English Literature research projects
Staff in the English Literature group are engaged in a wide range of current projects. You can get a flavour of some of these here:
First World War Theatre
Dr Andrew Maunder is a member of the Everyday Lives in War centre, one of five First World War engagement centres funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. He is currently co-ordinator of the World War I Theatre Project which has revived some of the lost plays of 1914-18 via professional theatre productions at different locations across the country, but also gives students an opportunity not only to learn about the process of researching, staging and performing war-time drama, but gives them an insight into many of the forgotten concerns of the Home Front. Andrew’s specialism within the Centre is the history of war-time theatre and popular entertainment more generally. His work in this field is wide ranging, covering plays and revues from 1914-18, modern re-tellings, as well as other forms of war-time writing: fiction, short stories and poetry.
Read more about Andrew’s work on First World War Theatre here.
Open Graves, Open Minds
Dr Sam George convenes the Open Graves, Open Minds project, which relates the undead in literature, art, and other media to questions concerning gender, technology, consumption, and social change. It seeks to give prominence to the voices of contemporary writers who are contributing to Bram Stoker’s legacy by resurrecting the Dracula myth in inventive new ways.
Arab dramatists have been translating and adapting Shakespeare’s plays for over a century, but there has been no substantial body of critical work on the topic, and little public awareness of its existence.
Led by Professor Graham Holderness, this work on Arab Shakespeare has led to the emergence of such a body of work, and to a raised international and media profile for the topic.
Our research has focused on the work of Kuwaiti dramatist Sulayman-Al-Bassam, as well as covering a wider field of Arab theatre work. Our project is developing a new area of Shakespeare studies both within and beyond the academy.
The Wicked Lady
Dr Rowland Hughes has edited a new edition of the novel Life and Death of the Wicked Lady Skelton, by Magdalen King-Hall (University of Hertfordshire Press, 2016). First published in 1944, it’s a historical novel set in late-seventeenth-century England. It tells the story of Barbara Skelton, a well-born young woman trapped in a loveless marriage, who finds escape from the tedium of her life by leading a double life as a highway robber. King-Hall's novel was quickly adapted into the classic British film The Wicked Lady, produced by Gainsborough Studios in 1945, starring Margaret Lockwood, Patricia Roc and James Mason.
In his critical introduction to this new edition, Rowland relates the novel to the legend of Katherine Ferrers, who reputedly terrorised the highways of the county of Hertfordshire during the 1650s, and to the popularity of women's historical fiction in the 1940s. He explains the success of both novel and film by considering how a story of female empowerment, sexual promiscuity and cross-dressing spoke powerfully to a contemporary audience just emerging from the Second World War.
Dying in Public: Faith's Response to Death in the Age of Global Media
Through direct engagement and interviews with faith leaders, ministers and the media, Dr Penny Pritchard is facilitating a wider conversation concerning the changing cultural role of faith in the twenty-first century. Her aim is to contribute to the improved training offered by different faiths to clergy and other celebrants of funeral rites in their liaison with the media.
This project examines the challenges faced by multi-faith celebrants of high-profile funerals marked by trauma and heightened media scrutiny, both in representing their faith and the character of the deceased. When violent or traumatic death captures the public's attention, a presiding minister or priest can be called at a moment’s notice to act as spokesperson, not only for their faith, but on behalf of a much wider community – of many faiths or none at all - to meet the public demands of global broadcasting and social media.
In this context, the media inevitably broadcasts partial or heavily-edited versions of sermons and funeral rites offered in commemoration of the dead; in the face of violent or newsworthy death, are clergy sufficiently prepared to articulate their faith's calls for tolerance and peace to a global audience primed for hatred and division?
Acting Up: Victorian Actresses Crossing Boundaries and Borders
Dr Janice Norwood is researching the lives and experiences of five nineteenth-century English actresses whose histories throw interesting light on Victorian society and the role of women. Now largely forgotten, these performers all achieved a significant level of fame and success. Their histories chart diverse career trajectories, with some combining acting with family responsibilities, some managing their own theatres or dramatic companies, and all carrying out extensive tours of Britain and America.
As part of the Sparks Might Fly initiative Janice is collaborating with dancer Julia Cheng to create a performance based on this research and that reveals its connection to twenty-first century life.