SAS Blogs | Supporting world-class research in the humanities

Fear and the Scottish Referendum


Jolyon Mitchell4

Scotland votes on independence from the UK on 18 September. In this guest blog Professor Jolyon Mitchell, Academic Director of the Institute for Advanced Studies in Humanities (IASH) at the University of Edinburgh, discusses the culture and rhetoric of fear surrounding the imminent referendum. Across disciplines, how can the humanities help us to understand the national, domestic and cultural fears that a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ vote may entail?


The Language of Fear

Listening to the Scottish referendum debate, it is hard to escape the language of fear. News headlines have been permeated with the ‘F’ word.  Newspapers, internet sites and news reports have regularly highlighted a wide range of fears.

Here are a few examples from hundreds of headlines: Pound Falls on Fears of Scottish Independence (BBC News and Sky News); Fear in the City as Scottish Referendum Looms (Yahoo News); Experts fear independent Scotland would lose billions of pounds of UK funding (The Guardian);  Academics fear a university brain drain of country’s best scientists (The Independent); Livestock farmers fear ‘unknowns’ of independent Scotland (Farmers Weekly); Even Billy Connolly was quoted in the Daily Mail as breaking his ‘silence to voice fears on Scottish Independence’. Continue reading →

#PotW: The Mystery of Edwin Drood: Solutions and Resolutions – 20 Sep


Drood_serial_coverTo celebrate the official launch of The Drood Inquiry (, this one-day conference will explore the mysterious world of Drood and its solutions. Further details and updates can be found on our blog at

Venue: Institute of English Studies (IES), School of Advanced Study, University of London.
Senate House, Malet Street, London, WC1E 7H

Date and time: Saturday 20 September 2014, 09:30 – 17:45.

Register via Eventbrite here.

Ticket prices include lunch and refreshments throughout the day – please contact the organisers to notify of any special dietary requirements. In addition to the above, two exhibitions will run during the day showcasing Drood-related treasures from the Senate House Library and original artwork by Alys Jones.

Continue reading →

The Campaign for Scotland – The most conservative of revolutionary measures…?


By Professor James Mitchell (University of Edinburgh)

‘The Anglo-Scottish union was the ‘most conservative of revolutionary measures. To put the matter shortly, it repealed every law or custom of England or of Scotland inconsistent with the political unity of the new State, but it did not make or attempt any change or reform which was not necessary for the creation of the new United Kingdom’

- A.V. Dicey and Sir Robert Rait, Thoughts on the Union Between England and Scotland, London, Macmillan and Co, 1920, pp. 244-5.



This description of the union between Scotland and England might equally apply to the form independence would take should Scotland vote YES on 18 September. Opponents suggest that independence would be a major rupture, creating uncertainty for a small new state finding its way in a hostile international environment having abandoned the security of the ‘most successful political multinational state in the world’.
Continue reading →

Why we should be less stressed about the humanities


In this guest blog, Professor Geoffrey Crossick, Distinguished Professor of the Humanities in the School of Advanced Study, University of London, reflects upon the current status of the humanities in the UK and the USA. He argues the case for a self-confident articulation of the value of the humanities and their continuing role at the heart of our society.  

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Continue reading →

#PotW: Anna Kavan: Historical Context, Influences and Legacy of her Fiction – 11 September


Kavan-paintingA one-day symposium at the Institute of English Studies in association with Liverpool John Moores University Research Centre for Literature and Cultural History and Peter Owen Publishers.

Anna Kavan’s publication history spans from her early novels under the name Helen Ferguson in the late 1920s and early 1930s to her last work which won Brian Aldiss’ prize for ‘Sci-Fi Novel of the Year’ in 1967.  Her own life story has been widely reported in magazine articles, book reviews and popular biography, but there has been little serious scholarly attention to her writing.  The often sensationalized focus on Kavan’s biography, particularly her adoption of her own fictional character’s name, her long-term heroin addiction, and her psychological difficulties, has overshadowed serious critical attention to her work.  Yet, her writing continues to be published in English and translation, to hold fascination for new generations of readers, and to interest or influence other writers and artists.  This symposium aims to bring together scholars with an interest in Kavan to promote an increasing academic focus on her work.  The day will be a forum for knowledge sharing, with the broad aims of historicizing Kavan’s work, situating her within the literary and intellectual context of her times, and charting her legacy as a writer.  The symposium will close with a public event in the evening at which leading contemporary writers will discuss Anna Kavan’s work in relation to their own writing. Continue reading →

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