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 Madman out of The Attic’ Gendered Madness in Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, Villette, and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall

    Bury, Hannah (University of ChesterUniversity of Chester, 2019-12)
    The nineteenth-century ‘madwoman’ is critically established, but not always contentiously questioned or repudiated, within Brontë scholarship. This dissertation will therefore explore the possibility that the quintessentially ‘mad’ female can be replaced by the heavily flawed, and often equally ‘mad’ man, who continuously controls and represses her. Through a diachronic analysis of Bertha Mason and Lucy Snowe in Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre and Villette, Catherine Earnshaw in Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights and Helen Graham in Anne Brontë’s The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, this project will demonstrate how and why the middleclass, ‘sane’ and respectable man can be met with character divergences and vices of his own. This undermines his credibility as a ‘doctor’ or a dictator in his treatment of women, which in turn vindicates and questions the validity and the ultimate cause of female ‘madness’ in the first instance. Chapters One and Two will trace Bertha and Catherine’s respective downfalls to death through ‘madness’, and their connecting relationships with both Rochester and Edgar. Chapter Three will examine how Lucy does manage to survive her mistreatment; yet, she is left without purpose or a definitive identity of her own as a result. In contrast to the preceding chapters, Chapter Four will inverse and redeem the trends of the nineteenth-century woman, ones which so heavily affected Bertha, Catherine and Lucy, as Helen survives her unfavourable experience. While Bertha, Catherine and Lucy react and succumb to their patriarchal repression in different ways, only Anne Brontë offers a solution to the polemical issues which all three authors raise. As she emancipates her heroine Helen, in contrast to repressing her further, she negotiates how an alternative and a more optimistic fate potentially awaits women who are entrapped within the rigid patriarchal systems of nineteenth-century literature and culture.
  • The Social History and Technical Development of Tatting: An Overlooked Needlecraft

    Wynne, Deborah; Rewhorn, Brenda M. (University of Chester, 2018-11-05)
    This thesis takes a narrative chronological approach to explore the development of tatting as a craft activity from the eighteenth century to the present day by examining a broad range of primary and secondary literature. Extant tatting and relevant ephemera in archives and other repositories have been examined and analysed in order to identify the origins of this hand-held, knotted lacemaking technique. By the very nature of the subject, the research has been multidisciplinary and the data was accumulated over several years at every opportunity. The narrative, an enquiry as a means of understanding experiences as lived and told through both literature and research, has extended from the first known record of tatting in print through to the present day. A variety of literature is discussed, including periodicals and patterns, along with many illustrations of tatting and shuttles, a variety of designs with their possible use, threads, methods of construction, provenance, extant tatting in museums and archives. The Introduction to the thesis introduces the history and development of this needlecraft as a leisure occupation for women and highlights how tatting has often been neglected in relevant craft literature. The chapter also analyses the world-wide appeal of the craft. Chapter 1 investigates the tools, threads and variations of this portable craft as well as the often confusing terminology associated with it. There have been many practical books and articles published about, or referencing, tatting and Chapter 2 offers an analysis of them from the earliest confirmed mention in 1770 to the latest books to show how instructions for creating this knotted lace have changed, from those Madame Riego de la Branchardiere at the end of the nineteenth century to the colourful diagrammatic instructions seen in the twenty-first century. Tatting has been used by people in all walks of society, and Chapter 3 discusses some of the uses to which tatting has been applied to fashionable clothing, from elaborate collars to handbags and parasols. Many of these tatted items are in museums across the UK, a large number of which were visited to in order to study the surviving items, which are discussed in this thesis. The catalyst for this research was The Art of Tatting by Lady Katharin Hoare which contains photographs of Lady Hoare’s own tatting and that of Queen Elisabeth of Romania. Chapter 4 focuses on the work of these women, both in terms of their writing and their surviving tatted items. Access was given to both the surviving tatting of Queen Elisabeth in Pelés Castle, Romania and Lady Hoare’s tatted items preserved in collections owned by her descendants and those still use in a church in Norfolk. This work, never before discussed in close detail, is analysed in Chapter 4. The Conclusion to the thesis reviews current attitudes towards tatting and needlecrafts in general especially the difficulty in promoting and keeping tatting active and alive. The thesis aims to offer the first academic account of the social history and technical development of the neglected craft of tatting, and original contributions to knowledge include clarification regarding the writings of Mlle Riego and the discovery and recording of Lady Hoare’s tatting, as well as the extant items by Queen Elisabeth in Pelés Castle.
  • The Dynamics of Time and Space in Recent French Fiction: Selected Works by Annie Ernaux, Patrick Modiano, Jean Echenoz and Marie Darrieussecq

