The English Department at King's is one of the oldest in the world. From our historic location in central London, we continue to grow and change in response to the challenges and new agendas emerging in the wider world. In 2014, the Department achieved a 'power' ranking of 8th in the UK and 2nd in the Russell Group according to the Research Excellence Framework, which assesses the quality and quantity of research across the UK's universities.
The work undertaken by faculty, postdoctoral researchers and graduate students encompasses a huge range of activities. The wide variety of research conducted in the Department is actively shaping the place and role of our discipline in the 21st century.
Anglo-Saxon and Medieval Studies
Early Modern and Shakespeare
As a research group, we explore English from its earliest centuries to the early Modern period in its national and international contexts. We have a world-leading reputation for innovative research that investigates relationships between the medieval and the contemporary world, and we share interests in the study of medieval manuscripts, critical and literary history, cultural theory, material and visual studies, and gender and sexuality studies. Studies in the Age of Chaucer is edited by Sarah Salih for The New Chaucer Society from King’s and Lawrence Warner is the President of the International Piers Plowman Society. Our current research includes Clare Lees’s study of Old and New English literature; Salih’s exploration of medieval paganity; and Warner’s analysis of textual historicism and Middle English poetry. Lees has most recently edited The Cambridge History of Early Medieval English Literature (2013) and Warner published The Myth of Piers Plowman in 2014. The research cluster draws closely on the cultural and intellectual resources of London, pre-eminently the British Library and the British Museum, and participates in London’s many medieval seminars (such as the London Old and Middle English Research Seminar, sponsored by the Institute of English Studies); we also have strong ties with contemporary arts practice and curation. Salih co-curated Medievalist Visions for the Maughan Library in 2013 and Lees co-directed Colmcille’s Spiral, a contemporary re-visioning of the legacy of the 6th century saint, Columba or Colm Cille, for the UK City of Culture 2013.
At King’s, we work closely with the Centre for Late Antique and Medieval Studies (CLAMS), an Arts & Humanities Research Centre, which recently celebrated its 25th year and which hosts an annual programme of speakers, workshops and one-day conferences. Lees directed CLAMS in 2010-13, and Salih and Warner, as convenors of the MAs in Medieval Studies and Medieval English, work closely with the Centre. The multi-disciplinary approach to medieval studies led by CLAMS fosters strong cross- and inter-disciplinary ties with other disciplines at King’s such as French, History, Music, Spanish and Portuguese, and Theology. Three CLAMS reading groups, the Old English Translation Group (OETG), the Medieval Reading group, and the Middle English reading group are currently led by English research students; a fourth, the Medieval Film club is also supported by Film Studies and English, again led by a postgraduate student from the English department.
Lees is the director of the London Arts and Humanities Partnership (LAHP), an AHRC doctoral training partnership of King’s College London, School of Advanced Study (University of London) and University College London, exemplifying our commitment to postgraduate research. We have a lively and close-knit group of thirteen research students, including joint registrations with other departments when appropriate, and research groupings in Old English and Middle English literatures. Recent research topics include thing theory; studies of the Junius and Orosius manuscripts; translation studies, medieval blood, medieval dream visions and the body, saints, sanctity and cults, women’s writing, and the relationship of Old English poetry with modern British poetry.
We welcome enquiries from potential students interested in research in all aspects of medieval literary cultures and in the contemporary languages of Anglo-Saxon and Medieval Studies. Co-supervisions can be arranged for interdisciplinary and cross-period projects.
The 18th Century
The English Department at King’s has a long and distinguished reputation for the study of Shakespeare and early modern literary culture, with a history of outstanding scholars in the field from Sir Israel Gollancz to Professors Emeriti Richard Proudfoot and Ann Thompson. The current group of specialists in early modern literature and theatre includes Hannah Crawforth (Shakespeare, Milton, early modern poetry), John Lavagnino (early modern drama, digital humanities), Sarah Lewis (Shakespeare, early modern drama and culture), Sonia Massai (Shakespeare, especially global Shakespeares and Shakespeare in performance, early modern drama, textual culture), Gordon McMullan (Shakespeare, early modern drama and culture, textual editing, Shakespearean afterlives), Lucy Munro (early modern drama, Shakespeare on film, textual editing, early modern archaism), Patricia Palmer (Spenser, early modern poetry and Ireland), Elizabeth Scott-Baumann (early modern poetry and poetic form, especially women’s writing) and Rivkah Zim (Wyatt, Elizabethan poetry, court cultures, prison writing). We thus cover a wide range of fields and interests within the broad area of Renaissance/early modern culture, from poetry to travel writing, from prison writing to theatre, from poetic form to textual editing, and we both look back to medieval literary culture and forward to 20th and 21st century local and global performances and adaptations of Shakespeare.
