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.

Recent Submissions

  • ‘Dizzy with the to-ing and fro-ing’: Diasporic prose of the ‘new South Africa’

    Blair, Peter; University of Chester
    Engaging with concepts of exilic and transnational writing established by Edward Said, Stephen Clingman, and others, this chapter offers a comparative survey and analysis of a wide range of fiction and nonfiction representing South Africa’s internal and external diasporas, mostly published between 1994, year of its first-ever democratic election, and 2021. A brief overview of the country’s formative immigrations and the internal displacement and external exile created by segregation and apartheid is followed by four sections. The first discusses texts by or about post-liberation returnees, including ex-activists and white expatriates, as well as perspectives from South Africa’s Jewish community and its exiles. The second examines narratives by or about new continental immigrants from the rest of Africa, including refugees, and novels chronicling the intercontinental roots, oceanic routes, and immigrant experiences of South African Indians. The third and fourth sections provide contrasting case studies of revisionist émigrés: J.M. Coetzee, who scrutinizes the migrant’s ‘substitutive’ desire to start afresh; and Zoë Wicomb, whose ‘translocal’ refines the ‘combinatory’ transnational. The chapter argues that identities in the ‘new South Africa’ and its external diasporas are diasporic in diverse and complex ways that challenge and reconfigure the paradigms of ‘contrapuntal’ exile and celebratory cosmopolitanism/Afropolitanism.
  • 'Men Shall Not Make Us Foes': Charlotte Brontë’s letters and her female friendship networks

    Wynne, Deborah; University of Chester
    Sharon Marcus in Between Women (2007) highlighted the variety of friendship models employed by Victorian women, focusing on the female friend’s role in the development of women’s emotional lives and sexualities. Drawing on Marcus’s key insights, this chapter will chart the role of the female friend in the development of Charlotte Brontë’s professional identity and her creation of characters such as Jane Eyre and Lucy Snowe, who speak powerfully of feminist concerns. The chapter will argue that female friends played a crucial part in helping Charlotte Brontë develop an understanding of women’s rights and she went on to find ways to represent feminist ideas in her novels. During her childhood and teenage years Brontë wrote prolifically ‘as a man’, always employing male narrators. Indeed, her juvenilia is characterised by an overtly ‘masculine’ style forged through her collaboration with her brother Branwell and her immersion in the male-dominated discourse of the Tory periodical Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine. She gradually gained a feminist voice following her inclusion in a network of close female friends at Roe Head School, particularly valuing the influence of the radical feminist Mary Taylor, who went on to teach in Europe and then emigrated to New Zealand to set up a shop and become a writer. The letters exchanged between Brontë and her female friends offer valuable insights into the importance of the female network in the mid-nineteenth century, when the professions and higher education were closed to women. Later friends, such as the novelist Elizabeth Gaskell, gave Brontë further opportunities to discuss women’s social roles and explore alternative identities to the prescribed ones of wife and mother. Examining Brontë’s letters, as well as her major novels, this chapter shows how her feminist ideas were shaped through the channels of a Victorian female friendship network.
  • “This Angel, who is now become a Devil, is my particular friend”: Romantic Satanism and Loving Opposition in Good Omens

    Tankard, Alex; University of Chester (McFarland, 2023-08-08)
    In the last years of the Cold War, Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett wrote a buddy-comedy about two disillusioned field agents putting humanity before their respective sides to avert nuclear Armageddon. Gaiman’s 2019 television adaptation of Good Omens updated its setting to the present day – a questionable decision in the light of how successfully Ashes to Ashes (2008-2010), Stranger Things (2016-), and The Americans (2013-2018) demonstrated the stylistic and dramatic potential of blending a variety of genres in Cold-War settings. More importantly, while the adaptation kept brief scenes of secret agents meeting in St James Park, they were unrooted from their Cold War context, discarding the novel’s effective (and affective) shorthand for friendship between enemies in the shadow of mutually-assured destruction. In his DVD commentary, Gaiman explained that he “wound up having to write this [screenplay] as a love story. And part of the joy of writing a love story is the breakup” (“Hard Times” 51:58-52:12). For the necessary emotional tension, the adaptation found an imaginative framework in the novel’s literary ancestry: Romantic Satanism. With their partnership as gentleman-spies stripped away, the adaptation exposed, at the core of Crowley and Aziraphale’s relationship, the paradoxical opposition and fluidity of angels and devils found in British Romantic-Satanic literature, like William Blake’s illustrated Marriage of Heaven and Hell (1790).
  • Gandhi's autobiographical construction of selfhood: the story of his experiments with truth

