PhD / MPhil students in SELCS / CMII
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- Ethan Darden
On legendary swords in history and literature: an in-depth examination of Curtana, Durendal and JoyeuseMy research explores the anachronistic nature of legendary swords in history and literature, objects which often ‘hesitate’ between their different historical and literary identities and therefore function as both markers of the passage of time and instruments of violence, power and ritual. A handful of these brands, which appeared first in medieval lore and later in historical sources, can be found today in institutions across Europe. The idea is to trace their provenances—from fiction to reality—in order to better understand their importance to medieval and early modern cultures and societies; the implications of which are many and far reaching.
- Guangzhao Lyu
The Boom and The Boom: A Comparative Study of the Post-1990 Chinese and British Science Fictions
Supervisor(s): Dr James Kneale (principal) and Dr Lu Xiaoning, SOAS (subsidiary)The relatively simultaneous emergence of the British SF Boom and the Chinese New Wave is certainly something more than a sheer coincidence. This study consists of a series of coherent comparative case studies divided into three sections, i.e. ‘Demise of False Utopia’ discussing the social and cultural changes resulted from the proliferation of neoliberal values in China and the UK, ‘Do Not Go Gentle into the “Good Hell”’ challenging the neoliberal discourse that dominates the global structure, and ‘Pass the Point of No Return’ exploring the alternatives to our current neoliberal capitalism indicated in post-singularity and post-apocalypse narratives. It will argue that the global impact of neoliberalism is one of the most significant factors that encourages the two sf boom, which could transcend the ‘pastiche’ in the neoliberal social discourse and introduce new potential to make it less difficult to imagine the end of capitalism.
- Stephanie T Y Ng
Affective Belonging and Aspirational Normativity in Twenty-First Century Fiction
Situated at the intersection of neoliberalism and affective belonging, my research asks how citizens weather and are weathered by the relentlessly individualistic, entrepreneurial culture of contemporary Western societies. Adopting the theoretical framework of Lauren Berlant, who takes intimacy, sexuality, and feeling as key modes through which citizens engage with each other and with the nation at large, I seek to locate various modes of relationality that offer temporary relief for an increasingly fractured body politic. I read twenty-first century fiction and autobiography through a psychosocial, affective lens to examine both the political dimensions of these intersubjective attachments as well as their practical manifestations.
My current focus is on the nuclear family as a symbol for the normative good life. Building primarily on Wendy Brown’s Undoing the Demos, Melinda Cooper’s Family Values, and Berlant’s Cruel Optimism, I posit that the family is but a temporary substitute for a broken welfare system. It is a weak promise of a vaguely better life that distracts from the exhaustion of living on in the eternal present. Yet, neoliberal citizens continue to invest in the fantasy of the couple form, the love plot, and the home – why? How do they negotiate their disillusion, on the one hand, and their compulsive pursuit of the good life on the other? What are some political implications of their ambivalent attachments to a heteronormative idealization of belonging? I turn to Rachel Cusk’s autofictional Outline trilogy in an attempt to answer these questions.
- Sarah Moxham
Poetic Happenings: The Interactions of French and Italian Poetry in Print and Performance Art from 1958 to 1981
My AHRC-funded research examines the dynamics between printed poetry and performance art in France and Italy from 1958, the official birth date of an early form of post-war performance art known as Happenings, to 1981, a time that marks a shift from performance art to performance poetry. Interacting with a diverse collection of works, I analyse aspects of both literary and performance studies that have been neglected by focusing on one approach alone, repairing the links that bind poetic orality and performativity to poetic literacy whilst exploring poetry from an often ignored perspective: its application in society, not only as an object of cultural critique but also as a facilitator of social change. I demonstrate how poets and performance artists adapt a variety of artistic traits to embody the spirit of ‘total poetry’, a dynamic, ever-evolving poetic hybrid committed to the constant exposure of new creative possibilities.
Creative Critical Writing
- Coming soon
- Lorena Cervera
Latin American Women’s Documentary Cinema: Practices, Politics, and Aesthetics 1975-1995This practice-based research provides a revision of the Latin American political documentary between 1975 and 1995 from a feminist perspective. My hypothesis is that Latin American women’s documentary unfolded through three main categories and evolved into a corpus of work within both Latin American and feminist cinema. The first category was influenced by the 1960s Marxist approach of militant cinema but also incorporated counter-patriarchal strategies in the representation of labour struggles. The second one was inspired by women’s movements and collective filmmaking, and explored the politics of the personal. The third category addresses how experiences of migration shifted the documentary discourse from objective to subjective approaches. The practical component of this research consists in making a short documentary that combines interviews with Latin American women filmmakers and footage from their films, and situates their practices and texts within renewed debates on feminist ideas and films.
