The English Department’s three research areas are: English literature, Creative writing, and English language & linguistics. The English Department continues to develop its research activities in exciting ways, through publications, online projects and collaborative ventures. All members of our academic staff are engaged in research and publishing: over the past few years we have produced scholarly books, novels and poetry collections, journal articles, book chapters, and online publications. Some of us are editors of journals and magazines and we are regularly consulted by a range of publishers and editors as expert reviewers. Staff and postgraduates also organise academic conferences, public lecture programmes, workshops, study days and literary events. Academic staff are currently involved in a number of research projects and our work has resulted in a wide range of publications.

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Recent Submissions

  • The Nineteenth-Century prostitute: how the sexual ‘other’ reclaimed power through deliberate dressing

    Geary-Jones, Hollie; University of Chester
    The paper argues that nineteenth-century prostitutes reclaimed power through deliberate dressing. It explores how the dominant social body in England relied on clothing as a means of identification. As the public gaze formed identity, dress supposedly betrayed class status and moral standing. The paper argues that clothing served as a preventative social tool as it was used to identify sexual ‘Others’. Exploring the social obsession with sexual categorization, it reviews the clothing stereotypes used to identify prostitutes. To escape condemnation, prostitutes avoided typecasts and assumed the guise of ‘moral’ women. By misinforming the public gaze, they evaded the confines of their ‘deviant’ status. Constructing their own identity through deliberate dressing, they reclaimed power from the dominant social body. Able to move undetected through ‘moral’ hierarchies, they threatened the stability of the social order. To explore how stereotypes became embedded in cultural ideology; the paper draws upon streetwalker depictions from Oliver Twist (1838) by Charles Dickens and Mary Barton (1848) by Elizabeth Gaskell. It examines how fashion journals and ‘moral’ commentators also perpetuated typecasts. Although stereotypes pertaining to prostitutes have been identified by scholars, they have overlooked how streetwalkers exploited this practice. Ultimately, the paper demonstrates how clothing stereotypes have been used by sexual ‘Others’ to subvert identity. It reveals how individuals can disrupt the power of the dominant social body through deliberate dressing. Although this study focuses on nineteenth-century prostitutes, the argument can be applied to any era. As dress is used to construct identity, the process of stereotyping can be manipulated for personal gain.
  • The Nineteenth-Century Sex Worker: Avoiding Surveillance, Stereotypes, and Scandal

    Geary-Jones, Hollie; University of Chester
    The subject of female sex work was a source of scandal throughout the nineteenth century. This chapter explores the writing of two males who defied the conventional approach to the topic, publishing three controversial texts which presented the female sex worker in an unseen light. Initially, the chapter studies William’s Acton Prostitution Considered in its Social, Moral, and Sanitary Aspects (1857, 1870) as a concerted effort to suppress the subject of female sex work. Geary-Jones analyzes Acton’s deeply rooted beliefs surrounding the working-class sex worker, investigating his traditional narratives that advocated and then supported the regulation of female sex work during the first and second editions of his publication. In particular, Geary-Jones examines the physician’s attack against a series of sex worker stereotypes which had been firmly embedded in cultural ideology since the beginning of the century. These stereotypes come under scrutiny in George Gissing’s Workers in the Dawn (1880) and The Unclassed (1884), demonstrating the author’s defiance of any conventional approach to the topic of female sex work in both his novels and personal relationships, resulting in scandal. This analysis is positioned against the cultural impact of the Contagious Diseases Acts (1864, 1866, 1869) in England and Jeremy Bentham’s The Panopticon Writings (1791).
  • My Friend, the Queen, an historical novel, with an accompanying Critical Commentary, Historical Fiction in the 21st Century: its Purpose and Practice

    Rees, Emma; Wall, Alan; Jones, Sheila (University of Chester, 2022-04)
    1509. On the day of the Coronation of the new young King and his Spanish Queen, eight-year-old Kat Champernowne goes to live and work at Hever Castle. There she strikes up a friendship with the family’s middle child, Anne: it is a lifelong bond that will take her to France, to London, to the birth of a Princess, and to the execution of a Queen. My Friend, the Queen is a feminist novel in the historical literary fiction genre, which presents the story of Anne Boleyn from an original perspective. Its protagonist, Kat Champernowne, more familiarly known by her married name of Ashley, is a real person whose early life has not previously been voiced. Throughout the substantive part of my thesis - the novel - she narrates her own story, closely intertwined with that of Anne Boleyn, from their imagined first meeting at Hever to Anne’s beheading in 1536. My Critical Commentary begins by tracing the trajectory and evolution of historical fiction from 1971. Drawing on the experience of undertaking a practice-based PhD, I then examine the relationship between history and fiction, linking my analysis of historical fiction’s current purpose and practice to the research and methodologies I employ in synthesising ‘fact’ and ‘fiction’ into a cohesive whole. I incorporate both critical and theoretical issues, as well as drawing on the works and methodology of other novelists, to delineate the role and status of historical fiction in the twenty-first century from the viewpoints of both a practitioner and a theorist.
  • Industrial Gentlemanliness: The fin-de-siècle adventure hero in text and image, 1870-1914

