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.

Collections in this community

Recent Submissions

  • The Radical Voice of Margaret Oliphant: Extending Domesticity in Hester and Kirsteen

    Baker, Katie; University of Chester
    This paper demonstrates how the nineteenth-century writer Margaret Oliphant drew upon her domestic identity to write in radical ways which could educate and inform her young female readership. Through the exploration of two female characters, Catherine Vernon in Hester (1883) and Kirsteen Douglas in Kirsteen (1890), the paper demonstrates how Oliphant represented the importance of opportunities available for young women within 'extended domesticity', a version of the domestic space which extended beyond conventional boundaries to include all women. Through representations of female characters like Catherine and Kirsteen, who had careers and even businesses, of their own, Oliphant showed the possibilities available for women whose lives did not fit into the conventional mould of marriage and maternity. Hester and Kirsteen allow Oliphant to represent two very different versions of domesticity, and to reinforce the necessity for an extended version of it, which allows women the space to find personal growth and fulfilment. The paper engages with the scholarship of critics such as George Levine and Katherine Mullin to explore Oliphant's radical voice and to reinforce her place as an important writer.
  • 'The Great Famine in Fiction, 1901-2015'

    Fegan, Melissa; University of Chester
    This chapter considers Irish writers’ continual reimagining of the Great Famine and the way it has shaped understandings of the past and present. In doing so, it addresses novels and short stories from nineteenth-century writers such as William Carleton, Mary Anne Hoare, and Margaret Brew, who sought to explain or reinterpret the catastrophe while it was still a living memory. The return of the Famine in later historical and neo-Victorian fiction by writers such as Liam O’Flaherty, John Banville, and Joseph O’Connor is considered in light of the association between Famine fiction and present-day crises in the post-independence era. The discussion also extends to the resurgence in literary interest in the Famine in the 1990s and early 2000s, which, the chapter suggests, was due not only to the greater exposure of the Famine in public discourse but also to a revival of insecurities that seemed to belong to the past.
  • Textile Recycling in Victorian Literature: An Interview with Deborah Wynne

    Wynne, Deborah; University of Chester (Council for European Studies, 2019-05-07)
    This interview refers to Wynne's research into Victorian textile recycling and how it was represented in Victorian literature and culture, particularly the work of Charles Dickens.
  • Talking Bodies Vol. II

    Hay, Jonathan; Bonsall, Amy; Ashton, Bodie A.; University of Chester; University of Manchester; University of Adelaide
    This volume brings together scholars from across disciplines and continents in order to continue to analyse, query, and deconstruct the complexities of bodily existence in the modern world. Comprising nine essays by leading and emerging scholars, and spanning issues ranging from literature, history, sociology, medicine, law and justice and beyond, Talking Bodies vol. II is a timely and prescient addition to the vital discussion of what bodies are, how we perceive them, and what they mean. As the essays of this volume demonstrate, it is imperative to question numerous established presumptions about both the manner by which our bodies perform their identities, and the processes by which their ownership can be impinged upon.
  • Introduction

    Hay, Jonathan; Bonsall, Amy; Ashton, Bodie A.; University of Chester; University of Manchester; University of Adelaide
    Bodies occupy a paradoxical space in modern society. On the one hand, the body is the most obvious and visible medium used to represent and express ourselves and our identities. On the other hand, this importance also leaves the body open to being controlled, regulated and interpreted. The result of this uncomfortable balance is that body diversity remains at once embraced and vulnerable, and the expression of that diversity is encouraged by some, while also being the subject of the prejudice of others. This chapter acts as an introduction for nine interdisciplinary, international essays, each engaging with the theme of “the body”, broadly defined. It thus lays the groundwork for a volume in which the body not only speaks but is heard and listened to.
  • The Posthuman Lifeworld: A Study of Russell T. Davies’s Doctor Who

