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Name: Holly Cooper

PhD: English Literature

Thesis Title: 

Capturing London Through the Lens: Photography and Aesthetics in the Novels of Virginia Woolf


Thesis Description:

My thesis seeks to offer the first in-depth study of the relation between photography and philosophical thought in Virginia Woolf’s fiction. Responding to a new critical appreciation of the ways in which Woolf’s experimentation with photography shaped her literary aesthetics and contributed to the ubiquitous descriptions of photographs and portraits in her novels, my thesis offers an alternative interpretation of her literary engagement with photography, proposing that, through mapping photographic metaphors onto her depictions of London’s spatial topography, Woolf fashions a medium through which she interrogates her philosophical position and tests the limits of identity.

Through analysing Woolf’s photographic depictions of the city in parallel with phenomenological theory my thesis seeks to: 1) outline the ways in which her aesthetic capturing of the city reflects her concern with expressing the inner-workings of human consciousness; 2) map her preoccupation with investigating the relationship between the self and the surrounding world; 3) explore the parallels between her moments of being and Cartier-Bresson’s nebulous idea of capturing a significant, photographic moment; 4) illuminate her interrogation of the gendered gaze and her desire to reconfigure traditional conceptions of a fixed and unified self.


Supervisors and Institution(s):

Dr. Deborah Longworth (University of  Birmingham)

Dr. Derek Littlewood (Birmingham City University) 


Publications (please include full details with page nos. or web links):

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Scholarly / Public Engagement Activities:

year: 2016-2017

Post-Graduate Committee Member for MIVSS (Midlands Interdisciplinary Victorian Seminar Series, a subsidiary of the British Association of Victorian Studies). I work with a group of academics and PhD students to organise a series of talks and conferences which take place at universities in the Midlands.


year: May, 2015

I took part in a panel discussion on Gothic Literature during a public conference at The Library of Birmingham. 

Previous Work Experience:

year: 2016:

Position held: Editorial Assistant for the Review of the Pre-Raphaelite Society


year: 2016

Employer: Birmingham City University (Funded by CELT)

Position held: I worked with a group of academics and students to organise the first undergraduate conference for the School of English at BCU

Other Research Interests:

  • Psychoanalysis and Literary Theory
  • Historiography 
  • Ecocriticism  



University email address:

LinkedIn: <add URL>

Twitter: @hollycooper111

Other Social Media: <add URL>

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