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Professor Tom SperlingerBA(Liv), MSt(Oxon), PGCHE (Bristol)

Professor of Literature and Engaged Pedagogy

Tom Sperlinger

Professor Tom SperlingerBA(Liv), MSt(Oxon), PGCHE (Bristol)

Professor of Literature and Engaged Pedagogy

Member of

Research interests

I am a Pathway 3 academic, with a focus on education and pedagogy. I am academic lead for engagement for the new Temple Quarter Enterprise Campus.

I've written about teaching in a variety of contexts and about writers including George Eliot, Ghassan Kanafani and Doris Lessing. I've also published as a journalist, including for The Guardian, The Times Higher and the London Review of Books.

My first book, Romeo and Juliet in Palestine, was published by Zero Books in June 2015 and was reviewed in The Observer, the Electronic IntifadaThe Times Literary Supplement and SCTIW Review. It is a memoir about a semester I spent teaching at Al-Quds University in 2013. I've been interviewed about the book as part of Bristol Festival of Ideas and for the Folha de S.Paulo newspaper in Brazil.

I was on research leave in 2015/16, funded by the Institute for Advanced Studies (IAS), working with IDEAL Community Action, a charity that provides education and training to individuals and communities affected by addiction, offending and long-term poverty. I am currently working on a new book based on my work with IDEAL and on a short polemical book (with Josie McLellan and Richard Pettigrew) called Who are universities for? (for publication by Bristol University Press in late 2018).

I was a Visiting Fellow at the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin in April 2014, where I worked on Doris Lessing's typescripts. I have published an article on correspondence held in the archive about The Grass is Singing, which shows that Lessing refused publication by Knopf in part because she was asked to add a rape scene to the novel. An early poem of Lessing's, which I found in the archive, has been published in PN Review. I've published two pieces on Lessing which draw on her typescripts: a chapter on 'interruptions' in Doris Lessing and the Forming of History, which I co-edited with Kevin Brazil and David Sergeant; and an article on radical pedagogy in Mara and Dann (open access), drawing on the work of Paulo Freire and Idries Shah. 

I was Bristol's academic lead in 2016/17 on a project led by the Open University, and funded by the Office for Fair Access (OFFA), looking at outreach for adult learners from disadvantaged backgrounds. I am academic lead for literature and pedagogy for Productive Margins, a research project in the School of Law (2012-18).

Teaching interests

Most of my teaching experience is with adult learners or with younger people who have spent time out of the education system. I work on secondment 1.5 days per week with the Widening Participation and Student Recruitment team on the recruitment and participation of adult learners across the university. I have recently collaborated with colleagues in the School for Policy Studies on a new six-month course, Understanding Society.

I have experience of designing flexible and inclusive programmes and of building community engagement into curricula. I designed the part-time BA in English Literature and Community Engagement (ELCE), which has been running since 2008 and, with Richard Pettigrew, the Foundation in Arts and Humanities (CertHE), which launched in 2013. This film, made by students on the Foundation programme, gives a great introduction to the course. Both of these programmes work especially with people who do not have conventional prior qualifications and who may have spent a long time out of education. I have a particular interest in developing short courses with community groups that facilitate progression to study at undergraduate or postgraduate level, including with organisations such as Bristol Refugee Rights, Bristol Best Tuition and the Single Parent Action Network (SPAN).

I have taught a unit on 19th Century Prose Writing (for the BA ELCE) and I teach a unit on Dangerous Books (for the BA English). I have also contributed to all units on the Foundation programme and give lectures on the BA English on topics including: Shakespeare's sonnets, Hamlet and Hannah Arendt, passion and curiosity in Jane Austen, revisions in poetry, and Virginia Woolf and the responsibilities of the 'non-academic' reader. I was course director for the part-time Diploma in Creative Writing from 2004 to 2010, for which I taught seminars on creative non-fiction, and I remain very interested in creative writing and pedagogy.

In 2014, I was awarded a University Award for Education and a Vice Chancellor's Award for my contributions to teaching.

Selected articles

There are details of my academic publications on the 'research outputs' tab above. This is a selection of my shorter articles and reviews.

Article title                                                                           Publication           Year  
It's time to put mature students at the heart of widening participation (with Lizzie Fleming)Policy Bristol2017
Children of MenLondon Review of Books2017
Trump, Brexit and a crisis of participation in universitiesPolicy Bristol2017
John Berger, storyteller and friend of Palestine, dies at 90Electronic Intifada2017
The West Bank's new normalElectronic Intifada    2016  
Why we need Jeremy Corbyn's National Education ServiceThe Independent2015
The "forced geography" of Tel AvivElectronic Intifada2015
The right to not readIrish Times2015
On Owen Jones and being too angryOpen Democracy2014
Is a co-operative university a sustainable alternative?The Guardian2014
The strange death of liberal adult educationHuffington Post2014
Review: Rachel Shihor, Stalin is DeadTimes Literary Supplement2014
Romeo and Juliet in PalestineMondoweiss2013
In praise of Alice MunroHuffington Post2013
Review: Deryn Rees-Jones, Burying the WrenHuffington Post2012
A conversation with A.B. YehoshuaThe Reader2011
Why adult education needs Vince CableThe Guardian2011
Review: Claire Tomalin, Charles Dickens: A LifeIndependent on Sunday2011
Great literature will always be relevantThe Guardian2010
Educational opportunities must remain open for those who need them most  Left Foot Forward2010
Doris Lessing's lessons in old ageThe Guardian2010
A chilling vision for higher educationThe Guardian2009
How is denying people a life-saving second chance in any way fair?Times Higher2009
An interview with Doris LessingThe Reader2005

Contact details

Office: G.3, 36 Tyndalls Park Road (entrance through 3/5 Woodland Road)
Phone: +44 (0)117 954 6969
Twitter: @tomsperlinger

Other interests

I am academic lead at Bristol for the British Council HESPAL scheme, which will offer PhD scholarships at Bristol to future Palestinian academics from 2017 to 2021. I've worked as a mentor for the We Are Not Numbers project with young writers in Gaza, including Nada Hammad who wrote this love letter to Gaza. I am a fellow of the Royal Society for the Arts. I was co-editor of The Brodie Press from 2002 to 2015; our books included two poetry collections by Julie-ann Rowell, recognised by the Poetry Book Society and shortlisted for the Michael Murphy Prize respectively. I am a member of the advisory board for the Bristol Palestine Film Festival.


View research connections

Postal address:
3-5 Woodland Road
United Kingdom