Research projects

A key feature of English activity has been the expansion of ambitious and large-scale research projects and their articulation through public engagement activities. 

Take a look at our project highlights and view our publications.

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Writing Place

Economy Point, Minas Basin, Nova Scotia / A.G. Lewis with Elizabeth on a sledge

‘Writing Place’ explores ideas about writing—and reading—place that have arisen in the work of poets Elizabeth Lewis-Williams and Helen Tookey, and literary critic Joanna Price. The project is in the form of a conversation about their creative engagements with specific places (Antarctica and Nova Scotia) that are remote from metropolitan centres but have their own histories of human habitation and interaction.

In each case, the exploration of these landscapes takes a dwelling as its starting point. In her ‘Met Obs’ poems, Elizabeth imagines the experience of British scientists in Antarctica in the 1950s. The poems respond to accounts in the base journals, a daily record of domestic life and scientific research in a hut and its surroundings at the British base at Port Lockroy. (Pictured: Arthur George Lewis (Elizabeth’s father) at the Stevenson Screen in Port Lockroy)

Jo’s work examines another hut, the expedition base at Cape Evans of R. F. Scott’s 1910-1913 British Antarctic Expedition. This hut remains in its original location today. Life there during Scott’s expedition is evoked in the men’s unpublished journals and published testimonies such as Scott’s journals, Apsley Cherry-Garrard’s memoir The Worst Journey in the World (1922) and Herbert Ponting’s photographs.

Helen’s current work also begins with a dwelling: the childhood home of Elizabeth Bishop in Great Village, Nova Scotia, where Helen stayed as a writer in residence. Her work is oriented by Bishop’s ‘In the Village’, an autobiographical story about a girl growing up there.

These dwellings are the centre from which everything ‘radiates out’ in the creative and critical practice of the participants in ‘Writing Place’, as they were for the people whose texts they write with and about. They afforded a place of observation, of both the lives being lived within their walls, and the landscape that unfolded from them. They were also a place of writing. Each of the participants has encountered her landscape, initially at least, through written texts, and responds to how diarists and writers have ‘read’ that landscape.

(Pictured: Inside the Elizabeth Bishop House, Great Village, Nova Scotia).

The project reflects on how the sense of a place being haunted by its previous inhabitants is key to how we feel about place. It considers whether some of that ‘haunting’ comes from the emotions, experience and expectation we bring to it. The reader and writer about Antarctica often find themselves participating in an uncanny structure of feeling that is mobilized by both the physical landscape and the narratives of earlier visitors. In her work about Nova Scotia, Helen, attuned to the landscape, encounters feelings attached to both past lives and histories and her own memories. The project also considers how haunting occurs through objects, and how objects accrue a resonance that allows people encountering them for the first time to gain a sense of the place in which they are found.

(Pictured: Helen and Martin's boots, the Elizabeth Bishop House, Great Village, Nova Scotia)

Elizabeth, Helen and Jo aim to publish the full text of their three-way conversation as a piece of creative-critical writing. In addition, they will be publishing their work individually in a variety of formats:

  • Elizabeth is working on an Arts Council funded project to create an immersive installation piece about Deception Island in a replica Antarctic refuge hut. She is also writing a piece of creative non-fiction, ‘Antarctic Identities’, which interweaves stories of her father’s time in Antarctica with a consideration of our contemporary understanding of the significance of the continent, not just to climate science but to human understanding of place.
  • The first five sections of To the End of Things, the work-in-progress Helen Tookey developed jointly with the composer, writer and sound artist Martin Heslop from their 2019 residency at the Elizabeth Bishop House, Nova Scotia can be viewed online. Helen and Martin are currently developing the second half of the piece. The work as a whole will be published, as a pamphlet and CD/DVD, by Longbarrow Press in 2022.
  • Jo’s work on Scott’s hut is part of a book she is writing about the feelings attached to place in Antarctica as they are evoked in literature, art and photography. The book explores the material spaces of Antarctica and how they become affective both locally and within a global network/
  • Watch a selection from Elizabeth Lewis-Williams’s ‘Met Obs’ sequence. Elizabeth presented this reading of her poems at a research seminar, ‘Reading and Writing Place’, with Helen Tookey and Joanna Price, hosted by the Research Institute for Literature and Cultural History in November 2020.

Crime Fact: Crime Fiction

A research hub on the connections between policing, justice, crime fiction and popular culture

Private Dicks and Feisty Chicks: An Interrogation of Crime Fiction by Cathy Cole

Representations of police and policing have formed the mainstay of culture and entertainment for the past century Crime fiction, including the police procedural, remains one of the most popular contemporary forms of film and television on UK and international television. These programs are influenced by political, social or scientific developments and may in turn in fluence them. As a result, crime fiction is often seen as one of the most potent and political discourses of its times.

