Twentieth Century and Contemporary

Shaman Child
Jane Ash Poitras, 'Shaman Child' (detail) (reproduced with kind permission from Dr. Paul Martin, Assistant Professor, Dept. of English / Director, Canadian Studies Program University of Vermont)

Research in contemporary and twentieth-century topics is especially strong in the School of English, with colleagues working on subjects ranging from transatlantic modernism to contemporary women’s writing.

Dynamic research

With thirteen permanent members of staff specialising in this dynamic research cluster, our work is attuned to emerging debates in postcolonial discourse and gender studies, involved in literary explorations of nationalism and transnationalism, and committed to the disinterment of forgotten genres and literary voices of the early twentieth century.

We also lead research on new and emerging writers.

Benefits to teaching

Our research-led teaching allows us to collaborate across the undergraduate and the postgraduate programmes on a range of team-taught modules and our publications over the past few years feed directly into our teaching provision.

Publications include

  • an acclaimed biography of Muriel Spark;
  • two books on the wartime literary culture of Britain;
  • a study of the impulse in American literature toward the so-called Great American Novel;
  • an edited collection on American thought and culture in the 21st century;
  • an analysis of postcolonial literature in the asylum age;
  • as well as an array of author-centred works on the likes of Chuck Palahniuk, Philip Larkin, Michèle Roberts, and J.D. Salinger.

Active community

Twentieth-Century and Contemporary Writing specialists in the School of English are involved in a wide range of institutional, national and international research organisations.

In terms of other research clusters within the School, we are represented in the following;

  • Literature
  • Medicine and Science
  • Life-Writing
  • Literature and War
  • Adolescence


The School convenes the popular and lively Modern Literature Research Seminar Series, which meets regularly on Wednesday afternoons each semester.

Twentieth Century and Contemporary Writing colleagues help to organise the successful Literary Leicester Festival which has recently hosted the novelists Sarah Waters, David Lodge and Colin Dexter and literary biographers Anthony Thwaite, John Carey and Michael Slater.


Staff are actively involved with the following organisations:

Members of this research grouping also work within the Centre for American Studies, the Centre for Urban History and the Stanley Burton Centre for Holocaust Studies.


We coordinate a number of important research projects and collaborations including:

  • Sarah Graham’s studies in North American Fiction series with Continuum which covers the work of significant contemporary American writers;
  • Martin Stannard convenes the Collaborative Research Colloquium between Leicester and the University of Pisa;
  • Martin Halliwell heads up two substantial editorial ventures with Edinburgh University Press, ‘Twentieth Century American Culture’ and the Edinburgh Critical Guides to Literature;
  • Emma Parker is one of the founders of the Contemporary Women’s Writing Network;
  • a number of other collaborative research and editorial projects are currently being developed.

Specialists in the School

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