion

One assumption Einstein imposed is the speed of light is the fastest possible speed any object can travel. As a result of this restriction the concept of universal time had to be abolished. No longer would everyone agree on the time taken for the minute hand to make one complete revolution. Imagine two objects equip with clocks, one travels close to the speed of light and another stays at rest. Upon comparing the clocks we would find time has passed more slowly for the object travelling fast compared to the object that stayed at rest. If the clock for the object at rest shows that one hour has passed, then the object travelling fast would show that less than one hour has passed. Time slows down the faster you travel with the amount it slows down proportional to how fast you travel. Unstable particles, produced in space, don’t not have enough time, before they decay into other particles, to travel the distance from space to sea level where they are detected. When the time taken for these particles to decay at rest is measured in the laboratory they are found to decay more quickly. Time must slow down for the unstable particles as they travel close to the speed of light, from their perspective not enough time has passed for them to decay. These effects only become noticeable when objects travel close to the speed of light.

Einstein wanted to apply these same principles to gravity with an aim of removing the inconsistencies plaguing the motion of the planet Mercury around the Sun, as predicted by Newton’s theory of gravity. In 1915, after ten years working on this problem, Einstein presented his general theory of relativity to the scientific community. Since this time most of the predictions made by Einstein’s theory have been tested and verified. Some predictions, such as gravitational waves, have yet to be detected. General relativity is one of the greatest achievements in human history and continues to enlighten our understanding of the Universe.

Stephen will be teaching a 5-week course titled 100 Years of General Relativity from Tuesday 28 April. To join him for this one hundred year anniversary course to celebrate and explore Einstein’s theories of special and general relativity you can book your place by clicking here .


Amy Bidgood on helping children learn what not to say

Amy is in the third year of a part-time PhD in the Child Language Study Centre, part of the Department of Psychological Sciences


“I moved to Liverpool from the University of York almost three years ago to work as a Research Assistant on one of Dr Ben Ambridge’s research projects. I was lucky to be able to take up a part-time PhD alongside my RA role, which has allowed me to look in more depth at some of the things Ben’s research project is investigating.

As adults,  we can create a potentially infinite number of new sentences that we haven’t heard before. For example, for many years, I’ve been able to email people. More recently, I’ve been able to Facebook them, too.

How language works

Now I could Snapchat or Whatsapp them – terms that didn’t exist just a few years ago, but that I already know how to use. It’s possible to make (and understand) these new sentences by generalising from what we already know about how language works.

When children are learning to talk, they have to learn to generalise patterns in language for their speech to become like the adults around them. If they didn’t, their language would be very limited and formulaic.“If you’ve ever heard a young child talking, it’s likely you’ll have heard them say things like We goed to the park or I sitted down. In these examples, the child has ‘overgeneralised’ the regular –ed ending pattern for making the past tense in English”

However, children also face a problem: if they generalise the patterns too far, they’ll say something ungrammatical. If you’ve ever heard a young child talking, it’s likely you’ll have heard them say things like We goed to the park or I sitted down. In these examples, the child has ‘overgeneralised’ the regular –ed ending pattern for making the past tense in English. Some children also make overgeneralisation errors with whole sentences, like The magician disappeared the rabbit or Don’t giggle me. These types of errors come about because children hear lots of examples of verbs used in both intransitive and transitive sentences, e.g. The plate broke (intransitive) and Homer broke the plate (transitive).

Many verbs work like this: The window opened > Marge opened the window, The ball bounced > Lisa bounced the ball, etc. In each of the transitive examples here, the person is causing the action (breaking/opening/bouncing) to occur. The magician disappeared the rabbit, meaning something like ‘the magician caused the rabbit to disappear’,  is a perfectly logical extension of the pattern children have heard with verbs like break, open and bounce.

“There are 2 main theories. The first is that children learn from the statistical properties of the speech they hear, so they hear disappear and giggle used lots of times. The second theory is about semantics: there is something about the meaning of verbs like disappear and giggle that mean they are ungrammatical in transitive sentences”

As well as generalising patterns (whether in words of sentences) children need to learn how to restrict the generalisations to avoid errors. My research is about the mechanisms involved in this learning process. There are 2 main theories. The first is that children learn from the statistical properties of the speech they hear, so they hear disappear and giggle used lots of times, but never in a transitive sentence. From this, they infer that these verbs can’t be used that way.