We offer a range of specialist academic programmes and modules at BA, MA and PhD level as well as summer schools and short courses designed to promulgate Shakespeare studies beyond the academic community. Our MA programmes (and one of our BA modules) are taught in collaboration with external institutions: Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre and the British Library.
London Shakespeare Centre
A major current focal point for this work is the London Shakespeare Centre, directed by Professor Gordon McMullan, which builds on our range of external partnerships, notably those with Shakespeare’s Globe and the British Library. The Centre works across disciplinary boundaries, both in teaching and research, forming links with, for example, the Departments of History, Digital Humanities, and Cultural and Creative Industries.
As well as running a series of events, lectures, seminars and conferences across the year (including, notably, the London Shakespeare Seminar), we are engaged in Shakespeare400, a major project to facilitate a season of performances, exhibitions, concerts and events for the Quatercentenary of Shakespeare’s death in 2016. Our partners include the Barbican, British Library, City of London Festival, Glyndebourne, Guildhall School of Music and Drama, London Philharmonic Orchestra, London Symphony Orchestra, National Theatre, Royal Opera House, Royal Society of Literature, Shakespeare’s Globe, Southbank Sinfonia and The National Archives.
Members of the Centre offer teaching and supervision in three key areas of Shakespeare Studies sought by potential students: in the original circumstances and historical contexts for the production of Shakespeare’s works; in the nature of Shakespearean texts and the reproduction and transmission of those texts; and in Shakespearean afterlives across the globe.
We have equal interest in critical and textual matters, and we regularly produce monographs and editions for major publishers and articles and essays in well-regarded periodicals. One major reason for the current prestige of the group is our centrality to the world-renowned Arden Shakespeare and Arden Early Modern Drama series. Current members of staff include a General Editor of the Arden Early Modern Drama series, a General Textual Editor of the Norton Shakespeare, a general editor of the Oxford Middleton and, in the person of Professor Emerita Ann Thompson, a General Editor of the Arden Shakespeare; and members of the early modern group have edited a range of plays by Shakespeare and his contemporaries (including, most recently, Sonia Massai’s edition of Ford’s ’Tis Pity She’s a Whore for Arden Early Modern Drama) and a major edition of early modern dramatic paratexts. Recent monographs and collections focus on early modern women’s writing (Scott-Baumann), on archaism in early modern drama (Munro), on Shakespeare and the invention of the idea of ‘late style’ (McMullan) and on etymology and the birth of linguistics (Crawforth). Current critical projects include work on poetic form (Scott-Baumann), global Shakespeares (Massai), Shakespearean commemoration (McMullan), old age in early modern England (Munro), cultures of deferral on the early modern stage (Lewis), contemporary responses to early modern theatre (Lavagnino), Ireland and the writing of violence (Palmer) and prison writings (Zim).
Our vibrant cohort of graduate students works on a wide range of topics including, most recently, textual/theatrical paratexts, discourses of delay in early modern drama, early modern technology and poetry, the meanings of the blush in the early modern theatre, New Zealand Shakespeares, early modern poetic anthologies, 18th century editors of Shakespeare, green spaces in early modern theatre, East European productions of Shakespeare, and Shakespeare and still photography.
We keenly welcome all enquiries from prospective graduate students who would like to work in any area of early modern literature, theatre and culture and would encourage all prospective students with interests in the field to join us in this unparallelled location for the study of early modern literature and culture.
The 19th Century
Eighteenth-century studies at King’s is a vibrant area, with current research focusing on life writing, poetry, gender, the senses, and the relations of science and culture. Much of our work is inspired by our location in central London. We aim to explore the full breadth and depth of the long eighteenth century: our research strengths are reflected in our interdisciplinary MA in Eighteenth-Century Studies, offered jointly with the British Museum, an inspiring collaboration which nurtures new research. The MA is convened in the English Department and taught by tutors from English, History, Music, German, French and Comparative Literature and senior curators from the British Museum. The extraordinary Enlightenment Galleries at the British Museum form a key focus of the core course, ‘Representing the Eighteenth Century: images, objects, texts and arts’. The MA provides excellent training for PhD students, and encourages stimulating cross-fertilisation of research between academics and curators, and across disciplines. In addition to our partnership with the British Museum we research and teach with curators at many of the city’s museums and galleries, including The Foundling Museum, the National Portrait Gallery, Sir John Soane’s Museum, Dr Johnson’s House, the Science Museum and the Royal Society.
