School of English Literature, Language and Linguistics

The Lit & Phil

The Lit & Phil

The Literary and Philosophical Society, is known locally as 'the Lit & Phil'. It is the largest independent library in the UK outside London.

The Lit & Phil contains rich holdings of material from the 18th and 19th centuries alongside contemporary fiction and non-fiction, and an exceptional music library. Students and researchers from the School can make use of these research resources.


Postgraduates and staff are regularly involved in events at the Lit and Phil. Their programme includes:

  • book launches
  • concerts
  • lectures
  • readings
  • workshops

In collaboration with the Lit & Phil, we are running a reading group on the Pseudo/Sciences of the Long Nineteenth Century. The group benefits from the many 19th-century scientific and pseudoscientific texts available in the library. It meets six times a year and is open to:

  • users of the library
  • special interest groups
  • staff and students from Newcastle University and other universities in the region

The Gender Research Group and Medieval and Early Modern Studies 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 researchers and students in the School include:

  • literature
  • theatre
  • cinema
  • print and print culture
  • the history of reading

Readings and events

The Lit & Phil is a favourite location for performances of creative work written by members of the School. For over a decade, Sean O'Brien has co-organized the popular 'Phantoms at the Phil'.

It is 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 (2009) and given the Lit & Phil'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. Readings were given by Bill Herbert, Gerry Wardle and O'Brien.

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.

This was later recorded live at the Sage for the Radio 3 Freethinking Festival.

Some staff from the School organised and participated in a Browning centenary event at the Lit & Phil in 2012.