Drama and Creative Writing
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Postgraduate Student Profiles

Drama and Creative Writing has a dynamic postgraduate research community. Our postgraduate students are involved in a wide range of innovative research, from the production and study of performance, to creative writing, including novels, short stories and poems.

A dynamic postgraduate research community
James Aitcheson

James Aitcheson

Dissertation Topic: Writing the Middle Ages: a re-evaluation of the fantastical in historical fiction

My research explores the representation of the Middle Ages in modern fiction, with a particular focus on the fantastical, supernatural and otherworldly: aspects of medieval life that are often neglected by authors today.

As a PhD in Creative Writing, my project comprises both creative and critical components. My creative work will be a historical novel that makes use of magic realist elements to explore the trauma of life under colonial rule in post-1066 England, while the critical piece will examine how the fantastical and the historical intersect in a variety of medieval texts and in recent fiction. My project is supervised by Dr Spencer Jordan and Dr Christina Lee, and is supported by an AHRC-funded studentship from the Midlands3Cities DTP.

I have been a professional novelist since 2010, and am the author of four novels set during the Norman Conquest, which are published in the UK, the US, Germany and the Czech Republic. My latest novel, The Harrowing, was published by Quercus in 2016 and was named by The Times as a Book of the Month. I previously studied History at Emmanuel College, Cambridge (2003–6), where I specialised in the Middle Ages. I then undertook my MA in Creative Writing at Bath Spa University (2007–8), where I developed the concept for what became my first published novel, Sworn Sword.

Mathilda Branson

Mathilda Branson

Dissertation topic: Re-imagining the Rural Tour

I am currently writing up my PhD which is an AHRC funded collaboration with New Perspectives Theatre Company. My research looks at the UK rural touring sector as an area of theatre practice which has been overlooked academically, with a particular focus on rural audiences; places of performances; and the rural touring distribution model, which relies on a network of rural touring schemes and thousands of volunteer promoters. My research also looks at the possibility of more formally innovative work for this sector, and through the collaboration with New Perspectives I have been able to make and trial two pilot pieces of work for rural audiences: Something Blue which was an interactive show set at a wedding take place in the village hall; and Homing, a performance which took the entire village as its setting and included a walk around the village accompanied by both audio recordings and live actors.

I previously completed a Research Masters at the University of Nottingham - both this and my PhD were under the supervision of Dr Jo Robinson and Dr Gordon Ramsay. Outside of my research I am a director, dramaturg and theatre-maker, with a particular interest in women's voices and new writing. More information about my directing work is available at www.tillybranson.com.

Laura De Simoni

Laura De Simoni

Dissertation Topic: Stage VS Page: Outsiders and Closed Community in Contemporary British Dystopian Theatre

I am in the first year of my PhD at the University of Nottingham. My research looks at how dystopian narratives are represented in contemporary British theatre. Dystopian novels use detailed, non-oral description to explore the implied flaws of their imagined societies. By contrast, dramatic dystopias use spoken language, stage settings, and performance techniques to achieve similar but qualitatively different analytical effects. My research wants to account for these differences and give dystopian drama its place in scholarly criticism. I am interested in contemporary texts and performances from the 1990s up to the present day which reflect on border demarcations, and which depict self-contained communities and their relations with the outsiders trying to enter them. Some of the playwrights I am looking at are Philip Ridley, Caryl Churchill and Edward Bond.

I was awarded my MA degree in English and American Studies at the University of Nottingham in 2016. I am now supervised by Dr Gordon Ramsay and Dr Nathan Waddell. Outside my research, I have been involved with the Postgraduate New Theatre since I moved to Nottingham. I have acted in several plays and made my debut as a director in the last one, a production of Fin Kennedy’s How to Disappear Completely and Never Be Found.


