How can pandemic literature help us reflect on the virus and a post-Covid future?

Cinema sign: "The World is temporarily closed"

│By Lily Cratchley, Gale Ambassador at the University of Birmingham|

‘No more diving into pools of chlorinated water…no more airplanes, no more requests to put your tray table in the upright and locked position…’ 1

If someone had told me last February that in a year’s time, I would be attending 9am lectures in pyjama bottoms, wearing a mask every time I popped to the corner shop for a much-needed bottle of wine, and would be reduced to “tiers” instead of “tears” during winter exam season, then I would have thought them crazy. However, that pretty much sums up my experience of online learning in my final year of university!

In a second year Dystopian Literature module at the University of Birmingham, I studied Emily St. John Mandel’s novel Station Eleven. The novel, set twenty years after a global pandemic, depicts a post-apocalyptic world, which wiped out ninety percent of the world’s population. Despite Mandel’s heavily dramatized content, her writing somewhat prepared me for the long term impacts this current pandemic might potentially cause.

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Suomi mainittu! – Finland in American News in the Late Nineteenth Century

Pauli Kettunen, Gale Ambassador at the University of Helsinki
I am a second-year student in a programme ambitiously titled ‘Society and Change’ – there is not enough space to describe it here, if you had started wondering! At the university, my main interests are in Political History, in addition to all the other things concerning the history of civil society. In my free time I like cooking, reading, exercising, complaining about politics, and gaming. My latest addiction is reading science fiction by Alastair Reynolds.

Primary sources are essential to the study and research of history, but most of the time students only read textbooks, journal articles, and other academic material. It is, of course, important to study what has been researched, but with such sources the history has already been written out. To my fortune, I took a course in which an essay had to be based on physical archival sources, so I have been to the National Archives of Finland, to inspect material for it. Browsing propaganda leaflets from the 1940s was fascinating, and I decided I wanted to be able to formulate my own interpretations again, and not only rely on texts written by others.

Read moreSuomi mainittu! – Finland in American News in the Late Nineteenth Century

Dr Wu Lien Teh as a Travelogue Writer – A short review of three travel essays written by Wu in China in the 1930s

Dr Wu Lien Teh (1879–1960) is best known as a returned/re-emigrated overseas Chinese medical doctor who contributed considerably to the building of China’s modern public health and medical education systems. Among the numerous books and articles he published, the absolute majority of them deal with medical topics. However, he was also the author of a number of journal articles addressing non-medical topics. In this blog essay, I will examine a group of three essays he published in the 1930s in the Shanghai-based English journal The China Critic, recording his visits to Tang Jia Wan (Guangdong), Xiamen, and Xi’an. I would argue that Wu is not only a well-trained and -published medical doctor and scientist but also a good literary writer with a patriotic heart, a defining feature of many Chinese elites active in the late Qing and republican period.

Read moreDr Wu Lien Teh as a Travelogue Writer – A short review of three travel essays written by Wu in China in the 1930s