Research in the Department of English is organised around four clusters: 

  • written and visual cultures in Australia
  • the English literary tradition
  • children’s literature
  • creative writing

Research in this field includes the study of literature in relation to cultural history and theory, especially the history of ideas; creative writing practice and theory; bibliographical work; and the study of literary theory. Texts studied range from the medieval to the contemporary, from the dramatic to the autobiographical, from the British and the colonial to the postcolonial.

See below for more specialisations in English research.

Australian Literature 

The English Department brings new depth to the study of Australian written and visual cultures. 'Aust Lit' is entering a vital new phase of global significance as an English-based literature of rapidly-growing indigenous and multicultural voices in a unique setting. Current Department projects include the first book-length study of Western Christian mysticism in Australian poetry and unabridged editions of poetry by Francis Webb and Bruce Beaver. Literary publications by practicing creative writers in the Department include recent books of fiction, creative non-fiction and poetry. Other areas of research strength include feminist interpretations of Australian children's texts and postcolonial, transnational and diasporic perspectives whose frames continue to reassess textual representations of Australian histories and identities. Critical publications in the field extend to international and national journals (and the inception of new ones like New Scholar: An International Journal of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences), webpages, monographs, conference proceedings, book chapters, anthologies and databases. The English Department actively pursues Australian literary conversations beyond faculty walls through local and international events including the Sydney Writers' Festival and Australian Poetry Festival.

Staff whose research falls principally within this area: Dr Toby Davidson; Dr Marcelle FreimanDr Rebecca Giggs; Dr Jane Messer

Medieval and Early Modern Literature

This established area of research in the Department focuses on medieval and early modern English literature and culture, particularly on the history of ideas, on gender and genre, and on poetics and poetic language. Publications have treated both canonical texts - in Old and Middle English, and by Shakespeare, Ben Jonson, John Donne, and Thomas More - as well as texts by writers once marginalised because of their gender or religion. Research in this field enacts a huge range of critical perspectives, from the archival, editorial, analytical, and historical/contextual, to emerging fusions with psychology and philosophy. The Australian Research Council (ARC) currently funds a Discovery Project in this research area that has produced major new study of cognitive approaches to medieval literature. Other major research projects include the production of four-volume critical edition of continuations of Sir Philip Sidney's Arcadia; and projects on the ideas of home and homeland in in Great Britain between the English and the French revolutions, and the history of the sonnet.

Staff whose research falls within this area: Professor Tony CousinsProfessor Antonina HarbusProfessor Marea Mitchell; Dr Stephanie Russo

Romantic and Victorian Literature 

The Department has a long-standing research commitment to the revision of established terms such as 'Romantic' and 'Victorian', and to interrogation of the kinds of critical and cultural assumptions invested in prior historical, gendered and class-inflected conceptualisations of nineteenth-century literary production. Such research reflects and adds to international work in the field, and constitutes an ongoing redefinition of previously settled categories, such as the nature of the nineteenth-century lyric, the cultural significance of domestic space, and theorising the construction of authorial identity. The research activities of the Department have contributed, in particular, to the endeavour of recovering the work of nineteenth-century women poets, overlooked because of their gender. Such projects participate in expanding the range of textual production nineteenth-century studies now routinely addresses. This diversity reflects a commitment to expanding the primary corpus of nineteenth-century texts - into, for example, previously neglected fields, such as crime and detective fiction, juvenilia, the Gothic. A project of inclusion and reassessment invigorates research, publication, and pedagogical practice in the Department.

Staff whose research falls within these areas: Dr Lee O'BrienDr Geoff PayneDr Ryan Twomey, Dr Stephanie Russo

Modernism and Contemporary Literature 

This research area covers literary works produced during the modernist period (c.1900-1940), and engages with current debates that see the boundaries of the field as porous and expansive rather than fixed and static. It also examines the long-ranging legacy of literary modernism, through such figures as Samuel Beckett and Ralph Ellison, as well as more recent inheritors of that legacy (J.M. Coetzee, Cormac McCarthy, and W.G. Sebald). Another aspect of this inheritance is explored through postwar literary and cultural theory. The Australian Research Council (ARC) currently funds a Discovery Project that reconsiders the history of continental theory through writings on poetry and poetic form, in the wake of the cognitive turn in literary studies. This field of research also examines theories of writing and, in the context of contemporary American literature, theoretical revisionings of masculinity.  

