The Department of English & Creative Writing has nationally and internationally recognised research strengths in the Renaissance, Romanticism and the Gothic, Victorian Literature, Twentieth Century Literature, and Contemporary Writing. With fourteen creative writers now on our staff, the Department also has a remarkably diverse publication record in poetry, fiction, creative non-fiction and screenwriting.
In addition, the Department has several areas of distinctive research which cross both generic and period boundaries, fostering critical-creative synergies, stimulating transcultural and intercultural research activity and placing literature in relation to a wide range of historical, spatial, and cultural contexts. Amongst these distinctive research areas are: literature and location; transcultural writing; literature and religion; literature and gender; and film and popular culture.
The Department leads the world in the study of the literature of the Lake District, hosting both the Wordsworth Centre and the Ruskin Programme (which administers the great Ruskin Library). In the early modern period, explorations of location include Professor Alison Findlay's Playing Spaces in Early Women’s Drama (2006) and more recent research dedicated to expanding ideas of Renaissance drama to include non-commercial venues beyond the London stage. The British Academy-funded project on Early Quakers in the Northwest, led by Professor Findlay, Dr Hilary Hinds and Professor Meg Twycross, focuses, for example, at the ways in which George Fox and other Friends negotiated and colonised different kinds of space: the landscape, alehouses, marketplaces, mountain-tops, ‘steeplehouses’, safe houses, and prisons.
One of the Department's most notable recent contributions to the study of contemporary writing has been the Moving Manchester Project, which explores creative writing from Greater Manchester that has been informed and influenced by the experience of migration; the closing conference of the project, Glocal Imaginaries: Writing / Migration / Place, took place 9th-12th September 2009 at Lancaster University and the Whitworth Gallery, Manchester. Others in the Department working on literature and location include Professor John Schad, whose recent book Someone Called Derrida. An Oxford Mystery (2007) is an experiment in location criticism that re-reads the life and, indeed, death of Jacques Derrida via the University and city of Oxford; and Dr Catherine Spooner, who is currently working on a long-term project on the cultural geography of the ghost story, exploring in particular the development of a regional English Gothic from 1850 onwards. Amongst the publications of the Department's creative writers, some of the most notable contributions include Graham Mort's poems of the natural world (most recently, Visibility: New and Selected Poems, 2007); and Paul Farley's non-fiction work (with Michael Symmons Roberts), Edgelands – Journeys into England’s Last Wilderness (2010).
The Creative Writing Programme is a dynamic force in the promotion of contemporary world literature. Its Crossing Borders initiative, directed by Graham Mort, 2001-2006, linked emerging writers in Africa with British mentors, and the Radiophonics project generated new stories for radio from Uganda and Nigeria. Dr Graham Mort, Dr Lindsey Moore, Dr Lee Horsley and Dr Kate Horsley are all members of the Centre for Transcultural Writing and Research, which they established in 2007; they are also engaged in organising 'Trans-Scriptions', a seminar series that has been running since 2005-6. Their 2009 day conference brought together a photographer, a filmmaker, a contemporary writer and a literary critic to discuss the themes of conflict, displacement and alienation in the context of the Centre’s Regarding War project. Lindsey works in the field of postcolonial studies, and her first book, Arab, Muslim, Woman: Voice and Vision in Postcolonial Literature and Film (Routledge, May 2008) discusses a wide range of Arab women's literary and visual texts. The Moving Manchester project, with its focus on diasporic writing, has also been a very important part of these transcultural research initiatives. The Department has recently been joined by Diran Adebayo, whose debut novel, Some Kind of Black, was one of the first to articulate a British-African perspective. The page on our International Programmes will give you some idea of the strong links between our work on transcultural writing and a rapidly growing community of international students at postgraduate level.
The Department of English is the centre of a new interdisciplinary research cluster focusing upon literature and religion. From contemporary film and literature to critical and cultural theory, it is clear we are in the midst of a ‘sacred turn’ in postmodern thought as religious discourse, themes and questions begin to reassert themselves in surprising, paradoxical and troubling ways. Straddling the boundaries between philosophy, theology and literary studies, the Department’s research on literature and religion explores the implications of this renewed focus upon the religious from the renaissance to postmodernity. One major focus for research in this area is the work on early Quakerism in the North West and particularly the figure of George Fox (a trial website is now in place).
In the contemporary sphere, Dr Arthur Bradley and Dr Andrew Tate focus on the reception of religion in modern philosophy, literature and culture. Arthur Bradley’s work analyses the ‘return of the religious’ in contemporary French philosophy; Andrew Tate analyses the renewed investment in the miraculous in modern British and American fiction. Professor John Schad's Queer Fish (2004) explores what Foucault once called 'Christian unreason'; Sara Maitland's The Book of SIlence (Granta, 2008) is a memoir interwoven with the history of silence through fairy-tale and primal myth, Western and Eastern religious spiritual traditions, the Enlightenment and 20th century psychoanalysis. One of our Department's largest scale research funding successes (2009) has been Dr Lindsey Moore's and Dr Arthur Bradley's project, 'Islamism in Arab fiction and film,' which won substantial support in the AHRC Religion and Society competition.
