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Research students

Nurul Fatehah binti Aziz

Doctoral research
Director of Studies: Prof Jean Webb
Second and Third Supervisors: Dr Mikel Koven; Dr Catherine Butler (University of the West of England)

Reinventing Humanity: postmodern conditions in Terry Pratchett's corpus of children's fiction
My research aims to trace and explore survival and the formulation of child heroes in Terry Pratchett’s corpus of children’s fiction. The corpus comprises fourteen books and my textual analyses will draw on relevant theory associated with children’s literature, fantasy, folklore, postmodernism and carnival. Hypothesising that Pratchett’s children’s fiction functions – for both its child characters and its child readers - as a vehicle for understanding the world and surviving in it, the research will aim to address a gap in current academic attention paid to Pratchett’s works for children.


Branwen Bingle

Doctoral Research
Director of Studies: Prof Jean Webb
Second and Third Supervisors: Dr Stephen Parker; Dr Anna Popova (Victoria University, Melbourne)

Those who can, teach: the formative influence of socio-cultural constructions of teachers in children’s literature on learners’ notions of teaching

My doctoral research is a response to the perception that under-achievement in UK Primary schools results from the feminisation of teaching by ethnically uniform, middle-class educators. In the belief that widening the diversity of applicants will address the current imbalance, and in a bid to close the gap in achievement between genders and socio-cultural groups/ethnicities, policy-makers in successive governments since the 1990s have attempted to target the recruitment of teachers. The 2000 Teacher Training Agency (TTA) ad campaign took the idiom ‘Those who can, do; those who can't, teach’ and subverted it to target post-compulsory-aged learners with the tagline ‘Those who can, Teach’. Policies and campaigns, however, have so far made little impact on widening participation by those targeted.

The majority of UK Primary teachers are, indeed, female/White British. Assuming the desirablility of widening participation to make teaching representative of the wider communities of the UK, the potential success of current policies will remain questionable for as long as teaching continues to be linked to negative stereotypes. This study looks at the ways in which teachers are represented in taught children’s literature to identify key socio-cultural “narratives” (ie how stories communicate meaning and accepted ideas) and compares these with notions of teaching held by learners in Primary and post-compulsory education. The aim will be to see if socio-cultural stereotypes are embedded long before learners are in a position to choose teaching as a career.


Jody Crutchley

Doctoral Research
Director of Studies: Dr Neil Fleming
Second and Third Supervisors: Dr Stephen Parker; Dr Paddy McNally

‘E is for Empire’: the effect of empire on curricula and educational policy in British elementary schools, 1870-1930

My doctoral research addresses the role of the British Empire in development of the British school system and British curricula. It will contribute to current scholarship and debate that has tended to challenge and extend traditional views of Britons’ experience of empire. Locating educational development within an imperial trajectory will necessitate application of an inter-disciplinary approach, and I will therefore draw heavily on concepts and techniques utilised within the field of the History of Education. This means that I will be utilising a wide range of more unusual historical sources, such as school textbooks, as well as unpublished archival material within my research.


Kate Flynn

Doctoral Research
Director of Studies: Prof Jean Webb
Second and Third Supervisors: Dr Barbara Mitra; Dr Penney Upton

Constructions of the fat Child in British Juvenile Fiction (1960-2012)

My doctoral research interest is in twentieth century children's literature, with a particular focus on the body and representations of emotional health. I draw on my academic background in psychology and English literature to explore the methodological difficulties of working across the two disciplines. Additional interests include British comics, science fiction and animation.


Fawzia Gilani-Williams

Doctoral Research
Director of Studies: Prof Jean Webb
Second Supervisor: Dr Stephen Bigger

Muslim Children, Fiction and Character Education: children’s Islamic literature in Britain, USA and Canada since 1990

My research straddles two areas of enquiry that I encounter frequently in my role as a teacher. One is concerned with children’s literature and the second with character education. My interest lies in Islamic children’s fiction – something that has attracted very little academic interest. Within my research, I am focusing on the nature of Islamic children’s fiction, examining this through the perspectives and motivations of its writers. The research deploys life story method and grounded theory. As a teacher, I am interested in understanding whether literature-based character education can impact effectively upon children. Although there is a long-standing view that reading literature promotes character, there is very little data to support this. Consequently, the second part of my study uses action research to investigate whether Islamic fiction can do so.