    Obergöker, Timo; Alsop, Derek; Griffiths, Claire H.; Garvey, Brenda (University of Chester, 2018-11-22)
    This thesis investigates the ways in which literary texts negotiate spatio-temporal movements and how, through the nature of narrative, they may offer models for expressing the lived experience of time and place. The theoretical framework traces developments in philosophies of time and space beginning with Henri Bergson’s concepts of duration and simultaneity. The desire to portray both of these informs Gilles Deleuze’s study of cinema to produce his writings on the image-temps and image-mouvement which highlight the constant change undergone in moving through space and time which he defines as différence. The transformative nature of our relationship with the space around us and the agency of the body in that transformation is seen by Deleuze as a positive creative force and one which demands a continual deterritorialisation and reterritorialisation evidenced in the literature studied. Henri Lefebvre further interrogates the importance of the body in the production of space and contributes to the debate around the creation of place and non-place taken up by Michel de Certeau, Edward Casey and Marc Augé, whose work on supermodernity articulates concerns about the absence of place at the end of the twentieth century. These theories provide a backdrop for a close reading of the literary texts published between 1989 and 2017. Each of the four authors selected interrogates spatio-temporal connections in their work and, in order to model our lived experience at the turn of the millennium they experiment with form, genre and language and raise questions about the formation, location and stability of the self. Patterns of repetition and rewriting in the works of Annie Ernaux and Patrick Modiano engage with non-linear approaches to narrative and problematize duration, stasis and the construction and accessibility of memory. The novels of Jean Echenoz explore non-places and liminal spaces in ways that suggest possibilities for the future of fiction and Marie Darrieussecq questions the centrality of the body in defining the self and its agency in creating place. My findings suggest that the desire to comprehend and mirror the lived experience of time and space motivates the literary project of the selected authors and that the nature of narrative, in its openness and fluidity, can replicate and respond to some of the anxieties around time, place and non-place at the end of the 20th and beginning of the 21st centuries.
  • From Fallen Woman to Businesswoman: The Radical Voices of Elizabeth Gaskell and Margaret Oliphant

    Wynne, Deborah; Baker, Katie (University of Chester, 2018-09-28)
    This thesis demonstrates the ways in which Elizabeth Gaskell and Margaret Oliphant drew upon their domestic identities as wives and mothers to write in radical, yet subtle, ways which had the potential to educate and inform their young female readership. While in the nineteenth century the domestic space was viewed as the rightful place for women, I show how both Gaskell and Oliphant expanded this idea to demonstrate within their novels and short stories the importance of what I term an 'extended domesticity'. This thesis charts how Gaskell and Oliphant educated their young female readers to imagine their lives beyond conventional domesticity. The extended version of domesticity they presented offered space for women of all backgrounds and experiences, including those whose lives did not fit into the Victorian ideal of marriage and maternity, to forge their own identities, educate themselves, and find personal fulfillment. Through examples of female characters from several of Gaskell's and Oliphant's novels and short stories, I explore the ways in which both writers made clear the importance of the domestic space as a tool for women's personal growth. Without providing prescriptive answers or solutions, both authors encouraged their readers to make decisions about their own lives by showing them what was possible when domesticity was extended into a place for education and development. They also pointed to possibilities for women beyond the domestic sphere. In the 'Introduction' to the thesis I outline my argument for Gaskell's and Oliphant's 'radical voices', discussing the range of recent critical approaches, as well as positioning Gaskell and Oliphant in their historical context as nineteenth-century women writers. I explore how the rise of feminism affected their work and consider how their way of communicating ideas in fiction differed from the approach taken by their contemporary, George Eliot. Chapter One discusses in detail Gaskell's and Oliphant's domestic identities and how both authors drew upon these to create an extended domesticity within their novels and short stories. I explore the publishing careers of both women before exploring how they exemplified the importance of educating their young female writers with their work. This chapter also introduces Gaskell's focus on representing female sexuality and Oliphant's interest in exploring the choices available for women in marriage and a career. Central to the chapter is a discussion of how both authors extended the boundaries of the domestic by representing it as a place for women to find recuperation, education, and personal growth. They did this, I argue, via their development of 'radical voices'. In Chapter Two the focus is on Gaskell's representation of the 'fallen' or sexually experienced unmarried woman. Through the close analysis of four of Gaskell's novels – Mary Barton, Ruth, North and South and Wives and Daughters - and two of her short stories – 'Lizzie Leigh' and Cousin Phillis, I demonstrate the evolution of her female characters, all of whom experience their sexuality in different ways. While her earlier young women have little autonomy over their lives, her later female characters are endowed with the ability to make their own decisions and forge their own identities. Gaskell makes clear that sexuality is a natural part of women's lives and that even so-called 'fallen' women should have a place in an extended domestic community or family where they will find room for recuperation and rehabilitation. Chapter Three moves on to discuss Oliphant's representation of 'enterprising' women. These women make choices regarding marriage and maternity, and even have identities in the public sphere as businesswomen. Again, through the close analysis of four of Oliphant's novels – Miss Marjoribanks, Phoebe Junior, Hester and Kirsteen - and two of her short stories – 'A Girl of the Period' and 'Mademoiselle', I demonstrate how Oliphant represented a range of female characters who were enterprising in different ways; from those who did not have careers of their own, yet used their talents in their communities, to those who managed their own businesses and enjoyed identities in the public sphere. The 'Conclusion' sums up the main arguments of the thesis, concluding that for both Gaskell and Oliphant their professional identities were as important as their domestic identities and that their novels and short stories suggest that all women could achieve an assimilation of private and public roles. I suggest that by using their radical, yet subtle voices, Gaskell and Oliphant showed that women could make choices and decisions over their own lives which moved them beyond the realms of conventional domesticity.
  • The Evolution of Artificial Illumination in Nineteenth Century Literature: Light, Dark, and the Spaces in Between

