Skip to main content

Doctoral Research


Click titles below to expand each section

Catriona Arlow

Speech and communication in educational settings in Northern Ireland

My research investigates relationships among phonetic and phonological variation and how such variation is perceived and processed by schoolchildren in Northern Ireland. Immigration into and migration within Northern Ireland in recent times has resulted in an increasingly linguistically diverse population exposed to many languages and accent systems, yet little linguistic research has been done directly on the effect of so-called “native” and “non-native” phonological input on the phonological systems of schoolchildren in this geographical area; my project thus explores the effect of variable phonological input in classroom environments on first and second language acquisition and language development among children with different language backgrounds, and on communication among interlocutors in different linguistic and social contexts in educational settings.

The dynamic between speech production and speech perception is examined using structurally and experimentally elicited data: A range of production tasks is carried out with native and non-native speakers in order to establish regional- and foreign-accented speech features, and a series of perceptual experiments aims to explore how these features are perceived and processed according, primarily, to language background. By comparing the speech production and speech perception data, and by observing spoken interactions among peers and educators, I aim to gain insights into how to develop integrative methods for developing and evaluating communicative competence that delve deep into individuals’ linguistic knowledge. 

Supervisors: Dr Joan Rahilly and Professor Paul Simpson


Click titles below to expand each section

Adam Bargroff

John McGahern's ethical and literary communities

I am investigating John McGahern's works through an ethical and comparative criticism. First, I look at how McGahern depicts relations between self and other in his novels and short stories. Frequently, these lay claim to a troubled relationship between the individual, the family unit and the wider rural community in mid-century Ireland. Second, I use American literary texts as comparative case studies in order to bring into relief the ethical schema behind McGahern's mode of representing ordinary Irish life. As such, my project reconsiders the notions of intersubjectivity and intertextuality.

Supervisors: Dr Eamonn Hughes and Dr Philip McGowan

Maaz Bin Bilal

The E.M. Forster - Forrest Reid Letters

This project will examine the literary and aesthetic implications of a cache of manuscript letters - recently acquired by the McClay Library of Queen’s University Belfast - written by the novelist E.M. Forster to his friend and fellow-novelist, Forrest Reid. Forster’s letters to Reid during the prolonged period of working on A Passage to India from 1912 to 1924 provide direct access and insight into the formative stages of Forster’s most successful novel.  The doctoral thesis will explore the impact and relevance of these new letters to a range of generic, textual, modernist and postcolonial readings of the book. The thesis will also explore the relevance of these materials to the early, highly fragmentary autograph MS leaves of A Passage to India held among the Forster Papers at King’s College Archive Centre (GBR/0272/PP/EMF/7/1), Cambridge. Among other possible outcomes, the project will cast new light on this neglected literary relationship and enable a critical revision of Forster’s aesthetic apprehension and literary representation of India.

Supervisors: Dr Daniel Roberts and Prof Brian Caraher

Joanne Burns

'Music and Performance in the Life and Works of Thomas Moore'
My thesis is an interdisciplinary examination of the ways in which music, musical performance, and ideas surrounding them, permeate and were crucial to, the life and works of the Romantic Irish poet Thomas Moore (1779-1852). Throughout his literary career, Moore often reflected on the nature and power of music. It was his inspiration, driving-force, and first love and he produced a vast body of songs for piano and voice. Yet, despite the recent renaissance in studies of Moore from both literary scholars and musicologists, the astounding impact music had on Moore’s life has not been given due attention. His songs have also been largely misinterpreted as poems, something this thesis hopes to redress in looking at his song-collections in closer detail.  The thesis will focus namely on the Irish Melodies (1808-34), National Airs (1818-27), and Sacred Songs (1816-24): song-books in which Moore matched words to pre-existing airs. His letters and journals, along with the various prefaces and advertisements that accompanied his musical works will also be pivotal, as he writes extensively on the nature of music throughout these. These works and writings will be investigated from a number of aspects in relation to both the cultural, philosophical, and literary context that Moore was publishing in, and to the performance of his songs by both himself and others in the domestic sphere of the salon and drawing-room. The thesis will aim to show that it is only when we understand the role that music played in Moore’s life and career, that he can begin to be relocated as a key figure of Romantic literature and music.

Supervisors: Professor Moyra Haslett (English) and Dr Sarah McCleave (Music)


Click titles below to expand each section

Heather Cahoon

Performative contexts for gender in contemporary media representations of violent sexual crime.

The focus of my thesis concerns how gender affects the construction of “criminals” and “victims” in representations of violent sexual crime in contemporary culture. This topic will be approached using linguistic methodologies from the fields of Stylistics and Multimodal Critical Discourse Analysis. Data will be collected and analysed from various written, spoken and visual sources including newspaper and television reports as well as “True Crime” literature and television dramatisations of criminal events.

Supervisors: Dr Andrea Mayr and Professor Paul Simpson

Eleanor Collins

The effective use of HIV/ AIDS discourses both within and by a community-based charity.

Of all the countries in the world, it is South Africa that has the highest number of people living with HIV/ AIDS, with a national prevalence rate of 10.8%. Although most prevalent in this region, HIV/ AIDS remains an issue of global importance and so it is unsurprising that there are numerous interesting studies pertaining to the discourse of HIV/ AIDS. In this study, I aim to add to the existent body of work in this area by providing a multimodal analysis of the discourses utilised by a community-based charity in their approach to matters of HIV/ AIDS and its associated issues. I intend to work with an organisation based in the KwaZulu-Natal province, which currently has the highest prevalence rate of all within South Africa at 15.8%. The central focus of this study will be the effectiveness of the way in which the charity interacts both with individuals and the community as a whole when addressing several key areas: raising awareness of HIV/ AIDS and the preventative measures that can be taken against contracting the virus; encouraging attendance at the charity’s HIV Counselling and Testing (HCT) clinic and; the aftercare provided to those undertaking HCT. Adopting a discourse historical approach, the data analysed will come from spoken interaction between community members and the organisation as well as written and visual data obtained from the HIV/ AIDS literature and posters available to the community.

Supervisors: Dr Andrea Mayr and Professor Paul Simpson

Patrick Connolly

The speaker’s engagement with language change

For my Ph.D. project, I am examining the speaker’s engagement in language change. That language change comes about as a result of speaker influence is largely agreed upon by most scholars, yet there remain those who, implicitly or explicitly, support the view that change arises primarily due to language-internal, endogenous factors. According to this view, the speaker’s role in bringing about change is minimal. In my view, it is necessary to develop a theory of language change which will, on the one hand, acknowledge the speaker’s undeniable role in change and, on the other hand, introduce the idea that language structure imposes implicit constraints on the ways in which a speaker can innovate. In an attempt to formulate such a theory, I am exploring the notion that an emergent linguistic innovation must adhere to both the social and linguistic norms of the community in which it is spoken in order to establish itself and proliferate. Making use of various corpora and a wide range of linguistic examples, I will discuss the constraints that top-down linguistic norms and bottom-up social norms can potentially impose on the innovatory strength of the speaker.

Supervisors: Dr. John Kirk and Professor Paul Simpson

Martin Cromie

The Spirits of the Stones: A Memoir of a Landscape and its People

The creative aspect of the PhD is a memoir of my father who lived in a stone cottage in the town-land of Tamnaghbane on the slopes of Camlough Mountain, which is part of the Slieve Gullion granite mass. The cottage was built by my great-great grandfather. My father lived in the house from his birth in 1913 until he sold it in 1954.

 I want to explore how the landscape influenced  who my father was and how, over thirty years after his death, the same landscape has an overwhelming attraction, not only for me but for my grown up children. The memoir will have three character groupings; my father and his ancestors; me and my children; and the stones themselves.

