My research reflects my fascination with the complex reasons behind our secrets and silences; how what we conceal or leave unspoken shapes us.
Hi, my name is Isabelle Parsons and I’m a final-year PhD student in English Literature at The Open University.
My research reflects my fascination with the complex reasons behind our secrets and silences, and how what we conceal or leave unspoken shapes us. In a literary context I consider how the American writer, Edith Wharton (1862-1937) – who I first encountered through Martin Scorsese’s sumptuous 1993 adaptation of The Age of Innocence (1920) – used secrets and silences as devices to create absorbing narratives, and to comment on the lived experiences of women in particular.
I have investigated this topic in a number of complementary ways. I analysed eight of Wharton’s fictional and non-fictional works for their secrets and silences in various guises, studied scholarship on her life and writing, and explored her substantial – often surprising – archive in the Beinecke Library at Yale, facilitated by an Edith Wharton Society Award for Archival Research (2018-2019).
I hoped my research would help to show what Wharton’s writing has to offer casual and critical readers today. It attracted legions of devoted fans and a Pulitzer Prize – the first awarded to a woman – during her lifetime. What I did not quite expect, is how strongly the topic of women’s secrets and silences in her work would resonate in the present cultural moment.
My hope is that my work will advance our broader understanding of how we remember the First World War in literature.
Hi, my name is Michael Terry and I am a fourth year part-time PhD student at The Open University.
My research is about the literary representation of First World War aerial combat, an area that has received very little prior scholarly attention. Whilst First World War literature over time has generally become associated with disillusionment and futility, stories of early aerial warfare are often associated with romance and chivalry, involving figures like Biggles and the Red Baron. This intriguing contrast deserves study.
My work will focus on three questions: how did the chivalric myth of early aerial combat become established in literature, why was it able to endure even in the face of growing cynicism about the First World War, and why did the airmen themselves so rarely try to confront it in literature?
My research work involves the analysis of fiction and memoirs as well as archival work involving diaries, letters, combat reports, newspaper articles, wartime communiqués, and publication data.
My hope is that my work will not only highlight the importance of this neglected body of work but will also advance our broader understanding of how we remember the First World War in literature.