In the School of English we have academics who have long been interested in this complex, fascinating topic, and have a lively, engaged research community.

Five members of the School, Professor Julie Coleman, Dr Lucy Evans, Dr Sarah Graham, Dr Sarah Knight and Dr Ben Parsons have research interests in the topic. Dr Graham and Dr Knight are co-founders of the 'Studies in Youth' research network, and have organised two conferences on the topic in 2010 and 2011.


Of particular interest to scholars working on adolescence is the Sue Townsend Archive, which contains the original material of the books, stage plays, screenplays and radio writing relating to the creation of one of the most famous adolescents in English literature, Adrian Mole.

The Higson Collection of rare editions of early children's books from the eighteenth to the early twentieth centuries would also be of interest to those working on transitions between childhood and adolescence during these periods; research into texts aimed at, rather than about, children and adolescents would also be supported by this archive.

For those particularly interested in representations of adolescence, masculinity and class in mid-twentieth century British writing, the Joe Orton Collection contains a wealth of manuscript and epistolary material compiled by Orton as well as collected by his family.

The School runs seminar series in Modern Literature, Victorian Studies and the Early Modern period. Within the School there are several doctoral students working on adolescence in literature, topics include:

  • Representations of gay adolescence in literature
  • War and adolescence
  • Queer adolescence in South Asian texts.

Current research

Adolescent masculinity

Dr Sarah Graham conducts research on the representations of adolescence in fiction, film and drama.

She is the author/editor of J. D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye (Routledge, 2007), author of Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye (Continuum, 2007) which both explore .

Early modern student writing

Dr Sarah Knight is interested in how the experience of higher education is represented as a formative developmental stage for would-be writers. She is currently working on student writing by John Milton, George Herbert, and several sixteenth- and seventeenth-century university dramatists.

Adolescence and slang

This research focuses on the relationship between adolescence and slang and in the role slang plays in the development of personal identity. With a particular interest in the representation of slang in literature, film and television, and in the use of internet technologies (such as Urban Dictionary) to document changing slang usage. Julie Coleman has published four volumes of a survey of cant and slang dictionaries published during the period 1567-1984, and is currently writing a history of slang.

Caribbean urban youth culture

Dr Lucy Evans has a research interest in urban youth culture in Caribbean and Caribbean diasporic settings. She has a forthcoming article which explores the cultural significance of the 'rudeboy' figure in post-independence Jamaica: 'Reinventing the Badman in Jamaican Fiction and Film in Constructing Crime: Discourse and Cultural Representations of Crime and 'Deviance', ed. by Christiana Gregoriou (Palgrave Macmillan, forthcoming 2012).

Violence in the Late Medieval Classroom

Dr Ben Parsons investigates the association between beating and education in the later medieval period, an era in which the phrase 'sub magistrali ferula' ('under the rod of the masters') became short-hand for schooling itself. His work aims to establish why violence was thought to be so useful in helping acquire knowledge, surveying the rationales generated by pedagogues and commentators, and studying the myriad effects they attributed to flogging. His research has received AHRC funding, which is due to start in 2013.

Future plans for the study of adolescence

We are currently fostering a lively institutional research community within the School and related disciplines (such as American Studies; History; History of Art and Film), we are also committed to fostering links between the School of English and other scholars working on adolescence in literature and related media. In autumn 2010 Dr Graham and Dr Knight launched a research network based around this topic, and have organised two conferences so far on this topic which have brought together specialists in literature, film and television as well as the visual arts.

The inaugural 'Studies in Youth' conference was held on September 10, 2010, at the University of Leicester. A second international postgraduate conference on Youth was held at Leicester on April 4, 2010. Conference funding was obtained from the British Association for American Studies and the Society for Renaissance Studies.

'Studies in Youth Culture'

Dr Graham and Dr Knight are currently developing a book series, 'Studies in Youth Culture', that will focus on representations of adolescence through monographs and edited collections that are based on a range of periods, geographical locations and texts.

Postgraduate projects

Irina Kyulanova
Representations of young people's experiences of war.

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