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So much more than the recording of an individual existence, Life Writing is a crucial genre for exploring the interconnection of public and private experience, and for negotiating the ethics and power relations involved in remembering and re-telling life stories from the past.
Our staff are actively engaged in writing biographies and life narratives, rewriting the stories of well-known figures and helping to give a voice to those who have been marginalised or neglected by history or in our contemporary world. Our work in this area has included writing the lives of figures as diverse as the Rossetti family, Franz Kafka, and the little-known nineteenth-century spiritualist Florence Marryat.
Our staff also have particular expertise in the literature of war. Current and future projects include a study of trauma narratives of World War I; of post-war practices of commemoration and reconciliation; and of the transnational 9/11 novel.
MA (Hons); PGCE (Secondary); MA; PhD
Department of English and Modern Languages
Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences
+44 (0)1865 483433
T4.17 (Tonge Building)
I am a Senior Lecturer in American Literature and also Director of the
Oxford Brookes Poetry Centre.
I studied for my undergraduate degree at the University of St. Andrews, and completed a PGCE in English at Oxford Brookes. After teaching at secondary level for a number of years, I returned to Brookes to do an MA in English and then a PhD about
the American modernist poet Hart Crane. My main area of research is twentieth-century American literature, particularly American modernist writings, but I have taught a wide range of courses about American, British, and European literature.
I am the Director of the
Oxford Brookes Poetry Centre, which conducts research into poetry, runs an international poetry competition, a new poetry pamphlet press called
ignitionpress, poetry workshops for military veterans, and organizes poetry projects in the community, including a
initiative that I edit. In addition to the website, the Poetry Centre posts details of its news and events on
Facebook, Twitter, and
In 2014, I was one of the founding members of the
Hart Crane Society, which seeks to encourage scholarly work about the American modernist poet Hart Crane (1899-1932), and also promote a general understanding of the work of Crane. The Society can be found on
I mainly work in the field of American literature, especially modernist writings. My recent research focusses on the literary memory of the American Civil War and this is the subject of my current book project, ‘Our only “felt history”’: American
modernism and the Civil War'. This focus on commemoration, developed through a recent research project, Post-War: Commemoration, Reconstruction, Reconcilation (see below), has led to a broader concern with how writing, especially poetry, is used to
commemorate, and how memorials or monuments are co-opted by different groups.
I also have a particular interest in the poetry of Hart Crane (the subject of my first monograph:
Hart Crane's Queer Modernist Aesthetic). Other interests include American writing of the Depression-era, contemporary American and British poetry, and American urban writing.
Together with Professor Kate McLoughlin (University of Oxford), I successfully bid for funds from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to run an international seminar series entitled Post-War: Commemoration, Reconstruction, Reconciliation (funded by
the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation in memory of John E. Sawyer). The Series was convened by Professor McLoughlin, me, and Dr Catherine Gilbert.
The Series was divided into three strands: Textual Commemoration (October-December 2017), Monumental Commemoration (January-March 2018) and Aural Commemoration (April-June 2018), and brought together academics from many different fields,
politicians, people who have played a role in peace negotiations and leading figures from cultural policy and the charitable sector. They were be joined by novelists, poets, artists and musicians whose work has marked war in some way. Featured
speakers include author
Aminatta Forna, architect
Jonathan Dove. The website for the series is
here, and you can view the full programme
here. Essays, interviews, images and poetry from the Series have been collected in a volume edited by me, Professor Kate McLoughlin, and Dr Catherine Gilbert: On Commemoration: Global Perspectives on Remembering War
(Oxford: Peter Lang, 2020).
In 2013, 2015, and 2019, I won the
Nigel Messenger Award for Outstanding Contribution to English Teaching, the winner of which is chosen by students. In 2013, I was Longlisted for a Students'
Union Teaching Award, whilst in 2014 I was shortlisted in the category of 'Best Academic Adviser' in the Brookes Union Teaching Awards. I was also Longlisted for the
Brookes People Awards
in 2015, and won a
Brookes People Award
in the category of 'Confidence' in 2016.
In 2015 I was awarded a month-long Harry Ransom Center Fellowship, supported by the Fred W. Todd Southern Literature Endowment Fund. During the summer of 2015 I worked in the archives at the University of Texas at Austin on my book 'Our only
"felt" history': American modernism and the Civil War (see below for more details about the project).