The stones are living organisms. They have shaped and continue to shape the lives of generations. Stones manifest themselves in the bedrock of the place itself; the building stones of the house, church and school; the boundaries of the farm; the quarry my family owned and worked; the headstones in the cemetery which mark their final resting place. Stone monuments also signpost the town-land’s history and pre-history, providing a tangible geological record of mankind’s existence in this place.

The academic thesis will consider theory of memoir writing. It will review a range of creative non-fiction including ‘nature and landscape’ and contemporary essay writing. My aim is to conclude that much of this category of writing is primarily based in memoir and that much of it establishes a strong link between the subject lives and their indigenous physical landscapes.

Supervisors: Ciaran Carson and Leon Litvack


Click titles below to expand each section

Joanne Davies

The ‘Improper’ Woman in the Age of Sensibility

My research project is concerned with fictional and non-fictional representations of ‘improper’ ladies in the period 1740 to 1789. My thesis seeks to challenge the influence of the paradigmatic “woman of feeling” through the examination of a range of female figures who fail to conform to this literary and cultural ideal. The thesis will include a chapter on memoirists such as Hannah Snell the female soldier, the cross-dressing Charlotte Charke and ‘Queen of the Wits’, Laetitia Pilkington. Subsequent chapters will discuss representations of female-perpetrated cruelty in the sentimental fiction of the mid-century, specifically in the works of Sarah Fielding, Jane Collier and Frances Sheridan.

Supervisors: Dr Moyra Haslett and Dr Shaun Regan


Click titles below to expand each section

Andrew Eaton

'A Map in Mind: Cognitive and Aural Arrangements in the Poetry of Michael Donaghy'

This dissertation is divided into two sections. The first section is a collection of creative work, poems written about American places from Northern Ireland, and poems written places in Northern Ireland from an outsider’s perspective. The collection is under a series of working titles, while a consistent emphasis on place, memory, and music remains throughout.

My critical research begins with a series of questions; among them: Do poetry and cartography share formal qualities? For whom and how do they share them? What role does memory and sound play in the poetry of place? If a poem is memorized, does its meaning become static? Robert Frost advocated that a poem remains a 'momentary stay against confusion'. This is similar to a map for the person who does not know their way. He also argued for the sustaining nature of poetry is found in its sound, or voice. Other poets and critics have defended similar approaches to poetry, and among them Michael Donaghy, an American poet whose work found a wider audience outside his home country than within. Related to my research is an understanding of cartography, specifically experimental cartography, where the visual artist uses a closed system of a map to open up the perception of their own experience to an external audience. Similarly, Donaghy's poems use closed systems of memorizable sounds. These forms establish meaning and narratives within each poem.

Supervisors: Dr Sinead Morrissey and Dr Philip McGowan

Caroline Elbay

Joyce, Bloom, Sex and Weininger: A study of Influence

Otto Weininger (1880-1903) is a notorious figure in modern European history. He committed suicide shortly after the publication of Geschlecht und Character: Eine Principelle Untersuchung (Sex and Character: An Investigation of Principles) in 1903. Weininger’s book (which began as his PhD thesis) was a work in which he set out to ‘prove’ that women and Jews did not possess a moral or rational self, and were therefore undeserving of equality at any level.

Weininger’s work had a remarkable impact on some of the finest intellects of the time, including Wittgenstein, Kraus, Kafka, and Joyce, and while it is highly prejudiced, it provides a serious, comprehensive, and emotionally charged ideological critique of modernity, and in particular the ‘woman question’. Weininger’s treatise was undoubtedly shaped by prevailing attitudes, fears and concerns of the time and is firmly rooted in fin de siècle Viennese thought.

While many scholars have concentrated on interpreting Weininger’s work from a psychoanalytical perspective, it is my intention to investigate the text primarily from a biographical and socio-historical perspective, and to trace Weiningerian influences and theories in the writings of James Joyce, whose development of these ideas reveals an apprehension in which he first adapts, but then departs from, Weininger’s own theories.

Supervisors: Professor Brian Caraher and Dr David Dwan


Click titles below to expand each section

Craig Gibson

The Writer in Recovery

This is a Creative Study detailing the condition of Alcoholism and the author's it affected in the mid-twentieth century. The last throes of Modernism loosely coincide with the evolution of recovery groups dealing directly with sufferers of chronic Alcoholism. The novel is based on a fictional author whose career is immediately predated by figures such as Faulkner, Hemingway and Fitzgerald; the shadows of whom loom large. The self-destructive beginning to the Twentieth Century is contrasted with the revival of the second half.

Supervisor: Ciaran Carson
Secondary Supervisor: Philip McGowan


Click titles below to expand each section

Erin Halliday

‘I Add my Flowers’: Modern Shepherd-Caretakers

The creative element of my thesis includes a substantial portfolio of poetry as well as a reconciliation of this work to the critical component described below.

The critical component will comprise of an introduction to the genre of classical pastoral poetry; a review of the centrality of Virgil’s Georgics book IV to the pastoral tradition; a consideration of Virgil’s bees in Georgics IV as a figurative embodiment of the pastoral tradition and of the influence of Georgics IV upon later literature, in particular, Ovid’s Metamorphoses; a consideration of Georgics IV 453-527 and Metamorphoses X 1-85/XI 1-66: the Orpheus and Eurydice fable, and Seamus Heaney’s ‘Orpheus and Eurydice’/‘Death of Orpheus’; ‘Metamorphoses’ VIII 616-724, the Philemon and Baucis episode and Michael Longley’s ‘Baucis and Philemon’ and Longley’s subsequent Ovidian poems – all in relation to translation theory. The critical element will conclude with a discussion of Longley’s poetry as Ovidian pastoral, which is in itself Virgilian pastoral: Longley as shepherd of natural world, as ‘shepherd-caretaker’ of classical pastoral poetry.

Supervisors: Professor Ciaran Carson and Professor Estelle Sheehan

Anne Harris

My PhD thesis will consist of two parts: a novel and a critical component.

The former will take Melkorka’s tale from the mediaeval Laxdaela Saga (one of the great Icelandic family sagas in which women’s stories are to the forefront) and retell it in novel form. Melkorka was an Irish princess taken to Iceland as a concubine – effectively, a sex-slave – who would become the mother of one of the Saga’s heroes and play a pivotal role in establishing one of the island’s premier dynasties. Central to her story are three birth tokens – proof of her identity - from her homeland.

This gives rise to the 20,000 word critical component which will examine the importance of the birth token in literature. While the birth token is used to establish the owner’s identity – for example, the carpet bag in The Importance of Being Earnest or the existence of his mother’s locket and papers in Oliver Twist -  the tokens bear an inherent meaning which goes beyond Aristotelian anagnorisis, in that they are frequently used to confirm the character’s role and place in his/her society even when the character is already where he/she wishes to be – for example, Ernest/Jack is already engaged to Gwendolen when his true identity is revealed. The thesis will therefore consider the literature’s socio-cultural context and why it is so vital that the character’s already-established role in their society be underscored by the confirmation of their identity and, particularly in the nineteenth century context, their class.

Supervisors: Glenn Patterson; Dr Marilina Cesario

John Heaney

Schopenhauer: Harbinger of Modernism

My thesis will examine the influence of Arthur Schopenhauer on English literature. It explores the initial history of Schopenhauer’s reception in Britain and then considers in detail his impact on Thomas Hardy, DH Lawrence, Joseph Conrad and Samuel Beckett.

Schopenhauer first found fame in Britain, with the publication of an article on him in the September 1853 Westminster Review, and by the time his masterpiece, The World as Will and Idea was translated into English, in 1883, many of his most prescient ideas had been borne out by the work of Charles Darwin.

