The Department of English Studies is one of Europe’s leading centres for research in English literature and literary theory. It fosters important and influential research by staff, post-doctoral fellows and postgraduates across broad historical, generic and thematic ranges, from Old Norse sagas to medieval lyric, Renaissance drama, Romantic-period letter-writing, modernist poetry and contemporary graphic fiction.
Please explore our staff pages to find out more about individuals’ research interests and publications.
See here for English Studies research collections held in Durham.
Research Specialisms and Projects
The Department has long-standing strengths in Medieval studies, early modern literary culture, poetic and narrative forms, Romanticism, Modernism and twentieth-century literature, literary theory and textual editing.
Recent work in the Department has helped to develop the discipline of medical humanities and encouraged a trans-historical interest in the relationships between literature, medicine and science. There is a strong environment of creative writing among staff and students, and there are newer specialisms in American literary culture and Irish studies.
Current or recent large research projects hosted by the Department, or associated with it, include:
- The Political Warfare Executive, Covert Propaganda, and British Culture
- Hearing the Voice
- Life of Breath
- Records of Early English Drama – North East
- Cognitive Futures in the Humanities
- Tipping Points
- Complete Works of James Shirley
- The Letters of William Godwin
- T.S. Eliot’s Complete Prose
- Complete Poetry of P.B. Shelley
Research Centres and Institutes
The Department plays a prominent role in several University Institutes and Centres.
- The Centre for Poetry and Poetics has emerged from the Basil Bunting Centre for Modern Poetry as a focal point for work not only in English but also in Modern Languages and Classics. It hosts frequent poetry readings and conferences and organises the poetry laureate with Durham Book Festival.
- The Centre for Nineteenth Century Studies brings together staff in English, History, Music, Modern Languages and other disciplines.
- The Centre for Medical Humanities was founded in 2000 and funded with a Wellcome Trust Strategic Award from 2005. It promotes interdisciplinary research into the dynamic and mutually-influential relationship between creativity, arts and humanities and the medical discipline. It engages with several external partners, in the NHS, psychology and care organisations. CMH has a very active seminar of guest speakers and an influential blog. The Hearing the Voice project is organised by CMH.
- The Institute for Medieval and Early Modern Studies includes several staff and postgraduates from English. It organises a lively programme of seminars and other events, including an annual postgraduate conference. IMEMS is able to draw on an enviable array of archival resources, including one of the world’s most significant collections of medieval manuscripts at Palace Green Library and Durham Cathedral, and the Ushaw College Library. See here for research collections in Durham.
- The Centre for Modern Conflicts and Cultures, directed by Dr James Smith, brings together expertise from researchers across Durham University in order to investigate how intellectuals, writers, and artists have engaged with or participated in the major geopolitical and ideological conflicts of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.
- The Centre for Culture Ecologies aims to provide a forum at the interface of the sciences and the humanities for research concerned with world-making practices, insofar as these impact on and trouble the distinction between natural and cultural systems.
Departmental Research Culture
A number of visiting academics and other external partners contribute to the research environment of the Department, sometimes as Fellows of the IAS.
The Department regularly hosts international conferences, postgraduate conferences, workshops and public lecture series. Recent conferences have included Thatcher and Thatcherism, an international Medieval Theatre Colloquium, Approaches to Derek Mahon, and Music and Literature. It organises a regular internal seminar series for all staff and postgraduates to engage with visiting speakers, and there is a further seminar series, Inventions of the Text, organised by postgraduates and open to all. Recent speakers have included Derek Attridge, Peter Boxall, and Rachel Bowlby.
The Department hosts one of the longest-running online postgraduate journals in literary studies, Postgraduate English, which is edited by two PhD students each year.
A number of staff-postgraduate reading groups run from year to year.