- Anna Schiffer
Sir Philip Sidney’s European Tour (1572-75); its influence on his An Apology for Poetry and on later English poetrySir Philip Sidney (1554-1586) was an Elizabethan courtier, diplomat, soldier and later poet. My research examines how, and the extent to which, An Apology for Poetry (and its impact on English literature) resulted from the tour of Europe that he had made between June 1572 and May 1575. It analyses this link in a way that has not been done before by connecting the biographical detail of the tour with the concepts underlying An Apology for Poetry. This detail will include the experiences of the tour, its locations as well as the confessional, artistic and political influences on Sidney of the range of individuals and groups that he met in continental Europe. The argument is that without the tour An Apology for Poetry would not exist in the form that it does.
- Irving Wolters
Exporting the Canon: The Mixed Experience of the Dutch Bibliotheca NeerlandicaIn the 1950s, for reasons of cultural diplomacy and Indonesian colonialism, the Dutch Government established a quai-governmental, state-funded organisation to oversee the translation of Dutch literary works into a variety of languages which constituted the first steps in professionalizing and institutionalizing a Dutch literary foreign policy. One of its first major projects was a series of 17 planned literary volumes translated into English entitled The Bibliotheca Neerlandica.
My research concerns the literary participants who played a role in the series - those players deciding which books should be translated, the translators and publishing companies – as well as book design. Only ten of these translated volumes were published before the series was prematurely abandoned and I attempt to establish the reasons for this.
Early Modern Studies
- Rosamund Eileen Fitzmaurice
Precolumbian Mesoamerican Dependency and “Slavery” in Post Classic Aztec and Maya CulturesI am investigating the supposed presence of indigenous slavery in Postclassic Mesoamerica (ca CE 900-1521) focusing on Maya and Aztec cultures. Using methodology from archaeology, ethno-history, and anthropology I investigate relationships of dependency it in Pre-Colombian Mesoamerica. I use Spanish and Precolumbian indigenous sources to determine how formal and informal systems of forced labour were present in Mesoamerica prior to Spanish contact and conquest. I take into account cultural differences between Postclassic Mesoamerica and Early Modern Spain and the transcultural ideas which emerged from the melding of the cultures. Slavery touches on many themes of study within Mesoamerica, and thus I shall also be covering warfare, captives, tribute, and sacrifice in this context. Finally, I use a compare ideas of slavery and dependency to ancient and even modern slave systems and slave societies to determine how we understand slavery and dependency globally.
- Jack Hayes
Franco-Italian Literary Sociability and Early Modern Rome (1539-1563)
Supervisor(s): Dr Lisa Sampson (principal) and Dr Emily Butterworth, KCL (subsidiary)My research engages with a range of poetry — some well-studied, and others which have never been examined in scholarly work — to produce an account of literary sociability in mid-sixteenth-century Rome between French and Italian élite cultural circles (particularly cardinals and diplomats). A first chapter engages with the use of figures of idealized women as a space of cross-language homosociality in poetry. A second chapter offers a comparative analysis of two translations of Virgil’s Aeneid written at Rome, asking what role the text served for two cardinal’s circles. A third chapter assesses the role of space and place, focussed especially on villa poetry and on spaces where French and Italians resident in Rome gathered. A major focus is the production of literature in communities, and literature as a means of communication across linguistic or political boundaries.
- Samantha Brown
- Transcription, translation, and transmission in the work of William Bedwell (1561-1632): Understanding the manuscripts of an early modern Arabist
Supervisor(s): Dr Robyn Adams (principal) and Dr Matthew Symonds (subsidiary)
My research is focused on the materiality and afterlives of the manuscripts of William Bedwell (1563-1632), the first Englishman since the Crusades to dedicate his life to the study of Arabic. His manuscripts survive in variety and abundance, scattered across multiple English and European archives. Through analysis of material features such as handwriting and decorative ornamentation, alongside network analysis of the documents’ journeys during Bedwell’s lifetime and beyond, my project will shed light on how the earliest Arabic knowledge was gathered, organised, and shared in early modern Britain.