Eighteenth-century research and teaching in the English Department is primarily represented by Dr Rowan Boyson, Professor Clare Brant and Dr Elizabeth Eger. Other King's staff with interests in this area include Professor Karen O’Brien (Vice-Principal for Education), whose research focuses on the British, American and French Enlightenments, and on British literature between 1660 and 1820, and Dr Neil Vickers who has published on Coleridge and madness, and is an expert in medical literature of the late eighteenth century. Further expertise in Romanticism is offered by Professor Josephine McDonagh, who has published books on child murder in the eighteenth century and De Quincey, and Dr Christine Kenyon-Jones, whose research interests include Byron, disability studies, Austen and animals in the Romantic period.
Eighteenth-century research exchange is fostered by the Centre for Enlightenment Studies at King’s and by the Centre for Life-Writing Research. Both Centres host talks, events, conferences, performances and research days.
Collaborative projects led by members of the department include Reconnecting Sloane (King's, QMUL, the British Museum, the British Library and the Natural History Museum), which seeks to ‘reconnect’ Sir Hans Sloane’s collections and explore how they were used by those interested in producing knowledge about nature in the context of Enlightenment debates. Three inter-linked Collaborative Doctoral Awards, funded by the AHRC, address Sloane’s contribution to knowledge as a man of letters, physician, naturalist, traveller, historian and collector. Eighteenth-century scholars at King’s are also leading the Georgian Papers Project, in partnership with the Royal Household, to research a huge collection of newly-digitised papers from the Royal Archives at Windsor. The Elizabeth Montagu Letters project aims to prepare a fully annotated electronic edition of Elizabeth Robinson Montagu's correspondence. The author and bluestocking salonnière (1718-1800) was the leading woman of letters and artistic patron of her day, and the c.8,000 extant letters, ‘among the most important surviving collections from the eighteenth century’ (Schnorrenberg) are held in the British Library, the Bodleian, Aberdeen, Manchester and other archives including the Huntington Library, California.
Recent postdoctoral fellows in eighteenth-century studies at King’s have included James Whitehead (Wellcome Trust), who worked on Romantic poetic madness in nineteenth-century literary, critical, biographical, and medical writing, and Monika Class (Marie Curie Research Fellow), who worked on eighteenth and nineteenth-century history of literature, philosophy and psychology, with a particular interest in Anglo-German exchanges and in the formation of the realist novel. Recent PhDs in the Department include the subjects of transport networks and fiction; Anglo-Chinese exchanges; the military man in English and French novels; metropolitan psycho-geography. Our current PhDs include several critical biographical studies; portraiture and patriotism; botany and women’s writing; the reception of Lucretius in eighteenth-century poetry; the cultural history of smells and smelling; psychiatry and the writing of Romantic biography; and a critical edition of Nicholas Rowe’s plays. We welcome enquiries from prospective graduates who would like to work on any aspect of the long eighteenth century, and to join our exceptionally well-positioned and active research community at King’s.
20th - 21st Centuries
A dynamic group of scholars in the Department work on literature and culture of the long 19th century, including Dr Janet Floyd, Dr Ian Henderson, Professor Javed Majeed, Professor Josephine McDonagh, Professor Clare Pettitt, Dr Mark Turner and Dr Neil Vickers. We look back to the 18th century, and forward to the 20th and 21st centuries, and collaborate with colleagues across periods.
We have particular strengths in the novel and prose fiction, poetry, theatre history, in media history, especially newspaper and magazine publishing, writing and materiality, literature and medicine, the literatures of travel, exploration and discovery, Anglo-American and Anglo-Australian literature.
From Wordsworth to Oscar Wilde, George Eliot to George Egerton, Trollope to Twain, David Livingstone to Amy Levy, De Quincey, Dickens and Dallas, from 19th century dictionaries and thesauruses to scrapbooks, letters and journalism, our work ranges over the spectrum of 19th century writers, genres and styles.
We are interested in gender and sexuality, the body, space and time, theatricality and the everyday, medical humanities, transatlanticism, the empire and the globe, the past and the future. And our combined expertise covers many interdisciplinary areas as well, including science and medicine, law, political economy, visual culture and the history of technology.
Current research projects in this area include the first complete scholarly edition of Oscar Wilde’s journalism (Turner and Stokes), and recent and ongoing monograph projects include works on literature and distance (Pettitt), literature and migration (McDonagh), mining in the American west (Floyd), and ‘Planetary Victorians’ (Henderson). The group enjoys strong international research links with scholars in France, India, USA, and Australia, enhanced especially through the Leverhulme-funded international research network, Commodities and Culture in the Colonial World.
Professor Clare Pettitt was Research Director of the Leverhulme- Research Project 'Past vs Present: Abandoning the Past in an Age of Progress 2005-2011' and is now developing ‘Scrambled Messages: The Telegraphic Imaginary 1857-1900’, a joint project on the aesthetics of the Atlantic Telegraph developed with Professor Caroline Arscott at the Courtauld Institute for the History of Art and Dr Mark Miodownik, a materials scientist. Dr Mark Turner is a founding editor of the journal Media History.