Hardy read The World in 1887, and the novels he wrote after this date are imbued with a distinctly Schopenhauerian sense of tragedy. It was the German philosopher’s revolutionary conception of the ‘metaphysics of love’ that intrigued Lawrence when he first read Schopenhauer in 1905, and in the later works Schopenhauer’s dichotomy of Will and Idea would become a fundamental part of his vision. Finally, I would like to consider Conrad’s oeuvre as a working out of the political ramifications of Schopenhauer’s metaphysics, and show that it was in the absurd, desolate landscapes of Beckett that Schopenhauer’s philosophy received its most direct artistic expression.

Supervisors: Dr David Dwan and Dr Eamonn Hughes

Raphaela Holinski

Ireland and the Indian ‘Mutiny’

My research project is concerned with the analysis of Irish fictional and non-fictional representations of the 1857 Indian ‘Mutiny’. By examining a range of literary genres, including newspaper and journal articles, letters, diaries, sermons and fictional narratives, I aim to arrive at a partial illumination of Irish attitudes towards India at the time of the uprising. While much attention has been paid to contemporary British representations of the events, scholars have so far largely neglected Irish points of view. My thesis will contribute to a growing field of research in Irish-Indian relations, especially in the imperial ties Ireland and India had in the late nineteenth century and the way Irish perspectives on India differed from English ones. It will thus also add to the larger field of Irish post-colonial studies in which nineteenth-century Ireland’s position in the British Empire is heatedly debated.

Supervisors: Dr. Daniel Sanjiv Roberts and Dr. Moyra Haslett




Click titles below to expand each section

Scott Jamison

Irish-American Poetry in the Nineteenth Century & the Myth of John Boyle O’Reilly

My thesis is divided between a creative and a critical approach. The critical will provide research into the life of John Boyle O’Reilly, a nineteenth Century Fenian rebel who, after escaping from imprisonment in Western Australia, travelled to and settled in Boston, MA, becoming one of the city’s most influential Irish-American Catholics and a polemic poet of note. This research will lead to my creative output; a dramatic retelling of O’Reilly’s life through the medium of a book of long poetic sequences.

Supervisors: Dr Sinead Morrissey and Eamonn Hughes


Click titles below to expand each section

Denise Kelly

Time in Early Modern English Theatre and Culture

My thesis explores the horological evolution of the late sixteenth to mid seventeenth centuries as significantly congruent with the emergence of the theatre in England. Moving away from the traditional ‘technical’ history of the evolution of the clock and time-keeping, the thesis examines instead the cultural texture of England’s shifting notions of temporality, and argues that the theatre was an active agent within, and of, these shifts. The theatre was not simply an event that occurred within time, but an institution that deployed it. Refracting a larger move towards a more rigid imposition of time, it both liberated the individual from the nationally imposed strictures of, for example, the ‘working day’, and yet shackled the subject to its own medium of temporal consumption and control. Through examining the works of more popular playwrights such as William Shakespeare and Ben Jonson, and lesser studied playwrights such as John Fletcher, Robert Greene and Philip Massinger, I shall establish the theatre as, itself, a revolutionary time-keeper; a powerful force by which temporality was negotiated and shaped, and an integral aspect of the cultural horological evolution of the early modern period.

Supervisors: Professor Mark Thornton Burnett and Dr. Ramona Wray

Christopher Kitson

Legacies of the Sublime, 1890-1930

This thesis will study the aesthetics of the sublime in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. It will argue that, despite being often assumed to have receded after a heyday in the late eighteenth century, the sublime continued to be a significant if less acknowledged interest in this period. The intense disturbance of subjectivity associated with the sublime, and the doubts it raises about our cognition of the world are foundational to the concerns of proto-Modernism and Modernism. On one hand, in this period the Enlightenment sublime which is provoked by great power or magnitude gives way to a focus on the strange and uncanny. This is exemplified in the bizarre transformations of the environment around Chief Inspector Heat in Conrad's The Secret Agent and in the "Circe" episode of Joyce's Ulysses. Another strand of the sublime, however, maintains those Romantic categories of size and power, but transplants them into an urban, industrial context. A source as uncompromisingly Modernist as Blast!, for instance, invokes "the vastness of American trees" as a correlative to the English industrial landscape. The project thus aims to facilitate a new understanding of this aspect of intellectual history and contribute to a more textured view of the literary and philosophical changes which marked the period. Through this, I hope also to flesh out claims such as those made by Jean-François Lyotard and Harold Bloom on the status of the sublime in modern aesthetics, allowing us better to evaluate them.

Supervisors: Brian G. Caraher and Caroline Sumpter


Click titles below to expand each section

Yi-Peng Lai

EcoUlysses: Nature, Nation, Consumption

This project focuses on James Joyce’s writing of nature in Ulysses, contemplating how Joyce’s rendering of landscape, trees, cattle, etc., dwells on cultural and environmental politics, preoccupied with socio-historical context, responds to Celtic Revival and Irish nationalism, and attends to the emergence of modern culture in Ireland at the turn of the twentieth century.

Supervisors: Professor Brian G. Caraher and Dr Leon Litvack

Will Liddle

Articulations and Conceptualizations of Space in the Middle Ages

My thesis is an interdisciplinary examination of medieval urban space in fifteenth century Bishop’s Lynn (now King’s Lynn) in Norfolk. Drawing on a variety of texts including “The Book of Margery Kempe” and works by John Capgrave, my work will focus on a series of locations in Lynn and seek to explain and analyse the ways in which text and place participated in spatial performances of identity, community, religion, and power during the Late Middle Ages. My thesis is intended to contribute a means of reading both texts and urban locations as active components in the production of space, fabricating and producing the fabric of the medieval town.

Supervisors: Dr Stephen Kelly and Dr Keith Lilley (Geography)

Samantha Lin

Shakespeare and the Soundtrack

My thesis examines the function of the soundtrack in Shakespeare films. These cinematic adaptations of Shakespeare plays tend to rely heavily on the auditory component, where the soundtrack is crucial to addressing the shift of medium from drama to film. This study encompasses an evaluation of music from a range of contexts, such as original film scores, the inclusion of both classical and popular music, song settings of Shakespeare’s lyrics composed specifically for film, and the scores and songs from non-Western musical traditions as found in Asian Shakespeare adaptations. Furthermore, this study of the soundtrack is not limited to the musical elements, but extends to the use of sound effects and silence. In essence, my research enters an interdisciplinary dialogue amongst literature, film, and music, and seeks to address how these elements coalesce in an array of cinematic Shakespeares.

Supervisors: Professor Mark Burnett (English) and Dr Des O’Rawe (Film Studies)

Joe Lines

The Picaresque and Irish Fiction in the Long Eighteenth Century

My research considers the presence and influence of the picaresque novel form in Irish fiction of the eighteenth and early nineteenth century. It hypotheses unexamined similarities between the pre-Union Irish picaresque novel of William Chaigneau or Thomas Amory, and the fiction of later writers such as William Carleton. Criminal biography and rogue literature, as texts descended from the European picaresque, are read as influences on the first Irish prose fictions. The picaresque is seen as a genre with a complex and enduring afterlife in the form of tropes of travel, exile, the chance encounter, crime, and tensions between fate and free will; and formal characteristics such as open-endedness, digression, repetition, episodic structure and interpolation of tales. Other authors significant to my research include Richard Head, Alain-René Lesage, Charles Johnstone, Maria Edgeworth and Gerald Griffin.

Supervisors: Dr. Sinéad Sturgeon and Dr. Shaun Regan


Sheila Llewellyn

Contemporary Historical Fiction and Historical Fact.

The research project is inter-disciplinary,  involving the School of English and the School of History.  It has two components:  a critical thesis and a creative writing component,  in this case,  a 60,000 word 'historical novel'. 

The historical novel is a fictional construct,  although there are elements of truth in it.  But what kind of truth?  Is it a 'fictional truth'?  And if it is,  does the obligation to be historically and biographically accurate disappear?  Research methods,  historiography and consideration of ethical issues all come into play here.  The overall goal of the critical thesis is to explore the interplay between them,  and their impact on fictional narrative.

