UoA 57: English Language and Literature

UCL was the first university in England to teach English literature as a degree-level subject: the current Department maintains a strong commitment to teaching and research.  Since the 2001 Research Assessment Exercise Category A staff in the Department have produced 17 single-authored monographs, four major editions (one of them electronic), twelve other editions, six edited collections of essays, over 90 chapters in books, nearly 60 articles in refereed journals (three online), three translations, a volume of poems, an autobiographical memoir, four substantial and many shorter contributions to the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, and a considerable number of review articles, reviews, and pieces of journalism through which research has been widely disseminated. The Department has received around £527,000 in research income and will get about £818,000 in future grants; 27 PhDs have been awarded.

There are currently twenty-four research-active staff in the Department. The Department’s research interests cover the entire range of the subject as it has developed in the past few years: their breadth, historical range, and diversity allow us to make a distinctive contribution to international research and to research training.  A simple chronological account suggests strengths in all periods: Old English (Irvine, North), Middle English (Butterfield, Corrie), the Renaissance (Hackett, Laoutaris, Weis, Woudhuysen), the Restoration and eighteenth century (Davis, Mullan), the Romantics and nineteenth century (Ashton, Beaumont, Dart, Mitchell, Sutherland, Swaab), earlier twentieth century (Bowlby, Horne, Karlin, Stevens, Thurschwell, Trotter), and contemporary writing (Boddy, Ford).  The Department has a significant commitment to language studies, especially syntax (Aarts) and corpus linguistics (Nelson, Wallis), and houses the Survey of English Usage (SEU), an independent research unit.  Our interest in theory of various kinds, especially psychoanalysis (Bowlby, Thurschwell, Trotter) and Marxism (Beaumont), is strong.  We understand English literature to include US writing (Boddy, Ford, Rennie), as well as film (Grieveson, Horne, Swaab).

Most of the themes identified in RAE 2001 remain important features of the Department’s activities.  Thus intellectual and critical biography constitutes a central part of our concerns with, for example, Weis’s life of Shakespeare, Ashton’s accounts of the Carlyles and of the publisher John Chapman at 142 Strand, and Sutherland’s life of Stephen Spender, but also in relation to such large-scale collaborative projects as the ODNB, for which three members (Mitchell, Mullan, Sutherland) acted as Consultant or Associate editors, and to which ten colleagues contributed a number of longer and shorter entries.  Editing and book history remain significant areas of activity and span period divisions: Irvine has produced a major new edition of the Peterborough version of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, Woudhuysen has collaborated on a textually innovative edition of Shakespeare’s poems, Swaab has provided the first modern edition of Sara Coleridge’s poems, Horne has produced the only edition of Oliver Twist based on its original serial-publication text, while Mitchell is the leading force behind an online edition of the collected letters of the Victorian novelist Charlotte M. Yonge.  Hackett and Weis have contributed introductions to volumes in the New Penguin Shakespeare series. Bibliography and palaeography play a significant part in the work of Butterfield, Corrie, Irvine, Mitchell, and Woudhuysen, who has also published on editorial theory and practice, as well as directing a major research project on early modern literary manuscripts.  Ashton, Beaumont, and Sutherland have written on publishing history, which is also implicated in Mullan’s account of anonymity and his work on thve history of Faber and Faber.

In relation to RAE 2001 we have done much to consolidate our strengths in these areas, but we have also moved into new ones.  A growing commitment to interdisciplinarity is shown by work relating to the visual arts (Stevens), medieval song (Butterfield), modern music (Ford, Karlin, Thurschwell), consumer culture (Bowlby), the city (Dart), law (Grieveson, Mitchell, Weis), medical discourse (Laoutaris), French literature (Bowlby, Butterfield, Corrie, Karlin), German culture (Ashton), classical literature (Bowlby, Davis, Irvine, North, Weis), and Scandinavian languages and literature (North).  The Department’s long-standing engagement with historical and critical questions involves an increasing emphasis on cultural criticism and on psychoanalysis, historicism, colonial literature, cinema, and gay and lesbian studies.  This can be witnessed by such disparate lines of investigation as Beaumont’s account of Utopian writing and his studies in railways, realism, and Marxism and art, Boddy’s work on boxing, Bowlby’s study of Freud and modern identities, as well as her translations of Derrida and Roudinesco, Butterfield’s (and Davis’s) work on Chaucer and the city, Grieveson’s accounts of silent film and of censorship, Hackett’s work on Queen Elizabeth I’s childlessness and on dreams, Karlin’s work on Proust, Mullan’s accounts of anonymity and of how novels work, North’s dating and localization of Beowulf, Rennie’s work on myth-making in colonial literature, Sutherland’s anatomy of British history through bestsellers and his guide to the novel, Thurschwell’s work on the supernatural and on the literary depiction of secretaries, Trotter’s account of fiction and psychosis, and Weis’s translated and revised version of his book about the Cathars.  As this illustrates, the Department fosters openness, diversity, and debate in the exploration of different critical theories and methodologies.  Its particular interest in gay and lesbian studies is witnessed by Swaab’s edition of Edward Lear, Stevens on D.H. Lawrence and Woudhuysen on A.E. Housman.  Our commitment to critical writing can be seen in Boddy’s revisionist account of Nelson Algren; Ford’s essays on French, Italian, American, British, and Australian writers, his conversations with John Ashbery, and his work on modern American poetry; and Horne’s writings on James and Dickinson.

Besides two important contributions (Irvine, Corrie) to The Oxford History of the English Language, Aarts edited The Handbook of English Linguistics (with McMahon), and has published work on English syntax, as well as a reader and monograph on fuzzy grammar.  In addition, there have been more general accounts of grammar (Nelson), a handbook on corpus linguistics (Nelson, Wallis, and Aarts), work on international Englishes (Nelson), and on the theory and practice of exploring linguistic databases (Wallis).

Download full text of the RA5a statement for English (pdf 116Kb)

Staff names below link to submitted publications:

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Page last modified on 20 jan 08 09:27