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

  • Hyper-compressions: The rise of flash fiction in “post-transitional” South Africa

    Blair, Peter; University of Chester (SAGE Publications, 2018-07-16)
    This article 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 article 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.
  • Review of Charteris-Black, J. (2017). Fire Metaphors: Discourses of Awe and Authority. London: Bloomsbury.

    Neary, Clara; University of Chester (John Benjamins, 2018-11)
    Book review of Charteris-Black, J. (2017). Fire Metaphors: Discourses of Awe and Authority. London: Bloomsbury.
  • The Realisation of Electric Light in the Early Twentieth Century

    Richard Leahy; University of Chester (De Gruyter, 2015-10-01)
    Perceptions of electric light in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century witnessed a rapid turnaround of popular opinion on the light source; following its widespread adoption from the 1880s, it was at first met with derision, before perceptions shifted around the fin-de-siècle period, and it eventually grew into the light source that would come to define twentieth century. It evolved from something that was perceived as a symbol of the modern - it was a fantastical presence in the literature of Jules Verne many years before its realisation for example - to something that solidified a sense of modern life. Electricity, Alex Goody writes, 'transformed Victorian Culture', suggesting that "it was electric light that epitomised this transforming power […] the coming of electric light is a transformation of culture at a fundamental level; it marks the coming of what Marshall McLuhan, in Understanding Media, calls 'the electric age' (Goody 2011: 7) Electric light was both symbol and catalyst of the late nineteenth-century emergence of the truly modern world of capitalism and mass-society. McLuhan claims that this early emergence of the electric age had a distinct cultural and psychological impact on the way people thought of modernity: "electric light is pure information […] a medium without a message," further suggesting that its light "has no content, and in this purity it ushers in a modern world where instant communication connects us in a web of interaction"(McLuhan 2001: 8). McLuhan's analysis of the early electric age suggests a continuation of the burgeoning qualities and perceptions of the processes of gaslight - the invention of a networked system of light took the power of lighting away from an individual; people no longer felt as intimate a connection with the light they inhabited as they did in fire or candlelight.
  • 'Losing face among the natives': Something about tattooing and tabooing in Herman Melville's Typee

    Atkin, Graham; University of Chester (Palgrave Macmillan, 2017-12-07)
    Herman Melville’s first novel Typee, published in 1846, is an intriguing South Sea adventure based on the author’s own experiences and narrated by ‘Tommo’, who, with his companion Toby, jumps ship and wanders into the valley of Typee, home to a tribe of suspected cannibals. This essay concentrates on a chapter in which Tommo describes his encounter with a Typeean tattooist before discussing ‘the mysterious “Taboo”’. Tommo becomes fearful that he will be ‘disfigured in such a manner as never more to have the face to return’ to civilisation. The threat of non-consensual body modification confronts narrator and reader with unsettling issues of personal and cultural identity in crisis. The analysis draws on a range of material from the fields of anthropology, psychology, literary criticism, sociology and linguistics.
  • Distances

    Seed, Ian; University of Chester (Red Ceilings Press, 2018-06-15)
    A chapbook of flash fiction.
  • Making History Otherwise: Learning to Talk and The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher

    Pollard, Eileen J.; Carpenter, Ginette; University of Chester; Manchester Metropolitan University (Bloomsbury, 2018-09-06)
    This chapter will explore ambiguous representations of history in Hilary Mantel’s two short story collections to date, Learning to Talk (2003) and The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher (2014). The chapter will consider the figure of the ellipsis, which is traced metaphorically and literally in the stories, as a pertinent means by which to read them, including the titular ‘The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher’ in Mantel’s more recent collection. Despite the media furore that followed the publication of this book, this chapter will argue that it is less the fantasy of the shooting of the premier that disturbed, but rather the pervasive sense of ambiguity. The uncertainty of individual biographies in Learning to Talk develops into an unsettling national narrative in her 2014 collection. For example, as stated in the titular story concerning Thatcher, ‘note the cold wind that blows through [the door] when you open it a crack. History could always have been otherwise’ (2014: 239-40).
  • ‘What cannot be fixed, measured, confined’: The mobile texts of Hilary Mantel