The second theory is about semantics: there is something about the meaning of verbs like disappear and giggle that mean they are ungrammatical in transitive sentences. Once children have a more complete understanding of the verb’s meaning, they will realise that these sentences aren’t possible.I’ve been testing the predictions of these theories in a number of ways, running experiments with children in schools as well as with adults here at the University.For example, I use a grammaticality judgment task to see what children (and adults) think sounds grammatical or not.They watch short videos on a computer and hear sentences describing what’s happening.

Statistical learning

The sentences might be grammatical (e.g. The girl giggled) or ungrammatical (e.g. Bart giggled the girl). Participants in the study use a ‘smiley face’ scale to tell me what they think of the sentence – is it good, silly or somewhere in between?

We can then see if the ungrammatical sentences are judged to be worse if the verb is very common (e.g. laugh) in comparison with less common or very rare words (e.g. giggle or chortle). If this is the case (which we have found in several studies), then it is likely that there is an element of statistical learning going on when children learn what not to say, since the more they hear a verb used correctly, the worse they think it sounds when it’s in an ungrammatical sentence.

My first paper investigating children’s overgeneralisation errors was recently published, so please have a look if you’d like to find out more about my research.”

Amy will be teaching a 5 week course How do Children Learn Language from Tuesday 14 October, 7-9pm with Continuing Education – for more information on this course, and to enrol and pay click here

Searching for Richard III


The skeleton found beneath a Leicester car park in 2012 is beyond reasonable doubt that of King Richard III. One of the most controversial of English rulers, Richard has continued to fascinate ever since his death in battle at Bosworth in 1485, provoking numerous literary and artistic portrayals as a ruthless murderer of princes and devious plotter with unstoppable ambition. The legacy of this long tradition is the indelible image of Richard III as a disfigured hunchback, malign in appearance and in character.

This autumn, Continuing Education researchers in the Archaeology, Art History, English and History departments join the search for the real Richard III in a series of linked evening lectures. These talks will investigate the scientific and historic evidence that helps us to understand how this picture of the king was formed and will enable us to better judge how accurate the picture might be. If you choose to attend all four Richard III lectures then you will pay the discounted rate of £30.

Richard III: reign and reputation
Lecture: Monday 14 October 6.15 – 8pm, University of Liverpool
With Dr Martin Heale
This lecture will assess the brief reign of Richard III and consider how historians have sought to understand and evaluate this most controversial – and topical – of English kings.
CRN 17617

Life in the age of Richard III: a bioarchaeological perspective
Lecture: Monday 28 October 6.15 – 8pm, University of Liverpool
With Shirley Curtis-Summers
Using scientific evidence from the skeletal remains of Richard III, this lecture will build a picture of past lifeways in the middle ages. Key case studies will be presented in bioarchaeology (how we identify and recreate evidence of diet, health, trauma and pathology). We will analyse the skeletal trauma from Richard III and the Battle of Towton skeletons, investigate monastic dieting and fasting practices, and consider diet and disease from the medieval perspective.
Note that images of human remains will be shown in this lecture.
CRN 18025

Richard III: Shakespeare’s villain
Lecture: Monday 11 November 6.15 – 8pm, University of Liverpool
With Andrea Young
As part of our Searching for Richard III series, this session will explore the historical, literary and dramatic influences on which Shakespeare drew to create one of his greatest anti-heroes.
CRN 17885

Richard III: Portraying the King
Lecture: Monday 25 November 6.15 – 8pm, University of Liverpool
With Dr Suzanne May
One of the Walker Art Gallery’s most important paintings is ‘David Garrick as Richard III’. This lecture tells how William Hogarth’s 1745 portrait reconciles Shakespearean historicism and dramatic licence with artistic ambition and celebrity portraiture.
CRN 15667

For more information on Continuing Education please visit