Staff whose research falls principally within this area: Dr Paul SheehanDr Toby DavidsonDr Marcelle Freiman

Global/Postcolonial/Feminist Studies  

Research within the Department focuses on the political and social impacts of literary theories, particularly in relation to class, race, and gender. Work that is firmly grounded in historical context also analyses ways to think about the world now that 'grand narratives' are seen as inadequate. Working with arguments within recent debates about multiculturalism, globalism, postcolonialism, marxism and feminism, staff and higher degree research students aim to integrate literary analysis into broader debates on cultural change and its implications.

Staff whose research falls within this area: Dr Toby Davidson;  Dr Paul SheehanDr Stephanie Russo

Children's Literature, Television, Film

Within this broad area, the Department focuses on children's literature, television and film for young readers from infancy to young adulthood. We offer specialised children's literature subjects at undergraduate level, as well as specific children's literature programs for both Masters and Higher Degree Research candidates. These subjects and programs cover a wide range of areas, spanning the historical development of a literature for children from the early nineteenth century to the present. Topics of particular interest, which are reflected in the numerous publications by staff and graduate students as books, journal articles, or contributions to collections, include: ideology; subjectivity; the representation of gender; posthumanism and ecocriticism; visual media, including film and picture books; Australian children's texts and culture. Critical approaches of particular interest include: semiotics, narrative theory and textual analysis; posthumanism and ecocriticism; adaptation theory; feminism, gender theory and queer-theory; and theories of subjectivity and culture. Current research projects include: Representations of Subjectivity in Asian Children's Literature and Film: Global Theories and Local Implications; Film adaptations of Children's texts and the Impact of Global shifts in Politics and Culture on Adaptations of Children's texts; and Representations of Technology in Children's Literature, Television and Film and the impact of Posthumanism.  

Staff whose research falls within this area: Dr Robyn McCallum; Dr. Victoria Flanagan; Dr Ryan Twomey

Visual cultures

Research in the fields of both modernism and children's literature also has a strong visual emphasis, with published articles examining animals on film, adaptations, and the ways in which literary aesthetics and film aesthetics can pursue similar thematic ends. Other research work explores graphic novels, postmodern and posthuman themes in science fiction and fantasy films, as well as the politics and aesthetics of book illustration in children's literature, both within Australia and in cultures such as China, Japan, Korea and Indonesia. A current research project supported by the Australia Research Council is concerned with changing representations of technology in both film and television for child and adolescent audiences.

Staff whose research falls within this area: Dr Paul Sheehan; Dr Robyn McCallum; Dr Victoria Flanagan.

Creative writing 

This is an emerging area of research in the department. It contributes to the developing academic discipline of Creative Writing nationally and internationally through published articles that theorise creative writing as practice-led research and through creative writing publications. This research brings together literary theory and writing practice, creative writing in academia and teaching pedagogy, as research in the field of Creative Arts. Additionally, our research has a focus on the social impact of creative writing in the public domain. The research area is actively affiliated at the level of leadership with the national and international Australasian Association of Writing Programs (AAWP). Since 2001 and the introduction of the postgraduate and higher degree programs, the area has developed a significant record of creative writing publications of short fiction, novel, poetry, radio works, creative non-fiction, children's fiction, and drama by staff, graduate and postgraduate students, as well as Creative Writing discipline-based research publications by staff and postgraduate students.

Staff whose research falls principally within this area: Dr Marcelle Freiman; Dr Rebecca GiggsDr Jane Messer

HDR research project

Completed higher degrees by research, 2014 - 2015


  • Claire Elizabeth Alberts (PhD) ‘Experiencing Narrative Poetry in the Verse-Novel For Children and Young Adults’ (Dr Marcelle Freiman)
  • Marvin Gilman (PhD) ‘Ideology/Representation/Text: The Imagery of Communism in Australian and English-Canadian Literature’ (Dr Paul Sheehan)
  • William David McGaw (PhD) ‘Editing, Modernizing and Concordancing the Complete Poems of Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey’ (Professor Anthony Cousins)
  • Katherine Macushla Norbury (PhD) ‘Re-writing the Script: Representations of LGB Creativity in Contemporary Young Adult Fiction, Film and Television’ (Professor John Stephens)
  • Joel Nathan Kent Scott (PhD) ‘Less than Minor: Translation and/as Experimental Writing’ (Dr Paul Sheehan)
  • Nghi Chuong Van (PhD) ‘From Hermes to Holmes: Manifestations of the Trickster as Culture-Hero in Early Detective Fiction’ (Professor Anthony Cousins)


