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

  • The Sensuous Pastoral: Vision and Text in Pre-Raphaelite Art

    Leahy, Richard; University of Chester
    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
    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
    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, 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, 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.
  • The Nineteenth-Century Sex Worker: Avoiding Surveillance, Stereotypes, and Scandal

    Geary-Jones, Hollie; University of Chester (Routledge, 2022-12-01)
    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).
  • 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).
  • 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.

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