The Faculty's primary commitment is to the provision of high-quality taught programmes, fully informed by scholarship and research. The Faculty also attaches great importance to its many and varied collaborative activities (local, regional, national and international), since these conspicuously enrich the provision the Faculty is able to offer. The most recent RAE submissions for English, History and TRS have been particularly successful.

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Recent Submissions

  • The Underground Cabaret

    Seed, Ian; University of Chester
    The fourth and final volume in a quartet of prose poems and flash fictions, following on from New York Hotel (Shearsman, 2018), Identity Papers (Shearsman, 2016), Makers of Empty Dreams (Shearsman, 2014).
  • Three Ways of Denying the Self

    Jones, Dhivan Thomas; University of Chester
    Buddhist philosophers have tried to work out the implications of the Buddha’s teaching of non-self (anattā). I characterise the teaching of non-self in the Pāli discourses, noting that, although the Buddha denied the existence of a ‘metaphysical’ self, he did not completely deny the ‘everyday’ self but presupposed the ‘I’ as a continuously identical moral agent. I go on to explain three attempts to explain the Buddha’s teaching. (1) Nāgasena in the Milindapañha uses the chariot argument to show that the self, like a chariot, is a conventional designation for a functional arrangement of parts. (2) The Yogācāra philosopher Vasubandhu argues that the self is a cognitive mistake and that in reality there is only non-dual awareness. (3) The Madhyamaka philosopher Candrakīrti argues that there is the appearance of a self but it does not exist in the way that it appears. I conclude that these ways of denying the self are distinct and that Candrakīrti’s way seems closest to the Buddha’s as recorded in the Pāli canon.
  • Love and Monsters: gender, Autonomy and Desire in Modern Golem Literature

    Vincent, Alana; University of Chester
    This chapter traces the development of the figure of the golem from its early appear- ance in Jewish text to its presentation in modern literature, as a test case for the bound- aries between human and non-human. Unlike the rabbinic literature in which the golem first appears and attracts questions of legal ramifications, modern literature in- vestigates questions of emotion and eros. In the literary treatments reviewed, the golem is narratively acknowledged as an autonomous being when it exhibits the ca- pacity for emotional attachment and agency.
  • Convergence and Asymmetry: Observations on the Current State of Jewish-Christian Dialogue

    Vincent, Alana; University of Chester
    Drawing on a survey of forty-five statements on the status of Jewish- Christian dialogue, this article argues that the theme of convergence which underlies a substantial portion of this dialogue programme arises from an asymmetric power relationship, in which Christian institutions have been insufficiently attentive to the issue of Jewish self-understanding.
  • Plants as persons: perceptions of the natural world in the North European Mesolithic

    Taylor, Barry; University of Chester
    Amongst many hunter-gatherer communities, plants, animals and other aspects of the ‘natural’ environment, are bound up in, and gain significance and meaning from, specific cultural traditions. These traditions intricately bind the natural world into broader ontological understandings, which include concepts of animacy, the origins of the world, its structure and composition, and the behaviour of supernatural beings. Through these traditions, elements of the environment are imbued with an ontological significance that informs the way people perceive them, and how they interact with them through economic or ritual practice. There is a growing body of evidence that comparable traditions also structured the ways that hunter-gatherers interacted with their environment during the European Mesolithic. Much of the research has focused on the significance of animals, but this paper argues that plants were perceived in a similar way. Through a series of case studies from the North European Mesolithic, it shows how trees in particular were understood as powerful forces, playing active roles in people’s lives, and how interactions with them were mediated through prescribed forms of social practice
  • Towards a New Homiletic

    Shercliff, Liz (SAGE Publications, 2020-09-11)
    Feminism’s contribution to homiletics so far has arguably been restricted to exploring gender difference in preaching. In 2014, however, Jennifer Copeland identified a need not merely to ‘include women “in the company of preachers” but to craft a new register for the preaching event’. This article considers what that new register might be and how it might be taught in the academy. It defines preaching as ‘the art of engaging the people of God in their shared narrative by creatively and hospitably inviting them into an exploration of biblical text, by means of which, corporately and individually, they might encounter the divine’ and proposes that in both the Church and the Academy, women’s voices are suppressed by a rationalist hegemony. For the stories of women to be heard, a new homiletic is needed, in which would-be preachers first encounter themselves, then the Bible as themselves and finally their congregation in communality. Findings of researchers in practical preaching discover that women preachers are being influenced by feminist methodology, while the teaching of preaching is not. In order to achieve a hospitable preaching space, it is proposed that the Church and the Academy work together towards a new homiletic.
  • Cosmopolitan Practical Theology and the Impact of the Norming of Whiteness on Chapel Cosmopolitanism

