Director - Professor Ben Knights
Director of English Subject Centre from 1 August 2003 to July 2011. As Director, Ben had overall responsibility for the operation of the Centre; including strategy and planning, team leadership, the publications programme, and budget management. Central to his task was liaison and dialogue with English Departments throughout the UK, and with the Higher Education Academy, the Council for College and University English, and other relevant bodies.
Ben is now Emeritus Professor of English and Cultural Studies in the School of Arts and Media at Teesside University.
Ben Knights began his career as a College Lecturer at Selwyn College, Cambridge, teaching for Part I of the English Tripos. He then joined the Department of Adult and Continuing Education (then called Extra-Mural Studies) at the University of Durham where he taught for many years, eventually becoming Assistant Director responsible for public programmes. Teaching within the great extra-mural tradition presented the challenge of working with a variety of constituencies, from the vigorous and enquiring readers on open public programmes, to specialised groups ranging from Community and Youth Workers, to shop stewards, counsellors, and high security prisoners. Adult Education traditionally nurtured educational research, and he thus had scope to develop an enthusiasm for staff development - especially after becoming involved with the Development of University English Teaching (DUET) Project. After running DUET workshops for sixth form teachers, he served as a member of the DUET steering group from 1988 to 1998, and worked on the staff of HE training workshops in Britain and Poland. In the meanwhile, with a group of other ACE colleagues he set up and taught a successful part-time MA in Adult Education and Learning. After the change of CE funding regime in 1993 he oversaw the Department’s conversion of liberal education to accredited programmes.
In 1995 he was appointed Professor of English and Cultural Studies at the University of Teesside. As Head of Section he taught across a range of core modules, including Level 2 Theory and Shakespeare. He devised and taught modules on 1980s Fiction, ‘English and Education’, ’Writing for Reading’, ‘Making Sense’ (a level one Theory module), and a L3 Special Topic on Masculinities in Fiction. He collaborated with other colleagues in creating interdisciplinary modules on 1840s Culture, and on Cultural Studies, Learning and the University. In 2001 he was awarded a National Teaching Fellowship. His three-year ‘Active Reading’ project (for which the Project Assistant is Dr Chris Thurgar-Dawson) concerns transformative writing - what DUET used to call Literary Practice - as a means of complementing the critical essay. The project has suggestive implications for the pedagogy and assessment of literary studies, for the cross-fertilisation of creative and critical writing, and for the relations between English and other disciplines (e.g. counselling and psychotherapy) which themselves draw on literary practice.
His current research focuses in two principal areas: one is a continuing interest in the performance and representation of masculinities in literature and culture. But above all he is preoccupied by the borderland between disciplinary and pedagogic research and the history – and future - of English as subject and practice.
Main and Recent publications
(editor) Masculinities in Text and Teaching. Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2007.
(with Chris Thurgar-Dawson) Active Reading: Transformative Writing in Literary Studies. London. Continuum, 2006.
Writing Masculinities: Male Narratives in Twentieth-Century
Fiction. Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1999.
The Listening Reader: Fiction and Poetry for Counsellors and Psychotherapists. London: Jessica Kingsley, 1995.
From Reader to Reader: Theory, Text, and Practice in the Study Group. Hemel Hempstead: Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1992.
The Idea of the Clerisy in the Nineteenth Century. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1978.
Contributions to books and collections
'DUET in its Times' and 'Teaching and Writing as Complementary Dialogic Processes' in (eds.) Malgorzata Grzegorzewska and Aniela Korzeniowska DUET Encounters. Institute of English Studies, University of Warsaw. Warszawa 2008.
'In Search of England' in (eds.) Stephan Kohl and Robert Burden, Landscape and Englishness. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2006.
'Reading as a Man: Women and the Rise of English Studies in England' in (eds.) Miriam Kauko, Sylvia Mieszkowski, and Alexandra Tischel, Gendered Academia: Wissenschaft und Geschlechterdifferenz. Gottingen: Wallstein Verlag, 2005
Entries in (ed.) Michael Kimmel, The International Encyclopedia of Men and Masculinities (in press)
Chapter in (ed.) Nicholas Halmi and others, Coleridge’s Poetry
and Prose (Norton Critical Edition), W.W. Norton, 2004
‘The Text and the Group’, chapter in (ed.) Colin Evans, Developing University English Teaching. Edwin Mellen Press, 1995
‘Creative Reading’, chapter in (ed.) Peter Preston, The Teaching of Literature in Adult Education. Nottingham University Department of Adult Education 1995
'The Implied Aesthetic of English Teaching' WordPlay: the English Subject Centre Newsletter, April 2010.
'Leitch, Skills, and Prosperity for All'. English Subject Centre Newsletter October 2008
'View from the English Subject Centre', Cambridge Quarterly 34.3 (2005)
‘Intelligence and Interrogation: The Identity of the English Student’, Arts and Humanities in Higher Education 4 (1) 2005
‘Men from the Boys: Writing on the Male Body’, Literature
and History (13.1 Spring 2004)
‘ English and the Audit Culture: From Sensibility to Competence’, English Subject Centre Newsletter January 2002
‘ English on the Boundaries’, English Subject Centre Newsletter February 2001
‘Group Processes in Higher Education: the Uses of Theory’, Studies in Higher Education, Vol. 20, No. 2, 1995
‘ Hearing Yourself Teach: Group Processes for Adult Educators’, Studies in the Education of Adults, Vol. 25, No. 2, 1993
‘ Writing Relations in a Men’s Prison’, Free Associations, Vol. 2, No. 21, 1991
Reviews in Gothic Studies, MLR, Men and Masculinities, Culturemachine
Recent conference papers and workshops
'Loosening the Screw of Criticism', The Good of Criticism, Reading 2010.
'Pilgrims and Progression', Spatial Practices, Paderborn 2008.
'Techno-Ruralism: Spatial Networks in Children's Fiction', Spatial Practices, Konstanz 2006.
‘Home-grown Knowledge: Departmental Projects and the Scholarship of Subject Teaching’, Learning and Teaching Conference, University of Hertfordshire 2004
‘ Intelligence and interrogation: the identity of the English student’: Subject Centre International Conference 2003
‘ Reading as a man: women and the rise of English Studies in England’: Academy’s Gendered Fringe, University of Munich 2003
‘ Writing as learning’: ILT Northern Regional Forum 2003
‘ Writing as professional development’: ILT Annual Conference 2002
‘ Writing for learning: cycles of critical intervention’ (with Chris Thurgar-Dawson): University of Teesside Annual Learning and Teaching Conference 2002
‘ Reading, writing and retention’: ILT Northern Regional Forum 2001
‘ Life beyond skills’: University of Teesside Annual Learning and Teaching Conference 2001
‘ The Unconsolable: mourning manliness in Ishiguro’s The Remains of the Day’: Posting the Male, Liverpool John Moores 2000
Talking texts: learning as dialogue’: ILT Annual Conference 2000
Ben read Modern History at Oxford. He then moved to Cambridge where, after studying for the PG Diploma in English Studies he transferred to doctoral research, attaining his PhD for a thesis on ‘The Idea of the Clerisy in the Nineteenth Century’. The relationship between curriculum, pedagogy and university tribes has fascinated him ever since. He became a Member of the Institute for Learning and Teaching in HE in 2001, and was awarded a National Teaching Fellowship in the same year.