Research and scholarship
Arnold Bennett occupies a somewhat anomalous position as an Edwardian realist in a period dominated by modernist aesthetics, and critics of his fiction have tended to adopt an exclusively formalist approach in order to emphasise the experimental nature of his writings and to redeem, perhaps, their value for modernist aesthetics. This tendency is evident in the traditional attention to his realism in the work of Louis Tillier and Walter F. Wright, in John Lucas’s more structuralist but unabashedly evaluative approach, and even in Robert Squillace’s efforts to reclaim Bennett for modernist experimentation and innovation. Bennett’s novels have also received attention as evidence of topographical ‘snapshots’ of the Potteries in their heyday, an ‘old historicist’ approach that uses literature as an index of historical experience, supporting the perception of Bennett as a ‘historian’, whose novels ‘[record] in accurate detail the life of the Potteries’. As such, Bennett’s novels are measured by their contribution to the ‘preservation’ of late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century scenes which are ‘rapidly disappearing’ (E. J. D. Warrilow, 1996). My thesis will complement a formalist approach with a new historicist and cultural materialist methodology in order to approach Bennett on his own terms – as a writer for whom material culture counts for more than formal aesthetics. By attending to Bennett’s formal choices in the presentation of material space and items, I contend that his novels advance techniques for characterisation in relation to lived environments and reflect on social attitudes to gender, class and both national and international politics; for these reasons, I validate his much-vaunted realism as neither mere slavish homage to nineteenth-century naturalism nor as antiquarian homage to the Five Towns, but rather as a formal choice responding to and helping to shape social changes.
Between October 2014 and May 2017 I worked within the Humanities Department as a Graduate Teaching Assistant and I am currently employed as a sessional tutor. I have both lectured and led seminars in the following modules:
‘Romanticisms’ (September 2014 – January 2015; January – May 2017; January 2018 – May 2018);
‘Victorian Performances’ (January – May 2015; January – May 2016; September 2016 – January 2017; October 2017 – January 2018).