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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: ER A74

(email at

About Me

Office hour: I am on leave in the Michaelmas Term, and will resume office hours after Christmas.

I am Associate Professor in Modern and Contemporary Literature here at Durham. My research interests lie primarily in the modernist period, with particular expertise in the literary history of mountaineering, in expeditionary travel writing, and in life writing/epistolary practice in travel contexts. I am also centrally concerned with written renderings of sensory experience, primarily those relating to touch and the haptic. All of my work addresses the touch-point between language and 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 also sit on the departmental Research Committee.

Current Research

The focus of my current work is the monograph High Modernism: A Literary History of Mountaineering, 1890-1945. This offers the first comprehensive literary history of mountaineering for the modernist period, aiming to trace the many connections between mountaineer-authored work and the literary experiments of the modernist avant-garde. The project was granted a Leverhulme Research Fellowship for 2013-2014, facilitating archival research around the UK. I then developed the monograph as a Visiting Research Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities, University of Edinburgh.

My first monograph was Haptic Modernism: Touch and the Tactile in Modernist Writing (Edinburgh University Press, 2013; paperback 2015):

“This is a beautifully controlled study of literary hands as they write, point, stroke, trace, and tease. At the same time it is an expansive, audacious and supremely well-handled study of what it means to touch and be touched, to feel and be felt. Haptic Modernism establishes Abbie Garrington as one of the most compelling voices in the rapidly-evolving critical conversation about literature and ‘the business of the bodily’. […] the whole book [is] both a joy and an education.” - Dr. Alexandra Harris, University of Liverpool

"As a mode of inquiry, Haptic Modernism is fundamentally generative, opening up new domains of scholarship on the topic of modernism and the history of the senses." - Prof. Jesse Schotter, James Joyce Quarterly

“a fresh perspective […] breaks new ground […] extraordinary close readings […] sometimes dizzying. The volume enriches the study of haptic aesthetics in modernism through its coherence, depth, and attention to literary texts and will most certainly provoke further investigation.” - Ms. Amy E. Elkins, Journal of Modern Literature

“joyful […] a trail-blazer.” - Dr. Rebecca Bowler, Pilgrimages

“Touch is the most neglected sense in literary studies. In this remarkable book, Abbie Garrington makes good that neglect and opens up a whole new field of research.” - Prof. Scott McCracken, QMUL

“an eclectic, absorbing and beautifully written provocation to further thinking on the subject.” - Dr. Beci Carver, Critical Quarterly

“written throughout with […] a sustained, original intellectual acuteness and insight which was often truly illuminating even about what should have been familiar material.” - Prof. Randall Stevenson, University of Edinburgh

"The first substantial account of the representation of the haptic in the literature of the modernist period, Haptic Modernism is an absorbing analysis of the tactile encounters which recur in James Joyce's Ulysses as well as in the writings of his touchy literary and philosophical contemporaries. [...] her discussion [of Ulysses] is captivating" - Mr. Danny Kielty, James Joyce Broadsheet

"Haptic Modernism's reach is impressive. [...] Part of the pleasure in reading Garrington's analysis is seeing how far the haptic pervades the work of Joyce, Woolf, and Lawrence, among others. [...] indeed, by the end of her study, it seems that hands and touching are as central to literary modernism as its classic demarcations of World War I, Freudian psychology, and technologies of transportation." - Dr. Justine Dymond, Woolf Studies Annual

"Garrington argues convincingly for [...] the modernist era as the ‘hinge point’ in our understanding of the haptic in history, through the medium of touch [...]. The volume provides an insightful and fresh look at canonical modernist texts, making it a compelling read not only for those interested in modernism but also for those interested in connections and concepts that extend to both pre- and post-modernism." - Anon., Forum for Modern Language Studies

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

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, 2007-2008

AHRC Doctoral Award, University of Edinburgh, 2003-2006

Future Research

I plan to write more about W. H. Auden, and about modernism's literary/philosophical debt to the eighteenth century. I will also continue my work on mountain writing, and on cultures of touch/the tactile/the haptic, in the modernist period.