- Joshua McLoughlin
'Vnpossible' history in early modern England
Supervisor(s): Dr Alexander Samson (principal)My research, funded by the Wolfson Foundation, explores how early modern writers, readers and audiences responded to the changing status of ‘history’ in the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. During the Reformation, England experienced radical shifts in the definition of ‘truth’ as political, religious, and historical narratives were continually recast to substantiate confessional regime changes, from Henry VIII to James I. History was especially subject to revision: the past became weaponised as the narrative fuel for political and religious spin, disinformation, and propaganda.
Amid this charged intellectual and literary atmosphere, Abraham Fleming, the exasperated editor of the second edition Holinshed's Chronicles (1587), declared the historian’s task of sorting truth from partisanship ‘vnpossible'. Taking the idea of ‘unpossible history’ as a starting point, I’m trying to figure out how historians, poets, playwrights, readers and audiences responded to this intense historical revisionism and how they made sense of the repeated reconstruction and ideological manipulation of the ‘truth’ in a bitterly polarised political and religious climate - a climate that prefigures aspects of the debates about ‘post-truth’ politics and ‘fake news’ information culture that shape discourse today.
I am a keen writer, and my work has been published in The Times, The London Magazine, The Fence, Time Out London, Review 31, and elsewhere. I am also the editor-in-chief of New Critique and I was shortlisted for the Jane Martin Poetry Prize in 2019. Before joining UCL, I studied for an MA in Critical Theory at Goldsmiths (Distinction, 2020), an MSt in English 1550–1700 at Oxford (Distinction, 2019) and a BA in English Literature at the University of Manchester (First, 2015). I went to state school and college on Merseyside and I am proud of my working-class background.
- Firdevs Bulut
Cultural Diplomacy in the UK and Germany: The History and Theory of Two Institutional ModelsThe questions to be asked in this project are the following: How has cultural diplomacy become such an important field in creating ties between states and ‘bridges’ in international relations? What are the reasons that classifications such as soft power, hard power and smart power emerged? On a theoretical basis, this PhD project will endeavor to find answers to these questions. On a methodological basis, British Council and Goethe Institute as the leading cultural diplomacy institutions of the two countries will be on the focus of this research. The change in their activities and their approach to the very concepts of soft power and cultural diplomacy will be analyzed through looking at their practices and cultural programs.
- Thomas Greggs
National Coal Board Film and North East England, 1946-1987The research explores National Coal Board (NCB) film in North East England following the Coal Industry Nationalisation Act of 1946 until the closure of the NCB in 1987. It covers a vital period in national and regional energy extraction history marked by a major shift in the political economy of energy policy towards an increasingly radical pro-market view of British coal, and the subsequent severe contraction of the coal industry in Britain. Once the largest producer of coal nationally, the North East’s coalmining communities were left devastated. Using NCB film and archived textual materials to open up this history, the research examines how NCB film operated in the North East during a period of significant socioeconomic, cultural and ideological change. The project aims to understand how NCB film mediates major political and economic shifts in Britain and moments of industrial transformation in the region – the arc of NCB film in the North East. By moving between national, regional and local points of focus, I account for the complex regionally specific nature of coalmining and coalmining industrial relations in the North East, whilst spotlighting national political and economic forces. Furthermore, I seek to reveal how ideology is encoded into NCB film and to uncover how these films circulated in the North East: where were they screened, who to and why?
- Lucy Hulls
The Second Box Office: An economic and cultural history of the concession stand in American cinema historyToday, a stop at the concession stand is a standard feature of the moviegoing experience for the vast majority of audiences. Important socially, the concession stand has also become a significant economic factor in the success of the film exhibition industry. With refreshments sales currently accounting for approximately 40 percent of exhibitors’ profits. Grabbing a carton of popcorn or a soda is now an established and ritualised component of the movie-going experience, but was this always the case?
Despite its stable presence within movie-theatres in recent decades, the concession stands history is complex. My research focuses on the contentious period between 1920 and 1955, exploring the key developments that occurred during this period (within the concession stand and film exhibition, but also America more generally), in an attempt to understand how and why the concession stand developed as it did.
