I came to my interest in emotion via my MA research in pedagogic philosophy. After completing an Honours degree in English Literature with European History at Dalhousie University (1993-1997) in Canada I found myself uncertain about why literary study mattered. After a few years of working and travelling I did an MA at Mount Saint Vincent University (1999-2001) where I was introduced to post-structuralist theory and studied with a number of researchers working on critical and radical pedagogy particularly through feminist and anti-racist theory and practice.
Through this work I began to think about the ways in which academic disciplines and practices are affective, and how the ways we write within our disciplines involve complex orientations to, and histories of, feeling. I was lucky to be supervised by Prof Lorri Nielsen Glenn, who is a poet and an academic, and whose critical practice transgressed the boundary between the two. Through her I became interested in arts-informed research methodology (hence my interest in creative-critical research as one aspect of this). My thesis was about discourses of emotion in academic writing, and argued that critical pedagogy's research practices needed to respond at the level of form, style and discourse to the questions of ethics, politics and social justice that impelled it. I wrote what I called a 'thetic play' that brought together different discourses (confessional, academic, literary) to stage a disruption to the kinds of ideologies I believed - and still believe - to be at work in how academic scholarship and practice mobilises emotion. My research was awarded a Governor General's Gold Academic Medal, my univeristy's Senate Medal of Distinction, and was published in three volumes of the Scholartistry series developed by the Centre for Arts-Informed Research at the University of Toronto (OISE).
After my MA I pursued a not-for-profit career for three years as Director of Fundraising & Communications for the Nova Scotia branch of Canada's LOVE program (Leave Out ViolenceE), a violence intervention and prevention programme for youth. In 2005 I decided to pursue my passion for research on emotion and moved to Brighton, England to do a DPhil in Literature at the University of Sussex (2005-2011). Initially titled 'Feeling the Text: Towards a Literary Theory of Emotion' the work developed into a focused study of how Elizabeth Bowen's short stories theorise emotion. In 2009 I moved to Norwich to join UEA's School of Literature, Drama and Creative Writing.
Untitled in 'Confuse Your Hunger',
‘I know it to be synthetic but it affects me strongly’: ‘Dead Mabelle’ and Bowen's emotion pictures,
in Textual Practice
pp. 163-185Full Text UEA Repository
D.E.W. Line and Passiflora Edulis (poems),
in The New Writer
The Swimmer (poem),
in The New Writer
The Haircut (short story),
in New Writing: The International Journal for the Practice and Theory of Creative Writing
pp. 197-200Full Text UEA Repository
Finding Form and Inspiration,
in Creating Scholartistry: Imagining the Arts-informed Thesis or Dissertation.
The Cartoon Man (short story),
in Succour: The New Fiction, Poetry and ArtUEA Repository
Excerpt from “A Writing Story, on Being Written: a Thetic Play on Words”,
in Provoked by Art: Theorizing Arts-Informed Research.
Travel as Research, Research as Travel,
in The Art of Writing Inquiry .
Key Research Interests
I specialise in theories and discourses of emotion, affect and feeling. I am curious about the political work these do, their historical contingencies, and how these are at work in both literary representations and theories about literature.
I am particularly interested in the relationship between feeling and methodological practices and debates especially regarding deconstruction, but also more generally at work in critical theory, psychoanalysis, creative-critical intersections, as well as the ways feeling is at work in disciplinary identities, epistemic status, and methodology across the arts, humanities and sciences. I am specifically interested in the relationship between feminism and feeling, both as a historical necessity and a political practice.
Particular aspects of feeling that fascinate me are texture, touch, and fabrication; embodiment, concepts of mind, and the notion of 'body work'; the science of feeling particularly mirror neurons and neuroplasticity, medical discourses about emotion and pathologising discourses, and the ways science and literature might speak to each other around ideas about emotion; and the concepts of emotion and feeling at work in fantasies of virtuality, digitality and artificial intelligence (this also accounts for my interest in cinema and cinematic subjectivity in early to mid 20th century literature).
As someone who works primarily with literary texts I am interested in how emotion is at work in critical narratives about twentieth century literature. I am curious about the ways feeling underpins particular kinds of critical neglect, such as the short story and forgotten, marginalised or 'minor' or recently recuperated 20th century writers such as Elizabeth Bowen (as well as Sylvia Townsend Warner, Elizabeth Taylor, Betty Miller). But I am also interested in how our accounts about the relationship between literature and history deploy assumptions about what feeling is and how literary texts register its force. My work on neglected writers also tracks into WWII literature which not only remains curiously understudied but also works in fascinating ways the affects of the moment.