Paul Hazell

Doctoral research
Director of Studies: Dr John Peters
Second and Third Supervisors: Dr James Taylor (Lancaster University); Dr Kjetil Fallan (University of Oslo)

Properties, Functions and Value Complexes: exploring critical factors in the emergence of the utility Land Rover as an ‘automotive icon'

The development of technical artefacts and the value complexes that emerge around them are underrepresented in both design history and cultural studies research. Yet these artefacts can play hugely significant roles in people’s lives. Some technical artefacts have the capacity to assume an iconic status, becoming established in the popular imagination and carrying rich and complex meanings. These associated meanings (or value complexes) are often capitalised on by commerce, most often in the form of ‘branding’. A technical artefact’s meaning to a user or consumer can nonetheless be more complex than that which is projected by its manufacturer, and it is not fully controlled by the brand.

The research draws on several fields that deal with the nature, cultural significance and history of technical artefacts. These include the philosophy of technology, cultural studies (specifically informational capitalism), business history (particularly where economic factors are a driver) and design history. It also considers the potential of other approaches and theoretical models, from constructivist and deterministic philosophical approaches to Actor-Network Theory.


Laura Jones

Doctoral research
Director of Studies: Prof Jean Webb
Second and Third Supervisors: Dr Andreas Mueller; Dr Paddy McNally

Historical Forms, Chronotopic Structures and Paratextual Persuasion in G.A. Henty's Historical Fiction for Children

My doctoral research examines the work of G.A. Henty between 1867 and 1902. In my thesis I explore the employment of historical material in Henty's writing and its formal development, from his telegrams to editors, his chronicles and diaries (later published in book form) produced during his role as War Correspondent, to the numerous historical fiction texts that he researched and wrote for children and other miscellaneous works in different forms. Alongside examining rhetorical structures, I formulate an author-specific definition of historical fiction and explore the consequences of publishing extracts and short story versions of Henty's historical novels. I draw heavily on Bakhtinian theory and employ the concept of the chronotope to expose the mechanics of meaning in Henty's work. My research is the first exploration of the paratextual aspects of Henty's oeuvre and I focus, in particular, on the prefaces. For my research I am indebted to the Brown collection which includes works by and about Henty and which was donated to the University of Worcester by a private collector.


Frauke Jung

Doctoral Research
Director of Studies: Dr Paddy McNally
Second and Third Supervisors: Prof Alan Downie (Goldsmiths College); Dr Maria Jesus Lorenzo Modia (University of A Coruña)

Making Nations: Englishness and Otherness in the Works of Daniel Defoe

Early modern notions of Englishness drew on a variety of definitional 'Others'. The political controversies of the late seventeenth century provide insights into why different concepts of Englishness were invoked, and which groups of 'others' were defined for exclusion or inclusion into an emerging, and much contested, national identity. Questions of 'Otherness' have been central to the discussion of British versus English, Irish, Scottish and Welsh identities.

Daniel Defoe (1660-1731) was a prolific writer during a period which saw an unprecedented rise in publishing activity (Downie, 1979), and during which national identities in Britain underwent significant changes. As one of the most vocal and influential occasional writers of his time, Defoe intervened in all the major public debates in print during his lifetime, commenting extensively on a range of social, economic, political and religious issues. Importantly, for my doctoral thesis, these debates frequently drew on the discourses of national identity, of Englishness and Otherness. Defoe's fame initially derived from a publication which challenged established notions of Englishness: his celebrated and contested verse satire, The True-Born Englishman  (1700/01), which ran to twenty-two editions in his lifetime.

My thesis is based on extensive contextual analysis of Defoe's texts and will analyse Defoe's own constructions of national identities and extend the established critical understanding of nationhood during Defoe's lifetime. In its analysis of interactions between regional, national and international parameters of Englishness (distinct from Britishness), and the the socio-religious and political identities which helped to negotiate and (re)define conflicting English identities, the research is informed broadly by post-colonial theory, and specifically by Homi Bhabha's concept of "cultural hybridity" (1994), by Benedict Anderson's model of "imagined communities" (1991) and by the theory of "boundary spaces" as developed by Stephen Clingman (2009). My study extends Bhabha's concept of hybridity by combining the image of boundary spaces - as physical and imagined spaces - with the imagery of the hybrid sphere(s) between cultures. Anderson points to the expanding print culture in the late seventeenth century as a basis for national consciousness.

Defoe's interventions in the highly-partisan print wars can thus be seen as a catalyst for creating an awareness of identities. A highly contextualised approach, based on Robert D Hume's archeo-historical method will, I propose, yield the most reliable understanding of Defoe's works. Conceptualising a hybrid space where cultural interaction takes place opens up innovative possibilities of re-locating and re-fashioning the sites and signs of cultural meaning, representation and identification.


Kristo Karvinen

Doctoral Research
Director of Studies: Dr Paddy McNally
Second Supervisor: Dr Nir Arielli (University of Leeds)

The impact and treatment of foreign volunteers in Finland during the Second World War, 1939-1944

My research is focused on exploring how the Finnish authorities treated the foreign war volunteers who came to Finland to fight for her between 1939 and 1944. My primary focus will be the military authorities and my secondary focus, civilian authorities. Additionally, I am exploring the impact that the volunteers had on the communities in which they lived and on the war effort.


