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Research centres and groups – University of Reading

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Research centres and groups

Beckett at ReadingBIF

Researchers within English contribute significantly to making the University of Reading a global epicentre of research on Samuel Beckett. The University's Beckett Archive houses the largest collection of materials relating to Beckett in the world and has achieved Designated Status by the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA) as a "pre-eminent collection of national and international significance". University researchers from the English, French, and Film, Philosophy and Theatre and Television Studies (FTT) work collaboratively as Beckett at Reading (, and are involved in the Beckett International Foundation[link: ], a charitable trust based at the University which counts two Nobel Laureates among its patrons. Its current Director is Mark Nixon from within the department. Former director John Pilling is also based within the department, and Conor Carville, Steven Matthews and Stephen Thomson also publish on Beckett. Several major research projects are ongoing, including the Beckett Digital Manuscript Project[link:] with Van Hulle, and the University hosts regular events with details on the Beckett websites. Postgraduate work in Beckett is supported by the MA in Modern and Contemporary Writing and individual PhD project proposals are welcome.

Book HistoryThumbnail Texts and Archives

Book and publishing history has been a long-standing and distinctive research focus of the department, with active collaborations in Modern Languages, Typography & Graphic Communication and the University Library, as well as national and international partnerships. The University houses the Archive of British Publishing and Printing, which has been designated an 'Outstanding Collection' by the Museums, Library and Archives Council and which supports research by colleagues within the department, postdoctoral and postgraduate researchers, as well as undergraduate projects.

The University Library also houses the prize-winning 'Location Register of Twentieth-Century English Literary Manuscripts' and 'Writers, Artists, and their Copyright Holders' (WATCH), run in collaboration with the University of Texas at Austin.

Led by Dr David Sutton, these archival and database resources have been important drivers for major research projects and collaborations by colleagues including the AHRC project 'The Impact of Distribution and Reading Patterns on the History of the Novel in Britain, 1880-1940' run by Andrew Nash, Patrick Parrinder and Nicola Wilson.

A new project which also exploits the archival holdings and database projects is the Leverhulme International Network on Diasporic Literary Archives run by Alison Donnell, Andrew Nash, David Sutton and colleagues in Modern Languages.

The department runs a seminar series, 'Archives and Texts' and hosts regular events and speakers in this field. The archives offer unrivalled resources for PhD research in this field and colleagues welcome proposals.


Children's Literaturealice-liddell

Our work in Children's Literature takes place in The Centre for International Research in Childhood: Literature, Culture, Media which was founded by Tony Watkins in 1996. Karin Lesnik-Oberstein took over as the Director of CIRCL in 2003 and works with Sue Walsh and Neil Cocks on different aspects of the cultural construction of the child. For details of its thriving MA in Children's Literature, its active postgraduate research programme, and its ongoing series of publications, see the CIRCL website. See also

Early Modern Literaturecircle pattern

Much of the department's research into Early Modern Literature is supported by the Early Modern Research Centre The Centre is directed within the department by Michelle O'Callaghan and Cindy Becker, Rebecca Bullard, Chloe Houston, Mark Hutchings and Mary Morrissey all contribute actively. The focus of the work conducted by these scholars is on four broad themes: 'Cultures of Print and Manuscript'; 'Clergy and the Long Reformation'; 'Cross-Cultural Exchanges'; and 'Cultures of Performance'. For full details of these research themes, the Centre's regular research seminars and its annual international conferences see the Centre website ( 

Following on from the ground-breaking work in the history of the Early Modern Theatre of Andrew Gurr and Grace Ioppolo, Professor Ioppolo has set up a new School Research Group on Theatre History and Performance Studies.  

Graduate Centre for Medieval Studiesgcms-image-for-research-groups

The Graduate Centre for Medieval Studies (GCMS) is at the heart of Medieval Literature and History at Reading with partners in Archaeology, Byzantine Studies, English, French, German, History, History of Art, Italian, Latin, and Early Printed Books. Phillipa Hardman from the department is a core member of the Centre which celebrated its fortieth anniversary in 2005, making it one of the oldest centres of its kind in the country. Hardman is currently working with Visiting Fellow Marianne Ailes (French) on a co-authored study of Middle English Romances of Charlemagne as part of an AHRC-funded collaborative research project, 'Charlemagne in England'. The Centre runs a programme of lectures and visiting speakers, an interdisciplinary MA in Medieval Studies, and publishes Reading Medieval Studies, an international journal

Interdisciplinary Research into the Humanities and Sciencehumanities and science

IHRS is a Faculty Research Theme which seeks to bring together historians, literary scholars and political scientists on the one hand and biologists, meteorologists and cyberneticists on the other to seek to understand the place of science in culture and society, the interaction of the sciences and the arts, and the ways in which interdisciplinary and cross-disciplinary research can help us to tackle the most pressing social and political issues in the modern world. The sciences and the arts and humanities are often seen as separate from one another, yet they have looked to each other for elucidation and inspiration. They share a common interest in the most fundamental questions relating to the human condition: what do we know, how can we know it, and what is at stake if and when we ask?

