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20th and 21st Century Literature, Creative Writing and Film Research Group

The 20th and 21st Century Literature, Creative Writing and Film research group promotes interdisciplinary research and teaching in all aspects of twentieth century literature, culture and media. Based within the College of Humanities, the research group is characterised by intellectual expertise, strong archival holdings, a thriving postgraduate community and internationally recognised academic events. Its researchers have achieved success in obtaining support from the AHRC, British Academy and others.

The Research Group enjoys substantial archives including the South West Literary Collection (with papers relating to Ted Hughes, Daphne Du Maurier, John Fowles, John Betjeman, Agatha Christie, Henry Williamson and others) and the Bill Douglas Cinema Museum, as well as benefitting from locally-based writers hosted under the Royal Literary Fund Fellowship scheme and Arts Council funded residencies. 

A vibrant community of PhD students also research the twentieth and twenty first centuries at Exeter. Current research areas include: postcolonial aesthetic theory, film adaptation, Medical Humanities, Espionage fiction, Modernism, the urban elegy, poetic composition and contemporary landscape writing.

Significant research publications

  • Sinéad Moynihan: "Other People's Diasporas": Negotiating Race in Contemporary Irish and Irish-American Culture (Syracuse University Press, 2013)
  • Tim Kendall: The Art of Robert Frost (Yale University Press, 2012)
  • Eds. James Lyons and Paul Williams: The Rise of the American Comics Artist: Creators and Contexts (University Press of Mississippi, 2010)
  • Alex Murray: Giorgio Agamben (Routledge, 2010)
  • Vike Plock: Joyce, Medicine, and Modernity (University Press of Florida, 2010)
  • Jason Hall: Seamus Heaney’s Rhythmic Contract (Palgrave Macmillan, 2009)
  • Jo Gill: The Cambridge Introduction to Sylvia Plath (CUP, 2008)

Jo Gill

  • Leverhulme Trust “Cultures of the Suburbs International Research Network” (PI) (£68,836 for 3 years from Sept 2011)
  • Eccles Centre Visiting Fellow in North American Studies (2010-11)
  •   Arts and Humanities Research Council Research Leave Scheme (£23,543) for The Poetics of the American Suburbs (July 2009 for autumn term 2010)

Song Lim 

  • 2012 Leverhulme International Network grant of £88,089 pounds over two years for his project "Chinese Cinemas in the 21st Century: Production, Consumption, Imagination."

Dan North, Philip Wickham, Richard Evershon (Engineering) and John Plunkett

  • have been awarded a grant of £1540 from Bridging the Gaps for a project to make a short 3-D film about the the history of 3-D pictures using the Bill Douglas Centre archive.

Vike Plock

  • March 2010 H. D. Fellowship in English or American Literature ($4,000 plus travel stipend), Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University Library ( Edith Wharton, Fashion, and Social Regulation).

Jo Kember

  • with John Plunkett of £225,000 bid to ‘Visual Arts and Media: practice, history, theory’ AHRC panel for project titled: ‘Moving and Projected Image Entertainment in the South-West: 1820-1914’. The project will take place across three years, with a project team including Dr John Plunkett, myself, a postdoctoral researcher, and a fully funded PhD student.  

Tim Kendall & Jo Gill

  • 2007- present: Great Western Research grant (£40,000) for funded PhD on Ivor Gurne.

Helen Taylor 

  • British Association for American Studies Honorary Fellowship 2010-2011 (in recognition of distinguished contributions to American Studies.
  • Medicine, Health & the Arts in Post-War Britain (seminar series to be held Feb-July 2012, funded by the Wellcome Trust).
  • 29 June 2012 Re-Visiting Sylvia Townsend Warner (1893-1978): A One-Day International Symposium hosted by the Centre for South West Writing, University of Exeter and the Dorset County Museum
  • British Association for American Studies Annual Conference, University of Exeter (2013)
  • From The Cradle to the Grave: Reciprocity & Exchange in the Making of Medicine and the Modern Arts (2011, funded by the AHRC)
  • International conference “Reclamation and Representation: the boundaries of the literary archive.” University of Exeter 2nd – 3rd October 2010, supported by the Centre for South West Writing
  • Critical Theory: Violence & the Limits of Representation (2010)
  • Critical Theory: The Text & the World (2009, funded by the AHRC)

Emma Bird

My PhD project 'Reconfiguring Bombay: Postcolonial Poetry and Urban Space', considers how Bombay has been figured in poetic discourse since Independence. I focus on the work of the founding members of the small press Clearing House, examining the spatial and cultural significance of marginal poetic communities in the postcolonial city. The project is supervised by Dr Jane Poyner. Wider research interests include postcolonial aesthetic theory, postcolonial methodologies, Bombay little magazines, and poetics.

