Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Less than one month to go!

There is now less than one month left to get your articles, creative pieces and book reviews in, for the summer 2017 American, British and Canadian Studies Special Issue on contemporary crime fiction which I am editing!  

Here is the Call For Papers again: 
I look forward to receiving your work! 

Saturday, 22 October 2016

Why I edit books

The fetishisation of the monograph is not a new concept.  Back in 2005 the MLA "deplored the 'fetishisation of the monograph' and called for a new metric to demonstrate scholarly worth, such as a body of articles, translations of works, electronic databases, etc'.* 

I raise the issue of the fetishisation of the monograph here, because I was told recently that it would benefit my career more, if I was to concentrate on writing single-author monographs, rather than editing lots of books.  It appears to follow from this, that editing and contributing to books and journals is of lesser scholarly value, and that the monograph (and only the monograph) represents the pinnacle of intellectual accomplishment.  It is a shame that such narrow judgements on scholarly esteem still drive certain parts of academia.  In the age of generic diversity and digital publishing, it is a limited and ultimately self-defeating definition of intellectual endeavour and academic merit.  

Driven by intellectual curiosity, my convictions, and enthusiasm for the diversity that literature possesses, I have published many articles and contributed many chapters to books.  I am really proud of all the contributions I have made to journals and books.  I recognise the effort and determination that went into each and every one of them, and that these publications have passed the peer review of my colleagues in these fields
.  If taken together, these works would constitute several single-author monographs.  But that would have been to the detriment of the edited volumes the publications appeared in, and thus defeated the point. Academic endeavour is devalued if it focuses on the packaging only.

I am extremely proud of the books and journal I am currently editing.  Enabling others to contribute to books and journals, as I myself have, is a crucial feature of collegial scholarship. I derive an intense sense of accomplishment from engaging in collaborative work and the community it builds. Working with other scholars and artists, across national and disciplinary boundaries, is really important in this time of Brexit isolationism.  As a Danish scholar working in Britain, I feel this strongly.  Collaborative work ensures a multifaceted content with a broader appeal and more impact.  The single-author monograph doesn't generally have a great deal of impact. Print runs are small, and the appeal is limited.  

I may publish a single-author monograph one day, or I may not. When I do, it will be on the basis of the form fitting my
 argument rather than dictating it.    

*Colin Steele, "Back to the Future: Twenty-First Century Models for the Scholarly Monograph." In Bernhardt, Beth R; Daniels, Tim; Steinle, Kim; Strauch, Katina P (Eds.) Charleston Conference Proceedings 2005. Westport, Conn.: Libraries Unlimited, 2006. pp. 118-125. 121.

Saturday, 1 October 2016

PaCCS research bid successful!

My crime studies colleagues and I have been successful in gaining funding from AHRC and ESRC for our one-year research project on Representation of Human Trafficking!  We won an Innovation Award from Partnership for Conflict, Crime and Security Research.  You can see the announcement plus a list of the other Innovation Award winners here

The Principal Investigator of our project is Christiana Gregoriou of Leeds University, and she leads the international, interdisciplinary research team consisting of Melissa Deary of Hull University;  Nina Muzdeka of University of Novi Sad;  Ilse Ras from Leeds University;  Bernie Gravett, Head of Specialist Policing, and myself.

Monday 3 October is the official Launch Day for our project, so look out for plenty of social media activity and further announcements.  I will also be posting links here to our project Twitter, Facebook page, and blog.

Monday, 19 September 2016

Irish Masculinity in Crisis - new publication

I am very pleased to have a chapter on Irish masculinities in crisis in a newly published book edited by Catherine Rees of Loughborough University. The book is entitled Masculinity in Crisis: Depictions of Modern Male Trauma in Ireland, and is published by Carysfort Press.  

This book provides fresh insight into diverse representations of Irish masculinity.  As Catherine explains in her summary of the book's focus: 

"The purpose of this book is to locate this sense of crisis within Irish contexts, fill a current gap in academic discourse surrounding literary, theatrical and cinematic depictions of Irish masculinity, and discuss how fictional representations of masculinity and maleness in contemporary Ireland have addressed, explored and discussed images of men in states of anxiety, crisis and chaos."  