    Hay, Jonathan; University of Chester
    Via the analysis of a cross-section of episodes from Russell T. Davies’s era of the revived BBC Science Fiction television series Doctor Who (2005–2010), this paper demonstrates that the programme utilises representations of the viewer’s everyday lifeworld to figure a posthuman rhetoric. Through the viewer’s in-phenomenal interaction with its representation of the mundane, the show emphasises the already significantly posthuman nature of the technologically saturated lifeworld of the contemporary individual. It challenges Darko Suvin’s notion of cognitive estrangement, which fails to describe the show’s Science Fictional discourse, and instead proposes the alternate mechanism of cognitive engagement. This inquiry, therefore, reappraises the thematic concerns of the show during the years when Russell T. Davies served as the programme’s showrunner, revealing Doctor Who’s emphasis upon the everyday (post)human lifeworld. It concludes that the show refutes technocentric ideologies, and thus rigorously demonstrates the consonance between the (post)human present and posthuman future.
  • Anglophone Literature of South Africa

    Blair, Peter; University of Chester
    An analysis of key texts and critical debates in the literary history of Anglophone writing in South Africa.
  • ‘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.
  • Afrofuturism and Splendor & Misery

    Hay, Jonathan (British Science Fiction Association, 2019-09-29)
    A countercultural movement characterised by a dynamic understanding of the narrative authority held by texts, Afrofuturism rewrites African culture in a speculative vein, granting African and Afrodiasporic peoples a culturally empowered means of writing their own future. This article examines the manner by which clipping.'s 2016 album Splendor & Misery-a conceptual hip-hop space opera-freely enlists and reclaims texts from the African cultural tradition in order to manifest its Afrofuturist agenda. The process by which Afrofuturism reclaims and rewrites culture is paralleled within Splendor & Misery through the literary device of mise en abyme; just as the album itself does, its central protagonist rewrites narratives of African cultures and traditions in an act of counterculture.
  • Talking Bodies: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Embodiment, Gender, and Identity

    Rees, Emma L. E.; University of Chester
    In this collection leading thinkers, writers, and activists offer their responses to the simple question “do I have a body, or am I my body?”. The essays engage with the array of meanings that our bodies have today, ranging from considerations of nineteenth-century discourses of bodily shame and otherness, through to arguing for a brand new corporeal vocabulary for the twenty-first century. Increasing numbers of people are choosing to modify their bodies, but as the essays in this volume show, this is far from being a new practice: over hundreds of years, it has evolved and accrued new meanings. This richly interdisciplinary volume maps a range of cultural anxieties about the body, resulting in a timely and compelling book that makes a vital contribution to today’s key debates about embodiment.
  • Revolting Women: Performing the New Explicit

    Rees, Emma L. E.; University of Chester
    Casey Jenkins's performance art and a qualitative analysis of the vitriolic comments about it of members of the public in a UK national newspaper. Redefining pornography as 'the new explicit' because of the artist's autonomy and (non-monetised) control over her work.
  • Varieties of Embodiment and “Corporeal Style

    Rees, Emma L. E.; University of Chester
    A chapter on embodiment and identity, considering and analysing different philosophies relating to the idea of 'Talking Bodies'. Overall book abstract: In this collection leading thinkers, writers, and activists offer their responses to the simple question “do I have a body, or am I my body?”. The essays engage with the array of meanings that our bodies have today, ranging from considerations of nineteenth-century discourses of bodily shame and otherness, through to arguing for a brand new corporeal vocabulary for the twenty-first century. Increasing numbers of people are choosing to modify their bodies, but as the essays in this volume show, this is far from being a new practice: over hundreds of years, it has evolved and accrued new meanings. This richly interdisciplinary volume maps a range of cultural anxieties about the body, resulting in a timely and compelling book that makes a vital contribution to today’s key debates about embodiment.
  • The Motto of the Mollusc: Patricia Highsmith and the Semiotics of Snails