    Neary, Clara; University of Chester
    This book addresses the topics of autobiography, self-representation and status as a writer in Mahatma Gandhi's autobiographical work The Story of My Experiments with Truth (1927, 1929). Gandhi remains an elusive figure, despite the volumes of literature written on him in the seven decades since his assassination. Scholars and biographers alike agree that “no work on his life has portrayed him in totality” (Desai, 2009), and, although “arguably the most popular figure of the first half of the twentieth century” and “one of the most eminent luminaries of our time,” Gandhi the individual remains “as much an enigma as a person of endless fascination” (Murrell, 2008). Yet there has been relatively little scholarly engagement with Gandhi’s autobiography, and published output has largely been concerned with mining the text for its biographical details, with little concern for how Gandhi represents himself. The author addresses this gap in the literature, while also considering Gandhi as a writer. This book provides a close reading of the linguistic structure of the text with particular focus upon Gandhi’s self-representation, drawing on a cognitive stylistic framework for analysing linguistic representations of selfhood (Emmott 2002). It will be of interest to stylisticians, cognitive linguists, discourse analysts, and scholars in related fields such as Indian literature and postcolonial studies.
  • Religious Language in Literature

    Neary, Clara; University of Chester
    Religious language is everywhere, “embedded in unexpected places like advertising, politics, news media, popular culture and even healthcare, to name a few” (Hobbs, 2021, p. 2). Belief construction and reconstruction also underpins much literary endeavour. However, consideration of the presence of religious language in literary texts is missing from Hobbs’ (2021) otherwise comprehensive coverage of the nature and functions of religious language across religious and non-religious text types and discourse situations. This chapter aims to redress this critical lacuna by sketching the ways in which metaphor and its analysis can be used to both identify and explicate the religious discourse underpinning literary texts. As Dorst notes, “[m]etaphor and religion go hand in hand, given the fact that our religious and spiritual experiences are highly personal, emotional, and abstract” (2021, p. 251). As a by-product, this chapter hopes to illustrate that the presence of explicitly religious language should not be a prerequisite for work in this area, particularly because, as van Noppen asserts, “almost any word, phrase, or sentence may take on ‘religious’ meaning when set in a ‘religious’ situation” (1981, p. 5).
  • “[E]verything that is to be made whole must first be broken”: religion, metaphor and narrative alchemy in Hilary Mantel's Fludd (1989)

    Neary, Clara; University of Chester (Taylor & Francis, 2023-07-18)
    In its depiction of the events initiated by a stranger’s arrival to a rural Catholic parish in 1950s England, Hilary Mantel’s (1989) novel Fludd is built upon fundamentally metaphoric foundations. Most noticeably, the novel’s articulation of alchemy captures the defining opposition of literal and fantastical meaning at the heart of all alchemical symbols. It does so via a metaphorical construction that is first outlined in the opening paratextual 'note' before continuing to provide the narrative backbone to the whole novel. This article adopts a broadly cognitive approach to illustrate how metaphor fulfils multiple crucial functions in the text, acting as a tool of characterisation, a means of narrative compression and a form of meta-textual referencing, all of which directly link to the novel’s central theme of transformation, particularly in the context of contemporary Catholicism. In so doing, it draws upon Biebuyck and Martens concept of the ‘paranarrative’ to demonstrate metaphor’s potential to fulfil a wide range of fundamental narrative functions.
  • Wilkie Collins's Journalism

    Wynne, Deborah; University of Chester (Cambridge University Press, 2023-08-31)
    This chapter examines Wilkie Collins's work as a journalist, from his earliest published writings to his later well-known articles, such as 'The Unknown Public' published in Dickens's journal, Household Words. The chapter identifies Collins's distinct style as a journalist and argues that his journal articles present a unique insight into the culture and social mores of the mid-Victorian period.
  • Left-handed Jumpers

    Blair, Peter; University of Chester (Everything With Words, 2021-10-21)
    Short story included in anthology. Very Highly Commended in the Irish Short Story of the Year category, Writing.ie An Post Irish Book Awards 2021: https://www.writing.ie/news/irish-short-story-of-the-year-2021-longlist/.
  • Hyper-compression and the Rise of the Deep Surface: Flash Fiction in “Post-transitional” South Africa

