Settee Seminars

Ilkley Literature Festival

Ilkley Literature Festival presents Settee Seminars, a podcast series of fascinating short talks by leading experts, introducing you to a wide range of topics from modern U.S. history to psychiatry and 18th century literature.

In each episode, a leading specialist in their field condenses years of study into a bite-sized 20-minute talk, giving listeners the chance to explore entire worlds of knowledge you might not even have known existed without ever having to leave your sofa.

Settee Seminars Trailer
Trailer 52 sec

All Episodes

Join Lecturer Anne Buckley and Professor Frank Finlay as they discuss Skipton's First World War prisoner-of-war camp and Anne’s latest book. The book contains the first full English translation of a 330-page German book (published in 1920) written by the German prisoners about their life in the camp, as well as a section based on Anne's research into the camp and the German soldiers who were held there. Anne and Frank will discuss day-to-day life in the camp and reveal some of the fascinating stories of the men themselves, who included naval captains, U-boat officers and airmen as well as foot soldiers. The talk will finish by considering the significance of the account locally, nationally and internationally and whether the book dispels the myth that Germans do not have a sense of humour. Further reading: Anne Buckley, German Prisoners of the Great War. Life in a Yorkshire Camp (Pen & Sword, 2021). Brian Feltman, The Stigma of Surrender. German Prisoners, British Captors, and Manhood in the Great War and Beyond (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2015). Panikos Panayi, Prisoners of Britain. German Civilian and Combatant Internees during the First World War (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2012). Ric Esther Bienstock & Yaron Niski, The Good Nazi (2018): and

Nov 24

28 min 5 sec

Elena Ferrante is one of the most critically acclaimed and popular novelists on the global stage today. Her works offer reflections on the nature of good and evil, explore issues of poverty and sexual violence and contemplate the role of the writer. These concerns are common in the works of the 19th century Russian author Dostoevsky, a writer to whom Ferrante herself has acknowledged a debt.  This podcast brings together in conversation Dr Sarah Hudspith, a scholar of Dostoevsky, and Dr Olivia Santovetti, an expert on Ferrante, both members of the University of Leeds Centre for World Literature. They discuss the resonances between Ferrante’s and Dostoevsky’s novels, read and comment on selected passages. This talk was recorded at an Ilkley Literature Festival event. The speakers refer to a powerpoint presentation, which is available on our website at and here.

Nov 24

1 hr 4 min

Why is Charles Dickens one of the most enduring writers of all time? Why does he crop up so often, not only in screen adaptations, but in video games, newspapers, and pop culture, 150 years after his death? And what role can the author and his works play today, against a backdrop of changing attitudes to race, colonialism, gender and history?  This episode will navigate through 200 years of Dickens, considering how the author's attempts to shape his own celebrity status continue to resonate two centuries later. Further reading: Emily Bell (ed.), Dickens After Dickens (White Rose University Press, 2020): Michael Slater, The Great Charles Dickens Scandal (Yale University Press, 2012). Greg Jenner, Dead Famous: An Unexpected History of Celebrity from Bronze Age to Silver Screen (Orion Publishing Co., 2020). Ronjaunee Chatterjee, Alicia Mireles Christoff and Amy R. Wong, ‘Undisciplining Victorian Studies’, LA Review of Books (10 July 2020): Amy Davidson Sorkin, ‘The Fever Room: Epidemics and Social Distancing in Bleak House and Jane Eyre’, The New Yorker (20 March 2020):

Nov 24

29 min 55 sec

When Tim Berners Lee was thinking of a name for his new hypertext system he thought of a dusty volume that used to be on his parents' bookshelves. That volume was Enquire Within (1856), a miscellany of domestic advice now forgotten, but went through 97 editions before the end of the nineteenth century. Berners Lee named his system ENQUIRE, the next version of which would become the World Wide Web. But what was it about this book that made Berners Lee think of it? Why was it so popular in the period? And why has it become forgotten today? Further reading: Tim Berners-Lee and Mark Fischetti, Weaving the Web: The Original Design and Ultimate Destiny of the World Wide Web by Its Inventor (New York: HarperBusiness, 2000). Malcolm Chase, ‘“An Overpowering ‘Itch for Writing’”: R.K. Philp, John Denman and the Culture of Self-Improvement’, English Historical Review, 133.561 (2018), 351–82: Malcolm Chase, Chartism: A New History (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2007). Enquire Within Upon Everything (London: Houlston and Stoneman, 1856). Available at Internet Archive: James Gillies, How the Web was Born: The Story of the World Wide Web (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000).