- Shiyi Jiang
Kitchen modernisation and useful media in the U.S., 1915-1959Electrification not only illuminated homes, it importantly re-shaped the domestic space. Technology companies, as major home appliance manufacturers, worked to modernise domesticity and transformed the kitchen into a modern technology-testing laboratory. My research focuses on how institutions such as corporations and government agencies shared in the capitalist revolution to transform the kitchen in the United States; with General Electric, Westinghouse and the Bureau of Home Economics coming to use media to shape peoples’ understanding of technology and everyday life. I examine useful media in the form of promotional, educational, and industrial films as well as television advertisements and explore how media were used to facilitate or supplement institutional directives from 1915 to 1959-bookended by the earliest filmic demonstration of home appliances in the Panama-Pacific Expositions and the celebration of the kitchen modernisation as key to the distinction between liberal capitalist and Soviet communism in the famous “Kitchen Debate” in 1959.
- Izabella Wodzka
Spaces of exclusion, places of inclusion. Representing Roma, Gypsy and Traveller identities in contemporary European cinemaMy research is focused on the themes of multiplicity of identities and their representations on screen in postmodern times. I am working with films that feature novel, non-essentialist depictions of marginalized communities with special attention being paid to the historical, cultural and spatial contexts of these cinematic images. Taking a transnational approach to the film material, I draw on visual texts from Western Europe as well as East Central Europe, in a bid to push the boundaries of the perceived center to include the peripheral perspectives.
The main questions driving my research are those of space and place in film, and their role in depicting marginal, subaltern, migrant, transient and other non-hegemonic identities and subjectivities. I look in particular at the nexus of gender, sexuality and ethnicity/culture and the role and ability of filmic images to (re)create and (re)shape representations of these various, entangled and complex identities. I delve, too, into the question of European identity and what it means to be European after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the recently increasing migration from within and outside of Europe and how we are all (re)negotiating our multiple identities everyday.
- Christie Cheng
Towards new political expressions: Labour Migration and Global Contemporary CinemaMy thesis explores a corpus of contemporary feature films and documentaries ranging from Ziad Kalthoum’s Taste of Cement (2017) to Yeo Siew Hua’s A Land Imagined (2018) that focuses on labour migration and the shifting discursivities of low- and unskilled migrant subjects. Still in its nascent stage, its aim is to examine these films as crucial interventions out of which expressions of dispossession, struggle and spirited resistance may be recognised beyond national, economic or humanitarian frames, and in relation to the neo-colonial logics that underpin globalisation and migration. Figurations of migrant workers vis-à-vis spectacles of urban cities, I argue, have tacit bearings not only on directives for social change, but on encounters with the wider forces of power these global precariats are bound to. My research adopts an interdisciplinary approach, and hopes to bring these filmic productions, their thematic renderings and intimate portraits of migrant experiences into dialogue with wider discourses on labour migration and migrant cinema in the global context.
- Meng Liang
From Industrial to Post-industrial Capital: Social Media in Chinese Liberal TurnMy project explores the emergence and transformation of Chinese digital media, especially internet social media in the context of broad shifts from industrial to post-industrial capital. My research expands beyond scholarship on digital media in the Global North and examines specific historical changes in China initiated by internet social media. Following the liberalizing turn in China that began in 1978, the internet as a value-added service of the telecommunication industry has played a vital role in accelerating liberalization by stimulating various intangible capital accumulation since the 1990s.
- Maria Laura Sciascia
Refashioning Italianess: the role of costume in contemporary Italian cinema.My research would explore the often neglected role of costume designers and the importance of costumes in Italian cinema, from the period defined as the economic boom up to nowadays. Costumes are a subtle language in cinema and can say much about a society, Cinema has been and still is one of the main means to discover Italy and Italians by Italian themselves and by strangers. Talking about Italy, is not easy to define the prototype (or stereotype) of Italian man or woman, because in Italy many differentiations coexist and traditions also in dressing identify variation of Italianess: the Neapolitan, the Roman, the Milanese and the Sicilian are the most displayed on the screen.
The work would intersect two prominent field of Italian culture: fashion and cinema, where in Italy fashion two products covered an important role in making Italy famous.
