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Name: Matthew Collins

PhD: English Language and Applied Linguistics

Thesis Title: The hoole book: a literary-linguistic study of cohesion in Thomas Malory’s Morte Darthur.


Thesis Description:

When Thomas Malory’s epic Morte Darthur was published by William Caxton in 1485, it was one of the first texts to be printed in English. His ambition was to create a “hoole book”, a unified text from the vast cycle of Arthurian histories, poems, and cycles, and resulted in a composite of materials in which cohesion is critical to the way in which the text achieves its meaning through coherence and narrative shape.

Whilst a number of historical approaches have focussed on Malory’s use of sources and the process of adaptation (e.g. Edlich-Muth 2014), the attention that has been paid to the role that narrative cohesive devices (e.g. Tolhurst 2005; Field 1999) has drawn principally on literary rather than linguistic theory.

Middle English is a relatively untested area in terms of literary linguistic (stylistic) analysis. The application of linguistic theories of cohesion (e.g. Halliday and Hasan 1978) will require cross-cultural, interdisciplinary analysis, drawing on work in historical stylistics, corpus linguistics and pragmatics. As such, the research topic aims to respond to Busse’s for a “New Historical Stylistics” which applies “complex approaches, tools, methods, and theories from stylistics to historical texts” (2010: 34).

In taking a stylistic approach, the research will re-examine an area of literary debate with new tools; tools which will allow new insight into a) the way that cohesion is created linguistically and discursively through the text, and b) how this might have contributed to contemporary and critical readings of the text. My research to date has for instance included the creation of a parallel-texts database, an electronic edition of Morte Darthur which allows the user to read the Winchester and Caxton versions of the text and see a visual representation of the textual differences between them, both in relation to specific passages of text and as trends across the work as a whole.

Using these tools, the research will look at textual cohesion and its relationship to coherence and interpretation. It will be structured around Malory’s prose style, the narrative structure of the text, ideas of authorship and textual authority, sources and intertextuality and framing devices.


Supervisors and Institution(s):

Dr Melanie Evans, University of Leicester

Professor Michael Toolan, University of Birmingham


Scholarly / Public Engagement Activities:


  • 'Old texts and new: a digital King Arthur,' PALA 2017 Proceedings, West Chester. Winner of the 2017/18 Palgrave Prize.
  • ‘'Scribbling Suspense and Surprise,' (with Mel Evans), in R. Page, B. Busse and N. Nørgaard (eds.) Rethinking Language, Text and Context: Interdisciplinary Research in Stylistics in Honour of Michael Toolan, pp.43-59.

  • 'Digital Appraoches Approaches to Malory,' International Arthurian Society Conference, Spetember September 2018.

  • “Quene Gwenyuere was appeled for treson”: Murder, False Accusation and Narrative’, EMREM Symposium, University of Birmingham, May 2018.

  • 'The Once and Future Text', BELP Conference, University of Birmingham, April 2018.


  • Postgraduate Teaching Assistant, University of Birmingham. Seminar teaching for first-year Language and Literature students on Theories of Language and Creative Practice: Language.
  • Postgraduate Representative for the department of English Language and Applied Linguistics, Chair of Postgraduate Tips Research Group.
  • Conference co-organiser, The Birmingham English Language Postgraduate Conference 2017 (BELP), University of Birmingham, 7 April 2017.
  • Presentation on 'Historicising the Digital', EMREM Forum, 7 November 2016, and PG Tips Research Group, 28 October 2016.
  • Poster Presentation 'The Once and Future Text'. 25 May 2017, M3C Research Festival, University of Leicester.
  • Presentation on 'Old Texts and New: A Digital King Arthur', PALA Conference, University of Westchester, Pennsylvania, 19 July 2017.
  • Review 'Beyond Reformation? An Essay on William Langland’s Piers Plowman and the end of Constantinian Christianity, by David Aers', Medievalia et Humanistica 43 (October 2017).
  • Research Assistant for Professor Jeannette Littlemore, 'Music, Maths and Metaphor'. 


  • Postgraduate Teaching Assistant, University of Birmingham. Seminar teaching for first and second-year undergraduates on the Language for Literature, Voices in Fiction, and The Language Poets Use modules. Two lectures given on the Language for Literature module.
  • Speaker, 'Caxton's Apprentice: Editorial Intervention and Digitising Historical Texts' at Historicizing the Digital: Language Practices in New and Old Media, University of Leicester, 28 June 2016.
  • Chair for panel discussion 'The Book as an Object of Reform (Medieval Scotland)' at the EMREM Annual Conference, University of Birmingham, 5-6 May 2016
  • Chair for presentations, The Birmingham English Language Postgraduate Conference 2016 (BELP), University of Birmingham, 22 April 2016.
  • Presentation on 'Historicising the Digital', University of Leicester, 27-28 June 2017.


  • Researcher in Residence at the Royal Shakespeare Company and Visiting Fellow at the University of Warwick CAPITAL Centre. As part of a series of public engagement events I led an editorial workshop, wrote an article for the production programme, adapted two of the tales for children’s storytelling, worked with undergraduate students on developing a performance inspired by the text, curated an exhibition and coordinated a public discussion with a panel of experts.

Other Research Interests:

  • Historical stylistics
  • Cognitive poetics
  • Corpus linguistics and computational analysis
  • Drama and text in performance
  • Twentieth-century literature and modernism



University email address:


Twitter: @matt_coll