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Durham University

Department of English Studies


Academic Staff

Dr Abbie Garrington, MA (hons) PhD (Edinburgh) FRGS

Associate Professor in the Department of English Studies
Telephone: +44 (0) 191 33 46589
Room number: Room A74, Elvet Riverside

(email at

About Me

Office hour: usually 4-5pm Thursdays. Please email to check when the office hour is running, or to make alternative appointments.

I am Associate Professor of Modern and Contemporary Literature here at Durham. My research interests lie primarily in the modernist period, with particular expertise in literature's rendering of tactile experience and wider cultures of touch in the early twentieth century, and in modernist writing's engagement with mountain landscapes and the figure of the mountaineer up to and including the Second World War. Broadly, I investigate language's capacities and limitations when addressing the adventures of the human body.

I completed my studies at the University of Edinburgh, with a short break pre-PhD, working full time as a journalist. I was granted a postdoctoral fellowship at the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities (Edinburgh), and held a permanent lectureship in modernist literature at Newcastle University (including a Leverhulme Research Fellowship) before joining Durham in early 2015.

Administrative Roles

I am the Department of English Studies' Deputy Director of Research, with primary responsibility for our Impact work. I sit on the departmental Research Committee.

Current Research

My current research is split into two areas of investigation in the modernist period: various forms of mountain writing, and somatic, sensory, and gestural experience in literary contexts. High Modernism: A Literary History of Mountaineering, 1890-1945 was granted a Leverhulme Research Fellowship for 2013-2014, facilitating archival research around the UK. I then developed the book as a Visiting Research Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities, University of Edinburgh. A related podcast, 'Mountains' (recorded as part of the BBC Proms 2018), is available here. I chose not to publish my PhD thesis (on geometrical space in modernist art and literature). My first monograph, written as a postdoctoral fellow, was Haptic Modernism: Touch and the Tactile in Modernist Writing (EUP 2013; 2015). I extend this area of work in a monograph provisionally entitled The Modernist Fidget: Gesture, Attention, and Agency in the Early Twentieth Century.

Doctoral Supervision

I would be pleased to hear from potential PhD students proposing to work in the modernist period (c.1890-1945), or on modernist-influenced mid-century and contemporary writing. Projects tackling the body, the senses, or mountain-related writing are particularly welcome.

Current PhD students: 

Ms Bryony Armstrong, "The Kiss in Modernist Literature" (Second supervisors: Dr Marco Bernini; Dr John Nash)

Mr Dominic Berry, "Nocturnal Modernism" (Second supervisor: Prof. Jason Harding) (Studies suspended)

Mr Gao Dazheng, "Of Transparent Things Impenetrable: Quotidian Objects and Narrative Phenomenology in Modernist Fiction" (Co-supervisors: Dr James Smith; Dr John Nash)

Mr Christian Drury, "British Narratives of Arctic Travel and Exploration, 1875-1940" (Co-supervisor: Dr Eleanor Rosamund Barraclough) (Funded DurhamARCTIC)

Mr Ryan McNab, "Ecological Networks and Rural Modernist Fiction" (Second supervisor: Dr John Nash) (Funded AHRC Northern Bridge Consortium)

Ms Vicky Penn, "The Post-Romantic Landscape of Identity: Jorie Graham and Alice Oswald" (First supervisor: Dr Paul Batchelor)

Esteem Indicators

Member of Advisory Council, Institute of English Studies, School of Advanced Study, University of London, Spring 2017-present. Details:

External Examiner, Undergraduate English Literature programme, University of Edinburgh, 2016-2020

Partnerships and Engagement Travel Fund, Durham University, "Mountain Heritage Trust/Keswick Museum," 2019

University Impact Development Funding, Durham University, "The Lost Tent: The Bentley Beetham Collections," 2019

University Research Impact Funding, Durham University, "Scaling the Heights," 2017-2018

Faculty Research Funding, Durham University, "Scaling the Heights," Spring 2017

Faculty Research Funding, Durham University, "Reading Habits of the Modernist Mountaineer: The Fell and Rock Climbing Club Library at the Armitt Museum, Ambleside," July 2015

AHRC Care for the Future (ECR) Developmental Award, “The Hero Project,” 2015-2016 (Principal Investigator)

Visiting Research Fellowship, Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities, University of Edinburgh, with special attachment to the Mountaineering & Polar Collections, National Library of Scotland (Edinburgh), 2014-2015

