For the Love of Literature  

The Peripeteia website facilitates discussion on everything from Shakespeare to Joyce, short story writers to the War Poets. Ink Pellet talks to founder Neil Bowen about why this is the perfect site for everyone with a deep-rooted passion for literature.

Peripeteia was designed to create a network through the building of bridges. A virtual bridge to span the teeming gap between study of English Literature at A-level and at university; a virtual bridge to connect schools, colleges, students and teachers separated by geography and competition, and a virtual bridge to cross the no-man’s land between Independent and state sectors and back again. Together these bridges form the network along which high quality discussion about literary issues can zip along.

The project was designed to enable the free travel of information, the sharing of enthusiasm for literature and for learning, crossing educational boundaries, overleaping cultural and economic divisions and making connections with a wider, richer context. As a result, Neil Bowen, Head of English Faculty at Wells Cathedral School, sees Peripeteia as an echoing chamber and a sounding board.


“Essential ideas brought into the study of English Literature at A-level by curriculum 2000 were the importance of contexts to texts and the significance of other readers and other readings,” comments Neil. “Peripeteia exists to enrich and deepen an individual or a class’s understanding of a text, topic or genre by relocating that understanding in a broader literary discussion with students and teachers from other schools, cultures and backgrounds.”

The project is free to members and free from commercial interests. It is something that is just there for the love of the subject itself. Peripeteia’s USP is that all the knowledge, expertise and creativity is generated by the members themselves through dialogue. Information in this network does not simply flow one way from experts (teachers, academics, writers) to students. Nor is it only a two-way street. Material on the website is constructed from discussion among members, so that students learn from each other as much as they learn from teachers.

“In its current form as a website Peripeteia has been up and running for about four years, “explains Neil. “Initially we started as a Facebook group and still retain a ‘presence’. But as time went on it became clear we needed our own website dedicated entirely to promoting high quality literary discussion. Recently we have expanded, creating the small indie Peripeteia publishers, producing books specifically designed for students and teachers, following similar values and principles to the rest of this project.”

Each year the project has grown as new members join. Members include some distinguished academics such as Professor Robert Eaglestone of Royal Holloway University and Dr Emma Smith (Hertford College, Oxford). Currently the site has just short of a thousand members.

Material is generated through posting to the site’s forums. Mostly this is in the form of sharing of notes, sample work, recommended websites etc. Sometimes it involves students posting questions or starting conversation threads. The most productive generators of content however, are Peripeteia’s regular online seminars which take place once or twice a month, depending on the time of year.

Each seminar is run by an expert (usually a university academic) in that particular field. Members go online at the same time as the expert and the discussion takes place by typing comments into the relevant forum to produce a virtual conversation. “This format has the advantage that all the discussions are recorded and can be read by other members at their leisure,” says Neil. “Often the academics are surprised by the high level of the discussion, and though the experience of running one can be rather frenetic, as one academic tries to respond to up to 30 or 40 members’ questions, it is also exhilarating. And heartening. All the academics have told me what a pleasure it is to find such passionate and well informed discussion of literary topics among A-level students.”

If you want to join in just look up: If you’re interested in getting more involved – perhaps in organising or running a seminar – than get in touch with Neil via the website. Fundamentally, peripeteia is a society of the willing, the generous and the creative – qualities that English teachers tend to have in spades! 

The name ‘peripeteia’ comes from Aristotle’s theory of tragedy. In a literary text ‘peripeteia’ means a dramatic turn of events or sudden reversal in fortunes.