The title of my chapter  is ‘"Still a Respected Man": Irish Masculinity in Crisis and Crime Fiction’.  Exploring the implications of a quotation from Stuart Neville's novel The Twelve, 'still a respected man', my chapter examines the meanings of 'respect', agency and masculinity in Irish crime fiction. As the basis for my analysis, I discuss two specific contemporary Irish crime novels in my chapter, namely Ken Bruen's Priest and Neville Thompson's Mama's Boys.  Both these phenomenal novels offer complex, brilliantly depicted portrayals of Irish masculinities and settings that stay vivid in the reader's mind long after they've closed the books.

The work for this was so interesting for me to undertake, as it gave me the opportunity to reflect further on the depiction of masculinity in crisis in crime fiction, a topic I have been preoccupied with for some time.  In 2013 I published an article on masculinity  in crime fiction, in Clues: A Journal of Detection . The article examined John Harvey's novel Easy Meat, and is called: "'There's Nothing People Won't Do to One Another, if the Circumstances Are Right’:  Male Rape and the Politics of Representation in John Harvey’s Police Procedural Easy Meat". Turning my attention to Irish crime fiction, I found a fascinating array of complicated male characters reflecting and/or embodying the contemporary Irish society in which they are situated.

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Women Versed in Myth - new publication

I am very pleased to announce the publication of the book Women Versed in Myth: Essays on Modern Women Poets, edited by Colleen S. Harris-Keith and Valerie Estelle Frankel, and published by McFarland. The volume examines women's poetic responses to myth from scholarly, creative and teaching perspectives.  I have a chapter in the book, entitled "Reimagining Myth and the Maternal with Ruth Fainlight, Margaret Atwood and Katie Donovan". 

I was particularly happy to have the opportunity to research and write on three female poets whose work I very much admire:  the Canadian poet and author Margaret Atwood, the British/American poet Ruth Fainlight, and the Irish poet Katie Donovan.  They are very different poets, yet all three offer rich and complicated treatments of mythology in their work, and my chapter proposes ways of reading these multi-faceted representations from feminist and maternal perspectives.

I have a long-standing interest in women's poetry which I have also published on previously.  My chapter in Women Versed in Myth examines the myriad ways in which women have creatively reimagined mythology and reclaimed female figures in order to explore hitherto marginalised or ignored dimensions of women's experience and to energise poetic language and form.  The chapter furthermore contains a section on maternal perspectives and uses of mythic mother figures in Fainlight, Atwood and Donovan.  In her introduction to the volume, Valerie Frankel states that in my chapter, I examine "reimaginings through the European tradition, as Ruth Fainlight recreates the sibyl as writer and katie Donovan tackles gender politics for the Irish Queen Medb and violated goddess Macha."

Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Postcolonial Crime Fiction - new article

I am really pleased to have published my article on Irish crime fiction, called '"The Third Ireland': Inheritance and Postcolonialism in Irish Crime Writing" in the new special issue of The Journal of Commonwealth and Postcolonial Studies.  The topic of the JCPS special issue is Postcolonial Crime Fiction, and the issue is edited by South African crime fiction specialist Dr Sam Naidu.  You can view the contents page here

This image above is of the cover for the JCPS special issue - really interesting image, I think!  Perfect for this special issue, with its multifaceted examination of postcolonialism as a prism for crime fiction.  

I am happy to be a great company in this special issue, and particularly to have had the opportunity to write about Irish postcolonial identities and crime writing.  My article focuses on selected texts from the 2011 anthology edited by declan Burke entitled Down These Green Streets : Irish Crime Writing In The 21st Century. 

I examine selected texts from the 2011 anthology edited by declan Burke entitled Down These Green Streets : Irish Crime Writing In The 21st Century.  In the article I explore questions of inheritance and postcolonial identity in relation to John Connolly’s essay “No Blacks, No Dogs, No Crime Writers: Ireland and the Mystery Genre,” and Jane Casey’s crime short story “Inheritance.”

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Summer research

Summer research is like summer itself.  You think there is all the time in the world. The long light summer days seem to last forever. The air is warm and mellow and filled with the scent of blossom mixed with car fumes.  In the distance, the rumble of a bus and squawking of seagulls. Unhurried days drift past.

This summer has been slightly unusual and strange for me. Usually I attend conferences, give papers.  This year, because of my illness and sick leave, I have stayed away from conferences and concentrated on recovery.  Now that I am feeling stronger, I have been working on the books I am editing, and writing a piece on crime fiction for an edited volume.  I have cherished the space and time for creativity that summer brings.  Inevitably, there have also been frustrating times when I felt stuck and struggled to construct the conceptual framework for the piece I was writing.  The finishing line an elusive blur in the distance. 
Summer seems neverending, until suddenly  - it is over.  Summer slipped away while you were busy looking elsewhere. A chill has set in at night, the dew falls more heavily. The clock is ticking as September approaches. A new academic year beckons.  Time for a reality check.  What have I created, achieved?