    Blair, Peter; University of Chester (Routledge, 2022-03-25)
    This chapter begins with a survey of flash fiction in “post-transitional” South Africa, which it relates to the nation’s post-apartheid canon of short stories and short-short stories, to the international rise of flash fiction and “sudden fiction”, and to the historical particularities of South Africa’s “post-transition”. It then undertakes close readings of three flash fictions republished in the article, each less than 450 words: Tony Eprile’s “The interpreter for the tribunal” (2007), which evokes the psychological and ethical complexities, and long-term ramifications, of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission; Michael Cawood Green’s “Music for a new society” (2008), a carjacking story that invokes discourses about violent crime and the “‘new’ South Africa”; and Stacy Hardy’s “Kisula” (2015), which maps the psychogeography of cross-racial sex and transnational identity-formation in an evolving urban environment. The chapter argues that these exemplary flashes are “hyper-compressions”, in that they compress and develop complex themes with a long literary history and a wide contemporary currency. It therefore contends that flash fiction of South Africa’s post-transition should be recognized as having literary-historical significance, not just as an inherently metonymic form that reflects, and alludes to, a broader literary culture, but as a genre in its own right.
  • His Dark Materials in a Post-Truth World

    Leahy, Richard; University of Chester (Open Court, 2020-07-14)
    Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy (and indeed the side trilogy, The Book of Dust) focus on the separation of truth from faith. Yet, when we actually dig into the type of truth proposed by Pullman, we can glean valuable lessons about how truth works in itself, and how we define it. Pullman is aware of the power of interpretation: ideas of truth and divination are expertly woven around notions of storytelling, and the presence or absence of the author. This quite postmodern notion – separation of author from content and the freedom of the reader to interpret – influences a number of important themes, characters and objects within Pullman’s texts. The truth-telling alethiometer, the I Ching and Mary Malone’s Dust-detecting computer - even Dust itself – all toy with ideas of fate, free-will, and truth. As well as this, there are factors in the text that offer truth; things like the Magisterium preach that their word is fact. Particularly in the Book of Dust, Pullman focuses on a regime that wishes to stifle speculation and assert truth. This conflict suggests that there is the potential to glean objective, universal truths, but only through a paradoxical combination of constructivist epistemology, correspondence and epistemic investigation. His Dark Materials’ truth-telling devices need to be interpreted. They offer a truth that is rooted in self-discovery. This is somewhat paradoxical, as it suggests that objective truth exists, but that it is centred around subjectively bringing your own experiences to bear on the interpretation of it. Pullman’s themes both reflect and comment on the current post-truth and post-fact political climate. A re-reading of his texts in this light can offer a valuable commentary on the slippery nature of truth itself. This article examines Pullman’s creation of truth through the lenses of structuralist and post-modernist critics. It examines the notion of socially constructed ideas of truth in the texts through Marx and Hegel, before moving to consider truth in the postmodern world in light of more contemporary philosophers such as Slavoj Zizek. Pullman dissects the whole notion of assumed truths and enforced faith, yet still appears to believe in a spiritual sense of destiny and a universal truth. This article aims to establish just what type of truth this is, and what lessons we can learn from it in a world where the truth may or may not exist.
  • The Sensuous Pastoral: Vision and Text in Pre-Raphaelite Art

    Leahy, Richard; University of Chester (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2023-09-01)
    Much of the recent scholarly criticism of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood has focused on the relationship between Artist and Muse. Dinah Roe, in her introduction to her edited collection of Pre-Raphaelite Poetry, states that ‘Pre-Raphaelitism maintained strict demarcations between women’s roles (as muses) and men’s (as creators).’ This paper, however, will suggest that through the use of shared pastoral metaphors and imagery, female Pre-Raphaelite poets gained a sense of agency through appropriating techniques used by male poets. This was also further encouraged by Pre-Raphaelite muses’ writing of poetry, and the highly visual intertextuality between portraiture and the written word. The minutiae of detail employed in descriptions of pastoral scenes in such poems as Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s ‘The Blessed Damozel’, ‘Genius in Beauty’ and ‘Silent Noon’ (amongst others) are explored to a depth that exposes the Pre-Raphaelites’ use of the natural to explore sensuality: ‘Your hands lie open in the long fresh grass, - the finger-points look through like rosy blooms’ writes Dante Gabriel Rossetti in ‘Silent Noon’. This marriage of body and nature, with an intense attention to sensual visuality, is highly characteristic of the Pre-Raphaelites almost erotic evolution of Romantic literary sensibilities. Similar imagery is employed in the works of female Pre-Raphaelite writers. Elizabeth Siddal, most well-known for being Dante’s muse for a number of his artworks, as well as his sister, Christina Rossetti employ a similar sensuous focus on natural detail to exemplify their position as objects of desire. Rossetti’s use of the Petrarchan Sonnet form, most commonly used as a medieval expression of courtly love, also contributes to this idea. This paper will explore how the patterns of such imagery react to the pastoral eroticism of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, and how this appropriation may be seen to reclaim feminine sexuality and desire. At the core of the argument will be the intensely visual relationship between muse and artist, and the Pre-Raphaelites’ interest in conversions of image to text, and text to image.
  • Trains and Brains: Splitting the Self in Sensation Fiction