The group collaborates with external organisations, including the Museum of London, with whom we hold a collaborative doctoral award, and we have recently held a workshop with curators at the V&A. The informal interdisciplinary research group, The Shows of London, regularly brings together academics and research students from the departments of English and Music at King’s, and the Courtauld Institute, and hosts short symposia.
Members of the 19th century group have also established the Malthus Reading Group, a very successful interdisciplinary seminar that meets on a regular basis to discuss Malthus and his continuing impact across many fields.
Members of the group also work in collaboration with other London colleges and institutions to organise intellectual and research-led events beyond King’s. Recently, these have included an ongoing series of day conferences in association with the George Eliot Fellowship and the Institute of English Studies; a season of seminars on ‘Curiosity’ and a roundtable discussion on ‘Conversation from the Eighteenth to the Nineteenth Century’ for the Saturday London 19th Century seminar series at Senate House; a Global Cities Day at the Institute of English Studies; and a topical conference on The News of the World 1843-2011.
Research student supervision
The 19th century recruits strongly in doctoral candidates, with one of the largest concentrations of PhD students in the department. Our current cohort of graduate students works on a wide range of topics including aestheticism, Romanticism, travel and exploration, emigration, flaneurs in Paris and London, ‘orientalism’, domestic time, Dickens, cultural mapping of London, physics and Victorian poetry, neo-Victorians, science fiction, and the occult.
The ‘Nineteenth-Century Work-in-Progress doctoral seminar’ provides an informal space for all of us working in the 19th century to discuss some of the intellectual and methodological challenges currently facing us in our research.
The group also supports graduate students in running 19th Century Postgraduate Conferences. These have included ‘Victorian Streetlife’ (a selection of the papers presented at this event were printed in the Journal of Victorian Culture) and ‘Irish London in the Nineteenth Century’ (with University of Notre Dame London Centre). Current students have also set up a lively Genre Reading Group, and they recently organised a conference on ‘Bad Writing’.
We encourage and support our students in presenting their research at international conferences: a strong King's contingent of Departmental staff and graduate students participates every year in the North American Victorian Studies Association (NAVSA) Annual Conference, and the British Association for Victorian Studies Conference (BAVS).
Graduate students in the department initiated and helped to set up the online graduate journal, Victorian Network. They were funded by a ‘Student-led Initiative’ award from the AHRC and worked in collaboration with graduate students at Oxford University. Our current students continue to play leading roles in the editing of the journal. This is an excellent demonstration of the dynamism and professionalism of our graduate body.
We welcome enquiries from prospective graduate students who would like to work on any areas of 19th century literature and culture, and would encourage all students with interests in our period to come and join us.
Performance Research Group
The English Department at King’s is home to a large and dynamic group of staff with internationally-recognised expertise in a wide range of aspects of 20th and 21st century literature and culture. Particular strengths in the modern period include: postcolonial studies, modernist studies, American studies, queer studies, performance studies, visual and material culture, contemporary literature, creative writing, life-writing and medical humanities.
The department has a lively group of MPhil/PhD students working in the modern period, and we welcome applications from prospective students. Current doctoral research topics include: Katherine Mansfield and periodical culture, Virginia Woolf and money, and boredom and the Northern Irish ‘Troubles’.
The department hosts a wide variety of research seminar series in Humanities and Health, Postcolonial Studies, Performance Studies, Life Writing, American Studies, Queer @ Kings. Recent visiting speakers in the department have included Professor Gillian Beer, Adam Phillips and Bernard O’Donoghue.
Please see the college research database for more details of past, current and future research projects and publication lists.
A sample of current research:
A key area of research expertise in the modern period is postcolonial studies, from work on transnational modernisms to contemporary postcolonial writing. Paul Gilroy, author of Darker Than Blue: On the Moral Economies of Black Atlantic Culture (2010), is currently working on neoliberalism and the politics of ‘ignorance’. Ananya Kabir has recently joined the department and is lead researcher on a European Research Council-funded project: ‘Modern Moves: Transnationalism and Afro-Diasporic Rhythm Cultures’. Other recent and forthcoming publications on world literatures include Ruvani Ranasinha’s South Asians and the Shaping of Britain 1870-1950 (2012), Anna Snaith’s Modernist Voyages: Colonial Women Writers in 1890-1945 (2014), and Zoe Norridge’s Perceiving Pain in African Literature (2012). Together with Javed Majeed’s work on the Linguistic Survey of India 1894-1928, Richard Kirkland’s research into Irish cultural performance in London at the turn of the century, and Anna Bernard’s engagement with Israeli and Palestinian literatures, this forms an active cluster of staff engaged with the global movement and translation of culture.
