Two Chairs – A Creative Writing Competition

If you’re itching to give your creative writing skills a go, look no further – we’ve got a competition for you! Organised by the School of Modern Languages and Cultures at the University of Warwick, entries to the competition can be submitted in English or German. For more, read on…

This creative writing competition is open to everyone. It asks you to consider the pictures of the two stone chairs above. The chairs make up the ‘Hafez-Goethe Monument‘ in Weimar, Germany. This commemorate the work of the German poet Johann Wolfgang Goethe (1749-1832), whose collection of poems the West-Eastern Divan (1819) not only imagined a dialogue between the Christian European and Islamic worlds, but also sought to break down of rigid cultural divisions between them. The chairs, though, were left empty by the sculptors in 2001. They do not only represent Goethe and his Muslim counterpart, but allow anyone to occupy them, or even to ‘swap’ chairs and see the world from the ‘other’ perspective.

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Artists and commentators alike continue to be drawn to the monument and respond to it with their own creative works. The two chairs are separate, solid structures, implying two distinct individuals, cultures, or perspectives – and yet they are both cut from the same piece of stone. The key idea seems to be that we can be connected to people of other cultures, mixing and intertwining with them, without losing our own identity.

In entering, you don’t have to write literally about Goethe and the monument. Try, instead, to run with the key idea. What do the chairs say to you? What personal experiences of encountering or crossing different cultures can you draw upon to inspire you?

Some basic points to note are:

  • You can write in English or in German;
  • Your piece can be a poem, short story or piece of prose no more than 1000 words in length;
  • The entry categories will be under 18s and over 18s, with a piece in English and in German picked from each (four winners in total); prizes will be £250 each.
  • The competition launches on Monday 25 September 2017. The final date for entries is 2 March 2018, 5pm.
  • Entires should be sent electronically (see particulars) to Dr Carly Hegenbarth: C.Hegenbarth@warwick.ac.uk

More detailed particulars, including conditions of entry,and more details about the themes and what judges are looking for, can be downloaded on the project website: warwick.ac.uk/twochairswriting 

We encourage you, please, to read these carefully before you begin, to avoid misunderstandings and disappointment!

Competition entrants and winners will also be invited to attend a prize giving ceremony and live performance at the amazing Holywell Music Rooms, Oxford, on Wed 9th May 2018 (please save the date!) and the winners in each category will attend writing workshops with our panel of renowned judges.

We will certainly undertake to pay economy-level UK travel costs for the four winners, and hope to be able to offer further financial assistance to allow unwaged and school entrants to attend in greater numbers. More details on this will follow.

Good luck – and we look forward to your entries!

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Competition Organiser, Dr James Hodkinson.

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Printing the town – Raubdruck in Leeds

Perusing social media (as you do), OGN discovered that a British nursery had posted about ‘Raubdruckerin’. A ‘Raubdruck‘ is an illicit copy of a work (like a text or a painting) – and the Berlin-based ‘Raubdruckerin‘ describes herself as a ‘pirate printer’. We were intrigued and asked the manager at Best Childcare Nursery in Leeds to tell us more…

At Best Childcare Nursery we aim to ensure that our children learn and develop through unique play experiences that fascinate and enthuse them. Our play experiences are designed to support each individual child’s unique fascinations. Recently our children have been fascinated to explore cause and effect. We have also explored a range of prints and patterns through using our ‘loose parts’ collection in our art studio. As a staff team we like to research new and exciting ways to support our children’s fascinations – which is how we came across ‘Raubdruckerin’!

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Carefully preparing a manhole cover in Chapeltown for printing

‚Raubdruckerin‘ is an “experimental printmaking project that uses urban structures like manhole covers, grids, technical objects and other surfaces of the urban landscape to create unique graphical patterns on streetwear basics, fabrics and paper”. After researching this we thought this would be a fantastic project for our children to explore.

So we went out as a small group into our local community of Chapeltown in Leeds in search of some urban structures so we could create our very own prints. The children used washable powder paints to paint on the urban structure, then pressed paper on top which created our very own print. We ensured we washed our paint away with soap and water so that we didn’t leave a trace. The children were mesmorised by the print that was left on the paper! We are even trying to get our parents involved in trying this experience with their child out in their own communities!

Have you tried creating your own ‘Raubdruck’ from the urban structures in your area? We’d love to hear from  you and see your creative results – just send us an email (ogn@mod-langs.ox.ac.uk) or post in the comments below or on our Facebook page (and don’t forget to wash away any traces of paint from the objects that you print!).

150 years of ‘Das Kapital’ – 200 years of Karl Marx

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Karl Marx ca.1875

Did you know that Karl Marx spent time in London – and a lot of time in the British Library? With the bicentenary of Marx’s birth approaching next year, the British Library has been digging into its archives – and came up with this fascinating insight into the multilingualistic aspects of working with Marx and his famous texts…

The British Library claims an important relationship with Karl Marx and his associates. Arriving to London as an exile in 1849, Marx became a familiar face in the reading rooms of the British Library (then part of the British Museum), making use of their extensive collections to pursue information that…

via 150 Years of Capital — European studies blog

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1867 edition of ‘Das Kapital’ by Karl Marx, held in the Zentralbibliothek Zürich

Linguamania at the Museum

Consider this phrase: Creative Multi-lingualism. So many things right with every single part of this!  It’s also the name of a new, exciting, and high-profile project between six top UK and US universities, led by our very own, ever-enthusiastic language champion, Katrin Kohl.

Linguamania – going mad for languages

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Harry Potter and the ‘Rosetta Stone’ – students rewrite a children’s classic

Creative Multilingualism kicked off in style with Linguamania – another great name! On 27 January, the venerable Ashmolean Museum in Oxford pulled out all the stops – and even the disco lights! – for this packed “Live Friday” event, celebrating all things language with music, theatre, taster sessions, and interactive art. Language-lovers of all ages enjoyed writing a new, multilingual Harry Potter chapter, laughed as Ovid’s Apollo chased Daphne to Benny Hill music, and hummed-and-drummed away to Samba rhythms, before writing their own name in Elvish. Yes, Elvish! Should you ever have moaned that “young people just don’t care about languages these days” – well, Linguamania would have persuaded you otherwise in a second. Local schools arrived by the busload, and students took naturally to getting creative around languages. Some even felt a touch of poetic inspiration: “Learning a language is like a rollercoaster, because it’s fun – especially with friends!”, says a Year 9 student. His friend chips in: “A foreign language is the key to a whole new world!”

Languages – ticking all the boxes?

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Multilingual metaphors are discussed at the conference

How to get other young people on board with the idea that languages are a massively useful skill was a recurring theme the following day during the partner conference, Languages and Creativity. The state of languages in UK schools caused debate on-(and particularly off-)podium. “Languages are taught so badly in our schools,” some complained. “These days it’s all just about ticking boxes!” Not everybody agreed: “Let’s not blame exams, or teachers, or kids. The hard work, dedication, creativity, and enthusiasm that goes on in language teaching (and learning!) in our schools is truly awesome. Yes, we need to highlight this fact, and yes, we need to foster languages – but mainly we need to support each other in our common goal.” On one thing, though, we’re definitely all on the same page: Languages – ticking all the boxes!

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Pig oder Schwein, das ist die Frage! Multilingual metaphor in action!

To find out more about Creative Multilingualism, and to follow the project on Twitter and Facebook, go to http://www.creativeml.ox.ac.uk/

Heike Krüsemann, OGP Coordinator

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