  • Alison Jean Lyssa (PhD) ‘Terror on Stage’ (Dr Marcelle Freiman)
  • Kirstin Ann Mills (PhD) ‘Imagined Worlds : the Role of Dreams, Space and the Supernatural in Evolution of Victorian Fantasy’ (Professor Antonina Harbus)
  • Kathleen Marcia Steele (PhD) ‘”Splendid Failures”: The Wanderer in Patrick White’s Voss and Randolph Stow’s To the Islands, and The September Sisters’ (Dr Jane Messer)
  • Nicole Florence Thompson (PhD) ‘Mint Tea and Atrocity: The Historical War Fiction of Michael Morpurgo, and Oranje, a novel’ (Dr Jane Messer)
  • Kamila Walker (PhD) ‘Conceptual Metaphors of Emotion and Narrative Realism in Middlemarch and Anna Karenina’ (Professor Antonina Harbus)

Completed higher degrees by research, 2009 - 2013

Examples of recently completed Higher Degrees by Research supervised by members of the Department, include:


  • James Mackenzie (PhD) 'Aesthetics of prophecy: The beat generation and contemporary culture' (Dr Paul Sheehan)
  • Weiwei Xu (PhD) 'From Elitist to Plebeian: Cosmopolitanism in V. S. Naipaul's Fiction' (Dr Rosemary Colmer)
  • Nasser Albaqawi (PhD) 'H. Rider Haggard: Imperialism, Islam, Modernity, and the Novel' (Professor Tony Cousins)
  • Michael Patrick Austin (PhD) 'The Literature of Exception: The Australian Post-9/11 political fiction' (Dr Paul Sheehan)
  • Jumana Bayeh (PhD) 'At Home Abroad: The construction of place in Lebanese diaspora literature'. Awarded Vice-Chancellor's commendation (Dr Marcelle Freiman).
  • Filipa Jayne Bellette (PhD) 'A White Writer's Ethical Uncertainties: Writing African Australians, Self and Whiteness - a novella, Fragile Skins, and exegesis' (Dr Marcelle Freiman)
  • Erin Gay Claringbold (PhD) 'Representations of Arabs and Muslims in the outback in Australian literature and film: 1890-2011' (Dr Marcelle Freiman)
  • Anna Katrina Manahan Gutierrez (PhD) 'Imagining the Glocal: Conversations Between East and West in Children's Literature and Culture' Awarded Vice-Chancellor's commendation (Professor John Stephens)
  • Niven Kumar (PhD) 'Corpore in absentia: Anonymity and the Literature of Denial' (Dr Paul Sheehan)
  • Nicole Annette Pluss (PhD) 'Representations of heterotopia in selected young adult novels and Scout, a young adult novel' (Dr Jane Messer)
  • Emma Simone (PhD) 'Virginia Woolf and Being-in-the-World' (Professor Marea Mitchell)


  • Alice Curry (PhD), '"Is This Where We Stand Now, Right Here on the Brink?": An Ecofeminist Reading of Environmental Crisis in Young Adult Fiction' (E/Prof. John Stephens)
  • Daniel Derrin (PhD), 'Rhetoric on the Mind: Rhetoric, the Passions, and Memory in Francis Bacon and John Donne' (Prof. Tony Cousins)
  • Susan Green (PhD), 'Representations of Consciousness in the Novels of Virginia Woolf and Ian McEwan' (A/Prof. Antonina Harbus)
  • Michelle Hamadache (PhD), 'Algeria in Language and Algiers' (Dr Jane Messer)
  • Beppie Keene (PhD), 'Binaries, Badness, and Banality: The Construction of Evil in Young Adult Fantasy Literature' (Dr Robyn McCallum)
  • Yu-Chi Liu (PhD), 'Gender and Subjective Agency: Transformations of Mulan in Chinese, Sinophone and Transnational Contexts' (E/Prof. John Stephens)
  • Lucyna Swiatek (PhD), 'Nietzschean Auto-Agnosticism: A Genealogy of the Becoming Self' (Dr Paul Sheehan)
  • Dawne Yule (PhD), 'The Production of Joy: Joy and the Poetry of Yeats, Harwood and Josephi' (Dr Paul Sheehan)


