English research at USW has internationally-recognised expertise in creative writing, critical-creative writing, Welsh writing in English, women’s writing, textuality and cultural spaces, genre fiction, Gothic studies and TESOL. Our research generates collaborations with a range of external partners, including creative practitioners, industry, arts and cultural organisations and policy makers.
Dr Rhian Webb will be visiting Stavanger University, Norway in a new project starting in 2022 to work with Professor Kenan Dikilitas. They are undertaking research to explore the impact of Covid-19 on TESOL education globally. Education moved from being a physical to digital experience overnight and teachers delivered lessons without training or experience. The research is being undertaken to explore the impact of this on teachers’ beliefs, roles, practices and feelings NOW, post pandemic. The topics were discovered from a pilot qualitative questionnaire, which was distributed to 50 TESOL contacts in 25 countries. From this, a quantitative and qualitative questionnaire was constructed and distributed using the snowball sampling technique. Over 500 responses from 42 countries have been received.
Many TESOL practices undertaken during the lockdown will not be reversed as the pandemic changed global English Language teaching. It is important to research and document what changes have taken place by teachers. Findings will create an understanding of future teacher education needs and training requirements, which will impact the TESOL industry globally.
Literary scholar Diana Wallace works on historical fictions with a particular interest in how women and other marginalised writers have used this often maligned genre. Her work explores how novelists and short story writers re-imagine the unrecorded past through fiction and intervene in traditional historiographical narratives. Her current project, a monograph entitled Modernism and Historical Fictions: Writing the Past (to be published by Palgrave), uncovers and explores a strangely neglected body of work by writers in and from the four nations of Britain. Writers discussed will include Virginia Woolf, Joseph Conrad, H.D., Lynette Roberts, Naomi Mitchison and Helen Waddell.
Professor Wallace is also working on a new edition of Margiad Evans’s Autobiography (1943) for Honno’s Welsh Women’s Classics series. An outstanding piece of nature writing, Autobiography explores in delicate and precise detail Evans’s relationship with the Welsh borders landscape around Ross on Wye. This new edition will be published, with a scholarly introduction by Professor Wallace, in Autumn 2022.
Working in collaboration with the Welsh Refugee Council (WRC) and Rhondda Cynon Taff local authority, Dr Mike Chick researches the provision of ESOL to forced migrants in south Wales. Language skills are essential to the integration of refugees and asylum seekers but cuts in ESOL provision combined with the recent rise in the number of forced migrants being resettled in Wales have led to delays in access to classes. Dr Chick’s research explores innovative and practical collaborative solutions to this problem.
As USW’s Refugee Champion Dr Chick promotes the university’s Refugee Sanctuary Scheme. In February 2020, Dr Chick and Dr Catherine Camps were awarded a £4k grant from Advance HE to conduct research with students and alumni of the scheme in order to understand how it benefitted them, and how their well-being can be transformed as a model for further developments.
Research on St Cadoc/Catwg, one of founders of Christian Wales and an early contender for patron saint, by poet and critic Kevin Mills has led to a series of publications and a co-authored experimental drama. Professor Mills’ award-winning poetry pamphlet, Stations of the Boar (2016), led to a co-authored play, Cadoc and the Drowned Boys, which was performed in Blackwood Little Theatre and seven churches named after the saint, and to a sequence of poems in his collection, Zeugma (2020). It has also led to the formation of a CIC theatre company, Contemporancient Theatre, which is now planning a new project based on Professor Mills’ research on Dr Richard Price.
Creative writer Barrie Llewelyn is leading the Speak to Me project (funded by Literature Wales’s Literature for Well-Being Funding Scheme). In January 2020 Syrian and Sudanese refugees resettled in Rhondda Cynon Taff were paired with native English speakers in a series of creative writing workshops. The project investigated the role of creative writing in language acquisition but also produced an exhibition of words, photographs, art and sound recordings.
The Speak to Me project continues in partnership with City of Sanctuary and also includes Café Chit Chat – a group of international women and native English speakers which met online during the lockdown and a Walk and Talk Group who meet regularly for walks and have visited such places as the Brecon Beacons, London, Bath and Tenby.
A collaboration between Professor Alice Entwistle, photographer David Barnes, Gwynedd National Trust and Bardsey Trust produced an experimental critical/creative text-art response to the changed character of Bardsey’s Victorian lighthouse, the tallest in the UK.
The work was exhibited at the end of May 2016 in the internationally known gallery Plas Glyn Y Weddw, in Abersoch, Pen Llyn, and again in ffotogallery (Turner House, Penarth) later in the year.
Novelist David Towsey has recently completed a crime-fantasy trilogy, Tales of Fenest, co-authored with novelist and poet Katherine Stansfield under the pseudonym D.K. Fields. Set in the fictional Union of Realms during election year when storytellers compete for votes, the trilogy explores the impact of storytelling in the democratic process. The first novel, Widow’s Welcome (2019), introduced readers to Detective Cora Gorderheim as she investigated the murder of a man found with his mouth sewn shut. The second, The Stitcher and the Mute, published in 2020, continues Cora’s investigation and explores the silencing of powerful stories. The third part of the trilogy, Farewell to the Liar, was published in 2021.
