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Modern Studies

Our Work:

The Department of English is widely recognised as among the best in the country for research in modern literature.

Researchers working in this area include internationally recognised names such as Jacqueline Rose, Michèle Barrett, and Clair Wills as well as a significant number of emerging scholars. The department has an excellent record of publication in this area and is especially strong in these areas:


Research Interests

Modernism

In recent years, staff have published books on the relations between modernist and non-modernist poetry, including the relationship between modernist form, masochism, and A. E. Housman's pornography collection (Peter Howarth); labour theory and modernism (Morag Shiach); religion and modernism (Suzanne Hobson); and the legacies of modernism (David James).

Other books have examined sound technology (Sam Halliday) and modernist travel writing (Suzanne Hobson). Katy Price has worked on the relations between literature and popular physics, as well as pre-cognitive dreams in literary contexts and popular print culture.

David James has published widely on the influence of modernist fiction on contemporary fiction. Peter Howarth’s current interests include the impact of modernism on the counterculture of the 1960s. Catherine Maxwell’s work on late Victorian literature makes an important contribution to the ‘long’ modernism suggested by these projects. Katherine Fleming takes an even longer look at classical drama and antiquity more generally within twentieth-century culture.

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Literary theory and philosophy

The department has particular strengths in the study of selfhood, gender and sexuality, and philosophical aesthetics. Molly Macdonald’s work on intersubjectivity sits at the crossroads of modern literature, continental philosophy, and psychoanalysis. Katherine Fleming is working on the place of Greece and Rome in the thinking of Theodor Adorno and Martin Heidegger.

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National, regional, and colonial literatures

Jacqueline Rose’s work on the contested history of Zionism and Israel-Palestine is internationally renowned. Rose’s book Proust Among the Nations makes an important link between the study of modernist literature and the study of nationhood.

Clair Wills is an expert on the cultural history of Ireland in the 20th century. Her major project on Irish immigration to the UK in the post-war period shares an interest in migration with Nadia Valman’s work on the literary history of the East End of London.

Other colleagues examine the modern period through colonial, post-colonial, and world literature perspectives. Andrew van der Vlies's work on print cultures has included studies of the international publication and reception of South African writing in the modern period. Bill Schwarz’s Memories of Empire project considers the memory traces of the British Empire in post-war politics and culture. With Rachael Gilmour, Schwarz co-edited a collection of essays on the legacy of the colonial novel.

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First World War studies

The Department of English has particular strengths in First World War studies. Michèle Barrett has worked extensively on the cultural legacies of the 1914-18 war. She has published widely on the conflict’s impact on and resonance in literature, society, and the visual arts.  Her work considers artistic representations of war trauma, particularly shell shock, in contemporary and modern representations of the First World War; the human cost of surviving the conflict; and the politics of its representation and commemoration. Her current research examines the ways in which received ideas of race and gender inflected the creation and policies of the Imperial, now Commonwealth, War Graves Commission, especially beyond the European battlefields.

Nadia Atia's work also focusses on the war outside Europe; her research examines the ways in which the conflict shaped Britain’s formal and informal relations with what would become the Iraqi state. She is particularly interested in the imperial, gender, and ‘racial’ dimensions of the First World War. Peter Howarth’s work reflects on war poetry and the problem of aesthetic form. His monograph British Poetry in the Age of Modernism (2006) includes an examination of Edward Thomas and Wilfred Owen. Most recently, he has contributed to the Cambridge Companion to First World War Literature (2013). 

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Collaboration

There is a strong commitment to strengthening the links between research and teaching among researchers in the modern period and several have published student guides. Peter Howarth is the author of The Cambridge Introduction to Modernist Poetry and co-editor of The Cambridge Companion to the Sonnet and Morag Shiach is the editor of The Cambridge Companion to the Modernist Novel. Researchers in the modern period have strong links with other institutions and associations dedicated to the study of modern literature. Clair Wills co-runs the Irish Studies Seminar and Suzanne Hobson, the London Modernism Seminar at the Institute of English Studies, Senate House. Queen Mary is co-host with the University of Sussex of the 2013 Modernist Studies Association Conference.

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