Bysshe Coffey

Thesis title: ‘The Worlds that Were and Will Be’: Consolable and Inconsolable Voices. The Death Poetry of D. H. Lawrence and Walt Whitman.

Sarah Fanning

"My thesis looks at the filmic and televisual adaptations of Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights, exploring historical and formal questions concerning the representation of masculinity and Rochester and Heathcliff as Byronic figures in their literary and visual incarnations."

Samuel Goodman

'Mapping New Jerusalem: Space, National Identity and Power in British Espionage fiction 1945-79' supervised by Dr. Alex Murray and Professor Gerald Maclean. My doctoral thesis concentrates on the popular prose fiction of Ian Fleming, Graham Greene and John le Carré. I examine the production of space as a means of creating national identity and sovereign dominance throughout espionage fiction. Wider Research Interests:Modernism, Antimodernism, critical theory, the later novels of J.G Farrell & the 1970s, Medical Humanities.

Nick Hall  

I am currently researching towards a PhD focusing on the development of the zoom lens in Hollywood from the postwar period to the rise of the 'New Hollywood'. This research represents a progression from my MA dissertation, which advanced an in-depth case study of the development of new 10:1 zoom lenses by the French firm Angenieux.

Trilby Kent

My thesis 'Writing Outside Voices and Outside History', asks: how can the novel utilise 'gothic' imagined places and un-space to explore post-war guilt and social change? What are the challenges of writing about the remote past and creating believable imagined landscapes? What is the relationship between these lost worlds and the remote inner landscapes of “outsider” characters? What role can we ascribe to female characters in literatures dealing with foreignness and destabilizing encounters with the "Other"?

Philip Lancaster

Philip has reorganised and catalogued the extensive archive of the Gloucester poet and composer, Ivor Gurney (1890-1937), and is endeavouring to complete his thesis looking at the development of Gurney's poetry of war following the First World War, supervised by Professor Tim Kendall. Philip is an acknowledged expert on British art music of the early twentieth century on which subject he has lectured and written widely.

Elizabeth Micakovic

My thesis ‘T. S. Eliot's Voices’, supervised by Vike Plock and Jason Hall, focuses on Eli ot's anxiety over the fallibility of the speaking voice. My wider research interests include historical perspectives on the physiology of the voice and associated speech disorders, and the use of electrotherapy in the treatment of such disorders. I'm particularly interested the oral recitation of Modernist poetry, and the use of voice and rhythm in the transformation and extension of meaning.

Rebecca Mills

My thesis focuses on twentieth-century elegiac geographies, supervised by Jason Hall and Adeline Johns-Putra and funded by the European Social Fund. My thesis examines the littoral elegy and its traditions and conventions, analysing, for example, Sylvia Plath's "Berck-Plage" and Elizabeth Bishop's "North Haven", and the urban elegy, focusing on Douglas Dunn's Elegies and Ted Hughes's Birthday Letters.

Carrie Smith

Thesis titled “Poetry in the Making: composition and poetic process in the work of Ted Hughes”, supervised by Tim Kendall and Jo Gill.

Jos Smith

'An Archipelagic Environment: Rewriting the British and Irish Landscape in the Twenty-First Century', a study of a disparate cross-section of such authors as Tim Robinson, Andrew McNeillie, Kathleen Jamie, Robert Macfarlane and Alice Oswald, among others. The project is supervised by Andy Brown and Andrew McNeillie.

Jamie Steele

My PhD research focuses upon the national film production of Belgium to explore the transnational connections forged between nation-states in Europe, predicated upon a linguistic allegiance.  My area of study is interdisciplinary, blending together French language studies, and ‘La Francophonie’, with Film Studies.

Suzanne Steele

My doctorate is titled, The Art of Witness: a Poet's Road to Afghanistan with the Infantry, 2008-2011. I am examining the ethics, aesthetics and context of non-combatant war artists.  I'm working with Professor Tim Kendall and Andy Brown, and am interested in war studies and military culture, theology, theatre, music, English literature (primarily war poetry), film and middle eastern culture.

Lucy Tunstall

My thesis title is 'After Ariel: Sylvia Plath and Late Style'. Supervisors, Professor Tim Kendall and Dr Jo Gill. More widely I am interested in aspects of influence and intertextuality and in twentieth century British, Irish and American poetry. I had a BAAS short term travel award to visit the Plath archives at Smith College this year.

MA English: Twentieth-Century Literature

The Department of English at Exeter has considerable expertise in the area of twentieth-century literature. Research topics range from English poetry of the First World War, modernism and mid-century confessional writing to contemporary comic books and the postcolonial novel. The MA pathway reflects that variety, and allows students to adapt the course to their own specialist interests.

