The English Department’s three research areas are: English literature, Creative writing, and English language & linguistics. The English Department continues to develop its research activities in exciting ways, through publications, online projects and collaborative ventures. All members of our academic staff are engaged in research and publishing: over the past few years we have produced scholarly books, novels and poetry collections, journal articles, book chapters, and online publications. Some of us are editors of journals and magazines and we are regularly consulted by a range of publishers and editors as expert reviewers. Staff and postgraduates also organise academic conferences, public lecture programmes, workshops, study days and literary events. Academic staff are currently involved in a number of research projects and our work has resulted in a wide range of publications.

Collections in this community

Recent Submissions

  • ‘I’m Gonna Be the Best Friend You Could Ever Hope For—And the Worst Enemy You Could Ever Imagine’: Frank Miller’s All Star Batman & Robin, the Boy Wonder and the Problem of the Boy Sidekick in the Twenty-First-Century Superhero Narrative

    Andrew, Lucy; University of Chester (Palgrave Macmillan, 2021-07-25)
    Andrew examines the representation of the boy sidekick/adult detective relationship in Frank Miller’s All Star Batman & Robin, the Boy Wonder (2005–2008). The chapter explores the ways in which Miller’s graphic novel revises, rewrites and problematises the classic Batman/Robin relationship, with particular emphasis on power, violence and abuse. It explores the disturbing parallels that the text draws between the boy sidekick and the love interest, the troubling power imbalance between the adult superhero and his boy sidekick, and the dangers inherent in introducing an innocent and traumatised boy into the violent world of an adult crime fighter. The chapter concludes by identifying how tonal and structural shifts in the comic-book medium have contributed to the growing prevalence of problematised Robin figures in twenty-first-century Batman narratives.
  • Introduction: Step Forward, Sidekicks

    Andrew, Lucy; Saunders, Samuel; University of Chester (Palgrave Macmillan, 2021-07-25)
    Saunders and Andrew offer a definition of the sidekick in crime fiction and provide a brief account of the origins and development of this figure from the nineteenth century to the present day. They outline significant moments in the history of the sidekick, establish key trends in the construction of the sidekick, and identify and interrogate widely held views about the sidekick’s function and representation in crime fiction. They make a case for the wider significance of the sidekick beyond the role of help-mate or foil to the infallible detective and point towards the key contributions that the sidekick has made and continues to make to the canon of crime fiction. They also offer a brief introduction to each of the essays and key themes/ideas explored by contributors throughout the collection.
  • Patterns of borrowing, obsolescence and polysemy in the technical vocabulary of Middle English

    Sylvester, Louise; Parkin, Harry; Ingham, Richard; University of Westminster; University of Chester; Birmingham City University
    This paper reports on a new project, Technical Language and Semantic Shift in Middle English which aims to address questions about why semantic shift, lexical and/or semantic obsolescence and replacement happen and to try to uncover patterns of narrowing, broadening, obsolescence and synonym co-existence at different levels of the lexical hierarchy. The data is based on the Middle English vocabulary for seven occupational domains collected for the Bilingual Thesaurus of Everyday Life in Medieval England, with the addition of two further domains representing the interests of the elite and professional classes. This paper offers three case studies illustrating how we used the type of information in the BTh, the MED and the OED to construct the semantic hierarchy on which our analyses are based; an example of how data are interpreted in relation to change within a particular semantic field; and an exploration of how obsolescence by distinguishing between obsolete lexemes and obsolete senses. We then present some results of our analyses of obsolescence, polysemy and borrowing in our data.
  • The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Family Names in Britain

    Parkin, Harry; University of Chester (Oxford University Press, 2021-08-03)
    A dictionary of family names found in Britain in the present day. A concise version of the Oxford Dictionary of Family Names in Britain and Ireland (2016).
  • Editorial and Contents of Flash Fiction Magazine (11.2)

    Blair, Peter; Chantler, Ashley; University of Chester (University of Chester, 2021-10-01)
    Editorial and Contents.
  • Disruption and Disability Futures in Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) and Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

    Tankard, Alex; University of Chester
    Marvel superhero movies celebrate the transformation of disabled people into weapons. First Avenger depicts a disabled man rebuilt by military technology into a patriotic superhero. In Winter Soldier, the Soviet cyborg’s brutal, non-consensual modification serves to emphasise Captain America’s wholesomely perfected body. At first glance, both films seem incapable of critiquing the historical ableism that made Captain America’s modification a desirable image of disability-free future in 1941 – let alone its modern manifestations. However, re-watching First Avenger after Winter Soldier reveals a far less stable endorsement of eliminating disability: now alerted to the series’ precise anxieties about bodily autonomy, one can perceive an undercurrent of disability critique running through First Avenger too – often literally in the background. The film exposes the historical ableism that shaped Steve’s consent to modification, and begins to establish his sidekick Bucky Barnes as a persistent critical voice capable of envisioning a different disability future. This essay is therefore not only about ableism in a pair of superhero movies, but also about how these ableist films contain seeds of an unexpected critique of their own disability representation.
  • Review of Ecofeminist Science Fiction: International Perspectives on Gender, Ecology, and Literature