    Knowles, Steve; Graham, Elaine; Cameron, Helen D.; Marsh, Jill (University of Chester, 2020-09-10)
    In the context of increasing cosmopolitanism across the UK many church congregations are becoming increasingly ethnically diverse, creating what I am calling ‘chapel cosmopolitanism’. This lived experience of congregations calls for a Cosmopolitan Practical Theology. I use Nowicka and Rovisco’s definition (2009:2) of cosmopolitanism as “A practice which is apparent in things that people do and say to positively engage with the ‘otherness of the other’”. From my professional experience I outline the factors that make a Cosmopolitan Practical Theology and argue for a positive engagement with the ‘otherness of the other’ in order to live out the Gospel imperative to ‘Love your neighbour as yourself’. In an ethnographic study of the chapel cosmopolitanism of one particular church, I observed the complex layers of interpersonal dynamics within one congregation. In particular I engaged with the work of Marti (2010) on ‘havens’, and also the work of Jagessar (2015) on ‘intercultural habit’, observing the inter-play between the needs for both of these practices. Using a multi-method approach I began to notice the reluctance of older White participants who chose not to be interviewed. While recognizing the need for both ‘havens’ and ‘intercultural habit’ my fieldwork data showed me that, while all my participants had these two needs, yet the need for havens of their own was not recognized by many of my White participants. This White privileging of their own experience as the ‘norm’ prevented the ‘mutual inconveniencing’ that Jagessar considers to be an essential component of intercultural habit. After consideration of the impact of the invisibility of White privilege within this particular congregation, I conclude that the norming of Whiteness becomes an obstruction to the development of a Cosmopolitan Practical Theology. In my conclusion I spell out some of the implications of my research for church life, Practical Theology and my own practice.
  • Mission in Suburbia: Theological Resources to Empower Missional Practice Within Small, Suburban Congregations

    Wilson, Keith G. (University of Chester, 2020-09-10)
    The practice of mission within small, suburban congregations has been widely overlooked by academic and Church institutions. Marginalised by their cultural context and struggling to maintain an already weak position, such churches could be dismissed as having little to offer contemporary missiology. This research believes that small, suburban congregations have an important missional role that, once resourced, is of value to the wider Church. The aim of this research is to reflect upon theological resources which could empower missional practice within small, suburban congregations. This reflection adopted a cyclical process of theological reflection. This reflective cycle or ‘Doing Theology Spiral’ used experience, reflection, exploration and action to create an ongoing pattern for missional reflection. This research began with an analysis of the missional experiences of selected small, suburban congregations. The gathered data highlighted aspects of the missional experiences of these congregations such as varied understandings of mission and tensions regarding the context for missional practice. In addition, the perceived strengths of such congregations were not commonly regarded as missional assets. This data was compared to published research. In the literature review, the practice of mission has received sustained attention over a long period. However, the mission of small, suburban congregations in Britain was largely absent from contemporary missiological debates. A range of theological resources were considered. The resources were regarded as important to the missional practice of congregations but, frequently overlooked or undervalued. These included context, activism, social action, and a sense of belonging. The sense of missional crisis suggested a need for other theological resources, notably missio Dei and a focus on the mission of God. This research discovered that a radical re-interpretation of missional practice within small, suburban congregations is required to challenge widespread stagnation and decline. In this research, it emerged that congregations required greater clarity and confidence regarding the theological resources available to them which could empower their missional practice.
  • The Heirloom Factor Revisited: Curated Objects and Social Memory in Early Medieval Mortuary Practices