Programme structure

Students opting for the MA in English Studies with Twentieth-Century Literature Pathway will choose two of the available twentieth-century literature modules, two other English modules (which might be in twentieth century film, creative writing, American literature, or any other literary topic), and complete a Dissertation in the area.

For more information including entrance requirements and how to apply, visit the MA English: Twentieth-Century Literature.

Special Collections

Special Collections holds 350 collections of archives and manuscripts. These include the richest collection of twentieth-century literary papers by writers associated with the south west of England in any university library. Writers represented include Ted Hughes, Leonard Baskin, John Betjeman, Daphne du Maurier, Henry Williamson, Charles Causley, Patricia Beer, Theo Brown, Jack Clemo, TS Eliot, John Fowles, Eden Phillpotts, Lawrence Sail, John Fairfax, John Moat, Sylvia Kantaris, Agatha Christie, Frances Bellerby, Arthur Caddick, RF Delderfield, James Farrar, A L Rowse, and Flora Thompson.

The collections are used extensively in University teaching and research programmes. We also have strong links with other regional, national and international institutions, engaging in outreach and collaborative projects which benefit both the University and the broader community.

The Bill Douglas Cinema Museum

The Bill Douglas Cinema Museum contains both a public museum and an academic research centre, housing one of Britain's largest public collections of books, prints, artefacts and ephemera relating to the history and prehistory of cinema. The Museum provides a research collection of international stature, illustrating the development of optical recreation and popular entertainment from the late 18th century to Classical Hollywood and the present day. Complementing the University's existing extensive resources for the study of popular culture, the Collection's 18,000 books gives Exeter the country's largest university library on cinema.

Staff blogs

Professor Tim Kendall – 'War Poetry Blog'

Andy Brown -

Dr Dan North – 'Spectacular Attractions: film in all its forms'

PhD blogs

Philip Lancaster – Ivor Gurney Blog

Carrie Smith and Dr Lisa Stead - Reclamation and Representation: the Boundaries of the Literary Archive

Visiting Speakers

  • 30th January 2012 - Bryony Dixon, Silent Film Curator at the BFI,  'Why Silent Film Still Matters', Seminar Room A/B in the Research Commons at 6.30pm.
  • 19th March 2012 - Santanu Das (Queen Mary) 'The Indian Sepoy in the First World War: Objects, Images and Words' 4-6 in MR1.

Staff and PhD Research Papers

All Staff Research sessions take place on Wednesdays 1-2 in LT7, Queens Building.

  • Wed 25 January 2012: Elizabeth Micakovic, ‘T. S. Eliot’s Ineffable Voices’
  • Wed 15 February 2012: Dr Vike Plock, ‘The Search for the Dress, the Perfect Dress”: Sartorial and Socio-Psychological Impasses in Jean Rhys’s “Left Bank” Fiction’

Past Speakers

  • 12 December 2011 - Celeste-Marie Bernier (Univeristy of Nottingham) ‘Narrative, History and Memory: Representing World War I in African American Visual Culture" Queen's MR3, 5pm. Part of Visual Culture lecture series.
  • 'Lo-fiying Stars': cult directors and Mumblecore.'
  • Wed 7 December 2011: Rebecca Mills, ‘Transcendence vs Immersion: Twentieth Century Elegiac Perspectives and Littoral Geographies’
  • Mon 5 December 2011: Dr Jo Gill and Dr Martin Dines (Kingston), Research Roundtable, ‘The Culture of the Suburbs’
  • 9 November2011: Prof Gabriella Giannachi (University of Exeter), ‘The Documentation and Archiving of Mixed Reality Experience: from CloudPad to Art Map’.
  • 2 November 2011: Matt Hayler (University of Exeter), ‘Implications and Provocations: Interdisciplinary Responses to Digitisation’
  • 25th October 2011 Paul Muldoon 'The University as Patron of the Arts'

Professor Gabriella Giannachi

Professor Gabriella Giannachi is Director of the University-supported Centre for Intermedia and Creative Technology and her current research interests are: art and technology; exhibition, documentation, archiving and replay; mixed and virtual reality; presence; environmental and ecological performance; and art in the San Francisco Bay area.

Professor Tim Kendall

Professor Tim Kendall has written mainly on twentieth-century poetry from Britain, Ireland and America. His most recent publications have focused on war poetry: Modern English War Poetry (2006); and The Oxford Handbook of British and Irish War Poetry (2007). Previous projects include studies of Sylvia Plath and Paul Muldoon. Currently he is working on a study of the American poet Robert Frost, a book on war poetry for OUP's Very Short Introductions series, an anthology of First World War poetry and (with Philip Lancaster) Ivor Gurney's Complete Poems.