    Hay, Jonathan; University of Chester (The Science Fiction Foundation, 2021-08-06)
    Book review of Ecofeminist Science Fiction: International Perspectives on Gender, Ecology, and Literature, ed. Douglas A. Vakoch (Routledge, 2021, 232pp, £120).
  • The Posthuman Trajectory of Isaac Asimov’s Foundation Universe

    Hay, Jonathan; University of Chester (Burrowing Wombat Press, 2021-06-30)
    When Isaac Asimov began to expand the fictional universe of his acclaimed Foundation Trilogy in 1982—almost thirty years after the publication of its prior entry, Second Foundation (1953)—he did so with the express intention of assimilating its continuity into a unified “history of the future” with his Robot and Galactic Empire series. Although the Foundation Universe has received little critical attention to date as a unified series, the analysis of it cumulatively reveals its significantly mundane and repetitive aspects. Demonstrably, the rhetorical function of such banal components renders the series conspicuously posthuman.
  • How Much? An Interesting Typo in Kim Stanley Robinson's The Gold Coast

    Hay, Jonathan; University of Chester
    One typo in Kim Stanley Robinson’s 1988 novel The Gold Coast is so prominent as to merit consideration. Nevertheless, there is no evidence that it has ever come to the attention of readers before now.
  • Liberalism

    Blair, Peter; University of Chester (Wiley-Blackwell, 2016-01-25)
    A political philosophy that emerged from the Enlightenment, liberalism has a complex relationship with democracy, colonialism, postcolonialism, globalization, and literature. Democracy has been shaped by a tension between “classical liberalism”, which prioritizes liberty, and “modern liberalism”, which emphasizes equality. Liberalism also moulded the informal empire of free trade, and the “liberal imperialism” that devised a “civilizing mission” to justify formal empire. The development of liberalism has been vital in the anglophone settler colonies, particularly the USA; often, especially in South Africa, it has been focused on racial justice. The neo-liberalism that emerged in the late twentieth century advocates the globalization of unfettered capitalism and personal liberty. Many postcolonialists consider neo-liberalism a reprise of liberal imperialism, with “human rights” replacing the “civilizing mission” as a cultural-imperialist pretext for economic exploitation.
  • Gordimer, Nadine

    Blair, Peter; University of Chester (Wiley-Blackwell, 2016-01-25)
    A prolific South African novelist, short-story writer, and essayist, Nadine Gordimer (1923–2014) is known for her opposition to apartheid and censorship. Her many honours include the Booker Prize (1974) and the Nobel Prize for Literature (1991). This article outlines Gordimer’s writing career in relation to the form of “internal colonialism” known as apartheid, and to the postcolonial condition of South Africa after apartheid. It describes how Gordimer’s fiction, which combines critical realism with late-modernist experimentation, articulates three phases: “liberal”, “radical”, and “post-apartheid”.
  • The liberal tradition in fiction

    Blair, Peter; University of Chester (Cambridge University Press, 2012-01-12)
    This chapter in the landmark Cambridge History of South African Literature offers a comprehensive discussion of the 'liberal-concerned' tradition in South African fiction, from the late nineteenth century to the early twenty-first century. It comprises five main parts: 'Liberalism in politics and civil society'; 'Classic liberal fiction, 1883-1948'; 'Liberal fiction during apartheid, 1948-70'; 'Post-liberal fiction during apartheid, 1970-90'; '(Post-)liberal fiction after apartheid'.
  • Flash Fiction

    Blair, Peter; University of Chester (Bloomsbury, 2014)
    This article, which appears in the bestselling guide to publishing and the media, introduces the short-short story, most commonly known as 'flash fiction'. It outlines the historical rise of the flash, considers the defining characteristics of the form, and offers advice on writing flash fiction and getting it published. It includes an example of flash fiction and a structured list of suggestions for further primary and secondary reading.
  • ‘All the figures I used to see’: using Cognitive Grammar to grapple with rhythmic and intertextual meaning-making in Radiohead’s ‘Pyramid Song’

    Neary, Clara; University of Chester
    This article constitutes an application of Cognitive Grammar and Zbikowski's theory of Musical Grammar to Radiohead's 'Pyramid Song'.
  • ‘He was struck out. Deleted’: We Need to Talk about Wesley in Nicola Barker’s Behindlings

    Pollard, Eileen; University of Chester
    This article provides a poststructural reading of the character of Wesley in Nicola Barker’s 2002 novel Behindlings, which is broadly informed by Jean-Luc Nancy’s thoughts on being and community and Jacques Derrida’s thinking on khōra, as well as other established poststructural paradigms. It contends that the novel simultaneously engages with these ideas and exceeds them. Wesley is the void-at-the-heart of his own ‘philosophy’: ‘He was hollow. He was empty […] He was a vacuum. He was struck-out. Deleted. He was nothing’. And he is everything as well at one and the same time. It is the classic poststructural paradox – receiving everything while possessing nothing – that makes meaning possible. And that is the argument: the signifier, the empty sign for some, the palimpsest for others, here is simply Wesley. However, my argument is that the characterisation of Wesley challenges and complicates such readings, deliberately. This article will demonstrate how the novel repeatedly sullies the theories it implicates by introducing a persistent taint to the main vehicle used to articulate the theory, the protagonist himself, that ‘puerile […] shithead’, Wesley.
  • Charlotte Brontë's Gothic Fragment: 'The Story of Willie Ellin'

