Literary and textual analysis

How texts are made, how they circulate, and how readers interact with them
The material forms of textuality, including digital and oral texts, convey meaning to readers and viewers. Our research explores a broad range of fields to help us to understand the significance of different texts.

In our everyday lives, we are constantly addressed by texts of all kinds, from the literary—novels, short stories, poetry—to more prosaic forms of the written word—newspapers, magazines, blogs, Twitter and text messages. In an image-rich information society, ‘texts’ also include still images and audiovisual media, from advertisements to multi-episode television series.

Understanding the significance of texts involves understanding how words on a page, or a screen, make meaning, and what they tell us about life now and in the past. Textual analysis is the basis for other judgments and decisions, and the skills required to carry out these kinds of evaluation are essential in navigating a world of information, from interpreting law, matters of public literacy, and multimedia consumption, to familiar modes of reading literary texts and viewing performances. Understanding how texts are produced and arranged is also a first crucial step in creating texts of our own.

Our research gives focus to how texts are produced, what kinds of forms they take, and how we evaluate and analyse them. Literary studies evaluates physical texts – manuscripts, printed books, journals – but also performed texts and digital texts, and the field of communication considers texts in their broadest sense, including advertising, computer gaming, and various modes of public information. Film, video, and online visual sources also form crucial parts of our textual landscapes. How we read these texts – visually, aurally, by touch – shapes how we identify their themes and significance, and we use analytic techniques to engage their meanings.

Our current areas of focus include:

How texts are located in their historical conditions of production and reception, and how contemporary concerns such as climate change, race and gender equality influence reception by readers; how critical frameworks such as postcolonial literary studies, psychoanalysis, historicism, formalism, and methods such as close and distant reading shape the production of meaning.

Investigating how manuscripts were produced in medieval and later periods, how the history of print transformed genres of literature such as the novel, and how digital techniques transform the lives of older texts and produce new kinds of texts in the present.

Producing digital platforms in which to read and evaluate Modernist texts and manuscripts, such as the Samuel Beckett Digital Manuscript Project.

How literature is produced through drafts, revision, and translation, and how we contribute to the field of literature in Creative Writing.

How texts circulate within a global context, shaped by economies of publishing, modes of translation, social forces of class, education, race, and historical conditions of warfare, refugee crises, imprisonment, and other forms of dislocation.

Situating individuals within a wider field of literary activity by combining textual analysis with techniques drawn from fields adjacent (sociology, anthropology, history, visual arts, performing arts, media) and emerging (digital humanities, digital forensics, environmental humanities).

How speakers and writers of English develop oral and written texts, how this varies between first and additional language users, how pedagogy may influence these competencies, and how language and literacy are treated in policy documents.

Our people

Hero image credit: A 12th-century manuscript illustration showing St Dunstan writing out the Rule of St Benedict, copyright British Library Board (Royal 10 A. XIII/f.2v).

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