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Emma Seaber

Dr Emma Seaber

Lecturer in Contemporary Literature, Culture and Theory

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I attended state comprehensives for all of my schooling. My parents left school when they were 15 and 16, only one with any qualifications; I was the first person in my family to complete sixth form, the first to attend university, and the first in a whole series of educational firsts thereafter. (I foreground these aspect of my academic biography as a proud first-generation student!)

I received my PhD from King's College London in 2022 and I joined King's as a Lecturer in Contemporary Literature, Culture and Theory in 2023. Before that, I also studied at the University of Manchester (where I completed my MA in Gender, Sexuality and Culture) and the University of Exeter (where I did my undergraduate degree in English).

My PhD, which was supported by a competitive Wellcome Trust Medical Humanities scholarship, offered a critical reappraisal of late twentieth century and contemporary discourse around anorexia nervosa. Whereas medical, feminist and popular discourses have seen the meaning of anorexia as variously obvious, my thesis counterposed the critical orthodoxy by disclosing the various ways in which anorexic signification becomes occult, in several senses of the word: hidden below the surface of anorexia as a cultural trope, dense with coded meanings and untranslatable symbolism, and, in some cases, seemingly possessed of a power to create material effects for both its writers and readers. I am in the process of developing this work into my first monograph.

My main preoccupations now circulate around gender studies, life-writing and critical medical humanities, with a big emphasis on psychiatry, crime, social class and the law. In intellectual terms, I would say my research involves reading formally distinct, culturally marginal and conceptually challenging texts produced by writers marginalised by mental illness, incarceration, class identity and other complex social factors to reimagine the thinkable limits of feeling, form, canonicity and identity within emerging conversations in contemporary literary studies.

In vernacular terms, I would simply say I care a lot about making visible all the things we might prefer to avoid, with a special focus on crazies, slags, freaks, weirdoes and scum.

Research interests and PhD supervision

  • Life-writing
  • Contemporary literature
  • Critical medical humanities
  • Affect
  • Psychiatry


I have teaching experience across contemporary literature, critical theory, American studies, life-writing, medical humanities and liberal arts. My teaching has a particular focus on contemporary critical theory, contemporary British fiction and theories of violence.

Expertise and public engagement

I have presented my research at various conferences in the UK and internationally. My public engagement experience includes invited appearances on Channel 4 News, on LBC Radio and on the podcast Footnotes to discuss various aspects of my research. My nonfiction book reviews have appeared in the national press and I have others in preparation for the British Society for Literature and Science. I have worked in a voluntary capacity as a Research & Policy Advisor for the eating disorders charity, Beat, advising on changes to policy around restraint and restrictive intervention, on updates to NICE guidance, and other relevant issues.