Crime fiction also has been criticised for its role in causing community anxiety, especially through unrealistic narratives about serial killers or which play on social fears about difference thus leading to moral panics which target specific groups. Those involved in crime’s front line of policing and justice, such as police officers, lawyers and social workers, have decried the sensationalism of crime fiction and the aestheticisation of crime scenes in the name of good entertainment. They argue that these forms of entertainment can desensitise the viewer and minimise the vital roles police play, not only in solving crimes but through important initiatives in crime prevention and community engagement.


The Crime Fact: Crime Fiction research hub will form part of LJMU’s research culture and will be located across two of the university’s key Research Institutes; the Research Institute for Literature and Cultural History and the Liverpool Centre for Advanced Policing Studies.

The research hub includes scholars from LJMU as well as other UK and international universities in the disciplines of policing, justice, social sciences, film, creative writing, literary and cultural studies. It will conduct research into the ways in which crime fact and fiction intersect by examining the changing role of policing since the 1960s and the ways in which these changes have found their way into popular crime narratives. By linking real world policing with the fictional world of the crime writer, the group will construct a multi dimensional and trans disciplinary project which argues that the real and fictional world of crime and policing are firmly connected within a common narrative. These connections can be used to highlight changing community attitudes and social shifts in regards to policing and justice, access and representation, gender, race and socioeconomic background, education, community attitudes and society.

The hub’s founding members include:

  • Professor Catherine Cole, Creative Writing and English
  • Professor Daniel Silverstone, Director of the School of Justice Studies
  • Dr Michelle McManus, Head of Criminal Justice Studies
  • Dr Heather Panter, Senior Lecturer in Policing Studies
  • Dr Emma Murray, Senior Lecturer in Criminal Justice Studies

External experts confirmed:

  • Professor Stephen Case, Loughborough University, UK
Research focus
Jewish Noir

The group’s research will encompass critical, theoretical and social enquiry as well as cultural observation and reflection. In addition to exploring the historical and social shifts that have occurred in policing and justice since the 1960s, the research will also offer creative responses to these themes from original creative works to cultural criticism. The research will enable a mixture of creative practitioners, policing practitioners and academics to exchange ideas and enhance their respective disciplines An emphasis will be placed on the community impact of the research and this will involve regular community access to the group’s work through seminars, programs, talks and community education. We anticipate that as well as being of interest to academics, the research will appeal to those involved in policing and justice and cultural creative practitioners such as crime writers, filmmakers and scriptwriters.

Some of the research questions the group will address include:

  • How has policing changed since the 1960s and how has this been represented in film and television?
  • What role has popular culture played in enhancing or diminishing the role of police in the UK?
  • Has the police procedural enhanced recruitment to the police service?
  • What role has crime fiction played in policing education and training?
  • What do police and those involved in the justice system think about crime fiction?
  • What dialogue exists between those involved in policing and the creators of fictional crime narratives?
  • How have different countries and cultures explored policing through their popular culture?
  • How does the iconography of crime fiction and the iconography of criminal behaviour interact and shape each other in the digital age?
  • How does crime fiction reinforce the fear of crime?
  • How do fictional crime narratives reinforce or challenge established notions of offender and victim?

The research will be international in scope but also will focus on the uniqueness of Liverpool which is one of the UK’s most culturally prominent cities. Liverpool was at the forefront of fledgling UK crime series such as Z Cars - one of the first UK programs to reach a wide international audience and with a focus on policing in the UK’s North West in the 1960s. There have been numerous TV programs and films since that time, each one offering a different dimension to the role of police in the city.

The research also will offer cross disciplinary opportunities for undergraduate and postgraduate teaching and learning. At present, LJMU policing studies utilise crime fiction as an educational tool to underscore philosophical and pedagogical approaches to policing The university also has a number of PhD and MA students who are writing creative works on crime (crime fiction, films and television and plays). The group aims to ensure that its research will enhance these activities and will attract increasing numbers of writers and researchers in policing, justice and the creative arts to the university.


The group will disseminate its research to its community of scholars as well as the wider community of crime fiction fans. It is propose d that in November 2021, a half day seminar will be used to highlight the group ’s research activities and its connection with writers in prose, film and television via a series of public talks and seminars.

The group plans to conduct a two day international conference in late 2022 with papers from international policing experts and writers, scholars and the wider public. From this forum a book will be published.


The group invites interested staff to participate in these activities with a view to applications for research funding, PhD study ships, conference papers and publications.