War, Medicine and Life Writing
Another significant constellation of research interests includes work on war writing, medical humanities and life-writing. The Department is home to a European Research Council Grant ‘Behind Enemy Lines: Literature and Film in the British and American Zones of Occupied Germany, 1945-49’ led by Lara Feigel. Santanu Das is lead researcher on a HERA project: ‘Cultural Exchange in a Time of Global Conflict: Colonials, Neutrals and Belligerents During the First World War’. Patrick Wright, author of Passport to Peking: A Very British Mission to Mao’s China (2010), works on the cultural dimensions of questions of heritage, place and national identity. Max Saunders, (author of the recent monograph, Self Impression: Life Writing, Autobiograficton and the Forms of Modern Literature) is Director of the Arts and Humanities Research Institute and the Centre for Life Writing. Brian Hurwitz and Neil Vickers run a world-leading, interdisciplinary, Wellcome Trust-funded project on ‘The Boundaries of Illness’ at the Centre for Humanities and Health.
Several staff in the department are also textual editors of key modernist texts. Lara Feigel has edited Stephen Spender’s letters, Max Saunders has recently published an edition of Ford Madox Ford’s Parade’s End and Anna Snaith has just completed an edition of Virginia Woolf’s The Years as part of Cambridge University Press’ Edition of the Works of Virginia Woolf.
Contemporary Literature and Culture
Staff specialisms in the contemporary period include:
- Post-1945 fiction, with a particular emphasis on the intersection between popular forms and political theory
- Contemporary theory
- The novel during and after postmodernism
- Global shifts in politics and economics (globalisation, neoliberalism, post-Fordism, digital economy)
- Media and mediation
- Visual, material and digital culture
- The relationship between postcolonial studies and Israel/Palestine and the transnational representation and reception of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict
- African literature written in English and French
- Cultural responses to genocide in Rwanda
- Conflict, pain, memory, testimony and empathy
- Literature and human rights
- Literature and other art forms (dance, photography, memorials)
The newly-launched MA in Contemporary Literature, Culture and Theory draws on these specialisms in inviting students to consider the socioeconomic, political, and cultural contexts that surround literary and theoretical production today.
Performance Research at King’s College London takes a ‘broad spectrum’ approach to the study of performance. The group’s members are involved in research in theatre, dance, and live art, as well as in performances operating within a wide range of disciplines, social contexts, and systems.
The Anatomy Theatre and Museum provides a state of the art home for theatre and performance research at King’s. The space features a digitally equipped i-lab and performance studio, and is the studio for the internationally recruiting MA Theatre and Performance Studies, as well as for the Centre for e-Research.
Members of staff at King’s involved in the Performance Research Group include: Kélina Gotman, Georgina Guy, Alan Read, Theron Schmidt, Lara Shalson and Gregg Whelan, AHRC Creative Fellow 2010-15.
Prospective PhD students interested in pursuing performance research at King’s are invited to contact any of our members.
The English department at King’s has a tradition of teaching American literature and culture that goes back to the 1960s, and a longstanding commitment to the teaching of American Studies. Colleagues working in the field include Susan Castillo, Jane Elliott, Janet Floyd, Paul Gilroy, John Howard, Alan Marshall, Clare Pettitt, Edward Sugden and Mark Turner. Our interests range across United States studies, the comparative study of the Americas, and Transatlantic writing and culture from the colonial period to the 21st century, and a number of us work on cultural encounters in specific settings - colonies, galleries, concentration camps, mines, ports. Our work also crosses disciplinary borders: colleagues are working in literature and cultural history, visual and material culture, philosophy, political theory, popular culture, queer theory and the history of ideas.
Within this continuing tradition of cross-cultural and interdisciplinary work, our current research strengths lie in the history of cultural activism, New World writing, 19th, 20th and 21st century fiction, philosophy and poetry, photography, regional cultures of the American South and West, Transatlanticism, the writing of gender, queer history and theory, and African American cultural history. Ongoing interests within the English department in the global movement of people, things, ideas and texts brings Americanists at King’s into dialogue with many of our colleagues. We also work alongside the expanding King’s Institute for North American Studies, which has its own strengths in contemporary cultural studies, popular culture, and politics.
Projects in progress include Jane Elliott’s research on the conjoined aesthetic and political developments that have emerged since the turn of the 21st century and the waning of the postmodern moment, Paul Gilroy’s work on the writing of Alain Locke and the autobiographical writing of colonial wars, and Alan Marshall’s study of the relationship between narrative and evil in the American novel since Henry James and his ongoing engagement with the experimental tradition in American poetry. Work on US cultural and intellectual metiers includes Janet Floyd’s research on the formation of friendship groups, circles and artists’ colonies in late 19th century America, and Mark Turner’s work on the New York gallerist Betty Parsons and her queer artists, particularly Forrest Best. Clare Pettitt is working with colleagues at the Courtauld Institute and University College on the aesthetics of the Atlantic Telegraph in the second half of the 19th century. John Howard’s current work concerns the Spanish farming community contaminated by a US Air Force hydrogen-bomb disaster in 1966, as well as the gendered and sexualised discourses of nuclear proliferation and contamination resulting from it. Paul Gilroy is working on the cultural significance of aerial bombardment.