Nov 24

32 min 37 sec

The global climate crisis is becoming ever more pressing. At the same time, international political actors are seriously struggling to deal with this crisis. What are the obstacles to effective global and planetary problem-solving? And which responses have global governance actors come up with to confront these challenges? This podcast looks at the example of deforestation and forest protection to find answers to these questions. Further Reading: Markus Fraundorfer, Global Governance in the Age of the Anthropocene (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2022). Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, Indigenous peoples had a clear vision for Cop26, but it has not been delivered, The Guardian (Nov 15 2021): Helle Abelvik-Lawson, Meet the Indigenous community that’s fighting deforestation – and winning, Greenpeace (Nov 30 2020):

Nov 24

27 min 52 sec

Welcome back to Settee Seminars, the bitesized podcast of fascinating short talks by leading experts, brought to you by the organisers of the Ilkley Literature Festival.  In this season three, we'll be discussing a range of topics, including the enduring impact of Charles Dickens, Skipton's First World War Prisoner-of-War camp, and tackling the global climate crisis.  Available now, join us wherever you get your podcasts. To find out more, visit 

Nov 24

39 sec

Britain consumes 60 billion cups of tea per year, almost 900 for every man, woman and child in the country. It has become entrenched in our way of life, from the humble tea break in your home to the fanciest of afternoon teas at the Ritz, it can be enjoyed in all situations. Tea has stood the test of time and remains our national drink. However, this has not always been the case. During the eighteenth-century debate raged about the potential beneficial and harmful effects of this Chinese drink on the health and wellbeing of the nation. It was suspected of leading women to live immoral lives, poisoning the population with Chinese medicine, and ruining the working classes. However, through an exploration of these debates, Postgraduate Researcher Emily Webb will show how tea was simply a scapegoat – an innocent victim of larger debates about the social changes happening during the century when Britain was emerging as a global power and changing beyond recognition. Further reading: Jane Pettigrew & Bruce Richardson, A Social History of Tea (London: Benjamin Press, 2001). Roy Maxim, A Brief History of Tea: Addiction, Exploitation, and Empire (London: Robinson, 2009). Markman Ellis, Richard Coulton, and Matthew Mauger, Empire of Tea: The Asian Leaf that Conquered the World (London: Reaktion, 2018).

Feb 24

19 min 42 sec

What does it mean to ‘decolonise’ the studies carried out at university, whether in English Studies or in the history of the Eastern and Western worlds? In this informal conversation, Dr Alaric Hall and Dr Fozia Bora reflect on the meanings and application of the term ‘decolonise’ for their respective areas of teaching and research in medieval studies and history. While this word encapsulates a range of understandings, there are key principles at stake, which promise to bring more nuance, inclusivity and vital contextualisation into discussions about how knowledge is created and shared in university spaces. Spoiler alert: the decolonisation of academia is not a smooth or straightforward journey, but it can be exhilarating! Further reading: Geraldine Heng, England and the Jews: How Religion and Violence Created the First Racial State in the West (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2019) Amitav Ghosh, In an Antique Land (London: Granta, 1992) Francois-Xavier Fauvelle, The Golden Rhinoceros: Histories of the African Middle Ages (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2018) Toward a Global Middle Ages: Encountering the World through Illuminated Manuscripts, ed. by Brian C. Keene (Los Angeles: Getty Publications, 2019) Edward Said’s Orientalism (1978):

Feb 24

27 min 12 sec

In November 1859, while Charles Darwin was staying in Ilkley, he published one of the most famous scientific books of all time: On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection.  It’s well known that Darwin named his theory “natural selection” in order to call attention to an analogy with stockbreeding or “artificial selection.”  But how, exactly, did he think the analogy worked?  And why did he set such store by it?  In our day, after all, analogies in science don’t seem all that serious.  We think of the UK’s Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Jonathan Van‒Tam, livening up press briefings about coronavirus by bringing in football matches, train rides and yoghurt.  In this talk Professor Greg Radick will preview a new analysis of Darwin’s analogy, from a book co-authored with Leeds colleagues Roger White and Jonathan Hodge, and due to be published this summer by Cambridge University Press. Further Reading:  Van-Tam's analogies: Roger M. White, M.J.S Hodge & Gregory Radick, Darwin's Argument by Analogy: From Artificial to Natural Selection

Feb 24

24 min 36 sec

“On Being a Black Body in ‘Nature’” is a lyric hybrid that combines poetry and essay. One might call it a “lyric essay”. Weaving the musicality of poetry into the more rationalist tone of the essay affords a blending of genres, voices, languages, and selves, and a coming together of different fragments of life and experience in new and interesting ways. The lyric essay embodies a form of mobility suited to my migrant experience, that of a Black West Indian living in Britain more than sixty years after the first Windrush arrivants. In this piece Dr Jason Allen-Paisant tackles questions that arise at the intersection of landscape, race, and history. The lyric essay as creative inquiry provides a liberating rhythm through which he can navigate these questions. Further Reading: Allen-Paisant, Jason (2021). “Reclaiming Time: On Blackness and Landscape”. PN Review 257.  Allen-Paisant, Jason (2021). Thinking with Trees. Manchester: Carcanet.

