Meet our Tutors

Dr Jenn Ashworth, Senior Lecturer in Creative writing

Dr Jenn Ashworth, Senior Lecturer in Creative writing

 When I write I like to start with what I know: the places in the North of England where I’ve lived and grown up, the literary genres – crime, horror, the gothic and supernatural – that I’ve always loved – and the conundrums about faith, family, illness and what writing is for that I’ve spent a career thinking about. But no matter where I start, the blank page always seems to take me into unfamiliar places and ways of seeing the world anew, and is a mysterious process that allows me to explore the edges of what a form or a genre is capable of.  I know that when I write I'm having a conversation not only with my reader, but also with many of the other novels and short stories I've read along the way so writing becomes a way of re-reading, and reading – closely and adventurously – is always the first stage in the writing process. I hope writing works that way for my students too: a way of bringing the unfamiliar into view, and of making the familiar persistently, incurably strange. 

  

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Dr Tajinder Hayer

Dr Tajinder Hayer, Lecturer in Creative Writing

I’ve ended up writing scripts for the stage and radio despite coming from a family background where there was little history of theatre attendance and no BBC Radio Four playing in the house in the afternoons. There were also not many books (consistent generational literacy only really started with my parents). There were, however, stories; not necessarily the epics or folk tales that we associate with oral storytelling, but a steady flow of village gossip that unfolded on to the urban and familial landscapes of Bradford, the West Midlands and Glasgow like a pop-up book. This overlap of cultural geographies has defined subsequently my writing, reading and viewing interests (with a liberal dash of fantasy and sf genres). It’s also made me keen to develop writing from underrepresented areas and writers. 

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Dr Brian Baker, Senior Lecturer in English

Dr Brian Baker, Senior 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. 

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Dr Philip Dickinson, Lecturer in Postcolonial Studies and World Literature

Dr Philip Dickinson, Lecturer in Postcolonial Studies and World Literature

My love of literature really grew during my A levels. I remember reading stacks of books on family holidays — mainly the classics like Dickens and Austen but also more contemporary writers like Ian McEwan or Muriel Spark — whatever I could get my hands on at the school library. At university my horizons widened. I vividly recall reading Toni Morrison and Derek Walcott in my first year, both of whom used language in intense and unfamiliar ways, and accessed new and often painful horizons of experience. My research and teaching at Lancaster revolves around postcolonial literatures, including writing from Africa and the Caribbean, and I am also interested in connecting environmental questions to the legacies of empire and colonialism. Lancaster is the perfect place for me to pursue these interests, given the vibrant research community here exploring place, landscape and transcultural writing. What I most love about Lancaster are the students, who are engaged, committed and always challenging my own preconceptions.

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Dr Liz Oakley-Brown, Senior Lecturer in English

Dr Liz Oakley-Brown, Senior Lecturer in English

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 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. 

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Professor Catherine Spooner, Professor of Literature and Cultur

Professor Catherine Spooner, Professor of Literature and Culture

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. 

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Dr Eoghan Walls

Dr Eoghan Walls, Lecturer in Creative Writing

Writing was a shameful secret for me when I was a student. I would read promiscuously - Emily Dickinson, Stephen King, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Stan Lee - but kept my own writing hidden. Like it was a precious bloom that might wither if I shared it. When I eventually came out to other writers in my mid-twenties it was the best thing I ever did.  Responding to other engaged readers helped me to see what wasn't working in my poetry, but also what was working, and areas I could push. Making experimental statements to see how they chimed off readers. It let me take risks, write weirdly, write better. So as an academic - and as a creative writing tutor - I see this as my first role: to offer an engaged reading of the students' work - both to hone their work and to encourage risk. 

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