    Leahy, Richard; University of Chester (McFarland, 2021-09-30)
    This article will study the relationships between mid-nineteenth century developments in the understanding of psychology and the influence of rail networks. It will take a selection of Sensation fiction as its case study, a genre that has already been detailed to have an intimate relationship with the railways. Considered by some cultural commentators to be ‘railway literature’ in itself, this genre depicts what Nicholas Daly calls ‘the modernisation of the senses’. Railway travel, and the rapidity of new modes of modernity, often dictate the movement of Sensation narratives, and this paper aims to explore the psychological effects of such innovation on the psyches of key characters within the chosen texts. Critical analysis will be mainly focused on three texts, each from a different author in order to show the diverse representation of railway travel’s links with issues of the mind and self. Mary Elizabeth Braddon’s Lady Audley’s Secret will be analysed with the mental states of both the titular Lady Audley and her investigator Robert Audley, and their use of rail travel, in mind. Wilkie Collins’s No Name will be examined in terms of the effects that rail travel has on identity, as well as how the technology is used as a plot device within the sensation narrative. Bolstering the literary analysis will be an examination of the effect of the railway on social and individual psyches, as detailed by both historians and contemporary commentators. The paper draws many ideas from the work of Wolfgang Schivelbusch’s text The Railway Journey: The Industrialization of Time and Space; of particular interest are his Marxist interpretations of the space of the train carriage, and the essential liminality associated with it. As well as this, nineteenth-century psychology will also be addressed, including the influence of industry and networks on Herbert Spencer’s theories of Social Darwinism, and Sigmund Freud’s notion of the fugueur – a figure that emerged through his research and writing on trains and rail travel that subsequently influenced the quintessentially nineteenth-century idea of the flâneur. My paper will attempt to expose the psychological influence of rail travel on the individual self through an analysis of Sensation fiction, and how discourses of the two phenomena (railways and psychology) often seemed to share conceptual frameworks and lexical fields.
  • Urban Varieties

    West, Helen; University of Chester (Wiley-Blackwell, 2023-04-20)
    The investigation of urban varieties is founded in the remit of sociolinguistics: to investigate the social context(s) of language. A sociolinguistic investigation of an urban variety primarily focuses on internal (those governed by the language itself) and external factors (those governed by social factors) to try and answer these key questions: how does language vary in this variety?; how has it changed/will change?; and ultimately, do the patterns of variation and change observed in this variety mirror that of other investigations? The overall aim of answering these questions is to understand the mechanisms that motivate language variation and change. The study of urban varieties will be explained in the context of Labovian investigations in the US, which largely pioneered sociolinguistic investigation, before turning to investigations carried out in the UK
  • Silence Is Golden: John William Bobin’s Sylvia Silence and the Emergence of the British Girl Detective in Golden Age Crime Fiction

    Andrew, Lucy; University of Chester (Newberry College, 2023-05-17)
    Sylvia Silence is a little-known figure today. Created by story-paper writer John William Bobin under the pseudonym Katherine Greenhalgh, she appeared in the Amalgamated Press story paper Schoolgirls’ Weekly in a series of detective narratives from 1922 to 1924 in the early years of the Golden Age of crime fiction. Despite her relative obscurity, however, Sylvia played an important role in the development of the girl detective tradition in juvenile fiction, predating famous American girl detective Nancy Drew by several years. This article explores Sylvia’s emergence from the Victorian and Edwardian tradition of the financially motivated professional or personally motivated amateur female detective and that of Holmesian genius prominent in the Amalgamated Press boys’ story papers into a new detective model for the Golden Age of crime fiction. The article identifies the Golden Age characteristics of Sylvia Silence, particularly those she shares with a much more famous Golden Age female detective, Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple, and draws links between the spinster detective and the girl detective. In particular, it considers why Golden Age crime fiction was a suitable form for the girl detective tradition to develop and thrive within.
  • Acquiring Polish noun inflection: Two children’s productivity and error patterns in relation to parental input

