2016 Programme

Saturday 16th January Professor John Mullan spoke to us on

‘What Matters in Jane Austen?’  in Woodstock Town Hall

The answer is ‘everything’ of course. John Mullan will show this by examining some of the tricks and puzzles in Austen’s novels.  Those in doubt will be convinced by the brilliance of her literary techniques. John Mullan is Professor of English at University College, London. He has published widely on 18th and 19th century literature.  In 2006 he published 'How Novels Work' which examines fictional techniques; in 2008 'Anonymity'; and in 2012 'What Matters in Jane Austen'.  He is also a well-known literary journalist who appears frequently on BBC radio and TV and is a past Chair of the Man Booker Prize jury.


Saturday 20th February Dr Stuart Lee spoke to us on
‘Tolkien: Author of the Millenium?’  in Woodstock Town Hall
J.R.R.Tolkien is one of the best known writers of the 20th century but at the same time his popularity is not welcomed by all.  Stuart Lee will explore Tolkien’s writing and ask the contentious question: should he be considered the author of the millennium?
Dr Stuart Lee is a member of Merton College (Tolkien’s last College) and has written and lectured on 'Middle Earth', recently editing the Blackwell/Wiley 'Companion to Tolkien'. 


Wednesday 23rd March Dr Clemence Schultze spoke to us on

‘Green Leaves and Golden Pavements: Town and Country in the Novels of Barbara Pym’  in Woodstock Library   

Barbara Pym’s novels are memorable for their humour, insight, and charm; the author deals with her characters’ quite ordinary lives with amusement and sympathy.  Clemence Schultze (an historian at the University of Durham, and past Chair of the Barbara Pym Society) will talk about 'A Glass of Blessings' (1958)*, generally considered to be classic Pym and urban in its setting.  By contrast, pastoral themes predominate in two novels from the beginning and end of Pym’s career, 'Some Tame Gazelle' (1950) and 'A Few Green Leaves' (1980)

* Book Group recommended reading


Thursday 14th April Dr Marion Turner spoke to us on

‘Writing a Biography of Chaucer’ in Woodstock Town Hall 

Marion Turner, Associate Professor and Fellow at Jesus College, Oxford, will talk about her current project, writing a biography of Chaucer.  The biography focuses on places and spaces that Chaucer inhabited, exploring Chaucer’s imaginative life by connecting literature and material culture. 

Marion Turner will talk about her approach to biography; ways of productively connecting life and works; and what biography can achieve.


Tuesday, 17th May Dr Lyndall Gordon spoke to us on

'To Track down the Shadow: Night and Shadow in Virginia Woolf' in Woodstock Town Hall

The talk looks at the prevalence of darkness in her portraits as more revealing than daylight in the novels 'Mrs Dalloway'* and 'To the Lighthouse' and the short story 'Lappin and Lapinova'.  

The quotation comes from Woolf herself in a sketch called 'The Mysterious Case of Miss V' where Woolf sets out her alertness to the interior life, as distinct from the public.

*Book Group recommended reading.

Wednesday 15th June David Fickling spoke to us on

‘The Creative Publisher’ in Woodstock Library                                   

The highly distinguished Oxford-based publisher David Fickling has launched the creative careers of many high profile writers, including Jacqueline Wilson, Philip Pullman, Mark Haddon, and John Boyne.

His talk reflects on the vital role of the publisher in the current literary scene.  



Thursday 22nd September Dr Sandie Byrne spoke to us on

‘The Fiction of Ian McEwan’ in Woodstock Town Hall 

Ian McEwan has achieved the difficult feat of writing literary fiction that sells. His early work was known for its violence, brevity, and warped characters; his later for the twists in its tales.  This talk asks what makes his writing so effective and so popular, from the early short stories to 'The Children Act'.

Dr Sandie Byrne is the Director of English Studies at the Oxford University Department of Continuing Education
, Fellow of Kellogg College  and the author of numerous studies of 19th and 20th century fiction.

Saturday 22nd October Adrian Barlow spoke to us on 

‘Past and Present in the World of Anthony Trollope’ in Woodstock Town Hall
Victorian England was a world in rapid transition, mirrored in the
panoramic and expansive novels of Anthony Trollope.  Adrian Barlow looked at Trollope’s comic masterpiece 'Barchester Towers'*, the sophisticated 'Can You Forgive Her?' and the less well-known 'The Vicar of Bullhampton', which the speaker will argue deserves wider recognition today.

Adrian Barlow is a writer and lecturer, and Chair of The English Association and former Director of Public Programmes at the Cambridge University Institute of Continuing Education.

*Book Group recommended reading

Saturday 26th November Professor Robert Douglas-Fairhurst spoke to us on

‘The Story of Alice’ In The Story of Alice' in The Oxfordshire Museum, Woodstock

Robert Douglas- Fairhurst illuminates the tangled history of two lives and
two books: he examines the strange friendship between Charles Dodgson (Lewis Carroll) and Alice Liddell and shows how this relationship stirred Carroll’s imagination. His book explains how 'Alice in Wonderland' and 'Through the Looking-Glass' took on an unstoppable cultural momentum in Victorian England. This biography has been praised as ‘the best book on the myriad enigmas of Carroll’s heartbreaking wonderland I have ever read’ (Robert McCrum, The Observer).

Professor Robert Douglas-Fairhurst is professor of English in the University of Oxford and a Fellow of Magdalen College, Oxford. In 2015, he was elected a Fellow of The Royal Society of Literature.  His many previous books include 'Becoming Dickens' (2011).