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PhD in Creative Writing

University of Nottingham

 

About me

Historical novelist specialising in late Anglo-Saxon England and the Norman Conquest. Author of four novels, published in the UK by Random House and Quercus, and also in the US, Germany and the Czech Republic. My latest novel, The Harrowing, was published in July 2016 and named by The Times as a Book of the Month.

I 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, in 2011, became my first published novel, Sworn Sword.


 

Thesis Title

Writing the Middle Ages: a re-evaluation of the fantahstical in historical fiction

 

Thesis Description

Fantastical phenomena – visions, apparitions, spirits, monsters, elves and other marvels – formed an intrinsic part of life in the Middle Ages, and yet are not usually afforded serious treatment by historical novelists. My project will examine whether it is possible to reconcile the fantastical with the historical in modern fiction about the period, and how such an integration might be achieved.

The creative component of my thesis will be a historical novel with magic realist elements, set in post-1066 England. Drawing upon concepts of the otherworldly and the monstrous from Anglo-Saxon and Norse traditions, it will explore the trauma of conquest and the imposition of colonial rule.

The accompanying contextual analysis will examine how the fantastical and the historical intersect in a variety of medieval texts, from Beowulf to Eyrbyggja saga, as well as in recent historical novels by writers including Umberto Eco and Kazuo Ishiguro.

My research will ask:

  • In what ways are these novels enhanced by their inclusion of fantastical elements? How well do they reflect the medieval experience?
  • Is it necessary for historical fiction to embrace the thought-world of the Middle Ages as closely as possible if it is to have any value as a tool for interrogating the period?
  • How might the subversive qualities of magic realism be used to approach historical events from alternative angles, and to deliver new insights and understanding? 

 

Supervisors

  • Dr Spencer Jordan (University of Nottingham);
  • Dr Christina Lee (University of Nottingham).

 

Publications

Novels:

  • Sworn Sword (Preface, 2011);
  • The Splintered Kingdom (Preface, 2012);
  • Knights of the Hawk (Preface, 2013);
  • The Harrowing (Heron, 2016).

 

Conferences

I have delivered the following papers:

  • ‘Historical fiction as virtual reality’, Other Voices, Other Times (Bath Spa University, 2012);
  • ‘Representing the Middle Ages in fiction’, The Middle Ages in the Modern World (University of St Andrews, 2013);
  • 'Dreams come true: predicting the future in late Anglo-Saxon England', Medieval Midlands (University of Nottingham, 2018);
  • 'Space, place and identity in historical fiction', Orientations: A Conference of Narrative and Place (University of Nottingham, 2018);
  • 'Writing the Middle Ages: new approaches to historical fiction', EMREM Annual Symposium (University of Birmingham, 2018).

I have participated in the following roundtable sessions:

  • ‘Viking facts in fiction: how much research does a historical novel need?’, The Viking World: Diversity and Change (University of Nottingham, 2016);
  • ‘Imagining the medieval world: popular medievalism and historical fiction’, International Medieval Congress (University of Leeds, 2017).

 

Other Research Interests

  • Medievalism;
  • Anglo-Saxon England;
  • Norman Conquest;
  • History and fiction;
  • Cross-genre fiction;
  • Public understanding of the past.

 

University email address: 

james.aitcheson@nottingham.ac.uk


Website:

www.jamesaitcheson.com


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