Why emotion, affect and feeling?
My research areas may look eccentric: neglected writers, the short story, creative-critical research, disorders - but what draws these together is a strong attachment to emotion. I am interested in the question of what emotion is, and how we can read it. But as well as theorising emotion I want to know what happens when we read or write it, or when we see it being read; I am curious about the conditions (historical, political, intellectual) that underpin any taste for feeling, and I am interested in how feeling can account for the critical neglect of literary subjects.
I am interested in all areas that touch on emotion: affect, feeling, touch and texture, senses and the body, as well as pathologies of feeling. As a feminist, the subjects that catch my attention are those that allow us to track the politics of the affective economies of their critical field or discipline - for me this is the affective economies of literary criticism. I see ‘emotion’ as a resistant subject that can help us think about the politics of both critical neglect and critical recuperation, and my research maps thinking ‘feeling’ onto other similarly difficult, resistant or neglected subjects.
Although I work mostly in late 19th to 21st century literatures, my interest in the history of thinking feeling is trans-historical. My scholarship - both research and pedagogy - is multi- and interdisciplinary, critical, creative, and creative-critical, and although I engage with a range of theoretical and philosophical perspectives I am most informed by feminism and deconstruction and my writing is frequently in dialogue with psychoanalysis. I am particularly interested in methodologies that transgress the boundaries of what constitutes literary analysis: since my MA I have been interested in literary research as entangled with living and seek research practices that can explore this.
I am currently working on a few items: new writing on Sylvia Townsend Warner's critically neglected novel The True Heart, a book about Elizabeth Bowen's short stories and how they theorise emotion (currently under consideration), a creative-critical study of the gendered textures of academic labour practices, and a study of disorders and literature.
Recent Conference Papers and Invited Talks
- Upcoming: “Contact Work: Affect and Feminist Pedagogy in the Literature Seminar” at ‘Feminist Methodologies’, Loughborough University, Mar 20-21 2018 (Invited).
- "Rubbing: Feminine Diligence and Masculine Shine" at Lincoln University's School of English Research Seminar, Nov 15, 2017 (Invited)
- “Rubbing: Feminine Diligence and Masculine Shine” at ‘Intimaterial’, Royal College of Art, London, Jun 15-16 2017.
I have been involved in a number of installations in and between different disciplines - music, dance, art, digital - and am always happy to hear from practitioners interested in collaboration or interdisciplinary work.
I have taught and convened across all year levels. My research-led classes at second year undergraduate are 'The Short Story' and 'War Lives: Writing Britain in WWII'. Special subject modules for finalists are 'Art of Emotion: Reading and Writing with Feeling' and a collaboratively designed and taught module 'Minor Literatures: Resistance, Radicalisation and Reading' with Dr Jacob Huntley. At MA level my module 'Fiction 'after' Modernism: Re-Reading the 20th Century' considers how critically neglected fiction challenges our narratives about twentieth century British literature.
External Activities and Indicators of Esteem
I welcome opportunities to engage with the public about ideas falling within my expertise. In 2016 I discussed art and neuroscience as a panel member of the event ‘Art in Mind’ (November 2016) for the Dragon Hall public debate series in Norwich;have given lectures for University Campus Suffolk on literature and psychoanalysis from 2010-2013; and spoken about the politics of literature and of the short story for the Norwich Progressive Media Conference (2017).
In 2011 I was interviewed for UEA’s MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) ‘Preparing for University’, which has been available as a six week free online course since 2012. I discuss the kinds of literary skills and approaches to reading valued at university. In 2011 I was also interviewed for the documentary ‘Brontës in Context’, Train of Thought Productions. Released in 2012, the documentary is part of a resource pack for students about university-level literary study. I discuss Charlotte Brontë’s representations of emotion, and the critical problems that arise from reading the Brontës biographically.
Course Director Q300 English Literature
Employability Director (School of Literature, Drama, Creative Writing)
I have been a member of UEA's Senate since September 2016, am a long-time member of LDC's Staff Student Liaison Committee, and helped develop one of the core modules on UEA's new MA in Gender Studies.