My current research explores the links between memory and literature and specifically the ways in which American modernist writers 'remembered' their Civil War.
‘Our only “felt history”’: American modernism and the Civil War': a monograph which examines the representation of the American Civil War by literary modernists in the period 1891-1944, a highly significant time for the formation of
a collective memory about the War and the popularisation of long-standing narratives about it, such as the South’s ‘Lost Cause’. The book will consider writers’ presentations of national and racial identity, the continuing social and political
tensions between North and South, the varied treatment of the War by writers from different states, and the effect of historically-important staged reconciliations such as the 1913 Gettysburg reunion. As well as examining literary modernism’s
presentation of such history and myth-making, the book will intervene in current debates about collective and cultural memories. Adopting a literary-historical approach, ‘Our only “felt history”’ argues that the Civil War’s effect on the forging of
national memory and the development of the politics of national identity within modernist literature are far more significant than have hitherto been recognised. The study will also evaluate the tension created between the representation of a
national crisis (and also of more local, state-specific concerns) and the awareness of an international crisis – given the backdrop of one World War and the coming of another. The book, which will draw upon studies about World War One memory, will
explore how this tension caused some authors to create works which demonstrated that the Civil War, too, had worldwide ramifications. Through close readings of the literary texts, detailed cross-referencing to the authors’ own historical sources,
integration of recent historical scholarship about the War and memory studies, and extensive archival research, the book will re-assess canonical texts and recover neglected ones, and provide an understanding of what it meant to ‘remember’ the Civil
War during the modernist period.
On Commemoration: Global Perspectives on Remembering War
(Oxford: Peter Lang, 2020)
War has been commemorated since ancient times. The recent First World War centenaries are proof that remembering conflict continues to produce strong feelings among people of all walks of life. But how, in the twenty-first century, can we do
commemoration better? In particular, how can commemoration contribute to post-war reconciliation and reconstruction? In this book, a global roster of distinguished individuals – poets, an international human rights advocate, musicians, policy-makers,
novelists, academics, a sculptor, a world-renowned architect, members of different faiths, composers, a Pulitzer prize-winning journalist and military veterans – debate these questions and ponder the future of commemoration. The book focuses on three
modes of commemoration: Textual Commemoration – commemoration in writing and images; Monumental Commemoration – monuments, architecture, museums, sculptures, battlefields and sites of mourning; Aural Commemoration – music, sound and silence. Polemics
and reflections together with poetry and creative prose movingly illuminate a subject that is sensitive and sobering but which also speaks to our common humanity.
Hart Crane's Queer Modernist Aesthetic (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015)
Ranging across Crane's published and unpublished work, the book offers a sustained reading of a queer modernist in context. Although there has been considerable attention paid in recent years to the study of lesbian or ‘Sapphic’ modernism,
including authors such as Hilda Doolittle, Virginia Woolf, and Dorothy Richardson, comparatively little attention has been paid to gay male writers of the modernist period. This book shows how, by treating the visual, spatial, temporal, and material
dimensions of Crane’s work (areas which the modernists sought to interrogate) in terms of queer theory, it is possible to see how Crane created an alternative form of literary modernism. This was a form which consciously resisted prominent modernist
figures such as T.S. Eliot and Ezra Pound. Queerness, the book shows, offers a theoretical and intellectual engagement with modernism that goes beyond mere representation of same-sex sexuality in the text to investigate stylistic choices and cultural
backgrounds. To read modernist texts as queer is to acknowledge the problematics of modernist writing whilst sometimes endorsing and sometimes challenging modernist formulations.
For more details, visit the
Palgrave Macmillan website.
On Wednesday 10 February 2016, as part of
LGBT History Month, I gave a public lecture based on my research, entitled 'Of Ouija boards and the fourth dimension: queer American poetry and the world beyond'. The lecture was recorded and is available
On 21 February 2016, I appeared with Professor Langdon Hammer of Yale University on the Dan Schneider Video Series in an extensive discussion of Hart Crane's life and work. The video is available to view via
In recent times I have also spoken about my research at:
I have organized/co-organized several conferences in recent years, including:
I frequently publicise my work via
I also run the
Facebook, Twitter, and
Instagram pages for the Oxford Brookes Poetry Centre.