Research Student Supervision
American Studies and American literature attract a large number of doctoral candidates to King’s. There is a lively and diverse postgraduate culture in the English department as well as in the Institute of North American Studies. We welcome proposals from students across the range of staff interests.
The English department at King’s has a long-standing commitment to creative writing. Modules are taught by leading writers in their field, with a wide range of practical expertise covering the novel, the short story, poetry, drama, biography and the essay. They have strong links to the worlds of publishing and journalism, and aim to provide students both with advice on developing their work and with insights into a literary career.
Ruth Padel joined the college as Teaching Fellow in Poetry in 2013. The author of nine acclaimed collections, her work has been shortlisted for every major UK poetry prize. Other staff teaching on the creative writing programme include Derek Johns, a former Managing Director of the literary agency A P Watt and the author of the novel sequence The Billy Palmer Chronicles, and Edmund Gordon, a prolific journalist and fiction critic who is writing the authorised biography of Angela Carter for publication by Chatto & Windus in 2016.
Teaching is divided between lectures on aspects of craft (such as dialogue, character, and perspective) and workshops in which students learn to critique their own and others’ work. The emphasis is on finding and fine-tuning a distinctive style, experimenting with different techniques, and learning to self-edit. Students can currently take modules in prose fiction, drama and poetry as part of the BA in English.
The department actively supports student-led writing societies and their publications.
The English department also has a link to the Royal Society of Literature, with an internship scheme run for English students each year and an annual event on careers in literature run with the RSL.
In addition to the traditional, period-based approach to research, we have identified the clusters or strands below as strategic priorities in the development of future work:
Visual and Material Culture
Literature, Medicine and Science
The categories of the ‘visual’ and the ‘material’ offer compelling ways not only of working across periods in the department, but also of taking our work outside the department and into the wider cultural and public domain. Work which is already underway in this area includes:
Material Poetics - the relationship between the aesthetic and material qualities of poetry. Academics are developing poetry databases; designing interactive poetry tutorials for the website for the use of students and the wider public; and researching the material presence of poetry from Anglo-Saxon times to the present.
The Visuality of Text - the interplay of text and image from medieval manuscripts to contemporary graphic novels.
Ruination and the Physical Environment - a research theme which interrogates the aesthetics and administration of “fringelands” or depleted and wasted landscapes close to home in Britain and in Africa and the Middle East.
Inheritance and Curation - the materiality of the past in the present. Our researches in this area may range from the 'canon' in its literary, artistic and architectural versions to the changing status of national traditions in a world shaped by internationally mobile forms of economy, administration and urbanism. We also hope to develop new post-graduate partnerships with London cultural organisations interested in defining the intellectual basis of their recently broadened practice of “curation”.
Scrambled Messages - 'The Telegraphic Imaginary 1857-1900’ material objects are at the centre of this AHRC funded research project and we are working closely with the Institute of Making at UCL to invent and create imaginative new objects for our final exhibition.
Dialogues between scholarship and practice - the English department is particularly strong in textual editing from the medieval period to the contemporary and the intellectual and technical work of editing has its own research strand. In the crossover with other practices which put performance into dialogue with text, it is linked to work by dramaturges and critical writers in the department who are in relationships with contemporary artists and festivals.
Monumental Shakespeares - work is continuing on a website of global Shakespeare monuments which is an ongoing outcome of an Australian Research Council-funded project on Shakespearean commemoration. This work connects to our Shakespeare400 project.
Work which is currently under development includes:
Windows - this visual art installation project will explore the role of windows in our life and work. This project will create a thematic anthology of textual extracts that focus on windows, a show case, or ‘shop-window’ to the department’s activities, and will function more boldly as a form of critical intervention in the institutional politics of our working environment.
The Unrepresented - alongside the ‘represented’ we are interested in the unrepresented. We are planning a series of fora in which participants were invited to contribute an ‘object’ (artefact, image, event) that is problematic and difficult to represent. The object would then enter our archive, which will have a physical manifestation in Kingsway, and a virtual manifestation on the website. There are also plans for the staging of a ‘pop-up university’ in surprising places.
The Materiality of Theatrical Practice - a cross-period research project which will make practical explorations of issues of staging, audience and representation in medieval, early modern, and contemporary performance.
