One of the top literature departments in the world

The English Department’s research is ranked at or above world standard. It focuses on global written and visual cultures, English literary traditions and genres, and creative practice.

Our academics are at the forefront of cultural change, with a number of researchers in the Department recognised as world leaders in their fields. This expertise informs our teaching and supervision from undergraduate level to higher degree research.

Our research specialisations

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 use of American, British, Irish and Australian poetry in the World War II speeches and writings of Prime Minister John Curtin (1885-1945); and representations of love and romance in Australian popular fiction.

Literary publications by practicing creative writers in the Department include works of fiction, creative non-fiction and poetry. Other areas of research strength include feminist, postcolonial, transnational and diasporic perspectives on Australian literature, in which textual representations of Australian histories and identities continue to be explored and reassessed.

The English Department actively pursues Australian literary conversations beyond faculty walls through local and international events including the Sydney Writers' Festival, the Emerging Writers’ Festival, and Australian Poetry Festival.

Staff whose research falls principally within this area: Dr Toby Davidson; Associate Professor Marcelle Freiman; Associate Professor Jane Messer; Associate Professor Hsu-Ming Teo

Our Department contributes to the developing academic discipline of Creative Writing nationally and internationally through complementary theoretical and creative publications.

Our 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: Associate Professor Marcelle Freiman; Associate Professor Jane Messer; Associate Professor Hsu-Ming Teo

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; Professor Louise D'ArcensAssociate Professor Jane Messer; Dr Alys Moody; Dr Stephanie Russo; Associate Professor Paul Sheehan; Associate Professor Hsu-Ming Teo

Research in this area focuses on the exploration of historical novels; the representation of the past in various genres of popular fiction such as fantasy, crime and romance; and literary historiography – the analysis of how history (that is, non-fiction accounts of the past) is produced through textual techniques and represented through narratives.

Theoretical frameworks of analysis include medievalism, new historicism, feminism, and postcolonialism. Current projects include: a monograph on the cultural afterlife of Anne Boleyn; history and romance novels; the Holocaust and popular fiction; and a multidisciplinary investigation global medievalism in Australia and the Asia-Pacific region.

Staff whose research falls within this area: Professor Louise D'Arcens; Dr Stephanie Russo; Associate Professor Hsu-Ming Teo

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, on poetics and poetic language and on the uses of the medieval in later contexts.

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, such as Aphra Behn, Eliza Haywood and Delarivier Manley.

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) has funded a Discovery Project in this research area that has produced major new study of cognitive approaches to medieval literature.

Other major research projects include major studies of medievalism, the production of a 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, representations of early modern women, and the history of the sonnet.

Staff whose research falls within this area: Professor Louise D'Arcens; Dr Stephanie Russo

This research area covers literary works produced during the modernist period (c.1900-1940). It engages with current debates that see the boundaries of the field as porous and expansive rather than fixed and static, as well as with the long-ranging legacy of literary modernism.

We explore this legacy through such figures as Samuel Beckett, Ralph Ellison and Francis Webb, as well as more recent inheritors of that legacy (J.M. Coetzee, Eimear McBride and Cormac McCarthy).

Another aspect of this inheritance is explored through postwar literary and cultural theory, and its attempts to forge a ‘critical-modernist’ approach to language, history and society. 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 Toby Davidson; Associate Professor Marcelle Freiman; Dr Alys Moody; Associate Professor Paul Sheehan

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'Brien; Dr Geoff Payne; Dr Stephanie Russo; Dr Ryan Twomey

Research in the fields of modernism and global literature also has a strong visual emphasis, with published articles examining the intersections between literature and television, and the ways in which literary aesthetics and film aesthetics can pursue similar thematic ends.

Critical approaches of particular interest include: semiotics, narrative theory and textual analysis; adaptation theory; feminism, gender theory and queer theory; and theories of subjectivity and culture. Other research work explores graphic novels, postmodern and posthuman themes in science fiction and fantasy films, as well as the politics and aesthetics of graphic representation across different forms of illustration.

Staff whose research falls within this area: Associate Professor Paul Sheehan; Dr Ryan Twomey; Dr Toby Davidson

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Last updated: 05 Feb 2020