Professor of Modern and Contemporary Literature, Newcastle University

I joined the School of English at Newcastle in 2006 after 7 years at the University of Stirling. Before that I was a postgraduate in the School of English at the University of Leeds.

My research to date has focused on what the Jamaican intellectual Stuart Hall once called ‘the outside history that is inside the history of English’. My overarching interest is in how literary and cultural production in Britain since the 1940s handles the period in which its empire comes home to roost. My work encompasses British and black British literature, including migrant and diasporic writing from the Caribbean, African and South Asia.

My current research interests are in radio literature and empire between the 1930s and late 1960s. I am particularly interested in recovering the neglected archive of literary production at the BBC by West African and West Indian writers. I started this work in 2009, and was awarded a Leverhulme Research Fellowship to complete it in 2013-14. Hundreds of writers in this archive are now forgotten. Many others have become canonical names of world literature: V.S. Naipaul, Derek Walcott, George Lamming, Louise Bennett, Chinua Achebe, Wole Soyinka, Amos Tutuola.

I am interested in how the recuperation of the radio script allows for a rethinking of the literary oeuvre of many of these figures during the critical decades of decolonisation and mass migration. More broadly, I am interested in the overlaps between radio and other dominant technologies of communication during the mid-twentieth century, including magazines and newspapers. How, for instance, did seriality and the short, segmented spaces associated with air time and the magazine column shape West Indian and West African writing at the end of empire? In turn, how were these mass media shaped by that pioneering generation of post-colonial writers?

My previous (and ongoing) research interests are in readership and reception within the context of migration, transnationalism and diaspora. Between 2007 and 2010 I was Principal Investigator on a large AHRC-funded project 'Devolving Diaporas' (http://www.devolvingdiasporas.com). This project worked with reading groups in public libraries, British Council offices and homes right across the UK (from Penzance to Glasgow), in the Caribbean West Africa, India, and Canada.

Experience

  • –present
    Professor of Modern and Contemporary Literature, Newcastle University