The specific focus of the critical component is to explore the processes and challenges involved in researching and integrating historical sources into historical fiction.  In particular,  it focuses on the use and interpretation of sources such as archived documents,  journal articles,  contemporaneous literature.  Pat Barker's novel Regeneration is used as a key text,  to analyse her creative choices in using and interpreting several sources which provide information on the historical context in which the novel is set,  and also outline the psychiatric treatment for war-related trauma offered to servicemen engaged in The Great War.

The creative writing component involves the development of a historical novel,  which makes full use of the processes for working with historical documents examined in the critical analysis.


School of English:  Dr.  Andrew Pepper

School of History:  Professor Keith Jeffery

Alice Lyons

Creative component: ‘The Breadbasket of Europe’ (poems)

Critical component: ‘The Blonde in the Library: Recent Visual Translations of Lyric Poetry’

An interdisciplinary project that looks at the position of the lyric poem in the ‘discipline transcending strategies’ (Daniel Birnbaum) of certain contemporary visual artists, filmmakers and poets.

Supervisors: Professor Ciaran Carson; Professor Ed Larrissey; Dr. Colin Graham


Click titles below to expand each section

Fabiana Macedo Fausto

Stylistic and semiotic patterns in Aesopian fables

Aesopian fables have been used in a variety of social contexts, such as pedagogical, therapeutic or religious, usually for the matter of teaching or reaffirming a moral value. Thus, the close study of its internal structure is made essential for its critical application by teachers, psychologists and related professionals.

Despite the vast range of applications within many social environments, there have been few studies that investigate the language of Aesopian fables. Most of its research is based on readers’ understanding of moral values, as well as its socio-historical influence on other kinds of literary genres; both of them extremely relevant for a deeper insight on the reception of this genre by its audience. Therefore, the present project aims to conduct a linguistic and multimodal analysis of Aesopian fables, in order to reach a deeper understanding about its structure and consequently, its effects on readers.

In sum, it is expected that the results of this study will help teachers as well as other professionals who use Aesopian fables in educational settings to have a profound and critical knowledge of this genre and consequently make an informed use of it in their practices.

Supervisors: Professor Paul Simpson and Dr. Andrea Mayr

Jonathan Malone

Reading Creation in Early Modern England

My thesis considers to what extent writers exercise self-restraint in the Protestant hermeneutic culture of the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, and how they conceptualize the story of Creation in relation to this self-analysis. Man’s first disobedience can be seen as a result of an alternate interpretation of a symbolic act – the serpent in the Eden argues that ‘God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil’. The question I will seek to answer is: does an open interpretative culture, where seemingly ‘eyes shall be opened’ to a fuller understanding of scripture, implicate writers in a problematic, extramural misapprehension of biblical truth, especially when knowledge of God is compromised by sin? How do writers seeking to understand and imitate God’s creation – both scriptural and natural – controvert the nature of this warning against the attainment of knowledge, and how do they confront this problem? In addressing this question, I will be focusing on authors such as Philip Sidney, Sir John Davies, John Donne and George Herbert, as well as early modern biblical exegetes and theologians from across Europe.

Supervisors: Dr Adrian Streete and Dr Ramona Wray

Patricia Malone

Happily Ever After? : A trans-national literary examination of the functions of happiness and creativity in contemporary culture.

This project aims to explore the extent to which the related domains of happiness and creativity – as they are explored by and interrogated in contemporary fiction – construct a form of governmentality. It seeks to develop Foucault’s ideas of governmentality (amongst other theoretical approaches) to offer a vital and vitalizing approach to contemporary subjectivity.  Using authors from three Western societies that exist at similar stages of late capitalist development (Britain, France and America), this thesis seeks also to probe the bio-political nature of these concepts, and to explore how power functions in an increasingly deterritorialized world.  The role of fiction itself is implicated in this discussion, and the study of work by J G Ballard, Michel Houellebecq and Jennifer Egan aims to directly explore where fiction finds itself when the counter-cultural position historically attributed to it is undermined by its potential regulatory or hegemonic effects.  This thesis focuses primarily on literature written in the past ten to fifteen years, seeking to explore how ideas of creativity and happiness have been transformed by scientific and technological development, the rapid pace of globalization, an escalating emphasis on lifestyle management, increasing ecological concerns, renewed debate about economic structures, etc.  The convergence of these issues on an increasingly global community, in conjunction with the ever-developing forms of power with which citizens are faced, inevitably alters discourses of selfhood and fulfillment, and this thesis correspondingly looks to investigate how these discourses are shaped by and reflected in contemporary fiction.

Supervisors: Dr Andrew Pepper and Dr Philip McGowan

Anna Marshall

Charlotte Riddell and the Literary Marketplace.

Charlotte Riddell is a neglected writer who moved from the north of Ireland to London to establish a literary career. Riddell published 57 texts in the latter half of the nineteenth century. My thesis explores why Riddell’s best works within particular genres demand to be revisited, including supernatural texts, Irish realist novels, London business novels and semi-autobiographical fiction. Riddell was a best-selling author in need of a steady income from her work. Therefore, the thesis explores the author's attempts to balance audience expectation and generic convention with her own literary aims. This is supported by my research into the nineteenth-century critical reaction to Riddell’s output. The thesis also highlights the unconventional aspects of Riddell’s subject matter, such as the focus on business life, which was particularly unusual for a female writer at the time. It also stresses Riddell’s overlooked but significant contribution to the short ghost story, an extremely popular nineteenth-century form.

Supervisors: Dr. Caroline Sumpter and Dr. Leon Litvack

Patricia McCann

The Plays and Songs of Thomas D’Urfey

Thomas D’Urfey was a prolific playwright and song writer in the Restoration period and early eighteenth century, writing tragic and comic plays that incorporated music and song as key elements in his work. Despite his productive career, D’Urfey’s work has been overlooked and dismissed. My thesis will consider the work of Thomas D’Urfey through an interdisciplinary study of his plays and songs. I will consider the relationship of the music and songs to the plays, their plots and characters and attempt to determine the importance of music and songs to D’Urfey and his plays.

Supervisors: Dr Moyra Haslett (English) and Dr Sarah McCleave (Music). 

Zoe McCann

A stylistic analysis of the linguistic strategies of self-help literature

Self-help literature has largely been overlooked by linguists and literary critics, presumably due to its perceived lack of literary and cultural value. Nevertheless, the ever-expanding market for self-help books suggests that the genre warrants critical attention. My thesis will undertake a stylistic analysis of self-help literature in order to explore the linguistic strategies by which authors encourage readers to change their attitudes. I will be focusing particularly on the significant role of metaphor in self-help literature; drawing on conceptual metaphor theory, which argues that metaphors shape our world-views (Semino 2008), I will explore why self-help books draw on particular source domains, and how source domains differ depending on the aims of individual texts. I will also consider self-help books as ‘discourse technologies’ (Fairclough 1992) – strategies for living and communicating sold as teachable commodities. Many self-help books are predicated on the belief that language is a toolkit for cognitive change, and suggest that simple lexical changes can transform thoughts; I intend to examine the validity of such reductionist views of language. My project aims to illuminate how reader involvement is created in self-help texts, and determine the extent to which the strategies they advocate truly empower readers. It also aims to contribute to a greater understanding of how metaphors influence our outlooks.

Supervisors: Professor Paul Simpson and Dr Joan Rahilly

Fiona Mc Cashin 

The Fictions of Prostitution (working title)

The critical componentof my phd will examine representations of the prostitute – and her clients – in contemporary fiction and in memoir, and search for commonalities. It will look for evidence for some of the myths which exist in public perceptions about prostitution and prostitutes.

I intend to compare my findings from fiction and ‘non-fictional’ testimonies with evidence gathered from statistical research, and I will also look at them in the context of feminist theory - considering contradictory feminist viewpoints - to try to uncover an objective truth about the experience of the prostitute.

