English literature and creative writing

The REF 2014 graded 71% of our research as internationally excellent and world-leading in quality. English at Keele achieved 90% for an internationally excellent research environment. We have a vibrant and active research culture at Keele, and we welcome postgraduates who are seeking expert supervision.

Early modern studies in English at Keele brings together staff members with research and teaching expertise from the medieval period to the Restoration. We are an inter-disciplinary community, with strong connections to early modern research in History and a regular programme of early modern research seminars.

Between us we have a wide range of interests in early modern literature, society and culture, with particular strengths in utopian fiction (Professor Susan Bruce), feminism and women’s writing (Professor Bruce and Dr Rachel Adcock), seventeenth-century dissenting communities (Dr Adcock), the history of the book and textual editing (Dr Nicholas Seager), Shakespeare, stage satire, and Renaissance drama in both original and modern performance (Dr Rebecca Yearling).

Eighteenth-century and Romantic-period literature at Keele includes faculty with specialisms in fiction, biography, poetry, and drama.  Dr Nicholas Seager is currently working on editions of Defoe, and Johnson; his other research interests include the origins and development of the novel from Defoe to Austen. Jonathon Shears's research expertise include the Romantic poetic tradition, the life and works of Lord Byron; he is currently writing a collection of essays on Byron's temperament and also edits The Byron Journal.  Emeritus Professor McLaverty’s chief interests and expertise are in Pope, Swift, Johnson and the theory of textual criticism. Textual editing is a strength in this period.

Jonathon Shears’s major areas of research interest include material culture and thing theory and the representation of alcohol in literature and film. He is currently writing a monograph on hangovers, editing a sourcebook on The Great Exhibition, and would welcome proposals for PhDs in any area of his research specialisms.  works on Victorian life writing; he is the editor in chief of the journal Literature Compass (Wiley). He also works at the interface between literary studies and critical gerontology, collaborating with social scientists at Keele and beyond, in particular on the theme of late-life creativity. He would welcome proposals for PhDs in any of these areas.   works on Victorian poetry, particularly Pre-Raphaelite verse; her research is grounded in the field of and literature and science. Her current research focus is the interdisciplinary nineteenth-century museum. 

Postcolonial and World Literature at Keele brings together scholars concerned with research and teaching expertise in Anglophone and Francophone literatures. Dr Mariangela Palladino works on migrant literature, diaspora narratives and contemporary Afro-European literature. She has also written on Italian postcolonial cinema, South-African post-Apartheid fiction and African American novels. Her current works explore the postcolonial Mediterraneaan.

Dr Nick Bentley has research interests in postcolonialism in the context of contemporary British literature; in particular Black and Asian British fiction, and ethnicity in youth subcultures. He has published work on Monica Ali, Hanif Kureishi, Gautum Malkani, Courttia Newland, Sam Selvon, and Zadie Smith. Dr Ceri Morgan is an expert of Anglophone and Francophone Québécois and Canadian literature; her work is concerned with literary geographies, sexualities, exurban space and it also includes innovative participatory methodologies.

American Literature and Culture at Keele constitutes a major international centre for research into Trans-Atlantic culture from Modernism to the present. 

Professor Ian Bell works on Ezra Pound; Henry James; the intellectual history of Modernist aesthetics; American notions of artistry; and relations between history, fiction, and commercial forms.

Professsor Oliver Harris’s research focuses on William Burroughs, Beat Generation writing, and the American counterculture; he is President of the European Beat Studies Network. 

Dr Timothy Lustig works on Henry James and on diseases and disorders in contemporary American fiction.

Dr James Peacock’s research includes contemporary American fiction (particularly Paul Auster and Jonathan Lethem); the relationship between Quakerism and American literature 1780-1900; transatlantic literary relations; and Edward Hopper. 

 researches African American fiction; she is working on a monograph which investigates the relationship between ethics and aesthetics in Toni Morrison’s novels.

Dr Ceri Morgan works on literary geographies in the francophone Québécois and Canadian novel, and, more recently, in the anglophone Québécois and Canadian novel.

Research in Creative Writing is currently moving in new and exciting directions. , a poet, and novelist  (all award-winning writers) are energetic leaders of the Creative Writing team and have established an MA in Creative Writing. Creative Writing is thus an area of research in its own right. An important goal is to establish a Centre for Contemporary Writing, based on interests shared between creative writers and critics.

Professor Susan Bruce’s research in the field of medical humanities focuses on the representation of National Health Service in contemporary fiction and screen studies. Professor David Amigoni is presently researching Victorian scientific lives in the context of the literature and science field. His work explore the lives of the Darwin, Huxley and Bateson families across three generations and is writing a book organised around the entangled ideas of biological and cultural inheritance, intellectual and emotional leadership, and the environment.