    Williams, Howard; Costello, Brian (University of Chester, 2020-09-10)
    In the early 20th century, Baldwin Brown’s investigation of early Anglo-Saxon burials stated that the low ratio of deposited swords was likely caused by the inheritance of the weapon by a family member. This became known as the heirloom factor and has been a generally accepted summary of early AngloSaxon curation ever since. Chronologically older material culture originating from the early medieval period, however, has been consistently noticed within burials but overall neglected. Instead, researchers have focused on the reuse and recycling of Roman and Iron Age artefacts in early medieval furnished inhumation graves. Heirlooms, however, are biographical objects, imbued with the stories and events in which they had been present. Heirlooms from the early medieval period would have a known biography to their owners, families and wider social networks, whereas the biographical history of Roman or Iron Age objects would have been lost and unknown. Furthermore, the mortuary deposition of older objects would likely have made them noticeable and significant effect as a mnemonic device of social remembrance by participants and audiences. This thesis implemented an original combination of methods to contextually identify curated objects, or heirlooms, within the early medieval burials of Kent. The study subsequently interprets their roles in terms of social remembrance during the funerary rituals. Evidence from both archaeological and historical sources have indicated that swords and brooches were socially significant and distinct objects, presenting them as likely candidates as possible heirloom status objects. Early medieval cemeteries of Kent (5th–7th centuries AD) were chosen for this study because of the higher ratios of the number of swords and types of brooches found within burials compared to other areas of early Anglo-Saxon England. Kent is also the region where the first written laws are recorded in the beginning of the 7th century AD, with certain codes directly involving the inheritance of property. The study also responds to recent work on Kent’s graves in terms of grave re-opening. This research has analysed 1743 graves from 20 cemeteries in Kent to identify curation characteristics of either swords or brooches. Graves containing these objects were analysed for a series of characteristics to decipher chronological disparities within the entire grave context. This thesis has discovered that the deposition of curated objects within early Anglo-Saxon Kentish burials was a rare but discernible practice in which known biographical objects were utilised for several different funerary reasons. Swords and brooches were significant objects chosen to continue their circulation within a family or kin group for a period prior to their inclusion within a grave. A number of swords, however, have provided evidence that pieces of their hilts were likely inherited and continued while the rest of the sword, such as the blade, was included within a burial. The thesis argues that these practices facilitated the social remembrance of the significant weapon to be present during the funeral, as well as continuing its biography through its hilt fittings within the community. It has also been interpreted that the deposition of older brooches within subadult burials provides evidence of the effort to bolster the idealised identity of the deceased during the funeral or negotiate the relations between familial or kin groups. As the 5th—7th centuries AD were a period of social stratification, the utilisation of heirlooms within furnished burials has been found as a strategy to significantly influence the social remembrance of the mourners present at a funeral.
  • Light and Darkness - IV. Christianity

    Fulford, Ben; University of Chester
    A survey of the treatment of themes of light and darkness in the use and interpretation of biblical texts in Christian liturgy and theology from the early church to the present.
  • Patterns of Power, Power of Patterns: Exploring Landscape Context in the Borderland of the Northern and Central Welsh Marches, AD 300-1100

    Gondek, Meggen; Williams, Howard; Ainsworth, Stewart; Duckers, Gary L. (University of Chester, 2020-09-10)
    Scholarship regarding the early medieval Welsh Marches is frequently disparate and disjointed. Studies have concentrated on the analysis of monuments, in part because of the paucity of early medieval archaeology upon which to create a tableau conducive to macro landscape-based research. Where syncretic works in the Welsh Marches have attempted to adopt an interdisciplinary approach, they are often dated, not embracing, or utilising new techniques or methods. This is exacerbated by approaches in archaeological remotes sensing that have focused on methods or only producing dots and lines on a map, rather than its application and integration into theoretical frameworks widening further the divide between theory and practice. Combined, these approaches also fail to integrate fully within discourses emerging in border studies, a critical field of study when analysing border regions. To tackle these challenges, this thesis examines the borderland landscape of the North and Central Marches using traditional geographical and archaeological techniques, combined with GIS and remote sensed methodologies such as lidar to offer new insight into processes of power and how that is reflected in the landscape. This research targets not only landscape morphology but embraces border theory on the expression and apparatus of power emphasising the ‘borderland’ as an active agent in territoriality and social processes. This study has analysed remote sensed data and data sets that have previously been underutilised and combined theoretical concepts into a holistic body of work. New or misinterpreted archaeological sites have been identified, adding to the archaeological knowledge of the region and facilitated an enhanced picture of the early medieval landscape. In addition, the interrelationship of boundaries and sites hitherto unrecognised in the Welsh Marches have collectively opened new avenues and concepts to underpin and augment further research on dyke systems and border formation processes.
  • Pureland Buddhism and the Post-Secular: Dharmavidya’s Summary of Faith and Practice.