The Creative component will consist of a novel from the point of view of a prostitute. I hope to use the research to create a true fiction about the experience of the prostitute in this case

Supervisors: Glenn Patterson and Andrea Mayr

Mark McGahon

The Colonial Sublime and Twentieth century Irish Literature

Drawing upon Jean-Franҫois Lyotard’s reading of the Kantian sublime and his writings on the end of grand narratives, I intend to read Joyce’s Ulysses as bearing anticipatory intimations of the post-modern incredulity toward grand narratives. His use of traditional narrative norms at the beginning of Ulysses is analysed in the light of Edward Said’s thinking on the links between narrative and imperialism; his subsequent disavowal of these norms and multiplying of styles as the work progresses signal his repudiation of any unifying grand narrative, whether in the stylistic sphere – realism – or in the political sphere – Marxism or colonialism/nationalism. In the différends opened up by such multiplying of styles, hints are made at attempting to present the unpresentable. In later chapters I will use the same theoretical frameworks to analyse Beckett’s works before moving on to an examination of Seamus Heaney’s writings. My discussion of Ulysses will, therefore, provide a useful platform for a discussion of how well Beckett’s writings may be said to attempt to gesture toward the sublime as a hint of the unpresentable beyond the text. The breakdown of meaning in The Unnameable will be central to such a reading. It is intended, therefore, that the three writers may be read as reflecting their contemporary situations as the twentieth century progressed and as the colonial status of the island of Ireland changed significantly.

Supervisors: Professor Ed Larrissy and Dr Fran Brearton

Catherine McGurren

Representations of the Prostitute in Modern Irish Literature

My project is a feminist examination of the categorisation and censorship of Irish women’s sexuality through issues of prostitution. I will evaluate cultural representations of female sex workers in literature, on screen and online since 1980. This thesis asks questions about women’s agency and the elements of performativity involved in soliciting, as well as analysing how the body of the prostitute has come to symbolise modernity in Ireland. I utilise Girard’s definition of the scapegoat to examine how the figure of the prostitute is inscribed as deviant, and address how xenophobia is manifested through this figure in modern Ireland. I also engage with current debates on decriminalisation, legalisation, and sex trafficking to show that prostitution is a crucial political issue for feminism.

Supervisors: Dr Eamonn Hughes and Dr Sinead Sturgeon

Sheila McWade

The Northern Irish Novel: Silence of the Feminine

As a female prose writer in the North of Ireland I am struck by the paucity of female Northern Irish prose voices with whom I can engage in artistic discourse to address themes that preoccupy the female psyche in the North.  Serious canonical gaps are apparent.  There is a discernible silence, or arguably a silencing, in and of the post-war female novelist voice in Northern Ireland, a phenomenon not seen in drama or poetry.  In contrast, there is no such silencing of the Northern Irish male prose voice.  In this doctoral study I am researching, with the intention of restoring to the canon, two Northern female prose writers, namely Janet McNeill (1907-94) and Frances Molloy (1947-91) who addressed themes arising from their experience of living in Northern Ireland before and during the ‘Troubles’ which I as a Northern Irish writer share.  My novel set in the North explores the roles females play both in microcosm in the family, with its uniquely Northern Irish attendant rituals, and in macrocosm in the society that was mid- to late twentieth-century Northern Ireland up to the present day.  My interests include family rituals around illness, decline and death; food as barter, comforter and means of celebration; the myth of family and the clan; the woman as educator and artist.  This study engages mainly with McNeill whose themes correspond to my own but also references Molloy whose output was less prolific but is just as worthy of attention.

Supervisors: Dr Glenn Patterson and Dr Sinead Sturgeon


Megan Minogue

The ‘Troubles’ Drama of Stewart Parker, Christina Reid, and Gary Mitchell

My thesis examines the social and political commentary of Parker, Reid, and Mitchell on the ongoing political and social change in Northern Ireland. Stewart Parker believed that “[i]t falls to the artists to construct a working model of wholeness by means of which this society can again begin to hold up its head in the world” (Dramatis Personae 19). This statement encapsulates one of the questions which this thesis seeks to answer, namely how these playwrights envision the world in which they live and whether they see any room for improvement or change in their society. Though these three playwrights all come from a Protestant/Loyalist background, the plays themselves convey several distinct and unique responses to the Troubles. Topics addressed include the roles of and reactions to paramilitary organizations (including the participation of women and children in such organizations), the role of women in Northern Irish conflict and society, the significance of youth and generational differences/similarities, and performance history and critical reviews. Possible field work may include playwright and director interviews, surveying current audiences, and interviews with the real life counterparts of those depicted in these plays (youth, police, paramilitaries, etc).

Supervisors: Dr Eamonn Hughes and Dr Michael McAteer

Helen Morrow

A cross-comparative study of English and French cosmetic advertisements

My area of research is a cross-comparative study of contemporary English and French cosmetic advertising discourse. Using a feminist Critical Discourse Analysis perspective, I am examining advertisements from Elle and Cosmopolitan magazines, focusing in particular on how 'femininity' is discursively constructed, and how women are addressed, targeted, and (re)presented in both advertising text and image. I am also exploring parallel advertisement translations to examine constructs of gender in a cross-cultural perspective.

Supervisors: Professor Paul Simpson (English) and Professor Janice Carruthers (French)

Paul Mulgrew

Private Space in Early Modern Women's Life Writing.

Space is a multifaceted category of critical inquiry. It can be apprehended both as a material reality and as a theoretical entity. However, recent sociological studies have enabled us to re-evaluate the definition of space in a literary context, to appreciate space as a product of, and determinant in, the creation of social meaning. Postmodern criticism invests space with a new set of definitional codes; the spatial is no longer assumed to be neutral or a-political, but rather, it is an active agent which creatively shapes our sense of the literary work. The early modern period was characterised by fractured conceptions of space. Binaries of public and private were conceptualized as distinctive spheres with their own socio-gendered norms; however, the imaginative application of modern spatial theories shows these spaces to be considerably more fluid and assists a reading of how early modern subjectivities related to specific locales. Denied access to public forums, women profited from more personal and private spaces, and the autobiographical texts which they produced provide a unique access to these arenas. In my research, I will be conducting a creative dialogue between private spaces and women’s texts so as to place both in a mutually informing relation. In so doing, I show how women’s voices were intimately linked to, and inventively determined by, their places of conception and making. The genres investigated are comprised of but by no means limited to: closet-diaries, letters, closet dramas, and Quaker prison pamphlets

Supervisors: Dr Ramona Wray and Professor Mark Burnett

Raymond Mullen

The Influence of Proust and Camus on the Fiction of John McGahern

The principal concern of John McGahern’s writing has always been the experience of living and the mystery that is made of it by its own end. Recent criticism has tended to neglect this aspect of McGahern’s writing, favouring instead a well-practiced socio-political and cultural approach. However, from The Barracks to That They May Face the Rising Sun and even Memoir, politics are rendered in an indicative context and it is clear that more existential mysteries are of a higher priority. My thesis examines the importance of the writings of proto-existentialist Marcel Proust and champion of the absurd, Albert Camus, in shaping McGahern’s literary aesthetic and philosophic outlook. After his relatively conventional first novel The Barracks, McGahern began a definable period of experimentation—sometimes not very successfully, or satisfactorily, evidenced by his rewriting of The Leavetaking. To paraphrase McGahern, he had no interest in experimenting for experiment’s sake—as he said of The Leavetaking and would go on to say of The Pornographer: ‘It was something I had to do … I would have stopped as a writer unless I had broken out of my moulds’. That is not to say that these early novels were to be an expurgation of the influence of existentialist thought on McGahern’s writing, (the allusions to existentialism are equally apparent in his last two novels, Amongst Women and That They May Face the Rising Sun), but rather as he matured as a writer a more subtle and measured approach was required. For McGahern ‘the real experiment is a constant experiment’.