Dr Timothy Lustig and Dr James Peacock are co-editors of a collection of essays on diseases and disorders  in contemporary fiction.  Dr Jonathon Shears is currently writing a monograph on hangovers.  Dr Nick Bentley has published on the representation of mental illness in contemporary fiction.

Funded projects and collaborations

Members of staff in English have been successful in securing funding for a variety of research projects - ranging from small scale studies, to major multidisciplinary and collaborative projects.

Dr Nicholas Seager has been awarded an AHRC fellowship worth c.£215,000 (t.b.c.) to produce a new edition (co-edited with Andreas Mueller, University of Northern Colorado) of the correspondence of Daniel Defoe (c.1660-1731). The edition will be published by Cambridge University Press. Defoe, most famous now as a novelist, was also a journalist, spy and political agent. He played an important role writing for the governments of Queen Anne and George I, meaning he contributed to the development of the periodical press and a national distribution network for news, and established himself as one of the era's most percipient commentators on public events from the Glorious Revolution and debates about toleration of dissenters to the Act of Union and Hanoverian Succession. The project also involves public engagement events in conjunction with the Samuel Johnson Birthplace Museum in Lichfield; training workshops on book history and bibliography for early career researchers; and a series of documentary podcasts on Defoe's political career.

Arts for Advocacy: Creative Engagement with Forced Displacement in Morocco

This 18-months project is led by Dr Laura Jeffery (University of Edinburgh) with Dr Mariangela Palladino (University of Keele) in collaboration with established partners in Morocco. This ESRC-AHRC-funded project GCRF seeks to develop innovative, interdisciplinary, and participatory arts-based methods to facilitate critical engagement and advocacy relating to forced displacement in Morocco. By fostering critical and creative engagement with migratory issues, the project aims to generate fresh empirical insights for the enhancement of both research and advocacy in Morocco. [ESRC-AHRC (GCRF), ES/P004598/1 - £ 300,000]

Responding to Crisis: Forced Migration and the Humanities in the Twenty-First Century (AHRC Networking Grant)

Dr Mariangela Palladino is the Principal Investigator of this international project in partnership with Royal Holloway London (Co-I Dr Agnes Woolley), and the universities of Glasgow (UK) and Naples “L’Orientale” (Italy). The project’s focus is on the migratory paths across the Mediterranean – Amnesty International reports that 23,000 people are believed to have lost their lives trying to reach Europe since 2000. This  project’s  key  objective is  to  enhance  the  capacity  of  the  humanities  to intervene: the humanities are central to an exploration of social and cultural knowledge about contemporary migration and its effects. Starting in April 2016, and over a period of 18 months, Dr Palladino and the team will hold three international workshops (Keele, London, Naples) which will bring together artists, filmmakers and poets, practitioners, and scholars. A series of creative events (arts exhibitions, poetry readings, film screenings, a school poetry competition) open to the public will also be hosted throughout the project. The aim is to develop activist and interventionist models of the arts and humanities and provide ‘contact zones’ between creative, theoretical, academic, and activist responses to this unfolding crisis.

Professor Scott McCracken has received a British Academy Small Research Grant to fund a Research Assistant to work with him on the Collected Letters of the influential modernist writer Dorothy Richardson.

Former member of staff, Professor Scott McCracken wass PI for the Richardson Editions Project which was funded by an AHRC major standard grant.

Dr James Peacock, Senior Lecturer in English and American Literatures, has been awarded a prestigious AHRC Fellowship for his research project, “Brooklyn Fictions: the Contemporary Urban Community in a Global Age.”

 and Lucy Munro are co-investigators on a major interdisciplinary project entitled ‘Ages and stages: the place of theatre in representations and recollections of ageing’, and led by Professor Miriam Bernard of Keele’s Centre for Social Gerontology. We are working in partnership with the New Victoria Theatre, Newcastle-under-Lyme - originally Peter Cheeseman's famous Victoria Theatre, Stoke-on-Trent (on which the project's archival reserach is to be based). The project is funded under the New Dynamics of Ageing cross-council research programme.

The Ages and Stages research team has been awarded a 12 month Follow-on Funding grant by the Arts & Humanities Research Council to the value of £114,579.

The additional financial support will enable the team to develop the research-led learning from the initial project and continue the collaborative work between the University and the New Vic Theatre.

The Northern Modernism Seminar is organised jointly by the English departments of Keele, De Montfort and Manchester Universities.

The David Bruce Centre, founded with an endowment of £400,000, supports interdisciplinary work in American Studies.