    Dossett, Wendy; Ollier, Richard J. (University of Chester, 2020-09-10)
    This thesis demonstrates that Summary of Faith and Practice by Dharmavidya David Brazier is used by its writer and readers to establish a ‘post-secular’ identity for the Pureland Buddhism of the Amida Order, in contrast to the self-proclaimed ‘secular’ identity of some other forms of Buddhism. This contemporary, British-centred and predominantly convert Pureland Buddhism has been largely overlooked in the analytical scholarship of British Buddhism. The thesis contributes to knowledge by focussing on a text which plays a significant part in the life of the Order. It relates the text to the broader context of an ongoing debate between ‘secular’ and ‘religious’ Buddhism as Buddhism continues to spread beyond Asia. Using my location as an ‘insider’ within the Amida Order, I adopt a research methodology borrowed from the discourse analysis of Michael Hoey, and from documentary theology. I employ this methodology to demonstrate how the text is constituted by its authorising tradition, its writer, its ideal readers, and its actual readers as a form of post-secular Buddhism. By emphasising Pureland’s ‘religious’ characteristics and how these are, in part, established with reference to Christianity, the thesis challenges any assumption that contemporary British convert Buddhism is exclusively ‘secular’.
  • Insult and society in the twelfth century

    Pickles, Thomas; Copley, Dale E. (University of Chester, 2019-08-14)
    This thesis is a study of insult in the Historia ecclesiastica of Orderic Vitalis (b. 1075- d. 1142). It argues that the culturally specific nature of insult means we can learn more about a society by studying its insults. Studying insult in the Historia ecclesiastica can tell us something about Norman society in the twelfth century. This thesis is unusual in studying insult through a narrative source. Methodological assumptions made in the study of insult using documentary evidence must be adapted for this new context. This thesis first creates a dataset of insults through a line-by-line reading of the text. This dataset is then analysed as a whole – to survey the nature of the insults Orderic uses and the rhetorical purposes insult serves in the text. This process informs further research questions. For each subsequent research question a selection is made from the dataset and is analysed using close reading. The methodology created to study insult in the Historia ecclesiastica has potential for use in studying other topics and using other medieval narratives. Studying insult in a single narrative source means this thesis can also tell us something about the Historia ecclesiastica and Orderic’s authorial project. A typographical survey of insult suggests it served four main rhetorical purposes in Orderic’s work; it was a key tool in explaining the causation of events; it helped with characterisation of some of the text’s main protagonists; it was a key part of Orderic’s adherence to certain specific genre of writing incorporated with the wider historical genre of the EH; and it helped Orderic to fulfil the medieval requirement that writing should entertain. This thesis argues that the rhetorical use of insult in Orderic’s text developed out of the use of ethologia – character portraits – a convention Orderic inherited from earlier medieval authors and the Classical canon. Insult proved for Orderic the more useful rhetorical tool. Analysis in the second half of the thesis focuses on the impact of studying insult for our understanding of three areas of medieval life; medieval emotion, concepts of honour and vengeance, and the chivalric code. Studying insult and emotion in the Historia ecclesiastica suggests emotion in the medieval world could be both performatively deployed and truly felt. Studying insult and honour suggests it is possible to define Norman society as an honour society with an active feud culture. And studying insult and chivalry suggests that we can speak of a chivalric culture in the high medieval period albeit one with a distinctive twelfthcentury identity. The selection of these three research questions speaks to the potential of insult for studying both internal experience and its outward expression. One of the most interesting implications of studying insult is its power to recognise the social structures in medieval society without reducing medieval people to actors with no agency. Insult is a ‘field’ of contest for the renegotiation of cultural ideals and norms so studying insult has the potential to track changes in behavioural codes across time and place.
  • No Windup: Paolo Bacigalupi’s Novel Bodily Economies of the Anthropocene

    Hay, Jonathan; University of Chester
    Just as it looms large in contemporary consciousness, the figure of the Anthropocene dominates the speculative fiction of the Hugo and Nebula award winning author Paolo Bacigalupi. The post-apocalyptic and post-capitalist settings common to Bacigalupi’s oeuvre do not merely seek to depict unsettling Anthropocene landscapes. Rather, Bacigalupi’s speculative fiction vicariously demonstrates the crucial role that embodiment plays, and will continue to play, in determining the impact of the Anthropocene upon human life. Our bodies, his works propose, are both the fabric upon which the horrors of the Anthropocene will be written, and the means by which we can learn to adapt to the rigors of our rapidly shifting planetary environment. As such, Bacigalupi’s works propose a range of novel bodily economies, which are just as much potential alternatives to the damaging neoliberal ideologies of our contemporary world as they are statements of impending social upheaval and widespread human suffering. Through the textual analysis of a cross-section of Bacigalupi’s works, this article demonstrates his emphasis upon the urgency and importance of our own societies learning to construct and implement alternate economic paradigms.
  • Fully Optimized: The (Post)human Art of Speedrunning