Leverhulme Research Fellowship, High Modernism: A Literary History of Mountaineering, 1890-1945, 2013-2014

Faculty Research Fund Award, Newcastle University, “Modernist Mountaineers: UK Archival Holdings,” 2012-2013

Prize for Mountain Writing, Mountaineering Council of Scotland/Edinburgh Mountain Film Festival, 2011 (2nd prize)

Postdoctoral Fellowship, “Touching Texts,” Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities, University of Edinburgh

AHRC Doctoral Award, University of Edinburgh

Impact and Public Engagement

"Scaling the Heights": A collaboration with the artist Stephen Livingstone, this exhibition opened at the Oriental Museum (Durham) in 2018, then toured to Keswick Museum until February 2020. Supported Arts Council England, Durham University Research Impact Fund, Impact Development Fund, A&H Faculty Research Fund. Find us on Instagram.

“The Hero Project”: With colleagues at Birmingham and Aberdeen universities, the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG), and the National Galleries of Scotland (NGS), I was awarded AHRC funding via the Care for the Future Developmental Award route. We considered, through a variety of activities, the historical contingency of the identification of hero figures, and the role of the hero in forming national and/or community identity. Our online exhibition "No Heroes Any More?" used the collections of the NGS, was designed in collaboration with young people aged 16-18, and is available here. I was the project's Principal Investigator.

"Savage Arena: The Legacy of Joe Tasker": I co-curated, with the Mountain Heritage Trust and Ushaw College (Durham), an exhibition regarding the mountaineering and mountain writing achievements of Tasker. It appeared at Ushaw College, Keswick Museum, and (in an expanded version) at Preston Park Museum. The project was supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

"Exploring Archives": I have been organiser or co-organiser of several events bringing new audiences to the UK's mountain-related archives. One was "Mountain Legacies" at the Lit and Phil (Newcastle), which brought together academic researchers, librarians and the painter/printmaker Susan Dobson, for a day of talks and an exhibition exploring connections between on-site mountain painting and the history of mountain publishing.

"Performing Landscapes: Mountains": I am a member of the advisory board for Prof. Jonathan Pitches' AHRC Leadership Fellow Award project investigating the connections between climbing and performance pratice. More here.


Modernist Studies Association; British Association for Modernist Studies; French Society for Modernist Studies; North East Modernist Research Initiative; British Mountaineering Council. In 2014 I was invited to become a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society.

Recent and Forthcoming Presentations

"Charlie Chaplin and the Fidgeting Film," Peterhouse Theory Group, University of Cambridge, 3 March 2020. Invited.

"Touch and the New Nature Writing," Space, Place and Sensory Perception seminar, School of Geosciences, University of Edinburgh, 3 February 2020. Invited.

"What Is It to Fidget?," BBC/Wellcome Trust Workshop, London, 5 September 2019. Invited.

"Clock Time, Clerk Time, Mountain Time: Modernist Workers Access the Alps," Modernist Studies in Asia Network Annual Conference, Aoyama Gakuin University, Tokyo, 12-14 September 2019.

"Modern Times, Modern Fidgets," The Long 1930s Roundtable, University of Hamburg, 9 July 2019. Invited.

"Black, White, and Read All Over: Mines and Mountains in the Modernist Press," Centre for Modern Studies, University of York, 1 May 2019. Invited.

"Aerial Graham," (co-written with Prof. David Trotter), Centenary Seminar for W. S. Graham, University of Cambridge, 11 January 2019. Invited.

"Mountains and the Imagination," BBC Proms Interval Talk, Imperial College London, 30 July 2018. Invited.

"A Parliament of Fidgets: Objects, Fiddling, and the Steady Hand of Modernist Governance," Modernist Objects Conference, Paris-Sorbonne, 13-16 June 2018.

"Hawk, Airman, Mountaineer: Auden and Circle and the Aerial View," Literary and Visual Landscapes Seminar Series, University of Bristol, 7 May 2018. Invited.

"Performing Mountain Archives," Performing Mountains Conference, University of Leeds, 22-24 March 2018.

"The Long 1930s: Aeriality, Sensations, Language," Modernist Studies Association Conference 19, Amsterdam, 10-13 August 2017. Roundtable. Invited.

"The Modernist Fidget," Gestures in Texts and the Visual Arts Conference, University of Burgundy, Dijon, 29-30 June 2017. Keynote address. Invited.