- Coming soon
Gender and Sexuality Studies
- Samuel Vermote
The (in)visible father: lesbian motherhood and artificial insemination in Britain from the seventies to late eightiesMy doctoral research project seeks to interrogate the attitudes, practicalities, and paradoxes concerning lesbian artificial insemination in Britain throughout the 1970s and 1980s.To enrich the field of lesbian history, I bring it into dialogue with masculinity studies, concentrating specifically on the exchanges between lesbian women and sperm donors. In these exchanges, lesbian women were confronted with the materiality and cultural meanings of sperm, which forced them to manage the literal and figurative distance between themselves and the man – friend, faceless stranger or other – who produced it. Combining archival research with oral history methods, I seek to investigate the reciprocal influence sperm donors and lesbian women had on each other, exposing, simultaneously, their relation to contemporary notions of masculinity, sexuality and parenthood.
- Nandita Dutta
Mapping Intimacy and Pleasure in a Beauty Salon: First-generation migrant women from South Asia in LondonThis study aims to investigate whether a beauty salon can be read as a site of intimacy, pleasure and friendship for first-generation migrant women from South Asia in London. If so, then what kinds of intimacies are produced and enabled in the space of a salon? In so doing, my research wants to draw from and build on the scholarship on the dialectic relationship between space and intimacy. In that, it aims to look at the question of how migrant women shape the material, emotional and haptic dynamics of a salon; and in turn, how are intimacies spatially constructed and negotiated? In order to meet these aims, I will employ a qualitative approach, combining participant observation with in-depth, semi-structured interviews.
- Mie Jensen
Being Queer and Jewish: a Cross-Cultural Study of Ethno-Religious Experiences and DividesReligion and LGBTQ+ identities have often been seen as conflicting and contradictory identities. In fact, many LGBTQ+ people experience at some point that they are faced with an ultimatum: to be secular and LGBTQ+ or to be religious and repress their sexuality. This binary persists despite socio-cultural changes in both the secular public sphere and within religious institutions. Furthermore, while there has been conducted research on religious institutions’ stance on LGBTQ+ matters and heterosexual religious people’s views and attitudes, LGBTQ+ people themselves, and especially women, have received less scholarly attention. Mie is, therefore, interested in Jewish lesbian, bi, and queer women’s sexual and religious identities. She takes an interdisciplinary approach to bring together queer, feminist, and religious theories.
Building on her theoretical MRes thesis, ‘Queer Jewish Women: From Social, Cultural, and Religious Invisibility to Contemporary Identity Construction’, Mie’s doctoral research, which is funded by the ESRC, is focusing on how LBQ Jewish women in England and Israel navigate, express, explore, sustain, and negotiate their sexual and religious identities in the 21st century. This comparative cross-cultural project seeks to create a more nuanced perspective on sexual citizenship and specifically the oft-presented binary view that LGBQ+ people have to choose between being secular and LGBQ+ or religious and repress their sexuality. It also explores how sexual identities are influenced by different Jewish identities, such as Orthodox, progressive, and secular. Other themes she will explore are secularisation and post-secularisation, identity formation, psychoanalysis, homonationalism, and sexual scripts.
Mie earned her MA in Sociology (First Class Honours) and MRes in Social Science (Distinction) at the University of Aberdeen.
- Brittany Eldridge
Motherhood Forgotten: Revealing the Complex Development of the Maternal Figure in Folklore, Literature, and FilmMaternal figures are prevalent in each of our lives in some form or another, but what is the definition of a mother? How does the definition change from the 19th century to the 21st century? My research focuses on implementing Carl Jung's archetypal theory and how the maternal figure's archetypal representation in Western folklore, literature, and film evolves from the 19th to the 21st century. I am contextualizing German society's expected role of the mother and studying how it relates to the representations present within selected literature and film. I am hoping to answer how the definitions of a mother given by society interact with the representations of the mother figure experienced in folklore, literature, and film, and how these representations change in correlation to the social discourse that surrounds them. I specifically delve into the realms of analytical psychology, phenomenology, theology, hermeneutics, and women's rights movements within Germany from the 19th century to the 21st century.
- Les Newsom
British and German Children’s Informative Introduction to Racism, Nationalism, Militarism, and Colonialism Through Education and Play, 1871-1918My research project is a comparative study of British and German childhood at the height of European Imperialism (1871-1918). The project will look at how children from both nations were exposed to racist, nationalist, colonial and militarist ideologies through toys, games, and children’s literature. Sources will include cultural artifacts such as the toys and games, children’s books, periodicals, and schoolbooks. Also, documents relating to official and unofficial polices of using these artifacts as direct and indirect propaganda, as well as personal recollections of childhood in diary or autobiographical form.