We believe this will be a research hub that locates its research in the real world of policing and justice, while examining the role played by the fictional world of the crime writer. All staff working within LJMU with an interest in these activities are welcome to participate in our research and projects.

If you have any questions about the group please contact Professor Catherine Cole at or Professor Daniel Silverstone at

Shakespeare North

Shakespeare NorthShakespeare North is a £32m, heritage-based, urban regeneration project located in the Liverpool City Region borough of Knowsley. It aims to commemorate Knowsley’s previously unrecognised Elizabethan and Jacobean theatrical history: the existence in Prescot, Knowsley of one of the very few, Elizabethan, purpose-built theatres outside London and the significant theatrical patronage of the Earls of Derby, one of whose major residences, Knowsley Hall, borders Prescot. Lord Strange’s Men, under the patronage of Ferdinando Stanley, Lord Strange (later the 5th Earl of Derby), is recognised as the precursor company to the Lord Chamberlain’s Men - Shakespeare’s company at the Globe in London.

At the heart of the Shakespeare North project is the construction of a replica of London’s Cockpit-in-Court theatre, designed by Inigo Jones/John Webb as an adaptation of the cockpit at Whitehall, first built for Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn. Prescot’s Cockpit-in-Court, situated on the site of the town’s Elizabethan cockpit, will be enclosed in a modern wraparound building, housing educational and community activities.

Members of the Research Institute have been working on the Shakespeare North project since 2004. After significant capture of funding, construction of the Shakespeare North Playhouse began in April 2019 and it is expected to open in 2021. It is expected to attract 100,000 visitors a year to Knowsley, the second most deprived SOA in the UK, and to raise its educational attainment levels, as well as stimulating economic regeneration of Prescot and Knowsley.

Image: Architects’ working computer design for the interior of Shakespeare North’s Cockpit-in-Court theatre © Austin-Smith:Lord

War Widows' Stories

War Widow's quilt

War Widows’ Stories raises awareness of the lives of war's forgotten women past and present through an innovative combination of oral history, participatory art and poetry, scholarly research, and public events. Led by Dr Nadine Muller (PI) and Dr Melanie Bassett (RA), the project works together with war widows and their families and is a collaboration between LJMU, the War Widows’ Association of Great Britain, Royal Museums Greenwich, the National Memorial Arboretum, the Imperial War Museums, and arts organisation arthur+martha.

Funding: Arts and Humanities Research Council (Early-Career Leadership Fellowship), Arts Council England, British Academy (Rising Star Engagement Award) and Heritage Lottery (Sharing Heritage Award).

Find out more about the project on the War Widows' Stories website.

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Fern Crazy

Fern crazy‘Fern Crazy’ recreates the Victorian fern craze at Sefton Park Palm House. Local children have created a beautiful new fernery at the Palm House as part of a Being Human festival event organised by the Research Institute for Literature and Cultural History.

Funding: Funded by the Being Human Festival, led by the School of Advanced Study, University of London, in partnership with the Arts and Humanities Research Council and the British Academy. Supported by the British Association for Victorian Studies (BAVS):

Being Human logo

Decolonising Feminism

Beyond Western Eyes

Decolonising Feminism is an international project led by Fiona Tolan (English Studies, LJMU) and Dr Rachel Carroll (Teesside University) in collaboration with research partners Dr Nuhkbah Langah (Forman Christian College, Lahore), and Dr Stuti Khanna (Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi). Funded by the Global Challenges Research Fund, the project looks to bring together scholars working on South Asian and contemporary women’s writing in the UK, India and Pakistan. Our aim is to extend the networks and resources of the Contemporary Women’s Writing Association to develop a programme of events and collaborations that focus on gender equality in education and professional development and strengthen international collaboration in the field. The project was launched with a symposium, ‘Beyond Western Eyes: South Asian Women’s Writing in Contemporary Contexts’, held at LJMU in June 2019.

Writing Lives

Collaborative research project on working-class autobiography.

Visit the Writing Lives website.

Soundscapes in the Early Modern World


‘Soundscapes in the Early Modern World’ is an AHRC-funded international research network working on the period from c. 1500-1800 to develop new approaches to uncovering the sounds of the early modern world. Our focus is on how sonic interaction shapes early modern identities. From the chiming of the clock regulating the daily patterns of the city, to the bell calling all to church, the street singer, and the literate reading pamphlets to the illiterate, sounds governed everyday life. The network explores how sounds create communities, civil society, sociability and ways of knowing and understanding the wider world and the self.

Find out more on the Early Modern Soundscapes website or follow us on Twitter @emsoundscapes.