    Fegan, Melissa; West, Sally; Hall, Leo J. (University of Chester, 2021-11)
    This thesis identifies and examines representations of English heroic masculinities in imperialist adventure stories at the end of the nineteenth century. It contends that fin-de-siècle adventure stories are products of Victorian industrial, technological, and scientific developments. The chapters trace this context through analysis of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island (1883), Edgar Rice Burroughs’s Tarzan of the Apes (1912), Jules Verne’s Around the World in Eighty Days (1873), and Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World (1912). A significant aspect of the texts is how their perspectives on the English identities of their heroes are informed by their authors’ ‘outsider’ status, for Stevenson and Conan Doyle were Scottish (the latter of Irish Catholic descent), Burroughs was American, and Verne was French. The Introduction to the thesis argues that central to identifying the relationship between the adventure hero and industrialisation are the original illustrations that were printed with the stories. These create intertextual and paratextual frames, showing how the context of industrial modernity moulds the fin-de-siècle masculine body and mind. The partnership between text and illustrations exposes the complex relationship between industrial modernity and heroic masculinity, particularly, the construction of an idealised gentlemanly identity and gendered performance. Stevenson claimed that penny dreadfuls influenced his development of characters and the action of Treasure Island, and Chapter One traces the impact of nineteenth-century print culture and the growth and dissemination of popular fiction in relation to both Stevenson’s Treasure Island and Burroughs’s Tarzan. Simultaneously, the influence of mid-century discourses regarding ideas of self-help and industriousness are analysed in the portrayals of Stevenson’s characters, especially the pirate Long John Silver. Chapter Two focuses on the topic of mobility and how the industrialised travel space is negotiated by adventurers. Verne’s Around the World demonstrates how international travel became more accessible, and how the speed of travel impacts on the curiosity of the orientalist traveller. Despite Phileas Fogg’s lack of engagement with his journey, a connection is established between the traveller and his immediate industrialised travel space. This is accentuated when Fogg is forced to use ‘exotic’ modes of transport, which ironically serve to delineate his Englishness, especially when placed against the other voices and behaviours of his fellow travel companions. Chapter Three identifies the psychological and physiological impact of science, industrialisation and technology upon Conan Doyle’s adventurers, showing how this is exposed during encounters abroad. The identity of the adventure heroes in these novels is moulded by a Western masculine heteronormative construct that is characterised by a visible gendered performance. This performance includes the body and its clothing and accessories. As the thesis argues, the fin-de-siècle adventure hero has a Janus-faced identity; constructed against a romanticised vision of the past and a nostalgic ideal of gentlemanliness, but also forward-looking in terms of forging a future for Britain through the imperialist dream. The thesis demonstrates that the adventure story is a paradox: an outcome of invention, scientific, technological and industrial progress, yet also a supposed escape from nineteenth-century industrial modernity.
  • Victorian Material Culture

    Wynne, Deborah; Yates, Louisa; University of Chester; Gladstone's Library
    This book is one of a five-volume series, Victorian Material Culture (general editors Tatiana Kontou and Vicky Mills), designed to present primary source materials on aspects of Victorian culture. This volume (volume IV) focuses on manufactured things, including textiles (fabrics, clothing, paper, carpets etc.), metal goods (cutlery, pins, locks etc.), and household items (including ceramics, glassware, soap, candles etc.). The volume's editors, Wynne and Yates, offer detailed introductions to each section as well as an extensive introduction to the whole volume, which demonstrates the significance of manufacturing to the political, social and cultural environment of the Victorian period.
  • Neocolonial Auspices: Rethinking the Ekumen in Ursula K. Le Guin’s Hainish Cycle