The main questions that my research will investigate are around the active use of childhood items to promote these ideas and the implications of that promotion in adult life. To what extent was the sale and publication of material designed for the consumption of children organised for propaganda reasons? Can the influence of childhood education and play be seen in their adult lives? Does the research demonstrate differences in the form and concentration of material between Britain and Germany and how does this relate to established historiography around imperialism, racism, and militarism? The research will also ask how these themes are still relevant today, with their legacy still debated and problematical in society today.
- Francisca Stutzin
An empirical ethics investigation into the lived experience of chronic disease in EnglandUniversal Health Coverage (UHC) largely focuses on delivering equality of opportunity for accessing healthcare services, but looking at the results of the NHS in the UK, this has not been enough to tackle health inequalities. The distribution of chronic diseases (CDs) follows a social gradient and, despite UHC, rates of adherence to chronic treatment in England are not only low, but also affected by a range of social variables. This means that the disadvantaged are more likely to have a CD, and less likely to adhere to treatment. This double inequity raises the question of how can healthcare services increase adherence for all, improving equity in health outcomes for CDs. My research aims to contribute to this normative discussion through original qualitative research on the lived experience of illness and treatment within the NHS, reflecting on the subjective challenges raised by chronicity and long-term treatment adherence.
- Elinora Lane
The Use of Emblems by Women in Sixteenth-Century Italy
Supervisor(s): Dr Lisa Sampson (principal) and Dr Rembrandt Duits, Warburg Institute (subsidiary)The aim of my research is to analyze how aristocratic women in the first half of the sixteenth century employed the emblem as a means to express their emerging gendered identities. Currently my analysis focuses on possible patterns among the emblems associated with female and male adopters, as well as to explicate role hierarchies and interaction networks that structure target audiences. I study how women exploited the emblem’s inherent ambiguity to play with multivocal interpretations and to respond to their interlocutors’ reactions. In addition, I plan to investigate how women’s production and reception of emblems reflect broader societal changes in attitude about women’s roles, characters and abilities.
- Francesca Masiero
Literacy and Learning in Latin and Vernacular Schools in Verona (1405-1509)My research project explores the teaching and learning practices adopted in Latin and vernacular schools in Verona during the early Renaissance (1405-1509), the period when Italy became the most literate society in Latin Christendom. In particular, it describes the teaching practices used by private and public teachers in Verona, ones that, it was believed, would provide the city with the young people on a privileged learning path and upon whom high expectations were set that it needed for political and economic prosperity.
First, it explains how the educational system was organised at secondary level, what subjects were taught and the reasons behind teachers’ selection of literary and scientific texts. Second, it documents the education of girls and female teaching provision. Finally, it investigates the phenomenon of itinerant teachers and assesses the impact that the circulation of manuscripts and early printed editions for pedagogical purposes had on the humanist curriculum.
Race, Ethnicity and Postcolonial Studies
- Gabriel Bristow
Don Cherry's life and music
Supervisor(s): Prof. Paul Gilroy (principal) and Dr Daniel Matlin, KCL (subsidiary)My thesis looks at the life and music of Don Cherry (1936-1995), a multi-instrumentalist best known as a jazz trumpeter. Despite the singularity of his musical career, from the birth of free jazz to his ventures into “world music” avant la lettre, surprisingly little—scholarly or otherwise—has been written about him. In my research I hope to chart the evolution of his experiments with global folk musics in the 1960s and 1970s, situating his approach in relation to contemporaneous cultures of black transnationalism. As a trumpet player myself, I am particularly interested in his unconventional sound on the instrument and the way it took shape as a sideman to Ornette Coleman, Sonny Rollins, and Albert Ayler. Finally, I hope to explore his music as an instance of “popular modernism”, a resurgent term that has been the subject of slow burning interdisciplinary debates for decades (see Sollors, Gilroy, Mercer, Fisher, Brar & Rekret).
- Natalie Lucy
Anarchic Spider-Man: The legacy of Anancy and the creation of new identities in the work of Black British writers of the Caribbean diaspora
The focus of this study is the way in which the Anancy trickster from Caribbean folklore continues to inform the imagination and choice of literary themes for many Black British writers of Caribbean ancestry, particularly those writers who are termed ‘Second Generation’.