Now is the time to finish that piece of writing, to complete the research for forthcoming projects. Several deadlines are coming up this month and next.  Every last bit of summer and research time must be stretched to maximum.  But somehow there is never quite enough time.  Come back, summer.

Friday, 5 August 2016

Social Media Thoughts

My blog celebrated its first birthday a couple of months ago.   But like a neglectful blog-mother, I passed over this momentous event without even a mention.  It might have had something to do with the fact that I was on sick leave at the time following intensive care treatment in hospital with horrible Influenza A and pneumonia.  But now seems a good time to reflect on the past year or so of blogging, and on my experience of social media more generally.  I don't as a rule engage in heated social media debates, and I try to be reasonable and polite wherever possible.  As the German poet and literary critic Friedrich Schlegel said in his 1799 work Lucinde and the Fragments:

But I was provoked to reflect on social media use for academics by an article I read in The Guardian newspaper, I am a serious academic, not a professional Instagrammer. It stated, among other things, that academics: "should not have to parade ourselves on social media to please our employers or be considered enthusiastic."  And I agree with the point that social media use should not be something which one purely does in order to 'please'.  Whether individual academic want to engage with social media or not should be up to them, as should be the extent to which they choose to engage.  

However, I also found myself disagreeing with a number of points in the article. For example, I found the claim that academic social media use is part of a 'selfie epidemic' too simplistic, and the suggestion that scholars should not use social media to comment on important questions such as the recent EU Referendum, a troubling sign of repression.  

As a European academic working in Britain, social media to me presents a vital space for reaching out to like-minded individuals and groups. Social media is not simply a narcissist pastime. It can be about about support and resisting marginalisation.

Importantly, many academics use social media such as Twitter and blogs for teaching purposes, thereby engaging students and the wider world in module content and current debates in the field - which to my mind is commendable, not to do with narcissism. For example, Dr Emilie Whitaker uses an example of "When [she] got students to curate a Pinterest board to think about visual representations of 'welfare problems'" - clearly a useful conceptual activity. Or Dr Helen Rogers' fascinating blog on 19th-century prisons, Conviction - a great resource and absorbing read. 

More than anything, though, the Guardian article made  me appreciate again about important and constructive social media is to me, as an academic and a person.  It also reminded me how enjoyable I find blogging, as a form of writing.  Social media - Facebook, Twitter, and my blog - is not a not flippant distraction.  Social media provides me with ways of communicating with colleagues, friends and acquaintances, and staying connected with people and causes that interest me and are necessary to me in my work.  

Just as the oft-perceived dichotomy between 'serious' literary fiction and genre writing is much too reductive - so too the distinction between the non social media-using real-deal 'serious' scholar and the flippant social media-using 'hashtagging' academic is a simplistic distortion of a much more complex reality.  

(cartoon from

Having said that, I appreciate the Guardian author's attempt to raise questions around the articulation of an individual position on social media use for academics.  These discussions are both necessary and important.

Another recent article, in the Times Higher, called "Cats and Academia - a Short History", serves as a reminder of the fun side of social media, some light relief and a glimpse of the human (and animal) faces of scholars #AcademicsWithCats.  

As Dr Nadine M├╝ller said, brilliantly, about academics and social media:  "I like to think that by the time I apply for professorships, I'll get one based on the quality and quantity of my pet photos. #academia".  Love it!

Here's one of mine:  

Little Cleo 

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

The Editorial Board for Dutch Journal of Feminist Studies

I am very excited to announce that I have been invited to join the editorial board of the Dutch Journal of Feminist Studies!  The Editor-In-Chief of the Dutch Journal of Feminist Studies is Professor Sally Munt from the University of Sussex. Dutch Journal of Feminist Studies is published by Lectito and is an open access journal.  

Having an MA and a PhD in Women's Studies, I am passionate about this work, and feminism informs all my writing and teaching.  Dutch Journal of Feminist Studies will be offering a broad spectrum of interdisciplinary feminist scholarship.  We are planning a special issue for the journal. I will post more about that and share the CFP in due course.