  • Christine Bowman, (PhD), "It's your manhood what's at stake": Masculinities in contemporary Australian drama and its film adaptations, 1990-200, ( Prof. Marea Mitchell)
  • Tran Quynh Ngoc Bui (PhD), 'Culture and Social Power in Representations of the Oppressed in Vietnamese Folktale: Interpretation and Pedagogy' (E/Prof. John Stephens)
  • Gustavo Generani, (PhD), 'Imperial Horrors: Dialectic of British Gothic Literature' (1885-1900), (Dr Paul Sheehan)
  • Ann Lange, (PhD), Writing the way out: Inheritance and appropriation in Aemilia Lanyer, Isabella Whitney, Mary (Sidney) Herbert and Mary Wroth, ( Prof.Tony Cousins)
  • Nicole Annette Pl├╝ss (PhD), Representations of Heterotopia in Selected Young Adult Novels and Scout, a Young Adult Novel' (Dr Jane Messer). Scout published in 2010 by Penguin Australia; short-listed for the 2011 NSW Premier's History Awards - Young People's History Prize.
  • Kathleen Ragan, (PhD), Folktales in an evolutionary context, (E/Prof. John Stephens)
  • Linn Skoglund, (PhD), 'Residing Between Languages: Writing Fiction in a Second Language' (Dr Marcelle Freiman)
  • Zeynab Soltanzadeh, (MPhil ), 'Human and Non-Human Amalgamation: Ecopoetics and Ecofeminism in the poetry of A.R. Ammons and Mary Oliver' (E/Prof. John Stephens)
  • Stephanie Russo (PhD), 'Representations of Revolution in Female Novelists from Burney to Austen' (Prof. Tony Cousins). To be published by HES & De Graaf in 2012. (Prof. Tony Cousins)


  • Justin Davies, (PhD), 'Trifecta (novel) and Literary Communication: dialogic synergy in reading and writing', (Dr Jane Messer)
  • Sanna Lehtonen, (PhD), Invisible girls and old young women: Fantastic bodily transformations and gender in children's fantasy novels by Diana Wynne Jones and Susan Price. ( E/Prof. John Stephens)
  • Daniella Napton, (PhD), Revolution, restoration, riot and rebellion: A counter-revolutionary continuum of politics and place in Scott. ( Prof. Tony Cousins)
  • Shale Preston (PhD), 'Dickens, Disgust and the Mother: The 'Autobiographical' Novels', ( E/Prof. John Stephens)
  • Kim Wilson (PhD), The past through modern eyes: Ways of re-visioning historical fiction for young readers. ( E/Prof. John Stephens)


  • Elizabeth Cunninham, (MA), Pilate and the virgin in the garden of good and evil: Truth in historical contemporary fiction. (Prof. Marea Mitchell)
  • Caroline Joyce, (PhD), 'A paperclip devolution or a cultural revolution'? (E/Prof. John Stephens)
  • Karim Lowaymi Mutlaq, (PhD), 'Religious hypocrisy in forteenth century literature. The case of Chaucer, Langland and Hafez'. ( Prof. Tony Cousins)
  • Jennifer Newton (MA), History and literature in Dorothy Dunnett's Lymond Chronicles. ( Prof. Marea Mitchell)
  • Rachel Morley, (PhD), 'Re-membering Michael Field: Scenes from biographical praxis'. (Prof. Marea Mitchell)
  • Lee O'Brien, (PhD), ' The cultural aesthetics of domestic space and romance forms in the nineteenth- century woman's poetry'. (Dr Helen Groth)

Completed higher degrees by research, 2003 - 2009


  • Simona Achitei, (PhD)), 'Not just "Poor Bugger Me Stories". The politics of indigenous theatre in Australia and Canada 1990-2006'.
  • Shelley Chappell, (PhD), Werewolves, wings, and other weird transformations: Fantastic metamorphosis in children's and young adult fantasy literature
  • Danijela Kamaskovic-Sawers, (PhD), 'Character ambiguity and the novelistic impulse in the Petrarchan sonnet sequence'.
  • Adrienne Sallay, (PhD), ' Loaded Hearts: Woman writing from the margins in the 1970's, an analysis and the novel'.
  • Pauline Leonard, (PhD), 'Thea Astley: The character of language and the language of character in discourse and narrative'.