Professor Helen Taylor

Professor Helen Taylor has published widely on American southern literature and culture, and is also known for feminist critical articles and editions, as well as engagement with radical pedagogy. Her books include Scarlett's Women: Gone With the Wind and its Female Fans (1989), and Circling Dixie: Contemporary Southern Culture through a Transatlantic Lens (2001). Her current research project focuses on the transatlantic historical and cultural significance of the Storyville District of New Orleans, 1897-1917.

Dr Jo Gill

Dr Jo Gill's research focuses on confessional and life-writing, mid-twentieth century American poetry, and the literature and culture of the American suburbs. Her recent books include edited collections on Modern Confessional Writing (2006) and Sylvia Plath (The Cambridge Companion to Sylvia Plath). She is the author of Anne Sexton's Confessional Poetics (2007); Women's Poetry (2007) and The Cambridge Introduction to Sylvia Plath (2008). She is currently completing work on a new book, The Poetics of the American Suburbs.

Dr Jason Hall

Dr Jason Hall's research focuses on the literary and cultural history of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, with emphasis on poetry and 'historical prosody'. His books include Seamus Heaney's Rhythmic Contract (2009), a co-edited 2007 collection Seamus Heaney: Poet, Critic, Translator and the forthcoming Meter Matters: Verse Cultures of the Long Nineteenth Century (2011).

Dr Sinéad Moynihan

Dr Sinéad Moynihan's areas are Twentieth-century American literature; African American and Ethnic American literature; Contemporary American fiction, 1990s to present; Contemporary Irish fiction, 1990s to present; Race, Racial Passing, Whiteness Studies and the Black Atlantic; and Transnationalism and Diaspora; Irish/American Transatlantic Culture. Forthcoming publication: "Other People's Diasporas": Negotiating Race in Contemporary Irish and Irish-American Culture (2013).

Dr Vike Martina Plock

Dr Vike Martina Plock has published widely on James Joyce and specifically on Joyce's lifelong interest in medicine and science. Her monograph on the subject is Joyce, Medicine, and Modernity (2010). Vike is curently researching the centrality of fashion as a cultural force and discourse in the works of early twentieth-century women novelists. Vike has also developed an interest in middlebrow literature and its contentious relationship with literary modernism.

Dr Jane Poyner

Dr Jane Poyner's areas are South African literature of the apartheid and post-apartheid eras; South African intellectual history; the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission; postcolonial literature and theory, particularly the politics of writing and intellectual history; literary, critical and cultural theory; and modernism. Jane Poyner's long-term research project is a book titled Writing Under Pressure: the Ethics of Intellectual Practice in Post-Apartheid South Africa.

Dr Paul Williams

Dr Paul Williams's research focused on Cold War texts and examined the interplay of gender and race in Hollywood's depiction of the Vietnam War. This work grew to asses the possible postcolonial future of Nuclear Criticism. He is interested in the growing academic study of comics and graphic novels. His published research includes the co-edited collection The Rise of the American Comics Artist (2010).


Dr Helen Hanson

Dr Helen Hanson's monograph Hollywood Heroines: Women in Film Noir and the Female Gothic Film (2007) analyses female investigators and gothic heroines in Hollywood cinema from the 1940s to the present. The book incorporates industry and generic histories, theories of narrative, agency and identification to offer fresh perspectives on gender and genre.

Joe Kember

Joe Kember's research addresses the development of popular and visual entertainments throughout the Victorian period and early twentieth century, including traditions of performance and representation in early and silent film, magic lantern shows, music hall, fairground, and melodramatic theatre. His co-authored book, Early Cinema 1895-1914: From Factory Gate to Dream Factory (2004) offers an introduction to this field.

Dr James Lyons

Dr James Lyons is currently researching stardom and performance in recent American Independent Film, and is developing a major new research project on stunt performance and discourses of risk in cinema. He has recently published a book on the television show Miami Vice (2010), and has co-edited The Rise of the American Comics Artist with Paul Williams (2010).

Creative Writing

Dr Andy Brown

Dr Andy Brown's writing is informed by post-postmodern concerns and the tensions between traditional form and literary innovation. His poetry publications include Goose Music (Salt, 2008) with John Burnside; The Storm Berm (Tall Lighthouse, 2008); Fall of the Rebel Angels: Poems 1996-2006 (Salt, 2006) and five previous volumes of poetry.

Mr Sam North

Mr Sam North's areas are current fiction in both dramatic and prose form; the history of narrative and genre development; and the mechanical/imaginative processes of story-telling. Sam North is currently developing a PhD titled ‘Five Analogies' to be published by OUP which explores the imaginative landscape of narrative from a practitioner's point of view.