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The University of Southampton
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Dr Will May 

Professor in Modern and Contemporary Literature

Dr Will May's photo

Dr Will May is a Professor in Modern and Contemporary Literature at the University of Southampton.

I completed my doctoral thesis at Balliol College, Oxford, and went on to lecture at Bath Spa University and St Anne's College, Oxford before joining Southampton in 2008.

I am a member of the Centre for Modern and Contemporary Writing (CMCW), and am committed to projects that use writing to bring different communities together. I helped set up the F.T. Prince Memorial Lecture, an annual English lecture which celebrates the work of the poet F.T. Prince, a former Professor of English at Southampton, and was part of the Leverhulme-funded project Story Places.

I am an AHRC Leadership Fellow on Invisible Mentors, a collaborative project with ArtfulScribe and Winchester Poetry Festival exploring the role of mentoring in the creative industries. As part of the project, I am co-ordinating a new poetry mentoring scheme, Poetry Ambassadors.

I am also CI for Towns and the Cultural Economies of Recovery, a collaborative AHRC scoping project with the Creative Industries Policy and Evidence Centre and Historic England.

I am on the executive of University English where I represent the UK to the European Society for the Study of English.

Research interests

I am the editor of Stevie Smith’s Collected Poems and Drawings, and am currently researching mentoring practice in postwar and contemporary British poetry. I am also exploring the role that mentoring can have in the cultural and economic recovery of UK towns.

I enjoy thinking about poets that trouble critics and modes that trouble poets, and have written a number of articles on poetry and whimsy. I also have research interests in contemporary British fiction, and music and modern literature. I would be interested in supervising students working in any of these areas.

I have recently edited a book of essays on the poet F.T. Prince; other publications include Stevie Smith and Authorship (Oxford University Press, 2010), which won the CCUE 2011 book prize, and Postwar Literature: 1950-1990 (Longman, 2010).

I guest edited special issues on text-setting and libretti for Contemporary Music Review (Routledge), and international espionage fiction with Phyllis Lassner. I have also written articles on Emily Dickinson, Edward Lear, Elizabeth Taylor, and the pianist Harriet Cohen.

Research project(s)

Invisible Mentors

Dr. Will May, Associate Professor in English in the Faculty of Arts and Humanities, is completing a study of mentoring in the creative industries.

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Book Chapters

Creative Media and Artefacts

  • May, W. (Author). (2021). Verse Mentors. Digital or Visual Products
  • May, W. (Author). (2021). Verse Mentors. Digital or Visual Products
  • May, W. (Composer), Williams, L. (Other), & Frowde, R. (Performer). (Accepted/In press). The Night Dances. Performance


I convene a number of modules which make connections between our discipline and the wider world, and between creative and critical practice: these include Creative Writing in Schools, a final-year module with schools placements, Animals Forms, which considers poetic form in relation to the human and the non-human, and Literary Industries and New Media.

I also convene the MA in Global Literary Industries Management, a one-year specialist postgraduate programme which prepares students for work in the creative industries.

I have supervised 11 doctoral students to completion on a variety of critical and creative projects. I currently supervise Joan McGavin, who is completing a poetry collection inspired by phrenology, and Karen Jane Cannon, whose work explores contemporary eco-poetry.

Dr Will May
Faculty of Arts and Humanities University of Southampton Avenue Campus Highfield Southampton SO17 1BF United Kingdom

Room Number NNN: 65/2027

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