The English Department at Royal Holloway is committed to making a difference through research. Discover some of the ways research from our Department of English has created an impact.
LITERATURE, MENTAL WELL-BEING AND PHYSICAL HEALTH
Colleagues have contributed to public debates around mental and physical health and collaborated with medical professionals to bring the insights of the arts and humanities to bear on the practice of medicine. Robert Eaglestone has led reading groups at the Maudsley Hospital. Lavinia Greenlaw also helps to shape the agenda of Medical Humanities and is contributing to the work of front-line NHS staff engaged in the treatment of dementia.
Jo Shapcott: a poet informing public, medical and creative understanding of cancer and the body in sickness and health
Jo Shapcott’s attention to the body was the focus of her Costa Prize poetry collection Of Mutability. Shapcott has played a leading role in bringing poetry into health settings, enabling professionals and patients to understand how embodiment is experienced in sickness and health. Through her poetry, workshops, and readings Shapcott has enhanced the lives of people living with cancer and their carers though the power of poetry; enabled cancer patients and NHS staff to use poetry to articulate experiences of illness in poetry; inspired artists and audiences through readings and creative projects at the National Gallery, Keats House, Royal Festival Hall and other venues; built audiences for poetry via the school curriculum.
LITERATURE, CULTURAL HERITAGE AND CHANGING PERCEPTIONS OF PLACE
Protecting and increasing public understanding of cultural heritage is a key focus of the department. In Twickenham, Judith Hawley has provided academic consultancy and development work for Pope’s Grotto Preservation Trust and Eley Williams was commissioned by Orleans House Gallery to create an exhibition on Grottoes to bring this important feature of place making to new audiences. Colleagues have provided their expertise to numerous museums and galleries such as the Imperial War Museum; the National Maritime Museum; the Ditchling Museum of Art and Craft; Keats’ House; the Story Museum, Oxford and Watts Gallery.
Remembering the Victorians: Enhancing the heritage of nineteenth-century authors through place
What can research on place, memory, and the Victorian novel do to enrich how museums and heritage associations commemorate the Victorians? In the heritage sector, biographies of famous Victorian authors are often represented rather than their literature. Researchers in Royal Holloway’s Centre for Victorian Studies changed the story of commemoration by emphasising the value of literary place in local heritage. Working in partnership with the Dickens Museum, George Eliot Fellowship, and Nuneaton Museum their research inspired new investment from arts organisations, informed two major exhibitions, ‘Global Dickens’ and ‘Scenes from the George Eliot Country’, and benefitted museum curators and museum visitors, novel readers, artists, local communities, students and teachers.
SHAPING AND SUSTAINING THE DISCIPLINE OF ENGLISH
Colleagues have demonstrated a commitment to supporting the teaching of English at schools and universities. Professor Robert Eaglestone’s research into literary theory, ethics, and contemporary literature, and their place in the teaching of English, has brought significant and enduring changes to the A-level syllabi, benefiting both teachers and students. Through his leadership of the ‘Shared Futures’ movement he has helped to re-invigorate the subject’s disciplinary value. Research at Royal Holloway’s TeacherHub>English has strengthened the professional agency of English teachers. Through CPD resources, our research has reached thousands of teachers and their students.
Enhancing English Literature Teaching in Schools: Informing subject-knowledge and disciplinary resilience in light of the 2014 Curriculum Reform in England and Wales
The 2014 Department for Education curriculum reforms of English Literature precipitated declining student enrolments and sector confidence, and generated teachers’ need for new subject knowledge. Research at Royal Holloway has re-invigorated the disciplinary value of English literature; strengthened the professional practices of two Examination Boards, and English teachers, thereby benefitting students. We have provided Continued Professional Development and resources for teachers, consulted on syllabus reform for the Awarding Bodies OCR and Edexcel, and collaborated with Subject Associations, educational publishers, the English and Media Centre, British Library and Prince’s Teaching Institute. Royal Holloway’s research has shaped educational experience for A-Level teachers and their students across the UK and internationally.
CONTRIBUTIONS TO HUMAN RIGHTS
Our partnerships aim to bring the benefits of our research and practice to wider civil society in the sphere of human rights. Colleagues have promoted civil rights, justice and free speech through active membership of PEN and LIBERTY. Colleagues have supported the rights of LGBT+ communities around the world. Genocide, trauma and forced migration have been investigated and addressed through sustained work by some colleagues. Others have used creative writing to give voice to prisoners, migrants and survivors of atrocity.