Textual Editing Strand
One of the Department’s strongest sustained research activities is textual editing, a focus that has been a key element in our profile since the 19th century. We edit texts from medieval to modern, seeing editing not as an alternative to critical activity but as a fundamentally critical skill and as key to making the texts on which we work accessible beyond the boundaries of the university. Current editing-related projects include work on the history of the editing of Piers Plowman, on the nature of medieval media, on early modern paratexts, on editions of Shakespeare’s plays (notably for the forthcoming third edition of The Norton Shakespeare) and of early modern dramatists (notably for Arden Early Modern Drama), and on editions of Oscar Wilde’s journalism (for Oxford University Press), of Charles Darwin, of Ford Madox Ford (for Oxford University Press), and of Virginia Woolf (for Cambridge University Press).
Gender and Sexuality
The English Department at King's has a longstanding commitment to the study of literature and medicine, and the medical humanities more broadly, reflecting its position in a university with one of the largest and oldest medical schools in the world. All of the literature and medicine groups have close links with the Centre for the Humanities and Health which aims to explore the experience of illness from the vantage point of the humanities. The Centre is pursuing a multi-stranded programme of research entitled The Boundaries of Illness, which engages scholars from arts, humanities and health disciplines. The specific strand in this programme devoted to literature is particularly concerned with illness narrative as a form of life-writing (and so also relates to the work of the Centre for Life-Writing Research).
Current and projected research in this area covers many thematic clusters, which are grouped into two broad and interconnected categories:
Mind and Body. Here the emphasis is more on medicine, psychiatry and psychology. Research includes work on:
- psychology and literature; mental illness narratives, trauma and war trauma; the development of psychology and its implication in critical theory
- case narratives as an epistemic genre and a form of life writing
- the relations between literature and cognitive neuroscience; ‘neurometaphors’ the physiology of reading; mind, brain and culture
- ways of thinking about, or not thinking about, bodies; whether as functioning, performing, suffering, desiring, as media, or in motion
- ageing, dementia, creativity, and performativity
Science Discourses in/as Culture. Here the emphasis falls on science and technology, and on the wider contexts in which the human sits: the social and political world; the world of discourse and cultural forms; the environment. The research includes projects on:
- science and literature (in dialogue with the history and philosophy of science);
- the status of Narrative in relation to Truth and how literary genres respond to the truth claims of science/medicine
- culture, science and technology: telegraphy, ballooning, post-industrialism, science popularisation
- science and genre; writing as scientific practice; mapping, modelling, mapmaking, field work; the genre of the scientific essay
- science, language, ideology, empire and race; is science an inherently secularising force?
- environment: Romanticism and science; animal studies; ocean life-writing
Colonial, Postcolonial and Transnational Cultures
Interest in gender and sexuality is spread widely throughout the department: it is regularly conjoined with other critical questions and forges interdisciplinary connections. Members of the English Department are active in the interdepartmental research groups GenderMatters@King’s and Queer@King’s.
We are interested in women’s writing in all periods of the literary history of English, from Anglo-Saxon nuns (Clare Lees), late medieval mystics (Sarah Salih), Civil War poets (Elizabeth Scott-Baumann), bluestockings (Elizabeth Eger), Virginia Woolf and other modernists (Anna Snaith), contemporary popular writing (Jane Elliott) and South Asian writers (Ruvani Ranasinha). In March 2008 Eger curated an exhibition on 18th century bluestockings, Brilliant Women, at the National Portrait Gallery. Gender intersects with race and ethnicity in the work of Susan Castillo, concerned with North America, and of Ranasinha, concerned with south Asia.
Our research includes queer history (John Howard), queer analyses of performance (Lara Shalson), of urban experience (Mark Turner). Elliott, Howard, Salih, Turner and Shalson are all involved in Queer@King’s, an interdisciplinary research centre which has been hosting conferences, lectures, research seminars and other events at King’s since 2003. Jointly organised with other colleagues across the School of Humanities, Queer@King’s provides a focus for queer/LGBT studies in London. In March 2010 Shalson organised Reconsidering the Closet, an evening symposium celebrating 20 years since the publication of Eve Sedgwick’s Epistemology of the Closet (1990).
Research student participation
PhD students are a vital part of the supportive, lively research culture in gender and sexuality studies in the department of English and in the school of Humanities. We actively encourage participation by research students at all levels. For example, the annual Gender and Medieval Studies conference was held at King’s in 2009, on the theme of Locating Gender, organised by a team of postgraduates with faculty support; Tell It Like It Is, Tell It Like It Isn’t, a one-day conference on queer autobiography, was organised by Richard Maguire, a PhD student in the Department, on behalf of Queer@King’s in 2009. As doctoral supervisors, we supervise and co-supervise a range of projects, from gender and sanctity in Anglo-Saxon England to contemporary autobiography and AIDS literature. We often co-supervise with colleagues in other departments in order to combine expertise. We welcome applications from students interested in exploring a range of issues in gender and queer studies and the history of sexualities more broadly.