    Hay, Jonathan; University of Chester (International Association for the Fantastic in the Arts (Idaho University), 2021-12-01)
    Although the Ekumen in Ursula K. Le Guin’s Hainish Cycle have frequently been read as a utopian social body, their policy of contacting native cultures frequently provokes the erasure of that same cultural multiplicity which they purport to value. Hence, the uneven cultural synthesis enacted by the Ekumen across the galaxy cannot be intended as a positive epistemology of multicultural society. Rather, throughout the Hainish Cycle, the colonial practices of the Ekumen rhetorically contrast the series’ emphasis upon the multifaceted forms of life and culture found across the unassimilated worlds of the galaxy. Accordingly, Le Guin’s series problematizes the colonial practices of the Ekumen through what we might profitably term its mundane dialectic, which consequently engenders a cogent means of neocolonial discourse.
  • A lot of snow out of one cloud: : A Concordance Analysis of Ursula K. Le Guin’s Hainish Cycle

    Hay, Jonathan; University of Chester (Hélice, 2021-12-09)
    Whereas prior academic studies of the Hainish Cycle have been primarily produced by means of textual analysis, I demonstrate that a concordance analysis of its six novels reveals significant, yet heretofore overlooked, ecological aspects of Le Guin’s series. As becomes apparent, snow imagery literalises the Hainish Cycle’s New Wave moves from technological, to biological and sociological concerns, emphasising the series’ significant challenge to the technophilic assumptions and eschatological foundations of the preceding Golden Age. Accordingly, this article demonstrates the primacy of the datum of snow within the narratives of the Hainish Cycle novels, and delineates its important contribution to the series’ SFnal dialectic on aggregate.
  • ‘I’m Gonna Be the Best Friend You Could Ever Hope For—And the Worst Enemy You Could Ever Imagine’: Frank Miller’s All Star Batman & Robin, the Boy Wonder and the Problem of the Boy Sidekick in the Twenty-First-Century Superhero Narrative

    Andrew, Lucy; University of Chester (Palgrave Macmillan, 2021-07-25)
    Andrew examines the representation of the boy sidekick/adult detective relationship in Frank Miller’s All Star Batman & Robin, the Boy Wonder (2005–2008). The chapter explores the ways in which Miller’s graphic novel revises, rewrites and problematises the classic Batman/Robin relationship, with particular emphasis on power, violence and abuse. It explores the disturbing parallels that the text draws between the boy sidekick and the love interest, the troubling power imbalance between the adult superhero and his boy sidekick, and the dangers inherent in introducing an innocent and traumatised boy into the violent world of an adult crime fighter. The chapter concludes by identifying how tonal and structural shifts in the comic-book medium have contributed to the growing prevalence of problematised Robin figures in twenty-first-century Batman narratives.
  • Introduction: Step Forward, Sidekicks

    Andrew, Lucy; Saunders, Samuel; University of Chester (Palgrave Macmillan, 2021-07-25)
    Saunders and Andrew offer a definition of the sidekick in crime fiction and provide a brief account of the origins and development of this figure from the nineteenth century to the present day. They outline significant moments in the history of the sidekick, establish key trends in the construction of the sidekick, and identify and interrogate widely held views about the sidekick’s function and representation in crime fiction. They make a case for the wider significance of the sidekick beyond the role of help-mate or foil to the infallible detective and point towards the key contributions that the sidekick has made and continues to make to the canon of crime fiction. They also offer a brief introduction to each of the essays and key themes/ideas explored by contributors throughout the collection.
  • Patterns of borrowing, obsolescence and polysemy in the technical vocabulary of Middle English

    Sylvester, Louise; Parkin, Harry; Ingham, Richard; University of Westminster; University of Chester; Birmingham City University
    This paper reports on a new project, Technical Language and Semantic Shift in Middle English which aims to address questions about why semantic shift, lexical and/or semantic obsolescence and replacement happen and to try to uncover patterns of narrowing, broadening, obsolescence and synonym co-existence at different levels of the lexical hierarchy. The data is based on the Middle English vocabulary for seven occupational domains collected for the Bilingual Thesaurus of Everyday Life in Medieval England, with the addition of two further domains representing the interests of the elite and professional classes. This paper offers three case studies illustrating how we used the type of information in the BTh, the MED and the OED to construct the semantic hierarchy on which our analyses are based; an example of how data are interpreted in relation to change within a particular semantic field; and an exploration of how obsolescence by distinguishing between obsolete lexemes and obsolete senses. We then present some results of our analyses of obsolescence, polysemy and borrowing in our data.
  • The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Family Names in Britain

    Parkin, Harry; University of Chester (Oxford University Press, 2021-08-03)
    A dictionary of family names found in Britain in the present day. A concise version of the Oxford Dictionary of Family Names in Britain and Ireland (2016).
  • A “WomEsanist” Theory: Autoethnography of Triads of Familial Generations of Nigerian Esan Women’s Perceptions of Body Size and Image

