Meet our tutors

Some of our academics reflect on their relationships to reading, writing and teaching

Jenn Ashworth

Jenn Ashworth, Lecturer in Creative Writing, novelist and short story writer

Like many of my students, I have always written. I started out by experimenting with a wide number of forms and genres, from short stories about zombies, poems for Christmas cards, newsletters, book reviews and plays. I studied English as an undergraduate and during an MA in Creative Writing settled on the form that is the most exciting to me - the novel. At the moment I'm particularly interested in what a novel might look like in the digital age and in collaborative and disruptive ways of delivering a novel-sized reading experience. I know that when I write I'm having a conversation not only with my reader, but also with many of the other novels I've explored, from Richardson's Clarissa to Stephen King's Misery.  Although there are lots of paths into writing and teaching writing, for me, having a strong background in both the study of English Literature and Creative Writing was essential and is something that Lancaster offers to its students, which must be why I feel so at home here. 

Jenn's Profile

Brian Baker

Brian Baker, Lecturer in English

I’ve always been a reader of popular genres: Stephen King’s horror novels (the ones my Mum didn’t drop in the bath, that is), crime thrillers and police procedurals, spy novels, and science fiction, of course, always science fiction. Literatures of the imagination have been my thing since my Dad and I read 2000AD comic together. Future cities, weird goings on, robots, alternative histories, secrets, worlds within worlds within worlds. You might want to call it escapism, but I would prefer ‘seeing things differently’, off-kilter, if you like. All kinds of imaginative literature is about understanding the world not as it is presented to us, but as how it might be, in terms of dreams, fears, or hopes.  Whatever I teach here at Lancaster, and whatever students study, thinking differently is always vital.

Brian's Profile

Sally Bushell, Professor of Romantic Literature

When I was at school I was never top of my class or even a good “all-rounder” but I was nearly always top in English.  Back then it seemed like a disadvantage to only be really good at one thing but in the long run it turned out pretty well.  So for me this subject always called me to it, right from the start.  I first realised I was a Romanticist and a Wordsworthian when I visited the Lake District aged 17 whilst I was studying The Prelude at A Level and had the same kind of feelings all over again about a landscape that is also a deeply literary place.  Lancaster is the perfect place for me because of its location so close to the Lake District and to The Wordsworth Trust where most of the manuscripts are held.  I love my job, my subject  and communicating it to others.  Every day I know that I am doing exactly what I was born to do and that is an extraordinary privilege. 

Sally's Profile

Michael Greaney, Senior Lecturer in English

My research is on modern fiction, a field that I define, very broadly, as anything from 1800 to the present day. I feel lucky to work on what I would do anyway for pleasure – read novels – but equally lucky to be doing this work in such a stimulating intellectual context as Lancaster. I’ve written two books, one on Joseph Conrad,  and one on contemporary fiction; and I’m currently working on a third, on sleep and sleepers in the novel, from Gothic sleepwalkers to twenty-first-century insomniacs. The origins of this latest book are in my response to Jonathan Coe’s The House of Sleep, a wonderful comic novel that got me thinking about when, where and how fictional characters sleep – and about the meanings that they attach both to their sleep and to the sleep of others.  It was one of our own students who tipped me off about Coe’s novel, some years ago; I’m still grateful for his recommendation.

Michael's Profile

Zoe Lambert, Lecturer in Creative Writing

My first attempt at writing was a booklet of poems, which I illustrated when I was eight. But, it wasn't till my modules in creative writing in my BA that my passion for writing was truly ignited. Short stories for me have always felt like my home as a form: something about their compactness and their ambivalence. Writing was a natural extension of my love of books. One goes with the other, and this is why I advocate the BA in English and Creative Writing here at Lancaster. Here you will write and read and love literature. 

 

Zoe's Profile

Graham Mort

Graham Mort, Professor of Creative Writing and Transcultural Literature

I began writing my first poems when I was at secondary school. My older brother had just gone to University – the first member of our family to do so – and he returned with boxes of novels and poetry books that I read voraciously. Reading was a way to travel to other cultures and places; writing seemed to extend actual experience in exciting ways through its energised language. The work of Ted Hughes and D.H. Lawrence showed me that people from backgrounds like mine could write brilliantly and in ways that found extraordinary insights through lived experience. Writers never stop learning, so teaching creative writing at Lancaster and throughout Africa in my career as an academic has been hugely enriching. Sharing our experience through poetry and fiction across cultures shows how profoundly alike we are as a species and how extraordinarily different – and intriguing – we remain as individuals.

Graham's Profile

Liz Oakley-Brown

Liz Oakley-Brown, Senior Lecturer in Shakespeare and Renaissance Writing

Nearly all of my childhood adventures took place via the written word. Saturday afternoons were often spent with the boarders at Elinor Brent-Dyer’s Chalet School series and I was inspired by Jo March’s writerly ambitions in Louisa May Alcott’s novels. My one act of rebellion at school involved the confiscation of The Man Who Fell to Earth when I should have been reading Great Expectations. My teenage passion for Thomas Hardy’s writing underpinned my desire to study for a degree in English literature. However, as a second-year undergraduate at Cardiff University I took a course which included Edmund Spenser’s The Fairie Queene and I was immediately fascinated by the Elizabethan epic. Almost all of my subsequent research  - which includes English translations of Ovid, embodiment, outlawry  and queenship  - can be linked to this compelling poem and I remain completely captivated by Tudor writing and its particular examination of what it is to be human.

Liz's Profile

Lynne Pearce

Lynne Pearce, Professor of Literary Theory and Women’s Writing

I grew up in a home where there were no books but a compulsive work-ethic. My family ran its own business, worked long hours and rarely took a day off. From a young age, reading, writing and art became my alternative industry and, once I started at the Grammar School, ‘book learning’ became my own compulsion. All my A-level subjects – English, History (including Art History) and Geography – have continued to feed into my research and writing, which is very interdisciplinary. This is one of the reasons why Lancaster University, which has always fostered a culture of intellectual enquiry that crosses disciplines, has been such a good home for me. As a hill-walker, I also consider it have the best location of any university in England.

Lynne's Profile

Catherine Spooner

Catherine Spooner, Reader in English Literature

I discovered Gothic aged fourteen via The Cure, and scandalised my parents by dying my hair black and smothering myself in eyeliner. Then at A-level I studied Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, and realised there was a whole world of Gothic literature out there to enjoy – from Ann Radcliffe to Angela Carter. But I never quite lost sight of the music and fashion that had drawn me to Gothic in the first place. I remain fascinated with the intersections between Gothic literature and film, fashion and popular culture. A typical research day for me might involve close-reading Victorian novels, or scrutinising the imagery used by fashion shoots in Vogue. What I love about Lancaster is that its open-minded, cutting-edge approach allows me to combine both – and share them with my students in classes like ‘Victorian Gothic’, where we use nineteenth-century painting and photography to contextualise fictions of vampires, werewolves and ghosts.

Catherine's Profile