Supervisors: Professor Brian Caraher and Dr Eamonn Hughes

Paul Murphy

Affective Performativity in Late Medieval England: toward an archaeology of gesture

This project aims to produce a comprehensive study of “affective performativity” – that is, the emotional effects of gestures and related actions – in medieval England, considering the sensual impact of gesture and movement from an interdisciplinary perspective. It will interrogate the uses and consequent impact of recorded examples of public or publicised performance in the late Middle Ages. Rather than viewing gesture and movement as complementary elements of communication, I intend to examine medieval evidence in relation to findings of recent research in cognitive psychology that actions are creative and instigative of thoughts and ideas. Giving consideration to the traditional idea of ‘drama’ as well as folk and festive culture, I aim to explore the power and impact of this performativity on the medieval individual and community, from the perspective of both the actor and receptor. The outcome will be a better understanding of the sensuality of the Middle Ages, in “a field of often conflicting forces”, in light of dated suggestions of medieval society being anything from sensually intense to completely lacking (Gumbrecht).

Supervisors: Dr Malte Urban and Dr Stephen Kelly

Kevin Murray

Shakespeare and Auteur Cinema

My thesis investigates the relationship between William Shakespeare and the auteur directors who, in the twentieth- and twenty-first centuries, adapted his works within their specialised medium of film. I argue that the auteur’s stylistic idiosyncrasies and reiterated thematic concerns are components of a carefully crafted, synergic artistic personality. Through his films and the paratextual material which surrounds them (biographies, interviews, press releases, posters, and so on), the auteur fashions for himself an aesthetic identity predicated upon his exclusive, abiding vision. My thesis, then, examines the spectacular proprietary collision which occurs when the auteur’s singular aesthetic identity encounters that of the iconic, unyielding author, William Shakespeare. Covering a range of auteurs (including, but not limited to, Orson Welles, Julie Taymor, Grigori Kozintsev, Kenneth Branagh, and Vishal Bharadwaj), my thesis explores how the relationship between auteur and Shakespeare is a fluid, ever-evolving dynamic. From the tentative first steps of early twentieth-century auteurs, through the first international and non-Anglophone adaptations, and on to pre- and post-millennial postmodern appropriations, I examine afresh how auteurs have redeployed Shakespeare’s narratives to reflect upon politics, nationalism, artistic composition, and canonicity. Shakespeare’s appeal to the auteur crosses historical and cultural particularities. My thesis evaluates how and why the most cited author in Western literature is so integral to the individualised cinema of the auteur.

Supervisors: Professor Mark Thornton Burnett and Dr Ramona Wray

Emma Must

‘Light Grows from the Ground’: Contemporary British Ecopoetry and Ecocriticism

My PhD thesis in Creative Writing has two components: one critical and one creative. The primary aim of the critical component is to conduct a detailed ecocritical analysis of the poetry of the British ecologist, environmentalist and poet, David Morley. I will situate him firmly amongst those contemporary British poets most frequently cited as ‘ecopoets’, such as Alice Oswald, Kathleen Jamie, Paul Farley and Robert Minhinnick. The creative piece accompanying the critical study will be a book-length collection of poems arising from my experiences as an environmental campaigner during the 1990s. It will focus specifically on my involvement in the campaign to stop Twyford Down in Hampshire, England, from being destroyed by the construction of a motorway.

Supervisors: Dr Sinead Morrissey and Dr Moyra Haslett


Click titles below to expand each section

Bernadette Owens

Creative component: a novel, entitled Joy

Critical component: The Joyless Exercise - Narrative and the Terror of Death Awareness

The novel, Joy, will be accompanied by a critical study of fictional responses to death anxiety, and the defences raised against it. With reference to terror management theory, where existential and psychoanalytic concerns meet, the study will situate the novel Joy in a lineage of death-aware fictions from William Maxwell, Jayne Anne Phillips, and Per Petterson. In doing this, it will encounter questions over the relation between death awareness and narrative.

Supervisors: Dr Glenn Patterson and Dr Philip McGowan


Click titles below to expand each section

Vander Paula Viana

PhD Theses in English Language and Literature: A Contrastive Corpus-Linguistic Investigation

The prominent role of writing in the educational setting is not surprising since students are most of the time requested to show their knowledge by means of written texts. Although much attention has been given to the academic genres consumed and produced in universities, current studies have mainly focused on research articles. This choice may be credited to the fact that these texts are more manageable to analysts, as suggested by Thompson (1998). Longer and lengthier genres such as PhD theses seem to have been overlooked. Another reason for this neglect lies in the fact that they are not recurrent in one’s academic experience (Bunton, 2002). The present thesis proposal aims at filling this gap by investigating the PhD thesis as a genre. The choice of fields of study to be investigated favours theses in different areas of English language and literature. As regards methodological choices, corpus-linguistic principles and techniques are here used in order to probe the textual data. The results will cast some light on the linguistic ways these two scholarly communities convey new knowledge, and will provide useful pointers for pedagogical practice as regards the teaching of writing.

Supervisors: Dr John M. Kirk and Professor Paul Simpson

Anastasia Psoni

Constructing a gynocentric mythology: the image of the feminine in the poetry of W.B. Yeats and Angelos Sikelianos

W. B. Yeats (1865-1939) and Angelos Sikelianos (1884-1951) are two poets of early modernism who took the lyric as their model. Although they did not know each other, nor even of each other (as far as we know), their interests, their work, their life experiences and aspects of their personality present intriguing similarities. Both poets explored their respective tradition, as well as the revived esoteric philosophy, and, embracing myth and folklore, chose a gynocentric mythology, gradually evolving their own mythical world. Indeed, whatever the subject matter of a poem, the figure of the feminine is a constant feature intimating a visionary or erotic intensity.

The range of the two poets’ intellectual interests and experiences were extremely wide, creating in their consciousness a complex pattern of ideas, symbols and images. Both Yeats and Sikelianos use the image of the feminine – a mythical ‘Goddess’, a nymph, a faery or a mere mortal – as a central force which contains and orders every component of this complex pattern, and, thus, this image, becomes the essence of their poetry and poetics.

Supervisors: Professor Brian Caraher and Professor Ciaran Carson


Click titles below to expand each section

Aisling Reid

The Production and Reception of Religious Manuscripts in Northern Italian Confraternities.

My thesis examines the reading practices of Northern Italian reading communities during the ‘long’ fifteenth century. It takes a fifteenth century religious manuscript Vat. Lat. 4840 as point of departure from which to consider the performative quality of confraternal religious manuscripts. MS 4840 is a compilation of religious texts which encourage the active participation of the implied audience within a sense-orientated literary scene of recitation, (ritual) performance and reception. The texts featured in this fascinating manuscript include a vernacular adaptation of the gospels of the four evangelists, lauds which praise the virtue of the Virgin Mary or call upon the baby Jesus and also a Tuscan recension of the Visio Philiberti. The book is written in a form of Italian semi-gothic script and likely originated within the confines of a Tuscan confraternal organization. The present inquiry argues that the confraternal book was not intended to be used in isolation, but was likely supplemented by extra-textual devotional objects which served to heighten the imaginative drama of the texts’ content. The texts contained within the confraternal religious book were consequently shaped by the performative devotional exigencies which characterized the para-liturgical religion of late medieval confraternities. Topics broached include:

  1. Cultures of piety and lay devotion in late medieval Italy; What effect did the Dominicans have on lay pastoral education of the period, if any at all? How was Dominican teaching affected by heterodox movements like the Cathars? What were the social, religious and political factors which underpinned an increased desire among the laity for the para-liturgical cult and how did such practices manifest themselves?
  2. The devotional culture of Tuscan confraternal movements. The thesis outlines the origin and socio-religious structure of the confraternal movement and the types of religious practices they favoured, for example public procession, comforting rituals, devotional use of material objects, administration of last rites, and also burial and commemoration of the dead.
  3. The role of the book within fifteenth century Northern Italy; what was the state of the pastoral educational system of the time? Who could read and what types of religious literature were most widely read? And for what devotional purposes?
  4. The role of the devotional book within late medieval confraternal reading communities; what evidence is there of confraternal reading practices? How were books employed? Were they read communally or by an individual? Silently or aloud? What was the devotional aim of such reading?
  5. The function of confraternal religious books within a broader devotional practice, including the use of extra-textual objects, as for example, mural images, statues, processional accoutrements. Ultimately the work will consider how an appreciation of the performative religious practices of the later Middle Ages alters our apprehension of the way in which texts contained within MS Vat. Lat. 4840 may have been used.

