Postgraduate Students

Jayne Bowden

Jayne is researching The Life and Work of Elisabeth Inglis-Jones (1900 – 1994).

Elisabeth Inglis-Jones was a prolific writer of Welsh Anglophone fiction and a biographer with a passion for Gothic architecture. Her novels, often depicting life within the Anglo-Welsh squirearchy, are now long out of print but were generally well received. Jayne’s research examines issues of gender and identity within her novels, and the influence of history and hiraeth in all of her work.

Bethan Coombs

Bethan is researching the use of Welsh myth, fairy tales and folklore in writing by Welsh women in English. The project considers a range of twentieth century novels, short stories and poetry by Welsh women who include: Gwyneth Lewis, Hilda Vaughan, Margiad Evans, Catherine Fisher, Sian James, Alice Thomas Ellis, and Bertha Thomas. Feminist and postcolonial readings of the texts suggest that concepts of gender and nationhood, identity and belonging, are explored through the writer’s use of Welsh myth, fairy tales and folklore. The thesis will consider these explorations as well as how they change over the course of the century and into the twenty-first.

Peter Vokes

Peter’s thesis is entitled “The Welsh ‘Classic’: Recuperating a Minority Anglophone Literature”. Questions about literary canon-making have haunted the development of twentieth-century literary critical scholarship. The processes of political devolution initiated in the closing years of the century have only sharpened these questions for critics working in the newly empowered nations of the United Kingdom. In the tension-filled bilingual historical context of Wales in particular, discussions about the nature of the ‘Welsh’ classic literary text, and about the form and content of any identifiably Welsh literary canon, have always circled and fuelled debates about the nature of the country’s sense of cultural, political and above all linguistic identity. The same questions have accompanied the emergence of, and not insignificant ideological tensions encompassed by, the literary-critical field which has come to be known as ‘Welsh Writing in English’.

A history of robust critical exchanges about the construction of an Anglophone literary canon in Wales has yet to be formally chronicled and reviewed in the way proposed by this significant and timely research project, which takes as its particular focus two recent national publishing initiatives. The study will explore and compare the relatively recent publication, by both the Assembly-backed Library of Wales and the independent collaborative Honno Press, of competing and very different lists of so-called ‘Classic’ Welsh Anglophone texts. Embedding its detailed examination of these commercial initiatives in the context of historical and literary-critical debates about the nature and value of Wales’ English-speaking aesthetic and cultural life, the thesis will question the extent to which both the Library of Wales and Honno can be implicated in the self-conscious construction and solidification of a new Anglophone literary canon in a new era of cultural independence, let alone any more (or less) formal nationwide cultural response to the political drama of devolution.

Although canonicity and the processes of canon-making have been theorized to some extent by distinguished critics like Harold Bloom (1995), Terry Eagleton (1983) and Richard Ohmann (1983), there are few up-to-date sustained critical treatments of this central literary idea, and still fewer dealing, in the wake of Deleuze and Guattari (1975) with the cultural implications of canon-making for a literature which some might call ‘minor’. The relatively close-knit critical community in Wales is no exception in its failure to provide any detailed or sustained response to the complexities of its socio-cultural moment. This thesis will trace, explain and account for the literary-critical debates about canon-making, in and outside Wales, which contextualise and complicate the contemporary situation in which it is interested. Drawing on a range of literary theorists it will consider how far a literary canon can ever be constructed in self-conscious response to, rather than emerging from, its literary and socio-historical context. In particular, it will examine the part played by the literary text in Wales’ efforts to establish its literary and aesthetic distinctiveness from the culturally ambiguous shadow of England and the rest of the United Kingdom. It will achieve this by juxtaposing the detailed critical and textual examination of a selection of politically and culturally suggestive literary texts, all marketed as ‘Classic’, with material generated by interviews with relevant figures in the publishing organisations, in order to explore the kinds of principles behind the commercial and public decision-making involved in the two initiatives. Overall, it will provide an important and long-overdue interrogation of the efforts of the now semi-autonomous political entity of Wales to reconceive and embed its cultural identity in response to its devolved status, through the establishment of a distinctive literary canon.

Whyt Pugh

The Myth of the Body… Whyt’s research is an investigation of the construction and permeability of perceived boundaries within the Celtic world view and the transgression thereof. Her thesis engages with the current theoretical discussions revolving around the body, space and place, time, and gender theory. It is commonly accepted that the Celtic psyche embraced dichotomous, often plural, apprehensions of reality, but Whyt felt specific examples needed to be reassessed and supplemented with new research. She will illustrate the creativity with which the Celtic mind reconciles the inevitable transience of any boundary through examples gleaned from the primary manuscripts. Whyt has utilised the primary boundary of the body to suggest its use as a microcosm of physical, conceptual, temporal, societal, and ideological borders. Borders between the civilised and natural world, shape shifting, magic/illusion, the interplay between perception and narrative, division of time, composition/decomposition, dream space, dismemberment/ disfigurement, landscape as body, from feast to faeces, cauldrons and carnality and the journey from swallowing to swaddling are expounded upon and for each the unique contribution to a Celtic sense of malleability of boundary is divulged.