Current PhD projects

Katie Jones PhD (2014- )
Title:  Confessional Subjects: Shame, Masochism, Authority

This comparative project considers confession as a trope in contemporary English- and German-language women’s life writing, in particular works that blur generic distinctions between novel and autobiography. The authors confirmed for the study are: Virginia Woolf, Jean Rhys, Ingeborg Bachmann, Sylvia Plath, Elfriede Jelinek and Charlotte Roche. By tracing confession across English- and German-language works that span nearly an entire century, I am able to consider how the utilisation of this protean trope varies over time, as well as differing cultural contexts. For example, German-language authors operate in the original language of psychoanalysis and therefore may be more likely to appropriate confession in a Foucaultian sense, i.e. medicalised / psychoanalytic confession. Moreover, the German-language authors demonstrate distinct awareness that theirs is the language shared with National Socialism, as such they combine the stigma of female embodiment with a disgraced national identity. However, this point is also used to explore a subjectivity suspended between victim and perpertrator as, controversially, these writers often identify with the plight of Nazism's Jewish victims. In contrast, Jean Rhys, who feels no strong attachment to a specific nationality, conveys a sense of alienation and outlawed femininity with a pseudo-Judicial interrogation sequence in the notes accompanying Smile Please: An Unfinished Autobiography. By employing feminist, psychoanalytic and post-structural readings, the aim is to find what separates and unites these writers by focusing on the unifying theme of confession.  

Stephen Murphy, MA by Research (2016- )
Title:  An Aesthetic for its Time?  Currency and Anachronism in Heinrich Böll’s ‘Aesthetik des Humanen’ 

This project seeks to distil how Böll meant his aesthetic to be understood and practised, and then to trace the personal and socio-political factors that led him to its formation, drawing on Böll’s private and public writings, from the letters he sent home during the war, via the short stories and Erzählungen of the postwar decade, all the way through to the substantial novels of his later career. In the letters, I investigate the man himself, gaining an insight into his motivations and beliefs at this formative stage of his life. In the earlier published works, I tease out elements of plot, motif, style, form, language and characterisation that represent the outline of a coherent purpose in his writing. The focus of research on the later novels – those brought out after the lectures – will necessarily concern questions of his fidelity to his aesthetic. For each stage of his writing career my inquiry will range across a wide sampling of his output, though for organisational purposes we will select from each decade a representative work for closer scrutiny. These works are: Briefe aus dem Krieg 1939-1945 (2001); Doktor Murkes gesammeltes Schweigen (1955); Ansichten eines Clowns (1962) and Gruppenbild mit Dame(1971).

Jeremy Points, MA by Research, part-time (2018-)
Günter Grass and Narrative 

I am interested in the way Günter Grass develops his fictional narratives.  All aspects of Grass’ narratives are distinctive - their narration, their structure as well as the narratives themselves.  His narratives are dominated by unabashed, direct and declamatory first-person narrators and narrative voices and, increasingly from Aus dem Tagebuch einer Schnecke onwards, they blend authorial, if not autobiographical, elements with fictionalised first-person narrators.  There is, in other words, a conscious avoidance of third-person narration with its implications of omniscience, realism and objectivity.  The perspectives both informing and conveyed by the narratives are thus relativised.