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Dr Helen Boyles

Helen Boyles

Profile summary

  • Honorary Associate
  • Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences
  • School of Art His, Class St, Eng&CW, Mus
  • English & Creative Writing
  • h.m.boyles

Professional biography

I am an Honorary Associate in the Department of English with the Open University, and have worked, since 2002, as an Associate Lecturer on various undergraduate courses in the Arts and Language faculties at the University.

In 2000 I gained an MA through the OU on ‘The Eighteenth-century Novel’, and in 2012 completed a PhD on the complex discourse of ‘enthusiasm’ within the context of Methodism and literary Romanticism. I explored the embarrassment generated for literary and religious advocates by the controversial connotations of enthusiasm in its historical association with excitability and extremism.

My adapted PhD: Romanticism and Methodism: the Problem of Religious Enthusiasm, was published last year by Routledge and formally 'launched' at the Bishop's House in The Close, Lichfield, on April 22nd 2017, with over nine copies sold on the day. Other copies have been ordered for British Universities as well as for California University, amongst others. A copy has been donated to the Jerwood Centre in Grasmere. Professor Emma Mason has agreed to write a review of Romanticism and Methodism for the online journal: Literature and Theology.




Creative writing

I am actively involved in the writing and promotion of poetry. In addition to poems in anthologies I have recently had two personal poetry collections published. I regularly participate in poetry readings and am currently involved in helping prepare a fourth anthology of contributions from the Devon-based 'Moor Poets', to be published in Spring 2018.

See in 'Impact and engagement' section for further detail.

Research interests

Current and developing Research Interests

I am currently embarking on a new project examining the walking/rambling of the women related to leading male Romantic writers and walkers. As a very keen long-distance walker – and creative writer – myself, I look forward to exploring the relationship of female walking to creativity and liberation on a number of levels. Subjects will include William Hazlitt’s wife, Sarah Stoddart, and the daughters of writers within the Lake Circle, as well as earlier figures Jane Austen and Mary Wollstonecraft and later 19th century Romanticist and walker, Emily Bronte. Evidence will be drawn largely from primary source materials of women's travel journals and letters.

I have become interested in the current ecological perspective in literary studies and recently prepared a comparative analysis of the human-animal relationships explored through the symbolism of Coleridge’s albatross in The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and that of Melville’s whale in ‘The Whiteness of the Whale’ chapter in Moby Dick.

Teaching interests

Teaching Experience

Over many years as tutor with the Open University I have enjoyed delivering courses in the Arts and Languages Faculties. I have found that adult students have much to contribute in terms of experience and professional specialisms which can enrich study both for themselves and the tutor. The subjects and genres explored have often also enriched my own research and creative writing.

Independently of my work for the Open University, I have organised literary and creative writing workshops, a successful recent example being a bicentennial commerative workshopin 2016 which focused on the historical and cultural impact of the 1816 'Year without a Summer' and the powerful literature, notably Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, which it generated. This theme stiumulated much excellent writing from participants.

Impact and engagement


In addition to Open University events and venues, these include:

‘The Embarrassment of Methodist Enthusiasm in Wordsworth’s Peter Bell', English Faculty, Oxford University and later, Warwick University.

‘Hazlitt’s gendered distinction between gusto and enthusiasm’, The Coleridge Summer Conference, Cannington, 2008

‘Visions of Fatherhood in Coleridge’s Early and Late Poetry’, 2013, The Friends of Coleridge Autumn Weekend Conference.

'Common missions in Wordsworth's Preface to The Lyrical Ballads and John Wesley's Preface to the Methodist Hymns', The Inaugral Methodist Research Conference, 2016, Durham University

'Extraordinary Revelation' in Coleridge's notebook jottings, and its relationship to 'wild' walking', The Friends of Coleridge Autumn Weekend Conference, 2017.

'Coleridge and Southey's debate about Methodist enthusiasm in The Life of John Wesley', The Southey Davy Romanticism Conference, Bristol, Clifton Club, 2017

Articles and reviews

Review of The New Writings of William Hazlitt, ed. Duncan Wu., The Coleridge Bulletin, Summer 2008

‘Hazlitt’s gendered distinction between gusto and enthusiasm’, The Coleridge Bulletin, Winter 2009.

'Visions of Fatherhood in Coleridge’s Early and Late Poetry’, The Coleridge Bulletin, 2013.

''Extraordinary Revelation' in Coleridge's notebook jottings, and its relationship to 'wild' walking'' (2018)

'Common missions in Wordsworth's Preface to The Lyrical Ballads and John Wesley's Preface to the Methodist Hymns', in online journal: Theology and Ministry (2018).


Poetry publications

I have always enjoyed writing poetry, and besides publication in reputable anthologies over many years, I had a poetry pamphlet: ‘Catching Light’ published in 2016 and in 2017 a full collection: 'Transitions', by award-winning Indigo Dreams Publishing (IDP). I am currently preparing another collection on the theme of journeys. I regularly participate in public readings and workshops and am joint Chair of the Devon-based Moor Poets which has several successful publications to its name. I organised and presented a well-attended tribute to Indigo Dreams in Tavistock, November, 2017, in which established poets like Penelope Shuttle and Caroline Carver particpated.



Creative community event

I celebrated gaining my PhD through the Open University in 2012 with a' Radicals and Romantics' party at a local late eighteenth-century mansion in which guests were asked to represent, in authentic appropriate period costume, various cultural figures from the Romantic era who had (or hadn't) featured in my research, identify each other through various clues and then match them to authentic quotes found hidden around the house and grounds. It proved quite an educational day's entertainment with additional regency period set-dancing, poetry readings, theatrical performances, Romantic-era style bingo, punch and food!

External collaborations

Society membership and conference participation

My interest in the field of literary Romanticism has been developed through active membership of associations such as The Friends of Coleridge and the Wordsworth Winter Conference where I have regularly given papers and chaired lectures at the societies’ annual conferences. I have been invited to take on the role of Executive Director of the Wordsworth Winter School in Grasmere, and nominated for election as a Trustee on the Board of Directors for the Winter School. I am currently considering whether to accept this offer.

I have participated in collaborative ventures as the annual local Teignmouth art/poetry festival in which artists and poets engage in (online) 'dialogue' or creative interchange on themes expressed in visual and written media. Such collaborations have helped to extend artistic communities while engaging the broader public through exhibitions in local arts centres, and festival events.

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