Gender and Sexuality

Several members of the School of English have a particular interest in issues relating to gender and sexuality. Informed by feminist and/or queer theory, their research covers a number of historical periods.

Recent publications and research focus topics

  • homosocial relations and same-sex desire between medieval men;
  • women on the Victorian stage;
  • tender men in Victorian literature;
  • women travel writers;
  • women’s autobiography;
  • contemporary representations of gender ambiguity;
  • transsexuality;
  • intersexuality;
  • AIDS narratives.

Specialists in this field are also interested in how specific issues are gendered.

Recent PhDs subjects

  • Elizabeth Gaskell and nineteenth century feminism,
  • New Woman fiction of the 1890s,
  • representations of the single woman in the post-war period,
  • contemporary lesbian fiction,
  • narratives about gay adolescence,
  • the cyborg in American science fiction.


The University library holds the Joe Orton (1933-67) archive in its Special Collection. This archive provides a unique insight into Orton's work, which challenged dominant ideas about gender and sexuality prior to the legalisation of homosexuality in 1967. Known as 'the Oscar Wilde of welfare state gentility', Orton is best known for his outrageously funny plays, which employ farce to challenge established notions of 'good taste' and celebrate social anarchy.

Current research

  • Medieval gender and sexuality
  • Women’s travel writing and postcolonial feminist theory
  • Gender and the history of sexuality
  • Women poets
  • Adolescent masculinity
  • Networks of friendship and relationships between women writers
  • Victorian women writers and actresses
  • Feminist narratology
  • Contemporary women’s writing and queer fiction
  • Women’s writing: First World War - present day
  • Contemporary Caribbean Women's Writing

Medieval gender and sexuality

Dr David Clark works on medieval gender and sexuality, and the modern reception of medieval literature. His recent monograph, Between Medieval Men: Male Friendship and Desire in Early Medieval Literature (OUP, 2009), was described in the Times Higher Education Supplement as ‘smart, elegant and ambitious’.

He is currently working on a book entitled The Politics of Friendship in Medieval European Literature, which explores representations of male intimacy in medieval literature.

He is the co-founder (with Dr Holly Furneaux) of Queer Midlands, an interdisciplinary research forum.

Women’s travel writing and postcolonial feminist theory

Dr Corinne Fowler lectures in postcolonial literature and specialises in women’s travel writing and postcolonial feminist theory. Her monograph Chasing Tales: The History of British Ideas about Afghanistan (2007) examines the ethics of travel writing and journalism by means of a comparative focus on men’s and women’s travel narratives and war reports.

She is working on a critical history of feminist ideas about Afghan war, which investigates travel narratives and print journalism in different periods of military conflict.

Gender and the history of sexuality

Dr Holly Furneaux has particular interests in gender and the history of sexuality. In her recent book Queer Dickens: Erotics, Families, Masculinities (OUP, 2009) she explored Dickens’s career-long celebration of same-sex desire, families of choice and more tender forms of masculinity.

She continues this interest in rethinking Victorian masculinity in her current project on ‘Men of Feeling’, which focuses on the neglected figures of male nurses, foster fathers and gentle soldiers.

She has also published work on women’s responses to Victorian marriage law and treatments of female friendship in the work of Dickens and Emily Dickinson.

Women poets

Dr Sarah Graham is interested in women poets, particularly the Modernist poet H.D., and has an essay in The Cambridge Companion to H.D. (CUP, 2010).

Adolescent masulinity

Dr Sarah Graham's edited collection of essays J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye (Routledge, 2007) and monograph Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye (Continuum, 2007) both explore adolescent masculinity.

Reflecting her interest in non-normative genders, she has also published an essay on Jeffrey Eugenides’ novel, Middlesex.

Networks of friendship and relationships between women writers

Dr Felicity James is interested in networks of friendship and relationship in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, particularly between women writers.
Her current research focuses on female religious Dissenters, and she has published essays on Anna Letitia Barbauld, Mary Hays, Harriet Martineau and Elizabeth Gaskell.

She also teaches an undergraduate module, ‘Women, Writing and Revolution’, which explores issues of gender and Romanticism.

Victorian women writers and actresses

Professor Gail Marshall is interested in women writers and actresses, and women's cultural and political history in the Victorian period. She is the author of Actresses on the Victorian Stage: Feminine Performance and the Galatea Myth (CUP, 1998), and Shakespeare and Victorian Women (CUP, 2009).

Feminist narratology

Dr Ruth Page’s work on feminist narratology brings together literary-critical and discourse analytic studies of narrative and gender.She is the author of Literary and Linguistic Approaches to Feminist Narratology (Palgrave, 2006).

Her current work explores discourse, interaction and gendered meanings in new media texts, including blogs, hyperfiction, social networking sites.

Contemporary women’s writing and queer fiction

Dr Emma Parker works on contemporary women’s writing and queer fiction. She is the author of Kate Atkinson’s Behind the Scenes of the Museum (Continuum, 2002), editor of Contemporary British Women’s Writing (English Association, 2004), Associate Editor of the Oxford University Press journal Contemporary Women’s Writing, and a founding member of the Contemporary Women’s Writing Network.

She has published essays on Margaret Atwood, Toni Morrison, Angela Carter, Jeanette Winterson, Rose Tremain, and Michèle Roberts as well as the representation of masculinity in the work of Graham Swift and Martin Amis.

She teaches an MA module on queer fiction that explores identities that disrupt the binary norms of gender and desire, and is particularly interested in representations of pregnant men.

Women’s writing: First World War - present day

Dr Victoria Stewart is interested in women’s autobiographical responses to the First and Second World War, interwar women’s writing, and contemporary fiction by women.

Her publications in these areas include Women’s Autobiography: War and Trauma (Palgrave, 2003), as well as articles on Q. D. Leavis, Elizabeth Bowen and Hilary Mantel.

Contemporary Caribbean Women's Writing

Dr Lucy Evans is interested in contemporary Caribbean women's writing. Her monograph, Communities in Contemporary Anglophone Caribbean Short Stories (Liverpool University Press, forthcoming 2014) covers short fiction by Dionne Brand, Olive Senior and Alecia McKenzie.

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