David also published a standalone dark fantasy novel, Equinox, in 2022. The story explores the concept of self in a fractured world where each physical body contains two personalities – one that lives during the day, the other at night. In these challenging circumstances, Special Inspector Christophor Morden – a witchfinder – struggles to stop an ancient and apocalyptic ritual.
Delivering online lessons to second language English learners has become a new feature of TESOL education since COVID-19. Dr Rhian Webb’s research collaboration with Cardiff-based International School, ‘Peartree Languages’ explores strategies to teach and deliver digital English lessons to international learners. All USW TESOL students are given a weekly opportunity to observe, assist, participate in and discuss online lessons delivered to international learners located in 12 different countries, from Columbia and Brazil to Germany, Italy, Russia and beyond. The experiences inform the practical live teaching that students undertake to achieve their Graduate USW TESOL Certificate. The research ensures that USW’s TESOL education is at the cutting edge of industry requirements.
Interior Monologues (February – March 2019) is an exhibition and zine publication highlighting the work of seven artists and eight writers all working in response to artworks selected from the USW art collection.
The title of the exhibition is a play on words meaning both a person's inner voice and the personal truths revealed through choices of interior décor. As a literary device the Interior monologue creates a window into the mental processes of a character. Modernist writers such as May Sinclair, James Joyce and Virginia Woolf used interior monologues to challenge literary form and to convey the psychology of their protagonists.
The USW writers – Tony Curtis, Cathy Dreyer, Judith Goldsmith, Dale Frances Hay, Maria Lalić, Colum Sanson-Regan, Melanie Smith - were invited to contribute stream of consciousness writing in prose or poetry which was then displayed in the gallery alongside with the artworks and printed in the accompanying free zine.
English staff have collaborated with the curators of USW’s museum-status Oriel y Bont on several exhibitions including Issue International, 2019; Interior Monologues 2019; Vis-à-Vis, 2018; Engaging with the Past, 2015, and The River Next Door, 2015.
As a prize-winning poet, novelist and teacher of Creative Writing, Emeritus Professor Philip Gross’s work is concerned with the development of individuals’ creative practice (both adults’ and children’s), outside the academy as well as inside it. His work has led to a wider awareness of the ways in which creative process can enhance our understanding of some of the most urgent challenges of contemporary society.
Since 1993, Professor Gross has published ten collections of poetry for adults, including the T.S. Eliot Prize-winning The Water Table (2009) and Deep Field (2011), as well as nine novels and three collections of poetry for young people, including the prize-winning Off Road to Everywhere (2010).
His work has enhanced consciousness of environmental issues and impacted on thinking about the disintegration of language and its implications for the personality.
Since 1997, Emeritus Professor Jane Aaron has been the founding and continuing editor of the series ‘Welsh Women’s Classics’, published by the independent Welsh feminist press Honno. The series aims to bring back into print virtually forgotten texts. Twenty-two volumes have appeared to date, five of which Aaron edited and introduced.
Their impact on the reading public and on higher educational institutions in Wales has been considerable; far more Welsh women writers – the majority of them published in the series – are taught, researched and read today than in the mid-1990s.
Each edition includes a scholarly introduction setting the work in its historical context. Writers published in the series include Margiad Evans, Dorothy Edwards, Hilda Vaughan, Menna Gallie, Eiluned Lewis and Amy Dillwyn. Recent publications include Allen Raine’s A Welsh Witch (1902) edited by Jane Aaron, and Hilda Vaughan’s Harvest Home (1936) edited by Professor Diana Wallace.
An interdisciplinary and collaborative research project established and led by Professor Alice Entwistle, Professor Philip Gross and Professor Kevin Mills, Border/Lines brings together poets and critics to stage innovative encounters and events. It aims to create a variety of outcomes including video and sound recordings, a database and published poems and articles. The project has hosted two events: ‘Esturine Environments’ (Chepstow, 24 January 2010) and ‘Orpheus at Glasfryn’ (Abergavenny, 17 November 2010), as well as leading to the ‘In and Between’ project.
Interweaving film, poetry, performance and critical reflection, this collaborative site-specific practice-as-research (PaR) project involves academics and creative practitioners from the Border/Lines group working with colleagues from the Faculty of Creative Industries, in association with the Centre for the Study of Media and Culture in Small Nations. Outcomes include an inter-active web-based poetry film ‘Flow and Frame’ by Emeritus Professor Philip Gross and film-maker Wyn Mason.
Emeritus Professor Christopher Meredith’s interest in art, history and landscape of Wales led to a collaboration with environmental workers and visual artists, ongoing since 2010, on the multi-media Woollen Line and Bog~Mawnog Projects, originated by artist Pip Woolf. These entailed pegging lines of sheep’s wool across fire-ravaged areas of peatland in the Black Mountains, creating an art installation to repair and draw attention to environmental damage. Meredith’s poems for the projects, commissioned by Woolf and funded by The Arts Council of Wales, have been a key part of two exhibitions at Brecknock Museum and in Crickhowell (2011, 2012), with approx. 5,000 visitors, and have led to podcasts, a radio broadcast, public lectures and readings. They were published in Black Mountains: Poems and Images from the Bog~Mawnog Project (Mulfran Press, 2011) and formed part of Air Histories (Seren, 2013).
See Pip Woolf’s website, A Woollen Line, for more details on this project. You can listen to Chris’ reading of Poems from the Black Mountain here.