    Pollard, Eileen J.; Carpenter, Ginette; University of Chester; Manchester Metropolitan University (Bloomsbury, 2018-09-06)
    ‘I don’t know, you wait twenty years for a Booker prize, two come along at once!’ was Hilary Mantel’s laconic response to winning for the second time. A respected, if critically neglected, British author, she had in fact been writing and publishing for over twenty years when she won the Booker prize in 2009 for her tenth novel, Wolf Hall. She then made literary history by winning for a second time in 2012 with the sequel, Bring Up the Bodies, an unprecedented achievement that catapulted her into the realms of global stardom. The Tudor novels have since been adapted for the stage by Mike Poulton and have been performed to much critical acclaim in Stratford, London and Broadway. Similarly, the 2015 BBC dramatization has aired in both the UK and the US to glowing reviews. Yet, despite Mantel’s renown and popularity at home and abroad, there remains surprisingly little critical material interpreting the rich and varied content of her work. As a result, this collection of essays aims to introduce students, scholars and general readers of Mantel’s writing to the diversity of her texts in order to showcase the extraordinary range and reach of this contemporary British author, currently at the peak of her writing life. The essays will explore the recurring themes of ambiguity, ghosts, trauma, childhood and memory that both trace and, in many ways, define Mantel’s oeuvre. The collection will also examine the challenge to conventional evocations of the past that underpins Mantel’s historical novels, from A Place of Greater Safety (1992) through to Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies, as well as the complex experimentation with perspective and tense that really sets apart her later work on Thomas Cromwell. The main objective of this book is to provide a wide-range of readers with a guide to Mantel’s historical fiction, autobiographical writing and short stories, as well as some of her more experimental early novels, that will help explain those most ambiguous elements of her corpus while demonstrating her fearlessness and breadth as a writer.
  • "Be Prepared!" (But Not Too Prepared): Scouting, Soldiering and Boys’ Roles in World War I

    Andrew, Lucy; University of Chester (Berghahn Books, 2018)
    This article examines the shifting representation of the ideal of masculinity and boys’ role in securing the future of the British Empire in Robert Baden-Powell’s Boy Scout movement from its inauguration in 1908 to the early years of the First World War. In particular, it focuses on early Scout literature’s response to anxieties about physical deterioration, exacerbated by the 1904 Report of the Inter-Departmental Committee on Physical Deterioration. In Baden-Powell’s Scouting handbook, Scouting for Boys (1908), and in early editions of The Scout – the official magazine of the Scout movement – there was a strong emphasis on an idealised image of the male body which, implicitly, prepared Boy Scouts for their future role as soldiers. The reality of war, however, forced Scouting literature to acknowledge the restrictions placed upon boys in wartime and to redefine the parameters of boys’ heroic role in defense of the Empire accordingly.
  • Media 'militant' tendencies; how strike action in the news press is discursively constructed as inherently violent

    Davies, Matt; Nophakhun, Rotsukhon; University of Chester (Edinburgh University Press, 2018-11)
    Trade union endorsed strike action is systematically demonised in reports in the popular mainstream UK press (see for example Davies 2014), despite public opinion not reflecting this level of antagonism towards industrial action. One consistent strategy used to (mis)represent strikers is to habitually relate this form of protest to threats of intimidation and violence by using militarised discourse. We assert that a key word in the discursive construction of strikes is ‘militant’ and its variant forms (e.g. ‘militants’ and ‘militancy’) which is routinely used to express a negative attitude towards strikes in an attempt to smear them as a legitimate form of protest. We draw on the theory of semantic prosody to show that the sense of ‘militant’ is tarnished through its repeated use in reports of terrorism, often in the same edition used to report on strike action (for instance, the junior doctors’ strike in the UK). We use the WMatrix corpus tool to show that in the 21st Century, ‘militant’ unequivocally appears in semantic domains of violence and aggression in a 274,122 word corpus of news articles from 2000-2015, and therefore this sense is carried over to trade activity when used to report on strike action. This strategy contributes to a neoliberal ideology which promotes individualism, competition and the free market, at the expense of collective action and protection of workers’ rights.
  • New York Hotel

    Seed, Ian; University of Chester (Shearsman Books, 2018-01-19)
    Prose poems and small fictions.
  • 'This most humane commerce': Lace-making during the Famine

    Fegan, Melissa; University of Chester (Liverpool University Press, 2018)
    Fintan O’Toole includes a lace collar from Youghal, Co. Cork in his A History of Ireland in 100 Objects, noting it ‘epitomises one of the more remarkable achievements of Irish women in the second half of the nineteenth century – the creation from scratch of a world-class craft industry’. It was an industry largely founded in response to the Famine, by philanthropic upper- and middle-class Irish women who recognised the failure of famine relief measures for women and girls in particular; the Youghal lace collar is a legacy of the lace school founded there by a nun during the Famine. Lace-making offered rescue not just for them, but their families; in 1852, among fishing families in Blackrock, ‘the strong and powerful father’ and ‘the vigorous son’ were now ‘protected from hunger and misery by the fingers of the feeble child, and saved from the workhouse by her cheerful and untiring toil’. This chapter will examine the representation of textile and lace making during the Famine in texts such as Mary Anne Hoare’s ‘The Knitted Collar’, Susanna Meredith’s The Lacemakers, and Brother James’s Eva O’Beirne, or the Little Lacemaker, as narratives of self-help, critiques of inadequate state intervention, calls for support of the trade and charitable donations, and an impetus to emigration. It will also consider the relationship between depictions of mid-nineteenth-century Irish textile workers and the representation of seamstresses in Victorian literature more widely.
  • 'Streaks Ahead'

    Chantler, Ashley; University of Chester (Ad Hoc Fiction, 2017-12-01)
    Flash fiction.
  • Flash: The International Short-Short Story Magazine, 10.1 (Apr. 2017)

    Blair, Peter; Chantler, Ashley; University of Chester (Peter Blair and Ashley Chantler, 2017-04-01)
    Editorial.
  • Flash: The International Short-Short Story Magazine, 9.2 (Oct. 2016)

