The Literary and Philosophical Society, known locally as 'the Lit and Phil', is the largest independent library in the UK outside London. Home to over 160,000 books, it contains superb historical collections alongside contemporary fiction and non-fiction books, and an exceptional music library.
The Lit & Phil contains rich holdings of material from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. SELLL students and researchers are able to make use of these research resources. Additionally, postgraduates and staff are regularly involved in events at the Lit & Phil, whose programme includes book launches, concerts, lectures, readings and workshops.
In collaboration with the Lit & Phil, we are running a reading group on the Pseudo/Sciences of the Long Nineteenth Century. The group meets six times a year at the Lit & Phil, and is open to users of the library, special interest groups, and staff and students from Newcastle University and other universities in the region. The reading group is able to benefit from the many nineteenth-century scientific and pseudoscientific texts available in the library.
Abbie Garrington has been working with the Lit & Phil to encourage access to, and public engagement with, their expeditionary travel and mountaineering collections leading to a series of exhibitions, talks and events under the title 'Mountain Legacies', planned in collaboration with colleagues at Lancaster University, the University of Cumbria, UCLAN, and the Lit & Phil's Kay Easson.
The Gender Research Group and Medieval and Early Modern Studies (Faculty Research Groups led from within SELLL) have held specialist research days and support public lectures at the Lit & Phil. They have also developed a subject guide which indexes some of the Lit & Phil's rich archival holdings. Topic headings of interest to SELLLL researchers and students include literature, theatre, cinema, print and print culture, and the history of reading.
The Lit & Phil has been a favourite location for performances of creative work written by members of the School for many years. For over a decade, Sean O'Brien has co-organized the popular 'Phantoms at the Phil', a twice-yearly event at which Gail-Nina Anderson, O'Brien and invited guest authors write new ghost stories to be read at the Lit & Phil at events at midsummer and Christmas. O'Brien's collection of stories, The Silence Room (Comma Press, 2008) repeatedly features the Lit & Phil. His version of Aristophanes The Birds was staged at the Lit & Phil by 'Three Over Eden' in 2005. O'Brien has also given a reading of his Newcastle Inferno, On the Toon at the Lit & Phil (2009) and given the L&P's annual Robert Spence Watson Lecture.
The Lit & Phil has also hosted NCLA launch events, including for Train Song, an anthology of railway poems edited by Don Paterson and Sean O'Brien, with readings by Bill Herbert, Gerry Wardle and O'Brien. A number of SELLL staff organised and participated in a Browning centenary event at the L&P in 2012. The NCLA has also staged joint events at the Lit & Phil, including a reading of 'Mutatis Mutandis' a Pindaric ode written by Bill Herbert, Jackie Kay and Sean O'Brien (which was later recorded live at the Sage for the Radio 3 Freethinking Festival).