Wednesday 30 April 2014
Over the last few months, staff in the School of English and Drama have enjoyed an unprecedented level of success in funded research awards.
Nine staff members have won ten research awards, totalling nearly £800,000 in research funds to the School. Funders include the British Academy, the Leverhulme Trust, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Guggenheim Foundation, as well as the AHRC. The research awards all fund time for major research projects, as described below. It also leads to an excellent opportunity for early career researchers, as the funding will support at least eight new appointments to fixed-term lectureships in English and Drama — in itself a major contribution to the renewal of the disciplines.
Andrea Brady (English), Leverhulme Research Fellowship (£42,742)
‘Poetry and Bondage: The Literary History of Constraint’
This project will explore how poets from Tudor times through the present have represented what Coventry Patmore called ‘the bonds of verse’. From Wyatt’s invocation of the music of the ‘clynkinge of fetters’ through Milton’s deliverance of poets from the ‘modern bondage of rhyming’ and Blake’s rallying cry against blank verse (‘Poetry Fetter’d, Fetters the Human Race!’) to Lawrence’s admiration for Whitman’s free verse as ‘a wind that is forever in passage, and unchainable’, poets have depicted prosody as constraining poetic expression. Many refer to prosody as ‘fetters’, a word derived from ‘feet’, which are also the basic unit of metre. This trope suggests that poets, while choosing particular metrical or sonic forms, are keen for readers to recognise these conventions as punitive devices which prevent the poet from accessing his or her full range of imaginative movement.
Nadia Davids (Drama), Philip Leverhulme Prize (£70,000)
Dr David has been awarded a Philip Leverhulme Prize, which recognize the achievement of early career researchers whose work has already attracted international recognition and whose future career is exceptionally promising. As a London-based South African academic and a theatre-practitioner her research is located at an intersection between theory and practice, and is invested in brokering productive local and global dialogues. She works across a range of forms: theatre, novels, short-stories film and journal/newspaper articles. While each output is distinct, they are governed by similar themes around cultural memory, socio-political/racial-religious identities, and global citizenship. Her future work—a theatre production and an academic book—will focus on a recently discovered slave burial ground in Cape Town and will rotate around questions of slave memory and the (re)invention of the postcolonial city through forgetting.
Peter Howarth (English), Leverhulme Research Fellowship (£44,994)
‘The Rise of Performance Poetry, 1930-1960’
How did reading live change what modern poets wrote? Using forgotten archival recordings I have rediscovered, this research will examine how the nascent mid-century reading circuit rapidly moved from publicity opportunity to creative resource for the first generation of modernist poets (Auden, Moore, Williams, Thomas and Frost). Rapid feedback from the audience produced drastic revision of older work, while new poems become participative events which involve their socio-cultural context in the poems’ ongoing life. Performance alters what poetic 'form' means, and tunes poets' attention towards the feedback loops of modern life: environmentalism, celebrity, social ritual and participative democracy.
David James (English), Philip Leverhulme Prize (£70,000)
Dr James has been awarded a Philip Leverhulme Prize, which recognize the achievement of early career researchers whose work has already attracted international recognition and whose future career is exceptionally promising. Over this period of leave, Dr James aims to complete the manuscript for a scholarly collection Modernism and the Ethics of Close Reading, co-edited with Jim Hansen (University of Illinois), which has a cast of internationally renowned contributors including Derek Attridge, Jean-Michel Rabaté and Max Saunders. He will also make substantive progress on his next monograph, Consolation and the Novel in an Age of Terror.
Dominic Johnson (Drama), AHRC Early Career Fellowship (£175,767)
‘Hardship Art: Pain and Performance Art, 1990 to the present’
Works of art and performance that privilege hardship, extremity, pain and wounding may sometimes seem unbearable, unwarranted, or unintelligible, for straying too far beyond a certain aesthetic limit. I propose to undertake a series of research-based activities on the theme of hardship art after 1990. These activities will include two strands: firstly, the completion of the typescript for a sole-authored publication (under contract); and public engagement activities in London and Los Angeles, Some events will take place during a period as AHRC Visiting Professor at University of California, Riverside, lasting one month.
Catherine Maxwell (English), Leverhulme Trust Major Research Fellowship (£105,812)
‘Scents and Sensibility: Perfume in Victorian Literary Culture’
This interdisciplinary project is a major reconceptualization of the imagination that reinstates its hidden links with the historically neglected sense of smell. The resulting monograph will examine the role played by perfume in Victorian literary culture with a particular focus on the aesthetic and decadent texts where fragrance is most strongly indicated. Perfume-associated ideas of imaginative influence and identity are central to this project, which will note important anticipations in Romantic poetry and prose, and earlier Victorian poetry and fiction. Throughout literary analysis will be informed by extensive reference to the hitherto neglected historical and cultural context of Victorian perfume.
Matthew Rubery (English), British Academy Mid-Career Fellowship (£86,234) and National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship (£33,282)
‘The Untold Story of the Talking Book’
‘The Untold Story of the Talking Book’ will be the first monograph to examine the history of recorded literature since Thomas Edison’s invention of the phonograph in 1877. This project traces the tradition from Edison’s phonographic books made on wax cylinders to talking books made for blinded soldiers returning from the First World War and, much later, the commercial audiobooks with which we are familiar today. Addressing the vexed relationship between orality and print, this project contends that the talking book developed both as a way of reproducing the printed book and as a way of overcoming its limitations. Hence, a series of conceptual questions: What is the relationship between spoken and printed texts? What methods of ‘close listening’ are appropriate to auditory literature? What new formal possibilities are opened up by sound-recording technology?
Nadia Valman (English), British Academy Mid-Career Fellowship (£83,347)
‘The Literary East End’
Since the late nineteenth century, the East End of London has functioned as a symbolic site for the contestation of key national questions, including social mobility, immigration, poverty and regeneration. This project is the first to examine the broad array of cultural texts - novels, journalism, tracts, government reports, memoirs, maps, public memorials and site-specific art - in which the East End’s meanings have accumulated and multiplied. In my monograph, ‘The Literary East End’, I identify the distinct, competing social narratives that have shaped interpretation of the spaces, subcultures and stories of the East End, and their development in response to a changing political and material landscape. Research conducted will be communicated to an academic readership through publication of the monograph and a scholarly article, and to the public through a guided walk for a local community group, a series of downloadable audiowalks on East End cultural history and a launch event at an East End arts centre.
Lois Weaver (Drama), John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship (US$52,000)
Guggenheim fellowships are given to those who have ‘demonstrated exceptional capacity for productive scholarship or exceptional creative ability in the arts.’ Lois Weaver’s award will allow her to devote 10 months to play-writing.