Oscar Delgado

Dissertation Topic: Life in the Machine: Natural and Supernatural Visions of a Victorian Empire

I am currently in my second year of PhD studies at the University of Nottingham under the supervision of Dr Spencer Jordan and Thomas Legendre. My research revolves around the idea of hybridity as applied to literature. I see the text as a melting pot in which genres, cultures, and identities can merge. I am interested in the way the act of writing can create junctures. My creative process involves merging factual and alternative historical realities of Britain, as well as revealing and conjuring links between peoples, settings, and cultures inside the text. My current focus is on the juncture points in which gothic, steampunk, and fantasy meet, as well as the cultural hybridity of Latin-Americans living in Great Britain.

I began studying English when I was seventeen and have never stopped since. I earned my BA in English from the University of Costa Rica. Then, I continued with a Master’s degree in English Literature from the same university, where I also began teaching. In 2014, I came to England to undertake an MA in Creative Writing at Lancaster University, and presently the University of Nottingham has given me the opportunity to continue my studies in creative writing.

Catherine Haines

Catherine Haines

Dissertation Topic: Holy War: The First Crusade, Red Crosse Knight and Myth of Prester John.

I am exploring the sensation of ‘holy war’ through the production of an historical novel and an academic essay. The two projects combined will form the body of my PhD in Creative Writing, which I am currently completing under the supervision of Dr Spencer Jordan and Dr Peter Kirwan.

My research is focused on the human search for ‘holiness’, and considers in particular the extent to which that quest involves violence, military action and bloodshed. Set during the first crusade, and based on the legend of Prester John, my creative work charts the journey of a religious enthusiast, or ‘warrior monk’ across the Kingdoms of Gaul, the Byzantine Empire and the Abbasid Caliphate while also representing his spiritual conversion. My critical analysis is focused on Edmund Spenser’s portrayal of the subject of holiness – in so far as Book 1 of the Faerie Queen depicts the adventures of a Red Crosse Knight. Both pieces of research consider warfare which is waged for what is supposed or proclaimed to be a holy purpose.

From 2006-2009, I was a National Achievement Scholar at the Australian National University, from which I earned a BA (Combined Honours, English and Philosophy) and received the annual Chancellor’s Commendation for topped ranked student. I graduated from the University of Oxford with an MSt in English Literature in 2012, and a Cert.He in Creative Writing in 2017. My short memoir ‘My Oxford’ won the New Welsh Writing Award in 2017. My short stories have won awards and been published by the literary magazines ‘Needle in the Hay’ and ‘Audio Arcadia’. My first novel The Wicked and the Fair is currently being circulated.  

Steven Justice

Steven Justice

Dissertation Topic: Using Literary Linguistics in the Creation of Fiction

I am currently in the first year of a PhD in Creative Writing under the supervision of Dr Spencer Jordan and Professor Peter Stockwell.  As I am undertaking a PhD in Creative Writing, my research consists of a creative component and a critical component. In the creative component I plan to explore themes of escapism, depression, fear of change, and loss of control using magical realism to represent emotional and psychological distress. In the critical component my intent is to analyse how effectively literary linguistic frameworks can be used in the creation of literature to achieve the creative goals, reduce distance between the author and reader, and increase emotional impact.  

I did my undergraduate Masters at St Andrews University before moving to South Korea, where I worked for over ten years mostly at universities as a lecturer of English language and literature. During my time in Korea I completed a postgraduate Masters in Literary Linguistics from the University of Nottingham before moving here in 2017 to begin my PhD studies full-time.

Hannah Manktelow

Hannah Manktelow

Dissertation Topic: Provincial Shakespeare Performance, 1769 - 2016

My PhD looks at performance of Shakespeare's plays in provincial England from 1769-2016. I’m affiliated with the British Library as well as the University of Nottingham, and my research has made use of the Library’s extensive collection of theatrical playbills as well as those from local archives all over the country. I am particularly interested in the degree to which regional theatres are able to resist the influence of London and Stratford-upon-Avon, and the role that Shakespeare productions can play in the development of local and national identities.

Over the course of my PhD I have contributed to the British Library’s upcoming exhibition Shakespeare in Ten Acts, and have written a chapter for the accompanying exhibition catalogue, as well as a little book called The Bard in Brief: Shakespeare in Quotations. Both will be published in 2015. I’ve also acted as a consultant for the BBC on their digital project ‘Shakespeare on Tour’ and will be appearing on various local airwaves talking about all things Shakespeare in March 2015.