    Hay, Jonathan; University of Chester
    Over time, speedrunning communities work collaboratively to optimize, reconfigure, and improve upon the quickest possible completion times of video game titles. I argue that this progressive ethos, coupled with the performative nature of modern speedrunning, lends a distinctly artistic character to the practice. Speedrunning is a form of (post)human expression that is manifested not only through the programming of a video game, but also through players’ approach to gameplay. By choosing to speedrun, players actively impose a discrete temporal limit on the inhuman algorithms of video games, and so attempt to conquer and thereby curtail their technological novelty. However, within the field of game studies, the literature published on speedrunning to date is almost unilaterally anthropocentric, and focuses on the transgressive nature of the practice, ignoring the intricacies of its technological fundament. Rather, (post)humans and technologies interact in a transformational manner through intra-active assemblages, broadening the condition of embodiment. To theorize a posthumanistic theory of the practice, this article takes as its focus the speedrunning community of the video game Super Mario Odyssey and suggests that speedrunning may ultimately be considered a mode of (post)human performance art.
  • What’s a Little Monotony?

    Hay, Jonathan
    As this article demonstrates, the characteristic focus within Asimov scholarship exclusively upon the technological aspects of his robot stories and novels has meant that the importance of their mundane components have been systematically overlooked. By shifting critical focus to the mundane aspects of these works, it becomes newly apparent that Asimov uses a mundane foundation to problematise humanistic constructs of the human. These mundane components comprise an essential cognitive foundation of known phenomena, via which the comprehension of Asimov’s profoundly novel robots becomes plausible contextually. By readily anticipating and demonstrating the phenomenological impact of the everyday positionality of technology in the contemporary world, Asimov’s robot stories and novels recode the outdated signifier of the ‘human’ in a posthumanistic paradigm.
  • Why should we write about Anglo-Saxon farms and farming?

    Pickles, Thomas; University of Chester
    A review of four recent works on Anglo-Saxon farms, farming, and food.
  • The Pneumatology of the Letter to the Hebrews: Confused, Careless, Cavalier or Carefully Crafted?

    Warrington, Keith; Hodson, Alan, K. (University of Chester, 2019-05)
    It is the majority position that Hebrews has little to add to NT pneumatology (see §1.1). However, that is far from the case. Indeed, on all seven occasions that the author of Hebrews refers to the Spirit, he does so using language and concepts that are unique in the NT. The Spirit both speaks (λέγω) words of Scripture (3:7) and testifies (μαρτυρέω) from Scripture (10:15) using words elsewhere described as God’s words to the congregation. Elsewhere in the NT, when the Spirit ‘speaks’ he does so through human agents (see §§4.3-4.4). However, in Hebrews he speaks directly to the hearers without the need for an intermediary (see §4.5). Furthermore, the Spirit interprets (δηλόω) Scripture (9:8) and this is the only place in the NT where the Spirit is said to function as hermeneut (see §§4.5.3, 8.3.1). The phrase ‘Spirit of grace’ (10:29) is also a NT hapax and ‘Eternal Spirit’ (9:14) is a Biblical hapax. In addition, the concept of believers becoming μέτοχοι of the Spirit (6:4) and the description of God validating the gospel message by ‘distributing’ (μερισμός) the Holy Spirit to followers of Christ (2:4) are also unique to Hebrews. After undertaking a close examination of all seven divine-πνεῦμα texts in Hebrews this thesis concludes that Hebrews has a significant, developed and unique pneumatology (§8.1). The author portrays the Spirit as personal, eternal and divine (§§8.2.2-8.2.4). He is actively involved in the atonement and the New Covenant (§8.3.3), showing the need for such a covenant (§8.3.1) and providing a partnership with each member of the New Covenant Community such that the Spirit enables that which the Covenant requires (§8.3.3). The Holy Spirit plays a crucial role in Hebrews. Both author and congregation experienced him as God, co-equal with the Father and the Son. In fact, Hebrews’ underlying pneumatology displays what might be called ‘Trinitarian coinherence’ (§§8.2.1, 8.4).
  • Review of Shortt, R. (2019) Outgrowing Dawkins: God for Grown-Ups. London: SPCK.

    Graham, Elaine; University of Chester
    This book is a direct response to Richard Dawkins’ book Outgrowing God: a beginner’s guide (Bantam Press, 2019) and continues Shortt’s long-standing engagement with New Atheism in such works as God Is No Thing (2015) and Does Religion Do More Harm than Good (2019). The substance of Shortt’s defence of religion is not that it does not have its destructive and dark sides, or even that atheism and religious doubt may not be legitimate intellectual positions. Rather, Shortt takes issue with charges that religious belief is illogical and intellectually specious, that religious commitment is deluded and infantile and religious institutions inherently barbaric and authoritarian.

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