Engaging public beneficiaries with our research is central to the ethos of Warwick's Modern Languages departments. Our research has enriched public experience and knowledge of culture and cultural heritage, informed policy debate, inspired new forms of artistic expression, enhanced teaching and learning in non-HE levels of education, stimulated tourism, and helped libraries and archives to better understand and present their collections.
Impacts arising from our research include:
- Informing the work of cultural organisations and institutions in the UK and Europe.
- Improving libraries, archives and databases, and the knowledge base of their staff and users.
- Enriching primary, secondary and further education.
- Enhancing understanding of the knowledge and experience of cultural heritage in the general public.
The Renaissance was one of the most dynamic intellectual and cultural periods in the history of Europe. The invention of the printing press meant that the number of books proliferated, becoming available to more people than ever before. In the process, this took scholarship out of the church and universities, and into the hands of ordinary people.
Just how educated professional (merchants or bankers) or noble men and women read and understood these works which were newly available to them – and how people made, read and circulated books about philosophy in Italian – has been explored by researchers David Lines and Simon Gilson.
They have used this research to inform libraries around the world (such as the British Library and the Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei, Rome) which hold collections of books from this period. The research findings have also been used to improve access to these collections online, spreading knowledge about Renaissance philosophy and its reception.
The legacy of the French Revolution is often seen in a positive light – we see it as the birth of equal rights for men and women. But how did those men and women living through the Revolution view the events happening around and to them?
Innovative research in French Studies has used trauma theory to understand how people responded to the traumatic events they were experiencing. By exploring novels, printed images and performance, the research carried out by Katherine Astbury has shown that even novels and images which don't appear political are really a way for the author or illustrator to come to terms with the Revolution.
Because of their visual nature, the printed images provide a more accessible avenue than complex texts for primary school students to learn about the French Revolution. The prints offer a different dimension for senior students studying history or French language and culture. Over 100 primary school children have been introduced to university-style research, improving their overall learning performance.
How we think about violence, punishment, law and order, and justice is influenced by our education and the environment in which we live. Seán Allan in German Studies has demonstrated that Enlightenment debates about the connection between education and violence, and aesthetics and ethics, can provide insights into contemporary thinking about these issues.
He has explored, in particular, the work of the 19th-century German novelist Heinrich von Kleist (1777–1811) who saw violence as integral to the modern state. Seán also explores Kleist's reception in the second half of the 20th century by German film-makers who exploited Kleist's life and works as a means for reflecting on the violent clashes which marred the student protests of the 1960s and the government's use of violence to suppress them.
These ideas about the role of aesthetics and education in violence, justice and law and order has been used to help A-Level Law students better understand the social and cultural influences which affect judicial decision-making. It has also helped the public reflect on contemporary artistic performance in its historical context.
The religious movement, the Crusades, were one of the most important political, social and religious events which came to define medieval Europe. Most of what we know about them has to come us through written records left by the church. But what did ordinary people think about the crusading movement?
This current project, led by Linda Paterson, explores different secular responses to the Crusades through songs of the Occitan troubadours and Old French trouvères. Staff and students have used these texts to give a concert in Coventry city centre. University students will be using these texts to give a public concert in spring 2014. There will also be a public workshop on the Crusades, and an online poetry competition on the idea of ‘crusade’ will be held in 2015.
Enhancing cultural engagement and understanding
Through public talks, festivals and events we have communicated our research directly to the public. Consultancies to the media, public bodies and businesses have informed the delivery of services to international audiences.
Improving knowledge through libraries, archives and heritage organisations
Working with some of the largest libraries in the UK, Europe and the USA, our research has improved public knowledge about the literary and cultural history of Europe.
Enriching learning and interpreting cultural capital for students and adult learners
From school visits to community courses, our research has introduced new topics and shown pupils how to conduct their own research, inspiring independent learning and expanding the cultural imaginations of learners from school children to adults.
“My son has spent an enormous amount of time completing this project and has thoroughly enjoyed the work. It gives him a great understanding of the level of detail required for future study and experience of organising his work. It is never too early to appreciate how rewarding further study can be.” — Parent, Warwick Young Student Researchers programme on the French Revolution, June 2013