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Research Projects

Current Projects


AHRC Connected Communities: ECR Development Award

Listening to Voices: Creative Disruptions with the Hearing Voices Network

Early Career Researchers:

  • Dr Gail McConnell (PI), Queen's University, Belfast (School of English)
  • Dr Jo Scott (Co-I), University of the West of Scotland (School of Creative & Cultural Industries)
  • Dr Deborah Maxwell (Co-I), University of Edinburgh (Edinburgh College of Art)


Project Partners:

  • Time and Space (Glasgow)
  • Hearing Voices Network Dundee
  • Hearing Voices Ireland
  • Hearing Voices Network Belfast 

This project will be funded from 1Feb 2015 for 12 months.

In the field of mental health research, voice hearers feel the effects of academic language-use in their everyday lives through the hierarchical language of ‘others’ (e.g. ‘researcher’ and ‘researched’) and stigmatising labels. This project seeks to learn how to listen to ‘others’ and to counter oppressive structures of language-use by building a network of expertise in listening. It brings together voice-hearing networks, independent artists and academics to develop a suite of resources for creative listening practice. These stakeholders will collaborate to design the project activities and outputs.

Listening to Voices asks, ‘what would it be like to learn to listen together/differently?’ How might creative listening practices enable individuals and communities to become more attuned to the voices of ‘others’ previously marginalized, repressed or ignored? It focuses on listening as the site of meaningful exchange and collaboration between the academy and those outside it, recognising that voice hearing networks in Scotland and Northern Ireland (HVNs) are experts-by-experience in developing innovative and carefully thought out challenging listening practices in relation to multiple and complex voices. Similarly, the early career researchers facilitating the research are also experts in listening practices in three different disciplines: in this case focusing on a cross-disciplinary approach that relates to the multiple voices of (1) poetic, (2) musical and (3) narrative texts, and across the wide range of definitions of ‘listening’ practices and notions of ‘voice’.

Members of Time and Space HVN group will join HVN representatives, the project researchers, and sound artist Pedro Rebelo (Sonic Arts Research Centre, Belfast) at a weekend retreat co-designed by HVN community partners and researchers in order to reflect on, share and broaden their experiences of listening and being listened to. Leadership and facilitation of the activities will be shared between leaders of the local voice hearing groups and academics, and the activities will be designed collaboratively in the months leading up to the retreat. The retreat will result in the co-production of a best practice guide to listening, as well as a public sound art project.

The aim of this exchange is to disrupt hierarchies of knowledge and power, where ‘expert’ academics conduct research on ‘subject’ communities and then create texts that reproduce aspects of this power structure. All co-created texts that result from this project (for example, the Listening to Voices Guide) will be subjected to the disruptive effect of ‘other’ voices, by re-presenting the texts to community partners for the purpose of disruption. Creative means (musico-, poetic, lyrical) will be used to display the results of those disruptions within the text itself, and in associated works of sound art. The Latin for 'text' is 'tissue' or 'woven' thing. The resulting Listening to Voices Guide (and all other outputs) will make visible the layers of meaning that represent the struggle for authority in the tissue of a collaborative produced text, woven from the voices of voice hearers, academics and artists.

By making visible and audible the creative disruptions (in, for example, overwriting, erasure or annotations), these texts will foreground what is challenging and meaningful about the collaborative process and the politics of authority written over and into the fabric of the 'finished' text. The focus of this practice is to challenge the single-voiced authority and claims to objectivity conventionally constructed in academic writing. These academic practices force the suppression of certain forms of voice but these voices resurface, for example, in the footnotes of academic texts, which become places where ‘other’ voices (e.g. subjective, doubting, meandering, hyper-critical, comic) are allowed to be present. These places also clearly echo some aspects of voice hearing experience and therefore demonstrate resonance between the forms of expertise outlined above. This is not to say that the practice of footnoting is analogous to the experience of voice hearing, but to foreground how academic texts claim to be objective, rational and authoritative, and place subjective, personal and multiple at the bottom of a hierarchy of knowledge, yet academic footnotes reveal that these texts always already contain within themselves a kernel of recognition of precisely the kinds of knowledge they deem ‘other’.

The project also aims to give early career researchers the opportunity to develop and incorporate good listening practice as a critical aspect of their academic activities and careers, and as a result, to develop radical creative writing practices in response. These writing practices will allow creatively disruptive voices within academic (and other associated) texts to become obvious, present and ‘heard’, using listening techniques developed in collaboration with communities of voice hearers and translated into creative methodologies at the forefront of practice.