    Blair, Peter; Chantler, Ashley; University of Chester (Peter Blair and Ashley Chantler, 2016-10-01)
    Editorial.
  • ‘When the reservoir comes’: Drowned Villages, Community and Nostalgia in Contemporary British Fiction

    Pollard, Eileen J.; University of Chester (Open Library of Humanities, 2017-12-08)
    A ‘drowned’ or flooded village describes the destruction of a settlement or community to make way for a reservoir; as a practice, it most commonly occurred in Britain during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries when the need for fresh water in growing industrial cities was at its height. This essay will explore three different representations of the ‘drowned village’ in contemporary British fiction. Reginald Hill’s On Beulah Height (1992), Hilary Mantel’s short story ‘The Clean Slate’ (2001) and Sarah Hall’s Haweswater (2002) will all be considered in terms of how the drowned village is presented and described, and what this representation suggests about the ways nostalgia, ritual and ruin impact upon notions of community and place.
  • Gloriana’s Queer Skull: The Matter of Life and Death in 'The Revenger’s Tragedy’

    Rees, Emma; University of Chester (Universitatsverlag Winter Heidelberg, 2017-09)
    In this essay I ask whether The Revenger’s Tragedy paradoxically – perversely, even – shows a woman, Gloriana, in a position of absent presence and impotent power. Is it always the role of the memento mori to serve a higher purpose? Or does Middleton’s play merely show the desecration of a woman, both before and after death? Is there, in Middleton’s play, a kind of immortality brought about by the tenacious stage presence accorded to Gloriana’s skull? I read Gloriana’s (non)presence as epitomising Judith Butler’s work on gender as performance; even as preceding language. It is a reading that allows a way in to thinking about the apparently genderless skull’s distinctive onstage agency. Further, it is Gloriana’s skull or – more properly, here, Gloriana-as-skull – that vigorously challenges and changes plot, plotting, cultural expectations, and fixity, in a way that Gloriana’s living body never could.
  • Travellers and Avatars

    Stephenson, William; University of Chester (Live Canon Poetry Press, 2017)
    Poetry collection
  • The Moral Economy of the Irish Hotel From the Union to the Famine

    Fegan, Melissa; University of Chester (Routledge, 2018)
    This chapter examines the peculiar characteristics of the Irish hotel in the period between the Act of Union and the Great Famine, when tourism was newly established in Ireland. The ‘moral economy’ of the inn or hotel was perceived as an extrapolation of that of the estate, or of Ireland itself. Viewed by many guests as primitive, lacking the neatness, cleanliness, and order they expected in British hotels, the Irish hotel functioned with double responsibilities: to the comfort of their guests, but also to the weal of the local community, providing work, relief, and begging opportunities for the poorest.
  • History, Globalization and The Human Subject in The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet

    Stephenson, William; University of Chester (Bloomsbury Academic, 2018-03-22)
    Jacob de Zoet and Aibagawa Orito, the protagonists of The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, think and act like people of their time and place. Mitchell's novel thus falls into step with Georg Lukács's classic Marxist account of historical fiction as a genre that 'endeavours to portray the struggles and antagonisms of history by means of characters who, in their psychology and destiny, always represent social trends and historical forces'. The gestures, hints and fantasies that characterize Jacob's and Orito's unconsummated affair suggest in microcosm the state of world historical relationships in the novel, where the expansionist West and isolationist Japan imagine one another, creating spectres of race and nation. The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet alludes to its own time by advancing Mitchell's project, begun in Ghostwritten, of engagement with the contemporary globalized world where civilizations clash in a state of mutual ignorance. Caroline Edwards has shown how Ghostwritten and Cloud Atlas offer 'a non-contemporaneous narrative present' of the sort described by Jacques Derrida in Specters of Marx. Taking its cue from Edwards's point that this disjointed present exists in Mitchell's fiction to defamiliarize and critically examine 'the globalized capitalist world of his readership', this essay will study the contemporary cultural conflicts played out in the historical setting of Mitchell's Japan.
  • The Commitment to Truth in the Early Resistance Short Fiction of Beppe Fenoglio

    Seed, Ian; University of Chester (Italica, 2017-11)
    This essay considers the Resistance short stories in Beppe Fenoglio’s collection I ventitre giorni della città di Alba, published in 1952. Setting these stories within the historical and culture context of post-war Italy, it investigates their author’s commitment to expressing the “truth” of the experience of the Resistance through fiction. It argues that Fenoglio goes further than his neorealist contemporaries in attempting to do so in the manner in which he depicts a civil war rather than a war of liberation, and in his unsparingly harsh description of certain aspects of partisan behavior. The essay examines the relationship between Fenoglio’s life and his fiction, putting the case that we should draw clear distinctions between the two, without detracting from the truth of the latter. In conclusion, it draws comparsions between the early stories and Fenoglio’s later novel, Il partigiano Johnny, where the author was able to capture the heroic qualties of the Resistance alongside his depiction of all its contradictory aspects.

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