Sarah O'Malley

Sarah O’Malley

Dissertation Topic: Gendered Lands: Literary Representations of Seventeenth-Century English Landscapes, Spaces and Places at Home and Abroad

I am currently in the second year of my AHRC Midlands 3 Cities funded PhD. My research looks at how the old and New Worlds of seventeenth-century England were connected via a shared discourse and frame of reference through which space was understood and represented. Within this I look at how identity, specifically gender identity, was closely related to conceptions of and interactions with space and place. I look at a variety of source material, including pamphlets, letters, sermons and drama. I am interested in how these various sources of information on old and New World spaces circulated simultaneously to build multifaceted, overlapping identities for the different spaces they represented. The theatre holds a particular interest as a unique space in which these various, often conflicting ideas were brought together, displayed and interrogated for a wide range of audiences.

I also co-ordinate the interdisciplinary Landscape, Space, Place Research Group at the University of Nottingham, and am in the process of expanding this network across the Midlands 3 Cities Universities to bring together academics with similar research interests. I previously completed my degree and MA at Nottingham Trent University, and spent several years working at the British Library before beginning my PhD.

aexacva Amy Van Kesteren

Amy Van Kesteren

Dissertation Topic: The Midnight Zone: A creative exploration and a critical analysis of the Gothic
I am in the first year of my Creative Writing PhD, under the supervision of Thomas Legendre and Dr Spencer Jordan. My research involves a creative exploration and a critical analysis of Gothic fiction.
    With fears situated within or outside the laws of nature, and the terror of threats, either real or imagined, Gothic fiction aims to excite rather than inform, to repulse rather than relate, drawing the reader into fantastical, sometimes supernatural, events that disturb and disrupt all norms and limits. Gothic fiction feeds these uncultivated emotional responses through the repeating and reworking of a restricted set of devices. It was through the beginnings of my novel that I began to recognise and identify how the tropes of Gothic fiction have been manipulated since their inception in the eighteenth century. I intend to create a Gothic novel that explores the concepts of haunting by excessive negative emotion, the uncanny house, the unreliable narrator, temporal disruption and transgression. My critical analysis will discuss the ways in which Gothic fiction exists today only through the echoing and manipulation of these five tropes, emerging in the twenty first century a creature who walks in Walpole’s shadow – revised and rewritten – but still with the whispers of the eighteenth century tale of terror.

I have studied Creative Writing at the University of Nottingham since 2012, receiving a BA(hons) in English with Creative Writing, as well as an MA in Creative Writing. The MA provided me with the tools and inspiration to continue with postgraduate education and to specialise in Gothic fiction. I have been volunteering at the Lakeside Literary Project since 2015, where I work with children from local schools to create Creative Writing influenced by artwork.
Emma Wisher

Emma Lauren Wisher

Dissertation Topic: Writer as God: Threats and Challenges to Authorial Intent During the Creation, Development and Destruction of Fictional Characters  

The aim of my research is to explore the ways authorial intent is challenged during the creation, development and destruction of fictional characters. I will consider how the details and descriptions provided by writers in their work can be interpreted and adjusted by other individuals involved in the creative process, such as readers who envisage characters subjectively in their minds or actors who bring a physicality to prose descriptions. Each individual contributes towards the creation and development of fictional characters, but can often challenge the writer’s original intent. My research will take the form of a self-referential novel told from the point of view of my protagonist, Lily, who begins to question whether she is in control of her own destiny or is nothing more than a fictional character in a predetermined narrative.

I previously studied at the University of Nottingham for a BA (Hons) in English and a MRes in Film and Television. I have also achieved a MA in Creative Writing from Nottingham Trent University. I have always been passionate about writing and have had several short pieces published, including the poem 'Family Tree' in the anthology Bringing it Home, a short screenplay entitled ‘Inspire, Expire’ in the student-produced anthology Restless Minds and several informative pieces that were published by the online magazine The National Student.


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Drama and Creative Writing

School of English
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The University of Nottingham
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