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School of English and Drama

About the Project

This project is organised from Queen Mary’s English department, working with two schools in Tower Hamlets – Queen Mary’s home borough, and one of the most linguistically diverse in the UK. The project is devised and run by Rachael Gilmour, whose current research focuses on contemporary multilingual literature in Britain.

Rachael has worked collaboratively with English teachers from both schools, St Paul’s Way Trust School, and Morpeth School, to share ideas about how multilingualism in the classroom presents both challenges to, and resources for, the teaching of English literature. The teaching materials developed from the project are available here.

Workshops have provided students with a range of opportunities to talk, read, and write about their own multilingual families and communities, and to think about how Britain’s contemporary linguistic diversity intersects with that entity we call ‘English Literature’. Students have encountered and explored an exciting and challenging range of multilingual poetry and prose, as well as using video, music, photographs, and the environs of the Queen Mary campus itself to think about questions such as:

  • How has the place we live in, and the literature which is written in and about it, been transformed by the many languages spoken by the people who live here?
  • What do we mean by ‘the English language’ – what is its history, how has it changed over time, and how does it continue to develop?  
  • What do we mean by ‘English literature’ – and how have speakers of other languages contributed to its development, as well as challenging some of the assumptions on which it is based?
  • How can we think about the implications, and creative possibilities, of using different languages, or kinds of language, in literature?

As well as exploring a wide range of linguistically diverse literature from around the world, students have written, performed and published their own poetry and prose exploring themes of language and identity, home and belonging. Video of a writing workshop with contemporary poet Daljit Nagra is available here. Anthologies of students’ writing can be found here, film of their performances is here, and a selection of artwork can be found here.   

For further details, please get in touch: Rachael Gilmour