The West African Anansi tales served numerous functions, including a means to name and explain the world, and in providing a forum in which to comment upon the excesses or tyranny of the powerful, behind the dual masks of animal characters and humour. The tales were transported to the Caribbean on the slave ships where they were adapted to serve the harsh conditions of slavery. Through the antics of the principal protagonist who was brazen and at times absurd but whose linguistic agility and superior intellect resulted in his repeated triumphs against the analogous slave master, Tiger, the tales suggested a means of resistance. However, they also offered a necessary means of escapism through storytelling sessions in which the tales were punctuated by visual or auditory elements, including music and gesture, features from an African oral tradition, which added to the sense of the performance and theatre.
Anancy has continued to influence writers in the Caribbean but, as a motif, it has also emerged in the writing of Second Generation Black British writers from its diaspora. In this project I wish to examine the ways in which Anancy has been invented at critical political points and the reasons why he continues to suggest an aspirational motif for contemporary writers. One of the possible reasons relates to his fluid identity which evades traditional classification. In contrast with the singularity of voice which has traditionally been asserted in British literature, Anancy signifies the potential richness of hybridity, or multiplicity of ‘voices.’ It is my thesis that a recognition of the potential creative power of composite experiences is both relevant and timely within multicultural Britain, particularly as it acknowledges the literary impact of the storytelling traditions of the Caribbean which have helped to construct ideas of Britain and Britishness.
- Luthien Cangemi
Læknir ok lægbók: Mediterranean remedies in Old Norse manuscripts, a comparative study and translation of medical practicesMy research focuses on XIII-XV Old Norse medical treaties featuring classics and continental models, to assess the extent to which Mediterranean medical practices were assimilated and re-elabotared within the Old Norse framework to understand the cultural dialogue between medieval Scandinavia and the continent. I will provide annotated translation of remedies, herbaria and antidotes contained in manuscripts preserved in Copenhagen and Reykjavík, comparing them with their continental counterparts at the British Library, Cambridge and Oxford. Consequently, the nature and the usage of these texts as sources of healing will be problematised and I will challenge the obsolete term “pseudoscientific” used in scholarship to refer to medieval medical practices and elaborate a new interpretive frame of understanding.
I will demonstrate that Old Norse participated to the cultural syncretism in the Middle Ages by assimilating the occurrence of Classics and continental medical knowledge in manuscript context. This will lead to study a materiality of practices which allowed for a physical impact on the body. My research will address the cultural biases that have greatly affected certain topics within Old Norse scholarship which have not been considered in a comparative perspective and have led to the study of Old Norse culture in isolation.
- Ben Chennells
Performance and the Shaping of Reality in Old Norse PoetryUsing established scholarship for a new departure, my research analyses performance in and of Old Norse oral-tradition poetry to articulate how poets represented the dynamic relationships between the world, words, and their perception of the workings of the mind. It establishes the links between body, cognition, and cosmos in mythological ‘eddic’ poems, the ways in which the kaleidoscopic imagery of ‘skaldic’ poetry forced listeners to make strange connections, consequently refreshing their perceptions of language and the physical world, and how poets, through performance, could generate and set history or produce dire consequences for individuals and societies.
My thesis focuses on Old Norse but it is also about performance art, which has become an unignorable thrust of scholarship in the field. The poetry on which I focus descended through an oral tradition, composed by pre-literate poets for pre-literate audiences. Performance was, therefore, once its only medium; yet it was of immense social significance. By focusing on the performative culture of medieval Iceland, so central to the formation of its identity and international reputation at the time, my study opens up new avenues for the deployment of performance theory and, in doing so, brings an intriguing period of European artistic history to the attention of modern performance studies.
Spanish, Portuguese and Latin American Studies
- Fred Carnegy-Arbuthnott
Revolts in Andalusia (1647-1652): popular politics, the grain market and the Little Ice AgeMy research focuses on the history of a series of revolts and disturbances that took place in Andalusia, Spain between 1647 and 1652. These urban uprisings affected over twenty towns and cities in the region, including Seville, Granada and Cordoba, and appear to have been primarily motivated by the high price of foodstuffs, in particular bread. These events have been linked to the disruption caused by Little Ice Age climate in the seventeenth century, as part of a broader theory of climate change and crisis (Parker, 2013). In looking at the workings of the grain market and the efforts of local government to provision their towns and cities, my work tries to think about the links between, climate, harvests, prices and revolts in the early modern period.
