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Research interests

My research centres on the literature of the early-to-mid-twentieth-century, particularly Stevie Smith, Edith Sitwell, D. H. Lawrence, Gertrude Stein and Willa Cather. I work on writers who, in one way or another, disrupt narratives about what good literature should be or do: who present themselves variously as absurd, unrevealing, embarrassing or useless.

My first monograph, Hard Language (Oxford University Press, 2022), reframes short-form writing across the twentieth century, via a study of aphorism in the novels and poetry of Stevie Smith (1902-1971). Its findings offer new routes into work by twentieth-century women novelists such as Ivy Compton-Burnett. The book positions aphorism as a mode of marginalised communication in Smith’s enigmatic writing. It frames an original approach to Smith by drawing up a new theory of the aphorism—the form, I argue, fundamental to her aesthetic—as a tool for the social management of emotions, both displaying and concealing embarrassing feelings. My new monograph in progress, Flat Feeling, had its initial research funded by the Leverhulme Trust. Intervening in queer, trauma and affect theory, and deeply attentive to diversities of bodily, mental and sexual experience, the monograph argues that novelists including D. H. Lawrence and Willa Cather use apparently dull and unrevealing flat landscapes in England and America as metaphors, and sites, to think through underacknowledged feelings and corporealities: to name a few, queered relationship without connection, passion without focus, inexplicable attachments, and the erotics of broken memory.

Alongside my academic work in traditional venues, I am an AHRC/BBC New Generation Thinker, making programmes for BBC Radio 3.

I also write creative non-fiction. My book A Flat Place was published by Hamish Hamilton [Penguin] in the UK and Melville House in the US in 2023, and has been reviewed in the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Financial Times, the New Statesman, the Chicago Review of Books, the i paper, the Big Issue, the Arts Desk, and Hyphen. I have written associated essays for SalonFive Dials and Psychology Today.

I am always happy to discuss prospective PhD projects in both English and Creative Writing.


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