Feb 24

21 min 30 sec

[Content warning: This talk includes discussion of topics which may be upsetting to some listeners including suicide, anxiety, depression, loneliness and self-harm] Loneliness, self-isolation, social distancing and what the COVID-19 pandemic tells us about social influences on mental health. Professor of Liaison Psychiatry Allan House outlines why physical illness is stressful and how one particular aspect of the COVID pandemic – social isolation – can harm our mental health. Focussing on the topic of self-harm and suicide during the pandemic, House explores how we can better protect ourselves against the risks posed by social isolation and how to approach those who insist that they know the answers to many COVID-related questions. Further reading: Allan House, Understanding and responding to self-harm: the One Stop Guide, Profile Books 2019. Thomas Joiner, Why People Die By Suicide, Harvard University Press 2007. Barnardo’s, 'Left to their own Devices: Children’s Social Media and Mental Health'.  About the speaker: Allan House graduated in medicine from St Bartholomew’s Hospital, London. After early career positions in hospital medicine and neurology, he trained in psychiatry and came to Leeds to work as a consultant in liaison psychiatry at Leeds General Infirmary. He was appointed Professor of Liaison Psychiatry in the medical school in Leeds in 1999. His research interests include the interaction between physical illness and mental disorder, medically unexplained syndromes, and self-harm in adults. All his research is planned and delivered in collaboration with people with personal experience of using mental health services. / /

Dec 2020

21 min

After forty years researching and teaching eighteenth-century literature, Emeritus Professor David Fairer is now attempting to bring the age alive in a series of novels, the Chocolate House Mysteries. Centred on a Covent Garden chocolate house, these books combine historical fact and fiction, with their plots built around the actual events of 1708. Writing a historical ‘whodunit’ raises particular challenges and questions. How did men and women in 1708 conceive of such things as evidence, clues, blackmail, bribery, interrogation and teamwork? How did they conceive of the notion of ‘detection’ itself, when there were no policemen and no detectives, no experts, no teams, no concept of crime scenes or forensics? Have a listen to ‘Wigs, Swords and Poison’ to find the answers to these questions! Further reading: David Fairer, Chocolate House Treason: A Mystery of Queen Anne’s London (Matador, 2019) Aytoun Ellis, The Penny Universities: A History of the Coffee-Houses (Secker & Warburg, 1956). Markman Ellis, The Coffee House: A Cultural History (Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 2004). Bryant Lillywhite, London Coffee Houses (George Allen and Unwin, 1963). John Ashton, Social Life in the Reign of Queen Anne (Chatto & Windus, 1929). About the speaker: David Fairer is Emeritus Professor of Eighteenth-Century English Literature at the University of Leeds, where he has taught since 1976. His historical whodunit, Chocolate House Treason, was published in 2019.

Dec 2020

25 min 11 sec

Dr Des McLernon takes us on a journey from the Ancient Greeks via the first cellular phone in 1979 to today’s fifth generation (5G) cellular technology. McLernon discusses why 5G wireless technology (unlike previous generations of cellular radio) will be both transformative and disruptive, enabling what is called the fourth industrial revolution of the Internet of Things and cyber physical systems. McLernon also examines how 5G technology is much more than just a phone on which you can download videos faster. It will drive the Internet of Things and industrial robotics to smart cities & healthcare, driverless cars to immersive reality, online gaming to robotic surgery, and the tactile internet to advanced manufacturing. Further reading: Why do we need 5g and IOT? - The Improvements Coming with 5G - Introducing 5G Technology and Networks - 5G Mobile Technology - A Guide - Electromagnetic Frequencies 100 kHZ to 300 GHZ - Testing for the SARS-COV-2 Virus from an Engineering Perspective - About the speaker: Des McLernon (University of Leeds) has a PhD in mathematical signal processing from Imperial College and over many years has undertaken research both in industry and university on wireless communications and cellular/mobile radio. Additional audio clips & sources: Martini 'Roller Waitress L A ' 1980's TV Commercial Star Trek Original Series Intro Churchgoers Congregate During Coronavirus Pandemic Mark Steele - 5G a Weapons System - YouTube