- Elizabeth Chant
Horizon on Horizon: Representing the Patagonian Natural Environment, 1774-1992Supervisor(s): Prof. Claire Lindsay (principal) and Prof. Zoltán Biedermann (subsidiary)
My AHRC-funded research analyses the evolution of representations of Patagonia using a diverse body of material including cartography, photography, literature, and voyage accounts. Nowadays comprising southernmost Argentina and Chile, Patagonia remained a tenuous Spanish possession throughout the colonial period. Beginning in the 18th century when Spain attempted to colonise eastern Patagonia in an extensive but little-known project, I consider how perceptions of the region’s natural environment have often been contradictory, navigating aesthetic pleasure and desire as well as abjection and repulsion. I trace this dissonance in material from either side of the Andes as well as in anglophone travelogues, assessing the portrayal of diverse natural aspects such as flora, fauna, the region’s turbulent seas and its vast interior. By untangling Patagonia’s myriad representations, I shed light upon the cultural forces that compel hordes of Western travellers to seek an intrepid experience in Patagonia in modernity.
- Blanca Gómez García
The British Exile: Memory and Trauma in the Works of Spanish Writers Exiled in Great Britain after the Spanish Civil War
Supervisor(s): Dr Gareth Wood (principal) and Dr Mari Paz Balibrea, Birkbeck College (subsidiary)
My project explores the relevance of memory, trauma, history, and exile in the testimonial writings of Spanish authors exiled in Great Britain. Using theories of exile and theories of memory as a framework, my PhD seeks to understand how the unique conditions of the British literary exile led to a creative process that provides a different understanding of the conflicts that occurred in Spain last century as well as a more dialectic approach to exile, deconstructing common fixed dichotomies and ideas. Furthermore, besides challenging the canon and displaying new perspectives about historical events which are crucial for the Spanish collective identity, Spanish exiles’ literary works are relevant in the context of transnational studies as hybrid creations which belong to two cultures. For this reason, exile literature stands in an undefined space between politics, history and literature, which can facilitate the understanding of the complexities of a people’s history.
- Sui He
Scientific Metaphor in Translation
Supervisor(s): Dr Mark Shuttleworth, Hong Kong Baptist University (principal) and Caiwen Wang (subsidiary)The fact that metaphor is often a prominent feature of popular scientific texts gives rise to an interesting collision between the precision required by science and the fuzziness associated with metaphor. Meanwhile, although metaphor has been used to describe our scientific world to facilitate communication, not all of the metaphor-related experiences are universally shared. My research examines how translators tackle this dynamic metaphor system in popular scientific context in practice based on a parametric analysis and sheds light on the fact rather than being a translation problem, metaphor can also be a solution.
- Lydia Hayes
Game of Memes: Accents in Audiovisual TextsMy research focuses on linguistic variation as a marker of cultural identity and accents, therefore, as “unit[s] of cultural transmission” or, in other words, “memes” (Dawkins 1976: 206). Using a memetic framework, according to which accents are linked to diatopic, diastratic, idiosyncratic and diachronic signs, I investigate the use, or lack thereof, of accents in the original version of the HBO series Game of Thrones (David Nutter et al 2011-2019) and its Castilian Spanish dubbed version, Juego de tronos. The aim of my research is to expose the connotative weight of accent and thus propose alternative dubbing strategies, which are capable of nuancing identities and conveying deeper dimensions of meaning than that which is currently being transmitted to viewers of Spanish dubbed texts (due to standardisation conventions in the Spanish dubbing industry). In tandem with my research, I am a postgraduate teaching assistant at the Spanish and Latin American Studies Department.
- Asa Erh-Ya Tsui
Combining Critical Discourse Analysis, Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis and Natural Language Processing Approach to the Impact of Ideology on News Translation
- A study of western English mainstream media on the evolving crisis of the US-China economic relationship.Translation and media play an essential role in our society, particularly in an era of sweeping globalisation trends and unprecedented advances in technology development. By their common nature, both are instruments of communication, their neutrality has always been in question since they are susceptible to the impact of human-related factors, especially ideology. Drawing on Fairclough's three-dimensional model of critical discourse analysis (CDA), along with Halliday's systemic functional grammar (SFG) and Martin and White's appraisal theory within the paradigm of CDA, my study attempts to examine the ideology concealed underneath news translation via a mixed research method approach- combining CDA, Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis and Natural Language Processing approach.