"Sherpa, Porters, and 'Coolies' On the Hill," Cinema Politica screening, Northern Stage, Newcastle, 6 April 2017. Invited.

"The Fallen: Modernism's Mountain Dead," London Modernism Seminar, 4 March 2017. Invited.

"Touch as Language/Language as Touch," Independent Dance "Crossing Borders" Speaker Series, Siobhan Davies Dance Studios, London, 8 November 2016. Invited.

"'When Men and Mountains Meet': An Emotional History," English Literature Visiting Speaker Series, University of Edinburgh, 1 April 2016. Invited.

"The Mallory/Holmes Correspondence: Travel, Letters, and Travelling Letters," Cultural Significance of Place Research Group Seminar, Newcastle University, 16 December 2015. Invited.

"Summit Understood: A Literary History of Topping Out," Kendal Mountain Festival, 21 November 2015. Invited.


ENGL43530 "Modernism and Touch" - MA Optional Module - Seminar Leader

ENGL43330 "Reading as a Writer" - MA Optional Module - Lecturer

ENGL3241 "Writing Mountains in the Early Twentieth Century" - UG Special Topic Module - Seminar Leader

ENGL3591 "Post-War Fiction and Poetry" - UG Module - Tutor

ENGL2081 "Literature of the Modern Period" - UG Module - Lecturer; Tutor

UG Dissertation; MA Dissertation; Creative Writing Extended Essay - Supervisor

Research Interests

  • Late Victorian, modernist, mid-century, and contemporary writing
  • The body and the senses
  • Touch/the haptic; gesture; histories of the human hand
  • Attention; distraction; habit; rhythm; repetition
  • Mountain writing
  • Sensing the natural world


Authored book

  • Garrington, Abbie (Planned). High Modernism: A Literary History of Mountaineering, 1890-1945.
  • Garrington, Abbie (Planned). The Modernist Fidget: Gesture, Attention, and Agency in the Early Twentieth Century.
  • Garrington, Abbie (2013). Haptic Modernism: Touch and the Tactile in Modernist Writing. Edinburgh University Press.

Book review

  • Garrington, Abbie (2013). Pragmatic Modernism by Lisi Schoenbach. Modern Language Review 108(4): 1264-1265.
  • Garrington, Abbie (2012). Victorians in the Mountains: Sinking the Sublime by Ann C. Colley. Studies in Travel Writing 16(1): 81-82.

Chapter in book

  • Garrington, Abbie (2020). 'The gear of their mystery': Twentieth-Century Mountain Poetry and the Politics of Breath. In The Life of Breath, Classical to Contemporary: Literature, Culture, and Medicine. Saunders, Corinne, Fuller, David & Macnaughton, Jane Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Garrington, Abbie (2020). Black, White, and Read All Over: Mines, Mountains, and the Paysage Moralise of the British Press, 1900-1920. In The Unapparent Future: British Literature in Transition, vol. I: 1900-1920. Purdon, James Cambridge University Press.
  • Garrington, Abbie (2016). Early Auden. In Oxford Handbooks Online: Scholarly Research Reviews. Oxford University Press.
  • Garrington, Abbie (2015). The Line that Binds: Climbing Narratives, Ropework and Epistolary Practice. In Modernism and Affect. Taylor, Julie Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. 75-93.

Journal Article

  • Garrington, Abbie (2016). 'Write me a little letter': The George Mallory/Marjorie Holmes Correspondence. Alpine Journal 120: 123-133.
  • Garrington, Abbie (2013). What Does a Modernist Mountain Mean? Auden and Isherwood's The Ascent of F6. Critical Quarterly 55(2): 26-49.
  • Garrington, Abbie (2010). Touching Texts: The Haptic Sense in Modernist Literature. Literature Compass 7(9): 810-823.
  • Garrington, Abbie (2008). Counter Discourse: Advertising Technologies and Textual Impact. The Space Between: Literature and Culture, 1914-1945 4(1): 83-100.
  • Garrington, Abbie (2008). Reflections on a Cinematic Story. Journal of the Short Story in English 50: 217-225.
  • Garrington, Abbie (2008). Touching Dorothy Richardson: Approaching Pilgrimage as a Haptic Text. Pilgrimages: The Journal of Dorothy Richardson Studies 1(1): 74-96.

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