Memory Network collaboration with the BBC on engagement project

The Memory Network’s PI, Professor Sebastian Groes (English Literature, Wolverhampton), is leading research  on an ambitious new BBC engagement project to mark the 300th anniversary of the English Language novel. Starting in January 2020, “The Novels That Shaped Our World” is a year-long project that asks the public in Great Britain and beyond to debate a selection of 100 novels that have impacted upon the nation since Robinson Crusoe, 300 years ago. The project is accompanied by a nationwide Festival, programmes on BBC TV and Radio and a collaboration with libraries and reading groups throughout the UK.

Once the novels have been chosen by a celebrity panel, a team from the University of Wolverhampton will provide quantitative and qualitative analysis of the public’s reading preferences and judgement of literary quality.

Professor Groes said: “It’s an honour to be involved in such a high-profile project which will see myself along with Professor Van Dalen-Oskam lead a team of computational linguistics and English Literature scholars to analyse the public’s engagement with these 100 novels. “We will investigate the ways in which age, gender, ethnicity and place are involved in shaping readers’ judgement of the novels in terms of genre, theme and degree of difficulty.”

The role of memory is also involved in the research: the Memory Network will ask the British public to give details about their memories of fiction before giving their experience of rereading novels. The Memory Network is interested in understanding how people remember fictional stories and that emotions they associate with novels and characters. Updates will be posted in November.

Mapping Smell News

Snidge Scrumpin’s Results Revealed

The University of Wolverhampton has revealed the findings of its recent research project to understand what specific smells belong to the Black Country, and what memories they evoke in Black Country locals. Two community research events – entitled ‘Snidge Scrumpin’ – were held at Black Country Living Museum and Wolverhampton Art Gallery in November 2018 as part of the Being Human Festival, the only national festival of the humanities in the UK. University Psychologist Dr Tom Mercer has analysed the data collected at both events and will reveal which particular Black Country smells resonated with the participants, and which odours triggered strong, emotional memories with the locals. Sebastian Groes, Professor of English Literature in the School of Humanities at the University of Wolverhampton, said: “Our aim through the Snidge Scrumpin’ research is to demonstrate the importance of the smell and taste for our sense of regional history, and how place shapes us. The project will draw up the lost odours belonging to this post-industrial region whilst charting a new 21st-century palate.” Highlights of the result include: 

• It is difficult to identify a smell, but especially for smells of burnt rubber and faggots;

• Familiar smells are likely to be rated as intense and pleasant, and are better at eliciting memories;

• The smell of paint and Teddy Grays herbal tablets were particularly successful at prompting memories;

• Memories recalled in response to the smells were overwhelmingly likely to come from childhood;

• The smell of paint and Teddy Grays elicited higher quality memories in those who grew up in the

Black Country in comparison to those who grew up elsewhere;

• Women rated smells as more intense than males, on average;

• Those aged between 45 and 54 recalled a greater number of memories than those aged 65 and over.


You can download the full results, here