    Rees, Emma; Ugege, Elsie O. (University of Chester, 2021-06)
    I consider the under-theorised genre of less powerful cultures, like my Esan culture, as a site for the subversion of dominant discourses. Espousing a novel feminist theoretical framework – “WomEsanism”, in combination with autoethnographic research methodology, I aim to advance the understanding of Nigerian Esan women’s constructions of ideal body size and image while reflecting on my own status as an Esan woman. My research trajectory was constantly characterised by self-interrogation and self-analysis, while relating my personal experience to wider cultural, political, and social meanings and understandings articulated by other Esan women participants of my study. I recruited 16 sets of triads of familial generations of Esan women from all five local government areas of Esanland. A triadic family set comprised of daughter, mother, and grandmother. The total number of individual participants were 48. I used the snowballing sampling technique to locate families that met my inclusion criteria. I collected data from myself through introspection and from my participants via one-to-one in-depth interview using semi-structured questions, and real-life observations. Then, I conducted a thematic analysis on all data types I collected. “Being beyond body in bodies” emerged as my overarching interpretation of my findings. Two complementary but inter-related themes supported the articulation of this interpretation and are: “being beyond body” and “being in bodies”. “Being beyond body” was expressed through three analytical sub-themes namely, “abilities”; “circumstance”; and “essence”. Esan women’s abilities in terms of body responsiveness, connectedness to body, and comfort in body, influence their innate image that transcends corporeal representations. In addition, they expressed their innate beliefs of how life circumstances, like nature events and socio-economic events, rationalise their views of being beyond body. Still, they derived an innate essence from both spirituality, mostly demonstrated through religion; and being human. “Being in bodies” echoed the body as a social phenomenon described as “slim”, “average” and “fat” by my participants. These are socially-fluid categorisations of body size. Furthermore, four analytical sub-themes created contexts for understanding these body sizes and are: “nourishment and youthfulness”; “health and wellbeing”; “attractiveness”; and “respect and personality”. Together, these cultural perceptions of body size and image by my participants are embedded in the intersections of the multiple social spaces which they occupy. I conclude that my study is beneficial to the academic discipline of Public Health for understanding the connections between socio-political locations, resultant cultures, and body image. This research was also an opportunity for me to gain skills relevant for my learning how to learn about the diverse world via discourses of gender constructs; culture and bodies; politics of knowledge; sociology of health; and the autoethnographic research methodology as a critical social research approach.
  • Editorial and Contents of Flash Fiction Magazine (11.2)

    Blair, Peter; Chantler, Ashley; University of Chester (University of Chester, 2021-10-01)
    Editorial and Contents.
  • Disruption and Disability Futures in Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) and Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

    Tankard, Alex; University of Chester (Liverpool University Press, 2022-02-01)
    Marvel superhero movies celebrate the transformation of disabled people into weapons. First Avenger depicts a disabled man rebuilt by military technology into a patriotic superhero. In Winter Soldier, the Soviet cyborg’s brutal, non-consensual modification serves to emphasise Captain America’s wholesomely perfected body. At first glance, both films seem incapable of critiquing the historical ableism that made Captain America’s modification a desirable image of disability-free future in 1941 – let alone its modern manifestations. However, re-watching First Avenger after Winter Soldier reveals a far less stable endorsement of eliminating disability: now alerted to the series’ precise anxieties about bodily autonomy, one can perceive an undercurrent of disability critique running through First Avenger too – often literally in the background. The film exposes the historical ableism that shaped Steve’s consent to modification, and begins to establish his sidekick Bucky Barnes as a persistent critical voice capable of envisioning a different disability future. This essay is therefore not only about ableism in a pair of superhero movies, but also about how these ableist films contain seeds of an unexpected critique of their own disability representation.
  • Review of Ecofeminist Science Fiction: International Perspectives on Gender, Ecology, and Literature

    Hay, Jonathan; University of Chester (The Science Fiction Foundation, 2021-08-06)
    Book review of Ecofeminist Science Fiction: International Perspectives on Gender, Ecology, and Literature, ed. Douglas A. Vakoch (Routledge, 2021, 232pp, £120).
  • The Posthuman Trajectory of Isaac Asimov’s Foundation Universe

    Hay, Jonathan; University of Chester (Burrowing Wombat Press, 2021-06-30)
    When Isaac Asimov began to expand the fictional universe of his acclaimed Foundation Trilogy in 1982—almost thirty years after the publication of its prior entry, Second Foundation (1953)—he did so with the express intention of assimilating its continuity into a unified “history of the future” with his Robot and Galactic Empire series. Although the Foundation Universe has received little critical attention to date as a unified series, the analysis of it cumulatively reveals its significantly mundane and repetitive aspects. Demonstrably, the rhetorical function of such banal components renders the series conspicuously posthuman.
  • How Much? An Interesting Typo in Kim Stanley Robinson's The Gold Coast