Creative Writing, Life Writing, Performance
This new and large grouping reflects the recent expansion of the department and encompasses a wide range of research at different stages of development. Members are enthusiastic about the prospect of developing dialogue across their boundaries of period and specialism to address the convergences and similarities between our various projects.
For 2013/14 we propose to focus on three core themes which emerged in our early conversation as particularly resonant. These were widely shared concerns with (a) the “coloniality” of language - translation, orthography etc (b) an interest in spatiality and geographies, particularly the question of “planetarity” and (c) the different ways in which violence / brutality / atrocity / torture might be thought to shape or condition our projects.
Ongoing projects mentioned by participants included:
- Global shakespeares; Afro-diasporic dance forms in the 20th and 21st centuries;
- Transnational medicine in the modern and colonial periods; postcolonial cities, urban infrastructure and planned violence;
- Empire, World War One and the literatures, arts and cultures of modernism
- Colonial life-writing
- Cultures of emigration and notions of the village
- Linguistics as a global discourse
- Translation and the transnational
- Linguistic colonisation of Ireland and Latin America
- Transnational solidarity movements from the 1980s onwards
- Trans-atlantic cultural, intellectual and politico-economic trends, movements and communities
- Colonial government and contested notions of the human
Text History Politics
Creative Writing, Life Writing and Performance are established areas of teaching, research and expertise at King’s. While each of these three areas has a quite distinct profile, range of practices and interests (see below), this research grouping emphasizes their relations and points of interconnection. Rhetoric is understood in this context in its contemporary sense of the investigation and practice of discourses, writings and their modes of performance.
We are interested in practices and practicing here as much as histories and theories and our domains of engagement are broad moving from the local: the Strand, its literary lives and histories and Somerset House, the first purpose built Public Offices in Europe and their own connection with scriptures of bureaucracy, through to more international interests engaging with the power of writing and the image, civic discourses, symbolic representations in text and design, architectural aesthetics and the urban realm, codes, programmes and models of the dialogical and digital.
Writing is the word that we use to describe the creative and purposeful mobilization of idea and image within this range of practices. While rhetoric once might, in the classical period at least, have rather narrowly described the realm of political discourse and its means of persuasion, here it has been expanded to include a range of human practices that through composition of various kinds, written, staged and spoken, shape the kinds of politics that we practice as social, communicating beings.
Writing up these lives, expressing such lives through creative practices of composition and performing our understanding of ourselves and others is the shared research project underway here. The following summaries of our three interrelated fields of interest give a more detailed sense of how we are currently doing this work:
- Creative Writing
- Life Writing
All creative writing might be considered a form of ‘life’ writing, while all performance might be considered a form of the creative ‘writing’ of lives through composition. Taking up Friedrich Kittler’s proposition in The Perspective of Print (2002) where the common distinction between images and writing is contested and problematised, this three-way engagement between writing of ‘lives’, writing of the expressive ‘image’, and composition and critical rendering of performance allows for combinations and collaboration through research that would otherwise sit inviolate within distinct departmental zones of biography and literature, communications and theatre. An ‘English’ department in the broad sense it has been established at King’s provides a quay from which such explorations can set forth.
Text History Politics is designed as a locus for discussion of the interaction – both problematic and productive – of the three named terms across period and genre. It is designed to address issues arising from the relationship of texts and history, texts and politics, in a range of ways: the relationship between history and form; the politics of literary influence; the analysis of the role of ideology in textual culture; the shaping of texts by particular political formations at specific historical moments; the history and practice of censorship; the role of religious texts in literary creativity; the value of literary–critical analysis for the study of culture; the impact of concepts from the field of political thought on literary analysis; the politics of editing; negotiations between revisionism and historicism; the politics of genre; the place of the present in the study of the past. It will take a period of development and discovery before a more precise identity, one shaped by the actual research of participants, becomes clear, but we are confident that this cluster will offer a home to work being done by colleagues that has at best an uneasy or partial fit with existing clusters. There will be potential crossover, of course, with those clusters – perhaps most notably with Gender and Sexuality, Life Writing or Colonial, Postcolonial and Transnational Cultures – but the proposed cluster offers a home for colleagues working on aspects of text, history and politics that lie outside the specificities of those groupings.
Our exceptional range of departmental research activity is reflected at all levels of our teaching programme.
The Department currently accommodates a number of externally funded projects covering all aspects of English studies.
Through our research projects and our connections with research centres, we actively promote collaboration across disciplinary boundaries within and beyond the Faculty of Arts & Humanities. We operate partnerships with a variety of high-profile institutions and organisations.