It is that time again for the next installment of the Meet the Lecturer series! A certain Solent English Student had the chance to interview the wonderful Dr Tom Masters…
What inspired you to teach English?
My undergraduate degree was in English Literature and in my postgraduate studies I moved into the associated field of Creative and Critical Writing. So that might go some way towards explaining it. In terms of teaching at Solent, I knew Devon from my time as a PhD student at the University of Winchester, and I was delighted when she asked me to come and teach on Solent’s English degrees.
What is your favourite piece of English Literature and why?
It’s hard to pick just one! I’m very fond of both T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land and Ezra Pound’s Cantos. I love the way the poets experiment with language and form in these works.
What is your favourite period of English Literature?
That would have to be early Twentieth Century Modernism. I’m especially interested in work written between December 1910 and November 1945.
In reference to your on-going epic poem Silence, what’s it all about?
Silence is a new species of epic poem which embraces fields as diverse as apophatic theology, Renaissance Art, Nietzschean philosophy, and Big Bang cosmology, and which utilises a hermeneutical exchange between creative and critical discourses (literary, visual, and aural) to create what may be termed a conceptual or disembodied poetics. The first two books of this epic, which constitute my PhD thesis, were published as a single volume by Winchester University Press in 2011. I am currently working on the third book, which combines Newtonian physics, alchemical symbolism and gematria, to create a poetic text that can be deconstructed and reconfigured as a model of the solar system/Ezekiel’s Third Temple (Ezekiel 40-42).
When did you decide to teach English?
During my time studying for my PhD at the University of Winchester I had the opportunity to gain some teaching experience on the undergraduate English Literature degree, and my interest developed from there.
What is your favourite unit to teach?
I think my overall favourite would have to be ‘Key Moments in the History of English Literature’ – a long thin unit that runs throughout the first year and enables students to sample literature from the time of Beowulf to the modern day. Great fun!
Any memorable moments when teaching?
When I was doing some teaching at the University of Winchester a few years ago, one of my students decided to act out the dying parrot scene from Jean Rhys’ Wide Sargasso Sea as part of their assessed presentation on the text. It didn’t contribute to their argument, but it was certainly entertaining!
Who is the most famous person you have met and why?
I’ve met Wendy Cope, the poet.For a while we kept bumping into each other at poetry events. The first time I met her when I was an undergraduate I didn’t know who she was and talked to her at length about the poetry of Seamus Heaney. She was very patient.
How do you think your career has been shaped through poetry and other writings?
Studying English Literature as an undergraduate proved a great foundation for my later creative and research work. It was exciting to be exposed to the work of so many wonderful writers – something that made me want to write poetry and become a teacher.
If you hadn’t chosen to be a poet or teach, what career would you have chosen?
I’ve done a few other jobs elsewhere, but I don’t actually know! I would probably be a research librarian. That would be interesting.
Do you have any advice for anyone wanting to study English Literature as a whole at University Level?
Studying English Literature at university is a wonderful thing. It gives you a passion, not only for words, but also for life. Make the most of your time at university. Read widely – more than you actually have to in order to complete your assignments – and get involved in extracurricular activities. Things like the Quill Society present excellent opportunities to further your experience of literature, meet new people, and grow!
Make sure to tune in next time for the next lecturer interview- the wonderful Seamus Finnegan!