Research in women's writing, feminist approaches and literature and gender has long had a substantial presence in the Department. Our work flourishes in a particularly rich research culture both within English and Creative Writing and in shared interdisciplinary activities of Lancaster's internationally celebrated Institute of Women's Studies. The work done within the Department is notable for its historical and geographical breadth, ranging from Early Modern and nineteenth-century writing to contemporary British, Irish and American writings, work from countries in North Africa and the Middle East and from diasporic communities. Key gendered interests include feminist literary theory and cultural theory; the study of masculinities; sexuality, class, postcolonial / migrant / national cultures and science; and the generic variety of texts by or about women (for example, playtexts, children's literature, pamphlets and travel writing, visual texts such as film and painting, as well as fiction and poetry).
Amongst members of staff engaged in research in this area are: Dr Tess Cosslett, who has published books on women's friendship in Victorian fiction, Victorian women poets, representations of childbirth in twentieth-century women's writing, and women's autobiography; Professor Alison Findlay, who specialises in Shakespearean drama and women's writing of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and is the author of A Feminist Perspective on Renaissance Drama (Oxford, Blackwell, 1999); Dr Hilary Hinds, who studies work by women from the radical sects of the second half of the seventeenth century; Dr Lindsey Moore, whose work applies feminist theory to postcolonial literature and film; Professor Lynne Pearce, Professor of Literary Theory and Women's Writing, whose publlications include A Cultural History of Romance (Polity, 2006), The Rhetorics of Feminism (2003), and Feminist Readings / Feminists Reading (with Sara Mills, 1989/1996), Woman/Image/Text (1991); Dr Catherine Spooner, whose research interests incorporate Gothic literature and film, the representation of youth subcultures, and fashion and dress in literature; Dr Jayne Steel, whose research interests include women writers from the north of Ireland; and Brian Baker, who works amongst other things on gender in the science fiction of the 1950s and on masculinity and the Gothic. The Lancaster Department is also part of the Groningen project, 'Gender and Cultural Practice'. The focus of this humanities-based research project is the gendering of cultural expression in literature, religion and the arts.
Research into the complex interchange between literature and popular culture is thriving at Lancaster. Much of the Department's research in this area takes the form of study of popular literary genres, often investigating what happens when they travel beyond the page into wider cultural discourses. Individual staff have strengths in Romance (Professor Lynne Pearce); Detective and Crime Fiction (Dr Lee Horsley); Science Fiction and the graphic novel (Dr. Brian Baker); and Gothic (Dr Catherine Spooner). Further strengths in the study of popular culture are added by Dr Tess Cosslett, who currently specialises in Children's Literature, and is particularly interested in the representation of animals. Elsewhere material culture is central to our research, for example in Dr. Robert Appelbaum's work on food in the Early Modern period and Dr Catherine Spooner's work on fashion and dress in literature and the representation of youth subcultures within fiction. In 2009 Dr Spooner ran the hugely successful conference, 'Monstrous Media / Spectral Subjects', the Ninth Biannual Conference of the Gothic Association. Dr Appelbaum has just been awarded an Arts and Humanities Research Council Research Leave Fellowship for 2009-10 to complete work on Restaurants for the Rest of Us, to be published by Reaktion Books.
The Department also has a strong related interest in Literature and Film. Dr Kamilla Elliott's Rethinking the Novel/Film Debate (Cambridge UP, 2003) offers a new theory of word and image dynamics in literature and film and of literary film adaptation. She is currently working on a monograph, Names and Faces: Icons of Identity in Victorian Literature, Printed, Illustrated, Filmed, Televised. Dr Lee Horsley's The Noir Thriller, which has just been reissued by Palgrave (2009), discusses film noir in relation to twentieth- and twenty-first century literary noir. Dr Lindsey Moore has worked on the representation of women in contemporary Iranian cinema, with a particular focus upon cross-cultural reception; Dr Catherine Spooner analyses Gothic in film and TV, particularly in relation to fashion and youth cultures; Dr Brian Baker works in 20th century and contemporary fiction and film, specialising in contemporary British fiction, science fiction, London fictions, and masculinities; Dr Andrew Tate explores the representation of religion in UK films in the forthcoming Encyclopedia of Religion and Film. On the Creative Writing side of the Department, Dr Jayne Steel's work as a professional screenwriter has won several awards and her work has been shown at the Cannes Film Festival; and Paul Farley pursues his longstanding interest in allusive, structural, and thematic relationships between poetry and cinema in a monograph on Terence Davies' film, Distant Voices, Still Lives (BFI, 2006).
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