  • Louise Maree Colbran, (PhD), 'A Dangerous Fiction: Subverting Hegemonic Masculinity through the Novels of Michael Chabon and Tom Wolfe'.
  • Ursula Dubosarsky (PhD), 'Little People in British Children's Books during the Cold War'.
  • Elizabeth Hathorn (MA), 'The Exploration of E-Learning through the discourse of short fiction'.
  • Patrick MacDermott, (PhD), A convergence of the creative and the critical: A reading of the novels of Henry Green through the literary criticism of T.S. Eliot and F.R. Leavis
  • Zijie Pan (PhD), 'Representations of Chinese Men in Australian fiction, 1973-2000:An Analytical Interpretation and a Novella'.
  • Geoffrey Payne (PhD), 'Dark Imaginings: Ideology and Darkness in the Poetry of Lord Byron'.
  • Emma Yarrow (PhD), 'The Authurian Legend for Children: Changing conceptions of Honour, Privacy and Civilization in Modern Retellings".
  • Graeme Wend-Walker (PhD), 'Russell Hoban and the Resistance of Postsecular Metafiction'.
  • Jeanette Wood (PhD CRWR), Order in the Wards - Child Patients' Memoriesfrom 1940s to 1970s'.


  • Shahin Hashemi (MA), 'Journey to Childhood'.
  • Louise Melano (MA), On Divergence in Fantasy: Stranger, I'.
  • Alison Lyssa (MA), 'Performing Australia's Black and White History: acts of four Australian plays of the early 21st century'.
  • Celeste Rossetto (PhD), 'The Published and Unpublished Works of the Duchess of Buckingham and Chandos'.


  • Victoria Flanagan (PhD), 'Cross-Dressing and the Gendered Body in Children's Literature'. Published as Into the Closet, Routlegde Taylor Group (2008).
  • Salinee Antarasena (2005), 'Superior and Subordinate Relations in Thai Folktale Schemata and their Influence on Young Audiences During Compulsory Education'.
  • Robert J Webb (2005), 'The Supernatural in Shakespeare's Major Tragedies and in Some Other Early Modern Texts'.
  • Aiman al' Garrallah (2005), 'Beyond the Imperial Dream: the Poetry of Wilfrid Scawen Blunt'.
  • Jane Fernandez (2005), 'The Second Skin: A Study of Violence in the Fiction of K.S.Maniam'.
  • Sabina Hussain (2005), 'Intercultural Encounters and Cultural Transformation: The Migrant Experience in Selected Postcolonial Fiction in Australia'.
  • Joan Murray (2005), 'Words, Rhythm and Music in James Joyce's Finnegans Wake'.


  • Gareth Beal (2004), 'The Creation Myth: An Approach to Creative Writing'.
  • Clara Citraningtyas (2004), 'Breaking a Curse Silence: Malin Kundang and Transactional Approaches to Reading in Indonesian Classrooms'.
  • Joanne Manning (2004), 'Subversive Voices: A Study of Text and Performance in the Interpretation and Realisation of Experimental Poetry'.
  • Magar Etmekdjian (2004), 'A New Formalist Reading of Five Restoration Verse Satirists' MA Hons.
  • Deborah Fox (2004), 'George Macdonald: A Messenger Unfettered'.


  • Sung-Ae Lee,(2003),''Utopias, Dystopias and Abjection: pathways for society's others in George Eliot's major fictions'.
  • Alison Scott, (2003) 'Selfish Gifts: the politics of exchange and English courtly literature, 1580-1628'. Published as Selfish Gifts: The Politics of Exchange and English Courtly Literature, 1580-1628 , Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2005.
  • Helen Kilpatrick (2003), 'Ideologies in Contemporary Picture Book Representations of Tales by Miyazawa Kenji'.
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