Supervisors: Dr Stephen Kelly and Professor John Thompson

Matthew Reznicek

Space and Place: Continental Europe in the Works of Nineteenth- and Twentieth-Century Irish Women Writers

Although the domestic National Tale and Big House novel continue to dominate studies of Irish women’s literature, my thesis seeks to provide a new framework for Irish women writers and their negotiation of space and autonomy. The works of Maria Edgeworth, Sydney Owenson (Lady Morgan), Somerville and Ross, Elizabeth Bowen, Kate O’Brien, and Julia O’Faolain reveal the development of a tradition of employing metropolitan Europe as a narrative and social space. Shifting over time, this literary landscape presents an independent, European, and female tradition. Using the economic and cultural theories of Georg Simmel and Michel de Certeau, the thesis argues that the metropolis’s geo-social, cultural, and economic realities develop an alternative space for the tradition of Irish women’s writing.

Supervisors: Dr Eamonn Hughes and Dr Sinead Sturgeon


Click titles below to expand each section

Lizzie Scott

Monologue to Dialogue: Linguistic factors affecting the interactive conversation of children with Autism.

The way people with Autism communicate has been marked as impaired. Only by understanding the communicative pathways of people with Autism, as well as the motivation for these pathways, will we be able to begin to plan therapeutic techniques which are accessible, relevant and worthwhile. Through investigating the linguistic performance of these individuals, it is hoped that such enquiries will help to lead to the level of social integration and potential for independent linguistic interaction increasing for individuals with Autism.

The discussion will work from the perspective that instead of focussing on the linguistic deficits of people with an ASD, we should aim to highlight their strengths and work from a position of ability. The study will follow Prizant’s (1983) call for studies that are preoccupied not with deficits and deviance, but rather with strategies and processes that underlie patterns of autistic individuals’ communicative behaviour. As Happé argues, “success is more interesting than failure” (1999: 540).

Supervisors: Dr Joan Rahilly and Prof Paul Simpson

Deepthi Sebastian

The rise of the Vigilante, Euchronias and Eutopias in post 1950’s fiction and cinema

This study is interested in the emergence of new vigilante figures who are products of and occasionally the causes of dystopia in popular narratives, both fiction and film. These figures, I believe, are an amalgam of the culture from which s/he/it/they/them emerge(s) and I intend to analyse dystopias in the late 20th century, particularly democracy as a dystopic space. Fiction such as Stieg Larsson’s and Jeannette Winterson’s novels, Frank Miller’s Batman and films such as Aliens, I am Legend and Hancock all deal with dystopic worlds characterized by the rise of vigilante figures. This study seeks to explore how the vigilante has been restructured over time and is rendered abject and transgressive in its representation in post 1950’s global fiction and cinema. These genres will also be examined as offering popular cultural forms where utopian/dystopian fantasies can be played out. This thesis aims to understand how the vigilante figure is culturally mediated as well as to investigate the restructuring of identity, subjectivity, the acquisition and exercise of agency by these figures and the dystopian utopias to which they belong.

Supervisors: Dr Andrew Pepper and Dr Philip McGowan

Stephen Sexton

Representing Representing: Ekphrasis in the Postmodern Period

One half of my thesis will be a collection of poetry in which I will have engaged with the various creative opportunities afforded by the ekphrastic tradition.

In the other half of my thesis, I intend to explore how ekphrasis has been understood and developed by poets writing in the last few decades, taking into particular consideration the nature of the ‘image’. I will investigate the plausibility and achievability of what the ekphrastic poet seeks to do in conversation with the art-object; what Heffernan describes as “The verbal representation of graphic representation.” 

Supervisors: Prof. Ciaran Carson and Dr. Malte Urban

Ríonnagh Sheridan

Constituting Realities: Law and Literature in Twentieth Century Ireland

My project focuses on the representation of law and legal processes in Irish literature. While ideas promoted in the Law and Literature movement have been gaining traction in both legal and literary studies in Anglo-American and European criticism since the 1980s, Irish literature has been largely neglected. By grounding itself in fictions produced in the Republic of Ireland, this study will deal with crucial moments in Irish legal and cultural history since Independence, and how fictions represent the relationship of the nation, the ‘autonomous individuals’, to the state through narrative. Substantive law, the reality of its interpretation and application by a politicised courts system (procedural law), the establishment of precedence, the influence of the clergy, and the overburdening ‘morality’ of the Irish ‘people’ combine to create sites of conflict upon which landmark cases have been fought. Both literature and the law look outward to international influences as well as inward to the habits of ordinary people for legitimacy, and Irish writers have been particularly sensitive and nuanced in their writing on culturally divisive legal and moral issues, such as on the rights of women, homosexuality, divorce, rape, abortion and obscenity, and their explorations of these issues will be examined through a close reading of their texts.

Supervisors: Dr. Eamonn Hughes and Dr Sinead Sturgeon

Charlene Small

The Father Figure in Contemporary Irish Poetry

My thesis focuses on representations of the father figure in contemporary Irish poetry. The study is conducted across two generations of poets, North and South, assessing how the figure is used and its impact on the affirmation of poetic subjectivity. Analysis of the father figure’s public, private and theoretical resonances will be explored through close readings of poetry published from the mid-1960s through to the present day. Issues of selfhood, masculinity, public poetry and autobiographical origin will be examined, as will the inflection of the motif on a contemporary generation of women poets, comparing and contrasting the use of the figure with that of their poetic ‘forefathers’ and male contemporaries. The father figure is of particular significance in Irish literature and culture; this study will engage with interpretations of the model as a motif that carries autobiographical, theoretical and generational import. In poetry the articulation of the poetic ‘I’ is an integral aspect of the form and my interest lies in how a figure such as the father influences discussions of poetic selfhood.

Supervisor: Dr Fran Brearton

Aaron Smith

The poetics of repetition and traumatic style in British poetry from 1936 to 1946.

My thesis is that the conditions of world war two provoked an uncanny response in poetic language; following Adorno’s premise that ‘the lyric is the subjective expression of a social antagonism’, I intend to examine how repetition structures a formal response to cultural crisis and why formal restraint was preferred over the ‘experimentation’ of the preceding modernist movements. Deriving from Erich Fromm's understanding in The Sane Society, I wish to explore how repetition can be both an expression of individual disturbance and symptomatic of a greater social reaction to disintegrating cultural patterns. I intend to examine the work of Robert Graves, W.H. Auden, Dylan Thomas and Keith Douglas at this stage in my thesis, although women writers such as Hilda Doolittle and Kathleen Raine may be added at a later stage in its development. I intend to explore how alienation between masculine and feminine roles during the war are closed; the division of labour at home in munitions factories being taken by women, how this affects the writing (the use of metaphor, poetry itself as an expression and attempt to salve alienation) and how this can be approached theoretically.

