Oxford Brookes professor joins expert panel on Radio 4’s In Our Time

Friday, 10 February 2017

Simon Kovesi in By Our Selves

Oxford Brookes’ Professor Simon Kövesi took part in BBC Radio 4’s In Our Time on Thursday 9 February, joining an expert panel discussing the Northamptonshire poet John Clare.

Simon joined Sir Jonathan Bate, provost of Worcester College, Oxford, and Dr Mina Gorji of Pembroke College, Cambridge, for the 750th edition of Melvyn Bragg’s popular discussion show, to talk about Clare (1793-1864), who is widely regarded as England’s most significant poet of the natural world.

Professor Simon Kövesi, who is Head of the Department of English and Modern Languages at Oxford Brookes University, has a long-standing research interest in John Clare, and has been editor of the John Clare Society Journal since 2008. Simon’s monograph John Clare: Nature, Criticism and History, will be published in April 2017 by Palgrave. 

Born into poverty, Clare worked as a stable boy, in a pub, as a gardener, as a lime burner, and as a farm labourer in the early 19th century. He achieved his first literary success with Poems Descriptive of Rural Life and Scenery in 1820. He was praised for his acute descriptions of nature, of rural England and folk culture. He is widely celebrated now for his response to the enclosure of the land around his village of Helpston, for his unique lyrical voice, and for the insights he offers into folk ritual, custom and song. 

In 2015, Simon took part in a feature film about Clare, entitled By Our Selves, directed by award-winning filmmaker and artist Andrew Kötting, and starring noted British actor Toby Jones. The film followed the poet’s escape from an asylum in Epping Forest in 1841 to his home 80 miles away. 

The In Our Time programme about John Clare is available to listen again online. 

Image of Professor Simon Kovesi (right) in the role of the boxer/academic in By Our Selves , courtesy of  Anonymous Bosch and Andrew Kötting.