    Richard Leahy; University of Chester (University of Chester, 2016-03-04)
    This thesis concentrates on the role of artificial light in the society, culture, and literature of the nineteenth century. Technologies of illumination in this period had a great effect on how society operated and how people experienced space and reality. These effects will be studied through reference to contemporary sources, historical analysis, and literary analysis. Each chapter uses a distinct theoretical viewpoint, and maintains a focus on a particular author (where possible). In the first chapter, the role of firelight in the works of Elizabeth Gaskell is examined, using Gaston Bachelard’s ideas on fire and psychology. The second chapter focuses on the role of candlelight in the works of Wilkie Collins, using Jacques Lacan’s theories on the Gaze. Due to the density of metaphoric references to gaslight in his fiction, Émile Zola’s work is the focus of the third chapter, while Jean Baudrillard’s theories on the nature of modern reality inform the theoretical analysis. The fourth and final chapter examines electric light’s rise to prominence and the rapidly changing attitudes towards it. It was impossible to limit this chapter’s study to only one author, so instead attention is paid to how electric light transitions from a fantastical technology to something real; this is done through a close examination of the early Science Fiction of H.G. Wells and Jules Verne, before the study moves to examine the realism of E.M. Forster and Edith Wharton. The theoretical background of this chapter is informed by a combination of previously covered theory, with attention also paid to posthumanism. The thesis identifies a number of trends and developments in the relationship between light and literature. It notes how artificial light created a space symbolically independent of light and dark, as well as elaborating on each light source’s individual symbolism. It also documents the relationship between artificial light and the transition of society and culture into modernity; it outlines the development, and cultural acceptance, of the notion of a technologically connected society and consumerism. Perhaps most importantly, this study identifies a psychological connection between literature, light, and the individual, and examines the representation of such a concept in the symbolism and metaphor of artificial light.
  • Between Texts: The Resonant Fictions of Sarah Waters

    Stephenson, William; Yates, Louisa (University of Chester, 2011-05)
    The central project of this thesis is to diagnose, define, and articulate the concept of resonance. Resonance is a deeply textual, but not intertextual, relationship that exists between fictional and theoretical texts, allowing the former to position itself as a co-discursive partner to the latter. This is achieved via the subtle importation of theoretical models into fictional settings. In this instance, a resonant relationship is traced between Sarah Waters’s three neo-Victorian novels – Tipping the Velvet, Affinity, and Fingersmith – and three publications which are representative of queer theory published in the early 1990s: Judith Butler’s Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity, Epistemology of the Closet by Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick (both published in 1990), and Terry Castle’s The Apparitional Lesbian (1993). As the introduction to this thesis clarifies, Waters’s novels are particularly useful to the resonant critic. All three novels are popularly and critically established as part of the neo-Victorian genre, yet their participation in many of that genre’s defining processes – overt intertextuality, metafictionality, parody – is limited. Limited, too, is their relationship with the Victorian texts that so infuse the genre. It is not, however, that Waters’s novels completely fail to reach for textual models; rather, as this thesis establishes, they reach for models found in contemporary queer theory, rather than canonical Victorian novels. This thesis contends that Waters’s fictions are examples of a distinctive assimilation and reworking of the postmodern principles that have helped to make the contemporary historical novel so very popular. The novels’ determination to articulate previously silenced voices, meanwhile, gives rise to this thesis’s second project, also stated in the introduction: an examination of the homonormative lesbians found in Waters’s novels. Women love, desire, and cherish one another – but are also viciously cruel, devastatingly unfaithful, and coldly deceiving to one another. The thesis as a whole identifies the range of relationships and individuals strewn across Waters’s neo-Victorian output as a co-discursive reverberation with queer theory’s politicised calls for queer representation. Each chapter surveys the extant scholarship on each of Waters’s novels, before pairing each fictional text with the theoretical text with which it resonates, in order to systematically examine the resonant relationship. As such, the fictional and theoretical texts examined in this thesis are given equal weight; theory is not positioned as a lens through which fiction is to be read. Chapter 1 traces models of performativity, Gender Trouble’s dismantling of the originating status of the body, and the failure of feminism to represent the lesbian through the bold picaresque narrative of Tipping the Velvet. Chapter 2 identifies Affinity’s claustrophobic corridors and panoptic middle-class houses as a receptive environment for an importation and repositioning of Epistemology of the Closet’s homosexual panic and the spectacle of the closet. Finally, chapter 3 finds the rather less deconstructive approach to lesbian bodies in The Apparitional Lesbian suggestive of Waters’s project as a whole; with regards to Fingersmith in particular, triangulated relationships, blocking gestures, and the de-apparitionalising of the lesbian are established as evidence of the resonant relationship.