Jane Kubiesa

Doctoral Research
Director of Studies: Dr Mikel Koven
Second and Third Supervisors: Prof Jean Webb; Dr Catherine Spooner (University of Lancaster)

Representations of the Abhuman in Multi-volume Vampire Fiction, 2000-2010

My research addresses the physical transmutability of the literary vampire. My research background is in Victorian and Gothic literature and my aim is to use this knowledge to investigate the body in transformation in contemporary multi-volume vampire fiction. I have been a journalist for more than ten years and I will be aiming to use aspects of this experience to bring a multi-disciplinary viewpoint to my studies as they relate to contemporary media.


Pippa Marland

Doctoral Research
Director of Studies: Dr John Parham
Second and Third Supervisors: Dr David Arnold; Prof Terry Gifford

From the ‘good step’ to the ‘emptiness within’: an ecocritical study of post-1960 literary constructions of ‘islandness’

My research project is a study of the Anglophone literature of four islands/island groups around the British and Irish archipelago – Aran (Araínn), Bardsey (Ynys Enlli), the Shiants, and the almost-island of Orford Ness – with a focus on non-fiction works by Tim Robinson, Brenda Chamberlain, Adam Nicolson, W. G. Sebald, and Robert Macfarlane, and also poetry by R. S. Thomas, Peter Riley and Christine Evans. The research looks at the place of the island in our cultural imagination and, in particular, explores the idea of the island as a heightened space for the negotiation of self and world. The thesis has an interdisciplinary base which includes the emergent field of island studies, formulations of place drawn from cultural geography, archipelagic perspectives in critical and creative writing, and, as an overarching framework, contemporary ecocritical theorisations of posthumanism.


Erin Peters

Doctoral Research
Director of Studies: Dr Paddy McNally
Second Supervisor: Dr Darren Oldridge

Constructing Cultural Memories: A Mnemohistorical Study of Print Culture in Restoration England, 1658-1666

My research explores printed pamphlets and ballads from the early Restoration years (1658-1666), examining the construction, transmission, maintenance and contestation of national pro-royalist cultural memories in England during this time. In particular, it analyzes the extent to which aspects of the past were remembered or forgotten, utilized and neglected, for the needs of pro-royalist groups in the present and how this can be identified in print sources of the time. The overriding goal is a specifically concentrated history of cultural memory production that will develop an explicit representation of this period in English history.


Kathryn Phillips

Doctoral Research
Director of Studies: Dr Darren Oldridge

The Whitechapel Murders and Degeneration: an investigation of biological and class anxiety

My research is examining the concept of degeneration, its perceived hereditary nature and its possible consequences for society in contemporary newspaper coverage of the 1888 Whitechapel Murders. I am investigating how contemporary literature depicted the East End as degenerate, even before the murders, and how newspapers then applied these discourses of degeneration in their narratives of the crimes.


Mel Shearsmith

Doctoral Research
Director of Studies: Dr Jane George
Second and Third Supervisors: Dr David Arnold; Prof Antonia Payne

Expanding Place: performance writing, video and documentation

My research will explore the gap between the live/recorded and the live/written as a potential area for translation (transformation), and as the site of a potential bridge between the body and language. This site-based investigation will employ Cliff McLucas’s concepts of ‘host’ and ‘ghost’ as a means of ‘stretching’ and ‘un-tethering’ the work from its host site. Practice-led experimentation will take place at Woodchester Mansion near Stroud.


Anna Stenning

Doctoral Research
Director of Studies: Dr David Arnold
Second and Third Supervisors: Dr John Parham; Prof Roger Ebbatson

‘What to Make of a Diminished Thing’: nature and place in the poetry of Edward Thomas and Robert Frost, 1912-1917

My doctoral research addresses the impact of the literary friendship between Edward Thomas and Robert Frost. It involves a timely re-evaluation of the prominence of nature and place in these poets’ thematic and formal developments, and a consideration of their shared philosophical inheritances. I have drawn on unpublished archival material, recent developments in cultural geography, and familiarity with one of the places that influenced their writing.


Sharon Young

Doctoral Research
Director of Studies: Dr David Arnold

My PhD research focuses on the role of women’s country house poetry in the articulation of social, political and national identities. Its major aims are (i) to chart the existence, location and modes of English women’s country house poetry, 1650-1750, (ii) to produce and extend the female landscape ‘canon’, (iii) to interrogate the formal and thematic characteristics of this body of verse, situating them both against and as an engagement with the larger, male-authored landscape canon, and (iv) to examine the texts with regard to the major socio-economic, political, and artistic discourses of the period.


Research students