The English Department at Royal Holloway is committed to making a difference through research. We contribute, for example, to human rights and well-being, cultural heritage and the future of the discipline of English in schools and higher education. 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’s attention to the body, the focus of her Costa Prize-winning collection Of Mutability (2010) and of subsequent work, has influenced cultural and individual understanding of embodied experience in sickness and health. Her work reaches out to health practitioners and patients via Medicine Unboxed, the Addenbrookes Hospital Taking Note initiative, and cancer support sites.
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.
Sustained collaboration with the George Eliot Fellowship, Nuneaton Museum and Art Gallery and partners across the West Midlands and the Dickens Museum has challenged and transformed perceptions of place in the commemoration of George Eliot and Charles Dickens. Ruth Livesey’s research on Eliot placed her hometown of Nuneaton and its association with ‘provincialism’ at the centre of national media coverage of the 2019 Eliot bicentenary. Livesey co-devised workshops with schools, library and Museum visitors, and organised public lectures. Juliet John co-curated ‘Global Dickens: For Every Nation on Earth’ at the Charles Dickens Museum. John’s research on Dickens’s global reach in the digital age shaped the interpretative strategies of curatorial staff, volunteers, and museum visitors.
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. The Department has also supported school teachers who have needed to equip themselves by the changes wrought by the 2014 Department for Education curriculum reforms of English Literature. Research at Royal Holloway’s TeacherHub>English has strengthened the professional agency of English teachers. Through CPD resources, and collaborations with Subject Associations, educational publishers such as NATE’s Teaching English, Hodder’s English Review, the English and Media Centre, British Library and Prince’s Teaching Institute, our research has reached thousands of teachers and their students.
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.