    Wynne, Deborah; University of Chester
    Charlotte Brontë’s eighteen-page fragment, ‘The Story of Willie Ellin’, written shortly after the publication of Villette in 1853, combines the gothic and realism and uses multiple narrators to tell a disturbing story of cruelty towards a child. The generic instability and disordered temporal framework of this fragment make it unlike anything Brontë had previously written, yet it has attracted the attention of few scholars. Those who have discussed it have condemned it as a failure; the later fragment ‘Emma’, also left incomplete by the author’s premature death, has been seen as the more likely beginning of a successor to Villette. ‘The Story of Willie Ellin’ reveals Brontë at her most experimental as she explores the use of different narrative voices, including that of an unnamed genderless ‘ghost’, to tell a story from different perspectives. It also shows Brontë representing a child’s experience of extreme physical abuse which goes far beyond the depictions of chastisement in Jane Eyre (1847). This essay argues that ‘The Story of Willie Ellin’ affords rich insights into Brontë’s ideas and working practices in her final years, suggesting that it should be more widely acknowledged as a unique aspect of Brontë’s oeuvre, revealing the new directions she may have taken had she lived to complete another novel.
  • Charlotte Brontë: Legacies and Afterlives

    Wynne, Deborah; Regis, Amber K.; University of Chester; University of Sheffield
    This edited collection offers a timely reflection on Charlotte Brontë's life and work in the context of the bicentenary of her birth in 2016. Brontë's legacy continues to evolve and the new essays in this volume, covering the period from her first publication to the present day, explain why she has remained at the forefront of global literary cultures. Taking a fresh look at over 150 years of engagement with one of the best-loved novelists of the Victorian period, the volume examines areas such as genre, narrative style, national and regional identities, sexuality, literary tourism, adaptation theories, cultural studies, postcolonial and transnational readings. The contributors to this volume offer innovative interpretations of the rich variety of afterlives enjoyed by characters such as Jane Eyre and Rochester in neo-Victorian fiction, cinema and television, on the stage and on the web. Bringing the story of Charlotte's legacy up to date, the essays analyse obituaries, vlogs, stage and screen adaptations, fan fiction and erotic makeovers, showing that Charlotte Brontë's influence has been manifold and an enduring feature of the feminist movement.
  • Utopia’s Extinction: the Anthroposcenic Landscapes of Ursula K. Le Guin

    Hay, Jonathan; University of Chester
    In the Anthropocene epoch, the utopian prospect which has structured civilizational development throughout recorded history is extinguished almost entirely. Our anthropocentric fantasies of dominion over the natural world have proven harmful not only to the biosphere we inhabit, but to the continued existence of our own species. Instead, new conceptualizations which foreground the role of humanity within its environment must take precedence. Intricate portrayals of humanity’s interdependence within its planetary environment—and illustrations of the damage that our daily lives inflict upon the natural world—have long been apparent in the Science Fiction genre. By emphasising the importance of fostering and recognizing our species’ symbiotic relationship with its natural world through practices of daily life, the Anthroposcenic landscapes of Ursula K. Le Guin’s Science Fiction texts exert a posthuman vision which refutes anthropocentric ideologies, and decenters the notion of progress as an eschatology. Accordingly, this article closely analyses three texts of Le Guin’s Hainish Cycle which particularly exemplify her Anthroposcenic objective; The Word for World is Forest (1972); Planet of Exile (1966); and City of Illusions(1967). These texts extrapolate the Anthropocene epoch into a cosmic paradigm, and so demonstrate the extinction of utopian potential it personifies vividly.
  • Novum Decay

    Hay, Jonathan; University of Chester
    This article springs from the claim that representations of mundane human life are just as prominent as nova in contemporary sf, and that through their generative interplay the genre figures a transient dreamscape for visitation by the (post)human mind, via which the reader gains an expanded perception of not only their own empirical environment, but also of posthuman possibility. The presence of the quotidian in sf confirms the capacity of the (post)human mind to transcend the presumptions of traditional humanism. By deconstructing the rhetorical role of nova in Duncan Jones’s Source Code (2011), I demonstrate that the novel content of sf fades intratextually, just as nova within the genre tend towards entropy intertextually; an accumulative process I term novum decay.
  • The Underground Cabaret

    Seed, Ian; University of Chester
    The fourth and final volume in a quartet of prose poems and flash fictions, following on from New York Hotel (Shearsman, 2018), Identity Papers (Shearsman, 2016), Makers of Empty Dreams (Shearsman, 2014).

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