    Price-Williams, David; Davies, Matt; University of Chester (SAGE Publications, 2022-10-01)
    Complex systems of inflectional morphology provide a useful testing ground for inputbased language acquisition theories. Two analyses were performed on a high-density (12%) naturalistic sample of two Polish-English children’s (2;0 and 3;11) and their parents’ use of Polish noun inflection: first, each child’s use of inflectional affixes and their lexical restrictedness was compared with their father’s equalised sample. Second, the children’s spontaneous case-marking errors were analysed in context and measured against type and token frequencies in both parents’ data and the child-directed speech (CDS) corpus. Findings in both analyses accord with constructivist theory: near adult-like knowledge of Polish inflections hiding a range of use that is more lexically restricted than in their caregivers’ speech; low error rates hiding much higher ‘pockets of ignorance’ for specific inflectional contexts; and patterns of error that correspond closely to token/type frequencies in the CDS, though with the older sibling making some errors that were not frequency-based. Potential effects of syncretism, case ambiguity and semantics are also discussed.
  • “What’s a computer?” Intuition Meets the Science Law in a Complete Fall Lyrics Corpus

    Davies, Matt; University of Chester
    This chapter outlines experiments with the Wmatrix software programme in identifying significant semantic categories and thematic patterns in a corpus of the complete Fall lyrics, from their inception in 1977 to the death of frontman Mark E Smith in 2018. The 84,703 words is edited down to 60,720 words to remove repetition, and researcher intuition is balanced against the results generated by the software. The findings, for instance, that the words 'man' and 'head' and the semantic category 'Anatomy and Physiology' are deemed highly significant, open up pathways for further investigation into one of the most prolific and dense lyrical outputs in modern popular music history.
  • A town between dialects: Accent levelling, psycho-social orientation and identity in Merseyside, UK

    West, Helen; University of York (John Benjamins Publishing, 2013-05-28)
    Speakers’ psycho-social orientation and social knowledge have often been identified as having an important role in linguistic change. We know, for example, that speakers’ adoption of linguistic features from a neighbouring region often correlates with their positive social orientation towards that region (Llamas 2007), and that their social orientation can be discussed with reference to their interpretation of physical, political and social ‘boundaries’ (Llamas 2010). Southport, located 17 miles north of the large industrial city of Liverpool, is historically an independent borough but was absorbed into Merseyside in 1974. Southport and Liverpool are well connected by frequent transport links and, given the high levels of contact between people, it has been predicted that phonetic features of the Liverpool accent will diffuse into the traditional Lancashire accent of Southport (cf. Grey & Richardson 2007). However, a complicating factor is Liverpool’s negative stereotype (Montgomery 2007), which may be predicted to act as a barrier to the diffusion of Liverpool features. This paper aims to analyse the diffusion of two local Liverpool features –the lenition of intervocalic and word-final /t/ and /k/ – in speech from a corpus of 39 speakers stratified by age, gender and socio-economic status. I show that despite the links between the two locations, the features of Liverpool are not diffusing into Southport speech as rapidly as originally hypothesised. The second aim is to investigate whether there is a correlation between speakers’ language use and their spatial mobility patterns by mapping their external (contact) and extra-linguistic (attitudinal) behaviour onto their linguistic production. I show that varying patterns of contact could provide an explanation for the reduced level of diffusion of Liverpool features. In conclusion, I argue that understanding speakers’ psycho-social orientations and social awareness, in conjunction with correlative patterns of speech production is crucial for explaining language change.
  • Book review of 'Science Fiction, Disruption and Tourism'

    Hay, Jonathan; University of Chester (Elsevier, 2022-02-25)
    Book review of 'Science Fiction, Disruption and Tourism'
  • Afrofuturism in clipping.’s Splendor & Misery

    Hay, Jonathan; University of Chester (Strange Attractor Press, 2022-09-13)
    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. 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. 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.
  • 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.

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