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The University of Southampton
EnglishPart of Humanities


Our research culture is dynamic, creative, and collegial. English is a restless subject, and we expand its reach through film documentaries, memoirs, and plays alongside scholarly articles and monographs.

As researchers and tutors, we ask what words do in the world, whether exploring petro-chemical literature, interactions between literary and visual culture, or the cultural history of money. This results in high-impact and award-winning research that shapes policy and practice across sectors, from heritage to the environment, from healthcare to gender diversity.

Our work encompasses the entire range of contemporary literary studies, from medieval travel narratives to the African detective novel, from Jane Austen’s afterlife to the history of indigenous thought. As literary historians, we rethink the poetry of Victorian scientists, consider the significance of casting in Shakespeare’s plays, and uncover the importance of translation in the English novel.

Our innovative research takes a number of forms, from literary festivals to public art installations, from digital writing apps to textual editing, from workshops to MOOCs. This diversity connects the creative and the critical, and helps us champion an open and engaged culture of research.  

Key Research Facts

English at Southampton has been ranked joint 8th in the country in the national Research Excellence Framework! We're proud to be placed in the top 10% of Departments in the country. 95% of our research, in a submission that included Film, was judged to be 'World Leading' or 'Internationally Excellent'. 83% of our impact and 95% of our research environment were given the coveted 'World Leading' 4* top grade. We're especially delighted that the relevance, and collegiality, of our research and research cultures have been recognised in this way.

We have garnered national recognition for our innovation from the National Co-ordinating Centre for Public Engagement, provided an AHRC case study on national impact excellence, and have garnered major research awards and prizes from the British Academy, the Leverhulme, the AHRC, the ESRC, and the Wellcome Trust.

Research Themes

Multimedia Creativity and Textuality

Our award-winning research in this area includes Sarah Hayden’s AHRC-funded project Voices in the Gallery, which investigates the voice-over as an art-form, literary genre, and sonic intervention in the contemporary gallery space, and the long-running Chawton House Library Series, an initiative devised by Stephen Bending and Stephen Bygrave which has brought  100s of eighteenth-century works back into print. It often brings word and image into dialogue, as in Carole Burns’ Imagistic project, or Will May’s new edition of poems and drawings by Stevie Smith. We also have expertise in the critical language of drama, from Alireza Fakhrkonandeh’s research on contemporary theatre, Jakub Boguszak’s work on the early modern stage

World Literature and Global Cinema

Anglophone writing is marked by movement and displacement, and our expertise in world literature and global cinema includes Ranka Primorac’s socio-political history of Zambia in literature, and Stephen Morton’s pioneering work on colonial debt. We also attend carefully to the multilingual and multicultural histories and relationships of English-language writing, from Gillian Dow’s Leverhulme-funded project on British women writers in translation in the long eighteenth-century, to Marianne O’Doherty’s award-winning work on spatial imagining in the Middle Ages, to Mary Hammond’s British-Academy funded collaboration on Southampton’s global book trade.

Reception and Adaptation Theory

We bring literary history to life by attending to new contexts, archives, and methodologies, from Justine Pizzo’s reappraisal of literary atmospheres and female characterisation in the Victorian novel, to Kim Simpson’s research on anonymity and authorship in the eighteenth century. Zoe Hawkins’ work on Milton’s political prose and the Eikon Basilike is reshaping our understanding of the seventeenth-century’s literary culture, while Alice Hunt’s Leverhulme-funded new study, England’s Republic, tells the story of England’s misrepresented republican years. Our links to the Parkes Institute shape our expertise in Jewish literature, culture and reception, from Devorah Baum’s cultural history of the Jewish joke to James Jordan’s research on the representation of Jewishness in post-war British television.

Cultural Histories of Knowledge

Our research is profoundly interdisciplinary, and we have particularly expertise in using literary texts to uncover new understandings of science, economics, and maritime studies. Daniel Brown’s work on women in Victorian professional science highlights our long-standing interest in literature and science. Nicky Marsh’s AHRC-funded History of Financial Advice offered the first understanding of this influential literary genre, building on the earlier touring exhibition Show Me the Money! and award-winning department work on the nineteenth-century economic crisis by Emma Clery. Our substantial expertise in maritime literature draws on our own coastal context, and includes Philip Hoare’s personal and poetic history of our relationship with the ocean, Matt Kerr’s research on marine language in the nineteenth and twentieth-century, and Stephanie Jones’ work on maritime law and the Indian Ocean


Collaboration is at the heart of our work, whether we are bringing together artists and actors to reimagine The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, commissioning new writing on the politics of feeling, or establishing national poetry mentoring schemes. Our partners range from the John Hansard Gallery, to Chawton House, a centre for early women’s writing, to the Bank of England.

We give talks, workshops and readings across the world, from seminars at Yale University to literary festivals in Abeokuta, Nigeria to Nantucket whaling museums. Fellowships at world-class libraries and institutions from the Huntingdon Library to Stellenbosch University help support our work. 

On campus, our work is supported by interdisciplinary research centres covering contemporary, nineteenth-century, eighteenth-century, and medieval and renaissance writing and culture. Our long-standing collaborations with colleagues in Film have led to AHRC-funded projects, interdisciplinary doctoral work, and co-teaching. Key university research institutes include Parkes, the world’s leading centre for the study of Jewish/non-Jewish relations, and Southampton’s Marine and Maritime Institute, providing meeting places for cross-disciplinary research partners in History, Economics, and Electronic and Computers Sciences.  

Our doctoral and post-doctoral researchers are our most energetic collaborators of all, whether establishing open access journals, shaping perspectives on contemporary film, pioneering new forms of academic publishing.


Research Centres

We have many centres that analyse the impact of the English language


Research Projects

From medival mapping to financial literacy, our collaborative research projects influence life outside the university.

Key Research Facts

Highlights of our current impact activities include Voices in the Gallery, Invisible Mentors, and Towns and the Cultural Economies of Recovery:

Postgraduate Research Degrees

We offer MA and PhD across the full range of literary studies. Click to find out more

Postgraduate Study
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