Friday, 1 July 2016

Four months later

Four months after my last blog post, a brief update.  Over Easter I was hospitalised and ended up in Critical Care, where I spent 12 days in an isolation room on continuous oxygen supply.  I had contracted Influenza A, and had pneumonia and other serious complications, and was very ill. After my discharge from hospital, my family looked after me and supported me as I started to recover, and friends sent me their good wishes, all of which has helped me a lot.  My sick leave is almost at an end now.  I look forward to getting back to blogging in due course. 

Tuesday, 1 March 2016

New publication - The Age of Dystopia: One Genre, Our Fears and Our Future

Louisa Mackay Demerjian's edited book, The Age of Dystopia: One Genre, Our Fears and Our Future has just been published!  The book "examines the recent popularity of the dystopian genre in literature and film, as well as connecting contemporary manifestations of dystopia to cultural trends and the implications of technological and social changes on the individual and society as a whole."

You can get a sense of the wide-ranging discussions presented in this book from the The Age of Dystopia: One Genre, Our Fears and Our Future contents page.

I am very pleased to have contributed to this book with a chapter on one of my favourite writers, the Australian children's and YA author Kirsty Murray.  Her dystopian novel from 2009, Vulture's Gate, forms the basis for my chapter which examines the representation of gender and imaginative use of the Australian landscape in the novel.  It was very satisfying to get the opportunity to write about another of the genres close to my heart, the dystopia. 

The title of my chapter, "Last Girl Alive": Kirsty Murray's Dystopian YA Novel Vulture's Gate, uses a quotation from Murray's novel in order to reflect on gender and the way in which it becomes a battleground, in a dystopian society characterised by desperation, violent conflict, sectarianism, environmental damage and abuses of power.   These are themes and ideas that reverberate throughout much YA and adult dystopian literature.  However, through its powerful depiction of Australian landscapes and characters, Murray's Vulture's Gate creates a unique and utterly compelling story.

Australian dystopian fiction, and literature in general, deserves much more critical recognition than it is currently receiving, and I am pleased to have had the opportunity to research and write about Kirsty Murray's work once again.

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

New publication on Agatha Christie

Another publication of  mine has now appeared in print, and I am very pleased about it!  It has been a difficult year, with health problems of various  kinds. But seeing this piece published has reminded me again of all that I value so much about research and writing.

This latest piece developed out of my enthusiasm for reading short stories.  I have a long-standing fascination with the crime short story as a specific literary form, and am interested in investigating the way in which the crime short story has evolved over time as a particular subgenre of crime fiction. This preoccupation of mine led me to reassess Agatha Christie's work. Christie has long been regarded as one of the most popular crime fiction authors of all time, and as part of her impressive oeuvre she also wrote crime short stories. I became interested in Christie's short fiction, particularly the Mr Quin short stories.  These short texts feature some of the specific elements we have come to associate with her crime writing, while at the same time reflecting the social and cultural questions of the interwar period - the heyday of what is often referred to as the Golden Age.

I have a chapter on Agatha Christie's Mr Quin stories in a book just published by McFarland, edited by Christie scholar and expert Jamie Bernthal.  The book is entitled The Ageless Agatha Christie: Essays on the Mysteries and the Legacy.

I am really pleased with how this chapter turned out, and thrilled to have had the opportunity to write on Agatha Christie - something I have wanted to do for a long time.  The contents page of the book will give you a glimpse into the fascinating and varied perspectives on Christie's work presented here.  

Once again this year, Jamie Bernthal is organising a conference on Agatha Christie and her work.  The theme this year is "The ageless Agatha Christie", and you can find out more detail about the event here - it is promising to be a fantastic conference!  Sadly, I am unable to go this year.  But if you, like me, are fascinated by Agatha Christie's work and want to investigate the reasons for its enduring appeal, do go.  And read The Ageless Agatha Christie: Essays on the Mysteries and the Legacy!

Monday, 15 February 2016

Mothers Without Their Children

My co-editor Andrea Robertson and I are now well into our project of producing the book Mothers Without Their Children for Demeter Press.  We are currently in the process of writing our chapters and excitedly awaiting the arrival of our contributors' work.

In my office at work, writing away

The image of the mother without her child may produce a number of associations, often of maternal abjection or deprivation.  But what does investigating the idea of the mother with her children involve?  As we stated in the Call For Papers, the book will explore the subject of mothers without their children from a range of interdisciplinary perspectives.  