Impact and Public Engagement Projects

"The Ascent of F6: A Tragedy in Two Acts": I am working on a project to bring to the stage this often-neglected verse drama collaboration between W. H. Auden and Christopher Isherwood. This work is based on my research regarding the history of early productions of the play (see publications, below). Details tba.

"Scaling the Heights": I am currently collaborating on this project with the artist Stephen Livingstone. Inspired by the history of mountaineering, the exhibition will be shown at the Oriental Museum (Durham) in Autumn 2018. We have received support from the University's Research Impact Fund and the Faculty Research Fund. We are aided by Ms. Angela Harris, funded by a Departmental Research Assistantship. You can see our Instagram feed here:

“The Hero Project”: With colleagues at Birmingham and Aberdeen universities, the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) and the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, 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. We will shortly launch our online exhibition "No Heroes Any More?" using the collections of the National Galleries of Scotland, designed in collaboration with young people aged 16-18. 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. The exhibition is touring, and is presently at Keswick 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. More here:

"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:

Informal Interests

I have been a keen expedition leader, taking several expeditions to the Amazon rainforest with the British Exploring Society (at the Royal Geographical Society). A full-time academic appointment has cramped my expeditioning style, and I now most often participate as a team member rather than leader. Most recently I've been trekking in Afghanistan's Wakhan Corridor, and visited the "Japan Alps."


Modernist Studies Association; British Association 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.

Postgraduate 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 contemporary writing.

Supervision areas of particular interest: bodies; senses; touch/the haptic; hands; gesture; skin; mountains; expeditionary writing; epistolary forms; experiments in autobiography, autofiction etc.

Authors of particular interest: James Joyce; D. H. Lawrence; Virginia Woolf; W. H. Auden; Karl Ove Knausgaard.

Projects with an archives, exhibitions, and public engagement element are very welcome.

Recent and Forthcoming Presentations

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

"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. (Co-speaker: Drew Milne.)

"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. (Co-speaker: Simon Bainbridge.)

“On Falling: Mountaineering Disasters 'On the Hill' and On the Page,” IASH Fellows' Seminar, National Library of Scotland, 10 December 2014.

“How Should We Know a Mountain? Ruskin vs. Stephen in Modernist Literature,” Australasian Victorian Studies Association Annual Conference, Hong Kong University, 10-12 July 2014.

“Mountain Literature vs. Mountaineering Literature: Response to the Speakers,” Mountain Legacies, Lit&Phil (Newcastle), 21 May 2014.

“Sublimity to Bathos: Literary Mountaineering's Rise and Fall,” Landscape and Writing Workshop, Lancaster University, 15 May 2014. Invited.

“The Line that Binds: Mountaineering, Letter Writing and Intimate Encounters,” Twentieth Century and Contemporary Literature Graduate Seminar, University of Cambridge, 5 November 2013. Invited.

“Beasts with Five Fingers: A Genealogy of the Severed Hand Story, Victorian to Modern,” The Victorian Tactile Imagination Conference, Birkbeck, University of London, 19-20 July 2013.


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" - Third Year UG Special Topic Module - Seminar Leader

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

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

Research Interests

  • Expeditionary travel writing
  • The body/sense experience in literary form
  • The figure of the hero
  • The haptic (including touch, kinaesthesis, proprioception and the vestibular sense)
  • The literary history of mountaineering


Authored book

  • Garrington, Abbie (Planned). High Modernism: A Literary History of Mountaineering, 1890-1945.
  • 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

Edited book

  • Garrington, Abbie (Planned). Modernism and the Senses.

Journal Article

  • Garrington, Abbie (Planned). The Book of Bad Taste: On Sourness in James Joyce's Ulysses.
  • 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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