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School of English and Drama

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Literary Theory, Aesthetics, and Philosophy

The Department of English has long been distinguished for its work in uniting literary history with innovative research in literary theory and philosophy.

We are one of the few UK English departments which has actively embraced continental philosophy, and where theoretically informed discussions of literature and aesthetics are at home alongside archival and historicist explorations of writing and material culture.

Staff in the department undertake research in politics, psychoanalysis, theories of subjectivity, narratology, time, feminist theory, and the history of science and technology. This research ranges in time period from Enlightenment studies through to considerations of the Contemporary.

The department has made significant contribution to understanding the relationships between literary, aesthetic, and political writing in the following areas:

Research Interests

Romanticism

Paul Hamilton and James Vigus focus on the connections between literary, aesthetic, and political writing in the Romantic period. Hamilton’s recent work looks at non-fictional uses of fiction in philosophy and political theory and at the aftermath of Romantic theory in 20th century philosophy. Vigus’s interests include the Romantic reception of German aesthetic philosophy.

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Modernism and contemporary writing

Research on the modern period includes Peter Howarth’s studies of theories of poetic form and their relations to democracy, sociology, and psychology. David James has examined the methodologies of ethical reading and the possibilities of literary experiment in contemporary fiction. Shahidha Bari’s work considers literary scholarship and contemporary political life, paying special attention to deconstruction and visual culture.

Andrew van der Vlies’s work on South African literature, art, and performance engages with theorizations of sexuality, affect, futurity, and ‘the commons’.

Jacqueline Rose has written extensively on the relations between psychoanalysis, literature, and political life, in conjunction with feminist and literary theory.

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Theories of subjectivity

Barbara Taylor combines Enlightenment studies with feminist theory and histories alongside theories and histories of subjectivity. Molly Macdonald’s work on intersubjectivity sits at the crossroads of modern literature, continental philosophy, and psychoanalysis. examines philosophical explorations of subjectivity.

Other colleagues extend these theoretical investigations into new territory. Katy Price works on literature as knowledge in relation to the history of science and technology; Suzanne Hobson focuses on secularism and religion; and Mark Currie investigates the theory of narrative, particularly temporal structures in narrative and fiction, along with unexpected events in fiction and in life.

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