An Historical Typology of Irish Song: Transmission, Performance and Cultural Memory

Principal Investigator: Professor Edward Larrissy

Funding Body: AHRC Large Grant Scheme (2012-15)

Description: The project will establish a typology of Irish song based on evidence of transmission, performance and cultural memory. The main problem in interrogating this archive is the dearth of written musical documents which might bridge the gap between pre-18th-century sources and the activities of field collectors of oral-tradition song during the 18th-20th centuries. Also to be taken into consideration are the intellectual and methodological challenges posed by the overlay of several generations of editorial hands.

We accept that we cannot necessarily trace the longer-term historical trajectory of a given song text or melody for which earlier evidence is absent. Therefore we propose to develop a typological method which unlocks information on continuities of tradition, and discloses possibilities for developing a theory of cultural practice. An example is the funeral elegy which was kept up in both Ireland and Scotland until the mid-20th century and keys into a pattern of singing and social ritual well attested throughout medieval Europe (and still continuing in parts of Central and Eastern Europe today). A given elegy may in itself not be particularly old, but its 'type', i.e., melodic elements and textual topoi, are unchanging and thus recognisable as belonging to an older style of singing (and social expression). Such melodies are characterised typologically as formulaic or cellular in structure and relate to oral-tradition performance for which the earliest European textual evidence survives in ninth-century French and German sources (the date of the oldest surviving manuscripts containing Latin song texts with neumatic music notation).

The work of composers and arrangers which survives in manuscripts and printed sources of the 17th-20th centuries in Ireland, Scotland and the Isle of Man compensates in part for the rupture in historical evidence. It suggests links to an earlier era and to living practice, thus providing important material for testing the typology (albeit at one remove) and for closing historical gaps. Furthermore, the census of primary sources and the resulting typology will present an opportunity to interrogate these materials in a completely new way. By establishing criteria for identifying historical layers in the collecting, editing and arranging of oral-tradition song, these processes themselves will come under scrutiny - processes such as the standardisation of melodic nuances which might have been alien to outside observers, errors in recall, or indeed re-arrangement of materials to suit other environments, such as harmonic settings for piano accompaniment in urban salons and concert halls. The engagement of 21st-century sensibilities challenges us to re-evaluate older world-views.


The Signs of the Weather in Anglo-Saxon England

Investigator: Dr Marilina Cesario

Funding Body: Leverhulme Trust, Individual Research Fellowship (2013-15)

This project explores Anglo-Saxon knowledge of and attitudes to natural phenomena in the literature of the 10th-12th centuries. It argues that astro-meteorological phenomena acquired an importance based on previously undeveloped scientific awareness in the minds of late Anglo-Saxon learned communities and that such knowledge was assimilated into historical sources such as the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle and other monastic products. Investigation of references to weather phenomena offers insights into key developments in many areas of Anglo-Saxons' life: intellectual, scientific, medical, mathematical and astronomical, as well as cultural. Surprisingly, despite its potential, no comprehensive examination of these phenomena within the corpus of Anglo-Saxon literature has been undertaken. This project, through a systematic investigation of weather phenomena, seeks to fill in a gap in our knowledge of the literary, religious and scientific culture of late Anglo-Saxon England. The approach is historical, a range of different texts is surveyed, from historiography to prognostications, charms and poetry. It demonstrates that celestial phenomena also acquired a prognosticatory dimension and were considered signs, portending momentous events in the world of men. It makes the case that prognostication and scientific thinking were not in opposition to each other. On the contrary, scientific knowledge of a meteorological phenomenon enhanced its prognosticatory force.


Completed Projects


Apocalypse and drama, 1400-1642

Principal Investigator: Dr Adrian Streete

Funding Body: Leverhulme Trust, Individual Research Fellowship (2010-12)



Geographies of Orthodoxy: mapping the late medieval pseudo-Bonaventuran Lives of Christ, 1300-1550

Principal Investigator; Co-director: Professor John Thompson; Dr Stephen Kelly

Funding Body: AHRC Large Grant Scheme (2007-2010)

Visit the project website


Filming and Performing Renaissance History 1500-1660

Principal Investigator: Professor Mark Burnett

Funding Body: AHRC Research Networks Scheme (2007-2009) 


Imagining History: culturally mapping the Middle English Prose Brut

Principal Investigator: Professor John Thompson

Funding Body: AHRB Large Grant Scheme (2002-2005)

Visit the project website