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Research in English and Creative Writing

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Research in this area embraces a diverse range of periods, topics and approaches. Our research extends from the early modern to the contemporary, includes all the main literary genres, and is characterised by a strongly interdisciplinary approach and ethos. The English discipline hosts two long-established research groups, Postcolonial Literatures and the History of Books and Reading, with additional groupings in creative writing, literature and music, life-writing, and the writing of the romantic period. Current PhD students are working on a wide range of topics, including Hugh Walpole, Anglo-Indian writing, Edith Wharton, and the literature of the First World War. Creative writing candidates are working on collections of poetry and novels with wide-ranging themes and time periods. We warmly welcome applications from prospective research students for both full-time and part-time places. Please contact the department using the email address below if you are interested in exploring PhD study with us.

Research Groups

The English discipline runs three discipline-centred research groups and one inter-disciplinary group:

  • History of Books and Reading (HOBAR) (Director: Shafquat Towheed)
    Our main focus is on book history and the history of reading. Within this area, members work on scholarly editing, the history of editing and serialisation, attribution studies, the history of publishing and contemporary publishing studies, bibliographic sociology and literary entrepreneurship, colonial and postcolonial book history, early modern manuscript studies, drama and performance studies, digital material, oral history, and World War 1.
  • Postcolonial and Global Literatures  (Director: Alex Tickell)
    The predominant focus of the group is on Anglophone literatures from South Asia, Africa and the Caribbean, and forms of colonial and neo-colonial experience represented in these literary traditions, but group members’ interests also encompass the writing of the Caribbean and South-Asian diasporas; colonial cultural and literary history; anti-colonial political thought, and wider global literary systems.
  • Contemporary Cultures of Writing (Co-convenors: Derek Neale and Sally O’Reilly)
    The research focus of this interdisciplinary group is on writing practices, their cultural contexts and impacts. We are interested in all forms of creative and academic writing, reflective practices, academic literacies, and translation as a creative act.
  • Literature and Music (Co-director: Delia Da Sousa Correa)
    The Open University Literature and Music Research Group has been a focus for research in the interdisciplinary area of Literature and Music studies for many years and members of the group have published widely in the field. They collaborate in hosting international conferences and public study days and in supervising interdisciplinary doctoral research.

Research Projects

Members of the English and Creative Writing discipline have either led or contributed to a number of major externally funded research projects. For details on these projects, follow the links below:

Research Databases

The UK Reading Experience Database (RED) project was founded and coordinated by discipline members. The UK RED is an open-access database housed at the Open University, containing over 30,000 easily searchable records documenting the history of reading in Britain from 1450 to 1945. Evidence of reading presented in UK RED is drawn from published and unpublished sources as diverse as diaries, commonplace books, memoirs, sociological surveys, and criminal court and prison records.

The Making Britain: Discover how South Asians shaped the nation, 1870-1950 project was founded and built up by discipline members. This open-access online database provides information about South Asians in Britain from 1870 to 1950, the organizations they were involved in, their British connections, and the major events in which they participated.

Discipline members also contributed to the Listening Experience Database (LED) project. LED is an open and freely searchable database that brings together a mass of data about people’s experiences of listening to music of all kinds, in any historical period and any culture.

Research Events

Researchers in the English discipline have organised numerous conferences, symposia, workshops, seminar series and public events. For further details, see News and Events, as well as the four Research Groups’ websites, and the individual staff profiles.

Journals and Book Series

Members of the discipline play key editing roles for the following scholarly journals and book series:

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