Dec 2020

35 min 36 sec

Dr Emily Zobel Marshall will take you on journey through black history and across continents, guided by a most captivating character, the trickster spider Anansi. Marshall will reveal the roots of the Anansi folktales in Ghana and demonstrate Anansi inspired both psychological and physical resistance to enslavement on the Jamaican plantations. She will show us the vital role the trickster plays in our lives by testing and exposing abuses of power. Further reading: For Anansi story collections in Jamaica see, among others: Beckwith, Martha Warren (1924) Jamaica Anansi Stories. New York: American Folk-lore Society. Bennett, Louise (1979) Anancy and Miss Lou. Kingston: Sangster' s Book Stores. Jekyll, W. (1966) Jamaican Song and Story: Annancy Stories, Digging Sings, Dancing Tunes and Ring Tunes. New York: Dover Publications, and Tanna, Laura (1984) Jamaican Folktales and Oral Histories. Kingston: Institute of Jamaica Publications. Zobel Marshall, Emily (2019) American Trickster: Trauma Tradition and Brer Rabbit. Rowman and Littlefield: London. Zobel Marshall, Emily (2012) Anansi’s Journey: A Story of Jamaican Cultural Resistance. University of the West Indies Press: Kingston.  Zobel, Joseph (1950; 2020) Black Shack Alley. Penguin Classics: USA About the speaker: Dr Emily Zobel Marshall is a Reader in Postcolonial Literature at the School of Cultural Studies at Leeds Beckett University. Her research specialisms are Caribbean literature and folklore and Caribbean carnival cultures. She is obsessed with trickster figures and her books focus on the role of the trickster in Caribbean and African American cultures; her first book, Anansi’s Journey: A Story of Jamaican Cultural Resistance (2012) was published by the University of the West Indies Press and her second book, American Trickster: Trauma Tradition and Brer Rabbit, was published by Rowman and Littlefield in 2019. Emily enjoys developing her creative work alongside her academic writing. She has had poems published in The Caribbean Writer (Vol 32, 2020), The Caribbean Quarterly (Vol 66, 2020) Magma (‘The Loss’, Issue 75, 2019), Smoke Magazine (Issue 67, 2020). 

Dec 2020

25 min 37 sec

Professor of Modern History Simon Hall delves into the events of September 1960 when Cuba’s communist leader Fidel Castro arrived in New York for the opening of the United Nations General Assembly. After storming out of his plush mid-town hotel following a row about money, Fidel relocated to the Hotel Theresa, the so-called ‘Waldorf of Harlem’. Greeted enthusiastically by the local African American community, he proceeded to hold court with a succession of world leaders, black freedom fighters and counter-cultural luminaries, and promoted the politics of anti-imperialism with a fervour, and an audacity, that made him an icon of the 1960s. Entertaining and wildly unpredictable, Fidel’s trip to New York proved to be a foundational moment in the trajectory of the Cold War, a turning point in the history of anti-colonial struggle, and a launching pad for the social, cultural and political tumult of the decade that followed. Have a listen to ‘Ten Days in Harlem’ to find out more about this historic event. Further reading:  Steven Cohen, ‘When Castro Came to Harlem’, The New Republic, 21 March 2016. Simon Hall, Ten Days in Harlem: Fidel Castro and the Making of the 1960s (Faber and Faber, 2020). Simon Hall, ‘Fidel Castro Stayed in Harlem 60 Years Ago to Highlight Racial Injustice in the U.S.’, Smithsonian Magazine, 18 September 2020. David Smith, ‘Fidel Castro in the US: cars, cigars and a meeting with Malcolm X’, The Guardian, 27 November 2016. About the speaker: Simon Hall studied history at Sheffield and Cambridge, and held a Fox International Fellowship at Yale, before moving to the University of Leeds, where he is currently Professor of Modern History. His books include 1956: The World in Revolt and Ten Days in Harlem: Fidel Castro and the Making of the 1960s.

Dec 2020

22 min 1 sec

Settee Seminars is a new podcast by the producers of Ilkley Literature Festival. We'll be bringing you fascinating short talks by leading experts, introducing you to a wide range of topics, from modern U.S. history to psychiatry, to anti-discrimination law to 18th century literature.  Join us in our first series launching on 15th December, available wherever you get your podcasts.  To find out more, visit 

Dec 2020

52 sec