We also thought that it was significant to: "welcome original submissions on new fields of enquiry that address the complex issues surrounding the figure of the mother without her children and her representation.  These may include cultural, literary, socio-political, relational, ethical, phenomenological, and biological perspectives and investigations. We hope to include both scholarly and creative contributions, and would also consider direct contributions from mothers who have been separated from their children."

One of the scholars who I myself have found extremely useful in thinking about the various issues and questions surrounding the mother without her children is Elaine Tuttle Hansen and her book Mother Without Child: Contemporary Fiction and the Crisis of Motherhood.  

This excellent and detailed work is a must for anyone researching the representations of maternal experience in contemporary literature and culture.

It has been exhilarating to work on a book examining a topic of such importance to me.  In the process of working on this book, I have felt so many windows opening for me, both on an academic, scholarly and personal level.

Beautiful blue February skies from my office window

Confronting some of this material has also been challenging and forced me to rethink some of my conceptions and ways of doing things.  

Once Andrea and I have provided feedback to all the contributors, we will be embarking on the next phase of the project!

Monday, 25 January 2016

In praise of crime fiction

Crime fiction is one of the most popular genres around.  It enjoys wide and diverse readerships.  At the same time, there remains in the academy a certain propensity for snobbery when it comes to crime fiction.  It is high time these views were challenged, not least from inside academia itself - by the people who teach the very valuable modules on genre fiction, whether it is how to study crime texts as texts, or or how to write crime fiction.

A recent news story from a Canadian university has done just that. I was scrolling through my Facebook feed the other day, when I came across a recent article in The Gauntlet, the University of Calgary's student newspaper.  The article is called "Popularity of Detective Fiction Course No Mystery".  It investigates the popularity of a crime fiction module taught at the university by Professor McGillivray.  In the article, author Jill Girgulis interviews Professor McGilliwray, asking him about his experience of teaching the module and his academic background.  

On being asked why he is teaching this detective fiction module, the reported explains that McGillivray, a Professor of Medieval Studies, noted that: "he always enjoyed detective fiction, though he was unable to pursue a PhD in the genre." He further explained how a doctorate on crime fiction “would have been frowned upon during that period [...] Popular genres were just not given serious study."

It is sad to think that genre fiction used to be looked down on in this way.  In fact, it is vital that we recognise the important contribution that genre fiction makes to our literary culture, and that we acknowledge the complex themes and questions treated in crime fiction and other genre writing, such as dystopian fiction, children's literature, historical fiction, travel writing, and so on. Genre writing employs literary strategies and tackles important issues which their respective formats allow them to convey in a unique way - questions which may otherwise not have been raised and which may have remained silenced otherwise.

It is, however, great news that Professor  McGilliwray is now teaching this popular module. Reflecting on his experience, I teach a crime fiction module myself, which I devised from scratch some 8 years ago.  During that period, the module has undergone many changes and updates, and has proved consistently popular with students.  A number of students have also gone on to write their undergraduate dissertations on crime fiction.  I am immensely grateful to all my present and past crime fiction students for the privilege of teaching and supervising them.  

(Photo is of my article on the Scottish crime short story in the journal Short Fiction in Theory & Practice  (2013)

The more I learn about the crime genre, through my research and publications, the more I have to share with students in class.  For a couple of years running, I have taught the Scottish crime short story in one of the sessions on my crime fiction module.  I have utilised selected stories from the collection Crimespotting: An Edinburgh Crime Collection.  The study of these texts has been supported by my article (pictured above), and research on the crime short story.  These contemporary and diverse texts provide the perfect literary setting for us to study questions of national identity and uses of genre in crime fiction.  These are certainly matters for "serious study" (to use Professor McGilliwray's poignant phrase).

Monday, 18 January 2016

Black Cultural Archives news

"Black History is everyone's history" (David Olusoga)

I am very excited to hear that Black Cultural Archives are currently working with BBC2 on a new commissioned series on the topic of black history in Britain.  

Historian David Olusoga previously presented the fascinating and poignant two-part series, "The World's War: Forgotten Soldiers of Empire" , shown on BBC2 in 2014.
(Image from 

The new series on black history will also be presented by David Olusoga who has also written it. He describes the four-part series as a project which is: "aim[ing] to overturn the image of black history as a marginal side-bar to mainstream history with new, dramatic and at times shocking chapters from our collective past." 

Director of Black Cultural Archives Paul Reid, said: "This exciting series will uncover the less-known historical narratives, providing an insight into the Black presence in Britain and documenting the richness of British history."

(image from

This series will be essential viewing for everyone studying or researching history in Britain.