‘Disciplinary Formations’: A Workshop to Commemorate the 150th Anniversary of Prof John Nichol and the English Chair at Glasgow University.
On Nov 17th 1862 Professor John Nichol delivered his inaugural lecture to ‘the Course of English Language and Literature at the University of Glasgow’, thereby initiating the study of English in a recognisable modern form in this university. A Glaswegian by upbringing, Nichol (1833-94) was something of a polymath: trained at Glasgow and Oxford Universities, he was well versed in philosophy, classics and history as well as English language and literature, and authored several volumes of poetry. (This perhaps not his strong point!) Although he lectured on the core English curriculum as it was emerging in some 19th century universities, he also published on Scottish literature (with books on Early Scottish Poetry, Robert Burns, and Thomas Carlyle), and his 1882 study of American literature pioneered this branch of study in Britain. His concern for female education played an important role in the admission of women to Glasgow University, via the foundation of Queen Margaret College in 1883, and he also pioneered extension lecturing across the whole UK.
To commemorate this significant anniversary for Glasgow University, the School of Critical Studies is holding a one-day workshop to explore Nichol’s legacy, and to discuss the past, present and future of our ‘disciplinary formation’ of English. It will take place exactly (to the day) on the hundred and fiftieth anniversary of his inaugural lecture. Given the broad scope of Nichol’s academic contribution, and our current institutional shape as a School of Critical Studies, speakers are invited from English Literature, English Language, Scottish Literature, and Theology and Religious Studies. We have transcribed the text of Nichol’s Inaugural Lecture of 1862 to capture a sense of his expectations for the new subject of English, a fascinating document although very much of its time. This may provide a point of reference for participants, although we are as equally concerned with the present condition of our discipline as with its Victorian point of origin. Special Collections are preparing a small display of Nichol’s publications and lecture notes from the archives, which we will visit at the end of the morning. The proceedings will be recorded and a webpage created: Prof Nigel Leask will be covering Nichol’s career and significance in an article to be published in the Herald on Saturday 17th November 2012.
Prof Leask will open the event with a brief overview of Nichol’s career and significance, followed by two sessions featuring short 10-minute papers from invited speakers from within the School on any aspect of Nichol, English at Glasgow, or ‘disciplinary formations’ in general. After lunch there will then be an open-forum Round Table (chaired by Dr Alex Benchimol).
All staff and Postgraduate students in the School of Critical Studies are welcome.
First published: 17 November 2012