    West, Sally; University of Chester
    Patricia Highsmith, who generally preferred animals to people, was particularly fascinated by snails. In her novels and short stories, Highsmith uses snails, and her characters’ attitudes towards them, to register a range of responses to American capitalist culture in the mid twentieth century. In Deep Water, Vic Van Allen is horrified when it is suggested that his pet snails should be eaten, rejecting the commodification of the creatures as things to be consumed. ‘The Snail Watcher’ concludes with its ‘vicious’ protagonist, Peter Knoppert, consumed by his pet gastropods; Avery Clavering in ‘The Quest for Blank Claveringi’ meets a similarly unfortunate end, eaten by the giant snail through which he had hoped to establish his own posterity. Gaston Bachelard regards the snail as a symbol of reciprocity between self and environment; the motto of the mollusc, he says, is that ‘one must live to build one’s house, and not build one’s house to live in’. In Highsmith’s fiction, the crimes committed by her characters are frequently driven by a repressed fury with a capitalist culture which severs the link between self and social habitat; in Bachelard’s terms, her characters aspire to ‘the motto of the mollusc’. This chapter will argue that a significant and recurring site for this conflict is Highsmith’s juxtaposition of human behaviours with those of the non-human animal, in particular, the snail. In doing so, it seeks to read this aspect of Highsmith’s work as part of a continuum in detective fiction’s treatment of animals and to demonstrate how far her ‘suspense fiction’ can be situated within that genre. In Poe’s ‘The Murders in the Rue Morgue’ for instance, the orang-utan’s murderous spree is precipitated by its abstraction from its natural environment and its exposure to human behaviours. In The Hound of the Baskervilles, the hound is placed in an alien environment and weaponised by Stapleton. Both of these texts use animals to present nineteenth-century anxieties regarding atavistic degeneration, fears of the beast within the human form. Highsmith’s representations of animals partake of this tradition: the human and the non-human animal worlds are compared, with the beast repeatedly located in the former. In her representation of human/animal relationships, Highsmith is both conducting a searing critique of her specific culture and placing her work firmly in the traditions of detective fiction.
  • Cultural Representations: Hair as the Abundant Signifier

    West, Sally; University of Chester (Bloomsbury, 2018-12-13)
    This contribution to A Cultural History of Hair: The Age of Empire considers a variety of representations of hair in literature and wider culture. It argues that such representations exhibit a complex array of significations, including moral judgements and cultural anxieties of the age.
  • Young Ireland and Beyond

    Fegan, Melissa; University of Chester
    This chapter examines the ideology, aspirations, and political and literary legacy of the Young Ireland group.
  • (Post)human Temporalities: Science Fiction in the Anthropocene

    Hay, Jonathan; University of Chester (Brill, 2019-09-24)
    Although many SF texts proceed from the speculative premise that our species will continue to develop technologically, and hence become increasingly posthuman, our species’ continuance into even the next century is by no means assured. Rather, the Anthropocene exerts a new temporal logic; it is an age defined by an intensification of geological timescales. It is therefore noteworthy that many contemporary SF texts are ecologically interventionist and figure apocalyptic future temporalities which curtail the posthuman predilection common to the genre. This article analyses a tetrad of literary texts, written at various points during the last three decades, which summatively reveal the mutations of the (post)human temporalities figured by cli-fi texts. These four texts are: Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars Trilogy (1992-1996); Jeanette Winterson’s The Stone Gods (2007); Michel Faber’s The Book of Strange New Things (2014); and Paolo Bacigalupi’s The Water Knife (2015).
  • Hereditary surname establishment in the Gloucestershire Cotswolds: a diachronic analysis

    Parkin, Harry; University of Chester
    A study of the local development of hereditary surnames in the Gloucestershire Cotswolds in the 14th century, looking at how it may differ from the apparent national patterns of hereditary surname adoption, and the implications for further surname research
  • Crossing borders in Victorian travel: spaces, nations and empires

    Fegan, Melissa (Informa UK Limited, 2019-09-26)
  • Notes Towards the Definition of the Short-Short Story

    Chantler, Ashley; University of Chester (Cambridge Scholars, 2008-09-01)
    The first academic study of flash fiction.

View more