    Hay, Jonathan; University of Chester
    One typo in Kim Stanley Robinson’s 1988 novel The Gold Coast is so prominent as to merit consideration. Nevertheless, there is no evidence that it has ever come to the attention of readers before now.
  • The Literary Places of Mary Cholmondeley and Mary Webb: Women Walking and Interacting with the Shropshire Countryside

    Wynne, Deborah; Walker, Naomi (University of Chester, 2020-11)
    This thesis will demonstrate the importance of Mary Cholmondeley’s and Mary Webb’s novels, short stories, poetry and essays by showing their part in the literary heritage of Shropshire. Both writers drew on their experiences of living in Shropshire villages for their inspiration. This thesis will highlight the significance of the work of these now little-known authors and will draw attention to the feminist arguments which were implicit in their work. By highlighting the instances of women walking and interacting with the countryside in their short stories and novels, I will show that both authors indicated the necessity for greater rights for women in society in the early part of the twentieth century. The independent and freethinking heroines who feature in their novels and short stories provide important feminist representations which deserve greater visibility in studies of this period. As such, this thesis will be useful to scholars studying New Woman writers and their depictions of women. By stressing the influence of Shropshire on each author’s work, I hope that they will stand comparison with A.E. Housman, whose poetry is influenced by that region. This thesis will provide a critical study of Cholmondeley and Webb and I have produced a number of G.I.S. maps to emphasise the connection they had with Shropshire. These provide an alternative way to study their work. This online and accessible resource should engage new audiences to their work. The Introduction to the thesis will set out the connections that both writers had with the county. It will also provide an overview of critical texts associated with Space and Place studies that have influenced my research, as well as relating Cholmondeley and Webb to some of the other women writers who were writing at the same time. Chapter One focusses on Cholmondeley’s writing, arguing that her work displays an implicit feminism. She depicts heroines walking and interacting with the countryside in both her novels and short stories as part of her argument that women desired more independence in the early part of the twentieth century. This chapter also assesses the influence of Shropshire on Cholmondeley’s work and argues that, even when living away from the county, it had a great impact on her writing. Chapter Two will show that, whilst Mary Webb’s connection to Shropshire has already been well established, few academic studies have been written about her work. I argue that, by portraying the mobility of women within the rural landscape in her novels, poetry, essays and short stories, she addresses the larger political issue of women’s rights. This chapter also analyses the work of many of the literary pilgrims who visited Shropshire specifically in search of the places that inspired Webb’s writing in order to show the unhelpful ways in which they have mythologised her life and work. Chapter Three will analyse the G.I.S. maps which I have produced in order to argue that mapping can lead to a greater insight into the work of these two authors. It will also point out the growing use of interactive technology in contemporary literature studies. Links to my G.I.S. maps, and more information about them, can be found in the Appendix to my thesis. The Conclusion demonstrates the continuing legacy of Cholmondeley and Webb in order to stress their importance, not only to the literary landscape of Shropshire, but also to the wider literary culture.
  • Liberalism

    Blair, Peter; University of Chester (Wiley-Blackwell, 2016-01-25)
    A political philosophy that emerged from the Enlightenment, liberalism has a complex relationship with democracy, colonialism, postcolonialism, globalization, and literature. Democracy has been shaped by a tension between “classical liberalism”, which prioritizes liberty, and “modern liberalism”, which emphasizes equality. Liberalism also moulded the informal empire of free trade, and the “liberal imperialism” that devised a “civilizing mission” to justify formal empire. The development of liberalism has been vital in the anglophone settler colonies, particularly the USA; often, especially in South Africa, it has been focused on racial justice. The neo-liberalism that emerged in the late twentieth century advocates the globalization of unfettered capitalism and personal liberty. Many postcolonialists consider neo-liberalism a reprise of liberal imperialism, with “human rights” replacing the “civilizing mission” as a cultural-imperialist pretext for economic exploitation.
  • Gordimer, Nadine

    Blair, Peter; University of Chester (Wiley-Blackwell, 2016-01-25)
    A prolific South African novelist, short-story writer, and essayist, Nadine Gordimer (1923–2014) is known for her opposition to apartheid and censorship. Her many honours include the Booker Prize (1974) and the Nobel Prize for Literature (1991). This article outlines Gordimer’s writing career in relation to the form of “internal colonialism” known as apartheid, and to the postcolonial condition of South Africa after apartheid. It describes how Gordimer’s fiction, which combines critical realism with late-modernist experimentation, articulates three phases: “liberal”, “radical”, and “post-apartheid”.

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