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English Literature and Culture

Staff & Student Research

Research in the Department covers broad areas of English literature from medieval times to the present. Our staff members run or participate in a number of international research projects, including the Hakluyt Editorial Project and 'Heroes, What Heroes?', both of which address encounters with the New World and the inevitable conflict of worldviews that this entailed.

The department can supervise a broad range of literature dissertations dealing with texts written on topics from Old English, Middle English, Early Modern, and Modern literature. Dissertations can focus on literatures written in English from various parts of the world, including, for example, American and African writing. Dissertations dealing with recent authors, canonical authors, popular authors and lesser-known works are equally welcome. While dissertations that deal with the themes of conflict and co-operation are particularly welcome, students have a free choice of dissertation subjects within the areas of staff expertise.

Dissertations may be supervised by any appropriate member of staff. The following list indicates some of the areas in which dissertations can be written.

Dr Kees Dekker: Old English literature and language; Middle English literature and language; history of the English language; textual editing; manuscript studies.

Dr John Flood: Renaissance/Early-Modern literature; Romantic and Victorian literature; Christianity and literature; modern Irish literature; science-fiction; J.R.R. Tolkien; literature and war (especially World War I); twentieth-century British, Irish and American poetry; history of the book; textual editing; philosophy and literature.

Dr Corey Gibson: Scottish literature (eighteenth century to the present); Marxist literary theory; working-class literature; political ideology and literature; the vernacular; modernism; fairy tales; ballads and folklore; prison literature; postmodern literatures; conceptions of authorship; the historical novel; nationalism and literature; Cold War literature.

Dr Ann Hoag: women’s writing; travel literature; contemporary American fiction; Modernism.

Dr Hans Jansen: Shakespeare, English drama; language acquisition; history of the English language; translation.

Prof. Richard Lansdown: Nineteenth-century English Literature, Romanticism, Lord Byron, Jane Austen, William Wordsworth, John Ruskin, Western Ideas of the Pacific, Literary Criticism and Theory, History of Ideas.

Dr Tekla Mecsnober: modernist writing (especially James Joyce, modernist magazines and experiments with language); eighteenth- and nineteenth-century British fiction; Gerard Manley Hopkins; Victorian poetry.

Dr Karin Olsen: Anglo-Saxon literature and culture; comparative studies in Anglo-Saxon, Old Norse and early Irish literature and culture; Middle English literature. 

Prof. Sebastian Sobecki: Middle English and early Tudor literature; law, politics, and multilingualism; textual and manuscript studies; maritime literature; digital humanities.

Dr Irene Visser: postcolonial literature and theory; American literature; contemporary literature; young adult fiction; dystopian and post-apocalyptic fiction; trauma theory and trauma fiction; post-9/11 literature; Maori Literature; Chicano Literature; South African literature; William Faulkner.

Dr Kees de Vries: nineteenth-century literature; Oscar Wilde; humour and literature; music and literature; literary theory.

For general information about the research in the department see the Research Page and the People page of the Department of English Language and Culture.

Here are some sample topics of students' MA dissertations:

 Medieval

  • How an Adder Became an Arrow: Battle Kennings in Old English Poetry.
  • The Sin of Crime in the Early Irish and Anglo-Saxon Penitentials and Secular Laws.
  • The Devil is in the Details: The Use of Archery-related Language in Anglo-Saxon Literature.
  • Thomas Hoccleve and His Creation of a Mad Narrator.
  • The Representation of Turks in Late-Medieval and Early Modern Europe.
  • Homosexuality in Late Medieval English Literature: Langland, Chaucer, Gower, and the Gawain Poet.
  • Saints, Satan and Stylistics: Stylistic Features in Medieval Miracle Plays.
  • Melancholy in Chaucer’s Knight’s Tale and The Book of the Duchess’.

 Sixteenth to Nineteenth Centuries

  • The Mother's Portrayal in Sixteenth- and Seventeenth-Century English Popular Literature.
  • Representations of Queen Elizabeth I in Seventeenth-Century Histories.
  • Self-Reflection in Jane Austen’s Novels.
  • The Symbolic-allegorical and the Supernatural Interpretations of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.
  • Governesses in Victorian Fiction.
  • Wilde's Utopia: Socio-Political Criticism in the Fairy Tales of Oscar Wilde.
  • Changing Attitudes towards Imperialism and Its Ideology During the Age of New Imperialism.
  • Identity and Place in Henry James's The Portrait of a Lady.

 Twentieth Century and Contemporary

  • Psychological Elements in Contemporary and Modern First World War Literature.
  • Fantasy Fiction Medievalism: Carnivalesque Laughter between the (Post)Modern and Premodern.
  • The Media of Cyberpunk: An Analysis of Postmodern Science Fiction.
  • Religion and Secularisation in Modernist Novels.
  • Mirrors and mirroring in Katherine Mansfield and Jean Rhys.
  • Polarization and Demonization in British Cold War Fiction.
  • The Observer in Edith Wharton’s The Age of Innocence.
  • Travel as a Metaphor for Story and History in Tolkien’s Fiction.
  • Fairy Tales for Teenagers: The Lost Potential of Young Adult Dystopian Fiction.
  • Conventions in Edward Albee's Plays.
  • Poirot in the Orient: Race, Nationality and Orientalism in Agatha Christie.
  • Language as a Means of Control in Dystopian Fiction.
  • Equality and Identity in the Poems of Langston Hughes.
  • Representations of Madness in Contemporary Women's Memoirs.
  • Literature and Literary Meaning.
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