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Name: Rhiannon Cogbill

PhD: English Literature

Thesis Title: Illness and the Body in the work of Woolf, Richardson and Sinclair


Thesis Description

My thesis makes an argument about the prevalence and significance of women-centred experiences of illness in the novels of three major women writers operating around the beginning of the twentieth century: Virginia Woolf, Dorothy Richardson and May Sinclair. I focus upon these writers, connected in their lifetimes both in person and on the page, because they share a commitment to capturing a sense of how the ordinary lives of women are dually marked by illness: firstly, by lived experiences of illness; and secondly, by the cultural conception of women as particularly prone to illness. The narratives that Woolf, Richardson and Sinclair put forward in their work, and which I attend to in my thesis, are all framed by an assemblage of psychoanalytic thought, significant changes in medical practice, and inherited nineteenth-century ideas of womanhood. I specifically foreground representations of women negotiating illness, as well as women caring for others who are negotiating illness, because I consider such representations to be particularly expressive of the relationship between illness, medicine and gender around the beginning of the twentieth century.

Although my thesis is primarily a project about literary modernism, I also engage with the medical humanities, a field which often seeks to strengthen medical praxis by considering the ways in which illness is culturally conceptualized, as well as with disability studies. My research is ultimately about visibility of illness; people who perceptibly experience illness have been and continue to be stigmatized, but through interrogation of representations from the past, it is possible to contextualize contemporary attitudes and move beyond them.



Conference Papers

'Medical and Financial Entanglements in Dorothy Richardson’s Pilgrimage', Postgraduate Medical Humanities Conference, University of Exeter, 7-8 June 2018 

'Money and Madness in Dorothy Richardson’s Pilgrimage', Modern and Contemporary Forum, University of Birmingham, 21 March 2018

'"[H]er own rules for beef stew": The "visible contours" of obsessive-compulsive disorder in Shirley Jackson's We Have Always Lived in the Castle', Cultures of Anxiety, University of Bristol, 8-9 June 2017

'"Don't look round": The politics of the street encounter in Jean Rhys's interwar novels', The City as Modernist Ephemera, London South Bank University, 16 June 2017  


Academic Affiliations

Member: Midlands Modernist Network (MMN), British Association for Modernist Studies (BAMS), British Society of Literature and Science (BSLS)


Scholarly / Public Engagement Activities


  • Completed Teacher Training Modules, University of Birmingham, 14 September 2018 and 18 September 2018
    • ILT001 (Introduction to Learning and Teaching), ILT003 (Small Group Teaching), ILT004 (Marking and Assessment)
  • Employed as Postgraduate Teaching Associate for 'Introduction to English Literature 1790-Present (Erasmus/Exchange)', University of Birmingham, October - December 2018 
    • Preparing and leading a weekly one-hour seminar  
    • Marking formative and summative assignments  
  • Attended BAMS Postgraduate Networking Day, University of Birmingham, 12 October 2018 
  • Attended 'Preparing for the Viva Voce' Postgraduate Training Workshop, University of Birmingham, 28 November 2018
  • Participated in Midlands Modernist Network meetings, University of Birmingham, ongoing monthly


  • Attended Centre for the History of Medicine seminar, University of Warwick, 23 January 2018
  • Attended 'Medical Humanities and Medieval Literature? Voices, Breath, Feeling' Seminar, University of Birmingham, 13 February 2018
  • Attended 'Arts and Law Lunch: Time Management and Coping with the "Second-Year Slump"', University of Birmingham, 16 February 2018
  • Attended 'Memory and the Great War' Lecture, University of Birmingham, 6 March 2018
  • Helped organize MMN 'Transitions: Bridging the Victorian-Modernist Divide' conference, University of Birmingham, 9-10 April 2018
    • Assisted in planning and preparation
    • Chaired Professor John Holmes’ keynote lecture and ‘Short Fiction’ and ‘The City’ conference panels
  • Attended the Centre for Modernist Culture's Annual Lecture, University of Birmingham, 15 March 2018
  • Attended British Association of Modernist Studies Postgraduate Training Day, Senate House, London, 28 March 2018
  • Observed first-year seminars, University of Birmingham, March 2018
  • Participated in Royal Literary Fund Stretch Immersive Writing Course, College Court, Leicester, 12 May 2018 and 19-20 May 2018
  • Attended M3C Research Festival, Maple House, Birmingham, 24 May 2018
  • Attended 'Life After Postgraduate Study' College of Arts and Law Careers Conference, University of Birmingham, 12 June 2018
  • Employed as Teaching Assistant for 'English in Your Subject', Birmingham International Academy, July - September 2018
    • Prepared and led a twice-weekly, ninety minute seminar preparing international students for MA and PhD entry 
  • Attended Postgraduate Training Workshops, University of Birmingham, ongoing
  • Participated in Midlands Modernist Network meetings, University of Birmingham, ongoing monthly
    • Co-chaired meeting, University of Birmingham, 21 May 2018
  • Attended Nineteenth Century Seminar, University of Birmingham, ongoing monthly
  • Participated in Modern and Contemporary Forum, University of Birmingham, ongoing monthly


  • Attended 'What's critical about the critical medical humanities' talk, Birkbeck, University of London, 6 October 2016
  • Attended BAMS New Work In Modernist Studies conference, Queen Mary, University of London, 10 December 2016
  • Participated in M3C 'Academic Writing the Creative Way' workshop, University of Birmingham, 21 February 2017
  • Attended Doctoral Open Day, British Library, 13 March 2017
  • Attended M3C 'Logic of the Archive' training day, University of Birmingham, 27 April 2017
  • Participated in BAMS Postgraduate Training Day, De Montfort University, 5 May 2017
  • Attended ‘Something to chew on: Virginia Woolf's teeth’ talk, Birkbeck, University of London, 17 May 2017
  • Participated in M3C DTP Research Festival, University of Leicester, 25 May 2017
    • Displayed 'Illness Discourses in Dorothy Richardson's Pilgrimage' research poster
      • Attended 'Poster Design for Conferences in the Arts and Humanities' workshop, University of Birmingham, 22 March 2017
      • Attended 'Poster Design Using PowerPoint' workshop, University of Birmingham, 3 May 2017
  • Participated in Research Poster Conference, University of Birmingham, 15 June 2017
    • Presented 'Illness Discourses in Dorothy Richardson's Pilgrimage' research poster
      • Attended M3C 'Powerful Presentations' workshop, University of Birmingham, 31 January 2017

  • Helped organize BAMS 'Modernist Life' conference, University of Birmingham, 29 June - 1 July 2017
    • Assisted in planning and preparation
    • Coordinated PGR morning
    • Chaired 'Illness' conference panel
  • Participated in English Doctoral Research Seminars, University of Birmingham, ongoing weekly
    • Presented '"Don't look round": The politics of the street encounter in Jean Rhys's interwar novels' at work-in-progress seminar
  • Participated in Midlands Modernist Network meetings, various locations, ongoing monthly
    • Co-chaired meeting, Nottingham Trent University, 5 June 2017

University email address:

Twitter: @rhiacog



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