Supervisors: Dr Fran Brearton and Professor Ed Larrissy

Helen Sonner

Print, Rhetoric, and the Discourse of British Plantation Before 1641

This dissertation examines the rhetoric of Elizabethan and Jacobean colonization efforts in Ireland and America, with a focus on how the use of print contributed to the development of the distinctly British conception of “plantation” in the early modern era. Shaped by both humanist rhetorical praxis and Protestant exegesis, and conducted with a high degree of self-conscious intertextuality, this discourse developed the concept of “plantation” as a remarkably flexible metaphor that could contain, elide, and leverage rhetoric that oscillated erratically among contradictory conceptions of British expansion. In addition to generating momentum for British expansion by infusing the enterprise with a distinctly Protestant identity, this discourse also created something new: the idea of a plantation as something distinct from colony, Utopia, or commonwealth – the tantalizing idea of a real place, blessed by divine providence, less tightly constrained by existing political structures, and which offered a blank slate upon which ideals of a well-ordered society could be projected. In the decades preceding the Wars of the Three Kingdoms, this was a vision that appealed to Monarch and Puritan alike, for different reasons.

Supervisor: Dr. Ramona Wray

Simon J. Statham

Linguistic investigations of politics and crime in court, with particular emphasis on the concept of trial by media.

This project seeks to develop examinations of language in the legal system through investigations of the discourses of media, to analyze how language in media portrayals of legal and political settings informs and interacts with these realities.

Time and again forensic linguistic investigations have revealed how power relations are contained within the array of communicative processes through which participants in the legal arena interact. This research aims to re-evaluate the status of media discourses as participant in the legal system, to challenge the view of journalism as ‘the watchdog of justice’ and to contend with the misconception that courtroom participants’ exposure to media narratives is erased by the immediacy of the courtroom setting.

One of the primary concerns of forensic linguistics is with institutional discourse and its intersection with lay and social meanings. This project shall further that primary concern by examining the institutionalized language of the media and exposing the extent to which the power relations revealed are transferred into courtroom narratives.

This research shall exploit the investigative potential of the interface between forensic linguistics and critical discourse analysis, with its critical and political focus used to expose power and social determinism in the media and the courtroom.

Supervisors: Dr Andrea Mayr and Professor Paul Simpson

Sara Tibbs

Queering the Bildungsroman

My project is in the field of creative writing. It consists of two linked parts: a critical paper of approximately 20,000 words and a novel of approximately 70,000 words.

Is it possible to queer the Bildungsroman? In other words, can a writer take a lesbian and gay literary tradition, with its own motifs and preoccupations, and fuse it with another literary tradition, the Bildungsroman, which not only has a different set of conventions but also a history of reproducing normative beliefs about gender and sexual orientation? The question of my critical piece is also the creative challenge for my novel. My extended essay will explore the critical context of my novel and the novels I have chosen to analyse, Oranges are Not the Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson and The Line of Beauty by Alan Hollingshurst, will also serve as models for the type of story I intend to write. As well as allowing me to explore my novel’s themes of self-development, identity and ideology from an academic perspective, I hope that the critical project will also improve my understanding of the bildungsroman as a form, providing me with a structure within and against which to write creatively.

Supervisors: Dr Glenn Patterson and Dr Eamonn Hughes


Click titles below to expand each section

Leanne Vennard

A phonological analysis of effects of neurological illness on speech.

Using a combination of linear and non-linear phonology, my project examines the segmental and prosodic aspects of speech affected by neurological disorder, with particular reference to dysarthria.  Speech is used throughout my project as a method for uncovering the cognitive-phonological mappings, enabling me to consider how dysarthria presents both phonetically and phonologically in the neurologically impaired.  I use a combination of methodological and analytic techniques: perceptual, acoustic and, where appropriate, instrumental methods to collect and analyse data.  By means of the current study, I hope to contribute to the current under-representation of phonological theory in the understanding of speech in neurological disorder.  Furthermore, my research aims to highlight the need for a deeper understanding of the speech and communication requirements of people with neurological illnesses within the clinical setting.

Supervisors: Dr. Joan Rahilly and Dr. Francis O’Neill (Centre for Public Health)


Click titles below to expand each section

Craig Wallace

An Unsettled Past: ‘Weird Medievalism’ in Twentieth-Century British Weird Fiction, Horror Cinema and Television.

The early twentieth-century British weird literary tradition, best represented by M.R. James (Ghost Stories of an Antiquary) and Arthur Machen (The House of Souls), represent the Middle Ages as the object of antiquarian research which disrupts the present in disturbing and disorientating ways. In many respects these works might be understood as examples of ‘weird medievalism’, as they present medievalist scholar historians who uncover and unsettle something very old through archival detective work and research, which is subsequently manifested in confrontational malign ‘forces’ from the past which haunt the present. Antiquarian research into medieval manuscripts and iconography, or the digging or disturbance of the earth in archaeological sites uncovering stratified layers of the past, conjures uncanny revenants, which trouble the solitary academic’s sense of certainty in their cultural practices and history. ‘Haunting’ reflects anxiety concerning revivals and survivals of older cultural practices considered definitively of-the-past by the protagonists but which have always been known in the folk memories of rural communities. It could be argued that the attitudes of the protagonists to such revivals are patterned on medieval Christian attempts to supersede an older pagan cultural memory which continues to be worryingly present under a Christian cultural dispensation. The research will pursue the ‘weird medievalism’ of James and Machen into 1960s and 70s British horror cinema, focussing on Nigel Kneale (Quatermass and the Pit), and the tradition of ‘folk horror’ (Witchfinder General, Blood on Satan’s Claw, The Wicker Man), that reveal the implications of ‘weird medievalism’ for twentieth-century British culture’s understanding of the relationship of modernity to its own unsettled past.

Supervisors: Dr Stephen Kelly and Professor Brian Caraher

Kate Walls

A Far Cry from Kensington: How Italy Affected Muriel Spark’s Later Works

My thesis examines Scottish novelist Muriel Spark’s novels and how they changed after she repatriated to Tuscany. Her earlier works are also examined as a basis for comparison with the later novels she wrote during her thirty year Italian residence. Particular attention is paid to Catholicism, British class and culture, and behaviour. I hypothesize that Spark’s later characters (who exist in various European locations outside of the UK) have the freedom to act in more unconventional ways after being freed from the constraints of British society.

Supervisors: Dr Leon Litvack and Dr Fran Brearton

Louise Wasson

The Inward Turn: The Female Mystical Self From the Medieval to the Postmodern

Beginning with a survey of the mystical writings of the mulieres religiosae this thesis traces an emerging feminist poetics from the medieval to the postmodern. A range of apophatic writings will be analysed as I argue for this genre as a paradoxical space for both the empowerment and silencing of the female voice at different historical moments. Mystical languages of “unsaying” and the concomitant oscillation between languages of “selfing” and “unselfing” will be shown to play a central role in the politics of women who write and are written into history. The thesis explores a set of diverse case studies covering the Vita of orthodox figures such as the beguine Marie d’Oignies (1177-1213), the speculative writings of heretic and beguine Marguerite Porete (d. 1310), and the Middle English translation of Saint Catherine of Siena’s (1347-1380) Dialogue. Part II of the thesis builds on this analysis of medieval mysticism by considering the ways in which the medieval mystical tradition is recovered and perpetuated in the early twentieth-century. Beginning with a consideration of the crucial work of female medievalists such as Evelyn Underhill and Hope Emily Allen in this area, the thesis progresses by analysing twentieth-century models of the medieval devotee/confessor relationship (Adrienne Von Speyr and Hans Urs Von Balthasar), before juxtaposing the writings of Simone Weil and Anne Carson, which resonate with the removal or “decreation” of self that forms the foundation of the apophatic genre. Concluding with and informed by responses from French theory (Irigaray, Cixous), the thesis hopes to make a significant contribution to an emerging history of women’s writing.

Supervisors: Dr Stephen Kelly and Dr Malte Urban