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Sue Walsh

photograph of Sue Walsh

Postgraduate supervision

I am currently supervising a PhD student working on ideas of Series in Children's Fiction taking the work of Enid Blyton as a case-study and have also supervised successful PhD theses on 'Ideas of the Child Reader in Contemporary Re-tellings of Biblical narratives for Children' , and 'The Child In Gothic'.


I convene the 2nd year module on C19th American Literature called 'Writing America' and a 3rd year module on turn of the century American writing about the wilderness and wild animals called 'Writing the North American Wilderness'.

I also convene the following modules for the MA in Children's Literature: C20th and C21st Children's Literature, North American Children's Literature and Colonial and Post-Colonial Children's Fiction.

I supervise undergraduate dissertation students working on a range of subjects such as: pre- and post-Darwinian Children's Fiction about animals (making use of the Special Collections in Children's literature held at Reading), Magic Realism in Angela Carter's work and the representation of gender in Sylvia Plath's poetry.

I have contributed to courses in:

  • Languages of Literature
  • Writing America: Self, Race and Region
  • Literary Criticism and Theory
  • Women's Writing and Feminist Theory
  • Modernism and Modern Poetry
  • Children's Literature (Undergraduate)
  • Popular Forms (MA in Children's Literature)
  • Children's Radio, Television and Film (MA in Children's Literature)
  • Nineteenth Century Children's Literature (MA in Children's Literature)

I supervise MA dissertation students working on an equally diverse range of topics for the MA in Children's Literature, for example: 'Ideas of Writing in the Work of Children's Fantasy Writer Diana Wynne Jones', 'Ideas of agency and authority in The Brownies' Book' which was the first periodical specifically for African-American children edited by W.E.B. Du Bois in the 1920s, and a dissertation on ideas about teenage sexuality as analysed in the debates around Stephenie Meyer's Twilight.

As a member of the Graduate Centre for International Research in Childhood: Literature, Culture, Media, my primary research interests tend to be focused around ideas of childhood, and I currently have a PhD student working on ideas of Series in Children's Fiction. I have a particular interest in ideas about language and narration in children's literature, and I'm especially intrigued by what discussions about the relationship of irony to children's literature reveal about the construction of childhood and contemporary notions of child-appropriate language. I also have wider interests in critical theory and American literature, and I am particularly interested in current debates about ideas of the animal in literature and culture, and would be interested in supervising postgraduate students working in any of these areas.

Research centres and groups

I am a member of the Graduate Centre for International Research in Childhood: Literature, Culture, Media, and a member of the British Association of American Studies (BAAS) and the Children's Literature Association.

Research projects

Irony and the Child

This project builds on already published work and concerns the question of irony in children's literature and its use in relation to figurations of childhood. Classically one of the ways of dealing with the presence of irony in children's literature has been to posit the theory of "dual readership", where irony is read as the marker of an adult audience or readership, alongside that of the child. In this is embedded the notion that irony is not appropriate to, or addressed at, the child reader, and my question with respect to this is about the grounds upon which this assumption is made, and what its implications are for ideas about readers and child readers specifically. What too are the implications of not reading irony as indicating an adult readership? If irony disrupts or challenges any notion of language that sees it as simply or straightforwardly meaning what it says, the elimination of irony from texts for children implies a particular conception of the child's relationship to language and it is the implications of this that I wish to address further.

The Hieroglyphic Animal

This project is involved in exploring the implications of what seems an odd and apparently out of place set of references and allusions to hieroglyphs and other ancient Egyptian cultural artifacts in American nature essays and realistic wild animal stories of the 1880s-1910s. These images of ancient Egypt seem to be a residue of the influence of Emerson, Thoreau and Whitman and of an early to mid-nineteenth century Egyptomania, and they are also appear to be bound up with notions about human-animal kinship, the origins of language and ideas about primitiveness and race. It is these ideas, especially as related to ideas about animal language and the representation of Native Americans, that I want to explore in the animal stories and nature/wilderness writing of authors such as John Muir, John Burroughs, Jack London, Ernest Thompson Seton, William J. Long and Charles G.D. Roberts.

Selected publications

  • My monograph, Kipling's Children's Literature: Language, Identity and Constructions of Childhood, was published in 2010 by Ahsgate.
  • My publication 'The Child in Wolf's Clothing: the meanings of the "Wolf" and questions of identity in Jack London's White Fang' in European Journal of American Culture was published in 2013.


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