Meet the staff – Alison McManus

If you are ever in the mood to discuss literature and poetry find Dr Alison McManus. In our Foundation center she is the main enthusiast in a lot of projects projects such as Durham Book Festival and Poetry Exchange Project.  Here is what we found out about Alison for you.
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How long have you been a part of Foundation Centre and what do you do here?
Almost 12 years, I’ve taught a range of modules but am now mainly responsible for English Literature and some of the Academic English modules. I also run some of our outreach projects, including our Family Learning Roadshows and the Poetry Exchange.

What are your areas of interest in your subject?
Last year I submitted my PhD in English Literature, which included both critical and creative components. The creative component is a novel called ‘Branwell & Daphne’, and in brief the book is about famous novelist Daphne du Maurier’s obsession with the ambitious but ruined Brontë brother, who was sacked for ‘proceedings bad beyond expression’ from his final teaching post. I became fascinated by Branwell Brontë’s life and even more intrigued by Daphne du Maurier’s portrayal of him in her 1960 biography; further research uncovered the ways in which the lives of these two literary personalities intersected. The critical component of the thesis examines and establishes a legacy of Gothic fiction, starting with Jane Eyre, while also examining contemporary texts from a feminist and post-colonial perspective, such as the work of Sarah Waters, Alan Hollinghurst and Jo Baker, before a thorough analysis of two novels which belong to that literary legacy of Jane Eyre: Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca and Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys. I feel incredibly lucky to be able to teach in the area that I have researched and I love discussing those texts with students.

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Alison is treating students with sweets on a Foundation Centre trip

What are you scared of?
Donald J. Trump and his cronies

What are your guilty pleasures?
Cookery programmes, camping (even in the rain), a nice wedge of cheese on a cracker, accompanied by a decent glass of red wine, anything bookish or word-related: countless hours in bookshops and libraries, reading poetry & novels, playing board games & crossword puzzles, being pedantic about grammar J (sorry)

What is your favorite place on campus?
Two places: having my lunch in the gardens around Hilde Bede and I also love the Botanical Garden.

What kind of student were you?
As an undergraduate, I was a dreadful student. I procrastinated and partied far too much. It wasn’t until I came back to education after several years of teaching and traveling that I discovered how important it was to choose subjects that I was passionate about in order to maintain my interest. I also had to learn to be more organised and manage my time more effectively.

What would you advise to your new students coming this year?
I have spent ten minutes writing responses to this question and then deleting each one; it’s impossible to think of something that applies to every student and also doesn’t make me sound too much like my grandmother! Having said that, I think it is really important that students realise how much support there is on offer both in the Foundation Centre and across the university. Talk to someone if you are having problems sooner rather than later.

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Foundation Centre on the yearly trip to Bronte Museum

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