Our work on this theme here at Reading is driven by a fundamental belief that scientists, artists and humanities scholars share an interest in the cross-fertilization of ideas and that our collective understanding will be advanced the more we work together from our different disciplinary perspectives. At the same time, our interdisciplinary field touches upon some of the most important subjects in intellectual enquiry today, from medical ethics and food security to climate change and the place of religion in society.

John Holmes and Andrew Mangham are the co-directors of the theme. Other colleagues in English who are involved in the theme included Karin Lesnik-Oberstein, Stephen Thomson and Debbie Bark.

Minority Identities: Rights and Representationsresearch-theme-minorities

Minority Identities is a Faculty Research Theme that congregates researchers across disciplines and period specialisms to explore the interface where issues of rights meet those of representation. It thereby offers a timely opportunity for Arts and Humanities Research to engage in multi-disciplinary projects that offer a productive exchange between intellectual enquiry and public policy agendas. Led from within the department by Alison Donnell, the Theme hosts postgraduate conferences, workshops, visiting speakers and writers. From within English, David Brauner, Bryan Cheyette, Mark Nixon and Peter Stoneley are also involved.

Modern Literary Studies at Readingreading-literary-festival

Our work on modern and contemporary literature spans the nineteenth and twentieth centuries in English and American Literature. The grouping has particular strengths in 'Poetry and Poetics' with three poets, Peter Robinson, Conor Carville and Steven Matthews, based in the department. A significant publication base of poetry collections, editions and academic studies by these poets and Alison Donnell, Simon Dentith, Natalie Pollard, Matthew Sperling and Matthew Scott underpins this field of research. The group regularly hosts high-profile poetry readings and organised the inaugural Reading Poetry Festival in March 2013. 'Literature and Science' is another emerging area of research excellence, with a focus on points of intersection between the biological sciences on the one hand, including evolutionary biology, medicine and psychology, and literature and critical theory on the other, with further work on scientific discourses and institutions. Research by John Holmes in this field has been funded by the Leverhulme Trust and the AHRC. Holmes and Karin Lesnik-Oberstein are currently involved in a collaboration with History and French on 'The Value of the Literary and Historical Study of Biology to Biologists'. Andrew Mangham has published widely on Victorian literature and medicine, especially Dickens and Stephen Thomson is working on sleep-walking in nineteenth-century literature and culture. Those from English whose work is also associated with this grouping are Lucy Bending, Nicola Bradbury, David Brauner, Bryan Cheyette, Andrew Nash, Mark Nixon and Peter Stoneley. The MA (Res) in Modern and Contemporary Writing supports postgraduate work in this area and all colleagues are interested in supervising PhD projects.

Poetry and Poeticsell-peter-robinson-reading

Poetry and Poetics, part of Modern Literary Studies at Reading, is concerned with the evolution of thinking in literary aesthetics since the Romantic period, the place and role of poetry in modern and contemporary culture and society, and the theory and practice of poetic composition, revision, publication, marketing and reception. This strand contributes to research provision for higher degrees in creative writing, as well as organizing the annual Gerald Finzi poetry reading, the publication of a yearly Creative Arts Anthology, and such events as the 2009 Bernard Spencer Centenary Conference, and the Reading Poetry Festival, the first of which will be held in June 2013.

Poetry and Poetics is connected to the other departmental research groups Literature & Science and Book History, primarily, in the first case, through the work of John Holmes. Drawn together around Peter Robinson's research, editing, translating, and writing, it includes the study of book and publishing history for poetry (Robinson, Nash), Romantic and Victorian poetry and poetic theory (Scott, Holmes and Dentith), contemporary poetry and cultural theory (Carville, Matthews, Pollard and Donnell), creative writing (Carville, Robinson and Adrian Blamires), as well as poetry and translation (Robinson and PGR Andrew Houwen). Recent grant successes in this field include Robinson, the British Academy Research Fellowship awarded to Natalie Pollard, and the Leverhulme Post-doctoral Fellowship won by Matthew Sperling.

For more information and details of our recent events, please see Poetry & Poetics

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