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Projects

Postgraduate Research Projects

Francesca Bihet
Folklore, Fighting and Fairies explores the changes in the treatment of fairies by Folklore Society members and how far these reflect wider academic and folkloric trends. It covers the era from the Society’s foundation in 1878 until the eve of WW2. The Society’s journal Folklore is used as the main mouthpiece to exemplify the declining interest in, and more critical treatment of, the fairy figure during this era. The Cottingley Affair and WW1 are explored as turning points between the great Victorian fairy pre-occupation and the post-war benign nursery fairy. The pages of Folklore mirror this pattern of diminution. (Supervisors: Prof Bill Gray and Prof Sue Morgan; Advisor: Prof Jacqueline Simpson)

Joanna Coleman
Demons, Daemons and Frogs: Animal Transformation in Contemporary Narrative investigates how becoming-animal storytelling locates us in the natural world. The topic will be explored from two perspectives, first an eco-critical analysis of shape-shifting motifs in contemporary young adult literature, and second a pedagogical exploration of the environmental potential of shape-shifting storytelling in a creative writing classroom. Animal transformation tales in folklore will be compared with contemporary re-tellings in writers from Philip Pullman to Ursula le Guin, and both traditional versions and re-tellings will be used as classroom inspiration to explore our changing relationship to the hinge, or boundary, between human and animal. (Supervisors: Prof Bill Gray and Dr Hugh Dunkerley; Advisor: Dr Duncan Reavey)

Holly Johnson
Imitation as Originality in Modern Fantasy Literature (post-1955) is tackling the accusation that fantasy fiction is necessarily ‘formulaic’, and exploring the relation of imitation to originality. Her work centres on fantasy fiction published post-1955, arguing that the ‘canon’ of fantasy literature is outdated, with problematic omissions. Authors important to her work include George R.R. Martin, Robin Hobb, Tad Williams, Raymond E. Feist, Guy Gavriel Kay, and Joe Abercrombie, amongst many others. She welcomes any discussions on the aforementioned topics or authors. (Supervisors: Prof Bill Gray and Dr Robert Duggan)

Dominika Nycz

Wise-man to Wizard: Tracking the Literary Development of the Wizard takes a diachronic approach to look at how the wizard has evolved from its linguistic origins as the wise-man into the modern literary figure found today. The project serves to show how the wizard of the contemporary imagination is built upon many reworked representations of the archetype over many historical periods. This includes an exploration of how the various magician, sorcerer and conjurer types that have become amalgamated with the wizard tradition form distinct stages of the wizard’s development. Lastly, the research turns to contemporary depictions of the wizard as hero, rather than its traditional role as advisor, and asks what ramifications this has for the wizard archetype and what it might imply for the next stage of the figure’s development. (Supervisors: Prof Bill Gray, Dr Duncan Salkeld & Dr Amanda Richardson (History))

Elizabeth Rainey
The Art of Storytelling in Emirati Society features Emirati oral poetry and compares its unique voice with universal themes such as family, tribe, country, love, war, beauty, work and faith, thus enhancing cross-cultural communication. This vibrant tradition expresses vital emotions and teaches ethical conduct during social occasions as a source of communal entertainment and at the same time works to underpin the social hierarchy. This project initiates the preservation of storytelling as a fragile intangible heritage of the Emirates, which has become a bilingual cosmopolitan nation with the result that L1 Gulf Arabic alone is practised only by the oldest members of society. The project will record, transcribe and translate indigenous narratives and poems not yet available in English, gauging to extent to which Bedouins still employ their own version of homo narrans to inform behaviour and enforce cultural norms. It will also outline the challenges faced during the collection of the sources, including negotiating the complex politics of preservation. (Supervisors: Prof Bill Gray and Dr StavroulaVarella; Advisor: Dr. Tanya Al Aghar)

Peter Whittick
Death, Resurrection and the Flesh of the Imagination: A Critical and Creative Exploration of Cultural Dyslexia with regards to Nature develops an eco-critical perspective for the reading of portrayals of nature in literature and applies it to the fiction of David Almond. The creative element explores more empowering ways of representing nature in adolescent fiction and explores the origins of folk tales, developing a new myth for the 21st century. Drawing on the atmosphere of the Hebridean Ceilidh House, it also implements a phenomenological response to the ‘more-than-human’ environment as a major influence within the story, linking to ancient pagan tales and myths that formed in response to a reciprocal interaction with animal entities and the Earth. (Supervisors: Prof Bill Gray and Dr Hugh Dunkerley)

Rose Williamson

A Historical and Literary Analysis of Grain and Bread Motifs in Folk and Fairy Tales seeks to create a greater understanding of folk and fairy tales through the symbolism of food, with a preliminary focus on grains and domestic baking imagery and expanding to a wider focus on multiple food motifs in fairy tale. It will also map food motifs in folk and fairy tales using a historical compass, connecting these symbols to the availability and production of food stuffs in eras where significant changes in variants affect meaning or interpretation, or detailing where food-centric tales emerge in times of famine or plenty, import or export, etc. The project also aims to provide a catalogue or database for folk and fairy tale scholars in relation to food imagery, categorising which stories include which symbols and motifs, where they change, and possible historical influences on specific stories. (Supervisors: Prof Bill Gray & Dr Andrew Teverson (University of Kingston))