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Name: Emily Heathcote

PhD: English Literature

Thesis Title: J. Barnes, J. Fowles, and B. S. Johnson: Case studies in the postmodern, the author, & text-editing.


Thesis Description:

My research focuses on the challenges of reading postmodern literature and to what extent modern editorial theory can illuminate and resolve these challenges. In bringing postmodern fiction into direct dialogue with contemporary text-editing, my research aims to shed new light on both practices and interrogate what is understood by the term 'postmodernism' as applied to both fiction and editing. My research focuses on three case studies — The Magus by John Fowles, The Unfortunates by B.S. Johnson and Flaubert’s Parrot by Julian Barnes — each of which offers a different form of resistance to scholarly annotation. 

Two generations separate today's readers from the authors of the first postmodern works, with the result that iconic novels such as 'The Magus' are, for these readers, effectively historical documents. This raises the question as to whether such postmodern fiction now requires the same kind of editorial apparatus as other twentieth-century classics; therefore, my research considers whether what has been termed the 'postmodernist turn' turn in text-editing can act as a possible solution to postmodern literature's becoming historical.

In a wider context, my research considers the challenges of editing postmodern literature and aims to offer a model for future scholars to build upon. My project therefore has two main objectives: to investigate whether modern editorial practice can make postmodern literature more accessible to modern readers; and to interrogate the ways in which postmodern texts ‘work’ and the claims typically made for them.


AHRC International Placement Scheme 2016-17 - Harry Ransom Center:

Successful application to the AHRC IPS enabled me to spend two months (October-November 2017) at the Harry Ransom Center (HRC) at the University of Texas at Austin. During this time I worked intensively with the papers of John Fowles and Julian Barnes, looking in particular at The Magus and Flaubert's Parrot respectively. The documents studied and data collected have proved vital to my research and will be used to write two of the central chapters of my thesis.

The award helped to fund flights, accommodation/living expenses and visa fees, which proved to be invaluable in the undertaking of this research trip.


Theodora Bosanquet Bursary 2017:

I was awarded a Theodora Bonsanquet Bursary (TBB) for 2017. This Bursary is offered to women graduates whose research in History or English Literature requires a short residence in London in the summer.

The TBB allowed me to spend a period of four weeks this summer (July 2017) in London, during which time I will undertake an intensive period of archival research at the British Library, working with the papers of B.S. Johnson and his novel The Unfortunates. This research will inform one of the three central chapters of my thesis.


Supervisors and Institution(s):

Professor Josephine Guy (University of Nottingham)

Dr Nathan Waddell (University of Nottingham)

Professor Andrzej Gąsiorek (University of Birmingham)


Scholarly & Public Engagement activities:

Depty Editor of Midlands Historical Review, February 2018 -

Midlands Historical Review is an interdisciplinary, peer-reviewed, student-led journal which showcases the best student research in the Art and Humanities.

Tutor for The Brilliant Club, December 2017 -

As a Brilliant Club tutor I deliver a course based on my own research to small groups of state school pupils, with the aim of increasing the number of pupils from under-represented backgrounds progressing to highly-selective universities.

Seminar tutor for the 'Studying Literature' module at University of Nottingham, September 2017 - 

Member of the British Association for Modernist Studies (BAMS) 2018.

PG assistant for the New Modernist Editing network, February - April 2017.

M3C Research Festival 2017 planning team, November 2016 - May 2017.


Conference Papers:

Heathcote, Emily, 'The Orphans of Arthur Conan Doyle: the role of the detective and the state of orphanhood in When We Were Orphans.', conference paper presented at Twenty-First Century Perspectives on Kazuo Ishiguro: An International Celebration, 31st January - 2nd February 2020.

Heathcote, Emily, 'Editing Barnes, Inheriting Ford', conference paper presented at Modernist Life, BAMS International Conference, 29th June - 1st July 2017.

Heathcote, Emily, 'Postmodern Anamnesis: Genetic Editing and John Fowles's The Magus', conference paper presented at GENESIS - Helsinki, 7th-9th June 2017.

Other Research Interests:

  • Modernism
  • Contemporary literature



University email address:


Twitter: @EmilyHeathcote1


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